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Woodard v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 15, 2014


Session July 16, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Bedford County No. 14912 Robert Crigler, Judge

Andrew B. Love, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dennis Cedric Woodard, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Robert James Carter, District Attorney General; and Michael D. Randles, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas T. Woodall and Norma McGee Ogle, JJ., joined.




The underlying facts of the case were recited by this court on direct appeal as follows:

The proof offered by the State demonstrated that on the night of April 13, 2001, the homicide victim, Scott Shafer, was shot near Derry Street in Shelbyville. Earlier that day, at around four o'clock, the victim had been visiting the home of LaShawn Nunnally. Ms. Nunnally testified that sometime later the [petitioner] arrived at her house carrying a gun. The [petitioner] pointed the gun at the victim and said, "Nigga, are you real or are you fake?" The victim responded to the [petitioner], who was commonly referred to as "Junior, " by saying, "Junior, man, quit playing. I'm fucked up." The [petitioner], still pointing the gun at the victim, then repeated his question. At that point, Ms. Nunnally requested that the two men leave the front of her house. The [petitioner] and the victim went to the rear of the house, and Ms. Nunnally followed. She asked the [petitioner] for the gun, and he gave it to her. Immediately thereafter, Jarmaine Hill, Ms. Nunnally's boyfriend, and Mike Jones arrived. Mr. Hill inquired what Ms. Nunnally was doing with the [petitioner]'s gun. She responded that she was trying to "prevent trouble." Mr. Hill then demanded that she return the [petitioner]'s gun, which she did, but she kept the clip that contained the bullets and went back around to the front porch of her house. A few minutes later, the four men came to the front of the house, and the [petitioner]'s mouth was bleeding. When Ms. Nunnally asked what had happened, the victim replied, "I dunked him on his head." The [petitioner] then said to the victim, "Man, you fucked up my grill." Then the [petitioner] smiled at the victim and added, "You are going to remember this tonight." However, Ms. Nunnally testified that the [petitioner] and the victim then hugged, made up, and left together in the victim's car. After all the men left, Ms. Nunnally wrapped the pistol clip in toilet paper and tossed it into a creek.
About two hours later, Ms. Nunnally had gone to another house to visit with friends. Jarmaine Hill and Mike Jones arrived; then a few minutes later, the [petitioner] and the victim drove up. As the day got later, Ms. Nunnally, her two daughters, and the victim decided to walk back to Ms. Nunnally's house to get their jackets. As they returned from getting their coats, the [petitioner] walked up, pointed the gun at the victim, and said, "Nigga, are you ready to die?" The [petitioner] then shot the victim, who fell down. He pulled the trigger several more times, but the gun would not fire because the clip had been removed. The [petitioner], who then ran away, was wearing a yellow shirt, black denim shorts, black Nike shoes, and black socks. Ms. Nunnally ran to a pay telephone and called 911. She then located the victim, who had run a short distance and fallen down, and she applied a blanket to his wound.
On cross-examination, Ms. Nunnally said that the [petitioner] appeared intoxicated while he was at her house. She said that his speech was slurred and he was staggering. He also appeared to be intoxicated when she left her friend's house to get the jackets from her house. She said that when the police arrived, she was beside the victim, rendering aid.
Thomas Thompson testified that on the evening of April 13, 2001, he was in his house at 101 Byrd Street. At around 7:40 that night, he heard what sounded like a gunshot. He then looked out his window and saw a white man run between 714 and 716 Derry Street, fall down on the ground, and yell that he had been shot. Then Mr. Thompson looked behind Smith's Food Town on Derry Street and saw a black man in a yellow shirt run behind the store.
James Wheeler testified that at around nine o'clock on the night of April 13, 2001, a young black man, whom he identified as the [petitioner], knocked on his door. Mr. Wheeler testified that the [petitioner] was bleeding from his mouth, and he initially thought that the [petitioner] had been in a car accident. However, the [petitioner] said that he had been beaten up, and he asked to use the telephone. While Mr. Wheeler was inside his house retrieving a cordless phone for the [petitioner], he decided to call 911 to have an ambulance come render aid to the [petitioner]. When Mr. Wheeler went outside to give the [petitioner] the telephone, he observed a car drive up with a young man and woman inside. Mr. Wheeler recognized the driver of the car as a man named Matt Kelly. The [petitioner], who Mr. Wheeler said was "fidgety" and "obviously wanting to leave, " got in the car with Mr. Kelly and drove away. On cross-examination, Mr. Wheeler testified that the [petitioner] was having difficulty breathing and speaking because of the condition of his mouth.
David Williams, an officer with the Bedford County Sheriff's Department, testified that he accompanied the ambulance to Mr. Wheeler's residence in response to Mr. Wheeler's 911 call. As he was driving, he passed a white Honda Accord. Upon speaking with Mr. Wheeler, he learned that the subject had left in that car. Officer Williams then followed the Accord to the emergency room parking lot, where he stopped the vehicle. The [petitioner] was in the back seat, and Officer Williams noticed that he had injuries to his face, he had blood down the front of his body, and he was not wearing a shirt. When the officer asked for his name, the [petitioner] replied that his name was Simms. However, the driver of the car, Matt Kelly, told the [petitioner] to tell the truth, and the [petitioner] then told the officer that his name was Junior Woodard. Officer Williams asked another officer, D'Angelo Inman of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, to pat down the [petitioner] for weapons. Officer Inman located a Taurus .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol in the [petitioner]'s pocket. The weapon had no clip in the grip. Officer Williams then placed the [petitioner] in his patrol car and called for the city police. Officer Williams testified that he smelled alcohol on the [petitioner], but that the [petitioner] was coherent and had no trouble walking. Officer Inman, on the other hand, testified that he did not notice an odor of alcohol about the [petitioner].
Back at the scene of the shooting, Rod Stacey was the patrolman with the Shelbyville Police Department who first arrived. He testified that he located a white male, whom he recognized as the victim, Scott Shafer, lying on the ground in between 714 and 716 Derry Street. Officer Stacey observed an entrance wound and an exit wound in the victim's left arm and an entrance wound in the victim's abdomen. Officer Stacey testified that the victim did not tell him who shot him or the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
Detective Eric Ely of the Shelbyville Police Department arrived on the scene after other officers had already secured the area and begun searching for evidence. He was directed to an area where David Williams of the Bedford County Sheriff's Department had located a shell casing earlier that evening. Detective Ely photographed the cartridge and took it into evidence. He testified that it was the casing of a .40 caliber bullet. At around 10:25 that evening, Detective Ely went to the hospital where other officers had the [petitioner] in custody. There he received the Taurus pistol that Trooper Inman had found in the [petitioner]'s pocket. Detective Ely stated that he read the [petitioner] his rights. Noticing that the [petitioner] had blood on his lip and some of his teeth were dislodged, he asked him, "What happened to your mouth?" The [petitioner] replied, "I didn't shoot anybody." The detective testified that he did not smell alcohol on the [petitioner] during this conversation. Later in his investigation, Detective Ely went to the office of the state medical examiner, where he received the bullet that had been removed from the body of the victim.
Teri Arney is a forensic scientist with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. She examined the shell casing found at the scene of the shooting, the bullet extracted from the victim's body, and the handgun found in the [petitioner]'s pocket. She testified that the gun was a Taurus model PT140 .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol. She determined that the bullet and shell casing had been fired and ejected from the [petitioner]'s gun.
Jeff Long is the EMT worker who administered medical aid to the victim. Mr. Long testified that when he encountered the victim, he was pale and sweating. The victim's lack of color indicated blood loss, and the perspiration indicated that he was beginning to go into shock. These signs suggested that the victim was bleeding internally and needed to be flown via helicopter to Nashville for surgery.
Jeffery Guy is a surgeon at Vanderbilt Hospital who treated the victim. He testified that the victim had extremely low blood pressure when he arrived at Vanderbilt. Despite the efforts of the surgical team, Scott Shafer died from blood loss as a result of gunshot wounds to the spleen, pancreas, and intestines.
Feng Li of the state medical examiner's office performed an autopsy on the victim's body on April 14, 2001. He testified that the victim died of gunshot wounds to different internal organs, and that all of the wounds had been caused by a single bullet. He also testified that no alcohol or drugs were detected in the victim's blood.
Rhonda Hill testified that her son Chris received a letter in May of 2001. She recognized the return address on the envelope as being the Bedford County Jail; so she decided to read the letter. The letter was dated May 23, 2001, the day after the [petitioner]'s preliminary hearing. The letter was from the [petitioner], who referred to himself as "Juvy." In the letter, the [petitioner] stated that a girl named Shawn is "running her mouth."[1] The [petitioner]'s letter asked Chris to prevent Ms. Nunnally from making the June 18 court date, which is the date on which the [petitioner]'s case was presented to the grand jury. Finally, the [petitioner] requested Chris to "hook up with Mickey and burn this bitch house down." After reading the letter, Ms. Hill went to the police station and gave the police the letter. Henry Young, who was in jail with the [petitioner], testified that he observed the [petitioner] writing the letter. Mr. Young testified that after his preliminary hearing on May 22, 2001, the [petitioner] mentioned LaShawn Nunnally's testimony and that it "needed to be taken care of."
After the State rested its case, the [petitioner] testified on his own behalf. He stated that, on the afternoon of April 13, 2001, he had been out riding with the victim, Scott Shafer. The [petitioner] had drunk three quarts of Budweiser beer in thirty minutes when he first joined the victim. After the [petitioner] left the victim's car, the [petitioner] decided to walk to LaShawn Nunnally's house. When he arrived, the victim was already there. The two men exchanged words regarding whether the victim had tried to "holler" at the [petitioner]'s girlfriend. At this point, the [petitioner] testified that his gun was in his pocket. He handed the gun to Ms. Nunnally, and the argument between the [petitioner] and the victim escalated into a fight. The victim punched the [petitioner] in the mouth, and the two wrestled on the ground. During the fight, the [petitioner] suffered a busted lip and lost a tooth. After the fight, the two men apologized to each other, hugged, and left in the victim's car. The [petitioner] stated that when they left, Ms. Nunnally still had the gun.
The [petitioner] and the victim then went to a store, where the [petitioner] bought another quart of beer. After riding around for awhile, the two men returned to Ms. Nunnally's house. When they arrived, Ms. Nunnally and Mike Jones were there. The group was sitting on the front porch talking, when Jarmaine Hill showed up. Mr. Hill and Ms. Nunnally went inside the house for fifteen to thirty minutes. When Mr. Hill came back onto the front porch, he told the [petitioner] that he wanted to speak with him. The two men walked down the street and talked. The [petitioner] testified that when they returned, he sat back down on Ms. Nunnally's front porch. Then the [petitioner] looked up and observed Mr. Hill pointing a gun at the victim. The [petitioner] stated that Mr. Hill shot the victim. Mr. Hill ran away, but the [petitioner] remained on the porch. At that time, Ms. Nunnally approached the [petitioner], said "Here, " and handed him the pistol. The [petitioner] took the gun and ran. The [petitioner] said that he ran past Smith's Food Town, and he stopped and knocked on the door of James Wheeler because he did not know how to get to his friend Matt Kelly's house. While he was at Mr. Wheeler's house, Matt Kelly drove up, and the [petitioner] got in his car. The [petitioner] testified that they drove to the hospital because he was concerned about the victim. Later on in his testimony, the [petitioner] admitted writing the letter to Chris Hodge asking him to burn down the house of LaShawn Nunnally "to make her stop lying on [him]."
The defense called Jarmaine Hill as a witness, but he asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Therefore, the trial court declared Mr. Hill unavailable, and the defense called Randall Lottie. Mr. Lottie testified that, while he was incarcerated with Mr. Hill, he heard Mr. Hill say that he killed Scott Shafer. Mr. Hill said that Mr. Shafer owed him money for drugs, and that another person was in jail for his crime.

State v. Dennis Cedric Woodard, Jr., No. M2002-00122-CCA-R3-CD, 2003 WL 169082, at *1-5 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 24, 2003), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 12, 2003). The petitioner was convicted of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. Id. at *1.

The petitioner appealed, and this court affirmed his conviction on January 24, 2003. The Tennessee Supreme Court denied permission to appeal on May 12, 2003. However, the petitioner claims that he did not learn that his application for permission to appeal was denied until March 25, 2005, after he filed a motion to ascertain the status of his case. On April 19, 2005, the petitioner signed his first petition for post-conviction relief, in which he alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. He specifically argued that counsel rendered ineffective assistance by: failing to object or raise as error the trial court's failure to instruct the jury with legal definitions for "intentionally" or "knowingly"; failing to impeach LaShawn Nunnally with prior inconsistent statements she had given; failing to request that the trial court charge the jury with an instruction on impaired capacity relating to Nunnally's testimony and version of events; and making him take the stand and testify against his will. The petitioner asserted that his petition was timely because he did not learn of the Tennessee Supreme Court's denial of his application for permission to appeal until after the one-year statute of limitations had already expired. The post-conviction court ...

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