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Grayson v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 26, 2014

MELISSA L. GRAYSON
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

Assigned on Briefs September 9, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2008-A-10 Steve R. Dozier, Judge

Manuel B. Russ, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Melissa L. Grayson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Rachel Marie Sobrero, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

OPINION

D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., Judge

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In 2009, the Petitioner was convicted of aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated robbery, and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping and received an effective seventeen-year sentence to be served at one hundred percent. See State v. Melissa L. Grayson, No. M2011-00648-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 3611821 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 20, 2012), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. Jan. 14, 2013). The evidence at trial established that the Petitioner, along with four co-defendants, was involved in the assault, robbery, and kidnapping of two Hispanic men on July 19, 2007. Id. at *1.

The first victim, Noe Hernandez, testified that he was approached by a white man and an African-American man after returning home from work. Grayson, 2012 WL 3611821, at *5. One of the men was armed with a gun, and the other man hit Mr. Hernandez in the face. The men demanded all of Mr. Hernandez's money and then forced him into his car. Id. Mr. Hernandez testified that the men drove his car for several minutes before abandoning it. Id. at *6. As they were driving, Mr. Hernandez could see a green Ford Explorer following them. Two women with "blondish-colored" hair were in the Explorer. Id. The men abandoned Mr. Hernandez's car a few miles away, and they forced him to strip and get into the trunk of the car. Id.

The next victim, Hermilio Morales, testified that he was walking to his apartment when he was approached by two men, one white the other African-American. Grayson, 2012 WL 3611821, at *2. One of the men had a gun, and they took Mr. Morales's wallet. The men then forced Mr. Morales into "the back seat of a green, four-door vehicle that resembled an Explorer." Id. Mr. Morales testified that there were two "young and white" women in the front of the vehicle. Id. One of the women began to drive, and the men searched through Mr. Morales's pockets. The men then stripped Mr. Morales and began to beat him. The vehicle eventually pulled over, and the men dumped Mr. Morales on the side of the road. Id.

Johnathon Pressley testified that he was one of the co-defendants and that he had participated in the assault, robberies, and kidnappings. Grayson, 2012 WL 3611821, at *7. Mr. Pressley testified that the green Ford Explorer belonged to the Petitioner and that she was driving on July 19, 2007. According to Mr. Pressley, the Petitioner's sister rode with her in the front of the Explorer, and he and the Petitioner's boyfriend, "T.O." rode in the back. Mr. Pressley testified that he and "T.O." attacked Mr. Hernandez, and the Petitioner followed them as they drove away in Mr. Hernandez's car. Id.

After abandoning Mr. Hernandez's car, Mr. Pressley and "T.O." got back in the Explorer, still being driven by the Petitioner, and went to a nearby apartment complex. Grayson, 2012 WL 3611821, at *8. Mr. Pressley testified that he and "T.O., " then attacked Mr. Morales and forced Mr. Morales into the Explorer. While the Petitioner drove the Explorer, Mr. Pressley and "T.O." beat Mr. Morales. Mr. Pressley testified that the Petitioner eventually "decided on [a] location, and [that] they dumped [Mr. Morales] on the street." Id.

The Petitioner gave a statement to the police, which was played at her trial. Grayson, 2012 WL 3611821, at *8. The Petitioner first stated that "she had not had any Mexicans in her car because she did not like them." Id. However, the Petitioner later told the police that on the date of the offense, she had gone to a bar with her sister, Mr. Pressley, and her boyfriend's cousin, "Ducky." The Petitioner claimed that "some Mexican men began throwing rocks at her vehicle, " that Mr. Pressley spoke to the men, that one of the men voluntarily got into her vehicle, and that they gave him a ride home. Id. The Petitioner denied that the man was robbed or assaulted while in her Explorer. Id.

The Petitioner told the police that after dropping the first man off at his home, she stopped at a store, and Mr. Pressley got out of the vehicle. Grayson, 2012 WL 3611821, at *9. When Mr. Pressley returned to the Explorer, he had his arm around "a Mexican man" who got into the backseat with him. Id. She claimed that while she was driving she heard a "smack" and then "the Mexican man scream." Id. The man removed his pants, and Mr. Pressley told her to drive to the man's apartment, where they let him out. The Petitioner claimed that "all she did was drive" and that "T.O." "had nothing to do with any of the robberies." Id. The Petitioner "maintained that 'Ducky, ...


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