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State v. Brown

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

December 2, 2016


          Assigned on Briefs October 25, 2016 at Knoxville

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Robertson County No. 74CC2-2014-CR-453 John H. Gasaway, III, Judge

         Jonathon D. Brown (“the Defendant”) was convicted of aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping, and theft of property over the value of $1, 000 by a Robertson County jury. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a career offender to sixty years for both the aggravated rape and especially aggravated kidnapping charges, and to twelve years for the theft charge. The trial court ordered the sentences to be served concurrently in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that venue was improper in Robertson County and that the evidence as to identity was insufficient for a rational juror to find that the Defendant was the assailant beyond a reasonable doubt. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Roger E. Nell (on appeal), Clarksville, Tennessee and Collier W. Goodlett (at trial), Springfield, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jonathon D. Brown.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Robert W. Wilson, Assistant Attorney General; John W. Carney, District Attorney General; and Jason White and John Finklea, Assistant District Attorneys 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

         On July 16, 2014, the Defendant was indicted by the Robertson County Grand Jury for two counts of aggravated rape on alternative theories, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping on alternative theories, one count of especially aggravated burglary, and one count of theft of property over the value of $1, 000. The especially aggravated burglary charge was dismissed prior to trial on the State's motion.

         Jury Trial

         At trial, Jason Ghee, a Drug Interdiction Officer for the 18th Judicial District Drug Task Force, testified that he was employed by the City of White House "to stop vehicles for valid traffic violations and try to disseminate if they are law-abiding citizens or if there is criminal activity afoot." On September 3, 2013, Officer Ghee was watching traffic drive north on I-65 and observed a green four-door Ford vehicle. Officer Ghee "initiated [his] emergency equipment" when he observed that the driver was not wearing a seatbelt and that the vehicle "crossed the lane of traffic twice." The green Ford vehicle exited I-65 onto Bethel Road and continued driving at speeds in "excess of ninety [miles per hour]." Eventually the vehicle "left the roadway" and crashed when it was unable to navigate a sharp turn in Bethel Road. After the vehicle crashed, Officer Ghee pulled into a nearby driveway and observed a black male wearing "[d]ark colored pants and [a] maroon shirt" exit the passenger side of the vehicle. Officer Ghee also saw another black male wearing "a white shirt and dark-colored pants and dark shoes" exit the vehicle and run in a southeasterly direction. Lastly, Officer Ghee observed a white female exit the car. The female and the male in the maroon shirt were apprehended within ten minutes of the crash. However, Officer Ghee was unable to apprehend the male in the white shirt, who Officer Ghee had observed driving the green Ford vehicle. Officer Ghee followed the man until the officer "came upon a large evergreen tree that [he] couldn't just run past without tactically clearing whether the person had a weapon or not . . . ." At that time, Officer Ghee informed the Millersville Police Department that he was in a "foot pursuit of a black male with dread locks wearing black pants and a white shirt." Officer Ghee noted that the victim's house was located in the direction where the male in the black pants and white shirt was traveling. Several hours after the green Ford crashed, Officer Ghee alerted Kentucky Highway Patrol Trooper David Hall to be on the lookout for "[a] dark colored Buick that [was] possibly headed towards Bowling Green."

         Jerome Inmon testified that on September 3, 2013, he was driving from Nashville to Bowling Green, Kentucky with "a white girl and [his] cousin." Mr. Inmon did not know his cousin's name but referred to him as "Curly." Mr. Inmon identified the Defendant as "Curly" and stated that he was not actually related to the Defendant. Mr. Inmon stated that the Defendant was driving the green Ford vehicle on September 3 on I-65 when they were "spotted" by two police officers near Bethel Road. When the police officers initiated a traffic stop, the Defendant did not stop the vehicle because both Mr. Inmon and the Defendant believed that there were warrants out for their arrests. Mr. Inmon testified that the police chased them down Bethel Road until the green Ford vehicle hit a pole and the occupants jumped out and ran away. Mr. Inmon testified that he and the Defendant ran in different directions but that the police detained and arrested him. Mr. Inmon stated that he had criminal charges pending in Davidson County and had "a hold out of Kentucky" but that he did not accept any "deal" for testifying against the Defendant. Mr. Inmon stated that neither he nor the Defendant had ever previously been in the area of the car crash.

         Next, H.N.[1] testified that she had lived on Bethel Road in Robertson County for approximately forty-five years with her children and now-deceased husband. On September 3, 2013, H.N. drove to Goodlettsville to "run a few errands" and returned home by noon. When she arrived home, H.N. pulled her car into the garage located in the basement of her house. H.N. walked outside of the basement and filled up her lawnmower with gas. As she got on the lawnmower, a man "jumped out" from behind two of H.N.'s other vehicles parked next to the lawnmower. H.N. got off the lawnmower and tried to run away from the assailant, but "he came up behind [her] and stopped [her]" by holding a knife to her neck. H.N. testified that she tried to alert her neighbors by saying "help, " but the assailant "pushed [her] back into the basement." The assailant told H.N. to be quiet, took her cars keys from her pants, and asked H.N. if she had any money. H.N. initially replied that she did not, but she then remembered she had placed two fifty-dollar bills in the trunk of her car. H.N. retrieved the two fifty-dollar bills from her car trunk and gave them to the assailant. Then the assailant got into the car and briefly turned on the ignition. By this time, the assailant had shut the garage door. The assailant also took off his shirt, opened the "passenger side door, " and tossed his shirt into the car. He told H.N. that "he bet [she] had money upstairs." H.N. told the assailant that the door from the basement to the house was locked and that she did not have the key. However, H.N. had laid her house keys in the tray of an old dishwasher in the basement before leaving to run errands that morning. The assailant attempted to get into the house by climbing the steps and bringing H.N. up the steps, but H.N. told the assailant that she was locked out of her house and that her children were bringing her keys to the house around 3:30 p.m.

         After he was unable to get into the house, the assailant came back down the steps and pushed H.N. against the vehicle while standing behind her. The man "unzipped [her] blue[ ]jeans and pulled them down." The assailant then pushed H.N. "around to the hood of the car" as H.N. said "I am so old, please don't do this to me." The assailant responded that her age did not matter. H.N. then felt the assailant penetrate her vagina with his penis several times, causing her pain. Additionally, the assailant put a garbage bag in her mouth to gag her. The assailant then pulled up his pants and H.N.'s pants, pushed her over to a "yard chair" in the basement, and tied her to the chair while she was still gagged with the garbage bag. H.N. recalled that the assailant used ski ropes hanging on the walls of the garage to tie each of her arms and legs to the chair, and he used "binder twine" to tie her waist to the chair. As the assailant "was getting ready to leave, " H.N. was able to see his face. H.N. saw that the assailant was a black male with a short, stocky build and that his hair was in dreadlocks. However, H.N. was unable to positively identify the Defendant as the assailant at trial.

         H.N. testified that, after the assailant tied her to the chair, he took a bottle of water and some rubber gloves that she had worn earlier that day to pull weeds. H.N. stated that the assailant put the gloves on before he left in her vehicle. H.N. testified that, before the assailant took her car, there were no gloves or knives in the vehicle.

         After the assailant left in her vehicle, H.N. was able to free her hands, move over to a phone on the garage wall, and call her son, daughter, and son-in-law. After her family members arrived, they helped H.N. to free herself from the chair and called the police. Family members gave the police the license plate number of H.N.'s stolen car and took H.N. to the hospital. H.N. testified that the assailant gave her a small cut on her cheek with his knife and that she sustained bruising on her wrists from being tied to the chair. Additionally, H.N. stated that her vaginal area was "hurting really bad" following the assault. At the hospital, the emergency room doctor examined H.N. and performed a "rape kit." While she was at the hospital, H.N. became nauseous. The doctor performed an arteriogram on H.N. and ...

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