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Humphrey v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 27, 2014


Assigned on Briefs June 3, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 07-03131 Honorable Lee V. Coffee, Judge

Andrew R. E. Plunk, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Petitioner, Lakeith Humphrey.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Alcock, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and David M. Zak, Jr. and Rachel Russell, Assistant District Attorneys 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 court summarized the facts in this case in its opinion on direct appeal:

On the night of November 28, 2006, the victim in this case, Gina James, was tragically shot and killed through her bedroom window. The [Petitioner], who had worked in law enforcement, occasionally dated the victim while she was in the process of getting a divorce. Their relationship was sometimes turbulent; they would periodically break up, and then later get back together. On at least two occasions, after the victim broke up with the [Petitioner], incidents occurred that caused the victim to briefly reconcile with the [Petitioner] out of an apparent need for protection. For example, after one break-up, a brick was thrown through the victim's window, and after another break-up, someone fired a gunshot at her car. With his background in law enforcement, the [Petitioner] appeared to offer the victim some degree of protection from an oft-violent world filled with unknown criminals and assailants. Her putative protector, however, was soon unmasked as something else entirely.
On the very night she was killed, witnesses testified that the victim broke up with the [Petitioner] by telephone. Several hours later, family members heard the sound of glass breaking in the victim's bedroom and discovered her, still conscious, lying on the floor in a pool of her own blood. They promptly called 911, requesting an ambulance and the police. Medical personnel arrived and attempted to help the victim, but she died a short time later.
Police arriving on the scene observed bullet holes in the victim's pillows, head board, and bedroom wall. There were corresponding bullet holes through the victim's bedroom window, which indicated that the bullets fired at the victim had been shot from outside that window, angled downward toward the bed. Outside the same window, police found five spent 9mm shell casings. Police also found smudges on the glass of the window about two feet above the bullet holes, consistent with a human face having been pressed against its surface. Police further determined that a person could see through the victim's bedroom blinds by pressing his or her face against the glass in this manner.
Investigating officers interviewed the surviving family members and, upon learning of the [Petitioner]'s prior relationship with the victim, brought him in for questioning. The [Petitioner] claimed to have been at his job at an apartment complex working as a security guard at the time of the shooting and was released. However, the next morning, officers received a phone call from the [Petitioner]'s mother, claiming that the [Petitioner] had told her that he was responsible for the victim's death. Officers arrested the [Petitioner] and brought him in for further questioning.
This time, the [Petitioner] asked to speak to one particular officer–a former childhood friend– alone. He told this officer that his brother had killed the victim. However, when the police brought the [Petitioner]'s brother in for questioning, the brother denied any participation in the crime and gave police an alibi that was supported by two witnesses. When officers put the [Petitioner] and his brother together, the [Petitioner] again accused his brother of killing the victim. However, a short time afterward, the [Petitioner] admitted that he was in fact the one responsible for her death.
An officer executing a search warrant reviewed computerized video surveillance footage from the [Petitioner]'s job on the night in question. The officer testified that this video footage showed that the [Petitioner] left his work place between 1:44 and 1:50 a.m. (before the shooting), and returned at 3:50 a.m (afterwards). When officers returned two or three days later to take possession of the computerized video footage, they found that it had been destroyed. As best they could determine, an unknown individual had destroyed the computer hard drive containing the video by pouring an unidentified liquid onto it.
Several days later, Ronnie McLemore, a friend of the [Petitioner], contacted the police and told them he had possession of a gun that had been given to him by the [Petitioner] shortly after the time of the shooting. According to Mr. McLemore, the [Petitioner] had told him that his son was coming into town and asked that he hold onto the gun until after his son's visit. Mr. McLemore agreed, took possession of the gun, and locked it in his safe. When he learned of the shooting, he decided to turn the gun over to the police. The TBI tested this gun and determined it to be the murder weapon by matching it both to a bullet removed from the victim's body and to the spent shell casings found outside the victim's window.

State v. Lakeith Humphrey, No. W2009-01367-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 890940, at *1-2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 15, 2011), perm. ...

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