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Matthews v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

December 21, 2016

MARTEZ D. MATTHEWS
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Session October 18, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2009-D-3252 Mark J. Fishburn, Judge

         A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Martez D. Matthews, of first degree felony murder, and a life sentence was imposed. On appeal, this Court affirmed the trial court's judgments. See Deangelo M. Moody and Martez D. Matthews, No. M2011-01930-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 1932718, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, May 9, 2013), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 17, 2013). Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis, which the trial court denied. On appeal, this Court affirmed the trial court's denial of relief. See Martez D. Matthews v. State, No. M2014-01663-CCA-R3-ECN, 2015 WL 3814164, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, June 19, 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 15. 2015). The Petitioner also filed a postconviction petition, and the post-conviction court denied relief following a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that his sentence is unconstitutional pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2464 (2012). After review, we affirm the post-conviction court's judgment.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Patrick B. Newsom, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Martez D. Matthews.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Brian Ewald, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Norma McGee Ogle, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE

         On April 25, 2009, the sixteen-year-old victim was shot by a stray bullet while inside her Davidson County residence. Three individuals, the Petitioner, Lorenzo Ortego Thomas, II, and Deangelo Monteze Moody, were indicted for the first degree felony murder of the victim and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Mr. Thomas's case was severed from his co-defendants because the State sought to call him as a witness at the joint trial of the Petitioner and Mr. Moody. Shortly before trial, according to the Petitioner's trial attorney ("Counsel"), Mr. Thomas's attorney announced to the court that Mr. Thomas refused to testify.[1]

         The evidence presented at trial showed that, on April 25, 2009, the Petitioner, Mr. Thomas, Mr. Moody, Quontez Caldwell, and possibly a fifth unidentified male were driving around in Mr. Moody's car. As they drove down one road, they observed Christopher Bridges, a gang member at the time of the incident, and Deandre Williams walking down the street. Mr. Thomas observed Mr. Bridges reaching into his pocket for what Mr. Thomas believed to be a gun. Mr. Thomas responded by firing his gun into the air. Additional gunshots ensued. Mr. Caldwell, during a police interview, identified the Petitioner, Mr. Thomas, and Mr. Moody as participants in the shooting. The victim sustained a gunshot wound to her torso from a "stray" bullet that entered the victim's home during the shooting. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation testing and analysis confirmed that two 9 mm bullets recovered during the investigation were determined to have been fired from the Petitioner's 9 mm weapon. The Petitioner's black hat was also recovered from the roadway at the scene of the shooting. On May 12, 2011, a jury convicted the Petitioner and Mr. Moody as charged. Following the verdict, the State dismissed the employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony charge, and the trial court sentenced the Petitioner to life imprisonment for the first degree felony murder of the victim.

         In March 2012, Mr. Thomas pleaded guilty to second degree murder for a sentence of fifteen years. The following January, the Petitioner received a letter from Mr. Thomas stating he would testify on the Petitioner's behalf about the shooting. The Petitioner sought a petition for writ of error coram nobis, alleging newly discovered evidence in the form of Mr. Thomas's statements that the Petitioner was not a shooter. On July 10, 2014, the trial court held a hearing, and Mr. Thomas testified that Mr. Caldwell had taken the Petitioner's gun that was under the front passenger seat and used it to fire out the car window at Mr. Bridges and Mr. Williams. He stated that Mr. Caldwell also fired his own gun at the time. When the Petitioner reached outside the window to grab his gun away from Mr. Caldwell, his hat fell off onto the road. Mr. Thomas said that the Petitioner did not fire the weapon but only took his gun away from Mr. Caldwell. Mr. Thomas's attorney confirmed that this was the same account that Mr. Thomas had related to her consistently throughout her representation. The trial court denied relief, finding Mr. Thomas was not truthful in his testimony, and this Court affirmed the trial court's order denying the petition. See Martez D. Matthews v. State, M2014-01663-CCA-R3-ECN, 2015 WL 3814164 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, June 19, 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 15, 2015).

         On November 6, 2014, a post-conviction hearing was held on the Petitioner's claim that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. At the hearing, the Petitioner testified that he was seventeen years old at the time of the offense and that he was serving a life sentence. The Petitioner claimed that Counsel failed to adequately explain felony murder to him. He said that counsel told him and that he understood that the State would have to prove that he was the actual shooter in order to convict him.

         The Petitioner explained that, on the day of the shooting, he was in the car with four other individuals. He said that he was seated in the front passenger seat, Mr. Thomas was seated behind the driver, Mr. Moody was seated in the middle of the back seat, and Mr. Caldwell was seated in the back behind the passenger seat. He recalled seeing the two "guys" walking down the street and one of the two reached like he had a gun in his pants when the Petitioner heard gunfire. He said he "looked back" and saw Mr. Thomas firing his weapon and then saw Mr. Caldwell reach under the passenger seat and grab the Petitioner's gun. Mr. Caldwell was holding his own gun in one hand and the Petitioner's gun in the other. Mr. Caldwell "hung out the window" of the car and began firing both guns. The Petitioner said that he "reached up and grabbed [his] gun back." While doing so, his hat fell off. The Petitioner testified that he was unaware of any witnesses that were present at the scene that Counsel tried to interview.

         Bob Lyons, a private investigator, testified that Mr. Thomas's attorney hired him to investigate the case in March 2012. While at the scene of the shooting, on March 5, 2012, he observed a strike mark on the house across the street from the victim's residence. This residence was a rental property and the occupants were not residing there at the time of the 2009 shooting. He described the strike mark as on the front right side of the house between the gutter and the window. He agreed that he had no way of knowing when the strike mark occurred. He stated that there was a hill across the street that he understood was where Mr. Bridges and Mr. Williams fled when the shooting began.

         Counsel testified that she met with the Petitioner nineteen times after his case was transferred to criminal court. She said that she also talked with his mother about the case "a lot." Counsel provided the Petitioner with a copy of the discovery and listened to the recorded statements of the witnesses with him. Counsel recalled discussing felony murder and criminal responsibility with the Petitioner multiple times. She used the example of a bank robbery explaining that if he drove the car and she went inside to rob the bank while he waited in the car, he would be responsible for her ...


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