Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs June 17, 2014
Direct Appeal from the Criminal Court for Sumner County Nos. CR-879-2012, CR-852-2012 Dee David Gay, Judge
James J. Ramsey, Gallatin, Tennessee (on appeal); and Gary M. Williams, Hendersonville, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellant, Emonnie Dion Branch, Jr.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michelle L. Consiglio-Young, Assistant Attorney General; Lawrence Ray Whitley, District Attorney General; and Lytle Anthony James and Tara Wyllie, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Roger A. Page, J., joined.
Norma McGee Ogle, Judge
I. Factual Background
On June 10, 2013, the appellant pled guilty to aggravated burglary of A.H. and B.H.'s residence in Castalian Springs and aggravated robbery and especially aggravated kidnapping of B.H. Regarding A.H., the appellant pled guilty to especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and three counts of aggravated rape. For offenses related to four victims at a home in Gallatin, the appellant pled guilty to especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated rape and attempted aggravated rape of E.V.; aggravated burglary of P.B.'s residence; especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery of P.B.; especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery of Britten Dale Galbraith; and especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery of Billy G. Phillips. The appellant also pled guilty to aggravated robbery of Mohamed A. Alassar; aggravated robbery of Mohamed A. Alezab; and aggravated robbery of Dhrupad J. Patel. Finally, the appellant pled guilty to aggravated assault of inmate Joseph C. McDorman, III.
At the sentencing hearing, Sumner County Detective Ronald Brawner testified that at 11:03 p.m. on June 12, 2012, the sheriff's office received a report of a burglary, robbery, and rape in Castalian Springs. Detective Brawner's investigation revealed that the rape victim, A.H.; her husband, B.H.; and their two children lived in a rented house on Harsh Lane. At approximately 10:30 p.m., after all the occupants of the house had gone to bed, A.H. and B.H. heard a noise. A few minutes later, two men, one of whom was the appellant, rushed into their bedroom; the appellant was holding a weapon that appeared to be a handgun. B.H. was forced from the bed, pushed to the floor, and tied up. The appellant took A.H. to the bathroom and repeatedly raped her. The rapes occurred by oral, vaginal, and anal penetration. The men took property from the residence, including televisions, electronics, and the victims' wedding rings. After the men left, the victims called 911. A.H. was later taken to Sumner Regional Hospital, and a rape kit was performed. Afterward, Detective Brawner collected the rape kit and took it to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime laboratory. Testing revealed that the appellant was the contributor of the semen collected from A.H.
Detective Brawner said that based upon his investigation, the appellant appeared to be the leader in the commission of the offenses. He said that on June 15, he learned that a similar incident had taken place in Gallatin.
On cross-examination, Detective Brawner acknowledged that the victims' two children, who were in the house at the time of the offenses, were not harmed. He noted that the appellant made A.H. "open the bedroom door and they looked in and saw that there were children there." Detective Brawner said that B.H. was kicked while he was on the floor.
On redirect, Detective Brawner said that although the children were not injured, "there were threats made if [the victims] didn't cooperate about what would happen to the children."
Upon questioning by the trial court, Detective Brawner said that a co-defendant, Mitchell Anthony Beverly, Jr., admitted that he and the appellant had discussed committing a robbery. Beverly had a key to the deadbolt on the back door of the victims' home on Harsh Lane, where he had lived with his mother and stepfather. Beverly told Detective Brawner that he stayed in the vehicle and acted as a lookout and a getaway driver while the appellant and another co-defendant, Dewayne D. Fleming, used Beverly's key to gain entrance into the home.
Detective Brawner said that the appellant ordered Fleming to tie up B.H. Fleming complied, using a bed sheet. The appellant did not think the knots were secure, and he retied B.H. In A.H.'s statement to police, she revealed that as the appellant was raping her in the bathroom, Fleming asked the appellant for assistance in removing items from the home. Detective Brawner stated that he found no evidence that Fleming participated in the sexual assaults on A.H. or that he ...