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State v. Lamb

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

November 30, 2016


          Assigned on Briefs October 25, 2016 at Knoxville

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Rutherford County No. F-71685 David Bragg, Judge

         The defendant, April Lamb, appeals her Rutherford County Circuit Court jury conviction of aggravated assault, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to sustain her conviction and that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Daniel L. Graves II, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, April Lamb.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; William C. Whitesell, District Attorney General; and Dana Minor and Matthew Westmoreland, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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



         The Rutherford County Grand Jury charged the defendant with two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of domestic assault arising out of a physical altercation with the victim, her then-husband, Jeremy Lamb. The trial court conducted a jury trial in May 2015.

         The State's proof at trial showed that, on the evening of November 8, 2013, Officer Kenneth Collins with the Murfreesboro Police Department ("MPD") was dispatched to the parking lot of a Dollar Tree store to assist a "victim from a domestic violence assault [who] had fled to that parking lot and was waiting for police." When Officer Collins arrived, he located the vehicle matching the description from dispatch and encountered the defendant. As she got out of her vehicle, the defendant was not wearing shoes, was "very upset" and "very angry, " and "smelled of alcohol." Officer Collins quickly concluded that the defendant was intoxicated, and the defendant admitted that she had been drinking.

         The defendant told Officer Collins that, earlier in the evening, the victim awoke from a nap, "flew into a rage, " and immediately began to assault her. The defendant explained that the victim had "punched her in the head repeatedly" and "drug her around the residence" before she was able to free herself, get into her vehicle, and drive to the Dollar Tree parking lot. According to Officer Collins, the defendant made no mention of a knife, a skillet, or any injuries sustained by the victim. Officer Collins did not notice any injuries to the defendant, but he called for paramedics to transport her to the hospital for examination.

         Officer Collins testified that he initially believed the defendant's story and filled out a domestic violence report listing the defendant as the victim and the victim as the suspect. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, the defendant asked Officer Collins "[a]t least five" times if he was going to arrest the victim.

         After the defendant was transported to the hospital, Officer Collins proceeded to the Lamb residence and knocked on the door several times before the victim responded. When the victim came to the door, Officer Collins noticed that he was "badly injured" with a "large knot on top of his head that was bloody." Officer Collins also noticed that the victim was "bleeding from his arm" and had "a bite mark on his side." Through Officer Collins' testimony, the State introduced into evidence photographs of the victim's injuries. The State also introduced into evidence an iron skillet which weighed approximately eight to ten pounds and a folding knife. Officer Collins conceded that, when he first encountered the victim at the scene, the victim "smelled of alcohol, " but Officer Collins noticed no other signs of intoxication.

         When Officer Collins asked the victim what had happened to his head, the victim responded that while he had been asleep on the sofa, the defendant had struck him in the head with a skillet. He also stated that the defendant stabbed him with a knife.

         Officer Collins spoke with the defendant at the hospital a short time later and asked her to "be more specific" about the incident with the victim. At that time, the defendant stated that she "didn't remember what happened, because she had suffered a concussion." When Officer Collins asked her specifically about the skillet, she replied that it had been used "in self-defense." Officer Collins pressed the defendant to tell him more, but she continued to maintain that her concussion had impacted her memory. Officer Collins spoke with medical professionals at the hospital and was informed that the defendant did not, in fact, have a concussion. The hospital gave Officer Collins clearance to take the defendant from the hospital to the jail for booking on assault charges.

         When the defendant realized that she was being arrested, she became "extremely angry" and "belligerent, " stating to Officer Collins that she "should have just killed" the victim.

         The victim testified that he and the defendant had been drinking and arguing "[e]arlier in the day" on November 8, 2013, and that, between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m., he had fallen asleep on the sofa in their residence. He recalled waking at one point and noticing that the defendant was seated in a nearby chair. The defendant was drinking, and the victim took note that his liter of Vodka "was pretty much gone." The victim fell asleep again and was awoken some time later when the defendant hit him in the head with a skillet.

         The victim testified that the blow from the skillet "hurt quite a bit." He stood up and attempted to stop the defendant from hitting him again. In the process, he suddenly felt as though his arm were "on fire" and realized that the defendant had stabbed him in the arm with a knife. As the victim was trying to force the defendant out of the house, the defendant bit him on his side.

         The victim explained that he did not contact law enforcement officers after the defendant left the residence because he had an outstanding warrant for a violation of probation. ...

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