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Jefferson v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

May 6, 2015


Assigned on Brief Date: October 29, 2014

Direct Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2000-D-1954 Cheryl Blackburn, Judge

Timothy L. Jefferson, Clifton, Tennessee, pro se.

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

John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roger A. Page and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.



Factual Background and Procedural History

The facts underlying the petitioner's conviction, as recited by the error coram nobis court in a previous order, are as follows:

On the evening of December 25, 1999, at approximately 7:30 p.m., Flemings Market at 490 Davidson Street, Nashville, was robbed and the store clerk, Mr. Mohammad Rafeat, was shot and killed. Prior to this incident, the eyewitness who was using one of the pay telephones located at the front of the store to speak to his girlfriend observed a person who was described as "a stocky male black" at another of the pay telephones and who asked the eyewitness for money and then made a telephone call. The eyewitness did not observe the person leave, but a few minutes later observed a person dressed the same way and Mr. Rafeat engaged in what appeared to be a gun battle inside the store. The eyewitness discontinued the telephone conversation (his girlfriend later confirmed that she heard gunshots over the telephone) and observed Mr. Rafeat exit the store, firing back into the store, and running around to the side of the building holding his chest. The eyewitness, who cannot speak English, drove to his residence, returned to the store with a roommate who could speak English, discovered the condition of the store, and called 911. The eyewitness did not observe the perpetrator leave the scene. After leaving the store having multiple gunshot wounds, Mr. Rafeat proceeded to a house located behind the store at 910 South 5th Street, knocked on the front door asking for help, and then collapsed on the front porch. The residents there then summoned the police; when Mr. Rafeat was transported to Vanderbilt Hospital, he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Upon their investigation of the crime scene, Metro police investigators noted gunshots in the store's front door, the cash register either thrown or knocked down to the floor, change on the floor in the vicinity of the cash register and on both sides of the front door, containers of "Jungle Juice" drink on the floor and the counter, and crumpled dollar bills on the counter. All of this evidence was collected by Metro police. Investigators obtained the telephone numbers of the pay telephones at the store to determine if the perpetrator used them. The telephones were also dusted for fingerprints. Investigators also determined that the murder weapon was a .25 caliber handgun.
On January 10, 2000, investigators received the telephone information requested and determined that three (3) telephone calls had been placed from the telephones at about the time of the incident that could not be accounted for. Investigators ultimately determined that one (1) call was placed to the Yellow Cab Company, and the other two (2) were made to Mr. Charles Jones, one (1) to his pager and one (1) to his home telephone. When interviewed, Mr. Jones advised investigators that he had received both the page and the call from the [petitioner] . . . . The [petitioner] had asked Mr. Jones if he would pick him up in front of the old Davidson County workhouse. However, when Mr. Jones arrived, the [petitioner] was not there. As determined from the telephone records, the page and the call were placed within minutes of the incident. Mr. Jones later identified the [petitioner's] residence as 1902 12th Avenue, North.
At the evidentiary hearing on [the petitioner's] motion [to suppress], Metro Police Detective E.J. Bernard testified that he and Detective Biltmore then preceeded to 1902 12th Ave, North, Nashville. The residence is owned by the [petitioner's] grandmother and legal guardian, Dorothy Timothy. Although the plain-clothes detectives arrived in one vehicle, because of the [petitioner's] prior juvenile record, approximately five (5) to six (6) additional officers later arrived for backup, according to Detective Bernard's testimony. As the two detectives approached the residence, they spotted the [petitioner] standing on the front porch. They approached the door and asked to speak [with] Dorothy Timothy. Detective Bernard had previously met Ms. Timothy and knew that she was physically disabled. Given permission to enter the residence, they were directed to Ms. Timothy who was resting in her bedroom and recognized Detective Bernard. They asked permission to speak to the [petitioner], and Ms. Timothy agreed provided that she could be present during the interview. The detective agreed. Ms. Timothy then summoned the [petitioner] into her room. Detective Bernard testified that, at this point, he was sitting at the foot of Ms. Timothy's bed[, ] and Detective Biltmore was inside the room and that neither he nor Detective Biltmore had made any mention of the Fleming's Market robbery and homicide. Upon the [petitioner] entering the room, Ms. Timothy told the [petitioner] to "tell the truth." At this time, according to Detective Bernard's testimony, the [petitioner] was not under arrest, and the detectives were in the midst of conducting a non-critical interview in the course of a criminal investigation.
When the [petitioner] entered the room, Detective Bernard testified that he told the [petitioner] that he was not under arrest and that neither he nor Detective Biltmore did anything to limit the [petitioner's] movements. Detective Bernard then asked the [petitioner] where he was on December 25, 1999, and that the [petitioner] testified that he was at home. Detective Bernard contradicted the [petitioner] and told him that they knew that he had used a telephone at Fleming's Market and that they knew whom he called. Ms. Timothy then told the [petitioner] to "tell the truth." Detective Bernard testified that neither he nor Detective Biltmore told either the [petitioner] or his grandmother that they were investigating a robbery/homicide at the market.
At this point, only a few minutes into the interview, the [petitioner] then admitted that he had robbed the market. Ms. Timothy then interrupted before Detective Bernard could continue to ask the [petitioner] two (2) to three (3) times, "what did you say?" and the [petitioner] again stated that he had robbed the market and had taken approximately $300 and had shot the clerk with a firearm in the commission of the crime.
The [petitioner] was then taken into custody after his statements to the detectives and transported to the Metro Criminal Justice Center where he was advised of his rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 . . . (1966) prior to additional questioning. The [petitioner] then executed a signed Miranda waiver. At some point, while being transported or waiting to begin the videotaped interview but before being advised of his rights, he stated that he used a .25 caliber handgun in the commission of the crime. . . .

Based upon these actions, the petitioner was indicted for first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. He filed an unsuccessful motion to suppress his confession upon the ground that it was unconstitutionally obtained in violation of Miranda v. Arizona. Thereafter, the petitioner pled guilty to the lesser offense of second degree murder, and the robbery charge was dismissed. Per the plea agreement, he received a forty-year sentence to be served at 100%.

In 2002, the petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief asserting that his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered based upon ineffective assistance of counsel. Specifically, he contended that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to communicate with the petitioner and failing to investigate the facts of the case. The post-conviction court rejected the petitioner's argument and denied the petition; this court affirmed on appeal. Timothy L. Jefferson v. State, No. M2002-02393-CCA-R3-PC, 2004 WL 300121, at * 1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 17, 2004).

In August of 2010, the petitioner filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus where he attempted to relitigate issues raised in his post-conviction proceeding. The habeas corpus court issued an order denying the petition on November 23, 2010. No appeal was taken by the petitioner.

In August of 2011, the petitioner filed an untimely petition for the writ of error coram nobis again challenging the validity of his confessions. The coram nobis court, by written order, summarily dismissed the petition based upon the grounds that it was not timely filed and that it failed to state a claim cognizable in a coram nobis petition. The petitioner appealed to this court, and the dismissal was affirmed. Timothy L. Jefferson v. State, No. M2011-01653-CCA-R3-CO, 2012 WL 1951094 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 31, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 16, 2012).

In January of 2014, the petitioner filed a second petition for the writ of error coram nobis, which is the subject of this appeal. In the petition, he asserted that the discovery that Detective Bernard had been the subject of multiple disciplinary proceedings constituted newly discovered evidence. On March 13, 2014, the coram nobis court issued a thorough and extensive order summarily dismissing the petition on the grounds that it was time-barred, previously litigated, and failed to state a ...

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