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King v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

November 18, 2014


Session Date June 17, 2014

Direct Appeal from the Circuit Court for Giles County No. 15557 Robert L. Jones, Judge

David L. Raybin, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steve Carl King.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Senior Counsel; T. Michel Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Lawrence R, Nickell, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roger A. Page, J., and J. Robert Carter, Jr., Sp.J., joined.



I. Factual Background

We glean the following relevant facts from this court's direct appeal opinion of the Petitioner's conviction: At trial, the victim testified that on November 4, 2005, she was "on a run" from Jacksonville, Florida, to Chicago with the Petitioner, her boyfriend of eleven years and a commercial truck driver. State v. Steve Carl King, No. M2008-01251-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 296, at *3 (Nashville, Apr. 9, 2010), perm to appeal denied, (Tenn. 2010). That evening, they stopped in northern Alabama, parked the Petitioner's tractor-trailer truck, and shared three pitchers of beer at a Hooters restaurant. Id. The Petitioner began calling the victim names, and the name-calling escalated into an argument. Id. at *4. They returned to the truck and resumed their trip, heading toward Tennessee. Id.

While the Petitioner was driving, he and the victim continued to argue. Id. At some point, the Petitioner "reached behind the victim and retrieved a black-handled knife from a cabinet behind the victim's seat." Id. The Petitioner began swinging the knife at the victim. Id. When the victim raised her left hand to protect herself, the knife sliced her ring and middle fingers. Id. at *5. The victim was bleeding profusely, but the Petitioner initially refused to get medical help for her, so she wrapped a cloth around her hand and hung her hand outside the passenger window to avoid bleeding in the truck. Id. Eventually, the Petitioner agreed to stop and pulled up to the Ardmore Welcome Center in Giles County, Tennessee. Id. The victim said that as she was getting her medication out of the cab's sleeping compartment, the Petitioner hit her on the back of the head, causing her to lose consciousness briefly. Id. at *6. The victim then struck at the Petitioner while he pulled her hair and screamed at her. Id. Eventually, the Petitioner sat back down in the driver's seat. The victim retrieved some plastic bags containing her medication, opened the passenger door, and stepped down to the sidewalk. Id. As she got out of the truck, she noticed the Petitioner's knife on the dashboard. Id. Blood was running down her legs, but she did not know from where she was bleeding. Id. at * 7. The victim saw a man behind the trailer and walked toward him for help. Id. The Petitioner moved the truck forward, and the trailer hit the victim's shoulder, knocking her to the ground. Id. The truck's rear tires began to roll over the victim, and the Petitioner continued to move the truck forward even as the man yelled for him to stop. Id. at *7-8. The victim identified for the jury the shorts she had been wearing that night, and several slashes were in the back and crotch of the shorts. Id. at *7.

On cross-examination, the victim denied that she waved her hand around the inside of the truck to spread the blood or that she put her bloody hand in a cooler between the driver's and passenger's seats. Id. at *10. After the victim got out of the truck, she heard someone tell the Petitioner that he could not park by the sidewalk. Id. at *13. The trailer then moved forward and knocked her to the ground. Id.

Michael Solomon testified that he witnessed the Petitioner's truck run over the victim. Id. at *15. He explained,

"[S]he just held the bags in her arms, and turned and walked down the side of the trailer. And about halfway down the trailer, she stopped, turned, facing the trailer. And the driver, in the meantime, put the truck in gear and started to pull over on the shoulder, off the ramp. And the trailer knocked her over, and the wheels ran over her mid-section."

Id. Solomon ran in front of the truck, flagged down the Petitioner, and informed him that he had just run over a woman. Id. at *15-16. The Petitioner replied, "'[N]o, I didn't.'" Id. at *16. Solomon told the Petitioner to get out of the truck and see the victim. Id. Solomon said that the victim was lying near the curb, that trucks commonly passed through that portion of the road, and that their trailer tires went over the curb. Id.

A paramedic testified that when she arrived at the scene, the victim was lying "on her back eviscerated on the grass beside the curb." Id. at *18. The Petitioner was kneeling by the victim, holding her hand, and telling her that everything would be all right. Id. The victim was flown to a trauma center in Huntsville, Alabama. Id.

A trauma surgeon testified that he performed emergency surgery on the victim and that she had multiple lacerations in her genital, pelvic, and buttock areas. Id. at *20. The cuts on the victim's shorts corresponded to the cuts on her body. Id. The victim's intestines were protruding from the area between her legs, and she had two lacerations on the fingers of her left hand. Id. at *20. The surgeon did not find any injuries to the victim's head. Id. at *21. A doctor of urology, who was present during the victim's surgery, testified that the victim had two tears in her bladder that could have been made only by a sharp object such as a knife. Id. at *19.

Trooper Allen Brennis of the Tennessee Highway Patrol testified that he responded to the scene, looked in the cab of the truck, and found it "covered with blood." Id. at 22. The Petitioner claimed that he had cut his finger that morning, but the trooper did not think such a cut could have been the source of all the blood. Id. at *24. The Petitioner also claimed that he had run over the victim accidentally. Id. at *23. Trooper Jason Kelly testified that he looked in the truck and found a cooler "half-full of bloody water." Id. at *26. He thought the Petitioner was intoxicated and arrested him for suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). See id.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Investigator Brad Elliot testified that he went to the scene, spoke with the Petitioner, and gave the Petitioner Miranda warnings. Id. at *30. The Petitioner invoked his right to counsel, so Investigator Elliot stopped speaking with him. Id. Investigator Elliot entered the truck cab and saw a "'large folding knife'" on the dashboard. Id. A reddish brown blood stain was on the knife. Id. Based on the bloodstained knife and the blood spatters in the cab, Investigator Elliot concluded that a struggle probably had occurred inside the cab. Id. The next day, the Petitioner was charged with attempted first degree murder and transported to the Giles County Jail. Id. at *31. After being informed of the charge, he told Investigator Elliot that he "needed to 'tell [him] something.'" Id. at *32. Investigator Elliot reminded the Petitioner that he had requested an attorney, but the Petitioner insisted on speaking with the investigator privately. Id. The Petitioner told Investigator Elliot that the victim had been playing with the knife in the truck and had cut two fingers on her left hand. Id. They arrived at the welcome center and slept in the truck about two hours. Id. Before they left, the victim got out of the truck with the couple's dog so that the dog could use the restroom. Id. at *33. The Petitioner moved the truck forward in order to pull over and park, and a man banged on the Petitioner's door and told him that he had run over someone. Id. The Petitioner got out of the truck and went to check on the victim. Id. Investigator Elliot stated that all of the Petitioner's clothes were bloody, including his socks, and that he did not think the Petitioner's attending to the injured victim explained the condition of the socks. Id. at *33-34.

Chicago, Illinois Police Officer Michael Tomaso testified that in April 2006, he and Officer Christina Pena responded to a "'battery in progress'" at a bar. See id. at *40. When they arrived, Thomas Edwards, the victim's brother, told them that he had just fought the Petitioner. See id. Officer Tomaso said that he and Officer Pena handcuffed the Petitioner because the Petitioner was "highly intoxicated and belligerent." Id. After being handcuffed, the Petitioner stated, "'This is f--ing bullshit because he's mad because what I did to his sister.'" Id. When the officers began to put the Petitioner into the back of their patrol car, the Petitioner "continued to grumble about why Edwards was upset, and then the [Petitioner] said, 'I wish I had done it right the first time.'" Id.

At the conclusion of the proof in the instant case, the jury convicted the Petitioner as charged of attempted first degree premeditated murder. Id. at *42. The trial court sentenced him to twenty-two years in confinement. Id. Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, claiming that after the trial, the victim gave several oral and written statements recanting her trial testimony. Id. At the coram nobis hearing, the victim testified that her family had encouraged her to lie about the Petitioner and that she had testified falsely about him knocking her unconscious and stabbing her lower body. Id. She said that she had lied in order to punish him, that she still loved him, and that she "'need[ed] him so much more, now.'" Id. at *43. The trial court rejected the victim's recanted testimony. Id. The trial court noted that "the victim never actually testified at trial that the [Petitioner] had stabbed her anywhere other than her hand. Instead, the victim testified only that she remembered being knocked unconscious, struggling with [him], and noticing blood running down her legs as she got out of the truck." Id. The trial court also noted that "because the [Petitioner] testified neither at his trial nor the coram nobis hearing, he failed to provide an alternative version of how the victim sustained her injuries." Id. at *44.

The Petitioner appealed his conviction to this court, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction; that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence the statements he gave to the Chicago police officers; that the trial court erred by allowing the two officers to testify when the State failed to disclose their existence in accordance with Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 16; and that the trial court erred by denying his petition for a writ of error coram nobis. Id. This court affirmed the judgments of the trial court. Id. at *2.

After our supreme court denied the Petitioner's application for permission to appeal, he filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief, raising various issues regarding his receiving the ineffective assistance of counsel before and after trial. The post-conviction court appointed counsel, and counsel filed amended petitions. Relevant to this appeal, the petitions alleged that the Petitioner received the ineffective assistance of counsel because (1) trial counsel failed to determine whether the victim possessed marijuana and was coerced to testify favorably for the State in return for the State's not prosecuting her for misdemeanor marijuana possession; (2) trial counsel failed to investigate adequately whether the Petitioner could have accessed the knife in the truck as the victim had alleged; (3) trial counsel failed to advise the Petitioner properly regarding the State's plea offer, including properly advising him as to the strength of the State's case and providing him with discovery so that he could make a reasoned decision regarding whether to accept the offer; (4) trial counsel failed to move to suppress the Petitioner's statements to the Chicago police officers based upon his intoxication; (5) trial counsel failed to object ...

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