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Wagner v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 20, 2015


Assigned on Briefs January 13, 2014

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2009-A-305 Steve R. Dozier, Judge

Ryan C. Caldwell, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Carl J. Wagner.

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Rachel M. Sobrero, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., joined.



I. Facts

A. Trial

This case arises from the Petitioner shooting the victim in an apartment complex in Nashville, Tennessee. Our Supreme Court summarized the facts of the case as follows:

On August 27, 2008, [the Petitioner], shot nineteen-year-old Adriel Charles Powell in the laundry room of a Nashville apartment complex located at 1601 Herman Street. The State charged the [Petitioner] with premeditated first degree murder, first degree murder committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, robbery, and especially aggravated robbery. The prosecution's theory at trial was that the shooting occurred during a drug deal as the [Petitioner] robbed the victim of a backpack containing narcotics.
Officer William McKay of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department ("Metro") arrived at the scene of the shooting shortly after a 3:25 p.m. report of "shots fired." Four bystanders in an outdoor courtyard told Officer McKay of a "dead person in the laundry room." Another bystander told Officer McKay of "a guy [inside the laundry room] with his brains out." As he approached the laundry room, Officer McKay noticed a bullet hole in the shattered window next to the door. Because the door was closed and locked, Officer McKay did not enter the laundry room, but he saw the victim, whom he described as obviously dead, lying on the floor just inside the door. After securing the scene, Officer McKay called for homicide detectives and remained at the scene until other officers arrived.
Metro Detective Michael Moss was on his way to the scene of the shooting when he was redirected to the emergency room of Vanderbilt Children's Hospital to investigate a report of a person with gunshot wounds, later identified as the [Petitioner]. When he arrived, Detective Moss spoke briefly with Thalis Smith, who had driven the [Petitioner] to the hospital and assisted him into the emergency room. Detective Moss then interviewed the [Petitioner] who said that he had been standing in a grassy area of the apartment complex when he heard gunshots and fled. Realizing that he had been shot, the [Petitioner] ran to Mr. Smith, who helped him into a vehicle and drove him to the hospital. According to Detective Moss, the [Petitioner] said he knew Mr. Smith prior to the shooting and described Mr. Smith as "my boy, " but the [Petitioner] denied any involvement in or knowledge of the shooting.
Before he left the hospital, Detective Moss collected several items from the [Petitioner's] belongings, including money totaling $51.25, a holster, Nike tennis shoes, clothing, a lighter, and a bag of "green plant material, " which scientific testing later identified as marijuana.
Detective Moss also arranged for Mr. Smith to return to the scene of the shooting, where Metro Detective James Capps, the lead detective on the case, interviewed him. According to Detective Capps, Mr. Smith was "very anxious" during the interview and repeatedly denied any knowledge of the shooting. Mr. Smith said he "didn't want to be there" and just happened to be standing on the street smoking a cigarette when the [Petitioner] ran up and asked for help. Seeing the [Petitioner] had been shot, Mr. Smith drove him to the hospital. Mr. Smith said nothing about knowing the [Petitioner] prior to the shooting.
As detectives conducted interviews, Metro Sergeant Danny Orr and Metro Crime Scene Investigator Felicia Evans collected evidence and prepared detailed diagrams documenting the location of the evidence found in the laundry room, the outdoor courtyard, and the parking lot of the apartment complex. Investigator Evans swabbed thirteen distinct "reddish-brown stains" at the scene, which DNA analysis later confirmed were bloodstains. The first bloodstain, found on a vehicle in the parking lot, the second and third bloodstains, found on the ground near the vehicle, a fourth bloodstain, found on top of the shattered window glass in front of the laundry room door, and a fifth bloodstain, found on the interior of the laundry room door, all matched the [Petitioner's] DNA. A sixth bloodstain, found on the interior laundry room door frame, a seventh bloodstain, found on the interior wall of the laundry room, and an eighth bloodstain, found on the circular metal plate surrounding the interior laundry room door knob, all matched the victim's DNA.
Five other bloodstains, numbered nine through thirteen at trial, were found on the railing next to the walkway outside the laundry room. The bloodstains numbered nine through twelve at trial matched the [Petitioner's] DNA and were drop-pattern stains. The bloodstain numbered thirteen at trial matched the victim's DNA and was described as a transfer pattern stain, meaning the blood had been transferred from fabric onto the railing.
Investigators also recovered a pair of Nike flip flops outside the laundry room - finding one sandal on the courtyard walkway and the other in the parking lot near the vehicle where the [Petitioner's] blood had been found.
Additionally, investigators found three nine-millimeter cartridge casings in the courtyard - two on the walkway and one in the bushes in front of the laundry room. Investigators also recovered a nine-millimeter magazine with six unspent Winchester cartridges next to the walkway in the courtyard. A copper bullet jacket fragment was found outside as well, near the shattered glass of the shot-out window.
Inside the laundry room, next to the victim's body, investigators found two Federal .45 caliber cartridge casings. A baseball cap located near the victim's body was marked by a bullet hole, and beneath the cap investigators found an intact .45 caliber bullet and a lead fragment, likely from a bullet but lacking exterior identifying ...

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