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State v. Lawson

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

March 17, 2015


Assigned on Brief December 16, 2014

Direct Appeal from the Circuit Court for Warren County No. F13297 Larry B. Stanley, Jr., Judge

L. Scott Grissom, Assistant Public Defender, McMinnville, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Kenneth Lawson.

Herbert H. Slatery, III,, Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; Lisa Zavogiannis, District Attorney General; and Thomas Minor, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., joined.



Procedural History and Factual Background

In March 2012, the defendant pled guilty to possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance with intent to deliver and to violation of his habitual traffic offender status, both Class E felonies. For each conviction, the defendant was sentenced, as a persistent offender, to a term of four years, which was to be served on supervised probation following service of 115 days in the county jail. The sentences were ordered to be served consecutively, resulting in an effective eight-year probationary sentence with service of 230 days.

In August 2013, the defendant was indicted by a Warren County grand jury for delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance, to wit morphine. As a result, a probation violation warrant was issued alleging that the defendant had violated the terms and conditions of his sentence by receiving additional criminal charges. A hearing was held on the matter in March 2014, at which multiple witnesses testified.

The first witness called was the defendant's probation officer, Sally Cantrell. She indicated this was the defendant's first violation in this case and that she had experienced no other problems with the defendant's compliance.

Three police officers testified as to the circumstances surrounding the two controlled drug buys which resulted in the charges against the defendant. First, Detective Tony Jenkins with the McMinnville Police Department testified regarding a drug buy which took place on May 14, 2013. Detective Jenkins was working with a confidential informant, Tommy Hodges, who had arranged to buy drugs from the defendant. Detective Jenkins and another officer met with Mr. Hodges at an arranged location, and Mr. Hodges' car and person were searched. He was then given $145 and equipped with a transmitting device that allowed the officers to monitor the transaction. Mr. Hodges then drove his vehicle to the Partridge Meadow apartments, and Detective Jenkins followed in his vehicle. He did not follow Mr. Hodges into the complex, as he was known in the neighborhood to work drug crimes and did not want to interfere with the transaction. However, he did hear the entire transaction through the transmitter. He was able to recognize Mr. Hodges' voice but not that of the defendant, as he was unfamiliar with the defendant. During the transaction, Officer Ben Cantrell stopped to speak with Detective Jenkins, and Detective Jenkins asked Officer Cantrell to drive through the apartment complex. Detective Jenkins informed him that Mr. Hodges was driving a Windstar minivan.

At the conclusion of the transaction, Mr. Hodges returned to the prearranged location, and Detective Jenkins followed. Mr. Hodges and his car were again searched. He gave Detective Jenkins two pills, later determined to be morphine, and returned $5. Mr. Hodges was paid for his participation in the drug buy.

Officer Cantrell also testified and confirmed that he had encountered Detective Jenkins on that day and was asked to drive through the apartment complex. Officer Cantrell stated that while he was sitting with Detective Jenkins, he was able to hear the transaction through the transmitter. He recognized the voices of the defendant and Mr. Hodges, both of whom he was very familiar with.

According to Officer Cantrell, Detective Jenkins told him that Mr. Hodges was driving a black truck. He entered the apartment complex, where the defendant resided, and saw the defendant standing close to a black truck driven by Mr. Hodges. The defendant waved at Officer Cantrell and began to walk away from ...

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