Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Assigned on Briefs April 23, 2014
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Hamilton County No. 283801 Don W. Poole, Judge
Michael L. Acuff, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jamayl Stoudemire.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; William H. Cox, District Attorney General; and Cameron Williams, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.
Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Roger A. Page, JJ., joined.
THOMAS T. WOODALL, JUDGE
Guilty Plea Submission Hearing
The State presented the following factual basis for the trial court's acceptance of the guilty pleas:
[O]n or about [October 28, 2011, ] police were dispatched to the 2300 block of East 34th Street. Police observed two black females lying in the street at 3012 Fifth Avenue, who had been shot. [A] [b]lack male was seen on the sidewalk in front of 3012, he had also been shot. Spoke with witnesses and they indicated that a group of young black males had, apparently there had been an altercation in that area, the house, between two young females. As a result, several young black males, including the defendant, came to the residence. At that point in time, the first interaction, [Defendant] produced a shotgun. They then left the scene, came back with more individuals. Many of those individuals, including [Defendant], were armed.
At some point in time, there was a verbal altercation between the two groups of people. [Defendant] and his group began to leave the area and subsequently, according to the victims, turned around and opened up fire on some of these individuals, striking these three people I've just described, Vanessa Suttles, Veronica Suttles and Darrel Oneal Sims.
Ms. Vanessa Suttles was taken to Erlanger with injuries to her hip, Ms. Veronica was taken with injuries to her wrist and Mr. Sims was taken with a grazing injury to his chest.
Apparently the witnesses knew [Defendant] and his group, they were located at another residence in the area, and I don't have that address. Were located in a house in that area. Several other people, including [Defendant] were located in that house. SWAT arrived, eventually they left the house after some period of time. Recovered in the house was a .25 caliber handgun, that I don't believe had any relevance to this case, but there was a shotgun, the shotgun that witnesses described [Defendant] as possessing, that was found located inside the house, as well as shell casing cartridges and clothing that the witnesses described.
Those items were sent off to the TBI, there were shotgun shell casings recovered from the crime scene, where the shooting took place, those matched the shotgun shells recovered in the residence [Defendant] was located in.
There was also gunshot residue [test] performed on his clothing, that came back positive for gunshot residue on [Defendant]'s clothing.
No other weapons were recovered, there were other shell casings recovered from the crime scene, several .45 caliber shell casings were recovered from the crime scene, . . .[Defendant] gave a statement to the police in which he denied ever being there. The statement from the witnesses w[as] that this other group of people that the victims were in did not have any weapons, were not firing any weapons. It was described that the only people that had weapons were [Defendant] and his group of people. However, there were .45 [caliber] shell casings that were recovered in the area that the victims were in or had been in. So it could be argued, . . . that there was firing between the two respective groups.
Also, . . . there were projectiles recovered at the hospital from the victims. Those were not collected after the incident and they have since been destroyed by the hospital. So that's the reason for the disposition in this matter, those two reasons.
Defendant's presentence report was admitted into evidence without objection. According to the report, Defendant had the following juvenile adjudications of delinquency: theft under $500, vandalism, unruly behavior, disorderly conduct, four violations of probation, criminal trespassing, and assault. The report further reflected that Defendant reportedly began drinking alcohol when he was thirteen, that he began using marijuana when he was nine years old, and that he would use four "blunts" a day until 2008. He had also been placed in State custody.
Darrel Sims testified that he was at the home of Vanessa Suttles, his girlfriend's sister, on October 28, 2011. The house was located on Fifth Avenue. Defendant's girlfriend, Veronica Suttles, and Valorie Suttles were also present. Mr. Sims testified that he arrived at the house between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. He said:
Well, my situation was I was getting off work and me and my girlfriend was going to get her son from her sister['s] house. And before all this, while this was in the midst, I guess a girl fight happened, you know, so that's what happened before we even got there, we didn't even know that happened. So when we got there, they was outside talking about it, you know what I'm saying, so I arrived there, we had to go get some gas, then he was going to come back and get us, so while we waiting [sic] on him to get gas, I guess about six guys walked up. I still don't, I wouldn't know them to this day, you know, because I ain't never seen them before, you know. I mean they looked like little kids to me, so I didn't even think no threat over it, they got in a little argument, I was like my girlfriend and them will handle that, between they kids, you know, the little girl fight or whatever happened.
So, really, I thought it was about all over. Before I knew it, some shooting occurred, you know, a lot of shooting occurred. So I ran, ducked for cover, and in the mist of that, I got shot in the chest.
Mr. Sims testified that the shot fractured two of his ribs, and he was hospitalized approximately two days. He then lost his job at Pilgrim's Pride. Mr. Sims thought that the weapons used during the shooting were high caliber because of the distance from him to the shooters and because the bullet traveled in and out when it struck him.
Mr. Sims testified that there were approximately six girls and a boy with the Suttles' family whose ages ranged from thirteen to fifteen. They were standing approximately twenty feet from the group of males who were firing the shots. Mr. Sims testified that he ran away after the shooting began and that bullets were "coming everywhere" and covered the "whole street."
Mr. Sims testified that he did not get involved in the altercation before the shooting because he believed that the two groups would be able to resolve the dispute on their own. On cross-examination, Mr. Sims said that the situation became heated, and he watched as Vanessa Suttles attempted to separate the two groups in order to protect her own daughter. He testified that Vanessa Suttles' son was also trying to protect his sisters and cousins because he did not want them to get into a fight with the group of males. Mr. Sims testified that the two groups then separated, and he thought that the incident was over until he heard the gunshots.
Vanessa Suttles testified that she was living at 3102 Fifth Avenue on October 28, 2011, with seven children. She said that Defendant previously dated one of her daughters, Kishala. She also knew Mailik Phillips because he had visited her house on several occasions. Concerning the events that occurred on October 28, 2011, Vanessa Suttles testified:
I was going to take my daughter to a sleep over, so I left the house and we were going, probably had made it right to 23rd Street, and we received a phone call, it was [Defendant], he called and told her to tell my youngest daughter, which is Jakasia, to come outside because his girlfriend wanted to fight her. So I told Kishala to hang up the phone with him and call home and try to tell them not to open the door. I immediately turned around, turned the car around and headed back towards home.
By the time I got to my house, I didn't get a chance to pull in the driveway because the street was covered with kids and my daughter was out there. And I immediately jumped out [of] the car and took off running to find out where she was at and I was screaming break them up, don't let them fight, don't let them fight. And the fight took place, they fought.
Vanessa Suttles explained that her daughter and Defendant's girlfriend, "Doodie, " were involved in the fight which took place at the corner of 31st and Fifth Avenue. She said that the fight took place because Defendant called her daughter out to fight.
Vanessa Suttles testified that the fight did not last very long because she pulled her daughter away from "Doodie." Ms. Suttles instructed Defendant and "Doodie" to leave. However, the parties continued arguing, and Ms. Suttles told her children to go home. Vanessa Suttles testified that Defendant got mad and pulled out a shotgun. Ms. Suttles asked him if he was going to shoot her. Defendant then pulled a second gun out of his jumpsuit. Jerry Springs, who was there with Defendant, told Defendant that he wanted his guns back, but Defendant refused. Ms. Suttles took her camera phone and pointed it in Defendant's face and told him that she was going to record him and show it to the police if he did not leave the area. She said that "Doodie" continued arguing and insisted on retrieving her jacket. Ms. Suttles gave the jacket back to her so that she had no reason to return. Defendant, "Doodie, " and the others with them proceeded down the street.
Vanessa Suttles testified that she began videotaping them, and Mailik Phillips told her not to record him. She told Mr. Phillips that she would not show the recording to police if they continued walking and did not come back. Vanessa Suttles testified that Defendant's mother later pulled up, and Ms. Suttles told her everything that happened and that she was going to press charges against Defendant for instigating the fight between Jakasia and "Doodie" and for pulling the two guns on her and her family. Defendant's mother advised her to go ahead and press charges against Defendant. Ms. Suttles testified that Defendant's mother also indicated that she had "took out an attachment on him for, I'm guessing, running away."
Vanessa Suttles testified that after the conversation with Defendant's mother, she saw Defendant walking back toward her house with Mailik Phillips, Jerry Springs, Mr. Springs' mother, Savon Jones, Rayford Grayson, Jamayl Bell, and Jonathan Conyers. She said that Savon Jones was repeating, "where the n ----- s at." Because she knew that Defendant was armed, Ms. Suttles immediately attempted to stand in front of her family as she tried to talk to Defendant and tell him that there were no boys fighting and that it was only a "girl fight." Ms. Suttles testified that her children began arguing with Defendant's group, but Defendant did not say anything. He only stared. Vanessa Suttles testified:
And they started like hovering around him, the boys did, like protecting around him, so I'm getting my kids back. And after that, they just started shooting and took off and started backing back and started shooting like they was in the wild, wild west, you know.
I got shot. Before I got shot, I tried to push my sister and my kids to run. I couldn't run because I had been hit and I told my sister to run because I couldn't run because I couldn't move anything below my waist, so I told them to run. My sister said she couldn't run because she had been shot too, and her boyfriend said I'm hit too. And I told them just lay there. And I started praying that we didn't die. And I just kept praying, had my head down, but in the midst, you could see they still shooting, they was shooting while they was running.
Vanessa Suttles testified that she saw Defendant fire the shotgun twice. He fired one shot into the air and one shot at her. She also saw Savon Jones with a handgun.
Vanessa Suttles testified that the group of people outside with her at the time of the shooting included her two daughters, Kishala and Jakasia Sparks, her nephew Christopher Suttles, Brianta Heath, Breanna Hammond, Breanna Buchanan, Valorie Suttles, Veronica Suttles, Stephanie Johnson, Maria Bragg, Courtney Puckett, her son Jerry Christopher, her goddaughter Tionna, and Darrel Sims. Vanessa Suttles further testified:
Inside my house I had my seven-year-old, Antonasia, Antonasia Robinson, my granddaughter; Chloe Christopher, she's like a close friend of the family. She was like maybe six at the time. My great niece, Heather Leigh Johnson; my ...