Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
19, 2016 Session
from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2013-D-3327
Steve R. Dozier, Judge
Defendant, Christopher Michael Ferrell, was convicted by a
jury of second degree murder, a Class A felony. See
Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-210. The trial court imposed a
sentence of twenty years' incarceration to be served at
one hundred percent. In this appeal as of right, the
Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to
sustain his conviction, specifically arguing that he should
have been acquitted for acting in self-defense or convicted
instead of voluntary manslaughter; (2) that the trial court
erred in denying his request for a special jury instruction
regarding the State's failure to preserve evidence; (3)
that the trial court committed several errors when
instructing the jury on self-defense; (4) that the trial
court abused its discretion in setting the length of his
sentence; and (5) that he is entitled to a new trial based
upon cumulative error. Following our review, we affirm the
judgment of the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
L. Raybin (at trial and on appeal); and Benjamin Raybin (on
appeal), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M.
Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn R. Funk,
District Attorney General; John Wesley King and Tammy Haggard
Meade, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the
appellee, State of Tennessee.
Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Timothy L. Easter, JJ.,
KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE.
Lee Beddingfield testified at trial that he was a
"touring full-time musician" and that the victim,
Wayne Mills, "was also a musician, songwriter" and
"one of [his] best friends." On the night of
November 22, 2013, Mr. Beddingfield and Mr. Mills attended a
"big tribute show" for George Jones at Bridgestone
Arena in downtown Nashville. Mr. Beddingfield "was lucky
enough to be playing that night, " and Mr. Mills
"had several friends that were [also] playing at the
show." Mr. Beddingfield recalled that the arena was
"pack[ed]-out" and that several famous country
music performers were involved in the concert. Mr.
Beddingfield testified that Mr. Mills "was with [him]
back stage for" the concert. According to Mr.
Beddingfield, it was "a very, very exciting night"
and Mr. Mills was "[l]ike a little kid . . . just having
a great time."
the concert, Mr. Beddingfield had family, friends, and
"some business partners in town that [he] took out"
to entertain. Mr. Mills told Mr. Beddingfield that he was
going to see fellow musician, Shooter Jennings,
"play at a show downtown somewhere." Between 2:00
and 2:30 a.m. on November 23, 2013, Mr. Beddingfield received
a text message from the Defendant. Mr. Beddingfield explained
that Mr. Mills had introduced him to the Defendant and that
he had been to the Defendant's establishment, the Pit and
Barrel, "several times." The text message informed
Mr. Beddingfield that the Defendant had run into Mr. Mills
and Mr. Jennings and that "everyone was going to meet
back up" at the Pit and Barrel.
Beddingfield recalled that he, along with his wife and two of
their friends, arrived at the Pit and Barrel between 2:30 and
3:00 a.m. Mr. Beddingfield testified that the Defendant, Mr.
Mills, and three people that he did not know, two women and a
man, were there when he arrived. According to Mr.
Beddingfield, "[e]verybody was just kind of hanging
around, drinking, " and "kind of passing a guitar
back and forth." A short time later, Mr. Jennings and a
few other people arrived. Mr. Beddingfield testified that the
Defendant "was behind the bar serving drinks" and
that the Defendant was the only person whom he saw serving
alcohol that night. Mr. Beddingfield also recalled that he
saw Mr. Jennings smoking inside, which he thought was odd
because the Defendant "was always pretty anal about
people lighting up in his bar, " but thought it had
something to do with the fact that the Defendant was a
"massive . . . fan" of Mr. Jennings' father.
Beddingfield testified that Mr. Mills "was in a good
mood all night" and was excited about a new songwriting
opportunity that would allow him to spend more time at home
with his family. Mr. Beddingfield recalled that Mr. Mills
"went outside to smoke a couple of times" while he
was there. Mr. Beddingfield further testified that he
"knew there were guns in the bar" but that he did
not see any while he was there. Mr. Beddingfield did not see
any drugs while he was there. Mr. Beddingfield also did not
see Mr. Mills go behind the bar. While he knew that the
Defendant and Mr. Mills had been drinking, Mr. Beddingfield
testified that neither man seemed drunk that morning.
Beddingfield testified that the next couple of hours were
spent "just hanging out, drinking." Before Mr.
Beddingfield left, the Defendant insisted that he get a
picture with Mr. Jennings, Mr. Jennings' "road
manager, " Mr. Beddingfield, and Mr. Mills in one of the
establishment's booths. Mr. Beddingfield estimated that
he left the Pit and Barrel sometime between 4:00 and 4:30
a.m. Mr. Beddingfield recalled that when he left, "[i]t
was a great mood" and "there was no tension and
there was no arguments." Mr. Beddingfield further
recalled that there "was no aggression throughout the
entire" time he was there and that the Defendant and Mr.
Mills were friends.
Howard testified that he was an aspiring songwriter and that
he came to Nashville on the night of the "George Jones
tribute" in order to go out with his manager, Susan
Branam, and meet some "people affiliated with the
[country music] business." Mr. Howard went out to dinner
with Ms. Branam and his then girlfriend, Nadia Markham. After
dinner, the three went to a club where they stayed until
"after [it] closed." At that point, Ms. Branam
suggested to Mr. Howard that they go to the Pit and Barrel
"because there [were] going to be a few people over
there that [he] might be interested in meeting, "
specifically Mr. Jennings. Ms. Branam drove because Mr.
Howard and Ms. Markham "had drank some" that night.
Howard estimated that they got to the Pit and Barrel sometime
between 2:00 and 2:30 a.m. Mr. Howard testified that he had
been to the Pit and Barrel and had met the Defendant before
that morning. Mr. Howard described the atmosphere at the bar
as "relaxed for the most part" with "[g]roups
of people . . . tak[ing] turns playing music." Mr.
Howard estimated that he was at the Pit and Barrel for over
two hours. During that time, Ms. Branam introduced Mr. Howard
"to a few people." Mr. Howard had never met Mr.
Mills before that morning. Mr. Howard recalled that he and
Mr. Mills "just had general conversation for a few
minutes." Mr. Howard also recalled seeing Mr. Mills
smoking inside the Pit and Barrel that morning. Mr. Howard
testified that the Defendant was serving alcohol and that he
did not remember anyone other than the Defendant being behind
Howard testified that around 4:30 a.m., he, Ms. Branam, and
Ms. Markham were preparing to leave. The only other people
remaining at the Pit and Barrel were the Defendant and Mr.
Mills. According to Mr. Howard, Mr. Mills was sitting at the
bar smoking a cigarette and the Defendant was behind the bar.
The Defendant walked up to Mr. Mills, slapped the cigarette
out of Mr. Mills's hand, and said, "[W]hat the
[f--k] are you doing smoking in my bar; it's a nonsmoking
bar." Mr. Howard testified that Mr. Mills "just
kind of sat there for a second" and "then he got up
and paced back-and-forth a few times going toward the
door." Mr. Howard thought that Mr. Mills "was
leaving, " but Mr. Mills turned around and said to the
Defendant, "[I]f you ever smack my hand like that again,
I'll kill you."
point, Ms. Branam told Mr. Howard and Ms. Markham that it was
time for them to leave. Mr. Howard recalled that Ms. Branam
and Ms. Markham left first. As he "was getting ready to
walk out, " Mr. Howard "turned around and looked
behind [him] one more time and witnessed Mr. Mills throw his
beverage glass on the ground and break it." Mr. Howard
"took a few steps" outside and "heard the door
[to the bar] open" again. Mr. Howard testified that
"just as soon as [he] heard the door open, [he] heard
three [gun]shots in rapid succession." Mr. Howard then
"turned around and saw Mr. Mills hit the ground."
Mr. Howard testified that he did not see anything in Mr.
Mills's hands and that Mr. Mills fell facedown. Mr.
Howard recalled that Mr. Mills's head was pointing away
from the door and that the door had closed after Mr. Mill
Howard ran to Ms. Branam's vehicle, "jumped in the
backseat[, ] and told them to leave because [Mr. Mills] had
been shot." As they drove away, Mr. Howard saw the
Defendant "run out the door of the bar." They
circled around the block, and when they came back to the Pit
and Barrel, "[n]o one was outside" and "there
wasn't a body there." At that point, Ms. Branam
called the Defendant to ask him what had happened. Mr. Howard
recalled that the Defendant "was very upset" and
crying. Ms. Branam advised the Defendant to call 911. Ms.
Branam then hung up and called 911 herself.
Howard testified that he had not seen any guns in the Pit and
Barrel that morning. Mr. Howard admitted that he had three
beers and "some [v]odka." Mr. Howard did not recall
Mr. Jennings' taking a picture with the Defendant and Mr.
Mills. Mr. Howard denied that he heard Mr. Mills yell,
"[T]here is [sic] no whores here, there's no cocaine
here, what the f--k am I [doing] here." Rather, Mr.
Howard testified that Mr. Mills was "in a pretty good
mood" that morning. Mr. Howard admitted that he told the
Defendant's private investigator that Mr. Mills and the
Defendant "were very loud and yelling back and forth at
each other." Mr. Howard also told the private
investigator that he heard the gunshots
"immediately" after he heard the glass break.
However, Mr. Howard claimed that he was mistaken when he told
the private investigator that.
audio recording of the Defendant's 911 call was played
for the jury. The call was made at 4:56 a.m. on November 23,
2013. On the recording, the Defendant told the 911 operator
that "someone [had] just pulled a gun on [him] in [his]
bar." The Defendant then told the operator that there
was "no danger now" but asked that "help and
[a] medic" be sent to the Pit and Barrel. The operator
asked the Defendant if he needed an ambulance, and the
Defendant responded that he did. The operator asked the
Defendant if he had been shot, and the Defendant responded,
"No, somebody tried to f--king pull a gun on me. I
dispatched weapon [sic] and someone had pulled a gun on
me." The Defendant stated that the person who had
"pulled a gun on" him was "erratic in
there" and had been shot.
Ashley Arnold of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department
(MNPD) was one of the first officers to respond to the Pit
and Barrel after the Defendant's 911 call. Officer Arnold
found the Defendant standing outside and talking on his cell
phone. Officer Arnold recalled that the Defendant "was
kind of hysterical" and repeatedly stated, "[H]e
tried to rob me, " and "I thought he was going to
kill me." Despite the fact that the officers approached
the Defendant with their guns drawn, Officer Arnold testified
that the Defendant "didn't really speak with
[them]." Instead, the Defendant "was upset,
crying" and focused on his phone conversation. Officer
Arnold recalled that when the officers "finally got [the
Defendant] to kind of tell [them] what happened, " the
Defendant simply "pointed to the door and said,
Arnold found Mr. Mills inside, approximately six feet from
the door. Mr. Mills was "lying face up" with some
towels underneath him. Mr. Mills "was breathing
heavily" with "obvious trauma to the back of his
head." Mr. Mills was taken to a local hospital where he
died later that morning. About thirty minutes after the
police arrived at the Pit and Barrel, Ms. Branam and Ms.
Markham approached the responding officers. Both of the
responding officers thought that the women were intoxicated.
Ms. Branam and Ms. Markham led one of the officers back to
Ms. Branam's vehicle where Mr. Howard was found sitting
inside the vehicle.
point, the Defendant entered the Pit and Barrel and was
standing by the doorway while the officers checked on Mr.
Mills. One of the officers escorted the Defendant back
outside. While he was standing outside, the Defendant spoke
to MNPD Sergeant Michael Kent. Sgt. Kent recalled that the
Defendant was on his cell phone and looked "very
upset." Sgt. Kent testified that the Defendant,
"unprovoked" and "very excitedly, " said
to him, "I just shot my friend in the head. Oh, my God,
I just shot my friend in the head. He said he was going to
kill me and I just shot him." Sgt. Kent patted down the
Defendant and did not find any weapons on him. The Defendant
gave Sgt. Kent his wallet and Sgt. Kent "retrieved [the
Defendant's] Tennessee handgun carry permit from
it." Sgt. Kent testified that he was "unsure"
if the Defendant was intoxicated.
Detective Leonard Peck, Jr., was the lead investigator in
this case. Det. Peck testified that the Defendant consented
to a search of the Pit and Barrel. Det. Peck spoke with the
Defendant there, and the Defendant "stated that the
victim displayed a gun, threatened his life, " and that
"resulted in the shooting death of . . . Mr.
Mills." Later, the Defendant was transported to the
police station where Det. Peck conducted a more in-depth
interview. A video recording of that interview was played for
the jury during the trial.
Defendant began the interview by telling Det. Peck that Mr.
Mills was "drunk, drunk" when he met him that
night. The Defendant claimed that he was going to let Mr.
Mills stay at the Pit and Barrel until he sobered up. The
Defendant then claimed that Mr. Mills "progressively got
more belligerent through" the morning. The Defendant
told Det. Peck that the shooting occurred after he saw Mr.
Mills smoking at the bar. The Defendant explained that he was
"vehemently against any smoking in [his] bar, " so
he reached across the bar and crushed Mr. Mills'
Defendant claimed that Mr. Mills "went off" and
started "screaming and hollering." According to the
Defendant, he told Mr. Mills to leave but that Mr. Mills came
back into the bar. The Defendant told Det. Peck that he saw a
drink in Mr. Mills' hand and that he told Mr. Mills that
he could not take the drink outside. The Defendant claimed
that Mr. Mills then said, "F--k you, I'll do
whatever I want, " and threatened to kill him. The
Defendant stated that Mr. Mills threw his glass down and that
he "watched [Mr. Mills] grab something that [he] thought
was a gun."
Defendant told Det. Peck that he was standing by his register
behind the bar and that he "had no intention of
shooting" Mr. Mills. However, the Defendant said that
Mr. Mills had "scared the hell out of [him]." The
Defendant pulled a gun he kept behind the bar and shot in Mr.
Mills' direction. The Defendant claimed that he did not
aim at Mr. Mills and that he could not remember pulling the
trigger or how many times he shot at the victim.
Defendant told Det. Peck that he watched Mr. Mills fall out
the door and onto the ground. The Defendant stated that he
thought Mr. Mills was faking his injury. The Defendant went
outside to check on Mr. Mills. The Defendant told Det. Peck
that it was very cold outside and that he decided to drag Mr.
Mills back inside because he was getting cold from having
just a t-shirt on. The Defendant stated that he got some bar
rags to try to stop the victim's bleeding. The Defendant
recalled that Ms. Branam called him and that he called 911
after he spoke to her.
Defendant insisted that he saw Mr. Mills grab for something
and saw something in his hand after he threw the glass. The
Defendant claimed that he found a .45 caliber revolver on the
floor by the doorway after he dragged Mr. Mills back into the
bar. The Defendant told Det. Peck that he "secured the
weapon, . . . unloaded it, " and "put it on the
table." The Defendant stated that the revolver was his
and that he normally kept it by the cash register. The
Defendant told Det. Peck that he did not know how Mr. Mills
got the revolver.
Peck told the Defendant that he thought it was highly
unlikely that Mr. Mills took the Defendant's revolver
from behind the bar. Det. Peck pointed out that Mr. Mills did
not know where the revolver was and that the Defendant was
"strategic" in where he kept his guns. The
Defendant repeatedly insisted that Mr. Mills could have
easily found the revolver behind the bar. The Defendant was
very upset because he was unable to find his "bank
bag" that morning. The Defendant told Det. Peck that he
kept the bag by the cash register with the revolver. The
Defendant implied that Mr. Mills may have stolen the bag and
suggested that Mr. Mills took the revolver to scare him with
several minutes, Det. Peck continued to press the Defendant
to "tell the truth, " and the Defendant continued
to insist that Mr. Mills could have found the revolver behind
the bar and taken it to scare him. The Defendant became
visibly upset when Det. Peck called him a liar. The Defendant
began to cry and exclaimed that Mr. Mills had "pointed
his cell phone at [him], it was his f--king cell phone."
The Defendant explained that he was scared because Mr. Mills
had screamed more than once that he would kill the Defendant.
The Defendant claimed that he shot Mr. Mills when Mr. Mills
spun around and pointed his cell phone at the Defendant. The
Defendant stated that he thought, at that moment, Mr. Mills
was going to shoot him. The Defendant then stated that he
panicked and put the revolver on the table near the doorway.
point, Det. Peck left the interview room. Once he was alone
in the room, the Defendant said that he was
"terrified" and asked, "Wayne, you stupid son
of a b---h, why did you do that?" Eventually the
Defendant stopped crying and started using his cell phone.
When Det. Peck returned, he began to advise the Defendant of
his rights pursuant to Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S.
436 (1966). The Defendant asked if he was under arrest, and
Det. Peck responded that he just wanted to get "an
official statement." Sensing the Defendant's
uneasiness about the Miranda warnings, Det. Peck
asked the Defendant how he felt. The Defendant responded that
he felt "like s--t" and that he was exhausted and
terrified "that [he] hurt somebody." The Defendant
denied that he was drunk and said that he did not have a lot
to drink that morning.
Peck asked the Defendant if he wanted to keep talking without
a lawyer. The Defendant said that he did not do anything
"out of line, " but that he would be "an idiot
not to have a f--king lawyer present to make a statement
about something that involve[d] [his] freedom." The
Defendant told Det. Peck that he would not go to jail
"for f--king defending [him]self." The Defendant
claimed that Mr. Mills was known to get drunk and belligerent
and that Mr. Mills had screamed "five different
times" that morning that he would kill the Defendant.
Defendant reiterated that Mr. Mills threw the glass and said,
"I'm going to come over there and f--king kill
you." The Defendant told Det. Peck that he simply
"took [Mr. Mills] at his word." The Defendant then
told Det. Peck that he was cold, tired, and wanted to come
back later after he had the chance to talk to his family. The
Defendant explained that he wanted to see his family because
they were supposed to be "celebrating" that day but
now that was "not going to happen." Det. Peck
testified at trial that he stopped the interview after he
realized Mr. Mills was unarmed and "the crime scene was
altered." Det. Peck also testified that he did not have
the Defendant tested for drug or alcohol use.
Beddingfield testified that he did not learn that there had
been a shooting at the Pit and Barrel until around 10:00 or
11:00 a.m. There was some confusion about the identity of the
victim. Mr. Beddingfield first tried to call Mr. Mills, and
when Mr. Mills did not answer his phone, Mr. Beddingfield
called the Defendant. Mr. Beddingfield recalled that the
Defendant was "hysterical" when he answered the
phone. The Defendant told Mr. Beddingfield that "he
knocked a cigarette out of [Mr. Mills'] mouth and that
made [Mr. Mills] go crazy." The Defendant then said that
Mr. Mills had "slammed a beer bottle down."
Defendant explained that he "felt threatened" and
thought that Mr. Mills "was going to kill him." The
Defendant claimed that Mr. Mills had "reached for his
waistband." The Defendant asked Mr. Beddingfield
"why did [Mr. Mills] have to be so crazy?" The
Defendant claimed not to remember what kind of gun he had
used or where he had shot Mr. Mills. Mr. Beddingfield
admitted that he originally did not mention the fact that the
Defendant said he knocked a cigarette out of Mr. Mills'
mouth to Det. Peck.
The Physical Evidence
of the Pit and Barrel, the police found a small pool of blood
several feet away from the entrance, a "small blood
trail leading" from the pool of blood "back
into" the establishment, and a button and broken button
fragments near the blood trail. Blood was also found on the
door frame and the "door threshold." Inside, there
were "drag marks" of blood on the floor leading
from the doorway to another pool of blood and the bloodied
towels that had been placed beneath the victim. Next to the
towels was the victim's baseball cap. The cap was
bloodied with an apparent bullet hole in the back, toward the
top, of the cap. There was also "some damage to the left
side" of the cap.
immediate right of the doorway, upon entering the building,
was a table. At the foot of the table, the investigators
found half of a broken glass, fragments of glass, and a green
cigarette lighter. To the left of the doorway was a wooden
barrel with the initials "P" and "B"
painted on it. In front of the barrel and against the left
wall of the building, the investigators found a piece of
broken glass with a small amount of blood on it. Also against
the wall and a few inches away from the piece of broken glass
was a .22 caliber cartridge casing. Near the broken piece of
glass and the cartridge casing was "a high-top bar
table." The table was directly to the left of where the
victim was found. On the table the officers found an unloaded
.45 caliber revolver "with the cylinder open."
right of where the victim was found was the bar, which
"had like an L-shape to it when you [got] close to the
entrance." The bottom of the bar was parallel to the
front wall and the longer portion of the bar was parallel to
the aisle leading from the front to a stage and more seating
in the back. The investigators found .45 caliber ammunition
on the bottom portion of the bar. The victim's cell phone
was found on the longer portion of the bar near where it
formed a right angle with the bottom portion. The
investigators found a .22 caliber handgun with "some
kind of scope on it" further up the bar. A cigarette
butt was found on the floor in front of the bar between where
the gun and the cell phone were found. All of the chairs
along the bar were "at an angle" except for one
"that was facing the bar directly" near where the
.22 caliber handgun was found.
away from where the victim was found, another cigarette butt
was found on a table near the stage. A second .22 caliber
cartridge casing was found in front of the bar where the bar
made "a curve" toward the back of the building. A
third .22 caliber cartridge casing was found on the gurney
that transported the victim to the hospital. Crime scene
investigators for the MNPD testified at trial that they gave
"very little weight" to the location of the
cartridge casings because the casings were small,
lightweight, and could easily "bounce, get kicked, [or]
roll." A third handgun, another revolver, was located
inside a safe in the building's office. A powder on the
bar, which could have been cigarette ash, was identified in
some of the crime scene photographs. However, it was not
specifically documented by the investigators and was not
collected as evidence. There was no blood spatter found on
the door, door frame, or the walls. There were also no
working security cameras in the building.
bullet strikes were found on the wall behind the barrel. The
first was between the doorway and a window and was found by
the investigators the day of the shooting. That piece of wood
was removed from the wall and a bullet fragment was removed
from the wood. A second bullet strike and fragment were found
by the Defendant's private investigator several days
after the shooting. The second bullet strike was on the other
side of the window approximately three feet from the first
strike. The second bullet strike was "similar in size
[to] some of the nailheads that . . . [could be seen] through
the wood" and blended in with the wood.
bullets "were going from left to right" when they
impacted the wall. The first bullet entered the wall at a
thirty-seven degree angle. The second bullet entered the wall
at a twenty-five degree angle. The first bullet strike was
two inches higher than the second. From the placement of the
bullet strikes, it appeared to the crime scene investigators
"that the shooter did not move much." However,
there was no way to determine "the shot sequence"
based upon the forensic evidence. Initially, the crime scene
investigators thought there was a third bullet strike on the
window frame, but that turned out ...