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Martin v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

November 17, 2014


Assigned on Briefs October 29, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2005-D-2955 Cheryl A. Blackburn, Judge

Kara Everett, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Richard Cleveland Martin.

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Bret Gunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Roger A. Page, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.



I. Facts and Procedural History

This court summarized the facts from petitioner's trial in our opinion denying him appellate relief:

This case relates to the death of Angela Richards. At the trial, Jenna Marie Richards, the victim's daughter, testified that she met the defendant at a 2002 Narcotics Anonymous meeting, to which she had accompanied her mother. She said her mother had a substance abuse problem with prescription drugs for as long as she could remember. She stated she met with the defendant five to seven times after that meeting, and she identified him in the courtroom. She said that while she and her brother lived in Florida at the time of trial, her mother had moved to Nashville in September 2004 "to get a fresh start" and to be away from the defendant. She said that her mother and the defendant had been in a relationship and that she and her brother objected to it. She said she and her brother had told their mother that they did not want to have anything to do with her as long as she continued to associate with the defendant. She stated that she spoke on the telephone with her mother at least once or twice weekly, although she said she had not visited her mother in Nashville and did not know where she had been living. She said she only learned the defendant had been in Nashville when she came to Knoxville after her mother's death and spoke with a detective.
Ilesh Patel testified that he was the manager of the Madison Motel where the victim had been found in the defendant's room on July 14, 2005. He said the defendant, whom he identified in the courtroom, stayed at the motel from May 16 through July 2005. He said that the defendant listed his employer as Labor Finders and his home as Lake Park, Florida. Patel stated that he knew the defendant had a girlfriend who sometimes stayed with him at the motel. He said this girlfriend's first name was Angela. He said that there had been an incident two days before the discovery of the victim's corpse when the defendant and Angela had been arguing. He said the defendant came to the manager's office that afternoon for Patel to tell Angela to leave. Patel said he told her to leave the motel because the room was not registered in her name. He said that was the last time he saw Angela alive. He said he saw the defendant the next afternoon or early evening. He said that the following day, when housekeeping arrived to service the room, his employee had difficulty opening the door. He said the motel's normal practice was to clean the guest rooms every second day. He said that the employee came to his office and that he went to the defendant's room, where he saw Angela lying on the bathroom floor.
William Kirby, an officer with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department's Identification Crime Scene Section, said he arrived on July 14, 2005, around 12:45 p.m. He said his department documents the crime scene and collects and processes evidence. He explained how fingerprints are discovered and recovered from crime scenes. He said that from the doorway of the hotel room, he saw the victim lying face down at the base of the commode on the bathroom floor and that there was a large "blood spot" on the stripped mattress to his left. He said that the victim's face and hands had been bound with tape, that the victim had a washcloth in her mouth, that her ankles had been bound twice with a belt and another article of clothing, and that the victim had been tied to the commode using a telephone cord. He said items, including the contents of a purse, had been thrown around the room. He said the bloodstains, both wet and dried, on the mattress continued over the edge of the bed onto the floor. He said that a drop of blood was on a pair of shower shoes, that bloodstains were on a rug, and that papers were scattered on the floor. He said he saw two wet, bloodstained shirts in the sink. He said that a roll of tape was on the floor and that it appeared to be the same kind of tape as the tape binding the victim. He said the telephone cord missing from the telephone receiver and base was tied around the victim's hands and around the commode. He said a note on the nightstand read: "I'm sorry I don't know what happened I loved her Call her son, Nick Richards. WPB Fla. My Dad Harold Martin 954 973 4233."
Charles Hardy, of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's Serology and DNA Analysis Unit, testified that he had known DNA samples from the defendant and the victim with which to compare the physical evidence taken from the hotel room and a sexual assault kit taken from the victim. He said he obtained "a mixture of a DNA profile" from the victim's fingernail scrapings, which meant that he had profiles from two people. In the report of his findings provided as discovery, he identified the victim as the "major contributor" to the genetic profile, and he wrote that the defendant "cannot be excluded as the minor contributor." He testified that in his scientific opinion, the defendant was the minor contributor of the profile developed from the victim's fingernail scrapings. He said that although he "normally would not report out statistical calculations" of the probability that someone other than the defendant would have this DNA profile, the District Attorney requested that he generate statistics for the areas of the DNA mixture in which the defendant's profile had been visible. He stated he developed statistics for these five areas in a subsequent report in which he stated the probability that someone unrelated to the defendant would have this genetic profile was 1 in 786, 200 for Caucasians; 1 in 8, 842, 000 for African-Americans; 1 in 2, 124, 000 for the southeastern Hispanic population; and 1 in 20, 700, 000 for the southwestern Hispanic population.
On cross-examination, Hardy testified that the DNA profile from each bloody item was the defendant's. He said his scientific opinion had not changed since he wrote his initial report. He said that his "conservative" statement that the defendant "cannot be excluded as the minor contributor of the profile" from both the vaginal swab and fingernail scrapings was consistent with his trial testimony that the defendant was "the minor contributor" of the profiles. He stated that he generated these subsequent statistics for the fingernail scrapings only because the District Attorney had not requested statistics for the vaginal swab material. On redirect-examination, Hardy testified that he and defense counsel did not meet before trial, but that he had met with other defense attorneys in other cases, and that he would have met with defense counsel if asked. On recross-examination, he said that defense counsel did not call to request a meeting between the Thursday evening when he gave the subsequent report to the District Attorney and the Monday morning trial date.
Bruce Phillip Levy, the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Tennessee and the County Medical Examiner for the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, testified that he certified the results of the autopsy, which another medical examiner performed on July 15, 2005, the day after the victim's body was discovered. He said that the cause of death of the victim was asphyxia and that the manner of death was a homicide. He said that the victim had been pronounced dead at 2:30 p.m.
Dr. Levy testified about the body's condition after the examiner had removed the tape and bindings. He said that the victim had scrapes and bruises, swelling around her eyes, and ruptured blood vessels in the whites of her eyes. He said that these ruptured blood vessels could have been caused by both trauma and asphyxia and that because the victim had experienced both, he could not determine which caused the victim's ruptured blood vessels. He said the victim had injuries on her face, her left shoulder, the right side of her chest, both arms at the elbows, her legs, and her hands and wrists. He said that sloughing of the skin on her right leg indicated that "some period" had elapsed between her death and the time of the autopsy the day after she had been found. He said the victim had bleeding under the scalp in four specific locations: a large area on the left side, a smaller area on the right side, the forehead, and the back of the head. He said these four injuries were caused by "some type of blunt trauma" to the head, consisting of at least four separate blows. He stated that injuries on the victim's face, particularly around the victim's eyes, ...

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