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State v. King

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 4, 2015


Assigned on Briefs May 13, 2015

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Williamson County No. II-CR087458, II-CR087459 Timothy L. Easter, Judge

Vanessa Pettigrew Bryan, District Public Defender; Benjamin C. Singer (on appeal) and Robert W. Jones (at trial), Assistant District Public Defenders, Franklin, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Matthew Alton King.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Kim Helper, District Attorney General; and Jessica Borne, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.



Factual and Procedural Background

In case number CR087458, the Defendant was indicted with two counts of aggravated assault and one count of domestic assault. In case number CR087459, the Defendant was indicted with one count each of aggravated assault; domestic assault; evading arrest; driving with a suspended, cancelled, or revoked license; initiating the process to manufacture methamphetamine; and possession of drug paraphernalia. The Defendant entered guilty pleas to all charges, with the sentence length and manner of service to be determined by the trial court after a hearing.

At the sentencing hearing, Williamson County Deputy Steve Mitchell testified that he was the arresting officer in case number CR087458. Deputy Mitchell was dispatched to the Defendant's mother's house for a possible domestic disturbance. After Deputy Mitchell knocked on the front door several times, the Defendant opened the front door. Deputy Mitchell asked the Defendant what was going on, and the Defendant said "nothing." The Defendant allowed Deputy Mitchell to enter the home, where Deputy Mitchell found the girlfriend of the Defendant, Ariella Berlin. Ms. Berlin did not say anything in the presence of the Defendant, but when additional officers arrived on the scene, Deputy Mitchell was able to speak to Ms. Berlin outside. Ms. Berlin informed him that she and the Defendant had gotten into an argument and that the Defendant became physical, pulled her hair, and choked her. Ms. Berlin was able to run outside, but the Defendant followed her and dragged her back into the house by her hair. Once inside the house, the Defendant began to poke Ms. Berlin's leg with a baseball bat. Deputy Mitchell reported that Ms. Berlin had hand marks around her neck and on her arm.

Deputy Mitchell described Ms. Berlin as "visibly frightened." When he first arrived at the scene, Ms. Berlin was in the fetal position on the couch "almost to the point of trembling" and appeared to have been crying. Additionally, Ms. Berlin was in her third trimester of pregnancy.

After speaking with Ms. Berlin, Deputy Mitchell attempted to speak with the Defendant. However, the Defendant became "somewhat belligerent" and refused to obey commands. The Defendant appeared to be under the influence, but the Defendant denied consuming drugs or alcohol. Deputy Mitchell placed the Defendant under arrest. Initially the Defendant resisted being placed into the patrol car, however, once inside the patrol car, the Defendant became emotional and said that he "was less of a man for what he had done." Later, Deputy Mitchell listened to a recording of phone calls the Defendant had made to his mother from the jail. In those calls, the Defendant admitted that, on the three consecutive days before his arrest on these charges, he had "hit [Ms. Berlin] like a man."

Deputy Mitchell reported that he was familiar with the Defendant because he had "had dealings" with the Defendant since he was a juvenile. The Defendant was associated with various methamphetamine labs and had been arrested at his father's house on more than one occasion. As far as Deputy Mitchell knew, the Defendant was not employed.

Williamson County Deputy Aaron Ferguson testified that he responded to the 911 call in case number CR087459. The incident took place at the Defendant's mother and step-father's home. Angela Smith, the Defendant's mother, reported to police that the Defendant had waited until his step-father left and then entered Mrs. Smith's home looking for money. An argument ensued between the Defendant and Mrs. Smith, and the Defendant began "tearing up the house" and threatening to steal things. Mrs. Smith told the Defendant to leave several times, but the argument became more heated. Eventually, the Defendant grabbed a baseball bat and used it to strike Mrs. Smith in the back of the head. Mrs. Smith locked herself in the bathroom and called 911. When officers arrived, the Defendant had already left the scene.

Based on past experience with the Defendant, Deputy Ferguson believed that the Defendant was headed toward the Leiper's Fork area. Officers were dispatched to the area to look for the Defendant. Officers eventually found the Defendant's vehicle and attempted to pull the vehicle over. The Defendant did not stop but continued to drive in the center of the road, occasionally crossing into the oncoming traffic lane. The officers pursued the Defendant. When the Defendant crossed into Maury County, a Maury County patrol vehicle joined the chase, but the Defendant forced the vehicle off the road and into a ditch. The Maury County officer was able to bring his vehicle back onto the road and "ram[med]" the Defendant's vehicle with the patrol car in order to bring the Defendant to a stop. The Defendant was then taken into custody.

Deputy Ferguson had been dispatched to the Defendant's mother's house at least four or five times prior to the events in case number CR087459. On one occasion in 2012, Deputy Ferguson responded to a domestic disturbance call at the residence. The Defendant had come to the residence with his brother and their girlfriends. Roger Smith told them that they were not allowed on the property. However, the Defendant and his companions continued to beat on the doors until Mr. Smith eventually let them in to prevent them from kicking in the door. Once the Defendant was inside the home, an argument ensued. The Defendant found either a shirt or a towel, soaked it in paint thinner, lit it on fire, and threatened to kill everyone in the house. Mr. Smith kicked the burning cloth out of the house and told the Defendant to leave. However, the Defendant continued to use the paint thinner to light items in the house on fire. Eventually, the Defendant went outside, where he took a hammer and "smashed out" the front and back windows of Mr. Smith's car. The Defendant then got into the car, drove donuts through the front yard, tried to run over Mr. Smith, and ran over the mailbox. The Defendant left the scene before officers arrived.

Williamson County Deputy Brad Fann testified that he assisted with the search of the Defendant's car in case number CR087459. In his search, he found methamphetamine as well as numerous items used to produce methamphetamine. Based on the items he found, Deputy Fann concluded that the Defendant had all the components necessary to manufacture methamphetamine. Prior to this ...

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