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State v. Feaster

Supreme Court of Tennessee, Knoxville

June 25, 2015


Session May 5, 2015

Tenn. R. App. P. 11 Appeal by Permission; Judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals Affirmed.

Appeal by Permission from the Court of Criminal Appeals, Criminal Court for Knox County. No. 97484. Jon Kerry Blackwood, Senior Judge.

Stephen Ross Johnson, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Terrence Justin Feaster.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; André e S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Leslie Nassios and Federico Flores, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

GARY R. WADE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which SHARON G. LEE, C.J., and CORNELIA A. CLARK, JEFFREY S. BIVINS, and HOLLY KIRBY, JJ., joined.

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The defendant was convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, and false imprisonment. After determining that the separate convictions for attempted voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault did not violate double jeopardy, the trial court imposed consecutive sentences totaling twenty-six years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days. A

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divided panel of the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, finding no double jeopardy violation. This Court granted the defendant's application for permission to appeal to determine whether due process safeguards prohibit the retroactive application of the double jeopardy standard adopted in State v. Watkins, 362 S.W.3d 530 (Tenn. 2012), which was decided after the date of his offenses. The defendant argues that the former double jeopardy standard set out in State v. Denton, 938 S.W.2d 373 (Tenn. 1996), should apply. Because our ruling in Watkins cannot be classified as " unexpected" or " indefensible" by reference to prior law, due process does not preclude its retroactive application. The judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed.



I. Facts and Procedural History

In the early morning hours of May 27, 2010, Molly Kate McWhirter (the " victim" ) was seriously injured during an altercation with Terrence Justin Feaster (the " Defendant" ) at her Knoxville residence. Several weeks later, the Defendant was apprehended in South Carolina. Thereafter, he was extradited to Tennessee and indicted on one count of attempted first degree murder, one count of aggravated assault, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, and one count of aggravated robbery.

At trial, the State's proof established that the Defendant had been living at the victim's residence for approximately two weeks before she drove him to a sports bar on the night of May 26, 2010. After an hour or so, the Defendant became " really drunk," and so the victim drove him back to her residence. According to the victim, when she went to her bathroom, the Defendant broke through the door and " just started beating [her]." She testified that he then dragged her into the bedroom, where he tied her feet to an entertainment center and threatened to kill her if she moved. The victim recalled that she momentarily lost consciousness, and when she awoke, she was able to free herself and run to the residence of a neighbor, who called 911. The police officers who responded to the scene found significant amounts of blood in the bathroom, bedroom, dining room, and living room.

After being transported by ambulance to a hospital, the victim remained unconscious for the next three days. Dr. William Snyder Jr., the victim's treating neurosurgeon, diagnosed a temporal skull fracture, a dislocation of the jaw, several lacerations on the forehead and scalp, nasal fractures, bilateral pulmonary contusions, and soft-tissue injuries to the arms. When the victim returned home, she found that several of her possessions were missing--jewelry, cash, clothing, a computer, and her purse and its contents. The victim denied that she and the Defendant had argued prior to the assault or that she had threatened him with a gun.

The Defendant testified that he and the victim met a man called " D" at the bar. When the victim left the bar with " D," the Defendant followed her outside and found her " kissing on" him. The Defendant claimed that he became so angry and embarrassed that he began walking home. He contended that the victim followed, driving his vehicle, and persuaded him to get inside. He recalled that they began to argue and, after they arrived at the victim's residence, she initiated the altercation with two or three punches to his face. According to the Defendant, when he retaliated by hitting her in the nose, the victim pointed a pistol in his direction. ...

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