Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session April 19, 2016
from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2012-C-2035
J. Randall Wyatt, Jr., Judge.
Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Rodney Earl
Jones, of first degree felony murder and especially
aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced him to life for
the first degree murder conviction and to twenty years for
the especially aggravated robbery conviction, ordering the
sentences to be served consecutively. On appeal, the
Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it
denied his motion for severance; (2) the trial court erred
when it failed to instruct the jury about his
co-defendant's out of court statements; and (3) the
evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After
review, we affirm the Defendant's convictions.
R. App. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal Court
Jeff Cherry and Christopher Beauchamp, Lebanon, Tennessee,
for the appellant, Rodney Earl Jones.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent
C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney
General; and Brian Ewald, Assistant District Attorney
General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which John Everett Williams and Norma McGee Ogle, JJ.,
W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE
case arises from the murder of the victim, Victor M. Parham,
which occurred on or about March 14, 2012. For this murder, a
Davidson County grand jury indicted the Defendant and two
co-defendants, Alberto Conde-Valentino and Xavier
Tull-Morales, for the first degree felony murder and
especially aggravated robbery of Victor M. Parham. The
Defendant filed a motion to sever, which the trial court
denied. At the Defendant's trial on these charges, the
parties presented the following evidence: Carlos Burroughs
testified through an interpreter that he was incarcerated
serving a sentence for DUI at the time of the trial. Mr.
Burroughs said that he and the victim had been friends since
the third grade and that they were like brothers. The two,
who had been roommates for several years, spoke by telephone
every day and saw each other frequently. Mr. Burroughs stated
that he and the victim lived together at a residence on Allen
Road ("Allen Road Residence") in Donelson,
Tennessee. Mr. Burroughs eventually moved out, and the victim
remained living at the Allen Road Residence.
Burroughs described the victim, saying that he was good with
his family and never had a problem with anyone. Mr. Burroughs
knew the victim's girlfriend, Starnesha Grant, and his
brother, Darius Parham. Mr. Burroughs said the victim owned a
lawn care service. Mr. Burroughs said that the victim never
discussed selling drugs, and Mr. Burroughs was not aware that
the victim engaged in this activity.
Burroughs testified that he called the victim around 12:00
p.m. on his last day of DUI class. The two spoke on the
telephone, laughing, and the victim said that he had to go to
his house. When Mr. Burroughs got out of his class late that
evening, he again tried to call the victim. When the victim
did not answer either of his phones, which was unusual, Mr.
Burroughs began calling other people to determine the
victim's whereabouts. Mr. Burroughs said that he called
the victim's girlfriend, Ms. Grant, who at first seemed
unconcerned. She called him back and inexplicably said that
she did not want to go to the Allen Road Residence alone. She
came and picked up Mr. Burroughs, and the two of them went to
the Allen Road Residence together at around 8:00 or 9:00 p.m.
Mr. Burroughs recalled that, when Ms. Grant picked him up,
she was driving the victim's car, which was not unusual.
Burroughs said that he looked around the victim's home,
finding all the doors locked and the lights off. Ms.
Grant's car, which the victim often drove, was parked in
the driveway. Mr. Burroughs said that Ms. Grant seemed
"nervous" and repeatedly asked him to break into
the home. Mr. Burroughs declined and suggested they contact
the victim's brother, Mr. Parham, who lived with the
victim at the time. Mr. Burroughs said that he assumed that
the victim was with a friend, and the idea that he was dead
never occurred to him.
Burroughs said that he returned home, wanting to contact Mr.
Parham before entering the residence. He asked Ms. Grant to
keep him apprised of any developments. Ms. Grant and Mr.
Parham contacted him the next morning, and he went back to
the Allen Road Residence, where police were investigating a
crime scene. Mr. Burroughs said that he stayed at the
residence until police removed the victim's body from the
Burroughs said that, a few weeks later, he and several of the
victim's friends and family were back at the Allen Road
Residence cleaning. The victim's cousin found a bullet on
the floor, and they called the police. The police asked
several questions with regard to the bullet.
cross-examination, Mr. Burroughs testified that when the
bullet was found the group left it on the floor untouched.
During further cross-examination, Mr. Burroughs agreed the
victim had two phones, explaining that one was a work phone
and the other a personal phone.
redirect examination, Mr. Burroughs testified that, after Ms.
Grant dropped him off that evening before victim's body
was found, she called him later to ask him whether he thought
the victim would mind if Ms. Grant allowed Mr. Parham to
sleep at her residence that evening. She wanted to know
whether Mr. Burroughs thought that this would make the victim
angry. Mr. Burroughs told her that he thought it was fine.
Grant testified that she was a twenty-eight year old
grievance analyst for CVS pharmacy. At the time of these
events, Ms. Grant attended Cumberland University as a nursing
student and also cared for her daughter, who was seven at the
time. Ms. Grant recalled that she and the victim had dated
for three years at the time of his death. Ms. Grant said that
the victim owned several vehicles, one was a work truck and
the others were personal cars. She said that she often drove
the victim's two-door car, and he drove her four-door car
because they liked each other's cars better.
Grant acknowledged that the victim sold drugs. She said that
he sold marijuana, prescription pills, and ecstasy. Ms. Grant
said that the victim had cash on-hand at all times, sometimes
in large amounts. Ms. Grant said that, if the victim carried
this money with him, he would place it in different locations
on his person. For example, he would store some of the cash
in his shoes and some in his pockets. In this way, the victim
attempted to avoid detection as a drug dealer if stopped by
police. Ms. Grant said that when the police first questioned
her about the victim's drug dealing she did not answer
honestly and denied that the victim sold drugs.
Grant confirmed that Mr. Burroughs and the victim were as
close as brothers. She said that the two contacted each other
daily. She also recalled meeting the victim's brother,
Mr. Parham, after Mr. Parham was released from jail a few
months before the victim's murder. Ms. Grant said that
Mr. Parham was living in the victim's Allen Road
Residence, which was the reason that the victim still rented
the residence. The victim had obtained an apartment nearby
but kept the Allen Road Residence for Mr. Parham.
Grant said that there was only one key to the Allen Road
Residence because she had broken the spare key. She said that
this sometimes posed a problem because the victim insisted on
keeping the only key, so Mr. Parham was sometimes locked out
of the residence. Ms. Grant said that the victim had two
phones, one of which she had recently purchased for him as a
Valentine's Day gift. Ms. Grant said that, routinely, the
victim immediately responded to her calls if he did not
answer, either by calling her back or responding by text.
Grant said that she knew the Defendant because the Defendant
had previously lived with the victim. Ms. Grant recounted
that the Defendant and the victim lived together before she
and the victim began dating, but the victim had introduced
her to the Defendant on several occasions. Ms. Grant said the
victim could not drive because of his multiple DUI
convictions, so she sometimes drove the victim places. She
said she drove him to the Defendant's house "a
couple of times."
Grant recalled the events surrounding her finding the victim
dead. She said that the victim had spent the night with her,
and the two awoke together on March 14, 2012. Ms. Grant awoke
at 8:00 a.m. because she had to go to work, and the victim
returned to sleep in her bed. When she arrived at work, her
outfit did not meet the dress code, so she returned home to
change. When she arrived home briefly to change, she found
the victim still asleep in bed. Ms. Grant said that she went
to work and did not speak with the victim all day. After
work, but before her night class, she went to the Allen Road
Residence. Ms. Grant, who was driving the victim's black
car, saw her white car, which he sometimes drove, parked and
unlocked at the residence. She found this unusual. She
assumed this meant that the victim had just run into his
house for a minute and intended to return quickly. Ms. Grant
smoked some marijuana and texted the victim to tell him that
she was in the driveway. She then placed the remainder of her
marijuana in the trunk of the white car.
Grant said that, when the victim did not text her back, she
became concerned. She knocked on the door and looked around
the house. After seeing nothing, she decided to leave and go
to her class. As she was leaving, she thought she saw
something in the window and went again and knocked on the
door. Getting no response, Ms. Grant left and went to her
class. Ms. Grant said that she and the victim's brother
Mr. Parham texted each other during her class, and he asked
her whereabouts. She left her class at 8:30 p.m., retrieved
her daughter, and then went back to the Allen Road Residence.
There, she retrieved the marijuana from the trunk of the
white car, finding it strange that there were no lights on in
the house and that the white car was still unlocked. Ms.
Grant said that, because she had her daughter with her, she
did not knock on the doors of the residence because she
needed to get her daughter home and in bed.
Grant recalled that, when she arrived home, she started
repeatedly calling the victim. When she did not get an
answer, she started calling the local jails, the hospitals,
and the victim's friends. Ms. Grant said she asked her
neighbors to watch her sleeping daughter, and she asked Mr.
Burroughs to go with her to the victim's house. She said
that the two checked the house, again finding no answer, and
she asked Mr. Burroughs to break a window. He declined,
saying that the victim would be upset about the broken
window. The two then left the residence.
Grant testified that she drove Mr. Burroughs back to his
residence while continuing to attempt to contact the
victim's brother and friends. She spoke with Mr. Parham,
who also seemed concerned about the victim's welfare. He
informed her that, because the Allen Road Residence was
locked, he did not have anywhere to stay the night. He asked
to stay at her apartment. Ms. Grant called Mr. Burroughs
because the victim had previously expressed concern about Mr.
Parham staying at her apartment. Mr. Burroughs agreed that
the victim would approve, so she allowed Mr. Parham to stay
following morning, March 15, 2012, the victim's mother
contacted her and asked if she had spoken with the victim,
and she informed the victim's mother that she had not.
Ms. Grant and Mr. Parham dropped off her daughter at daycare
at 6:00 a.m. and went to the victim's house. Mr. Parham
"popped a lock" on the door, and the two entered
the house. They immediately saw the victim lying on his
stomach on the floor. They also saw a knife on the floor, so
she thought someone had stabbed the victim. Ms. Grant said
that she turned the victim over and attempted to resuscitate
him, believing that she could save him. Mr. Parham called
911. She at some point spoke with the operator and expressed
that she was a nursing student and attempting to save the
Grant recalled that both she and Mr. Parham felt devastated
by finding the victim dead. At one point, Mr. Parham, who was
crying, punched a hole in one of the walls. When the
emergency responders arrived, they asked Ms. Grant and Mr.
Parham to wait outside. Ms. Grant recalled crying and being
upset. The victim's mother arrived. The police also
arrived, and a police officer transported Ms. Grant to the
police station where she provided a statement. Ms. Grant said
that she consented to the police searching her home and car
and to swabbing her hands for gunshot residue. The police
took the phones that she had in the black car. On the day of
the victim's funeral, Ms. Grant deleted text messages
from her personal cell phone that related to drug dealing
activities. She said that she did this because she did not
want to lose custody of her daughter.
cross-examination, Ms. Grant testified that she knew that
there was a surveillance system at the Allen Road Residence,
and she knew how to turn it on and off. She believed that it
recorded to a VHS tape. She denied taking the tape out of the
surveillance system, saying that she did not go upstairs in
the residence that day. Ms. Grant agreed that she knew that
drug deals occurred at the Allen Road Residence, but she
denied participating in any of those. She said she
participated in other drug deals. She said that she
"exchanged money for drugs" but denied that she was
a "drug dealer." During further cross-examination,
Ms. Grant testified that she had no explanation for why her
phone and the victim's phone were "pinging from the
same address" after she found his body. She agreed that
she initially declined to give the police her phone because
it was her only method of communication. She said that a
police officer saw her delete a text message about selling
five Lortabs. The officer then took the phone from her.
Grant testified that the victim owned an AK47 assault rifle
or some other type of rifle. He also owned another weapon,
but she was unsure of the make or model of it. He routinely
kept those weapons at the Allen Road Residence. She said that
the victim did not keep his weapons at her home but that
police found a box of .380 ammunition at her house, which she
said belonged to the victim. Ms. Grant said that the victim
was a convicted felon, so she sometimes purchased ammunition
Parham testified that the victim was his older brother. Mr.
Parham said that he moved into the Allen Road Residence
almost two weeks before the victim died. The two planned to
move, so the victim never made Mr. Parham a key for the
residence. Mr. Parham recalled that the victim had a
surveillance camera, explaining that the victim's room
was far from the front door, and the camera enabled him to
see who had arrived at the residence. Mr. Parham recalled
that the victim was very close with Mr. Burroughs, saying
that the two spoke regularly.
Parham said that, the day before the victim died, Mr. Parham
was away from the residence and, when he returned, he called
the victim to let him into the Allen Road Residence. The
victim did not answer his phone and did not call him back,
which was unusual. Eventually Mr. Parham contacted Ms. Grant,
and he spoke with Mr. Burroughs, both of whom had not heard
from the victim.
Parham testified that he did not have anywhere to stay the
night before he found the victim's body, so he asked Ms.
Grant if he could stay at her residence for the night. She
agreed, and he went to her home late that evening. Mr. Parham
recalled that Ms. Grant told him that she had called the
local jails and the hospital looking for the victim. Mr.
Parham slept in the living room.
Parham said that, when he awoke the next morning, he and Ms.
Grant took her daughter to daycare, and then she went to the
Allen Road Residence. He said that he used his identification
card to open the lock of the door, and he immediately saw a
knife on the floor. Thinking the victim had been stabbed, Mr.
Parham flipped the victim over. Mr. Parham said that he knew
that the victim was dead because he was "too hard"
to be alive. Mr. Parham said Ms. Grant tried to resuscitate
the victim, but he knew that it was too late. He called 911,
and he said he had listened to the 911 recording, upon which
he and Ms. Grant sounded upset. Mr. Parham said that because
he was so upset over his brother's death, he punched a
hole in one of the walls. Mr. Parham said that police
officers questioned him, took his fingerprints, and tested
his hands for gunshot residue.
Parham recalled that, a couple of weeks later when he and
some other relatives and friends were cleaning the
victim's house, he found a bullet on the floor where the
victim's body had been lying. He said that they called
the police, who responded and took pictures.
cross-examination, Mr. Parham testified that he was not aware
that the victim sold drugs from the residence, believing that
this activity was in his past. He said that several people
had access to the residence during the time between the
victim's death and the time they found the bullet. This
included the property owner, his mother, his uncle, and
himself. On redirect, Mr. Parham agreed that he
"maybe" stated, "some bitch must have done
this." He explained that he believed that the victim
suffered a stab wound and that only a woman would stab
Pinson testified that she did not want and was scared to
testify. Ms. Pinson recalled that, at the time of the
victim's death, she lived in a housing project in
Davidson County. A man named Xavier Tull-Morales, a
codefendant in this case, resided in a home behind Ms.
Pinson's home in a housing project. She recalled that the
two became acquainted and eventually became friends, seeing
each other daily. Their relationship was not a romantic one,
but she got the impression that he was romantically
interested in her. Through co-defendant Tull-Morales, Ms.
Pinson met the Defendant and co-defendant Conde-Valentino.
Pinson testified that co-defendants Tull-Morales and
Conde-Valentino were frequently together. Co-defendant
Conde-Valentino came to co-defendant Tull-Morales's home
every day and sometimes stayed there for days at a time.
Co-defendant Conde-Valentino's residence was in Dodge
City, where he lived with his mother. Ms. Pinson said,
however, that co-defendant Conde-Valentino came to the
neighborhood frequently because his girlfriend also lived in
Pinson said that the two co-defendants would sometimes come
to her home, which she shared with her two children and her
fifteen-year-old sister, of whom she had custody. They also
engaged in social activities together, but Ms. Pinson never
went to co-defendant Tull-Morales's home because his
older sister, Kathy, who lived with him did not like Ms.
Pinson. Co-defendants Tull-Morales and Conde-Valentino told
her that they were cousins.
Pinson said that she also met the Defendant through
co-defendant Tull-Morales because the Defendant and
co-defendant Tull Morales were friends. Ms. Pinson's
friend, Patri, who was also related to co-defendants
Tull-Morales and Conde-Valentino, dated the Defendant. When
Patri visited Ms. Pinson, the Defendant came to see her there
on several occasions. Ms. Pinson knew the Defendant, who
spoke fluent Spanish and drove a black SUV.
Pinson recalled a day in March 2012 when the three men came
to her home. The Defendant drove there and approached her
back porch on foot. The other two co-defendants walked toward
her back porch also. At the time, co-defendant Tull-Morales
began bragging that he was going to "rob somebody."
Ms. Pinson did not take this statement seriously because
co-defendant Tull-Morales had made similar statements in the
past, as had the other men, but never carried through with
them. Ms. Pinson said she had seen co-defendant Tull-Morales
rob someone in the past, but he used a water gun and did not
hurt the victim.
Pinson said that both co-defendant Conde-Valentino and the
Defendant were present when co-defendant Tull-Morales made
his statement. She also said that co-defendant
Conde-Valentino made similar statements at the time about
robbing someone. The Defendant stated that they could get
drugs and money from the robbery. Ms. Pinson said that none
of the men discussed the intended victim or location of the
crime. She did not see a weapon in their possession until the
men got into the Defendant's car, at which time she saw
the Defendant and co-defendant Conde-Valentino each with a
weapon. Ms. Pinson said that, while co-defendant Tull-Morales
said that he had a weapon, he was unarmed.
Pinson said that she did not see the three men again until
dark that night. The three men came to her home, and she
noted that co-defendant Tull-Morales had a lot of blood on
his hands and shirt. He changed his shirt at her home. Ms.
Pinson also saw that co-defendant Tull-Morales was carrying
two baggies that she thought contained drugs; one baggie
appeared to contain cocaine and the other appeared to contain
pills. He also had "a lot of money" with him.
Co-defendant Conde-Valentino also had a similar amount of
blood on his shirt and hands as co-defendant Tull-Morales,
and he also changed his shirt. Ms. Pinson said that, when the
two men were upstairs changing, she saw them use the drugs
that they had in their possession. Ms. Pinson said that the
Defendant did not use the drugs. She also recalled that he
only had a small smear of blood on his hand and none on his
Pinson testified that, when both co-defendants removed their
shirts, they placed them in a grocery plastic bag, which they
gave to the Defendant. The Defendant left her home with the
Pinson testified that co-defendant Tull-Morales told her what
had happened. He said that he had waited in the car for a
long time and then went up to the residence, knocked on the
door, and said he had to go to the bathroom. The occupant of
the home let him enter, he walked past the man, and then he
shot him. Ms. Pinson said co-defendant Tull-Morales said that
"he blew his face off." He made these statements,
she said, in the presence of the other two defendants. Ms.
Pinson noted that co-defendant Tull-Morales seemed "very
messed up off drugs" at the time he made these
statements. His words were slurred but he did not seem tired.
Pinson said that co-defendant Conde-Valentino said that he
stabbed the robbery victim and had "unloaded" on
him. He made this statement in the presence of both
co-defendants. Ms. Pinson confirmed that co-defendant
Conde-Valentino was "shaky, " "nervous, "
and that he kept saying that he was going to go to jail.
Co-defendant Conde-Valentino then threw up multiple times.
Ms. Pinson said that the two co-defendants began arguing, and
the Defendant seemed like he did not know what either of them
was talking about. Ms. Pinson took from their conversation
that the men had already divided up the proceeds of the
robbery but that co-defendants Conde-Valentino and
Tull-Morales were both upset because they felt their portion
Pinson said that the Defendant told her to keep her
"mouth shut" about what she had heard in her
apartment. Other than that, he "pretended like nothing
Pinson said she asked the men to leave, saying that her kids
were asleep. She said she "got them out as fast as [she]
could." She said she did not receive any drugs or money
from them. The men also were no longer in possession of the
weapons she had seen them with earlier. Ms. Pinson testified
that she did ...