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State v. Duff

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

November 24, 2014


Session Date August 19, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 95311 Steven Wayne Sword, Judge

A Knox County Criminal Court jury found the Defendant, Gregory Duff, guilty of two counts of aggravated kidnapping, Class B felonies. See T.C.A. § 39-13-304. The trial court merged the two counts and sentenced him as a Range II, multiple offender to nineteen years’ imprisonment at 100 percent release eligibility. In this appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred in admitting 911 recordings into evidence.[1] Upon review, we affirm the judgment 1 of the trial court.

Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

Robert L. Vogel (on appeal) and Leslie M. Jeffress (at trial), Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Gregory Duff.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; Philip H. Morton and Takisha M. Fitzgerald, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams, J., and David A. Patterson, Sp. J., joined.



On August 10, 2010, the Knox County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant, Gregory Duff, for two alternative counts of aggravated kidnapping of the victim, Rondriea Barnett.[2]The following proof was presented at trial.

State's Proof.

Michael Allen Mays testified as the keeper of the records for the Knox County 911 Office. He authenticated a disk of audio recordings of four emergency calls made in this case on July 13, 2010. Based on the computer aided dispatch, or CAD report, Mr. Mays said that the initial 911 call was received at 1:15 a.m., the police were dispatched at 1:20, and the first officer arrived at the scene at 1:32 a.m.

The recordings of the 911 calls were played for the jury. In the first call at 1:15 a.m., Whitney Karnes[3] reported that "someone just got kidnapped at Cassell Ridge Apartments." She told the dispatcher that a black male was beating a black female and then he placed her in a white truck and drove out of the apartment complex. She reported that the victim attempted to get out of the truck, but the suspect "was holding her in" and "wouldn't let her out." The caller stated, "Somebody needs to hurry before she ends up killed." The phone call lasted a little over three minutes.

In the second 911 recording, which was also placed at 1:15 a.m., a woman named Teresa Wyatt reported that she lived at Cassell Ridge Apartments and that a girl was kidnapped right out of the parking lot. She told the dispatcher that the suspect "was dragging [the victim] down the parking lot in the passenger side" and that they left in a white pickup truck that had its lights off. The caller reported that her son was pursuing the vehicle on foot and that as the vehicle was leaving, it struck another car. She did not know which direction the truck went.

In the third recording, a man called at 1:16 a.m. to report "a possible abduction from Cassell Ridge Apartments." The call lasted 22 seconds and the man ended the call when he realized that another caller had already reached 911.

The fourth call was placed at 1:18 a.m. The male caller reported that he had chased a white '92 to '96 Ford Ranger on foot as it left the apartments.[4] He said that he had attempted to help the girl and that he was almost run over by the truck. The caller told the dispatcher that the suspect prevented the victim from escaping each time she tried to flee. He reported that at one point, "[the victim] was trying to get out into the parking lot when we pulled in and he actually slammed her in . . . slammed her and the door of the vehicle into a parked vehicle . . ." In the recording, the caller was panting as though he was out of breath. The dispatcher advised the caller that several people had called 911 and that officers would arrive at the scene shortly.

Dawn Clark, a resident of Cassell Ridge Apartments at the time of the incident, testified that the Defendant was the father of the victim's child. She said that at around 1:00 a.m. on July 13, 2010, she was talking with the victim and three other women in front of her apartment building. The Defendant then arrived in a white truck and the victim immediately "took off running up the steps" and entered an apartment. When she returned and walked up to the Defendant, he grabbed her by the hair, threw her on the ground, and began to beat her. Ms. Clark also saw the Defendant drag the victim on the sidewalk and kick her while she was on the ground. She stated that everyone was yelling and that as the Defendant hit the victim, he said, "You got these bhes in my business." Ms. Clark then observed the following:

And he snatched her up and threw her in the car, and she tried to get out of the car once. He--he threw her in the car, and he walked around to the other side, and she tried to get out of the car. He got out and went back around the car and hit her a few more times, closed the door. He didn't get to get all the way back around to the other side of the car before she opened the door again, and he went around there and hit her again--he hit her again. And after he hit her he--again, he kind of mushed her down and climbed over--climbed in the car on--on the passenger side.

Ms. Clark testified that she tried to write down the truck's license plate number but that she had to jump out of the way when the Defendant accelerated the vehicle in reverse. She then chased after the truck on foot. As the Defendant drove off, the victim opened the passenger door again, and the Defendant "swerved and hit a parked car to get the door to close." After the passenger door closed, the Defendant drove straight and sped out of the parking lot. Ms. Clark stated that another car pulled into the lot as the Defendant drove off, and the man got out of his car and ran after the truck with her. However, once they got to the top of a hill, they lost sight of the truck and did not know the direction in which it drove.

Ms. Clark said that she and the man walked back to the apartment complex, and after the police had arrived, the victim returned in a different truck. She did not see who was driving the truck, which left after dropping off the victim. Ms. Clark stated that the victim was upset and crying, her face was bloody, her side and arm were "all scratched up, " and her shirt was torn. Ms. Clark said that an ambulance arrived at the scene, though the victim did not want to go to the hospital. Two photographs of the victim and her injuries were admitted into evidence without objection.

On cross-examination, Ms. Clark testified that the victim was using her cell phone while they were outside, but she did not know with whom the victim was speaking. She said that neither the victim nor the Defendant said anything when the victim walked up to him. According to Ms. Clark, the victim did not say anything or make a sound until she was thrown into ...

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