Assigned on Briefs at Knoxville July 26, 2016
from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 14-04181 J.
Robert Carter, Jr., Judge
Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Michael
Halliburton, as charged of one count of attempted first
degree premeditated murder, two counts of aggravated assault,
and one count of domestic assault. After imposing a sentence,
the trial court granted the defendant's motion for a new
trial and entered an order recusing itself from presiding
over the new trial. Thereafter, the State filed an
application for an extraordinary appeal pursuant to Rule 10
of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, which this
court granted. On remand, the defendant was given a new
sentencing hearing and a hearing on his motion for new trial.
The successor trial court, serving as thirteenth juror,
approved the jury's verdict and merged the
defendant's convictions for aggravated assault and
domestic assault with his attempted first degree murder
conviction before imposing a sentence of twenty-one years.
The successor court then denied the defendant's motion
for new trial. On appeal, the defendant argues: (1) the
evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions because
he was insane at the time he committed the offenses or,
alternatively, was incapable of forming the requisite
culpable mental states for the offenses; (2) the trial court
abused its discretion in admitting several items of evidence;
(3) the trial court abused its discretion in granting the
State's motion in limine and excluding the testimony of
two defense witnesses; and (4) the trial court erred in
denying his motion for a mistrial on the basis that the rule
of sequestration was violated. We affirm the judgments of the
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal
D. Ballin and Richard S. Townley, Memphis, Tennessee (on
appeal) and Blake D. Ballin (at trial) for the
Defendant-Appellant, Michael Halliburton.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David
H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney
General; Karen Cook and Samuel D. Winnig, Assistant District
Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.
Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court,
in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert H. Montgomery,
Jr., J., joined.
CAMILLE R. MCMULLEN, JUDGE
case concerns the defendant's brutal beating of his wife
with a metal knife sharpener. At trial, the defendant
asserted that he was insane at the time of the attack or,
alternatively, was incapable of forming the requisite
culpable mental states for the offenses.
Virginia Halliburton, the victim, testified that on September
6, 2012, her husband, the defendant, tried to beat her to
death with a knife sharpener after she told him she was
filing for divorce. The night before this attack, the victim
had slept in her son's room, which was empty because her
son was away at college. The defendant entered this room and
raised his fist as if to hit her. When the victim screamed,
the defendant said, "[M]aybe if I just hit you
you'll call the police and it will all be over." The
defendant then asked the victim if she had cheated on him,
and she said, "[N]o, I do not do that. I would never do
that to anybody."
following morning, the victim met with her attorney about
obtaining a divorce. When the victim picked up her daughter,
E.H.,  from school, she informed her about the
divorce. The victim later took E.H. to voice class. When they
arrived at home, the victim told the defendant she was filing
for divorce. The victim said the defendant was "not
happy" about the news and blamed her for her own
unhappiness. Despite this, the victim said she "never
argued" with the defendant at the time of the attack
because she was "not an arguing woman."
that day, the victim took E.H. to dance class and while she
was out, she called her attorney to say that she "was a
little afraid" to go home. She then corrected, stating
that she was "more than a little" afraid of going
home. When the victim and E.H. returned home at 7:45 p.m.,
they got some food in the kitchen before sitting down in the
den. The defendant, who was walking around the kitchen, was
"somewhat agitated" but not "out of
control." When E.H. went upstairs, the defendant stood
over the victim, and in a "very calm, rational voice,
" said, "[W]hen I start to hit you, you're not
going to get up, and I'm going to kill you." The
defendant took three steps into the kitchen and pulled out a
knife sharpener from a canister on the counter. The victim
realized the defendant was going to hit her, and she got on
the floor with her arms over her head. When the defendant hit
her with the knife sharpener, the victim said, "[Y]ou
need to stop [be]cause you're going to kill me, "
and the defendant replied, "[Y]es, I am."
who heard her mother's screams, came downstairs and tried
to protect her. With E.H.'s help, the victim crawled into
the kitchen where she tried to stand but fell because she was
bleeding profusely. The defendant pushed E.H. away and
continued to beat the victim on the head with the knife
sharpener. The victim "knew [she] had to get out of the
house [be]cause . . . he would kill [her]" and was
worried about what the defendant would do to their daughter.
E.H. was able to open the back door, and she helped the
victim stand. As the victim pressed the button to open the
garage door, the defendant threw her down the steps into the
garage. The victim crawled toward the mouth of the garage,
and the defendant kicked and beat her, choked her at one
point, and continued to hit her with the knife sharpener.
was eventually able to get the knife sharpener away from the
defendant, although the defendant continued to kick and beat
the victim. E.H. hit the victim's van with the knife
sharpener to attract attention and screamed for help.
Eventually, neighbors Charles Penland and Lynn Brotchner, who
had heard the victim's and E.H.'s screams, came to
their rescue. The victim said that when Penland asked the
defendant what was wrong with him, the defendant said,
"[S]he's my wife. I can beat her if I want."
result of this incident, the victim sustained several serious
cuts to her head, which required one to two hours to close
with stitches. In addition, the top of the victim's left
ring finger was severed, her lip was badly split, and her
right pinky finger was badly broken. The victim said that the
pain from her head trauma "never goes away." She
underwent two surgeries on her severed left finger and the
joint of her right pinky finger. Because of the severity of
the victim's injuries, her physicians did not release her
to return to work for six months.
victim stated that the defendant "ha[d] always been
angry" but that she was "very good at calming him
down because [she] never argued with him." She said that
while the defendant was "out of control" at some
points during the attack, "it was pretty clear he knew
exactly what he was doing" and "meant to kill
[her]." The victim admitted she never told the police
that the defendant said, "She's my wife, I can beat
her if I want to, " but insisted that the defendant made
this statement during the incident.
victim asserted that she and the defendant shared a bed until
two weeks prior to the attack. While she acknowledged
incurring a $50, 000 credit card debt, she said she paid off
this debt with her inheritance. The victim denied playing
psychological games with the defendant, such as calling him
names in front of his family. Although she admitted telling
Detective Clark after the attack that she was going to file a
civil suit and believed she could get everything, she claimed
she was only repeating what her attorney had told her.
Compton, who lived next door to the Halliburtons, testified
that around 8:00 p.m. on September 6, 2012, he and his wife
heard someone screaming. Although Mr. Compton initially
believed the noise was coming from a television show, he soon
discovered that the screaming was coming from outside. His
wife, Peggie Compton, went outside, and he followed her after
grabbing his cell phone. Mr. Compton called 9-1-1, and as he
approached the Halliburtons' home, he saw the victim
kneeling on the floor of the garage and the defendant
entering his home. He later realized the victim was
"totally covered in blood."
Compton testified that when she ran outside, she saw the
defendant in his garage striking the victim four or five
times with a long object. The victim had her hands on her
head and was in a fetal position on the floor of the garage,
and "[t]here was blood everywhere." Mrs. Compton
heard E.H. yelling, "[N]o, dad, stop, stop, " and
saw E.H. clawing at the defendant's face in an attempt to
protect her mother. When Charles Penland, another neighbor,
yelled for the defendant to stop, Mrs. Compton heard the
defendant say, "[T]his is my wife. I'll beat her if
I want to."
Penland, another neighbor, testified that he saw E.H.
wrestling with the defendant in an attempt to protect her
mother. E.H. jumped on the defendant, the defendant pushed
her off, and then E.H. ran at him again and put her hands in
his face. At the time, the defendant was beating the victim
on the head with a heavy knife sharpener that measured
approximately eighteen inches long. Although the defendant
had this weapon in one of his hands, he was using his other
hand to push his daughter away. Penland tried to get E.H.
away from her father and then saw the victim sitting with her
head down at the opening to the garage. E.H. screamed that
the defendant was going to kill her and her mother. At one
point, he heard E.H. yell, "Are you insane?, " and
heard the defendant reply, in a "contrived" way,
"[Y]es, I am insane." Penland then heard the
defendant say, "[S]he's ruined my life."
screamed at the defendant to drop the weapon, and the
defendant eventually complied. E.H. grabbed the weapon and
ran toward Penland, who took it from her. Lynn Brotchner,
another neighbor on the scene, helped the victim stand, and
Penland told the defendant not to move. The defendant
"paced a couple of times" before heading to the
garage. Penland said that although there was shovel and an
axe in the garage, the defendant never tried to attack him.
When the police arrived, Penland and some other individuals
helped the victim, who was covered in blood, walk to the
Brotchner said she saw the defendant beating the victim with
a long metal object and saw E.H. coming between the defendant
and the victim. Brotchner told the defendant to stop beating
his wife, and he eventually stopped after he struck her a few
more times. As Brotchner was on her cell phone with 9-1-1,
she heard the defendant say, "That's my wife. I can
beat her all I want."
Kevin Simpson testified that when he arrived at the scene, he
saw that the victim had a partially severed finger and that
her face and hands were covered in blood. Although the
defendant initially refused to leave the home, he eventually
left and was arrested after talking to a police negotiator.
When Officer Simpson went to the jail a few hours later to
inform the defendant of his bond, the defendant said,
"[S]he f[ ----- ] everything up and I put the icing on
the daughter of the defendant and the victim, testified that
when her father took her to school the morning of the attack,
he informed her that he and her mother "were going to
get a divorce." At the time, her father "seemed
indifferent" and "[j]ust a little upset."
Later that day, her mother picked her up from school and took
her to voice class. On the way home, her mother told her
about the divorce. Before leaving for dance class, she heard
her mother and father arguing about the impending divorce,
although her father was doing most of the yelling.
E.H. arrived home after dance class, she sat in the den while
her parents argued. Her father was yelling the loudest, and
her mother was "just kind of sitting there
silently." After going up the stairs, E.H. overheard her
father complaining about her mother's family and saying
things about why their relationship was so terrible. She
specifically remembered her father talking about how her
mother's deceased father was an alcoholic and heard him
complaining about credit card debt.
went upstairs, and a few minutes later, heard her mother
screaming for help. When E.H. came downstairs, she saw her
father in the den beating her mother with the knife
sharpener. As her mother tried to crawl away, her father hit
her repeatedly, and her mother's blood was
"[e]verywhere." E.H. tried to stop her father by
screaming at him, trying to get the knife sharpener away from
him, and clawing at his eyes, but he continued to beat her
mother. Despite these efforts, her father never struck her
with the knife sharpener or hurt her, although he continued
to beat the victim. When asked if her father even knew she
was present during the attack, E.H. replied, "[It
s]eemed like I was just something in the way of stopping him
from getting to my mom." As the victim tried to crawl
away, the attack moved to the kitchen and the back door of
the house. When E.H. finally got the knife sharpener away
from her father, he began kicking her mother in the head
before getting the weapon back. When the defendant pushed the
victim down the steps at the back door, the defendant, the
victim, and E.H. ended up in the garage. Although the garage
door was initially closed, someone pushed the button to open
the garage door. Once in the garage, the defendant struggled
to get to the victim, and E.H. tried to stop him by screaming
for help. Her mother crawled to the opening of the garage,
and when E.H. took the knife sharpener to hit her
father's car to alert the neighbors, her father started
kicking and hitting her mother, and she returned to her
mother's side. Eventually some neighbors, including
Charles Penland, arrived to help them. The neighbors walked
her mother down the driveway, and E.H. stayed near her father
to ensure that he would not go after her mother again. While
she and her father were standing at the open garage door,
E.H. asked her father if he was crazy, and he "said that
he was crazy." Following this attack, E.H. and her
mother were covered in blood, although her father had less
blood on him. E.H. said she had never seen her father put his
hands on her mother prior to that night.
Childress testified that she was the 9-1-1 dispatcher who
answered the defendant's call after police officers
surrounded his home. When the defendant said he wanted to
surrender, Childress connected the defendant to a police
negotiator, Captain Marc Molina, who was just outside the
defendant's house. The recorded conversation between the
defendant, Childress, and Captain Molina was played for the
jury. During a portion of the lengthy 9-1-1 call, the
defendant made the following statements:
Well my wife ran up huge credit card debts and then we paid
them off and then she tells me she wants a divorce and that
we don't make enough money to-for her. That she will
never care about me and I will never, she will never make me
happy and I will never make her happy. And I begged and
pleaded with her to please let's go to marriage
counseling and she just basically said, "Screw you"
and I just lost it.
. . . .
. . . I mean I f[-----] up here, I mean I lost it, I just, I
just lost it, I was just standing there and then I was mad
and I was yelling and then she just looked at me like I was a
piece of shit and I just lost it.
. . . .
I messed it up so bad I didn't care what happened to me
afterwards, I don't care, now I'm like looking at
okay it's really real now, I f[-----] up, I'm there.
. . . .
Well I keep having anger problems. I've never raised a
hand at her. She likes to beat me down to nothing and when
I-I'm getting mad, I'm getting angry, now she's
telling me that our house is too small, our, you know, you
know, [I'm] messed up because of my dad and my
mother-denigrates my family all of the time. Here she's
got her family, they're all millionaires but they're
all like-her dad exposing himself to girls in the
neighborhood-and you know her sister like had multiple
affairs, screws people and gets their money and then the
brother like sleeps with men on the internet, I mean it's
just bizarre, you know, and I'm talked about like I'm
a piece of trash.
. . . .
. . . [T]here's two resolutions, either I kill myself or
I walk outside and I go to jail.
. . . .
I just snapped, I just lost it, I totally lost it, I
couldn't, I just can't believe that this person did
this to me after all the time I put into this relationship,
[she] throws it all up in [my] face.
. . . .
Yeah, I mean they just burn people down and they walk from
it. They don't even bat an eye. Her brother like stole
$400, 000 from her dad and they all like just walk away.
Nobody batted an eye, unbelievable. Her sister did the same
thing to some other guy and then there's her other two
brothers and they just walk away. And after 22 years
she's just like, "Okay, well, all right, I'm
walking away." Nice to know ya.
Marc Molina testified that he convinced the defendant to exit
the front door of his home after they had a lengthy
conversation. He said the defendant was "relatively calm
and quiet" as he was placed in the back of the police
car. Although the defendant talked about committing suicide
during the negotiation process, Captain Molina believed that
the defendant was "rationalizing what his options were
at the time" and did not appear to be "suicidal or
homicidal" as he was being placed in the back of a
police car. He added that although the defendant was in a
state of distress and panic during the 9-1-1 call, he was
calm by the time he was taken into custody. Captain Molina
said the defendant asked about his wife's condition
during their phone call.
Ginny Tibbels, the officer who transported the defendant to
jail, testified that the defendant appeared calm, though
"[a] little disheveled, " when he was brought to
her patrol car. During the ride to the jail, the defendant
told her that his handcuffs were so loose that they were
slipping off his hands. Officer Tibbels said the defendant
was not so bloody that she had to clean the back of her
patrol car after transporting him to the jail.
Kim Clark, who photographed the crime scene and took the
victim's statement, testified that her photographs
depicted a trail of blood from the den into the kitchen and
the garage. Upon arriving at the hospital, Detective Clark
saw that the victim had a lip that was split up to her nose,
had numerous lacerations to the top of her head, and had
blood running down her face. She also saw that the tip of the
victim's left ring finger had been severed and was
bandaged and that her pinky finger on her right hand had been
broken. Detective Clark took additional photographs of the
victim's injuries when she came to the police department
to give a statement five days after the incident. The
injuries to the victim's head were more visible at that
point because her head had been shaved to stitch up her
lacerations and her black eye and the bruises on her body
were more visible. Several photographs of the crime scene and
the victim's injuries were published to the jury.
Detective Clark said she had collected E.H.'s bloody
clothes from the attack, and these were also published to the
Halliburton, the defendant's and victim's son who was
away at college at the time of the incident, testified that
his parents "did on occasion have disagreements."
On the day of the incident, Taylor said his father called him
at 5:30 p.m. to let him know that he and the victim were
getting a divorce. During this conversation, his father
sounded "very calm, collected[.]" Around 8:00 p.m.,
the defendant told Taylor "that he had just tried to
murder [his] mother, and that he was expecting the police
swat team to come in and get him from the house any
minute." He said his father sounded calm, just as he did
during the first call, but also a little
"agitated." Taylor was surprised to learn about the
attack because it was out of character for his father. He
said he had never seen his father become violent with anyone
defendant called three individuals, Maureen Bagwell, Katyusha
Pehlivanlva, and Susan Ferkin, as character witnesses. All
three women were teachers at the high school where the
defendant taught, and they testified as to the
defendant's character and reputation for truthfulness.
Bagwell stated that she "never doubted anything that
[the defendant] told [her]." She said that the defendant
was a "[v]ery peaceful person" and "[a] very
gentle person" and that it would surprise her if the
defendant had a mental disorder. Pehlivanlva testified that
she once saw the defendant with his daughter at an opera
concert and that he appeared to be a "calm and
tender" father. She said the defendant told her it was
"[v]ery tough" to leave his son at college.
Pehlivanlva said she believed that the defendant was a
truthful and peaceful person and that he had never acted like
he was mentally ill. Ferkin testified that the defendant
never looked like he was suffering from a mental disorder.
She said the defendant ...