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In re Juanita W.

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

January 29, 2015

IN RE: JUANITA W.

Session Date: October 29, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 100392 Steven Sword, Judge

Mark E. Stephens, District Public Defender, and Christina Kleiser, Assistant Public Defender, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Juanita W.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter, and John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

D. Michael Swiney, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Charles D. Susano, Jr., C.J., and John W. McClarty, J., joined.

OPINION

D. MICHAEL SWINEY, JUDGE

Background

The State of Tennessee ("the State") filed a petition alleging that the Juvenile was delinquent for committing the act of aggravated assault pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-102(a)(1)(B) during an incident that occurred on July 1, 2012. The State's petition specifically charged Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-102(a)(1)(B) and also alleged:

On July 1, 2012, at approximately 9:10 p.m., [the Juvenile] was involved in a physical confrontation with her room mates at [street address]. [The Juvenile] refused to obey Officer Thurman's commands as she screamed and attempted to break down the door where her foster parents and sister were located. [The Juvenile] then retrieved a silver knife with a black handle and came downstairs in a very aggressive manner, with the knife held upright, and refused to drop the knife. Officer Thurman was in fear for the safety of the foster parents and sisters, as well as for himself.

The case was tried before a magistrate judge in the Juvenile Court for Knox County ("the Juvenile Court") and, after trial, an order was entered finding that the Juvenile had committed the delinquent act of aggravated assault pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-102(a)(1)(B). The magistrate judge's findings, recommendations, and order then were confirmed by the judge of the Juvenile Court.

The Juvenile appealed the Juvenile Court's order to the Criminal Court where the case was tried de novo in November of 2013. At trial Officer Thomas Adam Thurman, a patrol officer with the Knoxville Police Department, testified about the incident of July 1, 2012. Officer Thurman, who was on patrol alone at the time, received a call on the evening of July 1, 2012 around 9 or 10 p.m. and in response to the call went to the house where the incident soon occurred. When he arrived at the house, Officer Thurman was met by a neighbor "who reported to [him] that there was something drastic going on in - - in that home right there that [Officer Thurman] was responding to . . ., " which Officer Thurman found to be "atypical, " and which "kind of raised a flag to [him] right there at the get-go."

Officer Thurman knocked on the door of the house and after a few minutes was admitted by the Juvenile. Officer Thurman testified that the Juvenile:

seemed to be surprised that I was there and was noticeably agitated like she had either been in or was about to be in a physical confrontation. I figured verbal at least. So [the Juvenile] looked at me, opened the door, and then turned and immediately sprinted back into the interior of what I found to be the living area and rounded a corner and got out of my sight real quick.

Officer Thurman followed the Juvenile "as she went around the corner and then went down a big stairwell into a basement." He lost sight of her for two or three seconds, and as he went around the corner, Officer Thurman saw that the Juvenile was at the "base of the stairs and was in a battle with the door there." Officer Thurman described the stairwell stating: "It was real narrow, real tight, not much moving room, but [the Juvenile] was in a verbal argument with whoever was behind the door, and I didn't know at the time who it was or what was going on behind that door at the base of the stairs."

Officer Thurman attempted to speak to the Juvenile from his position at the top of the stairs, but she did not respond to him. Officer Thurman testified:

[The Juvenile] was in a big time argument with whoever was behind that door, and I remember her saying some things to the nature of that she was going to get them, she was going to do them, that kind of stuff. So there was some threats going on back and forth behind - - I couldn't hear what was being said from the other side of the door, but I could hear that there was some communication going on there.

Officer Thurman further described that he:

pretty much eased down the stairs immediately, and I got to about the third step from the bottom or so where I was still at a position overlooking [the Juvenile], and I was trying to get her attention. I was trying to, you know, get her to look at me and respond to me. But she was - - had completely tuned me out or never even acknowledged that ...

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