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Woods v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

October 28, 2014


Assigned on Briefs July 8, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C-09-10 Honorable Donald H. Allen, Judge

Joseph T. Howell, Jackson, Tennessee, for the Petitioner, Dana Keith Woods.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Shaun A. Brown, 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., joins. Jerry L. Smith, J., Not Participating.



This appeal stems from the shooting death of Terry Dixson and the subsequent shooting and kidnapping of Gwendolyn Steele. In relation to this incident, the Petitioner was indicted for first degree premeditated murder, felony murder, aggravated burglary, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and attempted first degree murder. The underlying facts were summarized by this court on direct appeal as follows:

Ms. Gwendolyn Steele, one of the victims in this case, resided in Jackson and maintained two jobs there. During the morning of August 23, 2004, Ms. Steele was working at her part-time job at a funeral home, when she encountered her ex-fiancé, the [Petitioner]. A brief conversation ensued. The [Petitioner] walked into the office of the funeral home and said "hello" to Ms. Steele, who then replied "hi ." The encounter ended. According to Ms. Steele, she did not know why the [Petitioner] was at the funeral home.

Ms. Steele then proceeded to her full-time job at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. Around 11:00 or 11:30 a.m. on August 23, the [Petitioner] phoned Ms. Steele at work, asking her how she was and whether she wanted something to eat. Ms. Steele responded that she did not want anything to eat, and the conversation ended.
Ms. Steele worked at the hospital until approximately 7:30 p.m. When she returned home from work, her childhood friend, Terry Dixson, the other victim in this case, had parked his car in front of her house and was sitting on her front porch waiting on her. Ms. Steele knew that Mr. Dixson "was coming by, " but she did not know when. Following Ms. Steele's arrival, the two went inside. Mr. Dixson dried his clothes and watched television in Ms. Steele's bedroom, and Ms. Steele watched television in her living room. The two talked periodically throughout the evening. Later in the evening, Ms. Steele went into the bedroom and laid down on the bed to watch television with Mr. Dixson. According to Ms. Steele, Mr. Dixson had his shirt off; he was lying under the covers; she was lying on top of the covers; and she did not know whether Mr. Dixson had any pants on. Ms. Steele testified that, at this time, the doors to her home were locked.
Around 11:00 p.m., Ms. Steele "saw the door move." At first, she thought only that her niece, Tamika Montae Anthony, who also lived in the residence, had come home. However, a few seconds later, "the door came open and [the Petitioner] was standing there." Ms. Steele asked the [Petitioner] why he was in her home, and the [Petitioner] "said something smart" and "turned like he was going to leave. . . ." The [Petitioner] then "turned immediately back around and he started shooting." Steele recalled "multiple" gunshots-six or seven. Ms. Steele testified that she did not own a gun and that there were not any guns in her home.
After the shots were fired, Ms. Steele started screaming. The [Petitioner] then grabbed Ms. Steele by the arm and pulled her across the bed. Ms. Steele was pleading that she did not want to go; however, the [Petitioner] told her "to come on" and, if she did not comply, he would shoot her again. The [Petitioner] pulled her across her backyard and forced her into his burgundy Ford Explorer, which was parked behind her house. The [Petitioner] began driving around Jackson. Ms. Steele noticed blood on her shirt, and she "could feel blood dripping from [her] chest." She testified that "[her] mind was telling . . . [her] to pull back or to open the door with this hand but [she] couldn't use it. . . ."
The [Petitioner] stopped the vehicle at his house, and Ms. Steele requested to go to the hospital. The [Petitioner] ignored her and went inside the house. By the time she got the vehicle door open and made it to the front porch, the [Petitioner] was already exiting the house, and he ordered her to get back inside the vehicle.
The [Petitioner] pushed Ms. Steele back into the car and drove back to Ms. Steele's house. The [Petitioner] quickly went inside the house. When he returned, he proceeded to a gas station close to Interstate 40. While at the gas station, Ms. Steele observed the gun between the [Petitioner]'s "belt and his pants."
The [Petitioner] got gas and again began driving. He proceeded to Memphis via Interstate 40. Ms. Steele persisted in requesting medical treatment, but the [Petitioner] refused. Once they arrived in Memphis, the [Petitioner] went to his cousin's, Marie Haynes, house and exited his vehicle. The [Petitioner] returned and ordered Ms. Steele to get out of the car and go into the house. Ms. Steele testified that she could not determine whether anyone was inside the house and that the [Petitioner] put her in a bedroom. After a few minutes, the [Petitioner] pulled Ms. Steele from the bedroom and back outside. Ms. Steele did observe some children at this point and heard [Ms. Haynes] ask, "Where are you going?" Ms. Steele was again forced into the automobile.
The [Petitioner] first stopped at a convenience store and then drove back to Jackson. Ms. Steele again requested to go to the hospital, to no avail. According to Ms. Steele, there was "constant verbal abuse" during the ride back to Jackson.
Upon arriving in Jackson, the [Petitioner] drove past Ms. Steele's house and saw Ms. Steele's car at the home. The [Petitioner] tried to call her niece, but no one answered the telephone. The [Petitioner] then drove to his niece's house and parked there for a few minutes. Neither the [Petitioner] nor Ms. Steele ever went into the house. The [Petitioner] then proceeded to his nephew's house, but he could not get the door open. Once back inside the car, he again drove around the city of Jackson. After observing police cars "lined along the street" near his house, the [Petitioner] again drove to Interstate 40 and proceeded to the Brownsville area. He exited the interstate, turned around, and went back to Jackson.
While returning to Jackson, the [Petitioner] received a call from his mother. She informed the [Petitioner] that the police were at his house, looking for Ms. Steele. The [Petitioner] then placed a call; he told Ms. Steele that he had phoned the police department and was going to "turn his self [sic] in."
The [Petitioner] drove to one of the residences they had visited earlier in the evening. After orders from the [Petitioner], Ms. Steele followed him into the house, where she observed a man named "Gary." Gary refused to let the [Petitioner] leave with Ms. Steele. The [Petitioner] left the residence, and Gary phoned the authorities.
Emergency personnel arrived to assist Ms. Steele, and she was transported to the hospital around 6:30 a.m. Ms. Steele was admitted to surgery, and a bullet was removed from her wrist. Ms. Steele also required additional surgeries to her right shoulder due to a gunshot wound. Ms. Steele testified that she possibly required more surgeries and that two bullets still remained in her body at the time of trial.
Regarding her prior relationship with the [Petitioner], Ms. Steele testified that she had known the [Petitioner] since junior high. She stated that she began dating him in February of 2004 and that the relationship ended in June of 2004. During this time, the two became engaged. According to Ms. Steele she had seen the [Petitioner] several times since their relationship ended but that it was not "a dating-type of relationship[.]" On August 6 or 7, Ms. Steele had an argument with the [Petitioner] and discovered that the [Petitioner] had a key to her house. Following this incident, Ms. Steele had the locks to her home changed. Ms. Steele admitted to having multiple telephone conversations with the [Petitioner] between June and August of 2004.
When Ms. Steele was asked if she knew what happened to the [Petitioner]'s weapon, she stated that she did not know what the [Petitioner] had done with the gun. According to Ms. Steele, she believed the [Petitioner] to be in possession of the gun "the whole time" on the evening of August 23, and she was afraid of him. She confirmed that she did not voluntarily go with the [Petitioner] and that she did not feel free to ...

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