Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs November 12, 2014
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Marshall County No. 2013-CR-54 Lee Russell, Judge
Michael Auffinger (at trial and on appeal) and Robert Dalton (at trial), Lewisburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jason Lee Fisher.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith DeVault, Senior Counsel; Charles Frank Crawford, Jr., District Attorney General; and Weakley E. Barnard, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Camille R. McMullen, JJ., joined.
ROBERT H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE
This case relates to the Defendant's actions while in the custody of a correction officer. At the trial, Terrance Howard testified that on December 19, 2012, the date of the incident, he was employed as a Marshall County Sheriff's Department correction officer and that he primarily worked at the county jail and occasionally transported prisoners to court.
Officer Howard testified that on the incident date, he was working at the Marshall County courthouse when he saw the Defendant, who was in court for a matter. When the Defendant's proceeding ended, a deputy asked Officer Howard to return the Defendant to the jail. Officer Howard's uniform consisted of a black, polo-style shirt with the jail emblem on the left side, khaki cargo pants, and black boots. He agreed he was easily identifiable as a correction officer.
Officer Howard testified that when transporting prisoners to court, they were each restrained by leg shackles, handcuffs, and a belly chain that wrapped around their waists and connected to the handcuffs. As Officer Howard and the Defendant left the courtroom, the Defendant was restrained by a belly chain, handcuffs, and ankle shackles. As they walked toward a transport car in the courthouse parking lot, Officer Howard realized he no longer heard the sound of the Defendant's chains. Officer Howard turned and saw the Defendant bent over but could not tell what he was doing. He saw the Defendant open one shackle, take it off, and place it on his other leg.
Officer Howard testified that he heard the Defendant say that Officer Howard knew "what time it [was]" and that the Defendant then fled on foot toward the side of the courthouse. He chased the Defendant, and at the edge of the parking lot and the courthouse lawn, Officer Howard caught the Defendant and dragged him to the ground. They wrestled as the Defendant tried to get away. The Defendant told Officer Howard to let him go, and Officer Howard sprayed the Defendant with pepper spray to regain control.
Officer Howard testified that the sheriff's department never took prisoners to or from court without shackles and a belly chain on each prisoner. He did not inspect the Defendant's restraints after the incident to determine if the restraints had been tampered with or were defective.
Officer Howard testified that removing a shackle was not easy. By the time he caught up with the Defendant, one of his shackles was still on while the other was dangling. The Defendant's handcuffs were also dangling and free of his hands. His belly chain, however, was still attached.
Officer Howard testified that before he and the Defendant left the courtroom and walked down the inside courthouse stairs, Officer Howard did not lock the Defendant's restraints or confirm the restraints were properly fastened. The Defendant's restraints contained five locks, and his handcuffs and belly chain were connected with a lock on the back of the chain. Officer Howard had previously found restraints in the jail that would not latch properly.
Officer Howard testified that it was about sixty feet from the point where the Defendant bent over, took off a shackle, and began running and where Officer Howard caught up with the Defendant. He said that there was a period of time when ...