Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs April 19, 2016
from the Circuit Court for Robertson County No.
74CC3-2012-CR-58 John H. Gasaway, III, Judge
Garth Click, Springfield, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Thomas Lamont Dowlen.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie
E. Price, Senior Counsel; John W. Carney, District Attorney
General; and Jason White, Assistant District Attorney
General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Norma McGee Ogle and Robert W. Wedemeyer, JJ., joined.
EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
defendant shot the victim, Candice Owens,  in the course of
a feud with the victim and her brother, David Owens. The
defendant was charged with both the first degree
(premeditated) murder of the victim and with the reckless
endangerment of Christopher Williams, the victim's
to trial, the defense filed a motion in limine to prohibit
the medical examiner from referring to the manner of death as
homicide. The trial court ruled that the medical examiner
could give an opinion on manner of death but that the court
"would never allow the State to refer to it as
murder." During opening statement, the prosecution, in
outlining the anticipated proof, used the word
"murder." The prosecutor stated:
[Witnesses] will tell you how this murder happened - excuse
me, homicide. I shouldn't say murder. That is a mistake,
that's my fault. How this homicide happened. It is yours
to decide whether it is first degree or second degree.
It's a homicide right now. We know that because the
autopsy says that.
objection was lodged, and no further instructions were given.
proof at trial included a stipulation that the defendant had
been in a long-term relationship with Lindsey Hankins, and
the two had a child together in 2009. Ms. Hankins left the
defendant in the weeks prior to the homicide, and she began a
romantic relationship with Mr. Owens, the victim's
brother. The victim, Mr. Owens, and the defendant exchanged
text and voice messages regarding Ms. Hankins prior to the
shooting. The messages were not introduced into evidence, but
the stipulation established that the three were
"squabbling" via text and voice message.
time of the shooting, the victim was in a romantic
relationship with Mr. Williams. The two were habitual users
of crack cocaine. Mr. Williams and the victim would sometimes
stay at a motel, but they also occasionally stayed at Kenny
Link's residence, which was the site of the shooting. Mr.
Link was deceased at the time of trial, but Mr. Williams
testified that he and the victim would either pay Mr. Link or
provide him with drugs in exchange for a place to stay. Mr.
Link's home was located on Twelfth Avenue, and there was
a path from the back of Mr. Link's house to a nearby
market. Across the street from the residence was a vacant lot
with some gravel in it, and beyond the lot was the home of
Mr. Randall Holland.
was evidence introduced at trial that the defendant had
recently been to Mr. Link's home and was aware that Ms.
Hankins frequented the home. Talisha Harrison testified that
she was living at Mr. Link's around the time of the
shooting and that the defendant had stopped by Mr. Link's
home the morning of the homicide around 10:00 a.m. The
defendant, who testified in his own defense, stated that
three days prior to the shooting, he had stopped by the home
of Mr. Link looking for Ms. Hankins. The defendant had heard
that Ms. Hankins was selling medication prescribed for the
defendant which the defendant used to treat pain for a prior
gunshot wound to the leg. He did not find Ms. Hankins at Mr.
Link's home on that date.
30, 2011, the day of the shooting, Mr. Williams and the
victim were awoken when the victim's brother, Mr. Owens,
came to the motel room they had rented. After a discussion,
Mr. Williams and the victim decided to use their remaining
money not to pay for another night at the motel but to
purchase crack cocaine and spend time with Mr. Owens. The
three ate lunch and went to Mr. Link's home at around
10:00 or 10:30 a.m. All four consumed crack cocaine at Mr.
Link's residence. Mr. Williams testified that there might
have been other people who dropped by Mr. Link's house
during the day, but he did not recall them. Mr. Williams
testified that in the afternoon at around 2:50 p.m., Mr.
Owens left to go to the market to get beer and cigarettes for
Pennington spent June 30, 2011, with the defendant. Mr.
Pennington called the defendant sometime after 9:00 a.m. and
offered to pay for the defendant to get a haircut and to buy
the defendant gas if the defendant would give him a ride to
the house of his cousin, the barber. The defendant came to
pick Mr. Pennington up in the defendant's mother's
vehicle about thirty minutes later. Mr. Pennington called his
cousin, but his cousin was not at home. The defendant and Mr.
Pennington then went to the house of another of Mr.
Pennington's cousins, where they smoked some marijuana.
time in the afternoon, the defendant's mother called and
asked the defendant to bring her some beer. Mr. Pennington
offered to pay, and the defendant drove them to the store.
Mr. Pennington testified that as he was going into the store,
a white man came out and kept the door open for him. Mr.
Pennington learned later that this man was Mr. Owens. As Mr.
Owens left the store, he and the defendant immediately began
to argue. Mr. Owens approached the defendant, who put out his
hands to distance himself. Mr. Owens, who had a "built
up" physique, then punched the defendant. The defendant
grabbed Mr. Owens and Mr. Pennington separated them. Mr.
Owens then took off running down a path behind the market.
Mr. Pennington testified that the defendant also saw where
Mr. Owens was headed. The defendant's face was swollen
where he had been punched, and he kept saying, "[L]ook
at my face." The defendant drove off quickly and ...