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Carson v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

November 14, 2014

NATHANIEL CARSON
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

Assigned on Briefs September 9, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2009-A-260 Seth Norman, Judge

Joseph L. Morrissey, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Nathaniel P. Carson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Senior Counsel; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Robert E. McGuire, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

OPINION

D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Following a jury trial, the Petitioner was convicted of two counts of first degree felony murder and two counts of especially aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced him to concurrent life sentences for the murder convictions and fifteen years for the especially aggravated robbery convictions. This court affirmed the Petitioner's convictions on direct appeal. State v. Nathaniel P. Carson, No. M2010-20419-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 1484188 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 27, 2012).

The Petitioner's convictions arose from the August 26, 2008 murder and robbery of Pierre Colas and his sister Marie Colas[1] in Pierre's East Nashville home. Both were shot; Pierre died almost immediately from a gunshot wound to the head, and Marie died in the hospital several days later as a result of her injuries. Id. at *8, 9. In January 2009, the Davidson County Grand Jury indicted the Petitioner, along with co-defendants George Cody, Lavonta Churchwell, Gennyfer Hutcheson, Michael Holloway, and Thomas Reed, for two counts of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of first degree felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, two counts of identity theft, three counts of forgery, and two counts of attempted forgery. On February 6, 2009, the indictment was amended to charge the Petitioner only with two counts of felony murder and two counts of especially aggravated robbery. The Petitioner was tried separately from his co-defendants.

On direct appeal, this Court summarized the bulk of the evidence introduced against the Petitioner at trial as follows:

About 9:15 p.m. on August 26, 2008, Cody entered the Colas house, robbed the victims, and shot them. Less than two hours after the shootings, the [Petitioner] telephoned the La Quinta Inn, where Thomas Reed and Michael Holloway were staying. Cody telephoned Reed and spoke with Holloway about using some credit cards. When Cody arrived at the La Quinta Inn to pick up Holloway and Reed, the [Petitioner] was with him. The four of them went to Cody's house, and the [Petitioner] and Cody talked privately for about ten minutes. Then the [Petitioner] left. In the early morning hours of August 29, 2008, the police arrested Cody at his home. The [Petitioner] telephoned Cody repeatedly and showed up at Cody's house, trying to find out what was happening. The [Petitioner] voluntarily spoke with the police on September 2, and denied having any contact with Cody prior to the shootings. However, the State introduced the [Petitioner's] cell phone records into evidence, showing that the appellant spoke with Cody on numerous occasions in the days and minutes before the shootings. After the [Petitioner's] arrest, he learned Maurice Body was giving information to the police about the Colas case and conspired with several other jail inmates to kill Body. According to the [Petitioner's] cellmate, Gregory Chafos, the [Petitioner] acknowledged that he "gave them the credit cards and . . . told them what had happened."

Carson, 2012 WL 1484188, at *11.

Margaret McGatha testified on behalf of the Petitioner at trial. Ms. McGatha testified that the Petitioner was living with her at the time of the shootings and that on the night of August 26, 2008, she went to bed between 9:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Id. at *9. She testified that the Petitioner was in the back yard at that time. Id. She further testified that when she awoke around midnight, the Petitioner was watching television in the living room. Id. On cross-examination, Ms. McGatha conceded that she would not have known if Petitioner had left her home between 10:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. Id.

Following his direct appeal, the Petitioner filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction relief on December 3, 2012. The Petitioner alleged that the indictments failed to meet constitutional and statutory standards because they stated legal conclusions and failed to provide him with notice of the charges against him. The post-conviction court appointed counsel, and an amended petition was filed on September 5, 2013. The amended petition adopted the arguments made by the Petitioner in his pro se petition. The amended petition further alleged that the Petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial ...


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