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Jones v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

January 30, 2015

CHRISTOPHER JONES
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

Assigned on Briefs November 04, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Gibson County No. H8857 Clayburn Peeples, Judge

Patrick Dollar, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher A. Jones.

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Meredith Devault, Senior Counsel; Garry Brown, District Attorney General; and Hillary Lawler Barham, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.

THOMAS T. WOODALL, PRESIDING JUDGE

OPINION

Trial

The facts underlying Petitioner's conviction are recited in this court's opinion in State v. Christopher Allen Jones, 2012 WL 4049175, at *1-13. In summary, Petitioner and the victim were both patrons of the Kitty Kat Lounge, a nightclub in Humboldt, Tennessee, during the early morning hours of December 6, 2008. Petitioner and the victim were dancing together, and Petitioner confronted the victim about taking some money that he had apparently dropped on the floor. Petitioner and the victim argued, and the victim pushed Petitioner. Petitioner exited the nightclub, and the victim exited shortly thereafter. Patrons outside of the nightclub saw the victim confront Petitioner and "g[e]t in his face." The other patrons attempted to restrain Petitioner, but Petitioner removed his shirt to free himself. When he removed his shirt, a gun fell to the ground. Petitioner picked it up and pointed it at the victim. Petitioner shot the victim in the chest. The victim turned away from Petitioner to go back inside the nightclub. The nightclub owner's husband saw the victim running towards the front door of the nightclub, and Petitioner was following behind her and firing shots at her. When the victim got inside the door, she fell to the floor. The victim died from multiple gunshot wounds to her chest, back and arm.

The owner of the nightclub testified that Petitioner drank beer that night, but she did not know if Petitioner was intoxicated. She testified that she had never before seen Petitioner as upset as he was that night about the money. Another witness testified that Petitioner acted as if he was under the influence of "more than alcohol because [she had] never seen anybody act like that . . . ." Another witness testified that he saw Petitioner drink most of a bottle of vodka while he was at the nightclub and that Petitioner was highly intoxicated. Petitioner testified in his own defense at trial. Petitioner left work at 2:30 p.m. on December 5, 2008, and began drinking. He could not recall how many quarts of beer he drank. He also smoked marijuana "blunts" with friends, but he could not recall how many. On the way to the Kitty Kat Lounge, he shared a "fifth" of alcohol with the three people he was riding with, and he drank a pint of vodka by himself. Petitioner also took five Xanax pills that he got from his cousin. Petitioner purchased a quart of beer at the nightclub, and he testified that he did not remember anything that happened after that.

On direct appeal from Petitioner's conviction, a panel of this court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's finding of premeditation and that Petitioner's voluntary intoxication did not negate his specific intent to commit first degree murder. Id., 2012 WL 4049175, at *17.

Post-conviction hearing

Petitioner testified that he advised trial counsel of his intoxication on the night of the offense. He discussed with his attorneys that his level of intoxication would have prevented him from forming the intent to commit first degree murder. He testified that his attorneys did not take any action to obtain an expert to testify on his behalf. When presented with a motion for forensic evaluation filed by his trial counsel and an order directing a forensic evaluation, Petitioner acknowledged that he had seen the motion and order. Petitioner testified that he was evaluated by a psychiatrist prior to his trial. Petitioner also acknowledged that his trial counsel discussed with him a letter which stated the conclusions of the forensic evaluator, and based on his conversations with counsel, he decided to go forward with his trial. The following documents were admitted as exhibits to the post-conviction hearing: a motion for forensic evaluation; an order directing a forensic evaluation; a letter from Pathways Behavioral Health Services ("Pathways") stating that Petitioner was competent to stand trial and that, at the time of the offense, he was able to appreciate the nature and wrongfulness of his acts; as well as an ex parte motion for state funded expert services.

Only one of Petitioner's two trial counsel testified at the hearing. Trial counsel testified that after he received the letter from Pathways, he discussed the letter with Petitioner and determined that it was in Petitioner's best interest to present a defense of intoxication. He discussed "at length" with Petitioner his level of intoxication on the night of the offense and spoke to several State's witnesses, who corroborated Petitioner's level of intoxication. Trial counsel attempted to locate individuals whose names or nicknames Petitioner provided him, who Petitioner stated would testify as to his intoxication, but trial counsel was unable to contact them. Trial counsel did not seek further expert opinions because he did not believe the expert testimony was necessary in order to prove Petitioner's intoxication.

Petitioner presented his own testimony and the testimony of one of his trial counsel at the post-conviction hearing. The entire direct examination of Petitioner regarding his sole argument ...


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