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Clark v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

January 14, 2015

JAMES CLARK
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

Assigned on Briefs December 2, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County Nos. 91-07308–91-07314 James M. Lammey, Jr., Judge.

Patrick E. Stegall, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Clark.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Glen C. Baity, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Roger A. Page, JJ., joined.

OPINION

D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Around 11:30 a.m. on April 23, 1991, the Petitioner and his co-defendant, Ronald Honaker, arrived at a pawn shop in Memphis, Tennessee. State v. James Clark, No. 02C01-9206-CR-00149, 1993 WL 414015, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 20, 1993), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. May 16, 1994). Honaker entered the pawn shop and "indicated that he had numerous items to sell." Id. Honaker took one of the pawn shop employees outside to look at "several television sets, Nintendo games, baseball gloves, and other items jumbled together under a rug" in the back of a black pickup truck. Id. The employee noticed that the Petitioner was "sitting behind the steering wheel of the truck." Id. It was determined at trial that the items and the truck had been stolen from three separate homes earlier that morning.

The Petitioner and Honaker haggled with the employee "regarding the price of the items in the truck." Clark, 1993 WL 414015, at *1. The employee then went back inside the pawn shop and spoke to the manager. The manager went outside and spoke to Honaker and the Petitioner about the price of the items while the employee called the police. "While waiting for the police, the manager had [Honaker and the Petitioner] carry the items into the pawn shop where he tested them to see if they were operable." Id. Once the police arrived, Honaker and the Petitioner were taken into custody, handcuffed, and placed in the back of a patrol car. The victims of the burglaries were brought to the pawn shop and identified the stolen items. Id.

After the victims had identified their property, two police officers entered the patrol car and drove away with Honaker and the Petitioner in the backseat. Clark, 1993 WL 414015, at *1. The Petitioner was able to free one of his hands and recovered a pistol that "Honaker later admitted he had taken from one of the burglary victims" and had given to the Petitioner at the pawn shop. Id. The Petitioner then shot both officers in the back of their heads. Id. at *2. The Petitioner got in the driver's seat of the patrol car, took a revolver from one of the wounded officers, and drove away with Honaker in the backseat. The Petitioner and Honaker "were apprehended a short time later . . . hiding [] under a roll of carpet beneath a viaduct." Id. When arrested, the Petitioner had the stolen pistol in his back pocket and "spontaneously confessed . . . that he shot the officers to avoid going back to prison." Id.

The Petitioner was convicted of two counts of attempted first degree murder, two counts of aggravated burglary, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, and three counts of theft. Clark, 1993 WL 414015, at *1. The Petitioner received a total effective sentence of 127 years. Honaker was convicted of two counts of attempted second degree murder, two counts of aggravated burglary, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, and three counts of theft. Honaker received a total effective sentence of forty years. Id. This court affirmed the Petitioner's convictions and sentences on direct appeal. Id.

The opinion notes that the evidence regarding the Petitioner's role in the burglaries and thefts was "largely circumstantial." Clark, 1993 WL 414015, at *3. However, this court affirmed the Petitioner's convictions on those charges under a theory of criminal responsibility, stating as follows:

. . . [The Petitioner] was observed sitting at the wheel of the stolen truck. He accompanied Honaker, whose statement confessing to the theft of the pistol was admitted into evidence, to the pawn shop, and participated actively in the negotiation for the price of the goods. The victims identified the goods which Honaker and Clark attempted to sell as those stolen that morning. Moreover, [the Petitioner] admitted that he shot two police officers, robbed one officer of his weapon, and stole a police car to avoid going back to jail for the burglaries. There was sufficient evidence presented at trial for the jury to ...

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