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State v. Ware

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

December 29, 2014


Assigned on Briefs October 21, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Sullivan County Nos. S51538, S52126 R. Jerry Beck, Judge

T. Wood Smith, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Leslie Allen Ware, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; Barry P. Staubus, District Attorney General [1] ; and Joseph Eugene Perrin, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.



In December 2005, the Sullivan County Criminal Court grand jury charged the defendant with one count each of conspiracy to possess 26 grams or more of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver, possession of over 26 grams or more of cocaine for sale or delivery, and maintaining a dwelling where controlled substances are used or sold. In May 2006, the grand jury charged the defendant with two counts of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of felony murder, and one count each of especially aggravated robbery and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery. All charges arose out of the November 18, 2005 drug-related shooting deaths of Jeffrin Nolan and Terrance Alexander and the robbery of Mr. Nolan. In March 2008, the State filed a notice with the trial court that it was seeking the death penalty against the defendant, but the State later withdrew that notice prior to trial. The trial court conducted a two-week jury trial in July 2013.

The evidence presented by the State at trial established that the defendant, a New York native, was involved in a cocaine distribution ring headed by O'Sheene Massey, who was also originally from New York. The defendant, along with his cousin, Clyde Green, Jr., O'Sheene Massey's brother, Jawaune Massey, Brian Beco, and Octavia Brooks, [2] sold cocaine for O'Sheene Massey. On November 1, 2005, the group moved into a residence located at 404 Holly Point in Johnson City that had been leased by Rita Massey, the sister of O'Sheene and Jawaune Massey. Witnesses described the house as having six bedrooms: on the top floor, Mr. Beco occupied the first bedroom, Mr. Green had the second bedroom, and Ms. Brooks resided in the third bedroom, and on the bottom floor, the first bedroom belonged to Ms. Massey's infant son, the second bedroom was occupied by Ms. Massey and the defendant, and the third bedroom was shared by O'Sheene Massey and his girlfriend, Thelma Gardner.

O'Sheene Massey purchased his cocaine from both a connection in New York and Mr. Nolan. Because Mr. Nolan was known to have the best prices, Mr. Massey preferred to purchase cocaine from him.

Mr. Nolan's girlfriend, Ashley Adams, testified that Mr. Nolan opened the Solé Candle Shop in Kingsport in March 2005 as a front for his cocaine sales operation. Mr. Nolan sold candles and incense in the front of the shop, and he sold cocaine out of the back room of the shop. Mr. Nolan kept a handgun inside a drawstring bag inside a box underneath the cash register in the front room. According to Ms. Adams, customers would telephone Mr. Nolan with their request for cocaine, and Mr. Nolan would retrieve the requested amount of cocaine from a drawer located in the back room. For male customers, Mr. Nolan would keep his handgun on his person during the drug transaction, but he would leave his weapon inside the box if the customer was female. Mr. Nolan always insisted that his drug customers purchase an item from the candle shop, and Mr. Nolan would then place the drugs inside the bag with the customer's candle purchase.

Ms. Adams testified that Mr. Nolan typically sold approximately four ounces of crack cocaine each day and that the drugs were packaged in plastic bags. Mr. Nolan would keep the cash from the cocaine sales in his pocket, and he kept approximately $132 in the cash register for customers who came to purchase candles. Although Mr. Nolan did not usually allow customers to accompany him into the back room, he made an exception for Ms. Brooks because, according to Ms. Adams, Mr. Nolan "knew her on a different level than drug dealing, so it was different with her."

Mr. Beco, Mr. Green, and Ms. Gardner all testified that they overheard O'Sheene Massey, Jawaune Massey, and the defendant in the Holly Point residence discussing plans to rob Mr. Nolan. According to Mr. Beco, the three men also discussed whether they should kill Mr. Nolan, and they ultimately decided that "he should die." At some point prior to November 16, 2005, Mr. Green accompanied O'Sheene Massey and Ms. Brooks to the candle shop to purchase cocaine. After they gave Mr. Nolan their money, Mr. Nolan proceeded alone to the back room and returned with the cocaine; Mr. Green noticed that Mr. Nolan had a handgun in his back pocket. Mr. Nolan then told Mr. Massey that he would have to purchase a candle. As the group was leaving the shop, Mr. Massey remarked to Mr. Green that Mr. Nolan was "a snitch."

On November 16, 2005, O'Sheene Massey, Jawaune Massey, Mr. Green, and the defendant returned to the candle shop. According to Mr. Green, he learned while en route to the shop that the group intended to rob Mr. Nolan. Ms. Adams was at the candle shop that day, and she saw O'Sheene Massey and a man she later identified as the defendant inside the shop. Ms. Adams testified that the two men stayed at the shop for a short time before leaving. O'Sheene Massey apparently decided to abort the robbery because other customers were present in the shop.

On November 18, Mr. Green, who had spent the night elsewhere, returned to the Holly Point residence around 8:00 a.m. and encountered O'Sheene Massey and the defendant in the driveway of the residence discussing obtaining drugs from Mr. Nolan. Mr. Green drove the defendant and O'Sheene Massey in an older model grey Lincoln to pick up Jawaune Massey from another location, and the four men drove to Kingsport. While en route, O'Sheene Massey contacted Mr. Nolan to ...

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