Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs February 11, 2015
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Lawrence County No. 26007 Robert L. Jones, Judge
Stanley K. Pierchonski, Pulaski, Tennessee, for the appellant, William Keith Blackburn.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; and Mike Bottoms, District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.
Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Robert L. Holloway, Jr. and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.
THOMAS T. WOODALL, PRESIDING JUDGE
A summary of the facts underlying Petitioner's convictions can be found in this court's opinion in State v. William Keith Blackburn, No. M2009-01140-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 2893083 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 20, 2011), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 19, 2011). In that opinion, this court gave the following facts:
The proof at trial revealed that on June 9, 2006, the victim and his son, Heath, planned to drive from Waynesboro to Spring Hill to pick up the victim's youngest son, Cody, who was living at the Tennessee Children's Home. Before leaving Waynesboro, the victim and Heath drove to the bank, the victim withdrew fifty dollars from his account, and the victim placed the money in his wallet. At trial, Heath testified that his father also had some old two-dollar bills, old coins, his driver's license, a social security card, a TennCare card, and his food stamp card with him.
The two men left Waynesboro on Highway 64, traveling toward Lawrenceburg. Heath testified that he rode with the victim because the victim did not like to travel alone. Shortly after entering Lawrence County, a rear tire on the victim's maroon and tan Chevrolet van "blew out." The victim drove to the side of the highway, parked the van, and the two men got out to change the tire. However, when they got the jack out of the van, they discovered they did not have a lug wrench they needed. The men sat on the side of the highway for approximately thirty-five minutes before another car stopped. Inside the car were Chris Hammack, Carrie Battles, and the appellant. After inquiring if the men needed help, Hammack, Battles, and the appellant got out of the car. Heath had never met the appellant before that day. When the appellant got out of the car, Heath noticed that he was wearing blue jeans but was not wearing a shirt. Heath said that the appellant acted "like he might have been up for a few days. Like he was drugged up."
Hammack offered to look in his trunk and see if he had a lug wrench they could use. He and Battles looked in the trunk and discovered that they did not have the wrench. Therefore, Hammack offered to drive the victim and Heath to Self's Market, which was approximately a mile and a half away, to borrow one. Heath agreed and offered to give them three dollars for the ride. The victim decided to stay and watch the van, and the appellant said that he would stay with the victim to keep him company.
Heath said that he, Hammack, and Battles went to the market. After borrowing a lug wrench and getting gasoline, they returned to the van. They were gone for approximately twenty minutes. When they returned, Heath did not see the victim. The appellant was approximately thirty-five yards from the van, walking in a circle, looking at the ground, and sweating profusely. Heath acknowledged that the day was hot, but he stated that he was not sweating as much as the appellant. He said that the appellant did not look happy but that he did not see any blood on the appellant.
Heath asked the appellant about the victim, and the appellant said that the victim had flagged down a white car and "headed toward Waynesboro." The appellant said that the victim left instructions for Heath to wait at the van until he returned. Heath said that while he worked on the tire, Hammack and Battles talked to him and tried to help. The appellant remained about fifteen feet away. They had been back for approximately twenty-five to thirty minutes when a Lawrence County Sheriff's Department patrol car drove by. Upon seeing the patrol car, the appellant told Hammack and Battles, "We need to go. I want to get out of here." At that point, Hammack, Battles, and the appellant left.
Heath said that he changed the tire and continued to wait for the victim. After approximately thirty minutes, he drove to the market to return the wrench before the store closed. He then returned to the scene and waited for the victim. Around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m., he called the victim's girlfriend, Doris Patterson, to see if the victim had returned home. Following his conversation with Patterson, Heath went home. The victim had not returned.
The following morning, Heath, Cody, and the victim's son, Anthony, went to the scene on Highway 64 where the victim was last seen. The three brothers walked in different directions, looking for the victim. While Heath searched near the median, Cody walked along the side of the road where the van had been parked. Heath said that near the area where Cody was walking was a barbed wire fence. Across the fence was a small group of trees and a brush pile. Heath said "[t]here was another fence just before the brush pile and it was pretty much an empty field. It had tall grass." Cody followed a path "through the grass where someone had traveled toward the fence." Just across the fence, Cody found a blue hat that was identical to the victim's hat. Cody continued looking and found the victim's body in the brush pile. Heath testified that the victim was "cool to the touch, " his body was stiff, and his wallet appeared to be missing. Heath waited with his father's body while Anthony and Cody left to call 911.
Carrie Battles testified that in June 2006, she was living with Hammack in Waynesboro. Around 10:00 a.m. on the morning of June 9, the appellant came to their home. Later, the three left the house to drive to a recycling center where they planned to sell some cans. Hammack was driving, the appellant was in the passenger seat, and Battles was in the back seat. Battles said that the appellant was acting "messed up." She explained that the ...