Assigned on Briefs October 7, 2014
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. 13-616 Roy B. Morgan, Jr., Judge
George Morton Googe, District Public Defender; and Jeremy B. Epperson, Assistant Public Defender, Jackson, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Edward Carter.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Jody S. Pickens, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.
Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.
CAMILLE R. McMULLEN, JUDGE
This case arises from the sale of a green 1999 Ford Taurus belonging to Joe Bankston to a scrap metal facility without Mr. Bankston's permission. The Defendant-Appellant, Edward Carter, was subsequently indicted by the Madison County Grand Jury for one count of theft of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1, 000, a Class E felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-103, -105. The following proof was presented at trial.
Trial. Joe Bankston testified that he owned Bankston Auto Sales in Madison County and that he bought and sold automobiles. He became acquainted with the Defendant in 2012 when he sold a car to the Defendant. On the day of the sale, Mr. Bankston agreed to rent office space to the Defendant for $500 a month so that the Defendant could repair vehicles on the premises. The agreement was not reduced to writing. According to Mr. Bankston, the Defendant "stayed there" for about a year and only made four rent payments. It was disputed at trial whether the Defendant also lived at the business.
Mr. Bankston said that in the fall of 2012, he purchased a green 1999 Ford Taurus from Joseph and Renie Reeves for $600. He received the title for the vehicle and placed it on the desk in his personal office. Due to personal and family issues, Mr. Bankston was not frequently at his business around May 2013. As far as he knew, the green Ford Taurus remained on his lot and the title was in his office during that time. On May 29, 2013, Mr. Bankston went to the Madison County Sheriff's Department to report that the car was stolen from his lot that day. Specifically, he spoke with Sergeant Evans, who filed a missing vehicle report.
Mr. Bankston testified that he never gave the Defendant permission to remove the Ford Taurus from his lot and that the Defendant was not present during the transaction with the Reeves. He identified a document titled "Vehicle Bill of Sale" which indicated that "Bankston Auto Sales" sold the 1999 Ford Taurus to the Defendant on May 28, 2013. However, he stated that the signature was not in his handwriting and that he did not use that particular form in his business. Mr. Bankston denied ever selling the vehicle to the Defendant.
On cross-examination, Mr. Bankston denied that the Defendant lived at his business. He also denied that there was an agreement where the Defendant would dispose of cars and Mr. Bankston would receive part of the profits. He stated that he told the Defendant that he had to be on the premises if the Defendant sold a vehicle. He acknowledged receiving money for some of his cars but said he "told [the Defendant] not to do it again." Mr. Bankston denied authorizing previous sales of his vehicles. When asked about the condition of the 1999 Ford Taurus, Mr. Bankston stated:
It had been in an accident, and the gentleman that I bought the car from had just put a transmission and a[n] engine in the car, so I bought it. It could have been repaired, but I wasn't sure whether I was gonna repair it or whether I was gonna use the motor and transmission and fix two other cars with it that I had that needed work on.
He testified that cars "occasionally" increased in value and that "right now, salvage is going up in value." He acknowledged that the Ford Taurus had been rear-ended but testified that it had "brand new tires on it" and said that he could have repaired it to driving condition.
Sergeant Vatisha Evans of the Madison County Sheriff's Department testified that she investigated Mr. Bankston's missing vehicle report on May 29, 2013. After receiving a call from Mr. Bankston, she went to Hutcherson Metals and found the Defendant and the 1999 Ford Taurus there. The car had already been crushed into scrap metal, and the Defendant provided her with a bill of sale for the vehicle. Sergeant Evans was able to verify that the vehicle identification number (VIN) of the crushed car ...