Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session April 21, 2015.
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2012A90 Mark J. Fishburn, Judge.
Joshua L. Brand (on appeal); and Michael Freeman (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Katherine Louise Holmes.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Rob McGuire and Sarah Davis, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
John Everett Williams, J. delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Roger A. Page, JJ. joined.
JOHN EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This case arose after the defendant, who was in the midst of divorce proceedings, convinced Barry Haslip to shoot her husband, the victim. The victim testified that he filed for divorce in March of 2011 and that the proceedings included custody determinations involving his children with the defendant. The victim and the defendant had contact with each other only through their attorneys, and they were having difficulty reaching a custody arrangement for the children. As part of a temporary custody arrangement, the victim and the defendant would meet at the defendant's apartment complex at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday evenings and exchange custody. The victim testified that the custody arrangements were to be finalized on September 1, 2011. On August 24, 2011, the victim arrived at the complex with his children around 7:00 p.m. or 7:05 p.m. in a black Pontiac Firebird and waited for the defendant.
While the victim was waiting, the defendant was en route to the apartment complex with Mr. Haslip after picking him up from his workplace at Home Depot. Mr. Haslip had first met the defendant in high school when the two worked together at a restaurant. He developed "a high school crush" on the defendant, but a relationship never blossomed. After losing contact with the defendant, Mr. Haslip encountered her at a drug store in the spring of 2011, and the two exchanged phone numbers. At the time that he saw the defendant, Mr. Haslip was engaged to the mother of his child.
At some point after exchanging phone numbers with the defendant, Mr. Haslip separated from the mother of his child. He again came into contact with the defendant, and he learned that she was in the middle of divorce proceedings with the victim. Seeing the defendant again rekindled his romantic feelings toward her, and he became interested in beginning a romantic relationship with the defendant. Mr. Haslip and the defendant began communicating with each other through text messages and phone calls.
Mr. Haslip admitted that he told the defendant things about himself that were untrue in order to impress her. Mr. Haslip suffered from dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, and he testified that he would lie about his accomplishments in order to impress women and to conceal his disability. He would tell people that he "was a bad guy when [he was] not, " and he agreed that he would tell people that he was "a fighter" and "a tough guy." He told the defendant that he owned motorcycles and a truck, but he agreed that he did not own these items and that he could not drive. He admitted that he lied when he told the defendant that he was having his motorcycles repaired.
In May of 2011, the defendant and Mr. Haslip were exchanging text messages nearly every day, including text messages saying, "I love you." In these conversations, the defendant would also complain about the victim and her divorce proceedings. In one exchange from May 23, 2011, the defendant texted Mr. Haslip, "I' m f*****g shaking so bad I can barely drive or text[;] check my Facebook, [the victim's brother] went off on me." Mr. Haslip replied, "Do you want me to handle him for you baby?" Mr. Haslip testified that he meant the text message to indicate that he would fight anyone whom the defendant needed him to fight. During this same exchange, the defendant also texted him, "Baby, you have never seen me on my knees, I'm begging you, before he corrupts more people I care about against me and fully ruins my life, please, I'll do anything."
During June and July of 2011, the defendant and Mr. Haslip communicated with less frequency. Mr. Haslip also had romantic relationships with several women during this time period. In August of 2011, the defendant and Mr. Haslip began communicating regularly again, although Mr. Haslip ultimately ended up deleting the majority of their August text messages. Mr. Haslip agreed that they regularly discussed becoming a romantic couple.
On August 23, 2011, the defendant picked up Mr. Haslip at his parents' home, and they went to Wal-Mart. After shopping for the defendant's daughter, the two sat in the parking lot and talked. The conversation turned to the defendant's marriage, and she informed Mr. Haslip that her custody battle was going poorly. Mr. Haslip testified that the defendant asked him "to take care of" the victim. Mr. Haslip believed she meant for him to kill the victim. The defendant asked Mr. Haslip if he had a firearm. Mr. Haslip had access to a revolver stored in the attic of his parents' home.
The defendant then drove Mr. Haslip to her apartment complex. Mr. Haslip testified that he did not know that it was her complex at the time and that he had never been to the complex before. The defendant told Mr. Haslip that the victim would be there the next day to exchange custody of their children, giving Mr. Haslip an opportunity to shoot the victim. The defendant explained that the exchange would take place near the apartment clubhouse and that the victim would be "in a small black car." Mr. Haslip was instructed to remain out of sight beside the clubhouse during the exchange. The defendant told Mr. Haslip to wear a black hoodie.
On August 24, 2011, Mr. Haslip went into the attic of his parents' home. He retrieved his grandfather's revolver and loaded it. He went into work at noon with a backpack containing the loaded revolver and a black hoodie. Throughout the day, Mr. Haslip and the defendant were texting each other, and the defendant was using a new "Tracfone, " which she had not previously used to contact Mr. Haslip. There were only two contacts in the phone. Contact A contained the victim's phone number, and Contact B contained Mr. Haslip's phone number. Mr. Haslip intended to take his break at 6:00 p.m., at which point the defendant would pick him up at Home Depot and drive him to the apartment complex to shoot the victim. Using the defendant's new phone number, Mr. Haslip and the defendant had the following text message exchange starting at 6:26 p.m. on August 24:
Mr. Haslip: I know I dont know what the hell it is, it feel like my first time I did this.
Defendant: Bc it means so damn much and if we fail, we r all so fd its not even funny. I have total faith in you angel.
Mr. Haslip: I don't know what the f it is I just want to get it over.
Defendant: U will when u see me. I've been clinging to the thought of u all day.
Mr. Haslip: I hope so where do you want to meet.
Defendant: Where ever is best for u. I'm stuck n traffic on harding. Trying to get there as quick as possible.
Mr. Haslip: Do you just want to do it late tonight I told you something is not right.
Defendant: I won't b able to find him, i dunno where he is staying and cant take my vehicles out. I dont see ...