Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Assigned on Briefs May 21, 2014
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 98878 Bobby R. McGee, Judge
Mark E. Stephens, District Public Defender; and Scott Carpenter, Assistant Public Defender, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dorothy Denise Cross.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Assistant Attorney General; Randall Eugene Nichols, District Attorney General; and Debbie Malone, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.
Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr. J., joined. Jeffrey S. Bivins, J., not participating.
THOMAS T. WOODALL, JUDGE
When a defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain a conviction, the appellate court must determine "whether, after reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Jackson v. Virginia, 43 U.S. 307, 319 (1979). On appeal, "the State is entitled to the strongest legitimate view of the evidence and to all reasonable and legitimate inferences that may be drawn therefrom." State v. Smith, 24 S.W.3d 274, 279 (Tenn. 2000). As particularly pertinent to Defendant's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence in this case, and in light of this well-settled case law, a summary of the evidence at trial follows.
E.V., born in Honduras, had lived in Knoxville eight years when she testified at trial. In September 2011, she and her family moved into an upstairs apartment of a house at 2901 E. Fifth Avenue in Knoxville. Defendant resided in a downstairs apartment of the same house. On September 16, 2011, the victim was alone in her apartment cooking a meal. She left to go to a store to obtain a few things she needed. When she returned with her purchased items, the victim realized she had locked herself out of the apartment. She made a telephone call to a relative to notify her husband to come home and unlock the door. The victim waited for her husband on the front porch of the house.
Soon thereafter, Defendant arrived at the premises, got out of her car, approached the victim and "started arguing." The victim speaks Spanish and could not understand English. Defendant, who speaks English, does not understand Spanish.
The victim testified that she knew Defendant was arguing "[b]ecause the way [Defendant] attacked me, [Defendant] threw herself at me." The victim stated that Defendant immediately began hitting the victim on her arms and legs and grabbed the victim's hair. Defendant grabbed the victim by the neck and threw her against the wall. At the time, E.V. was seven months pregnant. At one point, Defendant pushed the victim, and both women fell down the two steps of the porch. Defendant ran away when the assault ended. The victim borrowed a phone and called the police. Officers arrived approximately twenty minutes later. An officer capable of speaking Spanish conversed with the victim about the assault.
Prior to the assault E.V. did not personally know Defendant and had not previously spoken with Defendant, but E.V. knew Defendant resided in a downstairs apartment of the house. E.V. testified that she fainted after the assault while she was talking with police officers. She attributed the fainting to the fact her "blood pressure failed." She was taken by ambulance to a hospital where she spent approximately two to three hours before being released. She testified that she suffered pain from the assault on her right leg, lower back, and hips.
On cross-examination the victim stated that she was struck by Defendant "twice on this arm and in the leg" and then Defendant "grabbed me on the neck." Following that, Defendant pushed the victim against the wall.
Knoxville Police Officer William Romanini testified that he was on duty the day of the assault and went to the victim's address in response to an assault call. Because the victim could not speak English, Officer Romanini called another officer to the scene for translation. Officer Romanini testified that the victim stated that Defendant resided in a downstairs apartment (apartment number one) and that Defendant "had pulled [the victim's] hair or something along those lines and kicked [the victim] in the stomach." Office Romanini observed some scratches on the victim's arms. Officer Romanini testified that because the victim stated that she was seven months pregnant and that Defendant had kicked her in the stomach, an ambulance was summoned to take the victim to the hospital.
Defendant testified that she resided at the apartment located at 2901 East Fifth Avenue in Knoxville for only two months. She stated that conditions at the apartment were "deplorable" because the landlord would not "fix anything, " including the lock on her door which would not "lock all the way." Defendant testified that in September 2011, she began "noticing that things [in her apartment] were getting moved around - just moved around and I hadn't done anything. And stuff was getting missing." Defendant stated that as a result of this situation, she "called 9-1-1 several times." She testified that ultimately "before I went into my apartment, I had [the police officers] to do a walk around, that's when [the police officers] walk around in [an] apartment and make sure it's safe." She also had the police "patrol the block area." On one of the incidents when she felt a person had unlawfully entered her apartment, Defendant found a ...