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State v. James

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

September 30, 2014

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
VICTOR JAMES

Assigned on Briefs September 3, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. 13-311 Donald H. Allen, Judge

Gregory G. Gookin, Jackson, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Victor James.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; Shaun A. Brown, 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

This case arises from the Defendant's operation of a motor vehicle without a valid driver's license. A Madison County grand jury indicted the Defendant for one count of driving on a revoked license and one count of driving on a revoked license, third offense. The Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of driving on a revoked license, third offense, and a trial was held on the remaining indicted count for driving on a revoked license. The parties presented the following evidence at trial: Joseph Williams testified that he worked for the Jackson Police Department and was working patrol on July 6, 2012. Officer Williams stated that on July 6 at approximately 3:40 p.m., he was patrolling Roosevelt Parkway in East Jackson, Tennessee with his partner Officer Brae. Officer Williams and Officer Brae observed the Defendant driving a Mercury Grand Marquis on Lincoln Street at the corner of Roosevelt Parkway. Officer Williams recalled that the Mercury Grand Marquis was green and that he observed the vehicle driving in the opposing lane so that the Defendant's vehicle and the patrol car passed each other. Officer Williams stated that he had prior knowledge of the Defendant and knew that his driver's license was revoked. Upon seeing the Defendant, Officer Williams stated that he made a u-turn and followed the Defendant, who turned his vehicle into a grocery store parking lot and exited the vehicle. Officer Williams explained that the Defendant proceeded inside the grocery store, so Officer Williams and Officer Brae decided to wait until he exited the store to make contact. While the Defendant was inside, Officer Williams confirmed that the Defendant's driver's license was revoked.

Officer Williams stated that they waited for the Defendant to exit the grocery store in a nearby church parking lot with a view of the store. Officer Williams recalled that the Defendant exited the grocery store, but did not get back into his vehicle, instead walking down Roosevelt Parkway away from the store. At that point, Officer Williams stopped the Defendant on the sidewalk. Officer Williams reiterated that the Defendant was alone, and that the Defendant was the sole occupant and driver of the vehicle. Officer Williams identified a certified copy of the Defendant's official driver record, and it was admitted as an exhibit. He testified that the "status" of the license was "revoked." Officer Williams recalled that the Defendant did not have a driver's license on his person when he was stopped on Roosevelt Parkway.

On cross-examination, Officer Williams reiterated that he initially observed the Defendant traveling on Lincoln Street and then the Defendant's vehicle stopped at the stop sign of Lincoln Street and Roosevelt Parkway. Officer Williams recalled that his patrol vehicle was turning onto Lincoln Street from Roosevelt Parkway as the Defendant's vehicle turned onto Roosevelt Parkway. Officer Williams said he made an immediate u-turn after turning onto Lincoln Street. He stated that he did not activate his blue lights or sirens. Officer Williams agreed that he made contact with the Defendant after he left the grocery store and that the Defendant was not in his vehicle when this occurred.

On re-direct examination, Officer Williams stated that he observed the Defendant in the driver's seat operating the vehicle as Officer Williams turned left on Lincoln Street and that he then saw the vehicle proceeding down Roosevelt Parkway. He reiterated that he saw the Defendant pull into the store parking lot and exit the vehicle before going inside the store.

Based upon this evidence, the jury convicted the Defendant of driving on a revoked license, and the trial court sentenced him to eleven months and twenty-nine days in jail. It is from this judgment that the Defendant now appeals.

II. Analysis

On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. He contends that the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the individual operating the Mercury Grand Marquis. He states that, considering Officer William's testimony that he made contact with the Defendant while he was walking and the absence of testimony that the Defendant owned the vehicle, the proof was insufficient to allow a reasonable jury to find that the Defendant was guilty of driving on a revoked license. The State counters that Officer William's eye witness testimony was more than sufficient evidence from which a jury could conclude that the Defendant was driving the vehicle. The State argues that the ...


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