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State v. Johnson

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 12, 2015


Assigned on Briefs April 28, 2015

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Carter County Nos. 22386, 22378 Robert E. Cupp, Judge

David F. Bautista, District Public Defender, and David Crichton, Assistant Public Defender, Elizabethton, Tennessee, for the appellant, Randy Wayne Johnson.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Tony Clark, District Attorney General; and Dennis D. Brooks, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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



Factual Background

This is Defendant's direct appeal from his multiple convictions, resulting in a sentence of twenty-five years at 100 percent, from the Criminal Court of Carter County.

On November 8, 2013, the Carter County Grand Jury returned a two-count indictment in case number 22386 against Defendant for felony evading arrest, a Class E felony, and aggravated assault, a Class C felony. On the same day, the grand jury also returned an indictment in case number 22378 against Defendant for: 1) especially aggravated kidnapping, 2) aggravated assault, 3) driving under the influence ("DUI"), 4) evading arrest by motor vehicle, 5) driving on a suspended license ("DOSL"), and 6) simple possession of a Schedule II controlled substance. On June 24, 2014, the trial court held a bench trial.

Brooke Thornburg, the victim in case number 22378, testified that she was thirty-two years old and had three minor children. On March 19, 2013, Ms. Thornburg lived in the Lynwood Apartments in Elizabethton. At that time, she had been romantically involved with Defendant for around six or eight months. Although they did not live together, Defendant stayed with Ms. Thornburg "most of the time."

On the night of the incident, the couple "grabbed some food, " and Defendant "had a little bit of Crown Royal liquor." Later, they were "hanging out at home" when one of Defendant's friends called and asked for a ride to Jonesborough. Defendant asked Ms. Thornburg to accompany him, and they went to Talladega Apartments in Elizabethton to pick up a man named Kevin, whom Ms. Thornburg had never met.[1]

They all rode in a "single cab truck" with a "blue, long bed." Defendant drove, and Ms. Thornburg sat between the two men. Nothing unusual happened on the way to Jonesborough. Defendant "was happy, " and "everything was good." Defendant was drinking the Crown Royal, and he stopped in Johnson City so that Ms. Thornburg could purchase a "thirty-two-ounce beer."

When the group arrived in Jonesborough, Kevin left the vehicle and went inside a residence. The couple remained "in the truck talking" while they waited for Kevin to return. Defendant dropped his cigarette behind the seat and "yelled" at Ms. Thornburg to pick it up. She refused, and Defendant hit her "in the side of [her] face" with his fist, which fractured her nose. Ms. Thornburg's nose immediately began "spraying blood." She retrieved the cigarette and handed it to Defendant, who then began hitting her again. Defendant "screamed" at Ms. Thornburg to stop her nose from bleeding. When she responded that she did not know how to make the bleeding stop, Defendant removed his shirt and threw it at her. Ms. Thornburg held the shirt to her face. At this point, Kevin returned to the vehicle and appeared "dumbfounded." He entered the vehicle but did not say or do anything to get involved in the couple's altercation.

Defendant began driving back to Elizabethton but continued "screaming" at and hitting Ms. Thornburg. She leaned into Kevin to avoid Defendant, and Kevin told Defendant to "calm down" because Ms. Thornburg was "scared." Ms. Thornburg "had bruises all over [her] ribs and down [her] face" from the Defendant's blows.

Eventually, Ms. Thornburg surreptitiously retrieved her cell phone from her purse, dialed 911, and returned the phone to her purse. She instructed Defendant to let her out of the vehicle and continued to describe their location so that the 911 dispatcher listening to the altercation through the phone would know where to send the police. She told Defendant that she would not report the incident if he would let her leave.[2]

Ms. Thornburg remembered Defendant threatening her several times by saying, "I'm going to slit your throat. I'm going to cut your throat and throw you out here, bitch." The return ride from Jonesborough lasted between twenty and ...

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