Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs April 22, 2015.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County No. 41200922 Michael R. Jones, Judge.
James Kevin Cartwright (on appeal) and Wayne Clemons (at trial), Clarksville, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Willie L. Taylor.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and C. Daniel Brollier, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.
Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Roger A. Page, JJ., joined.
ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE.
In a light most favorable to the State, the proof at trial showed that on June 14, 2012, the defendant attacked Kristi Balthrop with a golf club and threatened to kill her if she did not pay him the money he was owed for drugs. The defendant then grabbed Mrs. Balthrop by the arm, and they went to the nearby home of Mrs. Balthrop's landlord, Randall Byard, where the defendant pushed Mrs. Balthrop in the door when Mr. Byard answered it and hit Mr. Byard in the jaw with the golf club, breaking the head from the shaft and causing severe injuries to Mr. Byard. As a result of his actions, the defendant was indicted for the attempted aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping of Kristi Balthrop, the reckless endangerment of Mrs. Balthrop's three-year-old child, and the aggravated burglary and attempted especially aggravated robbery of Randall Byard. The jury acquitted him of the charges involving Mrs. Balthrop and her child but convicted him of aggravated burglary as charged and of the lesser-included offense of aggravated assault regarding Mr. Byard.
At the defendant's trial, Michael Balthrop identified a photograph of the rental house on Lyle Hollow Road in Palmyra, Tennessee, where he, his wife, and two children were living in June 2012. He said that he had a burn pile in front of the house, which was depicted on the photograph. He said that on the morning of June 14, 2012, Mrs. Balthrop left their home "to go out and find money for the rent." When she returned home that afternoon, the defendant was with her and followed her inside the house. The defendant introduced himself as "Memphis" and raised his shirt to show Mr. Balthrop a tattoo on his right side that read "Memphis." The defendant told Mrs. Balthrop that she owed him $500, pulled out a golf club from behind his shirt, and hit her in the head. Mrs. Balthrop sat down on the couch, picked up her three-year-old child, and as she held her child, the defendant hit her in the leg with the golf club. The defendant said he was going to kill Mrs. Balthrop if she did not give him his money. The defendant, still armed with the golf club, grabbed Mrs. Balthrop by the arm and they left. When Mrs. Balthrop returned about fifteen minutes later, she was on the phone with the police and told Mr. Balthrop they needed to go to the Byards' house, which they did.
Randall Byard testified that on June 14, 2012, Mrs. Balthrop came to his house with the defendant, whom he did not know. When Mr. Byard opened his front door, the defendant pushed Mrs. Balthrop inside. Mr. Byard did not ask the defendant to come inside or give him permission to do so. The defendant had a golf club in his hand, and Mrs. Balthrop had blood trickling down from her forehead. Mrs. Balthrop and the defendant "both acted upset . . . and they were arguing back and forth about money." The defendant said, "I need some money. . . . [T]hat b---- owes me some money." Mr. Byard told the defendant he did not have any money, and as he turned around to go toward his bedroom to get his gun, the defendant hit him with the golf club in the jaw and arm. Mrs. Balthrop then ran out the door, and the defendant followed her.
Mr. Byard said that the blows from the golf club shattered his jaw and damaged his vocal chords. He was hospitalized for seven days in the critical care unit and underwent six or seven surgeries. Mr. Byard said that he had one more surgery pending and still had numbness on one side of his face.
Kendra Byard, Randall Byard's wife, testified that in June 2012, Michael and Kristi Balthrop were renting a house for $500 a month from the Byards. The rental house was located approximately one-quarter mile down the rural road from the Byards' home. Mrs. Byard said that when she came home on June 14, 2012, between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m., she noticed Mr. and Mrs. Balthrop sitting inside their van, which was parked by the Byards' mailbox. When Mrs. Byard went inside, she found Mr. Byard "sitting in the kitchen floor holding his mouth and there was blood everywhere." She saw the head of a golf club, a broken plate, and a knocked-over plant on the floor. She called 9-1-1, and the sheriff's department and EMS arrived shortly thereafter.
Deputy Terrence Byrne of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department testified that he responded to the emergency call at the Byards' residence at about 6:30 p.m. on June 14, 2012. Mr. Byard "had a lot of blood coming from his mouth." Deputy Byrne saw a broken golf club, which was collected into evidence.
Officer Jesse Hedrick with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department identified a Bud Ice beer can he collected into evidence on June 14, 2012, ...