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Underwood v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 5, 2015


Assigned on Briefs April 28, 2015 at Knoxville

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Bedford County No. 11978 Robert G. Crigler, Judge

The Petitioner, Jason Christopher Underwood, appeals as of right from the Bedford County Circuit Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on initial counsel's failure to "provide adequate protections" for the Petitioner during his February 25, 2005 interview with the assistant district attorney general, pre-trial counsel's failure to pursue a motion to suppress statements from the aforementioned interview, and trial counsel's failure to object to admission of the February 25 statements at trial.[1] The Petitioner also requests that we revisit our holding on direct appeal that the trial court's denial of his request for a deoxyribonucleic acid ("DNA") expert was not error. Following our review, we conclude that the Petitioner's first issue is without merit, and his second and third issues have been waived because he raises them for the first time in this appeal. Also, we decline to revisit our earlier holding that the trial court did not err when it denied the Petitioner's motion requesting additional funds for a DNA expert. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

Donna Orr Hargrove, District Public Defender; and Andrew Jackson Dearing III, Assistant District Public Defender (on appeal), for the appellant, Jason Christopher Underwood.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Michael David Randles, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.


D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J.


Following a jury trial, the Petitioner was convicted of two counts of first degree premeditated murder, for which he received two sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. This court affirmed the Petitioner's convictions and sentences on direct appeal. State v. Jason Christopher Underwood, No. M2006-01826-CCA-R3-CD, 2008 WL 5169573 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 10, 2008).

The Petitioner's convictions stemmed from the brutal stabbing deaths of Anthony Baltimore and Rebecca Ray at their home in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Underwood, 2008 WL 5169573, at *1. The bodies of Mr. Baltimore and Ms. Ray were discovered by Mr. Baltimore's father and sister on October 25, 2004. Id. After learning that Mr. Baltimore's pickup truck was missing from the home, police began a search for the vehicle, which was eventually located at a local business. Id. at *4. There were blood stains on both the interior and exterior of the truck, as well as on the gravel outside the driver's side door. Id. at *5. Investigators used a bloodhound that performed human tracking to follow the scent of blood found in the truck. Id. at *6. The bloodhound tracked the scent through a wooded area, until finally stopping at a creek bed located approximately 100 yards from the Petitioner's grandmother's home. Id.

The medical examiner testified that Mr. Baltimore sustained forty-one stab wounds, while Ms. Ray sustained fifty-nine stab wounds. Id. at *4. Due to the violent nature of the crime, there was significant blood evidence at the scene. Id. at *3. In particular, investigators discovered blood and hair on the doorknob to the home's back door. Id. at *4. Later testing revealed that a fingerprint preserved in the blood on the doorknob was a match for the Petitioner's. Id. Investigators also observed a hand print preserved in blood on Ms. Ray's leg. Id. This hand print was compared to the Petitioner's latent palm print and was a match. Id. at *9. Finally, investigators noticed a single drop of blood on Ms. Ray's left thigh. Id. at *8. Investigators thought this was odd because, while most of the blood on Ms. Ray's body was smeared, this single drop of blood was not. Id. That drop of blood was preserved, and later testing revealed that it contained the Petitioner's DNA. Id.

After matching the bloody fingerprint on the back doorknob to the Petitioner, officers obtained warrants for the Petitioner's arrest. Id. at *9. When officers attempted to arrest the Petitioner, he eluded the police, first in his car, and then on foot, before finally being apprehended. Id. The Petitioner was taken into custody on November 10, 2004; he was informed of his Miranda[2] rights and agreed to talk to police officers without the assistance of counsel. Id. at *10. Although he initially denied that he had ever been to the victims' home or that he knew them well, he eventually stated that he had gone to the home but that the victims were already injured upon his arrival. Id. Later in the interview, the Petitioner changed his story again, stating that he was doing drugs with the victims, that he got into a fight with the victims, and that he stabbed the victims "a couple of times" after they attacked him. Id.

Following his unsuccessful direct appeal, the Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief on December 2, 2009. In that petition, the Petitioner alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel; that the prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct; that the trial court committed various errors; and finally, that "[e]ven if . . . none of the errors at trial or on appeal considered individually violated his rights, " the cumulative effects of these ...

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