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State v. Craft

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

October 10, 2014


Assigned on Briefs June 3, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 12-02286 Paula Skahan, Judge.

Vicki M. Carriker, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Allen Craft. R. Todd Mosely (on appeal) and Juni Ganguli (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Cedric Mims.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Ray Lepone and Neal Oldham, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Camille R. McMullen, J., joined. Jeffrey S. Bivins, J., Not Participating.




Tekela Phillips Rayford testified that her family owned Phillips Sundry, a grocery store on Vance Avenue in Memphis, and that her cousin, Ronald Ellington, worked at the store as a cook. Rayford requested that Ellington keep her company and protect her while she was at the store alone. On December 3, 2011, Rayford received a phone call informing her that Ellington had been shot and killed and that two other people also had been shot at the store.

Officer Trey Norris of the Memphis Police Department responded to the shooting at Phillips Sundry. He was informed that three victims had been shot, and two of them were lying on the ground beside a white SUV when Officer Norris arrived. A blood trail led officers to the third victim's residence, an apartment complex several streets away. The officers learned that the third victim had returned to the scene, and all three victims had been transported to the hospital.

James Hendricks, the victim in the attempted voluntary manslaughter judgment, testified that he grew up near the scene of the shooting. At 1:00 p.m. on December 3, 2011, Hendricks rode his bicycle to Phillips Sundry, where he saw his friends, Herman Robinson and Ronald Ellington, sitting in Robinson's white Dodge Durango in front of the store. He noticed two young men standing on the corner, one who appeared to be 5'7" to 5'9" tall and about 17 or 18 years old, and both were wearing gray hoodies, purple bandannas, and blue jeans. The young man with the darker complexion had his hands in the pocket of his hoodie as he walked around to the driver's side of Robinson's vehicle. Hendricks reached for his pistol, and the young man suddenly opened fire on Hendricks with what appeared to be a .40 caliber pistol. Hendricks was shot twice and fell, and a friend picked him up and took him to his mother's house one block away. As he was leaving, Hendricks heard two or three more gunshots. When Hendricks arrived at his mother's house, she took his gun and told him to go back to the scene, where he told police what had happened.

Herman Robinson, the victim in the especially aggravated robbery judgment, testified that, on December 3, 2011, he went to Phillips Sundry and parked his truck in the driveway. He was joined there by his "best friend, " Ronald Ellington. Subsequently, two young men wearing bandannas approached his truck, pointed guns, and demanded money. Robinson told them he did not have any money. The "dark guy" then opened the door, pulled Ellington out of the vehicle, and took him to the back of the truck. The "little short guy" kept his gun pointed at Robinson and pulled him out of the vehicle. The shorter man kept demanding money, so Robinson emptied his pockets and gave him $46 while the man kept his large pistol pointed at Robinson. Robinson said he heard one gunshot, turned around to see Ellington fall to the ground, and then heard another gunshot. Realizing he had been shot in the leg, Robinson fell to the ground. He identified Defendant Mims as the man who shot him.

Keith Austin, Ronald Ellington's cousin, testified that on December 3, 2011, he was driving down Fourth Street when he saw the defendants crossing the street on the side of Phillips Sundry. They told him that Ellington had been shot. At the scene, Austin saw that Robinson had been shot in the leg and Ellington in the chest. He saw the defendants standing on the sidewalk and asked what they had just done. One "reached down like he had something, " so Austin drove off in fear that he had a gun.

Afterwards, Austin and his cousin, Larry Perry, got in Austin's other car and started looking for the defendants. When they found Defendant Mims talking to a woman at a bus stop, Austin displayed a gun and told Mims to get in the car. Mims told him that he did not shoot anyone but admitted that he participated in the robbery. They attempted to take Mims back to the police on the scene, but Mims escaped. As he struggled to escape, Mims' pants, containing a garbage bag and $40, came off, all of which Austin gave to the police.

Romedarrious Humphrey testified that he knew both defendants from the neighborhood and that, on the day of the shooting, he saw the defendants with Melvin Bridgewater. Defendant Mims told Humphrey, "[M]an, we fixing to go rob and lay these folks down in front of the store." One of the defendants was wearing a gray jacket and the other a black jacket. The defendants left and when they returned, their faces were covered with bandannas and they proceeded to walk to Phillips Sundry, where they approached Robinson's truck. Humphrey saw Defendant Craft run to the driver's side, pull the driver out of the truck, and shoot him in the leg. Defendant Mims opened the passenger side door and shot the passenger in the chest. Humphrey heard about five gunshots and waited to run to the victims until the defendants had fled the scene.

Prior to the shooting, Humphrey had hidden his .40 caliber pistol underneath a bag of leaves because the police were conducting searches in the neighborhood, and he later discovered that the gun was missing. He asked Defendant Craft about the gun, and Craft replied, "[Y]eah, I got it." Humphrey testified that Defendant Mims belonged to the Kitchen Crips gang and that Defendant Craft belonged to the Grape Street Crips gang.

Sergeant Joe Stark testified that Defendant Mims told him that he was a member of the Goon Squad gang and that Bridgewater wanted to initiate him into the Kitchen Crips gang. Mims said that Bridgewater told him that because he had been taking care of Mims, Mims had to do something in exchange and threatened to kill him if he did not ...

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