Session July 12, 2016
from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 10-02631 James
C. Beasley, Jr., Judge
Petitioner, Daniel Muhammad, appeals the denial of his
petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged
his conviction of facilitation of aggravated arson and his
sentence of twelve years in prison. On appeal, the Petitioner
contends that he was denied his right to the effective
assistance of counsel. We affirm the post-conviction
court's denial of relief.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
R. Smith, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Daniel
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David
H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney
General; and Karen Cook-Twele, Assistant District Attorney
General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
EVERETT WILLIAMS, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which ALAN E. GLENN and ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, JJ., joined.
EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Petitioner was indicted for aggravated arson, along with his
co-defendant, Michael Taylor. The Petitioner was convicted of
the lesser-included offense of facilitation to commit
aggravated arson, and Mr. Taylor's trial resulted in a
hung jury. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to twelve
years imprisonment as a Range II, multiple offender.
relevant facts underlying the Petitioner's conviction, as
recited by this court from the Petitioner's direct
appeal, are as follows:
On August 28, 2009, at around 3:00 p.m., Martha Gray and her
family were visiting on the front porch of her house at 1523
Pillow Street. Ms. Gray's niece had gotten into an
argument with Defendant and two others, and Ms. Gray heard
Defendant say, "don't worry about it because we
going to burn the mother f* * *er down."
At around 4:00 a.m. on the following day, Ms. Gray's son,
Rickey Gray, awoke to the smell of smoke. He discovered a
fire burning near the back door in the kitchen, and he woke
up the rest of his family. Michael Robison, Ms. Gray's
live-in boyfriend, testified that after Mr. Gray woke him and
they went outside, he saw that the grass around the house was
burning and the fire was coming through the walls around the
front door. After the family escaped the fire, they saw three
African American males running down the street away from the
house. Ms. Gray yelled to the men, "I know y'all did
this, " and the men laughed. She saw them enter a
duplex. She identified the men as Defendant, his co-defendant
Michael Taylor, and "Mayne." A few minutes after
the men went inside the duplex, they left and got into a
white truck parked outside. Michael Taylor was driving the
truck. On cross-examination, Ms. Gray testified that on the
afternoon before the fire, Defendant and Mayne were talking
to each other, and "Mayne" made the threat about
burning down her house. On re-direct examination, Ms. Gray
testified, "[t]here's no doubt in my mind.
[Defendant] was out there with [Mayne] when they made the
[threat]-it was him and the girl and Mayne."
Officer Michael Thomas arrived at the scene to conduct
traffic control around the residence while the fire
department was extinguishing the fire. While at the scene,
Officer Thomas spoke to the victims, who gave a description
of the individuals they saw running from the house and of the
vehicle they were seen driving. Officer Thomas then saw
Michael Taylor sitting in a white vehicle matching the
description about one block from the fire. Officer Thomas
detained Taylor. Taylor told Officer Thomas that he had not
been to the residence where the fire occurred. Taylor's
statement to Officer Thomas was unprompted.
Ronald Weddle was called to investigate the fire at the
victim's home. After speaking with Ms. Gray, Detective
Weddle interviewed Defendant. Defendant gave contradictory
statements about his whereabouts on the night of the fire.
Defendant initially told Detective Weddle that he was not
anywhere near the area of the fire, and Defendant denied any
involvement in the fire. Defendant later told Detective
Weddle that he was at a house down the street on the evening
prior to the fire, and then left and went to his
grandmother's house, where he stayed for the night.
Defendant also told Detective Weddle that he learned from his
sister that he was a suspect in the arson and that he drove
by the location of the fire, but Defendant later stated that
he did not drive by the house after the fire. On
cross-examination, Detective Weddle testified that he did not
check Defendant's alibi, nor did he take a written
statement from Defendant because Defendant gave conflicting
Detective Stephen Roach arrived at the scene after the fire
was extinguished and after Defendant was taken into custody.
Detective Roach interviewed Defendant's co-defendant,
Michael Taylor, at the police station. Detective Roach
testified that when he entered the interview room, he smelled
"a strong odor" of fruit scented hand sanitizer and
then discovered an empty bottle of hand sanitizer in Mr.
Taylor's pocket. During the interview, Mr. Taylor denied
any involvement in the fire. Detective Roach also took a
statement from Ms. Gray. In her statement, Ms. Gray did not
tell detectives that Defendant had made a threat the previous
day about burning her house.
Anthony Arnold, a fire investigator with Memphis Fire
Services, was called to the scene to investigate the fire.
Investigators determined that two fires were set at the front
and back doors, and a third fire was set in the middle of the
house in the kitchen. The fires were started by an ignitable
liquid that was used to accelerate the fire. The location of
the fires at the doors indicated that they were
"designed to hold occupants inside" the house, and
the third fire was intended "to hasten the fire."
Mr. Arnold testified that he had "[n]o doubt" that
the fires were set intentionally.
State v. Daniel Muhammad, No. W2013-01395-CCA-R3-CD,
2014 WL 2902273, at *1-2 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 25, 2014),
perm. app. denied ...