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Ragland v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

November 10, 2014


Assigned on Briefs September 3, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 06-06182 W. Mark Ward, Judge.

Donald Ragland, Nashville, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Muriel Malone, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer and Robert L. Holloway, JJ., joined.




In 2008, the petitioner was convicted of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison. State v. Donald Ragland, No. W2008-02065-CCA-R3-CD, 2009 WL 4825182 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 15, 2009), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 11, 2010). His conviction was affirmed on appeal, and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied his application for permission to appeal. Id. The underlying facts of the case were recited by this court on direct appeal as follows:

Testimony in this case was heard at a suppression hearing held on November 16 and December 7, 2007, and at a jury trial held from June 4 through 6, 2008. The crime at issue in this case occurred on December 9, 2005.
The hearing on the [petitioner]'s motion to suppress concerned admission of an inculpatory statement made by the [petitioner] during an interview with Memphis police. Memphis Homicide Detective Eric Hutchison testified at the hearing that he was called to St. Elmo's Market in Memphis at about 4:00 p.m. on December 9, 2005, to investigate the shooting death of the victim, LaAunzae Grady. During the course of his investigation, friends and relatives of the victim informed Det. Hutchison that the [petitioner], the older brother of a man killed by the victim a few years before, had said he intended to kill the victim. He also learned that an eyewitness saw the victim's killer fleeing in a white Jeep Cherokee, the type of vehicle operated by the [petitioner].
This information led Det. Hutchison and his partner, Sergeant Caroline Mason, to look for the [petitioner]. They found the [petitioner] at his girlfriend's house on December 12, 2005, and arrested him on the basis of an outstanding arrest warrant for a traffic offense. A uniformed officer drove the [petitioner] to the Memphis Police Department homicide office and placed him in an interview room.
Detective Hutchison and Sgt. Mason then read the [petitioner] his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966). The [petitioner] agreed to speak with them and waived his right to a lawyer. He then claimed to have been at work until about 3:00 p.m. on December 9. He began to feel sick at work at that time and left. The [petitioner] soon changed his story, however, and began to detail his involvement in a five or six-person conspiracy to kill the victim, as well as the roles of his supposed coconspirators: two men had lured the victim to St. Elmo's Market, another had told the [petitioner] that the victim was inside, and two more had lured the victim outside to be shot. The [petitioner] implicated himself by noting that he took off the ski mask he wore during the shooting. The [petitioner] did not give a written statement during the December 12 interview.
Detective Hutchison and Sgt. Mason decided to keep the [petitioner] in jail for forty-eight hours on his previous arrest warrant while they investigated his story. Investigation on the evening of December 12 led Det. Hutchison to believe that the [petitioner] had lied about having co-conspirators, although the persons named by the [petitioner] included people who were present at St. Elmo's Market at the time of the crime. Detective Hutchison and Sgt. Mason brought the [petitioner] back to the homicide interview room on December 13, 2005. The [petitioner] signed a Miranda waiver form, and he proceeded to give an extensive statement in which he admitted his responsibility for killing the victim and detailed the claimed roles of his co-conspirators. He was booked on murder charges. Detective Hutchison later received a call from an eyewitness named Michael Jones who said he had seen the killer flee from St. Elmo's Market while removing his ski mask. Mr. Jones said he could identify the killer. Mr. Jones later did so while viewing a six-person photographic lineup.
On cross-examination, Det. Hutchison noted that the victim was affiliated with a gang called the Vice Lords, while the [petitioner] and his brother were affiliated with the Gangster Disciples. Detective Hutchison also noted that the [petitioner] had been allowed to call his mother and his girlfriend and that he was given food and water during his interviews.
He also discussed the presence of cameras filming for a documentary television series called "The First 48." That series' cameras were allowed to film events in the interview room, although they were not present in the jail or while the victim was being driven to the homicide department. Detective Hutchison recalled that cameras from "The First 48" recorded some of the [petitioner]'s writing on a blackboard inside the interview room on December 13. Detective Hutchison did not recall the [petitioner] having written "I want a lawyer" or "I've been kidnapped" on the blackboard, but did recall that he had written a number of verses from the Bible. Detective Hutchison testified that the [petitioner] never said he wanted a lawyer.
Sergeant Mason also testified at the suppression hearing. She clarified that the [petitioner] originally claimed to have picked up one of his children at Coleman Elementary School after leaving work at 3:00 p.m. on December 9. She otherwise confirmed Det. Hutchison's account of their December 12 interview of the [petitioner]. As to the December 13 interview, Sgt. Mason said that the [petitioner] admitted to sole responsibility for the victim's murder after she told him she thought he was lying about his supposed co-conspirators. The [petitioner] said he had waited in front of St. Elmo's Market for the victim to exit. When the victim did so, the [petitioner] shot him. The [petitioner] then ran through a few nearby yards, coming out about two houses east of the store. He entered his vehicle and left.
Sergeant Mason affirmed that the [petitioner] had written "I need a lawyer" and "I've been kidnapped" on the chalkboard while she and Det. Hutchison were out of the interview room. When she returned to the interview room, Sgt. Mason accordingly asked the [petitioner] whether he wanted a lawyer. He unequivocally said that he did not. She also asked the [petitioner] whether he believed he had been kidnapped, and he responded in the negative. Sergeant Mason and Det. Hutchison then took the [petitioner]'s incriminating statement. Cameras for "The First 48" were not present when the statement was taken. The [petitioner]'s girlfriend contacted Sgt. Mason on December 19 and informed her that the [petitioner] wanted to speak to her again; the [petitioner] arranged another meeting in which he denied the truth of his confession.
During cross-examination, Sgt. Mason noted that the December 13 interview lasted from 12:13 to 8:50 p.m. At 8:50 p.m., the [petitioner] began to give his statement. He concluded at 10:38 p.m. No one besides Sgt. Mason and Det. Hutchison talked to the [petitioner] during this period.
The [petitioner] testified at his suppression hearing. He said that he was at his girlfriend's house on December 12 when officers arrived. They entered the house and told him he could not leave. Sergeant Mason and Det. Hutchison arrived shortly thereafter and handcuffed him. They did not read him his rights, tell him he was under arrest, or mention the warrant for his arrest. He was transported to the homicide interview room ...

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