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State v. Cunningham

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

March 24, 2015

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
CHRISTOPHER LEE CUNNINGHAM AND JAMES CLEO HARDIN

Assigned on Briefs February 3, 2015

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. 13-243 Donald H. Allen, Judge

Gregory D. Gookin, Assistant Public Defender, and J. Colin Morris, Jackson, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellants, Christopher Lee Cunningham and James Cleo Hardin.

Robert E. Cooper, Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; Jerry Woodall, District Attorney General; and Shaun Brown, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.

OPINION

CAMILLE R. MCMULLEN, JUDGE.

On January 12, 2013, Dr. Allyson Anyanwu and her contractor, Lorenzo Amador, were robbed at gunpoint inside of her Jackson home. Dr. Anyanwu and her husband had recently purchased the house and begun doing minor renovations to it. The couple hired Mr. Amador and his team to help with the renovations. On the day of the incident, Dr. Anyanwu came over to the house to do some work while Mr. Amador and several other workers were at the house. By about 5:30 p.m., all of the workers had left the house except for Mr. Amador.

Dr. Anyanwu was working in the kitchen when she turned to see Mr. Amador being led into the kitchen at gunpoint by two African American men. Accordingly to Dr. Anyanwu, both men had handguns and were wearing hooded sweatshirts with the hoods pulled up on their heads. She insisted that the gunmen's faces were not covered, although Mr. Amador testified that the men were wearing masks and he could only see their eyes. Dr. Anyanwu recalled that Mr. Amador was very frightened when he entered the kitchen and had a hard time standing still as directed by the gunmen. The gunmen appeared agitated by his behavior and kept holding their guns to his head and saying, "I will kill you." Because the gunmen "had their complete focus on [Mr. Amador]" at this time, Dr. Anyanwu was able to "take [her] time and look at each one of [the gunmen] and look at their guns." She testified that her kitchen was well-lit during the robbery, and she was able to clearly see the gunmen's faces. The darker-skinned gunman, later identified as Defendant Hardin, told Mr. Amador to give him his phone and wallet. After Mr. Amador complied, Defendant Hardin approached Dr. Anyanwu and said, "And what about you? What have you got?" He took her phone and put his gun inside of her shirt against her chest. He then ordered Dr. Anyanwu and Mr. Amador to kneel on the floor, and the two men left. On the way out of the house, Defendant Hardin took Dr. Anyanwu's purse that was on the kitchen counter. In the purse, Dr. Anyanwu had another cell phone, her ID, keys, some personal items, and $160 to $200 cash.

After the robbery, Dr. Anyanwu called the police from a neighbor's house. The police responded to the scene and interviewed the victims. They searched for the two gunmen that evening but were unable to find them. A few days later, Mr. Amador recognized one of the gunmen walking down the street and called the police. The police detained Defendants Cunningham and Hardin, and Mr. Amador identified Defendant Cunningham as one of the gunmen. He was unable to say with certainty whether Defendant Hardin was the other gunman. Several days later, police compiled a photographic lineup that included a photograph depicting Defendant Hardin. Dr. Anyanwu identified Defendant Hardin from the lineup as one of the gunmen. At trial, Dr. Anyanwu identified both Defendants as the two gunmen who robbed her and Mr. Amador. She was confident in her identification, stating at trial, "There is like no doubt in my mind who these people are."

Following diliberations, the jury convicted the Defendants as charged in the indictments of one count of aggravated burglary and two counts of aggravated robbery. At the November 18, 2013 sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendants to 11 years' confinement for each robbery count and five years' confinement for aggravated burglary. The court ordered that the aggravated robbery sentences run consecutively to one another and the aggravated burglarly sentence run concurrent with the aggravated robbery sentences for an effective sentence of 22 years' confinement for each Defendant.

Defendant Cunningham filed a motion for new trial or modification of sentence on December 16, 2013, which was denied by the trial court on January 16, 2014. He filed a timely notice of appeal on February 6, 2014. Defendant Hardin filed a motion for new trial on December 2, 2013, which was denied by the trial court on July 24, 2014. He filed a timely notice of appeal on May 28, 2014.

ANALYSIS

On appeal, the Defendants argue that the evidence is insufficient to sustain their convictions for aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery and that the trial court erred in imposing partial consecutive sentences. The State responds that the evidence is sufficient to support the convictions, and the trial court acted within its discretion in ...


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