Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Session July 22, 2014
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Carter County No. 21401 Jon Kerry Blackwood, Judge
James T. Bowman, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Travis Grover Richardson.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Tony Clark, District Attorney General; and Janet Hardin, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Timothy L. Easter, Sp. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert W. Wedemeyer, JJ., joined.
TIMOTHY L. EASTER, SPECIAL JUDGE
Factual and Procedural Background
A Carter County Grand Jury indicted Defendant on one count of aggravated robbery, four counts of aggravated assault, one count of theft of property valued at $1, 000 or more, two counts of felony evading arrest, two counts of criminal simulation, two counts of attempted second degree murder, and one count of vandalism. On May 13, 2013, Defendant proceeded to a jury trial.
Brittany Rice testified at the jury trial that she worked at a grocery store in Carter County ("the store") in August, 2011. Rice met Defendant while she was working as a cashier at the store approximately four or five days prior to the day of the events in question. Shortly after meeting Rice, Defendant asked her to exchange "fake counterfeit money for real money." Rice testified that she agreed to make the exchange because she was "too afraid" to say no. On August 2, 2011, prior to the time Defendant was supposed to come in and make the exchange, Rice told the store's manager, Richard Teeter, about Defendant's plan, and Teeter informed police. Three police officers and Teeter hid out of sight while Defendant entered the store and gave Rice a $100 bill. At that moment, Rice gave a signal over the store's intercom system, and the officers and Teeter approached Defendant. Rice testified that one of the officers "asked [Defendant] to go to the side, " and then things went "haywire." Defendant became "aggressive" and "tried to push the cops away from him and tried to run." Rice described a struggle in which Defendant struck Teeter and eventually ran out of the store. On cross-examination, Rice explained that, in exiting the store, Defendant ran straight through a sliding door, knocking it off its hinges.
Officer Matthew Taylor, a police officer with the Elizabethton Police Department ("EPD") testified that he responded to the store on August 2, 2011. As Defendant left the register, Officer Taylor stood behind him. When Defendant turned around, Officer Taylor asked Defendant to "speak with [him] a minute." Defendant responded, "[W]hat's this about?" Officer Taylor grabbed Defendant's arm, and "that's when the struggle ensued." Officer Taylor testified that he grabbed Defendant's arm because Defendant "was beginning to walk backwards away from [him] and it appeared to [him] that [Defendant] was either going to fight or try to flee." Officer Taylor described what happened next:
[Defendant] began to fight. . . He broke loose of my grip. One of the managers had grabbed him, took him to the floor. We began to wrestle. I told him put your hands behind your back, you're under arrest. He refused to do so. I then stood up and tried to deploy my taser to subdue him. And the way a taser works both probes have to hit your target and only one probe hit the target which renders it useless. He then ran out the front door, broke the front doors and ran.
Officer Taylor identified a video taken by a surveillance camera at the store which depicted the struggle testified to above, and the video was entered into evidence without objection. Officer Taylor also identified a video recorded from his taser gun during the incident in which he tried and failed to subdue Defendant with his taser gun, and the video was entered into evidence without objection.
Once outside the store, Officer Taylor continued to chase Defendant. When Defendant reached "a set of kind of dumpsters, " Defendant turned around and said, "[C]ome on, motherfucker." Defendant "pulled a silver knife out of his pocket and began swinging it side to side." Officer Taylor testified that Defendant came "within six to twelve inches" of Officer Taylor's chest with the knife. At the time Defendant came at him with the knife, Officer Taylor testified, "I thought he was going to take my life. I thought he was going to kill me." At that point, Officer Taylor drew his gun and aimed it at Defendant. Defendant turned and ran through a ditch, and Officer Taylor continued to pursue him on foot. Officer Taylor testified:
[Defendant] then runs into a driveway where there is a gentleman standing. I – the gentleman starts running towards [Defendant] I guess in an event to help me subdue him. [Defendant] then takes the knife and starts swinging it at the gentlemen. I scream to him to get back [Defendant has] got a knife. At this point I was probably twenty-five yards away I would imagine, twenty yards away.
At that point, Defendant entered a white Jeep parked in the driveway and drove into the street, striking another officer's vehicle. Defendant then reversed the Jeep towards Officer Taylor, causing Officer Taylor to jump into a ditch to avoid the Jeep. Officer Taylor testified that he perceived Defendant to be intentionally trying to strike him with the Jeep, and Defendant screamed, "I'll kill you, mother-fucker." After Officer Taylor dove into the ditch, Defendant drove away in the Jeep. Officer Taylor returned to his police vehicle and began to chase the Jeep. By that time, there were several other officers in front of him also pursuing Defendant. Eventually, Officer Taylor broke off his pursuit.
On cross-examination, Officer Taylor admitted that he was not aware of the signal Rice gave over the intercom system. He arrived just as the transaction was taking place. He clarified that Defendant's knife was a "small silver folding knife."
Officer Eric Buck, a police officer with the EPD, testified that he received a call on August 2, 2011, to respond to the store and "assist Patrolman Taylor in a foot chase." When he arrived, he saw Defendant and Officer Taylor in a nearby parking lot engaged in "some sort of altercation, struggle." As Officer Buck made his way toward the parking lot, Defendant began to run from Officer Taylor again, and Officer Buck saw Defendant run toward a house. As Officer Buck approached the house, he saw Defendant engaged in a "physical altercation" with a man at the house. Officer Buck parked his patrol vehicle in the driveway, blocking a white Jeep that was parked there. As Officer Buck was exiting his patrol car, Defendant already had entered the Jeep. Officer Buck approached the Jeep. He testified, "As I was walking up to the [Jeep, ] I observed [Defendant] with a knife in his left hand. [Defendant] immediately put the vehicle in reverse, rapidly sped up backwards and crashed into my patrol car."
When Defendant backed into Officer Buck's patrol car, the Jeep became "hung up" on his patrol car. At that point, Officer Buck fired his taser at Defendant, but he missed. A video recorded from Officer Buck's taser gun was entered into evidence without objection. After a few seconds, the Jeep broke free from his patrol car, and Defendant sped away.
Mike Hicks testified that, on August 2, 2011, while he was outside cleaning his pool, he saw "an altercation across the street in a parking lot between an officer and [Defendant]." Hicks testified that Defendant began running directly toward his house with a police officer chasing him. Because he was afraid that Defendant was going to attempt to enter his house, Hicks ran to cut off Defendant. Hicks testified, "I got in front of him as he was coming in the driveway and he stuck out a knife and told me to give him my keys." At about that time, Officer Buck pulled his patrol car into the driveway. Hicks testified that his Jeep was parked in the driveway and that he had left the keys in the ignition. When Hicks told Defendant that he did not have any keys on him, Defendant jumped into his Jeep and, finding the keys in the ignition, started the Jeep and backed into Officer Buck's patrol car. Defendant "just floored it and pushed [Officer Buck's patrol car] out of the way until he could clear him, " and then drove away.
On cross-examination, Hicks testified that he recalled seeing two officers with Defendant in the parking lot. He testified that one of the officers "grabbed [Defendant], and tugged on him and – he swung around like they were fighting." He confirmed that he did not tell Defendant that the keys were in his Jeep.
Captain Joy Markland, a police officer with the EPD, testified that she responded to the call of the pursuit of Defendant. As she drove toward the store, she spotted the white Jeep traveling on the same road in the opposite direction, approaching her. Captain Markland testified, "As I was slowing and stopped I notice[d] that this Jeep who I perceived to be the suspect vehicle appeared to accelerate and travel into my lane of travel." As a result, Captain Markland was forced to "take actions to avoid a head-on collision, " driving off the road. She testified that her blue lights were on at the time of the near-collision. Subsequently, Captain Markland turned around and began to pursue the Jeep. At one point during the pursuit, Captain Markland remembered Defendant "slamming on his brakes, " forcing her to do the same. Several other officers joined the pursuit. At some point during the pursuit, Captain Markland "began losing brake function" and was almost out of fuel, so she discontinued her pursuit. She testified that, throughout the pursuit, Defendant disregarded all traffic signs, stop signs, and traffic lights. She pursued Defendant for a total of approximately eleven miles before terminating her pursuit. She testified that she subsequently drove the entire route of the pursuit and determined the length of the entire pursuit to have been twenty-five miles. Captain Markland identified Defendant as the driver of the white Jeep. Captain Markland identified a video of the pursuit recorded from her patrol car, and the video was entered into evidence.
Lieutenant Penny Cornett, an officer with the Carter County Sheriff's Office, received a call to aid in the pursuit of Defendant. She joined the pursuit as it was already in progress. She testified that, at one point during the pursuit, "[t]he white Jeep stopped in front of me. I stopped behind him. The white Jeep put his vehicle in reverse and rammed into my vehicle." After the collision, Defendant sped off, and the pursuit resumed. Lieutenant Cornett identified a video of the pursuit recorded from her patrol car, and the video was entered into evidence. Throughout the pursuit, Defendant drove "erratically" and ignored the traffic laws. Eventually, Lieutenant Cornett performed a "pit maneuver" in which she struck Defendant's rear, passenger-side bumper, causing the Jeep to spin out of control and come to a stop. After the Jeep came to a stop, Lieutenant Cornett exited her vehicle and approached Defendant. When she approached the Jeep, she saw Defendant in the driver's seat with "one hand down [and] one hand up." Defendant refused to comply with her command to exit the vehicle and began to roll up his window. At that point, Lieutenant Cornett fired her taser gun at Defendant, striking him. Another officer was able to remove Defendant from the vehicle, and Defendant was placed under arrest.
Officer Taylor was re-called and testified that, after Defendant was apprehended successfully, he was called to transport Defendant to booking. Upon placing Defendant in his patrol car, Officer ...