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Mills v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

November 21, 2016


          Assigned on Briefs October 25, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 98950 Bobby R. McGee, Judge

         Michael Deon Mills ("the Petitioner") was convicted of two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of especially aggravated robbery, and one count of aggravated burglary by a Knox County jury. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to an effective sentence of twenty-five years with release eligibility after service of 100% of the sentence in the Department of Correction. On appeal, this court affirmed the Petitioner's convictions. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied. The Petitioner argues on appeal that trial counsel's performance was deficient and that he was prejudiced by the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. On appeal, we affirm the post-conviction court's denial of relief to the Petitioner.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Douglas A. Trant, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Michael Deon Mills.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Zachary T. Hinkle, Assistant Attorney General; Charme P. Allen, District Attorney General; and Phillip H. Morton, 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.



         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Jury Trial

         On direct appeal, this court summarized the testimony presented at trial as follows:

[Co-defendant] [t]wenty-two-year-old Brandon Tarver testified that the [Petitioner and co-defendant Kenneth Spencer] were his friends. At the time of trial, he had known [the Petitioner] and [co-defendant Spencer] three and ten years, respectively. About 6:00 p.m. on August 8, 2007, [co-defendants] Tarver and Spencer went to [co-defendant] Tarver's father's house on Apex Drive off Sutherland Avenue in Knoxville. [The Petitioner] also went to the house. At some point, [co-defendant] Spencer went back to his home off Magnolia Avenue. [The Petitioner] also left [co-defendant] Tarver's father's home on Apex Drive. [Co-defendant] Tarver said that he and a girl named Tiffany later met up with [co-defendant] Spencer at [co-defendant] Spencer's house. At that point, [co-defendant] Tarver refused to testify further, saying, "I have nothing else to say. I got my time. I wanna do my time."
Philip Lim testified that in August 2007, he lived in a two-story home on Bradshaw Garden Drive. On the night of August 8, he was at home with his then nineteen-year-old son, Shawn, and thirteen-year-old daughter, Heidi. Shortly before midnight, Philip was standing in his living room while watching television and drinking soup. Someone knocked open the front door, and three or four people wearing bandanas over their faces came into the house. Philip said a black male pointed a "long" gun at his face and told him, "I will kill you. I will kill you." A white male with an aluminum baseball bat hit Philip a few times on his back. Philip ran into the kitchen, and the man with the bat followed him. Philip said that the men wanted to know if he had any drugs and that he told them, "No. I don't have drugs. I don't even smoke." Philip said he was "running scared"; screamed, "Call 911. Call 911"; picked up a barstool; and threw it at the man with the gun. He said that a second living room and his children's bedrooms were in the basement and that he headed downstairs.
Philip testified that he stumbled on the steps to the basement and that the man with the bat began beating him. Philip ran into Heidi's bedroom and tried to hold the door closed, but the man overpowered him, came into the room, and hit him on the head and back with the bat. Philip fought with the man for about five minutes and ran out of the room. The man followed and continued to beat him, and Philip fell next to a couch in the basement living room. The man told him to take off a gold bracelet he was wearing, but Philip could not get the bracelet off because his thumb was swollen. The man beat Philip with the bat, yanked the bracelet off his wrist, and told him to take out his wallet. Philip did as instructed, and the man took about sixty dollars out of the wallet. The man also pulled a telephone cord out of the wall. Philip took a cellular telephone out of his pocket in order to dial 9-1-1, but the man broke it into two pieces.
Philip testified that the man "cornered" him under a piano and that he told the man, "Please don't kill me. I've got beautiful children." The man forced him to stay under the piano and did not leave him until the police arrived. At that point, the man broke through the basement's sliding glass door and ran outside. The police came into the house and took Philip upstairs, where he saw his son. He said his head and his son's head were bleeding. The police captured a black intruder and a white intruder still in the house. Philip's son asked to see the two men but did not recognize them. Paramedics took Philip to the University of Tennessee Hospital. His thumb was broken, he could not raise his hand, and he had injuries to his neck and back. He said that the man with the bat had hit him twenty or thirty times, that his head was split open, and that he received staples in his head. He was in extreme pain after the attack and went to physical therapy for months. At the time of trial, he was still seeing his doctor for treatment and was in counseling. He said that he did not own a gun or baseball bat and that neither of those items had been in his home before the robbery.
On cross-examination, Philip testified that a briefcase containing jewelry had been in his bedroom closet and that one of the men found the briefcase and opened it. Philip's arms were bruised during the attack when he held them up to protect his neck. He said that the intruders damaged a couch and mattress, that they broke doors and windows, and that blood was "everywhere." The intruders caused eighteen to twenty thousand dollars['] worth of damage to his house.
Shawn Lim testified that on the night of August 8, 2007, he was downstairs and getting ready for bed. Suddenly, he heard his father upstairs yelling, "[C]all 911, help." Shawn was scared and did not know what was going on. He ran upstairs and saw a tall black male with a bandana over his face and holding a gun. Shawn grabbed the gun and struggled with the man. He said he could not see his father but heard "other commotion" in the kitchen area. Suddenly, someone hit Shawn on the back of his head with a baseball bat. He said he blacked out for a moment, fell over the couch, and was beaten with the bat and the butt of the gun. He said two men told him, "Don't try and be brave or anything, sit down, stay right here." While the men were with him, Shawn could hear his father screaming downstairs. The man with the bat left, and the man with the gun moved Shawn to a bathroom. Shawn grabbed a towel and held it to his head. The man with the gun told Shawn to sit in the bathroom and stayed with him until the police arrived. Shawn said that while he was in the bathroom, he could see someone with a baseball bat walking "back and forth, " searching the upstairs bedrooms. He said he could still hear his father and a commotion downstairs.
Shawn testified that he heard the man with the bat alert the man with the gun, that the two men tried to find a way out of the house, and that he heard a bedroom window break. Shawn saw a police officer, and Philip Lim came upstairs. The police began searching the house and found the man with the bat and the man with the gun hiding in an upstairs bedroom. The police brought them out of the room and took off their bandanas. Shawn said that only one of the intruders was black, and he identified [the Petitioner] in court as the black intruder with the gun. Regarding an in-court identification of [co-defendant] Spencer, Shawn said that "it was dark in the living room . . ., so I'm not sure if he was the one that was in the living room or the one downstairs that I didn't see." He said that as a result of the attack, he had a large cut on his head that had to be closed with fifteen staples. He also had cuts and bruises on ...

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