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State v. Sanders

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

July 1, 2015


Assigned on Briefs June 2, 2015

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 12-00669 W. Mark Ward, Judge

Ruchee Patel, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Wayne Sanders.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Meghan Fowler and Greg Gilbert, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

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



Factual and Procedural Background

In October 2011, the Defendant was arrested for aggravated robbery. He was indicted, along with six other co-defendants, in February of 2012. The Defendant requested that the case be set for trial in October of 2012. On August 5, 2013, the State informed the trial court that the victim, Lamain Boone, was deployed on active duty military service and would not be available for the scheduled trial date.[1] Consequently, the trial date was rescheduled for January 21, 2014. On January 21, 2014, the State again asked the trial court to reset the trial date because Mr. Boone had not returned from military service. The Defendant opposed the continuance and moved that the case be dismissed for violation of the Defendant's right to a speedy trial. In response, the State noted that the case had been continued several times prior to August 5, 2013, at the Defendant's request.

The trial court noted that more than two years had passed since the Defendant's arrest. The Defendant argued that he suffered prejudice because two years had passed since the witnesses had given their statements to police and that it would be difficult to ensure that the witnesses testified truthfully on the stand. The State disagreed, noting that many of the witnesses had pled guilty to charges stemming from the same incident within the previous eighteen months and their statements made during their respective plea colloquies were consistent with the statements they gave to the Memphis Police Department in October 2011.

The trial court found that the length of the delay was sufficient to trigger a speedy trial analysis but also noted that only fifteen months had passed since the Defendant requested a trial. As to the reason for the delay, the trial court noted that Mr. Boone was in the military, but the trial court also considered the State's failure to take more proactive measures to compel the victim's attendance. The trial court found that the Defendant had not suffered prejudice. Consequently, the Defendant's motion to dismiss based upon a speedy trial violation was denied. The trial commenced on March 5, 2014.

At trial, Mr. Boone testified that he went to Eden Point Apartments to pick up Romisha Willis and take her to a store on the night of the offense. When Mr. Boone arrived, Ms. Willis got into the car, and Mr. Boone began to pull out of the parking lot. However, Ms. Willis asked to be let out of the car so that she could return to an apartment to retrieve something. Mr. Boone remained in the car. While Mr. Boone waited for Ms. Willis to return, "a tall dude with dreds" approached the driver's side window and asked for a cigarette. Mr. Boone told the individual that he did not have any cigarettes. At that time, a second man opened the passenger's side door, and the "tall dude with dreds" pulled out a gun, pointed it at Mr. Boone, and said, "[G]ive me your sh**." Mr. Boone told the man that he did not have anything. While Mr. Boone was focused on the man with the gun, another individual hit Mr. Boone in the face. After he was initially struck, "a whole bunch of people start hitting [Mr. Boone]." Mr. Boone reported that he was being hit from both sides. He was still restrained by his seatbelt, and he never tried to exit the car. During the altercation, Mr. Boone's car keys and cell phone were taken. Additionally, he lost one shoe when someone tried to pull him out of the car. Also, someone shattered the rear window of Mr. Boone's car. Eventually, Ms. Willis tried to stop the fight, retrieved Mr. Boone's keys, and gave them to him so he could leave. Mr. Boone returned to his home, and his mother took him to the hospital. Mr. Boone reported that he was afraid when he saw the gun pointed at him.

Later, Mr. Boone reviewed a photo lineup and identified one individual as a person who "look[ed] like the guy that pulled a gun on [Mr. Boone]." When asked if the individual who he identified in the lineup was in the courtroom, Mr. Boone identified the Defendant. Mr. Boone qualified that he "thought" the Defendant was the person who pointed the gun at him because he had never seen the Defendant before the night of the incident and he was covering his head to protect himself from being hit.

On cross-examination, Mr. Boone confirmed that he used to date Ms. Willis. He also admitted that he was unable to identify any of the defendants at the preliminary hearing. Mr. Boone explained that he only knew one other person, aside from Ms. Willis, at the apartment complex. He saw that person standing in front of his car during the attack, but that person never hit him. On redirect-examination, Mr. Boone stated that he had never seen the man who pointed the gun at him before the night of the offense.

Ms. Willis testified that she was dating Mr. Boone at the time of the offense. On the day of the offense, Darryl Smith asked her to call Mr. Boone and tell him to come to Eden Point Apartments so Mr. Smith could talk to Mr. Boone. According to Mr. Smith, Mr. Boone had gotten into a fight with Mr. Smith's brother earlier that day. Deangelo Smith, Demarcus Smith, and Christopher Curry were with Mr. Smith at the time.[2] Ms. Willis called Mr. Boone and requested that he come to the apartments to take her to the store. The plan was that Mr. Smith would confront Mr. Boone after he and Ms. Willis returned from the store.

Ms. Willis admitted that Mr. Smith appeared to want to fight Mr. Boone. However, she thought that the fight would be one-on-one between Mr. Boone and Mr. Smith-not a group of people against Mr. Boone. Mr. Boone came to pick up Ms. Willis, but Ms. Willis had to return to a friend's apartment to retrieve her money. While she was inside the apartment, she heard "a lot of commotion outside." When she went outside, she saw what appeared to be "the whole neighborhood" surrounding Mr. Boone's car and fighting him. Mr. Smith jumped on top of Mr. Boone's car and shattered the rear window. Ms. Willis, along with some female friends, approached the car and stopped the fight. After the fight subsided, Ms. Willis saw that Mr. Boone had sustained injuries to his eye and nose. Ms. Willis asked the Defendant for Mr. Boone's keys, and the Defendant gave them to her. Ms. Willis gave the keys to Mr. Boone, and Mr. Boone left. Later, Ms. Willis learned that Deangelo Smith had Mr. Boone's phone.

On cross-examination, Ms. Willis admitted that she had reviewed her statement to police before testifying, but she maintained that she testified from her own memory of the events. She ...

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