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State v. Vaughn

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

December 6, 2016


          Assigned on Briefs October 4, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. 15-231 Donald H. Allen, Judge

         The Defendant, Harold Allen Vaughn, and his co-defendants, were indicted by a Madison County Grand Jury for attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, especially aggravated kidnapping, and especially aggravated robbery. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of attempted first degree murder resulting in serious bodily injury, aggravated assault, and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the aggravated assault conviction into the attempted first degree murder conviction and sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of twenty-five years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions and that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that his co-defendant was an accomplice as a matter of law. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court but remand for entry of a judgment form as to count two reflecting that the Defendant's aggravated assault conviction was merged with count one.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed and Remanded for Entry of Corrected Judgments.

          Gregory D. Gookin, Assistant District Public Defender, Jackson, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Harold Allen Vaughn.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Brian M. Gilliam, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.



         This case concerns the robbery and shooting of the victim, Christopher Tompkins. The Defendant, and his co-defendants, James N. Martin and Bethany Lashun Long, were subsequently arrested and charged with attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, especially aggravated kidnapping and especially aggravated robbery. The Defendant filed a motion to sever his case from his co-defendants' cases, and the trial court granted the motion.[1] Following a trial, the court dismissed the kidnapping charge, and the Defendant was otherwise convicted as charged.

         Christopher Tompkins testified that, on November 24, 2014, he traveled by bus to Jackson, Tennessee from Memphis, Tennessee to pick up a vehicle for his employer. After learning that the vehicle was disabled, Tompkins walked to a nearby Love's Truck Stop to call his friend for a ride back to Memphis. While waiting on his ride, he met Bethany Long, an employee at the Hardee's restaurant at the Love's Truck Stop. He also met Long's boyfriend, the Defendant, and the Defendant's friend, James Martin. As Tompkins was leaving the truck stop, the Defendant offered to give him a ride if his friend did not show up, and they exchanged phone numbers. Shortly after the Defendant left, Tompkins called him and offered to pay $100 if the Defendant would drive him to Memphis, and the Defendant agreed. The Defendant then returned to the gas station, along with Martin, to pick up Tompkins. Tompkins testified that the Defendant and Martin arrived in a silver car with an unknown female driver. Shortly after leaving the gas station, the female driver said she had a family emergency, and she drove Tompkins, the Defendant, and Martin to the Defendant's car at the Lincoln Courts apartment complex. After getting in the Defendant's car, Tompkins, the Defendant, and Martin drove to another gas station where Tompkins purchased gas for the car and two beers. The Defendant then drove to pick up his girlfriend, Long, so she could drive the Defendant's car to Memphis.

         Tompkins testified that shortly after Long began driving to Memphis she pulled off the interstate because she was sick. The Defendant then got in the driver's seat and began driving away from the interstate and into a rural area. Tompkins tracked their route by GPS on his phone and told the Defendant he was going the wrong way, which the Defendant denied.

         After driving further away from the interstate, the Defendant suddenly stopped the vehicle on an unlit road and asked Tompkins to help him with his headlights, which he claimed were not working correctly. Tompkins declined and instead suggested that Martin help the Defendant with his headlights. Martin exited the car to assist the Defendant with his headlights. Tompkins remained in the car and texted his friend the name of the road he was on and told her to call the police because "something is up with this guy." The Defendant then appeared at the passenger side of the car and pointed a gun in Tompkins's face.

         The Defendant held Tompkins at gunpoint and directed Martin to search him. The Defendant and Martin searched Tompkins while he was still seated in the car and then pulled him out of the car and continued to search him, taking Tompkins's wallet, phone, tablet, and two bags of personal belongings and clothes, which were in the back seat of the car. Tompkins testified that the Defendant then pushed the gun to his temple and told him to get on the ground. As Tompkins began to comply, he testified that he "looked up to the right where the gun [was], and as [he] did that, [the Defendant] pulled the trigger." The first bullet went through Tompkins's jaw, ricocheted off his back tooth, and came to rest in his mouth. After the first shot, Tompkins began running and was subsequently shot four more times. The second shot grazed his neck, the third and fourth shots landed in his upper right arm, and the fifth shot hit him in the back. Tompkins continued to run while being shot and eventually ran into the nearby woods to hide. Tompkins testified that the pain "was probably the worst I've felt in my life" and that he was in shock and bleeding but able to walk. After waiting for the group to drive away, Tompkins walked to a nearby house where the resident called 911.

         Regarding his injuries, Tompkins testified that he was required to wear a brace on his right arm for seven months and confirmed that he no longer had full use of his right arm. Tompkins was in the hospital for about two days, required physical therapy for his arm, and saw a specialist for the bullet wound to his jaw. Tompkins also testified that he was still in pain at trial and that he had permanent scarring on his face from the bullet wound. Tompkins explained that the experience was "continuous" to him and that he thought it probably occurred in a total "25, 30 seconds." Tompkins confirmed that he had "[n]o question whatsoever" that the Defendant was the one who shot him and identified the Defendant multiple times at trial. Tompkins also identified the Defendant, Martin, and Long from a photograph taken from Hardee's surveillance footage and verified a photograph of the Defendant's black TransAm that the group was riding in that night.

         On cross-examination, Tompkins admitted that they were smoking marijuana in the silver car that first picked him up at Love's Truck Stop and that he had consumed about five ounces of the beer he had purchased. Tompkins testified that, although it was dark outside at the time of the shooting, the dome light in the car was on and he could clearly identify the Defendant.

         Bethany Long testified that, on November 24, 2014, she was working at the Hardee's restaurant at Love's Truck Stop in Jackson, Tennessee. Long confirmed that Tompkins approached her while she was working and offered her $100 to drive him to Memphis. Long testified that she told Tompkins she did not have a car and that her boyfriend was picking her up after work. Long identified the Defendant at trial and confirmed that they had been dating for approximately five months at the time of the incident. The Defendant and Martin came to the Hardee's restaurant to visit Long while she was working, and then the Defendant returned later to take her home from work.

         Long testified that, later that night, the Defendant picked her up at her grandmother's house with Tompkins and Martin in the car. Long testified that she drove the Defendant's car because she had a driver's license and the Defendant did not. After she began driving on the interstate towards Memphis, Long testified that the Defendant told her to drive to his mother's house instead. Long said that she refused and told the Defendant that he would have to drive, so she pulled over and they switched seats. Long also testified that she was feeling sick at the time and was pregnant. When the Defendant got to his mother's house, he kept driving and told Long that they were going to "take the back roads to Memphis."

         Long testified that when the Defendant pulled over to check his headlight, it was not unusual, because the headlights on his car often stopped working. While the Defendant and Martin were at the front of the car, Long testified that she assisted by turning the lights on and off when suddenly "somebody told us to get out [of] the car." Long testified that she got out of the car and "the next thing I heard was, [g]et on the ground, and . . . the next thing I know, I heard a gunshot." After the shooting, Long got back in the car, "panicked" and "drove off" with the Defendant and Martin in the car. As they were driving away, Tompkins's phone began ringing, and Long said that Martin made her stop the car to get out and break the phone. Long testified that she began driving back to Jackson and that, after a while, Martin "started freaking out" and demanded to be let out of the car. As Martin exited the vehicle, Long said "it sounded like something hit the ground" and that she "assum[ed] it could possibly be the gun." Long stated that, after the shooting, the Defendant never appeared upset or said anything about what happened. On cross-examination, Long confirmed that Tompkins, the Defendant, and Martin all smoked marijuana in the car and that Tompkins was also drinking a beer.

         James Martin testified that, on November 24, 2014, he was visiting his mother in Jackson while on Thanksgiving break from Virginia. Martin testified that he had known the Defendant for "about a year or two." He recalled that, on the night of the incident, the Defendant picked him up to hang out and ride around. Martin admitted that he was smoking marijuana that night but testified that the Defendant did not smoke. Martin testified that, while he and the Defendant were eating at Hardee's waiting on the Defendant's girlfriend to get off work, Tompkins approached them and asked for a ride to Memphis. Martin confirmed that he, the Defendant, and a female friend of the Defendant's later picked up Tompkins at the Love's Truck Stop. He testified that they next went to the Defendant's car and picked up Long so she could drive to Memphis because the Defendant's license was suspended. Martin testified that after Long began driving on the interstate, she said she felt sick and pulled over so the Defendant could drive.

         Martin recalled that the Defendant began driving into a rural area and then pulled over to check his headlights and told Martin to help him. Martin testified that when he and the Defendant were standing outside checking the headlights, the Defendant told him to "[g]o over there and get [Tompkins] out of the car" and he tried to hand Martin a gun. Martin testified that, when he refused to take the gun, the Defendant got angry and walked over to Tompkins, put the gun in his face, and told him, "[D]on't move or I'll shoot you." Martin testified that the Defendant then made him check Tompkins's pockets and that he took Tompkins's wallet and cell phone and put it in the back seat of the car. Martin testified that he did not want to search Tompkins but that "[the Defendant] had a gun. I didn't think I had a choice." Martin testified that he told the Defendant that Tompkins did not have anything else and to "let him go, " but that the Defendant still forced Tompkins out of the car and onto the ground.

         After he heard the gunshots, Martin testified that he ran away from the Defendant to the other side of the car because he was scared. The Defendant got back in the car, told Martin to get inside, and Long drove them away. Martin testified that, as they were driving away, the Defendant made Long turn the car around so he could "see if [Tompkins] was still out there, " and that, after stopping to look for him, they drove away again. When Tompkins's phone began ringing, Martin testified that the Defendant made him take the phone, break it, and leave it on the side of the road. Martin testified that the Defendant had the gun in his lap while they were in the car after the shooting and that he later gave Martin the gun and told him, "[D]on't get caught with it." Martin said that he took the gun because "[he] felt like [he] had to" and he was "listening] to everything [the Defendant] said." When he got out of ...

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