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Stevenson v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

October 10, 2014


Assigned on Briefs June 3, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C-13-266 Roy B. Morgan, Jr., Judge.

Kortney D. Simmons, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Samuel E. Stevenson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Senior Counsel; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Alfred L. Earls, Assistant District Attorney 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.




The petitioner was convicted of facilitation of attempted first degree premeditated murder, aggravated assault, and especially aggravated kidnapping and sentenced to an effective term of fifty-three years in the Department of Correction as a result of his participation in assaulting, kidnapping, and setting fire to the victim, Freddy Jones. State v. Brian Montrel Brawner, Randy Leon Miller, and Sam Edward Stevenson, No. W2010-02591-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 1572212, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 3, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 18, 2012). This court affirmed his convictions on direct appeal, and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied his application for permission to appeal. Id.

On direct appeal, this court recited the underlying facts of the case as follows:

The three defendants lived in a garage apartment located at the rear of the Alexander Street residence in downtown Jackson in which the victim lived. According to the State's proof at trial, on the night of November 2, 2009, Defendant[] Brawner and [the petitioner] grabbed the victim from the front porch of his home, severely beat him, and carried him to the garage apartment. There, Defendant Miller poured rubbing alcohol over him and set him on fire. As the victim rolled around on the floor attempting to put out the flames, the defendants beat and kicked him. After the flames were extinguished, [the petitioner] placed the victim in a shower and ran cold water over him. The defendants then confined the victim in various places in the apartment until the next morning, when the defendants either fell asleep or passed out. At that point, the victim was able to escape and summon help.

Trial State's Proof

The State's first witness at the defendants' September 2010 trial was a young neighbor of the victim's who witnessed the initial beating and kidnapping. Twenty-one-year-old Colton Forrest identified the victim's residence, 115 Alexander Street, as a "crack house" that was located just a few houses down from his family's home. He said that he and his brother were on the front porch of their home sometime between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m. on November 2, 2009, when they heard an altercation, looked toward the victim's house, and saw a white man being grabbed by the throat by a black man. Forrest stated that the first black man was joined by a second black man and that one of the two held the white man while the other one beat him. After two or three minutes, the two men picked up the victim and carried or dragged him down the driveway toward the garage. Forrest testified that his mother, who was a police officer, arrived home from work approximately ten minutes later and that he and his brother informed her of what they had witnessed. She, in turn, called the police.

Ricky Melton, Forrest's brother, corroborated Forrest's account, testifying that he saw two black men beat a white man in front of the victim's house for about five minutes before they picked him up and dragged him down the driveway toward the rear of the residence.

Officer Tommy Ferguson of the Jackson Police Department testified that he responded to the scene shortly before midnight on November 2, 2009, but was unable to find any evidence of an assault. He spoke with several individuals who were sitting on the front porch of the residence at 115 Alexander Street, but he did not enter either the front or rear residence.

Sergeant Melanie Melton of the Jackson Police Department testified that she arrived home from work at approximately 11:20 p.m. on November 2, 2009, to be met in the driveway by her two sons, who relayed what they had just witnessed. She said she called dispatch at approximately 11:50 p.m., met Officer Ferguson outside when he arrived at the scene, and advised him to call another officer to assist because of what she knew about the victim's residence. She said that Officer Ferguson told her before his departure that he had not been able to find any evidence of an assault.

At approximately 9:30 a.m. the next morning, Sergeant Melton was awakened by the severely burned, weak-voiced victim knocking at her door. She described his appearance:

One whole side of his face was just totally – just awful looking. His eye was swelled shut. He was burnt. His hair was burnt off all the way down his neck. His clothes were burnt to his skin. He was in his underwear and his underwear was burnt to his skin. He was in sock feet and they were burnt all the way down on the sides, and he was just kind of trembling like.

Officer Ted Maxwell of the Jackson Police Department, who responded to Sergeant Melton's house ten or fifteen minutes before the ambulance arrived to transport the victim to the hospital, testified that the victim told him that "Sam" and "Killer Bee" had burned him and pointed out the location where the burning had occurred. Officer Maxwell stated that he went first to the main residence of 115 Alexander Street, where he spoke with Eddie McCrae, who told him who was renting the garage apartment. He then went to the garage apartment, where he found three men and two women: Lewis Brawner, who answered the door; [the petitioner], who was hiding under the covers in a bed inside the apartment; Defendant Brian Brawner; Christina Coelsch; and Ashley Scruggs. Officer Maxwell identified photographs of the crime scene, which, he said, showed what appeared to be spots of blood in the driveway and inside ...

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