Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session April 22, 2015
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2012-A-471 Mark J. Fishburn, Judge.
Jeffrey A. DeVasher and Emma Rae Tennent (on appeal) and Georgia Sims and Aisha McWeay (at trial), Assistant Public Defenders, for the Appellant, Deandre D. Rucker.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark B. Thornton, Senior Counsel; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Rob McGuire and Dina Shabayek, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.
Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Roger A. Page, JJ., joined.
ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE.
The defendant and a co-defendant, Quincy Terrell Brando Sharpe, were convicted of first degree premeditated murder as the result of the shooting death of Demetrius O. Riley. We consider in this matter only the direct appeal of Mr. Rucker.
The State's first witness, Evelyn Carter, testified that in October 2009 her seventeen-year-old grandson, Darius Rucker, who was not related to the defendant, lived with her in Nashville. On October 8, 2009, around 1:30 p.m., she was sitting outside her house, drinking coffee, when the co-defendant, Quincy Sharpe, who was a friend of her grandson's, came to her house looking for him, but he was still at school. Between 2:30 and 2:45 p.m., an orange Pontiac, driven by a man she later identified as the defendant, stopped in front of her house. Mr. Sharpe, who appeared to know the driver, got into the car, which then left. Between 3:15 and 3:30 p.m., Mr. Sharpe returned to her house, again as a passenger in the orange car, and now was "[s]cary looking." She said that Mr. Sharpe's "eyes were big, " and when she asked, "[W]hat the hell have you done?" he replied, "Uh, nothing, uh, nothing." Mr. Sharpe asked if he could go inside the house and wash his hands and whether she "had some bleach he could use." He took off the shoes he was wearing and put on another pair from her grandson. She overheard Mr. Sharpe's telling her grandson that "he had shot Deboskey, " a name she did not recognize. He further told her grandson that "when he shot him he fell and he hit him, he fell, he went over and shot him again and stood there and looked at the blood run out of his mouth." Approximately twenty minutes later, when the "helicopters w[ere] all flying around, " Mr. Sharpe called the defendant, saying he "needed to get rid of that orange car, " as well as the gun. She said she did not give this information to the police because she feared for her and her grandson's safety.
On cross-examination, the witness acknowledged she had not seen Mr. Sharpe with a gun on October 8, 2009, nor did he appear to have any blood on him that day. She said that she assumed Mr. Sharpe told the defendant to get rid of the orange car and the gun because she had seen the defendant driving the car.
Sammeca Hall testified that the day the victim, also known as Deboskey, was shot, she had been sitting outside on her porch. She saw an orange car driven by the defendant, with one passenger. She heard them saying that "they was gonna handle some whacks, " which she thought "could mean anything, " including that retribution was about to be had. She said that about thirty to forty minutes after the orange car pulled away, she learned that someone had been shot. On cross-examination, she acknowledged that the passenger in the orange car was not Mr. Sharpe but, rather, her boyfriend at the time, William Stokes. She said that the reason she believed the defendant was driving the vehicle was because she had seen him driving it before, and there was no other vehicle on the street like it. She said that the orange car belonged to the mother of the defendant's child.
Charles Mount, Jr., testified that he was currently incarcerated because of a federal drug trafficking conviction and, previously, had been a cellmate of Mr. Sharpe, who said that he had shot a man three times and "then ran up on him and shot him some more."
Antonio Flenoy testified that around 3:00 p.m. on October 8, 2009, he was walking with the victim, who was a friend, as a burnt orange Pontiac Grand Am drove past them. Five to ten minutes later, "a little dude come down the hill and g[o]t behind [them] and started shooting." He said he did not get a good look at the shooter's face. Mr. Flenoy "struck out running" and saw the victim hit the ground.
Sergeant Noble Taylor said that he had been employed by the Metro Nashville Police Department for eleven years. He said that on August 7, 2009, he stopped an orange Pontiac being driven by the defendant and issued a traffic citation to him.
Dr. Thomas Deering testified that he was a forensic pathologist and that the victim had eight separate gunshot wounds to his torso. Three of these wounds were tangential or superficial, and two likely would have been fatal.
Pat Postiglione testified that he had retired as a sergeant from the Metro Nashville Police Department Cold Case Unit. He said that in October 2010, he received an email from, and later spoke with, Evelyn Carter regarding the victim's murder. Ms. Carter told him that the defendant, driving an orange vehicle, came by her house and picked up Mr. Sharpe a few hours before the victim was killed. As those involved in the matter, she gave the names of the defendant and the co-defendant and of "Chill Will, " whose real name was William Stokes.
Marquita Winters testified that she had five children, one of whom had been fathered by the victim, whose nickname was Deboskey. She said that she was acquainted with both the defendant and his co-defendant. About a year after the victim was killed, the co-defendant told her that he was the one who killed the victim and that he would take care of the victim's son as if he were the father.
Norris Tarkington testified that, at the time of trial, he was an investigator employed by the Davidson County District Attorney's Office and previously had been a member of the Metro Nashville Police Department Cold Case Unit. He said that he went to the scene of the homicide the day it occurred. The weapon used by the shooter had not been recovered. In January 2011, while he was a member of the cold case unit, the case was assigned to him. He spoke with Evelyn Carter, who told him of her knowledge regarding the homicide. She told him that she feared for her safety as a result of the crime, and he advised her not to tell others that she was cooperating. Ms. Carter said that she had moved out of state because of the crime.
Investigator Tarkington further testified that he interviewed William Mount, who had been housed in the same pod as the co-defendant. The co-defendant confessed to Mount that he shot the victim.
Following this testimony, the State rested its case-in-chief.
The co-defendant, Quincy Terrell Brando Sharpe, testified that on October 8, 2009, he was at the house of Evelyn Carter, waiting for her grandson to return home when an orange car arrived, driven by William Stokes, with Steve Kimbrough as a passenger. Mr. Stokes told Mr. Sharpe that he needed his "strap, " meaning that he wanted the co-defendant to get Mr. Stokes's gun, which he did. He denied that he asked Evelyn Carter for bleach, washed his hands with bleach while at her house, or took tennis shoes from her grandson. Additionally, he denied telling Marquita Winters that he shot the victim. He further denied shooting the victim or even knowing him, explaining that he was at Evelyn Carter's house when the shooting occurred. On cross-examination, he acknowledged that, at the time of trial, both Mr. Stokes and Mr. Kimbrough were dead. He denied that he confessed the killing to Charles Mount.
Jamie Nelson testified that she was the defendant's mother-in-law. She first met him in September 2009, while taking a leave from a drug rehabilitation program because her daughter had been seriously injured in an automobile accident. She was living with the defendant and her daughter in October 2009 to help take care of her bedridden daughter. She said that the defendant worked the evening shift at a Krystal restaurant, leaving for work between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m., and, on a typical day, would remain at home to help care for her daughter until he had to leave for work. Ms. Nelson had no events listed on her calendar for the day of the shooting, so it would have been a typical day. She did not recall the defendant's being gone for a long period that day. She acknowledged that he drove an orange Pontiac at that time. In the month prior to the trial, she and the defendant spoke several times by telephone.
As a rebuttal witness, the State called Michelle Ray, an investigator with the Davidson County Sheriff's Office, who said that the defendant had used the identification numbers of other jail inmates to place calls to Ms. Nelson, and that, in them, the defendant and Ms. Nelson ...