Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs December 16, 2014
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Clay County No. 12CR82 David A. Patterson, Judge
David Brady, District Public Defender; and Allison Rasbury West, Assistant Public Defender, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellant, James R. Bristow.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Randall A. York, District Attorney General; and Mark Edward Gore, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.
Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which John Everett Williams and Robert W. Wedemeyer, JJ., joined.
THOMAS T. WOODALL, PRESIDING JUDGE
Guilty Plea Submission Hearing
The State presented the following testimony as the factual basis for the trial court's acceptance of the guilty pleas. Sergeant Ashley Mercer of the Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) testified that on March 2, 2012, at approximately 1:10 p.m., he responded to a two-vehicle traffic accident on Drag Strip Road in Clay County. When he arrived on the scene, Sergeant Mercer observed a black truck "on it's top in the center of the road and a light colored passenger car off the, [sic] which would have been called the southbound." The truck had been traveling northbound. Sergeant Mercer testified that Defendant was the driver of the truck, and Defendant was still located inside the vehicle when Sergeant Mercer arrived. At that time, an attempt was being made to extradite Defendant from the vehicle. Terry Dyer and Lance Groomes were also passengers in the truck with Defendant.
Sergeant Mercer testified that the car had been driven by the victim, ninety-one-year-old Earl Wilkerson. Through his investigation, Sergeant Mercer learned that the victim had been to a nursing home to visit with his wife and daughter before the accident. Sergeant Mercer testified that Trooper Johnny Farley of the THP Critical Incidence Response Team was also on the scene and determined that Defendant's truck was traveling northbound, "crossed into [the] southbound lane, striking the [victim's] Ford Taurus head on." Sergeant Mercer testified that Trooper Danny Fisher collected a blood sample from Defendant. Sergeant Mercer noticed "beer cans, beer caps and stuff in the truck and around the truck." Defendant's blood sample was later sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) crime lab for analysis. It was determined that Defendant's blood alcohol content (BAC) was .10.
Sergeant Mercer testified that the victim also had to be extracted from his Ford Taurus, and he was transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center where he later died from injuries that he sustained from the crash. Sergeant Mercer was aware that the victim "had injuries to his left leg; his right ankle; broken, broken [sic] bones; a crushed femur; compressed vertebrae in his back; abdomen, injuries to his abdomen area." The cause of the victim's death was determined to be multiple blunt force injuries. Sergeant Mercer testified that Trooper Farley's investigation indicated that Defendant's truck was traveling eighty-four miles per hour at the time of the crash. The posted speed limit on Drag Strip Road was forty-five miles per hour.
Sergeant Mercer testified that Defendant was interviewed by THP investigator Larry Pollard sometime after the accident. Defendant admitted to having "a couple of sips of Jagermeister, " and he admitted to driving the truck at the time of the crash. Lance Groomes was also interviewed by law enforcement. He gave a statement indicating that Defendant had consumed alcohol and was driving the truck at the time of the accident. Mr. Groomes stated that they had drank three or four beers each. Terry Dyer was also interviewed and said that he, Mr. Groomes, and Defendant purchased Jagermeister on the day of the crash, and they mixed it with a Monster energy drink. Sergeant Mercer testified that a search warrant was obtained to conduct a forensic examination of Mr. Dyer's cell phone. There were text messages on the phone about drinking and a picture of a Jagermeister bottle. One of the text messages contained the following: "[A]in't nothing better than being drunk with your boys on Friday, hell, it gonna be a good night[.]" The test message had been sent to one of Defendant's friends or relatives. Another text message read, "just now leaving Celina, that forty dollar bottle already gone[.]"
Tiffany Lawson, Defendant's probation officer, testified that she prepared a presentence report in Defendant's case. Defendant chose not to make any statement regarding the case as Ms. Lawson was completing the report. Ms. Lawson testified that Defendant had two prior convictions in Macon County for "dogs running at large, " and "underage consumption" of alcohol. For the dogs running at large conviction, Defendant received six months "good behavior probation, " and he was ordered to pay restitution. For the underage consumption of alcohol conviction Defendant received a sentence of eleven months, twenty-nine days to be served on probation. The general sessions court also ordered the loss of Defendant's license for one year, and he was ordered to complete an alcohol and drug education class. ...