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State v. Brandon

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

January 16, 2015


Assigned on Briefs November 18, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Roane County No. 2011-CR-151 E. Eugene Eblen, Judge

Mark N. Foster, Rockwood, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ryan T. Brandon.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ahmed A. Safeeullah, Assistant Attorney General; Russell Johnson, District Attorney General; and William Reedy, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Robert W. Wedemeyer, JJ., joined.



Factual Background

Defendant was indicted by the Roane County Grand Jury for public intoxication and resisting arrest, which was later amended by agreement of the parties to evading arrest. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence on the evading arrest charge. After a hearing, the trial court denied his motion. Defendant was tried by a jury on July 24, 2012. At trial, the following proof was adduced:

On December 28, 2009, Sergeant Jack Martin of the Harriman Police Department[1]responded to a residence around 12:20 a.m. in regard to a report of a vandalized vehicle. The residents, Laura Cooper and Jason Roberts, told Sergeant Martin that they had seen Defendant running from their driveway after he had vandalized Mr. Roberts's vehicle. Sergeant Martin observed extensive damage to the vehicle. Sergeant Martin called another officer who was in the area, Officer Jajuan Hamilton[2], and told him to be on the lookout for Defendant.

Sergeant Martin then received another call from dispatch about a potential robbery in progress at another home close to his current location. Both Sergeant Martin and Officer Hamilton proceeded to that location and spoke with the occupants of the home. The occupants reported that Defendant was beating on the door and stated that he had been in an argument with his girlfriend. One of the occupants then slammed the door and the glass broke. The other occupant became afraid and called 911. Defendant ran away from the scene before the officers arrived.

Sergeant Martin and Officer Hamilton proceeded separately to search the neighborhood for Defendant. Officer Hamilton located Defendant on a nearby street. Officer Hamilton approached in his marked patrol car, but neither his headlights nor his blue lights were on. He noticed Defendant was not wearing any shoes or a coat. Officer Hamilton instructed Defendant to step in front of the vehicle with the intention of recording their interaction on the camera in the vehicle's dashboard.[3] Defendant responded, "For what[?]" As Officer Hamilton exited the vehicle, he again told Defendant to step in front of the car. Defendant responded that he was not going to jail and ran off. Officer Hamilton deployed his Taser in order to apprehend Defendant. The prongs of the Taser made contact with Defendant, and Defendant fell to the ground, ending the pursuit. Officer Hamilton approached Defendant and asked him why he ran, explaining that he only wanted to ask him questions. Officer Hamilton testified that he noticed an odor of alcohol both before and after he apprehended Defendant.

Sergeant Martin responded to Officer Hamilton's location and saw Defendant on the ground approximately fifty to sixty feet in front of Officer Hamilton's patrol car. Sergeant Martin noticed a very strong odor of alcohol about Defendant, that his speech was slurred, and that he was not wearing any shoes or a coat. Defendant was also bleeding from the mouth and appeared to have a broken jaw and missing teeth. Officer Hamilton testified that Defendant's "speech sounded fine" before he was injured. Defendant was taken to the hospital for his injuries, but a blood alcohol analysis was not performed. Defendant was not arrested that night. Both Sergeant Martin and Officer Hamilton testified that they could not take Defendant to the jail because of his injuries.

At the close of the State's case-in-chief, Defendant made a motion for judgment of acquittal on the evading arrest charge, as discussed further below. The trial court denied his motion.

As his only witness, Defendant called his mother, Bonnie Spurlin. Ms. Spurlin testified that she lives next door to the house that Defendant shared with Jennifer Hanks and their fourteen-month-old son. Shortly before the night in question, Defendant had moved out of Ms. Hanks's house and was staying with Ms. Spurlin. On December 28, Defendant spent most of the day at Ms. Spurlin's residence. He did not drink any alcohol because Ms. Spurlin did not allow him to drink in her home. Defendant left that evening to have dinner with some friends. Later that night, Defendant called Ms. Spurlin "[u]pset and talking very fast." He told her that he had received a phone call informing him that Ms. Hanks was at a club in Knoxville. He stated that he did not know where his son was or who was taking care of him. He stated that he was going out to find his son.

Ms. Spurlin testified that she went to where Officer Hamilton apprehended Defendant and saw blood everywhere. Officer Hamilton told her that Defendant was arrested for public intoxication. Defendant told Ms. Spurlin that he had a couple of beers with dinner, but she did not notice an odor of alcohol about his person. Ms. Spurlin testified that Defendant was not intoxicated when she saw him at the scene or later when she saw him at the hospital.

The State then called Jason Roberts as a rebuttal witness. Mr. Roberts testified that he has known Defendant and Ms. Hanks for several years. On the night in question, Mr. Roberts and his girlfriend, Laura Cooper, were at Ms. Hanks's residence with her and Defendant's son. Ms. Hanks had gone out with her sister and had asked Mr. Roberts to watch her son. He testified that the child was safe inside the residence the entire evening. Mr. Roberts testified that he was awoken late that evening by the sound of glass breaking. He looked outside and saw that his vehicle was extensively damaged and saw Defendant running up the street away from the residence. ...

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