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Hill v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 10, 2015

STEVEN D. HILL
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

Session April 22, 2015

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Maury County No. 20740 Robert L. Jones, Judge

Dan R. Alexander, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven D. Hill.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Tracy L. Alcock, Assistant Attorney General; Brent A. Cooper, District Attorney General; and Kyle E. Dodd, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Roger A. Page, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.

OPINION

ROGER A. PAGE, JUDGE

I. Facts

Petitioner was indicted for aggravated arson, aggravated burglary, reckless endangerment, and theft over $1, 000 after he broke into Danny Bradley's house, stole his knives and medications, and set his bedroom on fire. State v. Steven Dale Hill, No. M2012-00982-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 1092724, at *1-7 (Tenn. Crim. App. March 15, 2013). The reckless endangerment count was dismissed prior to trial, and petitioner was convicted as charged of the remaining offenses. Id. at *1.

Because the central issue on direct appeal and in this post-conviction proceeding concerns the status of a trial witness, Tammy Owens, as an accomplice, we set forth her trial testimony as summarized by this court on direct appeal:

Ms. Ta[mm]y Owens testified that the [petitioner] was her "best friend" and "big brother." She testified that they had been friends with each other since she was thirteen. Ms. Owens testified that although she was presently "clean, " in January of 2011, she had a drug problem involving "pills, meth, a lot of different things."
Ms. Owens testified that on January 31, 2011, she drove her van over to the [petitioner]'s house around 1:00 p.m. She testified that she picked up the [petitioner] to "[j]ust ride around." During this period of time, the two were talking and doing drugs. The [petitioner] had a backpack with him. She testified that the [petitioner] was driving.
Ms. Owens testified that after they left, the [petitioner] told her that they were going "[t]o make some money" and headed toward Highway 7. The [petitioner] drove her to a specific house to which she had not been previously, and they parked in the front. Ms. Owens testified that the [petitioner] exited the van and went to the front door of the house, while she remained inside. The [petitioner] then entered the house using a screwdriver. Ms. Owens testified that she remained in the van for approximately five or ten minutes, and then she got out to retrieve the [petitioner].
Ms. Owens testified that she did not know what the [petitioner]'s plans were before they arrived at the house. Even after they arrived and she witnessed his forcible entry into the residence, she still did not "completely" know the [petitioner]'s plans-she simply "knew it wasn't right."
Ms. Owens testified that she entered the residence through the same door as the [petitioner]. Once she entered the house, she walked through it until she reached the bedroom, where she saw the [petitioner] "stealing and setting the house on fire." Specifically, she saw the [petitioner] putting objects into his backpack, including "Mule Day knives, little pocket knives." She also saw the [petitioner] taking bottles of medication. After he had finished, she saw the [petitioner] take a small yellow bottle out of his backpack, pour liquid from it onto some clothes, and ignite the mixture with a Zippo lighter. Ms. Owens ...

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