Session: Date March 3, 2015
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 12-00917 J. Robert Carter, Jr., Judge
Paul J. Springer, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Fredrick Thomas.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Karen Cook and Jeff Jones, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.
TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE
This is a direct appeal from Defendant's conviction in the Criminal Court of Shelby County for the first degree murder of his wife.
On November 8, 2011, Tiffany Thomas, the victim, was shot multiple times by Defendant, her husband. The couple's relationship was strained. They had been arguing for several months. In the months preceding her death, the victim spent several nights at the home of her adult son, Branden Johnson. Defendant moved out and was living with his mother. The couple's two minor daughters, S.T. and J.T.,  were living at 2479 Whitney with the victim. At the time, S.T. was ten years old and J.T. was seventeen.
On the afternoon of November 8, S.T. rode home from school with her mother, the victim. She immediately went to her bedroom to complete her homework. J.T. came home early from a basketball game and dinner with friends after receiving a telephone call from the victim. J.T. later explained that she "didn't have a good feeling" about the telephone call.
S.T. heard her father, Defendant, arrive. Defendant's white Corvette pulled into the driveway and blocked the victim's Nissan. Almost immediately after Defendant arrived, she heard "loud voices." J.T. saw Defendant come into the house and sit down on the loveseat. She recalled that the victim was sitting on the couch when the victim "asked him was he going to stay the night . . . and if he decided to stay, she was going to leave cause [sic] she didn't feel like arguing." The victim asked Defendant to move his car and asked him if she needed to call the police. Defendant told her to call the police. The victim got up from the couch with a phone and walked to the kitchen. Defendant "got up off the couch [removed his gun from his hip] and started to shoot." The victim tried to run to the front door but Defendant blocked her from leaving. In a panic, J.T. ran the other way, to S.T.'s room. Defendant was blocking the exit of the house.
J.T. heard Defendant say to the victim, "you're going to die and I am too." She saw Defendant shoot the victim in the corner of the bedroom while she and S.T. were trying to get out of the house through a small bedroom window. Both girls begged Defendant to stop shooting. When the girls could not get the window to open, they managed to get to J.T.'s bedroom and tried to escape through another window. They broke the window but were unable to get out because the window was too small. J.T. dropped her phone while she was trying to open one of the windows; the battery fell out of the phone. The two girls eventually managed to get out of the house through the carport door. J.T. then successfully managed to put the battery back in the phone in order to call the police. By that time, the police were already pulling up to the house.
J.T. knew at that point that Defendant shot the victim but did not know that she was dead. She thought that Defendant also shot himself after shooting the victim because she saw him being taken from the house on a stretcher. Neither J.T. nor S.T. saw Defendant again prior to trial. They did not see the victim again until her funeral, one day prior to S.T.'s eleventh birthday.
At trial, J.T. testified that Defendant and the victim had argued repeatedly in the months leading up to the shooting. She was asked if Defendant had confronted the victim with a receipt from a hotel. J.T. recalled an argument during which Defendant "pull[ed] up a piece of paper" but explained that she did not know what was on the piece of paper. The night of that ...