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State v. Griffis

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 27, 2014


Assigned on Briefs June 3, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. 13-159 Roy B. Morgan, Jr., Judge

Lee R. Sparks, Jackson, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Richard Griffis.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin E.D. Smith, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Jody S. Pickens, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn, J., joined. Jeffrey S. Bivins, J., Not Participating.



This case arises from the theft of a green Honda four-wheeler belonging to Richard Cooke on September 18, 2012. The Defendant-Appellant, Richard Griffis, was subsequently indicted by the Madison County Grand Jury for one count of theft of property valued at $1, 000 or more but less than $10, 000, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-103, -105 (2012). The following proof was adduced at trial.

Trial. Allen Arnold testified that he was on probation for theft and that he was arrested in September 2012 while riding a stolen four-wheeler. After his arrest, Arnold provided information to investigators from the Madison County Sheriff's Department regarding the circumstances of his four-wheeler purchase. He stated that Jamarius "G Baby" Greer offered to sell him a four-wheeler in rough condition for $150. He went to the Defendant's house to purchase the vehicle, though he did not previously know the Defendant. Upon arriving at the Defendant's house, he observed three or four four-wheelers in the garage. He stated that both the Defendant and Greer were "trying to sell all the four-wheelers in the garage." Specifically, the Defendant tried to sell him "a newer four-wheeler" that had special features and decals for $350. Both the Defendant and Greer told him that the vehicle was "hot." Arnold took this to mean that the newer, green four-wheeler was stolen and that "people [were] looking for it." He testified that the Defendant told him that the vehicle "was right down the road from where it was stolen" and that the Defendant "'didn't want to mess with it 'cause it was too hot.'" Arnold declined to buy the newer four-wheeler because he did not want the trouble and because he believed the vehicle was worth more than $350. He purchased the smaller four-wheeler that "supposedly wasn't stolen" and "that looked the worst out of all of them." He said that $150 was "a normal price" due to the condition of the vehicle, but then he discovered that it was also stolen. He stated that he did not receive any benefits from providing this information to the Sheriff's Department and that these events occurred in Madison County.

On cross-examination, Arnold testified that Greer first told him that the bigger four-wheeler was "hot" but that the Defendant told him the same thing that day. He said that the day after he went to the Defendant's house, both the Defendant and Greer sent him text messages trying to sell the same four-wheeler. He stated that the vehicle that he did purchase turned out to be stolen and that he was on probation for theft "to get it over with[.]"

On redirect examination, Arnold read a portion of his prior statement to the Jackson Police Department: "[The Defendant] tried to sell me a green four-wheeler. [The Defendant] told me that the green four-wheeler was hot, and I told [the Defendant] that I did not want to buy the green four-wheeler because it was hot."

Officer Lee Jones of the Jackson Police Department testified that on September 18, 2012, he responded to a report of a stolen four-wheeler at the home of Richard Cooke. He observed a large hole cut into the chain link fence on the property. Officer Jones recorded the vehicle identification number (VIN) of the missing four-wheeler in his police report.

Dewayne McClain of the Jackson Police Department investigated the theft of Cooke's green four-wheeler in September 2012. He testified that after receiving Allen Arnold's statements from the Madison County Sheriff's Department, he went to the Defendant's house on October 7, 2012 to locate the missing four-wheeler. Investigator McClain advised the Defendant that the police received information of a four-wheeler in his shed, and the Defendant responded that there was a four-wheeler. The Defendant consented to a search of his shed, and Investigator McClain found a four-wheeler that matched Arnold's description. The Defendant advised Investigator McClain that he owned the other four-wheeler in the shed. The police confirmed that the VIN of the green four-wheeler matched that of the vehicle stolen from Richard Cooke. Investigator McClain said that he called Cooke to the scene and that Cooke positively identified the four-wheeler as his own. He stated that Cooke then left the scene with his four-wheeler.

On cross-examination, Investigator McClain acknowledged that the Defendant was cooperative and had consented to the search. He observed some tools and parts in the shed but could not determine that anything was stolen other than the green four-wheeler. He said that the Defendant had provided him with the names of Adam Pruitt and Jamarius Greer, but he was unable to locate these individuals to investigate them.

Richard Cooke of Jackson, Tennessee discovered that his green Honda Rancher was missing from his backyard on September 18, 2012. He noticed that someone had cut a hole in his fence and that there were tracks showing that the four-wheeler "had been rolled through[.]" He reported the theft to the police and provided his title and VIN information. Cooke had purchased the brand new four-wheeler in 2004 for over $5, 000 and then customized the wheels and seat ...

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