Argued on Briefs July 8, 2014
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 09-06801 Honorable Lee V. Coffee, Judge
R. Todd Mosley (on appeal) and James P. DeRossitt, IV (at hearing), Memphis, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Vernon Motley.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Leslie Rainey, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.
Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams, J., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., Sp. J., joined.
CAMILLE R. McMULLEN, JUDGE
Facts. This court summarized the evidence presented at trial in its opinion on direct appeal:
The [Petitioner] was charged with first degree premeditated murder after the mother of his child's new boyfriend and father-to-be of her baby, Eric Deon Brown, the victim, was shot and killed outside a home at 2164 Hubert Circle in Memphis.
At trial, Tyrone Jackson, the victim's brother, identified photographs of the victim for the record.
Kendrick Buckley testified that he visited his cousin, Shaka Jones, on February 22, 2008 at the home of Jones's grandmother on Hubert Circle. The two went to get pizza and then sat across the street from Jones's grandmother's house in Buckley's truck, talking. While they were sitting in the truck, the [Petitioner] pulled up in front of the house, and "about that time [Jones] was telling [him] to pull off" or leave. As he was leaving, Buckley saw the [Petitioner] get out of his car and walk up to the porch of Jones's grandmother's house. Buckley drove to his house approximately thirty minutes away. As he was driving, Jones received calls on her cell phone, which made her "upset, real excited, real upset. Constantly hollering and screaming." He recalled that Jones was exclaiming that the victim had been shot. The next day, the police had Buckley view a photographic array from which he identified the [Petitioner] as the man he saw "walk up to the porch [at Hubert Circle]."
Shaka Jones testified that she and the [Petitioner] were involved in an "off and on" relationship for fourteen years and had a child together. Their relationship ended and, in the latter part of 2007, Jones began dating the victim. She was pregnant with the victim's baby on February 22, 2008. The [Petitioner] was not happy about Jones's pregnancy and had threatened "to kill [her], [her] baby, [the victim] and [Jones's] other kids." Jones had not told the [Petitioner] that the victim was the father of her unborn baby, but she "guess[ed] he took it upon himself to assume that's who the baby's daddy was" because of his having observed the two together and conducting his own investigation.
Jones testified that, on January 19, 2008, her and the [Petitioner]'s almost twelve-year[-]old son, "Lil Vernon, " called from his visit with the [Petitioner] and "told [her] that [she] needed to bring him all of his belongings . . . because [the Petitioner] was taking him and [she] wasn't going to get him back[.]" "Lil Vernon" also relayed that the [Petitioner] threatened to kill him, Jones, and Jones's other son if Jones did not comply. Jones eventually sought help from the [Petitioner]'s mother who was able to get "Lil Vernon" back. After that, Jones stayed away from the [Petitioner] and even moved without letting anyone know where she was living because of the [Petitioner]'s threats. Jones also stayed away from the victim "because [she] took heed into what [the Petitioner] had said."
Jones testified that, on February 22, 2008, she was sitting with her cousin, Kendrick Buckley, in Buckley's truck outside her grandmother's house on Hubert Circle waiting for her children to come home from a Mardi Gras celebration at school. She saw the [Petitioner] pull up in his mother's Chrysler Pacifica, get out of the car, and walk up to her grandmother's porch at "[a] fast pace." Alarmed because of the threats the [Petitioner] had made, Jones told Buckley to drive away. Jones called her grandmother to see if the [Petitioner] was in her house, and her grandmother informed her that he was not. A few minutes later, Stephanie Blanton, Jones's grandmother's next-door neighbor, called and told Jones that the victim had been shot and was bleeding to death on her front porch. Jones acknowledged that neither the victim, Torre Smith, nor anyone else was around when the [Petitioner] arrived at Hubert Circle. Later, Jones gave a statement to the police and identified the [Petitioner] in a photographic array as the person she saw at her grandmother's house the night of the murder.
Torre Smith, the victim's cousin, testified that he accompanied the victim to Hubert Circle on February 22, 2008. The victim drove the two of them in Smith's car. The victim stopped in front of a white house, got out, and walked up to the front porch. He knocked on the front door, looked in the window, and then walked to the house next door, all the while talking on his cell phone. As the victim was walking to the house next door, "a car c[a]me speeding up behind [Smith's] car and a gentleman jumped out, running with a pistol and saying, 'I've been waiting to catch you, ' and he shot right when he got by [Smith's] window, but he was running and [the victim] took out running." The victim ran behind the houses, and the gunman chased him. Smith moved into the driver's seat and drove down the street to see if he could intercept the victim. However, he heard more gunshots and did not see the victim, so he drove back to the original location in time to see the gunman getting into a Chrysler Pacifica. Smith followed the gunman and got a partial license plate number, which he relayed to 911. Smith drove back to Hubert Circle where he saw the victim lying on the front porch "convulsing." Later, Smith told the police what he had seen, including a description of the gunman, but he was unable to identify the gunman in a photographic array.
Akil Payne testified that he lived on Hubert Circle next door to Jones's grandmother. Payne knew the victim because the victim had dated both Payne's sister, Kimberly Blanton, and Shaka Jones. Payne knew the [Petitioner] as well, who was usually referred to as "V" or a few times as "Lil V." On the evening of February 22, 2008, Payne was in his house with his stepfather, Rickey Dunlap, when he heard gunshots outside. Payne looked out the window and saw a blue Chrysler Pacifica, which he recognized as the [Petitioner]'s mother's car, parked in front of Jones's grandmother's house. When the shooting stopped, Payne's sister knocked on the door and said that the victim had been shot. Payne opened the door and saw the victim lying on the front porch. Payne knelt down, held the victim in his arms, and asked him what had happened. The victim told him, "V shot me." Payne asked if he meant "Shaka's baby daddy, " and the victim confirmed that it was. The victim told him that the [Petitioner] shot him "[o]ver Shaka." The victim said, "I don't think I'm going to make this one" and began praying.
Officer Russell Mooney with the Memphis Police Department testified that he responded to the dispatch call to the scene that evening. When he arrived, he saw the victim lying on the front porch of the house. He called for an ambulance and secured the crime scene. He noticed some shell casings on the ground and pointed them out to the crime scene officers.
Officer Jeffrey Garey with the Memphis Police Department Crime Scene Unit testified that he reported to the Regional Medical Center where he photographed the victim and tagged his property.
Sergeant James Smith with the Memphis Police Department Crime Scene Unit testified that he photographed the crime scene and collected evidence. Among the evidence collected were three spent forty-five caliber shell casings: one on the sidewalk in the front of the house and two near the back porch of the house. He also found a red Samsung cell phone in the grass at the front of the house.
Gwendolyn Motley, the [Petitioner]'s mother, testified that the police came to her house the night of February 22, 2008, looking for the [Petitioner] and asking about her 2005 Chrysler Pacifica. The [Petitioner] had been to her house earlier that evening, but she was not sure where he was when the police arrived. She acknowledged that the [Petitioner] drove her car at times but did not recall whether he had driven it that evening. The car was at her house when the police arrived.
Shelva Stafford of the Shelby County Clerk's Office testified that Tennessee license plate 755NLL was registered to Gwendolyn Motley.
Detective Patrick Parson with the Memphis Police Department testified that, as an officer on the criminal apprehension team, he was one of the officers who went to Gwendolyn Motley's house looking for the [Petitioner] that night. Motley was very nice and responsive and gave Detective Parson consent to search her home, but the [Petitioner] was not in the house. Motley told Detective Parson that the [Petitioner] had driven her Pacifica that day, including when he went to the store around 6:00 p.m. and again around 7:00 p.m. when "he left the house . . . and she ...