Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs March 11, 2015.
Appeal from the Circuit Court for Maury County No. 21745 Stella L. Hargrove, Judge.
William C. Barnes, Cordova, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Christopher Dewayne Henson.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Mike Bottoms, District Attorney General; and Dan Runde, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.
Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr. and Roger A. Page, JJ., joined.
CAMILLE R. McMULLEN, JUDGE.
On April 1, 2012, the victim, Jeff Roberts, became involved in an altercation with his nephew, Dylan Henson. The altercation began as a verbal dispute between Dylan and the victim, but it eventually turned physical and involved several other family members, including the Defendant. During this altercation, the victim was struck on the head with an metal bar and had to receive stitches and staples in the top and side of his head.
At trial, the victim testified that on the evening of April 1, 2012, he and his girlfriend, Yolanda Hill, were sitting on the front porch of her house when he saw Dylan and several of his friends arrive in a pickup truck. The group of teenagers parked in a field across the street from Ms. Hill's home and began throwing rocks in the field. The victim did not want the teenagers to throw rocks in the field because he mowed the field and feared the rocks would damage his lawn mower. When he asked Dylan to stop throwing rocks, Dylan and his friends walked into the road and began cursing at and threatening the victim. The victim's mother, Annie Spears, lived next door to Ms. Hill along with the victim's sister, Kelly Henson; Kelly's husband, the Defendant; and the Hensons' two children, Dylan and Casey. Upon hearing the verbal dispute between Dylan and the victim, Ms. Spears came onto her porch and told Dylan to come home. When he refused, Ms. Spears went inside her home and asked Kelly and the Defendant to break up the dispute. Kelly tried to persuade Dylan to come home, and the victim left Ms. Hill's porch and walked Dylan and Kelly back towards the road. When the victim turned to walk back to Ms. Hill's porch, he saw Ms. Hill run past him and attack Kelly. While the victim tried to break up the fight between the two women, Dylan hit him in the face with a walking cane three or four times. The victim stumbled a few steps back and saw the Defendant holding a metal bar in his hand. The Defendant told the victim to "get [his] hands off his kid" and then hit the victim on the head twice.
The victim identified the Defendant in court as the person who hit him with the metal bar. He denied that he pulled out a knife during the altercation and insisted that he did not threaten Dylan, Kelly, or the Defendant in any way before the Defendant hit him. He agreed that after being hit by the Defendant, he retrieved a "shepherd's cane" from his yard and swung it at the Defendant and Dylan to get them to leave Ms. Hill's property. He was uncertain whether he hit the Defendant, although he acknowledged that it was possible. The victim and Ms. Hill called 911 after the altercation. The police responded to the scene that night, and the victim and Ms. Hill went to the police station the next day to give a statement.
Annie Spears, the victim's mother and the Defendant's mother-in-law, testified on behalf of the Defendant. She agreed that a verbal altercation broke out between Dylan and the victim because Dylan refused to stop throwing rocks in the field across the street. According to Ms. Spears, the victim pulled a knife out of his pocket and Dylan retrieved Ms. Spears's walking cane out of her car. She told the victim, "[Y]ou better not cut . . . one of my grandkids, " and he put the knife back in his pocket; however, Dylan continued "backing [the victim] up" towards Ms. Hill's house so the victim retrieved a shepherd's cane out of the yard. Ms. Spears observed Dylan hit the victim with the walking cane. She testified that she sent Kelly and the Defendant to break up the altercation, and when the Defendant walked into Ms. Hill's yard to make Dylan come home, "it just went crazy." Ms. Hill retrieved a metal bar from her house and walked into the yard, and the victim continued to swing the shepherd's cane at Dylan and the Defendant. Ms. Spears testified that a physical fight broke out between the Defendant and the victim after the victim hit the Defendant with the shepherd's cane. Ms. Spears agreed that the Defendant and the victim were "knuckling it out, " but she testified that she never saw the Defendant hit the victim with a metal bar.
On cross-examination, Ms. Spears acknowledged that the Defendant could have hit the victim with a metal bar, but she did not see it happen. She agreed that she "really [did not] know what the circumstances were, at the time, when [the victim] got hit with the bar . . . [b]ecause there was so much confusion" and added, "It could have been anybody that hit [the victim]." She also agreed that the victim showed her his head injuries that night after the altercation.
Joshua Braden, a police officer with the Mount Pleasant Police Department, responded to the scene on April 1, 2012. According to Officer Braden's incident report, Dylan reported that the victim had a knife in his hand at some point during the altercation, but no other witnesses reported seeing a knife. He confirmed that Ms. Spears never told him that she saw the victim with a knife that night. Officer Braden testified that he observed several injuries to the victim's head and face, including a swollen eye and a "big cut" on the top of his head. Officer Braden recovered a walking cane from Ms. Spears after being informed by witnesses that it was used to hit the victim. The victim told Officer Braden that the Defendant also hit him with a metal bar, which Officer Braden found in a trailer attached to the Defendant's car. On cross-examination, Officer Braden stated that the Defendant reported that the victim initially attacked him with the metal bar and that he took it away and hit the victim with it. He conceded that he could not recall whether he asked Ms. Spears if the victim had a knife during the altercation.
Following deliberations, the jury convicted the Defendant of reckless endangerment as a lesser-included offense of aggravated assault. A sentencing hearing was held on April 11, 2013, after which the trial court sentenced the Defendant to 11 months and 29 days and ordered him to serve 45 days in confinement with the remainder of his sentence to be served on supervised probation. On April 18, 2013, the Defendant filed a timely motion for new ...