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State v. Taylor

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

September 30, 2014

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
PAMELA TAYLOR

Session Date February 4, 2014.

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 10-06598 W. Otis Higgs, Jr., Judge

André C. Wharton and Alexander C. Wharton, for the Defendant-Appellant, Pamela Taylor.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Patience R. Branham and Charles Summers, III, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.

OPINION

CAMILLE R. McMULLEN, JUDGE

Trial

On December 23, 2009, the Defendant, Pamela Taylor, fatally shot her husband Michael Taylor. In her appellate brief, the Defendant provided an abbreviated statement of the evidence presented at trial. As we will explain, there was sufficient evidence to support the Defendant's conviction for second degree murder.

State's Proof

Diane Welch, the victim's mother, testified that although the Defendant was married to the victim at the time of his death, the victim intended to divorce the Defendant and to move in with her and her husband until he could get a one-bedroom apartment. Ms. Welch stated that the Defendant and the victim had met as teenagers and that the Defendant had been pregnant with the victim's child when she graduated from high school. However, she said the victim never married the Defendant until their child, Brittany, was nearly seventeen years old. Prior to his marriage to the Defendant, the victim was married to Wendy Taylor, and their marriage lasted several years before ending in divorce.

Ms. Welch stated her belief that the Defendant was a very jealous girlfriend and wife. Over the years, she had seen the Defendant get angry if other women paid attention to the victim. When the Defendant and the victim were approximately twenty-four years old, the Defendant suddenly appeared when the victim and his date returned home, and the victim had to restrain the Defendant so that the other woman could get into her car to leave. Ms. Welch also stated that the Defendant grabbed another woman by the head and pushed her after the woman tapped the victim on the back. She had seen the Defendant sitting outside in her car and had observed her driving back and forth in front of her home when the victim lived with her. Ms. Welch asserted that the victim was not a violent person and that she had never seen him angry with the Defendant or possessive of her. She never saw any evidence that the victim was physically abusing the Defendant, and the Defendant never complained of abuse and never told her that she was afraid of the victim.

Brittany Taylor, the daughter of the Defendant and the victim, testified that she had never seen the victim act violently toward another person. However, she acknowledged that the victim had yelled at her or her sisters if they were misbehaving and had yelled at the Defendant when they argued. One time she saw the victim push the Defendant but never observed any other incidents between them. Brittany[1] said she never observed any bruises or marks on the Defendant. During one incident, the victim became angry and pushed some things off the counter top, breaking a ceramic bowl she had made. She also said that the victim regularly broke video game controllers and that she had seen him break a golf club after hitting a bad shot. She said she had never seen the victim break any furniture. Brittany was aware that victim smoked marijuana and used steroids.

On December 22, 2009, at 9:28 a.m., Brittany received a text message from the Defendant, stating, "Please come to the apartment." At 10:28 a.m., she received another text message from the Defendant, which said, "The police just left." Then, at 10:42 a.m., the Defendant sent a third text message, stating, "You have got to get your stuff. Dad is losing it." After receiving this third text, Brittany and her boyfriend went to her parents' apartment to pick up some of her furniture. When she arrived, she saw the victim outside doing some work, and he nodded to her. That night at 9:16 p.m., the Defendant sent Brittany the following text message:

Dad and I are fine. Please don't worry about anything . . . It's back to normal for the night. I'm working tomorrow and you got the items out of the apartment that he likes to threaten or break. He moved on to threatening me now . . . ha. I think he is going to bed and I am tired too. Love you lots.

On December 23, 2009, around 9:00 a.m., Brittany received the following voicemail message from the Defendant: "Please call Nana, your dad has attacked me again." Brittany drove to her parent's apartment, where she discovered that the Defendant had shot and killed the victim.

John Simmons, Brittany's boyfriend, stated that on the afternoon of December 22, 2009, he took Brittany to her parents' apartment to get her furniture. When they arrived, they saw the Defendant, who "seemed fine." Mr. Simmons stated that he was in the apartment for approximately thirty to forty-five minutes and did not observe any marks or injuries on the Defendant. He said he had never talked to the victim about steroids and had never noticed any aggressive behavior from the victim. He said the victim's mood was "very consistent."

Edie Lloyd, the office manager of the corporate office of Fogelman Management Group, testified that the day of the victim's funeral, the Defendant called her. During this call, the Defendant asked if the victim's last paycheck would deposit onto his iPay card. The Defendant also asked about the victim's life insurance and 401K benefits. The Defendant told Ms. Lloyd, "I know I'm the beneficiary and I don't have a job right now." She said she needed this money "for Brittany and for [the victim's mother] and the funeral."

Stephanie Joyner, the human resource manager at Fogelman Management Group, testified that the victim had been employed at the Madison Apartments as the maintenance supervisor. She stated that on December 22, 2009, she received an email from the victim's manager stating that the victim wanted to remove the Defendant as a beneficiary from his $97, 000 life insurance policy and his other benefits effective January 1, 2010, because they had just had a big disagreement. Ms. Joyner informed the victim's manager that the victim would have to make any changes in writing, but she never received anything from the victim prior to his death.

Wendy Taylor, the victim's ex-wife, testified that she had been married to the victim for seven years before they amicably divorced. She stated that although the victim took steroids during their marriage, he did not have anger problems. Wendy stated that the biggest problem in their marriage was that the victim was nonconfrontational and would leave anytime they had an argument. She asserted that the victim was never physically abusive or violent with her. When she and the victim separated during their marriage and then reconciled, the Defendant informed Wendy that she and the victim had dated during their separation. Wendy stated that the Defendant "was obsessed with" the victim during their marriage. She also said that the Defendant frequently prevented the victim from seeing Brittany if he did not do as she asked, which "was a headache throughout the marriage."

Timothy Maness, who worked with the victim at the Madison Apartments, testified that he and the victim were best friends. He said the victim did not have an anger problem, and he described the victim as "laid back" and "friendly." However, Mr. Maness said that the Defendant had a reputation for being a "possessive wife." He recalled one time that the Defendant called him for the purpose of checking up on where the victim had been the day before.

Mr. Maness said that he used steroids with the victim and that the victim was "very particular" about the kinds of steroids he used. He stated that the victim took no more than two twelve-week cycles of steroids a year. He said the victim's steroid use never changed his attitude toward people and never made him more aggressive or angrier. He also said the victim's marijuana use did not make him angry or aggressive.

Mr. Maness recalled that during the last six months of the victim's life, the Defendant "kept losing jobs, " which irritated the victim because the Defendant "made good money." He said the victim was considering moving out of the apartment he shared with the Defendant and into a smaller apartment in the same complex.

On the night of December 22, 2009, Mr. Maness said the victim came over to his apartment to watch a basketball game, and he could tell that the victim "had something on his mind." The victim indicated that he did not want to go home to an argument with the Defendant, but when Mr. Maness offered to let him stay at his apartment, the victim declined and returned home after the game.

On December 23, 2009, Mr. Maness saw police cars and ambulances near the victim's apartment. He immediately ran over to the apartment and asked an officer about the victim. Based on the officer's reaction, he knew that something bad had happened. Moments later, he saw the Defendant sitting in the backseat of a patrol car in handcuffs. The Defendant looked directly at Mr. Maness and pointed her fingers at him as if she were firing a gun.

Keeley Greer, an officer with the Memphis Police Department and a courtesy officer for the victim's and the Defendant's apartment complex, testified that he often received a shot of testosterone from his doctor and that he knew "many" other police officers who used steroids. He stated that although he had never talked to the victim about whether the victim used steroids, he never observed the victim having anger problems. On December 22, 2009, in the early morning, Officer Greer received a call from the Defendant, wherein the Defendant said that she and the victim had gotten into an argument and that the victim had locked her out of the apartment. He told the Defendant that she needed to call the police because he was their friend and because he did not deal with domestic violence issues as a courtesy officer. Later that afternoon, Officer Greer saw the victim, who looked frustrated, working out at the gym. He acknowledged that the victim had a temper when he was unable to fix something at his maintenance job at the apartment complex.

Vivian Williams, a 9-1-1 dispatcher for the Memphis Police Department, testified that on December 22, 2009, at 9:11 a.m., she received a call from the apartment the Defendant shared with the victim. She remembered this call because it was "a little bit odd." She explained:

[O]n the phone call [the Defendant] was saying that she was being attacked by her husband but as dispatchers we've learned to listen to background noises, if there's any yelling or screaming or and typically a person that's being attacked cannot hold a phone and talk to you. The phone would either fall or drop or you'd hear the fighting noises in the background o[r] whatever. But it was extremely quiet that day when she said she was being attacked, the background was quiet.

Parke Harber, an officer with the Memphis Police Department, testified that on December 22, 2009, he responded to a report of a domestic disturbance at the Defendant's apartment. When he arrived, the Defendant was "real calm." He said that the victim's clothes were not in disarray, that he did not see any marks or bruises on the Defendant, and that the Defendant did not say that she was injured. The Defendant told him that she and the victim had been arguing and that she had made the decision to call the police when "she thought that things were going to escalate . . . ." Officer Harber said he did not see anything out of place in the apartment and did not make a domestic violence report.

James Gaddy, another officer, testified that he went with Officer Harber to the Defendant's apartment in response to her 9-1-1 call. The Defendant told him that she and her husband had been arguing. Officer Gaddy noted that the Defendant did not have any injuries and that her hair was not out of place. He did not make a domestic violence report because there were no signs of a physical altercation.

Steve Dover, a supervisor for the Cash America Pawn shop on Summer Avenue, testified that on December 22, 2009, at 3:11 p.m., the Defendant pawned several pieces of gold jewelry at his shop. After calculating the value of this jewelry, he gave her a loan of $350.

James Simonton, the owner of the Guns and Ammo shop on Summer Avenue, testified that on December 22, 2009, at approximately 4:30 p.m., the Defendant bought a .38 Smith and Wesson Model 642 revolver. Mr. Simonton said that the Defendant paid for the handgun with cash and did not appear nervous or scared at the time she bought the gun.

Aaron Lamey testified that he lived in the apartment directly above the apartment shared by the Defendant and the victim. He stated that prior to December 23, 2009, he had never heard any loud noises coming from the victim's apartment. However, on the morning of December 23, 2009, he awoke "very suddenly" and looked at his clock at 8:39 a.m. He said he thought he had heard a gunshot in his dream or had been shot in his dream and was "a little frightened" when he awoke. He then heard a "loud . . . bang noise" that came from either above or below him in the apartment complex. He said he did not hear anything out of the ordinary after he awakened.

Milton Williamson, a dispatcher with the Memphis Police Department, testified that on December 23, 2009, at 8:48 a.m., he received a 9-1-1 call from the Defendant. He said that during the call, the Defendant became hysterical, and he could not understand what she was saying.

J.D. Downs, an officer with thirty-two years experience with the Memphis Police Department, testified that he was the first officer to respond to the crime scene after receiving notice of a shooting. When the Defendant answered the door, she appeared to be "very nervous" and did not say anything to him. He patted the Defendant down and observed that she was wearing a large yellow sweatshirt. Officer Downs stated that the Defendant did not look like she had any injuries. Shortly thereafter, the Defendant was placed in a squad car.

Officer Downs said he noticed that some of the furnishings in the apartment had been knocked over or pushed down. He asserted that the crime scene did not look as if a real fight had occurred and instead looked like it had been "staged." He walked into the master bathroom and saw the victim's body on the floor. The victim had one bullet wound in his chest, and he was lying on his back with blood coming from his head. A short time later, other officers arrived. Officer Downs acknowledged that some of the officers spoke to the Defendant inside her apartment but did not remember what the officers said to her or what the Defendant's responses were. Officer Downs later transported the Defendant to the police station. When they got out of the patrol car, two women told the Defendant not to say a word because they had hired attorney Leslie Ballin to represent her.

Elizabeth Mise, another police officer, testified that she arrived at the crime scene a few minutes after Officer Downs. When she placed the Defendant in the back of the squad car, she noticed that the Defendant did not have any injuries and did not have any blood on her or her clothes. Officer Mise said that when the Defendant was told that the victim was dead, she appeared to be upset and crying, although she seemed to be making more noise than shedding tears.

Adam Merrit, an officer with fourteen years of experience with the Memphis Police Department, testified that he also responded to a call of "[s]hots fired" at the Defendant's apartment. When he walked inside the apartment, he noticed, based on his experience in responding to "[h]undreds if not thousands" of crime scenes, that the chairs in the apartment looked as if they had been overturned and that nothing on the floor was broken. Officer Merritt stated that the significance of his observations was that "the items were probably placed there."

Mundy Quinn, a sergeant with the Memphis Police Department's homicide bureau, testified that he investigated the victim's murder. Upon arriving at the crime scene, he noticed that some chairs had been knocked over in the dining area. He entered the master bedroom and saw that a hamper had been "knocked over with some clothes that looked like they had been pulled out." He also saw the victim, who had a gunshot wound to his chest, in the master bathroom. He noted that the victim had hairs on one of his fingers, which indicated a possible struggle. He said other officers found a .38 Smith and Wesson snub nose revolver "between a wall and a dresser."

Sergeant Quinn asked the Defendant if she would sign a consent form for the officers to search the apartment, which she signed at 9:45 a.m. He said he did not ask the Defendant any questions about the circumstances of her husband's death. Sergeant Quinn did not see any injuries or blood on the Defendant, and he noticed that her hair was not "out of place." After the Defendant was arrested and transported to the police department, he advised the Defendant of her Miranda rights, which she waived before giving her statement. Sergeant Quinn stated that the Defendant never told him that she wanted an attorney and never mentioned that she had an attorney at the time he interviewed her. In her statement, the Defendant admitted that she shot the victim. She asserted that the victim had been physically abusive to her in the past. The Defendant stated that the day of the shooting, the victim, who was enraged, grabbed her by the hair and was about to choke her when she fired the gun through the sleeve of her sweatshirt.

Dr. Karen Chancellor, the chief medical examiner for Shelby County, was declared an expert in forensic pathology. She testified that the victim's cause of death was "multiple gunshot wounds." She said that one of the wounds was to the front of the victim's chest. This bullet passed through the victim's heart, destroying part of the aortic valve. She also said the victim sustained a second gunshot wound to the back of the head. Dr. Chancellor noted that the victim's body contained gunpowder particles, which indicated that the gun was fired within inches or feet of the victim's body. She stated that the victim did not have alcohol in his system but did have THC, the active component of marijuana, in his system. Dr. Chancellor tested the victim's urine for an anabolic steroid profile, but the levels for testosterone were in the normal range.

Michael Brown, a sergeant with the Memphis Police Department's homicide bureau, testified that when he arrived at the crime scene, the Defendant was "mildly upset" for "someone who had just shot someone." Sergeant Brown noted that the Defendant did not "look like she had been in a struggle for her life" when he saw her because she was calm, did not have any marks or bruises indicative of a struggle, and did not look disheveled. He noticed a hole in the sleeve of her sweatshirt. Sergeant Brown said he was also present when the Defendant gave her statement after waiving her Miranda rights. In her statement, the Defendant admitted that she had shot and killed the victim but claimed that it was "an accident." When she gave her statement, the Defendant "was crying or holding her head down like she was crying but there were no tears." The Defendant claimed that the victim was abusive and that she had called 9-1-1 on December 22, 2009, because he had choked her. She also said that on December 23, 2009, she had been asleep in her bed when the victim entered the apartment in a rage. She said the victim told her, "[M]other f, you're going to die today, I'm going to kill you, " and he pulled the covers back and began choking her before he grabbed her by her hair and pulled her out of the bed, stating, "I'm going to snap your mother f* neck." The Defendant said that she had the gun inside the sleeve of her sweatshirt at the time and shot the victim. She remembered firing the gun only one time. After she signed her statement, the Defendant told the officers that the victim had "thrown furniture around" inside their apartment.

Sergeant Brown stated that the inside of the apartment did not look like "a life and death struggle had occurred before the shooting." Based on his twenty-three years of experience as an officer, Sergeant Brown believed that at least some parts of the crime scene look as if they had been "staged." For example, he said that "the chairs [had] been turned over all in the same direction and [had been] laid down" rather than "thrown around." He noted that the chairs were not damaged. In addition, he said that although the Defendant asserted that the victim had choked her on the bed, the comforter was still on the bed. Sergeant Brown admitted that some things, including the hairs found on one of the victim's fingers, corroborated the Defendant's version of events.

Jeffrey Garey, an officer with sixteen years of experience with the Memphis Police Department and a member of the crime scene investigation unit who had investigated over five hundred crime scenes, was declared an expert in crime scene investigation. Officer Garey took photographs of the crime scene and collected evidence. He recalled that the living room was in "slight disarray." He collected a .38 Smith and Wesson revolver and two hair fibers stuck to the tip and edge of the victim's middle finger. He opined that the location and appearance of the victim's body, the placement of items in the apartment, and the clothes the Defendant was wearing looked as if they had been "staged or prearranged." Officer Garey noted that one chair from the dining room and two bar stools looked as if they had been knocked over from their original position rather than "thrown in a fit of rage." He also noticed that the chair and stools were not damaged. When he collected the Defendant's sweatshirt, he noticed that there was a hole in the lower part of the right-hand sleeve. He used an alternative light source to look for "bruising that ha[d] not yet come to the surface" of the Defendant's skin but found no indication that she had sustained any injuries.

Defense's Proof

Gordon Summerfield testified his daughter played competitive basketball with Brittany, the Defendant's daughter. He stated that the Defendant was a "[g]reat mom" with a "[s]weet disposition."

Deanna Dixon, the Defendant's friend, testified that she and the Defendant had gone to nursing school together and had worked together for several years at Youth Villages. She stated that she promoted the Defendant at Youth Villages and took the Defendant with her when she went to another department. When Ms. Dixon left her job in 2003, she recommended the Defendant for her old job as supervisor, and the Defendant was given that job. Ms. Dixon stated that she was not aware that the Defendant's contract had not been renewed at Youth Villages.

Ashley Montgomery testified that she had known the Defendant since 1995 and had worked with her as a nurse at Youth Villages. She stated that the Defendant was an excellent nurse and was "extremely compassionate about the kids in need at Youth Villages." Ms. Montgomery said that when she left her supervisory position with Youth Villages in 2008, she recommended to her boss that the Defendant take her position. She said the Defendant interviewed for the job but turned it down because of the schedule.

Dr. Timothy Robert, a laboratory director for Aegis Sciences Corporation and a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences with a concentration in pharmacology, was declared an expert in toxicology. He testified his lab tested the victim's blood, which tested positive for THC, a component of marijuana. He also said his lab performed an anabolic steroid analysis on the victim's urine sample. This analysis revealed that the victim's levels of Nandrolone were higher levels than what is naturally produced by the body, which indicated the possibility that the victim was using an anabolic steroid. In addition, the testing revealed a very low level of epitestosterone compared to a high level of testosterone, which also suggested the use of an anabolic steroid. Dr. Robert stated that steroid use can cause side effects of "aggressivity and hostility, depression, anxiety, [and] narcissism[.]" He also stated that "[m]arijuana is usually considered to be a central nervous system depressant and therefore usually is associated with no[n]aggressive behavior."

Robin Ost testified that she became friends with the Defendant because her daughter played basketball with the Defendant's daughter, Brittany. She stated that she had gotten to know the Defendant well over the years and described her as caring, kind, honest, [and] level[]headed." She said she had never observed any violent behavior from the Defendant and would not describe the Defendant as a jealous or possessive woman regarding the victim. Ms. Ost stated she knew the Defendant owned a gun.

The Defendant testified that she had met the victim in high school and that he had proposed to her the night of graduation. When she discovered she was pregnant with their daughter Brittany, she and the victim moved into an apartment together. While they were living in the apartment, the victim accused her of stealing his marijuana and picked her up by the throat and slammed her against a wall. During a different incident, the victim threw her around the apartment and threw furniture out into the courtyard of the apartment complex but left before the police arrived. The Defendant also said that the victim once attacked a family friend because he had danced with her. She said that she eventually moved out of the apartment they shared and moved in with her grandmother.

The Defendant said that in 2007, the victim asked her to move in with him, and they were married in February 2008. Once they got married, she and the victim went to court to have his child support payments stopped. However, in August 2008, the victim became "livid" because the court tried to garnish his wages for unpaid child support. During the ensuing argument, he picked up a knife in the kitchen and threw her to the ground. When she ran away, the victim threw a phone book at her head. The Defendant said that the garnishment had been a ...


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