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Stitts v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

September 16, 2014

MICHAEL JOHN STITTS
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

Assigned on Briefs September 3, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C-13-222 Roy B. Morgan, Jr., Judge

J. Colin Morris, Jackson, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Michael John Stitts.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Alcock, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Rolf Hazlehurst, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.

OPINION

ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE

I. Facts

A. Trial

On direct appeal, this Court provided the following summary of the evidence presented at trial:

Charles [FN1] Ohonba testified that his wife, Lola's, car broke down when he was driving home to Jackson from Memphis. A mechanic from AutoZone looked at the vehicle and determined that it needed a new motor and recommended the [Petitioner] to install it. The [Petitioner] stopped by the Ohonbas' house, examined the car, and agreed that it needed a new motor. The [Petitioner] told Charles that he would do the job for $625 and that the car would be ready in three days.
FN1. Because two of the witnesses have the same surname, we will refer to them by first name for clarity. We mean no disrespect by this practice.
Because Charles needed the car right away, he gave the [Petitioner] $300 to begin work on the car. The [Petitioner] had the car towed from the Ohonbas' residence, but Charles did not know to where the car was towed. Charles met with the [Petitioner] the following week, but the [Petitioner] told him that the car was not ready and that he needed the remaining $325 to complete the work. The [Petitioner] collected the $325 from Charles early the following month. Thereafter, every time Charles contacted the [Petitioner] to check on the status of his car, the [Petitioner] gave him a number of excuses as to why the car was not ready.
Charles said that the [Petitioner] never told him that he was going to sell the car to a salvage yard, and he never consented for the [Petitioner] to do so. The [Petitioner] did not return the money Charles paid to have the car repaired or give him any of the money from the sale of the car. He said that he did not sell the car to the [Petitioner]. He recalled that the [Petitioner] came over to his house two times, both times to get money from Charles, and Lola was present when he paid the [Petitioner] $325. Charles stated that he eventually called the police and learned from an investigator that the [Petitioner] had sold his car to a salvage yard.
Two receipts were admitted as exhibits at trial. On the first, the [Petitioner] handwrote, "Full amount $625.00. Charles Ohonba paid $300.00 down on getting a motor install[ed] in his 1999 Ford Taurus station wagon. He owe[s] a balance of $325.00 to [the [Petitioner]]." The receipt was dated July 13, 2010. The second receipt indicates that Charles paid the [Petitioner] $325 "for his engine & parts" on August 14, 2010.
Lola Ohonba testified that she met the [Petitioner] when he came to her and Charles' home to collect the balance owed for repairing her car. The [Petitioner] had already taken the car after the first payment. Lola said that she was the lawful owner of the 1999 Ford and produced a certificate of title reflecting her ownership. She recalled that she purchased the vehicle in 2008 for $12, 000. She said that she did not sell her car to the [Petitioner] or consent to him taking the car to the salvage yard. The [Petitioner] did ...

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