January 27, 2016
Appeal from the Court of Criminal Appeals Criminal Court for
Knox County No. 86216B Walter C. Kurtz, Senior
imposed two sentences of death on the defendant after
convicting him of multiple counts of first degree murder,
especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated
kidnapping, aggravated rape, and facilitation of aggravated
rape. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions
and sentences. State v. Davidson, No.
E2013-00394-CCA-R3-DD, 2015 WL 1087126, at *1 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Mar. 10, 2015). We have carefully considered the
defendant's claims of error and conducted the review
mandated by Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-206. We
hold that the trial court did not err by admitting evidence
obtained during searches of the defendant's house and of
his person; the trial court did not err by admitting the
defendant's statement to law enforcement officers; the
trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the
victims' family members to wear buttons containing images
of the victims; the trial court did not abuse its discretion
by admitting into evidence post-mortem photographs of the
victims; the trial court did not abuse its discretion by
allowing the jury to view the defendant's video recorded
statement in the courtroom during deliberations; the trial
court did not abuse its discretion by admitting expert
testimony regarding ballistics and fingerprint evidence; the
defendant's convictions were supported by sufficient
evidence; and the trial court properly effectuated merger of
the convictions. We affirm the Court of Criminal Appeals on
the remaining issues and include relevant portions of its
opinion in the appendix. We hold the sentences of death were
not imposed in an arbitrary fashion; the evidence fully
supports the jury's findings of aggravating circumstances
in Tennessee Code Annotated sections 39-13-204(i)(5), (6),
(7), and (13); the evidence supports the jury's finding
that these aggravating circumstances outweighed the
mitigating circumstances presented by the defendant; and the
defendant's death sentences are neither excessive nor
disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases. We
affirm the defendant's convictions and sentences of death
and vacate the Court of Criminal Appeals' remand to the
trial court for correction of the judgment documents.
Code Ann. § 39-13-206(a)(1) Automatic Appeal; Judgment
of the Court of Criminal Appeals Affirmed in Part and Vacated
M. Eldridge, Douglas A. Trant, Loretta G. Cravens, and Troy
S. Weston, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lemaricus
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; John H.
Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Randall E. Nichols, District
Attorney General; and Leland Price and TaKisha Fitzgerald,
Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State
G. Lee, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Jeffrey S. Bivins, C.J., and Cornelia A. Clark and Holly
Kirby, JJ., joined.
G. LEE, JUSTICE
of January 6-10, 2007
case arises from the January 2007 kidnapping, robbery, rape,
and murder of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom in
Knoxville, Tennessee. On Saturday, January 6, 2007, Channon
and Chris planned to have dinner together and then spend the
evening at a party at a friend's home in the Halls
community. Saturday afternoon, Channon went to her friend
Kara Sowards's apartment at the Washington Ridge
Apartments to get ready for the party. Around 8:00 p.m., Ms.
Sowards went to the party, and Channon stayed behind waiting
for Chris to arrive. At 8:47 p.m., Chris withdrew $100 from
his bank account at an ATM machine in the Halls area. Around
9:00 p.m., Chris dropped off his friend, Josh Anderson, at
the party, telling friends he and Channon were going out to
eat and would join the party later. Ms. Sowards called
Channon and told her Chris was on his way. It was about a
ten-minute drive from the party to the Washington Ridge
10:00 p.m., when Chris and Channon had not arrived at the
party, their friends called and texted them but received no
reply. Around 11:00 p.m., two of Chris's friends went to
the Washington Ridge Apartments in search of him and
discovered that his truck was in the parking lot and
Channon's 2005 Toyota 4Runner was missing.
and Channon never arrived at the party. Their friends never
saw or spoke to them again. Channon was last seen wearing
jeans, hot pink high heels, and a navy blue, hot pink, and
white striped sweater and carrying a gray purse. Chris was
last seen wearing jeans, black and silver size 9½ Nike
Shox athletic shoes, a blue sweater with a white collar, and
a baseball cap. Sometime between 9:10 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.,
Chris and Channon were abducted from the parking lot of the
Washington Ridge Apartments and taken in Channon's
vehicle to the home of Lemaricus Devall Davidson at 2316
Chipman Street in Knoxville.
Sunday, January 7, around 12:30 a.m., Xavier Jenkins, an
employee of Waste Connections on Chipman Street, arrived for
work and waited in his car in the parking area outside the
Waste Connections gated parking lot for a coworker to arrive.
From where Mr. Jenkins was parked, he could see across the
street to Mr. Davidson's house and noticed Channon's
vehicle parked in front of it. The porch lights were on, and
the house seemed to be "pretty busy" for that time
of night. He had never seen Channon's vehicle before that
evening. Mr. Jenkins briefly left to go to a nearby
convenience store, and when he returned, he waited in his
vehicle in the parking area across from Mr. Davidson's
house. Around 12:50 a.m., he saw Channon's vehicle pull
away from where it had been parked in front of Mr.
Davidson's house and come in his direction. As the
vehicle passed Mr. Jenkins, it slowed down, and he saw four
African-American men in it. The driver, wearing a hoodie,
looked at him "kind of strange" and "kind of
Sunday at 12:33 a.m., Channon called her father and told him
she had changed her mind and would not be spending the night
at the party but would be home between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00
a.m. Cellular records indicate this call came from the Cherry
Street area in the general vicinity of Mr. Davidson's
Sunday at 1:45 a.m., Jerome Arnold was watching television at
his Chipman Street residence a block from Mr. Davidson's
house when he heard "three fairly evenly spaced
pops" coming from the direction of the train tracks.
Sunday around 3:30 a.m., Ms. Sowards returned from the party
and noticed that Chris's truck was in the parking lot and
Channon's vehicle was gone. Ms. Sowards's apartment
door was locked, and Channon's overnight bag was missing.
Sunday at 6:30 a.m., when Mr. Jenkins returned to Waste
Connections from running his route, he saw Channon's
vehicle with an orange University of Tennessee "Power
T" decal on the window parked facing the train tracks in
front of Waste Connections on Chipman Street. The vehicle
appeared to be out of place, and when Mr. Jenkins looked in
the vehicle, he saw no one in it.
Sunday at 7:45 a.m., when Roy Thurman arrived for work at a
sandblasting company in the Chipman Street area, he saw smoke
rising from the direction of the train tracks.
Sunday morning and afternoon, Ms. Sowards and Channon's
mother repeatedly called Channon's cell phone, but there
was no answer. On Sunday afternoon, Channon's
mother's fears were confirmed when the manager of the
Shoe Department where Channon worked called to check on
Channon because she had not reported to work. Channon's
mother called local hospitals, Chris's family, and
Channon's friends trying to find her. When Channon still
could not be located, Channon's mother notified the Knox
County Sheriff's Department and filed a missing persons
report. Meanwhile, Chris's family was also worried about
him. They called the police, checked with local hospitals and
Chris's friends, and filed a missing persons report.
Sunday at 12:20 p.m., J.D. Ford, a Norfolk Southern Railroad
employee, discovered Chris's severely burned body beside
the train tracks not far from Mr. Davidson's house. Chris
had been shot, his hands tied behind his back, his eyes
covered with a bandana, a sock stuffed in his mouth, his head
wrapped in a sweatshirt, and his bare feet bound together.
The police were notified and responded to the scene.
Channon's family requested help from law enforcement,
they were told that the authorities would not search for
their missing daughter and they would have to do it
themselves. And they did. The Christians contacted their
cellular phone company and learned that Channon's phone
had last pinged off the Cherry Street phone tower. On Sunday
night, some of Channon's and Chris's family and
friends went to the Cherry Street area and searched street by
street. This was a part of town that Channon and Chris did
Monday, January 8, between 1:30 a.m. and 2:00 a.m., the
search party discovered Channon's vehicle at the corner
of Chipman and Glider Streets. An orange University of
Tennessee "Power T" decal and a
"NorthFace" sticker had been removed from the back
window. The police were called and responded to the scene.
Bags of clothing, including a pair of GLO jeans, which
Channon had planned to donate to charity, were missing from
the back of the vehicle. Channon's overnight bag and its
contents were also missing. The front seats of the vehicle
were pushed all the way back, and the backseat floorboard was
caked with mud. A crumpled pack of Newport cigarettes was in
the back of the vehicle. Neither Channon nor Chris smoked
Newport cigarettes. The vehicle was photographed,
inventoried, and taken to the police impound lot. Sandra
Kileen Bible, who lived in the house at the corner of Chipman
and Glider Streets, said she had not seen the vehicle there
at midnight when she sat on the porch smoking a cigarette.
She had never seen Channon's vehicle in the neighborhood
Crenshaw, senior evidence technician with the Knoxville
Police Department forensic unit and a certified fingerprint
examiner, went to the scene and processed the vehicle for
fingerprints. The outside of the vehicle, however, appeared
to have been wiped clean, and he could not get any prints.
Monday, January 8, at 11:00 p.m., when Mr. Crenshaw returned
to work on the night shift, he retrieved a bank envelope from
the back seat of the vehicle and began processing it.
Tuesday, January 9, at 2:45 a.m., Mr. Crenshaw determined
that the fingerprint on the bank envelope matched Mr.
Davidson's fingerprint. Mr. Crenshaw then discovered that
Mr. Davidson's address was on Chipman Street, close to
where Channon's vehicle and Chris's body were found.
At 2:52 a.m., Mr. Crenshaw emailed Knoxville Police
Department Investigator Todd Childress and others informing
them he had confirmed Mr. Davidson's fingerprint on the
envelope and his Chipman Street address. At 7:00 a.m., the
fingerprint match was verified by Tim Schade, another
Knoxville Police Department evidence technician. Mr. Crenshaw
was certain that Mr. Davidson was involved in the
disappearance of Channon. Between 6:30 a.m. and 7:00 a.m.,
while waiting on the fingerprint verification, Mr. Crenshaw
drove by Mr. Davidson's Chipman Street house hoping to
see or hear something so he or someone else could take
action. There were no signs of activity at the house.
Tuesday morning, after the fingerprint match to Mr. Davidson
was verified, Investigator Childress began to search for
information regarding Mr. Davidson and discovered, among
other things, an outstanding attachment for his arrest for
failure to appear in court. Investigator Childress prepared
an affidavit for a search warrant for Mr. Davidson's
house. Investigator Childress hurriedly printed the affidavit
and did not realize that he had printed it on letter-sized
paper instead of legal-sized paper. As a result, the
signature line on the affidavit was cut off. Sometime between
10:30 a.m. and noon, Investigator Childress appeared before
Knox County General Sessions Judge Tony Stansberry to request
the issuance of a search warrant. Investigator Childress did
not sign the affidavit but instead signed the search warrant
on the line marked "Officer To Whom Warrant Is Delivered
For Execution." Judge Stansberry reviewed the affidavit
but did not notice that Investigator Childress had failed to
sign it. Investigator Childress raised his hand and swore to
the truth of the contents of the affidavit before Judge
Stansberry. On Tuesday, January 9, at 12:53 p.m., Judge
Stansberry signed the search warrant.
p.m., officers entered Mr. Davidson's house to execute
the search warrant. They quickly checked the house and found
no one at home. At 1:42 p.m., Sergeant Keith DeBow entered
the kitchen and noticed an oddly shaped thirty-two-gallon
plastic garbage can. Fearing someone was hiding in the
garbage can, he drew his weapon, lifted the lid, and saw an
arm partially covered with fabric. When he touched the arm,
he knew he had discovered a dead body.
p.m., Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan, Knox County's
Medical Examiner, arrived to supervise the removal of
Channon's body. At approximately 3:10 p.m., the garbage
can, with Channon's body still inside, wrapped in a tarp,
and secured with plastic tie wires, was removed from the
house. Officers discovered Channon's personalized iPod on
top of a container in Mr. Davidson's bedroom. At 3:30
p.m., the officers left the house after Investigator
Childress told them to "[h]old what you're
doing" because the Knox County District Attorney
General's Office had advised him that they were to secure
the location and leave the scene. Everyone left except for
several officers who stayed outside the home to ensure that
no one entered the residence.
Childress prepared a second affidavit for a search warrant
with additional information, including that Channon's
body was found in Mr. Davidson's house. He signed the
affidavit and presented it to Knox County General Sessions
Court Judge Chuck Cerny. At 7:25 p.m., Judge Cerny issued the
second warrant. At 7:55 p.m., the officers reentered Mr.
Davidson's residence and collected evidence until about
1:30 a.m. on Wednesday. The search of the house produced
numerous items that belonged to the victims, including
clothing Channon had in her vehicle, photographs she kept in
her vehicle, the gray purse she carried on Saturday night,
her pink high heels, her iPod with the inscription
"Channon Christian, Mom and Dad, we love you, " two
of Chris's baseball caps including the one he was last
seen wearing, Channon's camera, Chris's driver's
license, a pay stub from Channon's work, Channon's
mother's Blockbuster card, a CD, and Channon's
personal toiletry items.
Davidson's Whereabouts January 6-11, 2007
January 6, 2007, Mr. Davidson was twenty-five years old and a
convicted felon. He had no job and no vehicle. He supported
himself by selling drugs. He snorted cocaine and smoked
marijuana. He lived in a rental house at 2316 Chipman Street
and had not paid the January rent. He owed money to Ethel
Lynn Freeman for furniture he bought from her. His
relationship with his girlfriend, Daphne Sutton, had soured.
The day after Christmas 2006, Ms. Sutton moved her furniture
out of the Chipman Street house.
December 2006, Stacey Lawson of Lebanon, Kentucky, brought
her boyfriend, George Thomas, Mr. Davidson's
half-brother, Letalvis Cobbins, and his friend, Vanessa
Coleman, from Kentucky to live with Mr. Davidson. None of
them had vehicles or jobs. Ms. Lawson recalled seeing an
assault rifle and two revolvers-a black one and a silver
one-at Mr. Davidson's house. Ms. Lawson had seen Mr.
Thomas, Mr. Cobbins, and Ms. Coleman smoke Newport
Sutton occasionally returned to Mr. Davidson's house. On
Friday, January 5, 2007, Ms. Sutton and Mr. Davidson argued.
Ms. Sutton then walked to a gas station on Cherry Street and
called her friend, Kassie Suttles, for a ride. Ms.
Sutton's vehicle was not operable, and she left it parked
on Chipman Street near Mr. Davidson's house. Ms. Suttles
picked up Ms. Sutton and took her to the apartment that Ms.
Suttles shared with Brandi Pressley.
Davidson met Ms. Freeman through a mutual friend. In December
2006, Mr. Davidson, Mr. Thomas, and Mr. Cobbins helped her
move into her apartment at the Washington Ridge Apartments.
Ms. Freeman gave Mr. Davidson a comforter, some bedding,
pillow shams, and curtains and sold him some used furniture.
He agreed to pay her between $75 and $100 every two weeks for
the furniture. Mr. Davidson promised Ms. Freeman he would
bring her a payment on Saturday night, January 6. She
expected him to be at her Washington Ridge apartment between
10:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., but he never arrived. Ms. Freeman
fell asleep, and when she woke up, she called Mr. Davidson on
his cell phone. Phone records indicate she called him on
Sunday at 3:51 a.m. She said he did not sound like himself;
he sounded flustered and busy, his voice was different, and
he seemed like he was doing something at a high pace. Mr.
Davidson told her he did not come by because he had "got
Sunday, January 7, at 2:10 a.m., a call was placed from
Chris's cell phone to Jason Mynatt. Mr. Mynatt did not
know Mr. Davidson or any of his friends and frequently got
wrong numbers on his cell phone. Mr. Mynatt's number was
865-237-4625. The phone number of Ms. Sutton's friend,
Taylor Shadix, was 865-237-7625. Mr. Davidson repeatedly
called Ms. Sutton's friend, Kayla Troutt, beginning
around 2:30 a.m. Sunday morning. She did not take his calls
during the night but spoke with him by phone between 3:00
p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Mr. Davidson was
calling Ms. Troutt to try and reach Ms. Sutton because he had
some clothes for her.
Mitchell, who worked for Mr. Davidson's landlord, went to
Mr. Davidson's house in early January on a Saturday to
collect the rent. He spoke with Mr. Davidson, who told him to
come back in a few days. When Mr. Mitchell returned a few
days later, the police had the house taped off.
Williams was one of Mr. Davidson's drug customers. One
weekend after dark in January 2007, Mr. Williams was driving
to Mr. Davidson's house to buy cocaine. While at a stop
sign on Chipman Street, Mr. Williams saw an oncoming vehicle.
The driver, who he later identified as Mr. Davidson, was
blowing the horn, but Mr. Williams did not recognize the
vehicle and kept going. By the time he got to Mr.
Davidson's house, the vehicle had circled around the
block and stopped. Mr. Davidson, who was driving
Channon's vehicle, got out of the vehicle, along with two
other men. The two passengers, wearing black hoodies with the
hoods pulled up, stood on each side of the vehicle. Mr.
Davidson told Mr. Williams that he did not have any drugs for
him. Mr. Williams went back, maybe the next afternoon, and
Mr. Davidson came out of the house and asked him if he had
seen the helicopters flying over that way and said,
"[T]hey found a woman's body over here on the
railroad tracks." On this second trip to Mr.
Davidson's house, Mr. Williams saw Channon's vehicle
parked in the parking area across the street from Mr.
Davidson's house. Mr. Davidson told Mr. Williams he had
bought the vehicle for $2, 500. Mr. Williams knew that could
not be true based on the value of the vehicle.
Sunday around noon, Ms. Freeman drove to Mr. Davidson's
house and parked in front of it. As she was getting out of
her car, a neighbor, Rhonda Dukes, motioned her to come down
the street and visit with her. After Ms. Freeman finished
visiting with Ms. Dukes, she saw Mr. Thomas walk by in a dark
hoodie. She left without seeing Mr. Davidson. She had to go
home a different route because the road was closed due to the
discovery of a burned body near the train tracks. Mr.
Davidson called her after she returned home and said he had
seen her at Ms. Dukes's house and planned to come down
there, but Ms. Freeman had left before he could do so. He
promised to come to her house around 3:00 p.m. to pay her for
the furniture. He did not go to Ms. Freeman's residence
to pay her and did not answer her telephone calls.
Sunday, Ms. Sutton learned from friends that Mr. Davidson was
trying to reach her. She talked to him on the phone a few
times that day. Later Sunday evening, he told her he had some
clothes for her. He asked her to come to his house and get
the clothes but to wait thirty minutes before she came.
Suspecting that Mr. Davidson had another woman in the house,
Ms. Sutton and her friends immediately went to Mr.
Davidson's house. When she arrived about five minutes
after their phone conversation, Mr. Davidson was standing at
the front door. She entered the house and saw Mr. Cobbins
sitting in a chair next to the kitchen door and Mr. Thomas
sitting in a chair in the living room. Ms. Sutton wanted to
retrieve her makeup bag from the bathroom. She walked through
the front bedroom to the bathroom, but the bathroom door was
closed. Mr. Davidson told her that Ms. Coleman was in the
bathroom. When Ms. Sutton tried to get to the bathroom by
entering the kitchen, Mr. Davidson grabbed her and said,
"What are you doing? This is my house." He walked
her to the front door and handed her a Sears bag filled with
clothes and tried to give her some money. She refused the
money but took the bag of clothes. After Ms. Sutton returned
to Ms. Suttles's apartment, she looked at the clothes and
realized they were not new. She then called Mr. Davidson, and
he explained he had bought the clothes at a used clothing
store and thought she would like them. The bag contained
items that included a red skirt, a pink blouse, a pair of GLO
jeans, and a ring. Ms. Sutton gave the GLO jeans to Ms.
Suttles and told Mr. Davidson to come and get the rest of the
clothes. When Mr. Davidson arrived at the apartment to
retrieve the bag of clothes, he was driving Channon's
vehicle, which had a Tennessee decal and a NorthFace sticker
on the back window.
Sunday night or early Monday morning, Mr. Davidson called Ms.
Sutton and asked her to come and get him. He claimed that he
could not get into his house because it was locked and his
brother had the keys. Ms. Sutton drove a friend's vehicle
to pick up Mr. Davidson, who was waiting in Ms. Sutton's
car that was parked on Chipman Street. They returned to Ms.
Suttles's apartment and spent the night.
Monday morning, Ms. Freeman returned to Mr. Davidson's
house to collect her money. She decided not to leave him a
note because the house looked vacant, the windows were
"down, " and it looked like a "ghost
house." When she saw police officers down the street
with flashlights, she knew something was going on and left.
Sutton and Mr. Davidson stayed together at Ms. Suttles's
apartment on Sunday night and Monday night. On Tuesday
afternoon, they were awakened by a call from Ms. Sutton's
mother who told Ms. Sutton that a girl's body had been
found in Mr. Davidson's house. When Mr. Davidson
overheard this news, his eyes got really big, and he begged
Ms. Sutton to believe that he did not do anything and
"that it was on all his fam . . . his brother." Ms.
Sutton told him he would have to leave, and he asked her if
he could wait until after dark. After the phone call, Ms.
Sutton found his house keys and a black revolver in his
jacket pocket. Mr. Davidson was wearing a pair of black and
silver Nike Shox athletic shoes that appeared to be too small
for him. When she questioned him, he claimed he had bought
the shoes. Ms. Sutton dropped him off beside Ridgebrook
Apartments, close to Reynolds Avenue.
Davidson's Arrest and Statement to Police
Thursday afternoon, January 11, 2007, the Knoxville Police
Department Special Operations Team and other officers
arrested Mr. Davidson in a vacant house at 1800 Reynolds
Avenue. Among the items found in the house were Chris's
size 9½ Nike Shox athletic shoes and a .22 caliber
High Standard revolver.
Davidson was questioned by Tennessee Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Agent Forrest Webb and
Knoxville Police Department Investigator Ryan Flores. Before
the interview, Mr. Davidson was advised of his
Miranda rights, and he signed a waiver of rights
form. During questioning, Mr. Davidson told more than five
versions of what occurred January 6-8. First, he claimed he
left his house on Friday and knew nothing about what may have
happened there. Next, he said Mr. Cobbins showed up at his
house with Channon's vehicle, but Mr. Davidson did not
see the victims. Mr. Davidson drove Channon's vehicle
while making his drug deliveries. When he learned about the
body found beside the train tracks, he went back and wiped
the vehicle down to remove his fingerprints. As he returned
to the house, Ms. Dukes called and said that the police were
down at the end of the street, so he walked down the street
to her house and sat on the porch until Ms. Sutton picked him
up. He claimed all of this happened on Sunday night.
next version of the story was that he was at home all day on
Saturday and around 5:00 p.m. started selling drugs from his
house. He went to bed and woke up Sunday around 4:00 p.m. or
5:00 p.m., when Ms. Sutton called to tell him about a dead
body found near the train tracks. He had her come pick him
up, but before she did, he wiped down Channon's vehicle.
He stayed at Ms. Sutton's house on Monday and Tuesday. He
said that he did not know Chris or Channon. He claimed that
Mr. Cobbins indicated to him that Mr. Thomas killed Chris.
he said Mr. Cobbins and Mr. Thomas had taken Chris and
Channon from some apartments and brought them back to his
house. They took Chris's wallet and his money. Then Mr.
Davidson said that around 10:00 p.m. on Friday or Saturday
night, Mr. Cobbins and Mr. Thomas arrived at Mr.
Davidson's house saying they had carjacked some people
and they were in the vehicle. Mr. Davidson saw Chris and
Channon tied up in the back seat. Mr. Davidson did not want
to be part of it, so he left and walked down the street and
smoked some marijuana. When he returned about twenty minutes
later, Channon was in his house. Channon told Mr. Davidson
"she ain't want to die." Mr. Davidson said
Chris was never in his house. Then Mr. Davidson added that
after arriving with Chris and Channon, Mr. Cobbins and Mr.
Thomas left for less than twenty minutes and returned with
only Channon. When Channon came into Mr. Davidson's
house, she was wearing a hoodie and her eyes were not
covered. Mr. Davidson became concerned that she had seen him,
so he left in her vehicle to sell some drugs. When Mr.
Davidson returned, he parked the vehicle down the street,
wiped it clean, and went into his house. He did not go beyond
the living room and did not see Channon. Finally, he admitted
that he saw Channon sitting on a bed in his house and she
told him she did not want to die. Mr. Davidson denied having
sex with her and did not know if anyone had sex with her. He
said his DNA would not be found on her.
January 11, 2007, Mr. Thomas, Mr. Cobbins, and Ms. Coleman
were arrested at Natosha Hays's house in Lebanon,
Kentucky. During the search of Ms. Hays's residence, the
officers seized a computer on which Mr. Thomas and Mr.
Cobbins had been viewing the Knoxville news coverage of the
homicides and found a red purse that contained documents and
other items belonging to Channon. Later, a .22 caliber Clerke
revolver was recovered from Ms. Hays's house.
and Scientific Evidence
Mileusnic-Polchan performed autopsies on Chris's and
Channon's bodies and determined the injuries they
suffered and the causes of their deaths. Neither Chris nor
Channon had any defensive wounds. Their stomachs were empty;
neither had eaten any food in the hours before their deaths.
was anally penetrated one to two hours before he died. He had
significant injuries to his anal/genital area with
lacerations, tearing, and bruising around his anus. Chris was
shot three times, each time with a small caliber bullet. One
bullet was shot from at least two to three feet away and
entered his body in the neck area between the back of the
neck and the shoulder. The second shot was to his lower back,
and the bullet traveled steeply upward, indicating he was
bent over when the weapon was fired. This shot severely
damaged Chris's spinal cord. The fatal shot was fired
with the muzzle of the gun against his head above his right
ear, severing his brain stem and causing instantaneous death.
All three bullets were still lodged in Chris's body when
it was found.
had a hematoma on his right forehead, indicating that he was
struck with an object or fell and hit his head on the ground,
possibly when he was shot while bending over. When the fatal
shot was fired, Chris's head was wrapped in a gray hooded
sweatshirt, a blue bandana was tied around his eyes, and an
ankle sock was rolled up, stuffed in his mouth, and secured
with a shoelace. His leather belt and some floral fabric were
wrapped around his ankles, securing them together. Some plant
material was found in the bindings. His wrists were tied
together behind his back with a shoelace and some nylon. He
had on a shirt, a t-shirt, underwear, and no other clothing.
His feet were bare and muddy, indicating that he had walked
barefoot to the area where he was killed. He was placed on
his back, a comforter was wrapped around his body, an
accelerant was poured over him, and he was set on fire. His
face, head, and upper body were burned the worst. Chris's
anus had semen in it, but the high temperature of the fire
destroyed the DNA in the semen. Soil samples taken where
Chris's body was found indicated the presence of
gasoline. A gasoline can was found in the kitchen of Mr.
frenulum, the membrane that connects the lip to the gum, was
torn. She had bruising and abrasions around her mouth. These
injuries occurred hours before her death and were caused by
an object, such as a penis, being forced into her mouth. One
to two hours before Channon's death, her anal/genital
area suffered tremendous damage. Her vaginal area had
bruises, lacerations, contusions, and swelling, and a solid
blood clot had formed under the entire area. The depth and
extent of her injury was so grave, it was not caused by a
"regular" rape but caused by a blunt object coming
in contact with her genital area with sufficient force to
inflict serious injury. She had bruises on the backs of both
arms, bruising on both sides of the top of her head with
extensive hemorrhaging, bruises on the front of her legs,
deep bruising to her upper back close to her neck, and carpet
burns and scratches to her lower back and upper buttocks. She
also had a cut to her right hand that occurred around the
time of death.
had been forced into a tight fetal position and then bound
with her head, neck, and shoulder twisted and pressed against
her bent knees. Her left cheek had been pressed tightly
against her knee. A portion of a sheer curtain had been tied
around her ankles and wrapped around her neck. A floral
fabric, like the one used to bind Chris, had been tied around
her thighs, bringing them tightly against her chest. A white
plastic bag had been placed over her head, covering her mouth
and nose, and knotted in the back to keep it in place. Her
body had been put in five black plastic garbage bags, stuffed
in a large garbage can, and partially covered with bedding,
sheets, and other bags. She was dressed only in a camisole
and a sweater. Because she could not breathe with the plastic
bag tied tightly over her face and due to her positioning in
the confined space, she suffocated to death. The time of her
death was estimated to be sometime between Sunday afternoon
and Monday afternoon. Based on the plastic bag that covered
her face and her positioning inside the garbage can, the
oxygen around her face would have been depleted within ten to
thirty minutes after she was placed in the garbage can, and
she would have died three to five minutes later.
Davidson's DNA from sperm was found in Channon's
vagina, anus, and on her jeans. Mr. Cobbins's DNA from
sperm was found in Channon's mouth and on her camisole,
sweater, and jeans. A chlorine substance was found on
Channon's camisole. A bottle of cleaning liquid with
bleach was found in Mr. Davidson's kitchen.
fabric found with Chris's body and the fabric used to
bind Channon in the garbage bag were parts of the curtains
and bedding that Ms. Freeman had given to Mr. Davidson.
Davidson's fingerprint was discovered on a bank envelope
recovered from Channon's vehicle. His prints were also
found on three of the five plastic garbage bags that
contained Channon's body. His palm print was found on the
outermost exterior garbage bag. This print was consistent
with Mr. Davidson using his hand to lift the bag with weight
in it. Mr. Davidson's right palm print and two left palm
prints were on the next garbage bag. The third garbage bag
bore his palm print. Mr. Davidson's fingerprints were
also on items belonging to Channon and Chris found in his
house, including a pay stub with Channon's name on it and
photographs that had been in her vehicle. Mr. Davidson's
prints were also on a box of Brawny garbage bags in the
testing revealed that two bullets removed from Chris's
body were fired from the same gun. The third bullet was
damaged, so the gun that had fired it could not be
identified. The bullets could have been fired from the High
Standard revolver that was in Mr. Davidson's possession
when he was arrested. The Clerke revolver associated with Mr.
Cobbins was eliminated as the murder weapon.
Trial, and Convictions
January 31, 2007, Mr. Davidson and his co-defendants, Mr.
Thomas, Mr. Cobbins, and Ms. Coleman, were charged in a
forty-six-count presentment issued by a Knox County Grand
Jury. Mr. Davidson was tried separately, and this appeal only
involves Mr. Davidson's case. After the trial court merged
a number of the charges, Mr. Davidson stood trial on sixteen
counts of first degree felony murder, two counts of first
degree premeditated murder, two counts of especially
aggravated robbery, four counts of aggravated kidnapping,
nine counts of aggravated rape of Channon, three counts of
aggravated rape of Chris, one count of theft of property
valued at $10, 000 or more but less than $60, 000, and one
count of theft of property valued at $500 or less. The State
sought the death penalty. Following an eight-day trial in
October 2009, the jury found Mr. Davidson guilty of sixteen
counts of first degree felony murder, two counts of first
degree premeditated murder, two counts of especially
aggravated robbery, four counts of aggravated kidnapping,
nine counts of aggravated rape of Channon, three counts of
facilitation of aggravated rape of Chris, one count of theft
of property valued at $10, 000 or more but less than $60,
000, and one count of theft of property valued at $500 or
less. The jury imposed two sentences of death on Mr.
the jury returned its verdict, the State dismissed two felony
murder counts. The trial court merged the remaining murder
counts into two counts of first degree premeditated murder;
merged the two especially aggravated robbery counts and the
two theft counts into two counts of especially aggravated
robbery; merged the four especially aggravated kidnapping
counts into two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping;
merged the nine counts of aggravated rape of Channon into
three counts of aggravated rape; and merged the three counts
of facilitation of aggravated rape of Chris into one count of
facilitation of aggravated rape.
trial court ordered the two death sentences to be served
consecutively to each other and sentenced Mr. Davidson to
forty years for each of the especially aggravated robbery
counts, to be served concurrently with the death sentences;
forty years for each of the especially aggravated kidnapping
counts, to be served concurrently with the death sentences;
forty years for each of the aggravated rape counts, to be
served concurrently with the death sentence for Channon's
murder; and twenty years for facilitation of aggravated rape,
to be served concurrently with the death sentence for
Chris's murder. Mr. Davidson filed a motion for new trial
and amended motions for new trial, all of which were denied.
Davidson appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, raising
twenty-six claims of error. The Court of Criminal Appeals
affirmed the convictions and sentences. Davidson,
2015 WL 1087126, at *58-60. The Court of Criminal Appeals
remanded the case for correction of clerical errors on the
judgment forms regarding the merged counts, finding that the
jury's guilty verdicts on separate counts needed to be
merged into a single judgment document.
Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-206, we conduct this
mandatory review to consider the issues raised by Mr.
Davidson and to review his death sentences.
of Mr. Davidson's House and Person
Davidson argues that the trial court erred in denying his
motions to suppress evidence seized during the two searches
of his house and the search of his person. He contends that
the first search warrant for his house was defective because
it was not supported by a signed affidavit, that the second
search warrant for his house was defective because it was
based on facts impermissibly obtained from the first search,
and that the two search warrants for Mr. Davidson's
person to obtain hair and DNA samples for testing were
defective because the warrants were based on evidence
obtained during the searches of his house. The State contends
that the first search warrant was valid despite technical
flaws, and that if the search warrant was defective, the
evidence obtained from the search was admissible under the
exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement.
The State further argues this Court should adopt a good-faith
exception for constitutional violations based on United
States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984). The State submits
that the validity of the first search is dispositive of the
issues regarding the second search warrant and the search of
Mr. Davidson's person.
trial court denied Mr. Davidson's motions to suppress,
ruling that the first search warrant was valid because
although Investigator Childress did not sign the affidavit,
he swore to the truth of the facts in the affidavit before
the judge who issued the search warrant. The trial court
further ruled that the first search of Mr. Davidson's
house was valid based on the outstanding attachment for Mr.
Davidson's arrest and exigent circumstances. The trial
court held that the doctrine of inevitable discovery was not
applicable and that a good-faith exception had not been
previously adopted in Tennessee. As to the second search
warrant, the trial court ruled it was not valid because it
relied on information discovered during the execution of the
first invalid warrant.
Court of Criminal Appeals held the trial court did not err in
not suppressing evidence obtained from the execution of the
first search warrant but for different reasons than the trial
court. The intermediate appellate court ruled the first
search warrant was not supported by a signed affidavit and
that neither service of the attachment nor exigent
circumstances justified entry into Mr. Davidson's house.
Davidson, 2015 WL 1087126, at *14, *16-18. The Court
of Criminal Appeals held that the evidence obtained from the
first search was admissible under the doctrine of inevitable
discovery. Id. at *21. As to the second search
warrant, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that it should
not have included information discovered in the first search,
but after redacting this information, the remaining facts in
the affidavit established probable cause for its issuance.
The Court of Criminal Appeals found that evidence obtained
from the search of Mr. Davidson's person based on a
federal search warrant and a state search warrant was
admissible because these warrants were based on information
obtained during the lawful searches of Mr. Davidson's
house. The Court of Criminal Appeals reasoned that, because
evidence obtained during the first search of the house was
admissible based on the inevitable discovery doctrine, it
could be used to establish probable cause for the search of
Mr. Davidson's person. The intermediate appellate court
further concluded that if the search warrants contained
tainted information, the warrants were based on probable
cause after redaction of any tainted information.
Id. at *24.
court's findings of fact on a motion to suppress are
upheld on appeal unless the evidence preponderates otherwise.
State v. McCormick, 494 S.W.3d 673, 678 (Tenn. 2016)
(citing State v. Odom, 928 S.W.2d 18, 23 (Tenn.
1996)). We defer to the trial court's factual findings on
the credibility of the witnesses, the weight and value of the
evidence, and resolution of conflicts in the evidence.
Id. (quoting Odom, 928 S.W.2d at 23). This
Court affords the party prevailing in the trial court the
strongest legitimate view of the evidence and all reasonable
and legitimate inferences that may be drawn from that
evidence. State v. Ross, 49 S.W.3d 833, 839 (Tenn.
2001); State v. Carter, 16 S.W.3d 762, 765 (Tenn.
2000) (quoting State v. Keith, 978 S.W.2d 861, 864
(Tenn. 1998)). We review the trial court's application of
law to facts de novo with no presumption of correctness.
McCormick, 494 S.W.3d at 678; State v.
Freeland, 451 S.W.3d 791, 810 (Tenn. 2014), cert.
denied, 135 S.Ct. 1428 (2015).
search warrant must comply with provisions of the United
States Constitution, the Tennessee Constitution, and
Tennessee statutory requirements. The federal and state
constitutional prohibitions against unreasonable searches and
seizures "safeguard the privacy and security of
individuals against arbitrary invasions of government
officials." Keith, 978 S.W.2d at 865 (quoting
Camara v. Mun. Ct., 387 U.S. 523, 528 (1967))
(internal quotation marks omitted); State v.
Yeargan, 958 S.W.2d 626, 629 (Tenn. 1997) (quoting
Camara, 387 U.S. at 528). Searches and seizures
conducted under valid warrants are presumptively reasonable,
whereas warrantless searches and seizures are presumptively
unreasonable. McCormick, 494 S.W.3d at 678-79;
see also Yeargan, 958 S.W.2d at 629.
begin with the constitutional requirements. The Fourth
Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons,
houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches
and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall
issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be
searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Const. amend. IV. To be valid under the federal constitution,
a warrant must (1) be issued by a neutral and detached
magistrate, (2) particularly describe the place to be
searched and the persons or things to be seized, and (3) be
based upon probable cause, "supported by Oath or
affirmation." United States v. Clyburn, 24 F.3d
613, 617 (4th Cir. 1994) (quoting U.S. Const. amend. IV)
(internal quotation marks omitted). The Fourth Amendment has
no affidavit requirement.
I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution provides:
That the people shall be secure in their persons, houses,
papers and possessions, from unreasonable searches and
seizures; and that general warrants, whereby an officer may
be commanded to search suspected places, without evidence of
the fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not
named, whose offences are not particularly described and
supported by evidence, are dangerous to liberty and ought not
to be granted.
Tenn. Const. art. I, § 7. The Tennessee Constitution,
although "identical in intent and purpose with the
Fourth Amendment, " State v. Smith, 484 S.W.3d
393, 400 (Tenn. 2016) (quoting Sneed v. State, 423
S.W.2d 857, 860 (Tenn. 1968)), does not contain the Fourth
Amendment's oath or affirmation requirement and does not
require an affidavit.
first search warrant complied with the United States and
Tennessee Constitutions. The search warrant was issued by a
neutral and detached magistrate. Neutrality and detachment
require "severance and disengagement" from the
activities of law enforcement. Shadwick v. City of
Tampa, 407 U.S. 345, 350 (1972). Under the circumstances
of this case, the issuing judge's failure to notice the
unsigned affidavit does not indicate he departed from his
role as a "neutral and detached" magistrate.
See United States v. Richardson, 943 F.2d 547, 550
(5th Cir. 1991) (holding that magistrate's failure to
administer oath during warrant application "was
inadvertent . . . [and] clearly was not a departure from his
neutral and detached role"). The search warrant
specifically described the place to be searched and the
persons or things to be seized and was based on probable
cause supported by testimony under oath. The facts relied on
to establish probable cause included the discovery of
Chris's body wrapped in a sheet and/or comforter; the
discovery of Channon's abandoned vehicle, with
identifying stickers removed, in the area where Chris's
body was found; that both victims went missing at the same
time; that a latent print was found on a bank envelope on the
back seat of Channon's vehicle matching Mr.
Davidson's fingerprint; and that Mr. Davidson's house
is a short distance from where Channon's vehicle and
Chris's body were found. The Fourth Amendment's oath
or affirmation requirement was satisfied when Investigator
Childress raised his right hand and swore to the truth of the
facts in the unsigned affidavit. Within the meaning of the
Fourth Amendment, "[o]ath or affirmation" includes
sworn oral and written testimony. Sparks v. United
States, 90 F.2d 61, 64 (6th Cir. 1937); see also
Clyburn, 24 F.3d at 617; United States v.
Shields, 978 F.2d 943, 946 (6th Cir. 1992). Under these
circumstances, the first search of Mr. Davidson's house
was valid under the Fourth Amendment and Article I, section 7
of the Tennessee Constitution.
the search warrant passed constitutional muster, it failed to
comply with the affidavit requirements of Tennessee Code
Annotated section 40-6-103, Tennessee Code Annotated section
40-6-104, and Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(c)(1).
Code Annotated section 40-6-103 provides that a "search
warrant can only be issued on probable cause, supported
by affidavit, naming or describing the person, and
particularly describing the property, and the place to be
searched." (Emphasis added).
Code Annotated section 40-6-104 provides:
The magistrate, before issuing the warrant, shall examine on
oath the complainant and any witness the complainant may
produce, and take their affidavits in writing, and cause
them to be subscribed by the persons making the
affidavits. The affidavits must set forth facts tending
to establish the grounds of the application, or probable
cause for believing the grounds exist.
Rule of Criminal Procedure 41(c)(1) provides that a
"warrant shall issue only on an affidavit or
affidavits that are sworn before the magistrate and
establish the grounds for issuing the warrant."
preparing the affidavit for the search warrant, Investigator
Childress said he "wanted to do things right" and
"go by the law." He prepared an affidavit and
search warrant with the help of another officer, and he
hurriedly printed the documents so he could present them to a
judge. Investigator Childress inadvertently failed to change
the printer selection from letter to legal size, which
resulted in the bottom three inches, including the signature
line, being cut off of the affidavit. Investigator Childress
and an assistant district attorney appeared before Judge
Stansberry in his chambers. After Judge Stansberry reviewed
the typewritten affidavit, Investigator Childress raised his
right hand, took the oath, and swore to the truth of the
contents of the affidavit. Although Investigator Childress
signed the search warrant on the signature line labeled
"Officer To Whom Warrant Is Delivered For Execution,
" no one noticed the omission of Investigator
Childress's signature on the affidavit as the affiant.
Judge Stansberry signed the warrant, and Investigator
Childress and other law enforcement officers commenced a
search of Mr. Davidson's house.
statutory and procedural provisions require an affidavit
before a magistrate can issue a valid search warrant. The
affidavit must contain the signature of the affiant. See
Keith, 978 S.W.2d at 869 (holding that a written and
sworn affidavit is a prerequisite to the issuance of a valid
warrant); Harvey v. State, 60 S.W.2d 420, 420 (Tenn.
1933); Watt v. Carnes, 51 Tenn. (4 Heisk.) 532, 534
(1871) ("An affidavit is a statement in writing, signed
and made upon oath before an authorized magistrate.");
Freidlander, Stick & Co. v. Pollock & Co.,
45 Tenn. (5 Cold.) 490, 495 (1868) ("An oath may be oral
or written. An affidavit is a written oath."); Grove
v. Campbell, 17 Tenn. (9 Yer.) 7, 10 (1836) ("The
word affidavit, ex vi termini, means an oath reduced
to writing."); Kenyon v. Handal, 122 S.W.3d
743, 752 n.6 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2003) ("An unsigned
document cannot qualify as an affidavit . . .
."). Because Investigator Childress
inadvertently failed to sign as the affiant on the affidavit,
the search warrant was not issued on the basis of a signed
affidavit as required by Tennessee Code Annotated sections
40-6-103 and 40-6-104 and Tennessee Rule of Criminal
Procedure 41(c)(1). All other constitutional and statutory
requirements were met.
this case does not involve a constitutional defect, the test
for constitutional violations is one of "reasonableness,
" and there are judicially crafted exceptions to the
general requirement that a warrant issue before a search by
law enforcement. State v. Meeks, 262 S.W.3d 710, 722
(Tenn. 2008) (citing Brigham City, Utah v. Stuart,
547 U.S. 398, 403 (2006); State v. Scarborough, 201
S.W.3d 607, 616-17 (Tenn. 2006)). Among the commonly
recognized exceptions to the requirement of a warrant are:
(1) a search incident to an arrest, (2) the plain view
doctrine, (3) a consent to the search, (4) a Terry
stop and frisk, and (5) the existence of exigent
circumstances. Id. (citing State v.
Berrios, 235 S.W.3d 99, 104 (Tenn. 2007); State v.
Cox, 171 S.W.3d 174, 179 (Tenn. 2005)).
Investigator Childress's failure to sign the affidavit,
the State contends that the exigent circumstances exception
applies to justify the search of Mr. Davidson's house.
This exception "applies when the exigencies of the
situation make the needs of law enforcement so compelling
that a warrantless search is objectively reasonable under the
Fourth Amendment." Missouri v. McNeely, 133
S.Ct. 1552, 1558 (2013) (quoting Kentucky v. King,
563 U.S. 452, 460 (2011)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
The State must show that the search is imperative,
Meeks, 262 S.W.3d at 723, and there is no time for
law enforcement to secure a warrant. McNeely, 133
S.Ct. at 1559. Exigency is determined on a fact-intensive,
case-by-case basis. Id. at 1564. In making this
determination, we consider the totality of the circumstances
to determine whether a law enforcement officer was justified
in acting without a warrant. Id.
the State has failed to establish that the circumstances
surrounding the search were so compelling that law
enforcement officers did not have time to obtain a search
warrant. Chris's body was discovered on Sunday afternoon,
and Channon's abandoned vehicle containing a bank
envelope was found early Monday morning. The crucial
fingerprint evidence linking Mr. Davidson to Channon's
vehicle was found on the bank envelope early Tuesday morning.
On Tuesday around noon, Investigator Childress appeared
before Judge Stansberry to obtain the search warrant. At
12:53 p.m., Judge Stansberry issued the search warrant. Less
than an hour later, law enforcement officers searched Mr.
Davidson's house. Viewing the totality of the
circumstances, it does not appear the search of Mr.
Davidson's house was so imperative that law enforcement
could not take time to obtain a search warrant.
evidence seized from a warrantless search or a search
stemming from an invalid warrant is subject to suppression,
the State contends we should adopt a good-faith exception to
the exclusionary rule based on the United States Supreme
Court's holding in United States v. Leon, 468
U.S. 897 (1984). There, the Court held that where the officer
has reasonably and in good faith conducted a search within
the scope of a search warrant later determined to be
constitutionally defective, evidence obtained from that
search should not be excluded under the Fourth Amendment
exclusionary rule. Leon, 468 U.S. at 919-22. The
Court reasoned that the exclusionary rule is a strong
deterrent to police misconduct and the violation of
suspects' constitutional rights but that the
"unbending application of the exclusionary
sanction" may hamper the truth-finding function of a
trial and can lead to criminals escaping punishment because
of police negligence or misbehavior. Id. at 906-07
(quoting United States v. Payner, 447 U.S. 727, 734
(1980)); see also State v. Sanders, 452 S.W.3d 300,
310-11 (Tenn. 2014). Unlike Leon, which involved a
search warrant that was constitutionally defective, 468 U.S.
at 905, the search warrant here passed constitutional muster.
Therefore, Leon is factually distinguishable.
the unusual facts in this case, we adopt a good-faith
exception for the admission of evidence when a law
enforcement officer has reasonably and in good faith
conducted a search within the scope of a warrant the officer
believes to be valid, but is later determined to be invalid
solely because of a good-faith failure to comply with the
affidavit requirement of Tennessee Code Annotated sections
40-6-103 and -104 and Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure
41(c)(1). In doing so, we note that Rule 41(g), a procedural
rule promulgated by this Court, does not divest this Court of
its authority to decide whether a good-faith exception, or
any other exception, should be adopted. State v.
Reynolds, No. E2013-02309-SC-R11-CD, 2016 WL 6525856, at
*21 (Tenn. 2016).Further, the applicability and validity of
the Exclusionary Rule Reform Act, Tennessee Code Annotated
section 40-6-108, effective July 1, 2011, are not at issue in
Childress intended to obtain a valid search warrant. He
reasonably believed that the warrant, based on probable cause
and issued by a neutral and detached magistrate, was valid.
The search warrant was later determined to be invalid based
on noncompliance with statutory and procedural provisions
because Investigator Childress printed the affidavit on the
wrong size paper, did not notice that the signature line was
cut off, and failed to sign the affidavit. Instead, he placed
his signature on a line on the warrant. All other
constitutional and statutory requirements were met. Moreover,
as soon as Investigator Childress learned there was a problem
with the first warrant, he immediately stopped the search
and, within hours, obtained a second search warrant supported
by a properly signed affidavit. When an officer has complied
with constitutional requirements to obtain a warrant, but in
good faith failed to comply with the state statutory and rule
affidavit requirements, societal interests are not advanced
when the exclusionary rule applies to exclude evidence
obtained from execution of the warrant. We hold the trial
court did not err in denying Mr. Davidson's motion to
suppress the evidence obtained from the search of his house.
on this ruling, we pretermit discussion of the issues
regarding inevitable discovery and the validity of the search
warrant based on the outstanding attachment.
Search Warrant and the Search of Mr. Davidson's
holding regarding the validity of the first search resolves
any issue as to the validity of the second search warrant and
the warrants for the search of Mr. Davidson's person.
Because the first search of his house was valid, the trial
court did not err in denying Mr. Davidson's motions to
Davidson's Statements to Law Enforcement
Davidson argues that the trial court erred by denying the
motion to suppress the recorded statement he made to law
enforcement after his arrest. He submits that his confession
was coerced and involuntary because his will was overborne by
law enforcement's show of force during his arrest and the
intimidating atmosphere of the interrogation. Mr. Davidson
also argues that incomplete Miranda warnings
rendered his waiver of rights invalid and his statement
inadmissible. In response, the State argues that Mr.
Davidson's statement was voluntarily given without abuse,
threats, or promises and that the Miranda warnings
were sufficient. After a pretrial hearing, the trial court
denied Mr. Davidson's motion to suppress the statement
based on the totality of the circumstances surrounding Mr.
Davidson's arrest and interrogation. The Court of
Criminal Appeals affirmed. Davidson, 2015 WL
1087126, at *24, *61.
court's findings of fact on a motion to suppress are
upheld on appeal unless the evidence preponderates otherwise.
McCormick, 494 S.W.3d at 678 (citing Odom,
928 S.W.2d at 23). We defer to the trial court's factual
findings on the credibility of the witnesses, the weight and
value of the evidence, and resolution of conflicts in the
evidence. Id. (quoting Odom, 928 S.W.2d at
23). This Court affords the party prevailing in the trial
court the strongest legitimate view of the evidence and all
reasonable and legitimate inferences that may be drawn from
that evidence. Ross, 49 S.W.3d at 839;
Carter, 16 S.W.3d at 765 (quoting Keith,
978 S.W.2d at 864). However, we review the trial court's
application of law to facts de novo with no presumption of
correctness. McCormick, 494 S.W.3d at 678;
Freeland, 451 S.W.3d at 810.
pretrial hearing, Knoxville Police Department Sergeant DeBow
testified he was a member of the Special Operations Squad, or
SWAT team, that arrested Mr. Davidson. Before Mr.
Davidson's arrest, approximately sixteen SWAT members
arrived in an armored vehicle and surrounded the house. The
SWAT members wore tactical uniforms, green body dress
uniforms, and body armor; some wore helmets; and most wore
tactical gloves and safety glasses. Some were armed with long
weapons, submachine guns or shotguns, and some had pistols or
gas guns. Over thirty law enforcement officers, including
members of the Tennessee Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms, and Explosives, the United States Marshals Service,
the Knox County Sheriff's Department, and other uniformed
police officers, were present around the outer perimeter of
the house. As the armored vehicle approached the house, the
vehicle's public address system was used to order Mr.
Davidson to come out of the house. Mr. Davidson placed his
hands on the window through the window shades and was
"somewhat complying." After a "reasonable
amount of time . . . fifteen seconds or so, " Sergeant
DeBow, Lieutenant Mark Fortner, and "a couple" of
other officers approached the window. Sergeant DeBow was
armed with a submachine gun that was pointed toward the
window and leveled on Mr. Davidson. Sergeant DeBow ordered
Mr. Davidson to drop what was in his hands and to open the
window. In response, Mr. Davidson made an apparent attempt to
open the window and said, "I can't." Sergeant
DeBow told Mr. Davidson to step back from the window, and
then Sergeant DeBow broke the window with the barrel of his
weapon, raked it clean, and then cleared off as much of the
glass as he could with his gloved hands. Sergeant DeBow asked
Mr. Davidson where the gun was, and as Mr. Davidson lowered
his hands, he pointed down toward either his waistline or the
floor. Sergeant DeBow was unable to describe exactly how Mr.
Davidson was removed but indicated that when Mr. Davidson put
his hands on the window sill, a couple of officers likely
grabbed Mr. Davidson by the wrists and pulled him through the
window onto the ground on his stomach. At the same time, an
emergency response team entered the house through a side
door. Sergeant DeBow did not see anyone beat or threaten Mr.
Davidson. Once Mr. Davidson was brought up off the ground,
Sergeant DeBow and another officer escorted Mr. Davidson to
the police vehicle which transported him to the police
department. According to Sergeant DeBow, the goal when
arresting someone is to safely take the person into custody
but agreed that psychological intimidation, including verbal
commands, officer presence, submachine guns, uniforms, and
verbal commands, could be used in an arrest.
McKnight, Knoxville Police Department crimes investigator,
testified that when he arrived at the house, Mr. Davidson was
already in custody and seated in the back of the police
vehicle for no more than five minutes. Investigator McKnight
and another officer transported Mr. Davidson to the police
department. Investigator McKnight advised Mr. Davidson of his
Miranda rights "off the top of [his] head"
and engaged in general conversation with Mr. Davidson but did
not interrogate him. Investigator McKnight described Mr.
Davidson's demeanor as "kind of relaxed, not for
sure what was going on." Upon arriving at the police
department, the officers escorted Mr. Davidson to an
interview room on the third floor to wait for Investigator
Flores. Investigator McKnight observed a portion of Mr.
Davidson's interview with police and never saw anyone
hit, yell at, "be mean to, " or abuse Mr. Davidson.
Flores testified that he responded to a call to the house
where Mr. Davidson was arrested. Investigator Flores observed
that after the Special Operations Squad pulled up to the side
of the house in an armored vehicle, Mr. Davidson appeared in
the window. A member of the Special Operations Squad knocked
out the window, and team members pulled Mr. Davidson out of
the window and onto the ground on his stomach. While officers
were handcuffing Mr. Davidson, Investigator Flores introduced
himself to Mr. Davidson, reassured him that everything would
be okay, and told him to relax and stop resisting.
Investigator Flores did not hear anyone threaten, kick, or
hit Mr. Davidson and observed no injuries to him.
Investigator Flores began questioning Mr. Davidson at the
police department, Investigator Flores offered him some food
and water. Before the interview, Investigator Flores advised
Mr. Davidson of his Miranda rights by reading from a
statement and waiver of rights form:
OF YOUR RIGHTS
WE ASK YOU ANY QUESTIONS, YOU MUST UNDERSTAND YOUR RIGHTS:
1. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT.
2. ANYTHING YOU SAY CAN BE USED AGAINST YOU IN COURT.
3. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO CONSULT WITH A LAWYER AND TO HAVE A
LAWYER PRESENT WITH YOU WHILE YOU ARE BEING QUESTIONED.
4. IF YOU WANT A LAWYER BUT ARE UNABLE TO PAY FOR ONE, A
LAWYER WILL BE APPOINTED TO REPRESENT YOU FREE OF ANY COST TO
5. IF YOU DECIDE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS NOW WITHOUT A LAWYER
PRESENT, YOU WILL STILL HAVE THE RIGHT TO STOP ANSWERING AT
ANY TIME. YOU ALSO HAVE THE RIGHT TO STOP ANSWERING AT ANY
TIME UNTIL YOU HAVE A LAWYER.
UNDERSTAND EACH OF MY RIGHTS AND I AM WILLING TO MAKE A
STATEMENT AND ANSWER QUESTIONS WITHOUT A LAWYER PRESENT. NO
PROMISES OR THREATS HAVE BEEN MADE TO ME.
Davidson told Investigator Flores, "I know my rights you
ain't gotta read my rights I know my rights." Mr.
Davidson initialed each of the stated rights and signed the
Waiver of Rights form. Investigator Flores signed the form as
the Advising Officer/Investigator, and Agent Webb signed the
form as the witness. Thereafter, Mr. Davidson provided a
recorded statement and responded to questioning by
process clauses of the Fifth Amendment and Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution require a
confession to be voluntary before its admission into
evidence. The due process voluntariness test is distinct from
Miranda. Dickerson v. United States, 530
U.S. 428, 434-35 (2000); Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S.
385, 397-98 (1978). The issue under Miranda is
whether a suspect received certain warnings and knowingly and
voluntarily waived certain rights, whereas the essential
inquiry under the voluntariness test is whether a
suspect's will was overborne so as to render the
confession a product of coercion. Freeland, 451
S.W.3d at 815 (quoting State v. Climer, 400 S.W.3d
537, 568 (Tenn. 2013); State v. Smith, 933 S.W.2d
450, 455 (Tenn. 1996)). The voluntariness test includes an
assessment of the psychological impact on the accused and an
evaluation of the legal significance of the accused's
reaction. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte, 412 U.S. 218,
226 (1973) (citing Culombe v. Connecticut, 367 U.S.
568, 603 (1961)). Whether a confession was made voluntarily
must be determined by a totality of the circumstances,
including characteristics of the accused and the details of
the interrogation. Dickerson, 530 U.S. at 434
(quoting Schneckloth, 412 U.S. at 226);
Freeland, 451 S.W.3d at 815. Relevant factors
include the age, education, and intelligence of the accused;
the extent of previous experience with law enforcement;
whether questioning was repetitive and prolonged; the length
of the detention prior to giving a statement; the lack of any
advice to the accused of his constitutional rights; whether
the accused was injured, intoxicated, drugged, or in ill
health; deprivation of food, sleep, or medical attention; and
physical abuse or threats of abuse. Climer, 400
S.W.3d at 568 (quoting State v. Huddleston, 924
S.W.2d 666, 671 (Tenn. 1996)); see also Schneckloth,
530 U.S. at 226. Coerced confessions are inherently
unreliable. Climer, 400 S.W.3d at 567-68 (citing
Dickerson, 530 U.S. at 433; State v.
Northern, 262 S.W.3d 741, 748 (Tenn. 2008)).
Davidson contends that his statement was coerced through law
enforcement's show of force during the arrest and threats
of prosecution during the interview. Although a number of
uniformed and armed law enforcement officers were present
during Mr. Davidson's arrest, the show of force was not
disproportionate to the seriousness of the crimes Mr.
Davidson was suspected of committing. Sergeant DeBow and
Investigator Flores testified consistently that Mr. Davidson
was armed with a gun at the time of his arrest and did not
fully comply with police commands. The removal of Mr.
Davidson from the house by pulling him from the window was
necessary given his failure to leave the house or open the
window and the SWAT team's inability to enter through the
front security door. Sergeant DeBow, Investigator McKnight,
and Investigator Flores testified that Mr. Davidson was not
beaten, abused, or injured. Mr. Davidson was not detained for
an unreasonable time after his arrest and transport to the
police department. Only Investigator Flores and Agent Webb
were present during the interview. Mr. Davidson expressed to
Investigator Flores that he did not want to be left alone for
someone else to take his DNA sample, but this statement fails
to support Mr. Davidson's claims of fear resulting from a
coercive or intimidating atmosphere.
time of the statement, Mr. Davidson was twenty-five years
old. He had attended high school and had above-average
intelligence. Mr. Davidson had previously been convicted of
aggravated robbery and carjacking and incarcerated. The
duration of his detention in the interview room at the police
department was reasonable. Prior to questioning, Investigator
Flores provided food and water to Mr. Davidson, which Mr.
Davidson consumed during the interview. Investigator Flores
advised Mr. Davidson of his Miranda rights by
reading from the Statement of Rights and the waiver form, and
Mr. Davidson signed the Waiver of Rights. The interview
itself took less than three hours and was not unreasonably
lengthy under the circumstances. Mr. Davidson was not
injured, intoxicated, impaired, in ill health, abused, or
threatened with abuse.
point in the questioning, Investigator Flores made the
[Y]ou tell me the truth and we work with you. . . . I can go
and I can say, "Well Mr. Attorney General . . . he's
a liar and this is why and he continued to lie to me all day
long and he's gonna deny it and we . . . we'll prove
our case and we'll let 12 people judge this man who we
can prove's a liar." Or I can say, "Mr.
District Attorney, Mr. Judge, this man . . . this is what he
said and it [corroborates] all our evidence. He's honest,
he fessed up to what part he had [in] these two deaths."
And their [sic] gonna go, well, liar or somebody that was a
man that fessed up.
Davidson argues that these statements constituted a threat of
prosecution, rendering the confession involuntary and
inadmissible. Mr. Davidson relies on United States v.
Harrison, 34 F.3d 886 (9th Cir. 1994). In
Harrison, an agent advised the accused of evidence
against her and that she might be facing up to twenty years
in prison. Id. at 890. The agent then asked the
accused whether she thought it would be better if the agent
told the judge that the accused had cooperated or not
cooperated. Id. The accused gave a statement after
responding that she understood it would be better if she
talked to the agents and they told the judge she had
cooperated. Id. The trial court found the
defendant's confession voluntary and admitted the
statement into evidence. Id. at 889-90. The Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that law
enforcement officers may not suggest that an exercise of the
right to remain silent may result in harsher treatment by a
court or prosecutor. Id. at 891-92. The Ninth
Circuit found that the agent did not explicitly threaten a
longer sentence if the accused did not give a statement, but
"[t]he improper conduct was the suggestion that they
might inform the court that she had not cooperated."
Id. at 891. The Ninth Circuit suggested that the
agents' statements amounted to "subtle psychological
coercion [that] can effectively overbear a suspect's free
will." Id. at 892. Noting that the defendant
broke her silence only after the statement was made to her,
the Ninth Circuit reasoned that the defendant "could
only conclude that she might suffer for her silence"
despite the agents' "thinly veiled" suggestion.
Id. at 891.
Davidson's reliance on Harrison is misplaced. In
Harrison, the issue before the court was whether the
defendant's will was so overborne by the agent's
comment about cooperation that the defendant was compelled to
provide a statement in violation of her Fifth Amendment right
against self-incrimination. Mr. Davidson argues that his will
was so overborne by Investigator Flores's comments that
his waiver and statement were not freely and voluntarily
given in violation of his due process rights. Unlike the
defendant in Harrison, who remained silent until the
agent made that comment, Mr. Davidson was engaged in the
interview and responding to Investigator Flores before the
statements were made. The record does not indicate that Mr.
Davidson remained silent, resisted being interviewed,
requested an attorney, or invoked his right against
self-incrimination before or during the interview.
Investigator Flores read Mr. Davidson the Statement of Rights
and the waiver form, and Mr. Davidson initialed each of the
five stated rights. Mr. Davidson signed a Waiver of Rights,
which states, "No promises or threats have been made to
me." There is no showing that he construed Investigator
Flores's statements as a promise of leniency that
compelled him to confess. See Smith, 933 S.W.2d at
455 (holding that promises of leniency do not per se render
subsequent confessions involuntary, but instead the Fifth
Amendment prohibits confessions compelled by promises of
trial court considered the Huddleston factors and
concluded that Mr. Davidson's recorded statement was not
the result of an inappropriate atmosphere or improper
coercion. The evidence does not preponderate against the
trial court's findings. Based on these findings of fact,
the trial court did not err in denying Mr. Davidson's
motion to suppress.
Davidson also argues that he did not voluntarily and
knowingly waive his right to remain silent before giving his
statement because he was given incomplete Miranda
warnings by Investigator McKnight in the police car and on
the written waiver form provided by Investigator Flores.
Specifically, Mr. Davidson argues that the warnings failed to
advise him that he was entitled to consult with an attorney
before and during the interview.
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:
"No person . . . shall be compelled in any criminal case
to be a witness against himself." U.S. Const. amend. V.
I, section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution provides that in
criminal prosecutions, "the accused . . . shall not be
compelled to give evidence against himself." This
privilege against self-incrimination affords criminal
defendants the right to remain silent. State v.
Dotson, 450 S.W.3d 1, 52 (Tenn. 2014), cert.
denied, 135 S.Ct. 1535 (2015); Freeland, 451
S.W.3d at 813; State v. Jackson, 444 S.W.3d 554, 585
Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), the United
States Supreme Court established procedural safeguards to
protect the privilege against self-incrimination.
Id. at 444. Miranda requires law
enforcement to warn a person prior to custodial interrogation
that he has the right to remain silent, that anything he says
can be used against him in a court of law, that he has the
right to the presence of an attorney, and that if he cannot
afford an attorney one will be appointed for him prior to any
questioning if he so desires.
Id. at 479. After being given these warnings and an
opportunity to exercise these rights throughout the
interrogation, the person being questioned may knowingly and
intelligently waive these rights and agree to answer
questions or make a statement. Id. The interrogation
must cease if the right to remain silent is invoked.
Freeland, 451 S.W.3d at 814 (citing
Miranda, 384 U.S at 473-74). However, the accused
must unambiguously invoke his constitutional right to remain
silent. Dotson, 450 S.W.3d at 53 (citing
Berghuis v. Thompkins, 560 U.S. 370, 381-82 (2010)).
State bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the
evidence that the defendant waived his or her
Miranda rights. Freeland, 451 S.W.3d at 814
(citing Climer, 400 S.W.3d at 564; Missouri v.
Seibert, 542 U.S. 600, 608 n.1 (2004)). To satisfy this
burden, the prosecution must demonstrate that
the waiver was voluntary in that 'it was the product of a
free and deliberate choice rather than intimidation,
coercion, or deception, ' and was knowing in that it was
made 'with a full awareness of both the nature of the
right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to
Id. (quoting Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S.
412, 421 (1986)). Unless the prosecution can demonstrate
that, based on the totality of circumstances, the
defendant's waiver was voluntary and knowing, statements
given during the interrogation are not admissible in the
prosecution's case-in-chief. Id. 451 S.W.3d at
814 (quoting Miranda, 384 U.S. at 479).
Miranda warnings given to Mr. Davidson sufficiently
advised him of his rights to consult with counsel and to
remain silent. The Statement of Rights advised him that he
had the right to consult with a lawyer and to have one
present during questioning. The Statement of Rights also
advised him that, even if he chose to answer questions
without a lawyer present, he could stop answering at any
time. Mr. Davidson indicated verbally that he understood his
rights, and he voluntarily signed the written waiver,
acknowledging, "I understand each of my rights, and I am
willing to make a statement and answer questions without
a lawyer present." The absence of the exact
language, "before and during, " does not render the
warnings insufficient. Miranda does not mandate a
"talismanic incantation" or precise formulation of
the warnings. California v. Prysock, 453 U.S. 355,
359 (1981). The question is only whether the warnings
reasonably conveyed a suspect's rights as required by
Miranda. Duckworth v. Eagan, 492 U.S. 195,
203 (1989) (quoting Prysock, 453 U.S. at 361). Based
on the totality of the circumstances, we conclude that Mr.
Davidson was properly advised of his right to counsel and to
remain silent, he understood his rights, and he knowingly and
voluntarily relinquished those rights.
that the trial court did not err in denying Mr.
Davidson's motion to suppress his statement to law
Davidson asserts that the trial court abused its discretion
by denying his motion to prohibit spectators from wearing
buttons displaying photographs of the victims taken before
their deaths. The trial court allowed buttons displaying
images of the victims to be worn at trial but imposed
restrictions on their use: the buttons could only be worn by
the victims' immediate family members, defined as
parents, siblings, and grandparents; the buttons had to be
worn on or close to the lapel; the buttons could not be worn
while the family member was testifying; the buttons could
show only a photograph of the victim as a young adult; and
the same button had to be worn throughout the trial. The
trial court reasoned that the buttons would express nothing
more than normal grief occasioned by losing a family member
and would not brand Mr. Davidson with the mark of guilt. The
trial court explicitly found that the buttons would not
create an atmosphere of coercion or intimidation at trial.
The trial court enforced the restrictions and during the
trial, reminded spectators that only immediate family members
could wear the buttons.
Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court on this
issue, noting that the trial court utilized a measured
approach when making its decision and carefully crafted a
rule designed to limit the negative impact of the buttons.
Davidson, 2015 WL 1087126, at *35.
Davidson argues that a per se rule banning the display of
buttons should be adopted. He contends the buttons
constituted impermissible victim impact evidence that showed
the emotional effect of the murders on the families, thereby
creating an unacceptable risk that the jurors would be unduly
influenced by their own emotional responses. Mr. Davidson
submits that by allowing spectators to wear buttons, the
trial court created an inherently prejudicial courtroom
condition that deprived him of his right to a fair trial. Mr.
Davidson also argues that the trial court failed to require
spectators to follow the restrictions placed on the display
of the buttons. The State argues that Mr. Davidson can show
neither inherent prejudice nor actual prejudice and therefore
is entitled to no relief.
right to a trial by an impartial jury is guaranteed by the
Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution and Article I, section 9 of the Tennessee
Constitution. State v. Carruthers, 35 S.W.3d 516,
559 (Tenn. 2000). These constitutional provisions entitle a
criminal defendant to a fair trial, not a perfect one.
Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. 673, 681 (1986);
State v. Hutchison, 482 S.W.3d 893, 921 (Tenn.
2016). The right to an impartial jury is a fundamental aspect
of a fair trial. State v. Odom, 336 S.W.3d 541, 556
(Tenn. 2011). An impartial jury is "one which is of
impartial frame of mind at the beginning of trial, is
influenced only by legal and competent evidence produced
during trial, and bases its verdict upon evidence connecting
defendant with the commission of the crime charged."
Durham v. State, 188 S.W.2d 555, 558 (Tenn. 1945).
This Court's inquiry is whether the jury that tried the
case was fair and impartial. State v. Leath, 461
S.W.3d 73, 110-11 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2013) (quoting
State v. Taylor, No. W2011-00671-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL
2308088, at *6 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 18, 2012)). A defendant
is entitled to have his "guilt or innocence determined
solely on the basis of the evidence introduced at trial, and
not on grounds of official suspicion, indictment, continued
custody, or other circumstances not adduced as proof at
trial." Taylor v. Kentucky, 436 U.S. 478, 485
review the trial court's decision under an abuse of
discretion standard. A trial court abuses its discretion when
it applies an incorrect legal standard, reaches a conclusion
that is not logical, bases its decision on a clearly
erroneous assessment of the evidence, or uses reasoning that
causes an injustice to the complaining party. State v.
Davis, 466 S.W.3d 49, 61 (Tenn. 2015). The trial court
has broad discretion in controlling the course and conduct of
trial. State v. King, 40 S.W.3d 442, 449 (Tenn.
2001); State v. Cazes, 875 S.W.2d 253, 260 (Tenn.
1994). One of the court's basic responsibilities is to
ensure a fair trial. State v. Holton, 126 S.W.3d
845, 870 app. (Tenn. 2004) (quoting State v.
Franklin, 714 S.W.2d 252, 258 (Tenn. 1986)).
Generally, the trial court, which has presided over the
proceedings, is in the best position to make determinations
regarding how to achieve this primary purpose, and absent
some abuse of the trial court's discretion in marshalling
the trial, an appellate court should not redetermine in
retrospect and on a cold record how the case could have been
Franklin, 714 S.W.2d at 258.
spectators can wear buttons displaying images of the victims
is an issue of first impression in Tennessee. The United
States Supreme Court addressed state-sponsored courtroom
practices in Estelle v. Williams, 425 U.S. 501,
503-06 (1976), and Holbrook v. Flynn, 475 U.S. 560,
568 (1986). In Williams, the State required the
defendant to wear an orange prison jumpsuit during his trial.
The Supreme Court found this government action was highly
prejudicial and deprived the defendant of due process.
Williams, 425 U.S. at 504. The Court reasoned that
the defendant's clothing was likely to be a continuing
influence throughout the trial, and there was an unacceptable
risk it would affect a juror's judgment. Id. at
504-05. Finding that no essential state policy was advanced
by compelling a defendant to dress in prison clothing at
trial, the Supreme Court held that the practice constituted a
violation of due process. Id. at 512. In
Flynn, the issue was whether four uniformed, armed
state troopers seated in the front row of the gallery
directly behind the defendant was so inherently prejudicial
that he was deprived of his constitutional right to a fair
trial. Flynn, 475 U.S. at 562. The Court determined
that conspicuous presence of security personnel in the
courtroom was not an inherently prejudicial practice, such as
shackling and prison clothing. Id. at 568-69. The
Court noted that, unlike a policy requiring defendants to
wear prison garb, the deployment of troopers to maintain
security during trial served a legitimate state interest.
Id. at 571-72.
these cases involved state-sponsored courtroom practices,
rather than the spectator or private-actor conduct at issue
here. In Cary v. Musladin, 549 U.S. 70 (2006), the
United States Supreme Court reviewed a state trial court
decision that allowed the victim's family to wear buttons
displaying the victim's image. The trial court found no
possible prejudice to the defendant and denied the
defendant's motion to forbid the buttons. The Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded,
concluding that the state court applied a test for prejudice
different from the one stated in Williams and
Flynn, and therefore, the trial court's decision
was contrary to clearly established applicable federal law.
Id. at 73. In considering the case, the United
States Supreme Court noted that the issue of spectator button
display was an open question and one that the Court had not
previously addressed. Id. at 76.
a lack of guidance from the United States Supreme Court,
lower courts resolved the issue of spectator-conduct claims
in divergent ways. Some courts applied the Williams
and Flynn standard to spectator conduct. For
example, in Norris v. Risley, 918 F.2d 828, 829-30
(9th Cir. 1990), approximately fifteen female members of a
Rape Task Force and the National Organization for Women wore
"Women Against Rape" buttons during the
defendant's trial for kidnapping and rape. The buttons
were two and one-half inches in diameter with the word
"Rape" underlined with a broad red stroke.
Id. at 830. The trial court denied the
defendant's motion to have the women excluded from the
courtroom or to prevent them from wearing the buttons.
Id. at 829. The trial court ruled that the public
was entitled to attend court proceedings and that the buttons
constituted no imminent threat. Id. The defendant
was convicted of kidnapping and rape, his convictions were
affirmed on appeal, and his application for habeas corpus
relief was denied. Id. The United States Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the defendant did not
receive a fair trial because the risk that the buttons had an
impact on the jurors was unacceptably high. Id. at
834. Relying on the holdings of Williams and
Flynn, the Ninth Circuit concluded that "these
large and boldly highlighted buttons tainted Norris's
right to a fair trial both by eroding the presumption of
innocence and by allowing extraneous, prejudicial
considerations to permeate the proceedings without subjecting
them to the safeguards of confrontation and
courts distinguished Flynn on its facts. For
example, in Woods v. Dugger, 711 F.Supp. 586, 594
(M.D. Fla. 1989), the court found that the presence of
correctional officers and co-workers of the victim as
spectators was not inherently prejudicial to ...