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State v. Mitchell

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

November 4, 2016

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
SEDRICK DARION MITCHELL

          Assigned on Briefs October 25, 2016 at Knoxville

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Bedford County No. 18123 Forest A. Durard, Jr., Judge.

          M. Wesley Hall IV, Unionville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sedrick Darion Mitchell.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel; Robert Carter, District Attorney General; and Michael Randles, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Trial

         The Defendant had been arrested previously in Bedford County for sale of a Schedule II drug, possession of a Schedule II controlled substance for resale, possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance for resale, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The Defendant was ordered to appear on January 27, 2015, in Bedford County General Sessions Court ("general sessions court") but failed to appear in court. On August 15, 2015, the Bedford County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant for one count of Class E felony failure to appear in case number 18123.

         At a subsequent trial in case number 18123, Lieutenant Kevin Roddy, with the Bedford County Sheriffs Department, testified that on January 9, 2015, Tim Miller, the Assistant Director of the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force ("DTF"), contacted him regarding the Defendant. Assistant Director Miller asked Lieutenant Roddy to conduct a traffic stop on the Defendant in Shelbyville. Assistant Director Miller and Tim Lane, the Director of DTF, then gave Lieutenant Roddy a warrant relating to general sessions case number 103079 to arrest the Defendant for sale of a Schedule II drug. Lieutenant Roddy identified the warrant at trial, and the trial court admitted the warrant into evidence. Lieutenant Roddy testified that, after he arrested the Defendant, he took the Defendant to the judicial commissioner's office to set a bond amount and a date for the Defendant's court appearance. Lieutenant Roddy stated that the front of the Defendant's arrest warrant displayed the date of the Defendant's court appearance, January 27, 2015. Additionally, Lieutenant Roddy testified that he prepared a Bedford County Sheriffs Department prisoner fact sheet for the Defendant during the meeting with the judicial commissioner, which also reflected the Defendant's next court date. Lieutenant Roddy read the warrant aloud to the Defendant, including the appearance date, and made a copy of the warrant for the Defendant. The judicial commissioner asked the Defendant if he had any questions about his court date, the bond, or his charges, and the Defendant had no questions.

         Assistant Director Miller testified that he was employed by the Bedford County Sheriffs Department and had been assigned to the DTF for over fifteen years. He stated that he contacted Lieutenant Roddy on January 9, 2015, and asked him to stop the Defendant's vehicle. He then met Lieutenant Roddy and gave him an arrest warrant for the Defendant. Assistant Director Miller served additional arrest warrants for possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a Schedule II controlled substance for resale, and possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance for resale on the Defendant later that day. Assistant Director Miller testified that the three additional warrants and the prisoner fact sheet prepared during the Defendant's meeting with the judicial commissioner all displayed the date that the Defendant was scheduled to appear in general sessions court for case number 103079. Assistant Director Miller stated that he explained to the Defendant that his court appearance was set for January 27, 2015, but accidentally stated that the appearance was at 9:00 p.m. Assistant Director Miller testified that the Defendant corrected him that the appearance was set for 9:00 a.m., not p.m. On redirect examination, Assistant Director Miller clarified that he had one warrant served on the Defendant and personally served three other warrants on the Defendant on January 9, all of which displayed the Defendant's court date set for January 27, 2015. He identified the three additional warrants and the trial court admitted them into evidence.

         Allan Debowsky, the owner of Debo's Bail Bond Company, testified that his company "bonded out" the Defendant on January 14, 2015. Mr. Debowsky testified that he arranged for three individuals to co-sign on the Defendant's bond. Mr. Debowsky stated that the Defendant signed a bonding contract with his company, which displayed the date for the Defendant's court appearance. Mr. Debowsky noted that one of the conditions that the Defendant agreed to under the bonding contract was to appear in court. Mr. Debowsky also testified that he attempted to contact the Defendant to remind him of his upcoming court appearance, but he could not reach the Defendant at any of the phone numbers that the Defendant provided to him. Mr. Debowsky then contacted the Defendant's wife, who did not know where the Defendant was living. Lastly, Mr. Debowsky testified that both he and the Defendant signed the appearance bond, which also displayed the Defendant's court date.

         DTF Director Tim Lane testified that, as part of his duties as Director, he was "responsible for the tracking of criminal cases in the court system." Director Lane stated that on January 9, 2015, he was present at the traffic stop when Assistant Director Miller gave Lieutenant Roddy an arrest warrant for the Defendant. Director Lane later learned that the Defendant's court appearance had been set for January 27, 2015, and on that day, Director Lane attended general sessions court. Director Lane did not see the Defendant in court, and the Defendant did not respond when the general sessions judge called his name. On February 6, 2015, Director Lane found the Defendant at a hotel in Bedford County. Director Lane testified that when he asked the Defendant why he did not appear in court the Defendant stated that "he decided not to go to court because he was afraid he was going to get arrested." The jury found the Defendant guilty of failure to appear.

         Sentencing ...


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