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State v. Cole

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

April 22, 2015


Session March 3, 2015

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 01-01221 Lee V. Coffee, Judge

Gene L. Humphreys, Jeffrey P. Yarboro, and Cecil W.VanDevender, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Detrick Cole.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; and Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.



I. Procedural History

A. Trial and Penalty Proceeding

This case arises from the Defendant's killing of the victim, Santeife Thomas, by shooting him twice in the head. Based on this conduct, a Shelby County grand jury indicted the Defendant for first degree premeditated murder. Our Supreme Court summarized the underlying facts of the case as follows:

[A]round 2 a.m. on October 17, 2000, the twenty-year-old [D]efendant, [], killed the victim, twenty-seven-year-old Santeife Thomas, by shooting him twice in the head. The evidence established that Thomas had returned home from work around 12:30 a.m. on October 17 and left shortly afterward in his late-model Mitsubishi Galant to visit a friend. Thomas was next seen at the Ridgemont Apartments in North Memphis, where he agreed to drive a person identified as "Little E" to the Raleigh Woods Apartments. The [D]efendant and fourteen-year-old Andropolis Wells accompanied [Thomas] and "Little E." Wells, testifying for the prosecution, related that after Thomas dropped off "Little E" at the Raleigh Woods Apartments, the [D]efendant asked Thomas to drive him to the Garden Walk Apartments. The [D]efendant directed Thomas to the back of the apartments and asked Thomas to park the car near an area overgrown with grass and weeds. After Thomas parked, all three men exited the car. Thomas and Wells waited near the car while the [D]efendant left to get crack cocaine from "Jerry." [FN2] The [D]efendant returned a short time later and said "Jerry" would bring them some drugs.
[FN2] According to Wells, the [D]efendant said he was going to get "some yams" from Jerry. Wells explained that "yams" is the street name for crack cocaine.

Wells waited at the car, but the [D]efendant and Thomas walked into the overgrown area. Wells heard the [D]efendant repeatedly telling Thomas to open his mouth and saw the [D]efendant pointing a gun at Thomas's face. Thomas, who had no weapon and made no aggressive move toward the [D]efendant, backed away and repeatedly told the [D]efendant to "stop playing." Wells then heard two gunshots. The [D]efendant ran from the bushes with a set of keys, but, apparently realizing that he had the wrong keys, the [D]efendant went back into the overgrown area and returned with another set of keys. The [D]efendant, who had blood on his hand, told Wells to get into the car. Shocked by the shooting and fearing for his own life, Wells accompanied the [D]efendant in the victim's car back to the Ridgemont Apartments. There, the [D]efendant removed two shells from the murder weapon, rubbed them with his shirt, and threw them into a garbage can. The [D]efendant and Wells then went to an upstairs apartment and left the gun with a person known to Wells as "Jewel."

When the [D]efendant and Wells returned to [Thomas's] car, the [D]efendant discovered that he had lost his electronic organizer during the killing and expressed fear that its discovery would lead to his apprehension. Thus, the [D]efendant and Wells drove [Thomas's] car back to the apartment complex to search for the organizer and parked in a driveway near the murder scene. They searched for a short time; the [D]efendant rolled [Thomas's] body over, but he did not find the organizer. When they returned to [Thomas's] car to leave, they noticed a man standing outside across the street looking at them. At the [D]efendant's instruction, Wells spoke briefly to the man before he and the [D]efendant left.

Wells remained with the [D]efendant for two days after the murder. Before the [D]efendant dropped off Wells at Wells's home, the [D]efendant told Wells that he had shot Thomas with a .44 caliber handgun because Thomas owed him fifteen dollars. Wells remarked, "Fifteen dollars? Man I could have gave you fifteen dollars." The [D]efendant replied, "N––––r gonna start respecting me."

Wells's testimony was corroborated by the testimony of Marcus Puryear, who lived near the crime scene. At approximately 2 to 2:30 a.m. Puryear had been sitting in his car, talking on a ham radio when he heard "two loud gunshots-blasts." He saw a car speeding away from the direction of the gunshots, and from the sound of the car, Puryear identified the vehicle as having a small, four-cylinder engine. Later, while looking out the window of his home, Puryear saw a car pull into a driveway immediately across from his residence. Two African-American males left the car and walked around into the area overgrown with weeds, near where the gunshots had sounded. After three or four minutes, the men returned to the car. By this time, Puryear was standing outside looking in their direction. One of the men walked over and asked if Puryear knew a person named Carlos or Michael who lived across the street. When Puryear answered that he had never heard of anyone by that name living there, the two men left. Puryear had not seen these men before and decided to write down the tag ...

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