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State v. Gwynn

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 29, 2014


Session March 05, 2014.

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 1101634 John T. Fowlkes, Jr., Judge.

Paul J. Springer, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dewoyne Gwynn.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Raymond Lepone and Jennifer Nichols, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Thomas T. Woodall, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer and Roger A. Page, JJ., joined.




Summary of Facts

Ms. Walker, Mr. Jackson, and Defendant were living in an apartment in Memphis. Ms. Walker had, at various different times, intimate relationships with Defendant, with Mr. Jackson, and with the victim. On December 14, 2009, the victim sent a text message to Ms. Walker asking her to have sex with him. Mr. Jackson saw the message and became angry. He caused the victim to be lured to the apartment by Ms. Walker under the pretext that Ms. Walker was going to have sex with the victim.

When the victim arrived, he was assaulted and robbed by Defendant and Mr. Jackson. Ultimately, the victim was forced into the trunk of his own vehicle. With Defendant driving, he and Mr. Jackson took the victim a short distance. Mr. Jackson poured gasoline in the passenger section of the vehicle, and Mr. Jackson opened the trunk and poured gasoline all over the victim. Mr. Jackson then lit a piece of paper and set the victim and the car on fire. Defendant and Mr. Jackson ran away. The victim was taken to a hospital where he died a few hours later from being burned over eighty percent of his body. Mr. Jackson had been armed with a gun during the initial assault on the victim, and cash money and a cell phone were taken from the victim during the assault. At Mr. Jackson's instructions, Defendant took possession of the gun in order to get rid of it.

According to the record, Mr. Jackson was subpoenaed to testify at Defendant's trial, but he refused to testify. In a jury-out hearing regarding his refusal to testify, Mr. Jackson acknowledged that he had "pled guilty and received a sentence of life without parole" a few weeks prior to Defendant's trial. Ms. Walker testified during the State's case-in-chief against Defendant. The crux of Defendant's insufficient evidence argument is that the conviction for facilitation of especially aggravated kidnapping "is unconstitutionally inconsistent with the acquittals based upon the same defense [of duress]." We will discuss below well-settled law that this argument is without merit. Keeping in mind that the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the State, Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979), we are setting forth in this opinion those facts which show that the State met its burden to prove Defendant's guilt of facilitation of especially aggravated kidnapping beyond a reasonable doubt.

Evidence at Trial

In a signed written statement given to two Memphis Police officers, Defendant admitted that he and Mr. Jackson were involved in an especially aggravated robbery of the victim. Defendant stated that Mr. Jackson was armed with a butcher knife. Defendant continued his explanation of the incident by saying that when he arrived at the house, the victim and Mr. Jackson were having an argument. Defendant stepped between the two men, and Defendant hit the victim after Defendant was pushed by the victim. Defendant said the victim fell after Mr. Jackson struck him. Defendant kicked the victim. Defendant said that Mr. Jackson told the victim to pull out his wallet, which the victim handed to Mr. Jackson. Mr. Jackson removed "a nice little wad of money." Defendant said that Mr. Jackson made the victim remove all his clothing and that Mr. Jackson "aggressively" beat the victim. Defendant stated that Mr. Jackson threatened Defendant with a knife while Mr. Jackson told Defendant "How I know you're not going to snitch?"

Defendant explained how Mr. Jackson retrieved a gas can out of a closet, told the victim to get dressed, walked the victim to the victim's car and ordered the victim to get into the trunk. As per instructions from Mr. Jackson, Defendant drove the victim's car "to the spot he [Mr. Jackson] told me to." Defendant said that Mr. Jackson poured gasoline in the passenger compartment of the car and opened the trunk and doused the victim with gasoline. Mr. Jackson lit a piece of paper and used it to set the car and the victim on fire. Defendant said he ran away at this point.

Defendant said he guessed that he realized Mr. Jackson had set the fire "because I [Defendant] heard the victim screaming." Defendant described his own conduct immediately after the victim was set on fire as follows:

I ran back to the apartment. I came in. It was about 4:00 something, so I put on my work clothes, and I came out. [Mr. Jackson] was counting the money. He asked me did I want any. I told him I was straight. Then he was like, "Guess what else I got" and he pulled out the victim's cell phone. I went in the kitchen and got a glass of Kool-Aid and [Mr. Jackson] was like - started walking around back and forth. Then I went to work.

In other portions of his signed statement, Defendant said that Ms. Walker knew Defendant and Mr. Jackson were beating the victim but did not know they were robbing him. Defendant also stated the reason he participated in the robbery: "I say it was anger because [of] ...

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