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State v. Grooms

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

July 30, 2015

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
JAMES W. GROOMS, JR.

Assigned on Briefs May 20, 2015

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Hawkins County No. 11-CR-0355 Thomas J. Wright, Judge

Gerald L. Gulley, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, James W. Grooms, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Kevin Keeton, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., joined.

OPINION

CAMILLE R. McMULLEN, JUDGE

This appeal stems from an altercation that occurred on April 13, 2011, between the Defendant, Bobby Wolf, and Tessaria Monika Childress. During the altercation, the Defendant hit Childress with the handle of a pistol and shot Wolf in the groin area of his right leg. The Defendant was subsequently indicted for attempted first degree murder of Bobby Wolf, aggravated assault of Tessaria Childress, and employing a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony.

At trial, Childress testified that in April 2011, she was in a romantic relationship with Wolf, and the couple was living together at the home of Krista Arnwhine, along with Childress's three children and Arnwhine's two children. Childress had known the Defendant for several years at the time of the incident. During that time, he sent Childress "vulgar" text messages and made "verbal advances" towards her. Childress told Wolf about the Defendant's advances, and he was present "a couple of times" when the Defendant made inappropriate comments to Childress. Childress rebuffed the Defendant's advances, but it "didn't deter him."

On April 13, 2011, Childress was cooking dinner when Arnwhine told her that Wolf was outside arguing with somebody. Childress looked outside and saw the Defendant with his dog on a long chain arguing with Wolf. Childress believed that the Defendant was intoxicated "by the way he was talking, kind of slurring his words and . . . staggering around." Childress told the Defendant to go home and told Wolf to return inside, and as she and Wolf walked back towards the house, the Defendant yelled something at her. Because she could not hear him, she stepped towards him and said, "[W]hat did you say?" At that point, the Defendant pulled out a gun and hit her with its handle "at least five times[.]" Childress yelled for Wolf to help her and when she turned her head, she felt the barrel of the gun pressed against the side of her head. She felt "[s]cared to death" and thought the Defendant was going to "blow [her] brains out[.]" The Defendant briefly lowered the gun when Wolf approached but raised it "halfway up" and pointed it at Wolf, who stepped back, put his hands up, and said, "[W]hoa[.]" The Defendant shouted, "[N]ow, mother-f, " and shot Wolf. Wolf fell to the ground and yelled, "[H]e shot me in the [testicle], call 911." Childress told Arnwhine to call 911 while she drove Wolf to the hospital.

Childress testified that neither she nor Wolf had been drinking that evening, and Wolf was not armed with any weapons during the altercation with the Defendant. She stated that she was in fear for her life and suffered bruising on her neck, arms, and face from the attack by the Defendant. On cross-examination, she agreed that she did not seek medical treatment for her injuries, although a doctor did examine her at the hospital on the night of the incident. She also agreed that Wolf is known for being "somewhat" violent.

Wolf testified that on the night of the incident, he walked outside to take out the trash and saw the Defendant walking his dog. Wolf had known the Defendant for several years and waved at the Defendant as he walked by. In response to this gesture, the Defendant stated, "I don't associate with snitches and bitches." Wolf did not know what the Defendant meant by this comment but responded, "[Y]ou don't know who you are talking to, " and an argument ensued between the two men. Wolf thought the Defendant was intoxicated because he had "slurred speech and stagger[ed] like he was drunk, " so Wolf told him to go home. At that point, the Defendant pulled out a black pistol and told Wolf, "I'll shoot you here on the spot." Wolf responded, "[I]f you are going to point it at me, you had better use it." Wolf testified that he did not have any weapons on him and never stepped in the road towards the Defendant.

During the argument, Childress came outside and encouraged Wolf to go back inside the house. Wolf walked inside to get his cigarettes, and when he returned outside, he saw the Defendant strike Childress with the handle of his pistol. Wolf stated that he was in fear for Childress and ran towards her to "jerk her away" from the Defendant, at which point the Defendant shot Wolf. Wolf testified that he did not threaten the Defendant with any weapon and was not holding anything that the Defendant might have mistook for a weapon. He also stated that Childress did not do anything to the Defendant other than "[t]rying to get him to go home" before he began hitting her with the pistol. As a result of the shooting, Wolf had to undergo surgery and had his right testicle removed.

Dr. Daniel Anderson, a surgeon at Holston Valley Medical Center, treated Wolf on the night of the incident and testified as an expert in medical treatment. He testified that a gunshot wound to the groin area can "absolutely" create a substantial risk of death because the femoral artery and femoral vein run through the groin and, if damaged, can result in death or loss of limb. Wolf had a wound "through and through" the soft tissue in the right groin and a wound to his right scrotum, which required removal of Wolf's right testicle. Wolf's wounds were not life-threatening, but Dr. Anderson testified that he would expect Wolf "to have quite a bit of acute pain" during the episode and as he recovered.

Corporal Chad Britton and Detective Chad Evans of the Hawkins County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene that evening. Corporal Britton located the Defendant standing outside of his parents' house and searched him for weapons. He found a loaded 9 millimeter handgun in the Defendant's back pocket and recalled that although the Defendant complied with his commands, he appeared intoxicated. Detective Evans likewise testified that the Defendant appeared "very much" intoxicated, and as a result, Detective Evans did not question the Defendant about the incident that evening. He and Corporal Britton searched the scene that night for weapons and other evidence but did not find anything. They returned to the scene the following morning and found a shell casing in the road near Arnwhine's home. Later that ...


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