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State v. Brewer

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

June 1, 2015


Assigned on Briefs February 03, 2015.

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Obion County No. CC13CR143 William B. Acree, Judge.

Joseph P. Atnip (on appeal), District Public Defender; and William K. Randoph (at trial), Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Joseph Cordell Brewer, III.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Thomas A. Thomas, District Attorney General; and Jim Cannon, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Camille R. McMullen, JJ., joined.




This case arose after the defendant stole Scott and Heather Riley's 2009 Honda Odyssey minivan and led police on a high-speed chase as they attempted to apprehend him. Officer James Key testified that he was a police officer in the Union City Police Department. Just before midnight on the evening of the incident, Officer Key was on West Main Street “running radar.” He saw the defendant, who was walking down the road, approach a semi-truck parked on the side of the road. After the semi-truck drove away, Officer Key approached the man to check his identification.

Officer Key asked the defendant where he was going, and the defendant told him that he was going to his sister's home around Woodland Street. Officer Key noticed a cut on the defendant's thumb, which the defendant said he received attempting to open a can of paint earlier in the week. The defendant explained that his sister did not have a vehicle to pick him up and that he planned to walk to her home. Officer Key wrote down the defendant's name and driver's license number in his “contact sheet, ” which is a list that officers keep to record the names of individuals that they speak with during their shift.

After the conversation with the defendant, Officer Key continued his patrol. He received a prowling call about a vehicle with a door open and an interior light on at a residence on West Main Street, near the area where he saw the defendant. He estimated that twenty to thirty minutes elapsed between the call and his conversation with the defendant. On cross-examination, Officer Key agreed that he testified at a preliminary hearing that he stopped the defendant around 11:00 p.m. and received the first prowling call around 1:30 a.m. Officer Key drove to the house and investigated the vehicle in question and the neighbor's vehicle. Nothing was reported stolen or missing, and Officer Key continued his investigation for potential prowlers. The defendant had continued walking in a westerly direction, and Officer Key also went west to investigate a possible prowler. Officer Ben Hudson also responded to the prowling call, and Officer Key spoke to him about his interaction with the defendant.

Officer Hudson testified that the Union City Police Department received two separate prowling calls on the evening of the incident. The first call was received at 1:16 a.m. from a residence on West Main Street. He estimated that the address was likely 150 or 200 yards from the Rileys' address, “as the crow flies.” Along with Officer Key, he responded to the first prowling call, and he estimated that he arrived at the scene around 1:20 a.m. Twenty-two minutes after the first call, officers received a second prowling call at an address on Macon Drive, which was about a quarter of a mile away from the first prowling call. Officer Hudson proceeded to the neighborhood and pulled into a parking lot at the corner of the neighborhood, while other officers went into the neighborhood. He turned off his vehicle and his lights and exited the vehicle to survey the area “in case [the officers] flushed somebody out.” He heard Officer Key say that the complainant on Macon Drive described seeing an individual wearing a black shirt and a black hat in the area.

While Officer Hudson was standing outside of his vehicle, he observed a van backing out of a driveway across the street from a subdivision on Lake Drive. Officer Hudson instructed another officer to identify the driver and his clothing. The officer was unable to do so because his vision was obscured by the van's oncoming headlights. Officer Hudson witnessed the van drive by his location, but he also was unable to identify the driver.

Officer John Buchanan testified that he also responded to the second prowler call. When he was en route to the Macon Drive address, he heard Officer Hudson asking for someone to identify the driver of a blue minivan on Lake Drive. Officer Buchanan turned left onto Highway 22 and was facing west. He saw the minivan coming toward him from the east, and the van stopped at a stop sign. At that moment, Officer Buchanan estimated that he was about ten feet from the van, and he shone his spotlight on the driver to identify him. He illuminated the driver for several seconds, and he testified that he was able to get a good look at the driver. He saw that the driver was a black male wearing a “black ball cap” and “a black shirt.” When he later ran the defendant's driver's license number and obtained a photo identification of the defendant, he identified the defendant as the individual driving the van. He agreed that there was no “doubt in [his] mind” that the driver was the defendant. On cross-examination, he agreed that he testified at the preliminary hearing that the driver's cap was pulled down, preventing Officer Buchanan from seeing any part of the driver's face and head above his nose.

Officer Buchanan shared the description of the driver with Officer Hudson, who advised him to stop the vehicle because the description matched that of the prowler. Officer Buchanan activated his emergency lights to stop the van, which was going the speed limit at the time. The driver of the van applied the brakes but then “sped off.” Officer Buchanan began to pursue the vehicle with his lights and siren activated, and Officer Hudson testified that he witnessed Officer Buchanan activate his blue lights. Initially, Officer Buchanan was able to keep up with the minivan by driving about eighty miles per hour, but the van slowly began to pull away. When Officer Buchanan approached an intersection where the light was red, he slowed his speed. He terminated his high-speed pursuit about 100 yards away from the light because he could not see if there was any traffic approaching the intersection. The minivan continued driving, speeding through the red light without slowing down “doing about a hundred” miles per hour.

Officer Buchanan observed the vehicle make a left turn on Fifth Street, and he made the turn as well. After turning on Fifth Street, Officer Buchanan noticed that the minivan had crashed into a chainlink fence. When Officer Buchanan approached the minivan, he observed that it was still running and placed in drive but was unoccupied. Officer Buchanan did not see anyone at the scene, and Officer Key later told him about his interaction with the defendant. Officer Buchanan ran the defendant's driver's license number to locate his photo identification. After seeing the defendant's driver's ...

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