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State v. Taliaferro

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

January 20, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
BRANDON TALIAFERRO

          Assigned on Briefs September 7, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 13-02659 James M. Lammey, Jr., Judge

         The Defendant, Brandon Taliaferro, was convicted of first degree murder in the attempt to perpetrate a robbery and attempted especially aggravated robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101; -13-202(a)(2); -13-403(a). In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred by allowing the State to enter into evidence the entire tape-recorded conversation between the Defendant and a State's witness, the mother of his child, and (2) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions, arguing that there was no proof that he intended to rob the victim or that he was criminally responsible for the actions of the person(s) who killed the victim. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Laurie Winstead Hall (at trial and on appeal); and Juni Ganguli (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brandon Taliaferro.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Glen Baity and Bryce Phillips, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Robert W. Wedemeyer, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         This case arose following the August 7, 2012 shooting death of the victim, Jernario Taylor. Thereafter, the Shelby County Grand Jury charged the Defendant with one count of first degree murder in the attempt to perpetrate a robbery and one count of attempted especially aggravated robbery. A trial was held in the Criminal Court for Shelby County in July 2015.

         Mallorie Brown testified that on August 7, 2012, she lived at Sunridge Apartments with the victim, who was the father of her two children. Tarkeisha Jones also lived with Ms. Brown and the victim at this apartment. Ms. Brown explained that the apartment was a two-story townhouse, with a front door and a back door. On the evening of August 7, 2012, Ms. Brown was in the upstairs portion of the apartment giving her infant daughter a bath. Afterward, she said that she went downstairs to the kitchen to wash dishes. During this time, the victim and Ms. Jones were seated on a couch in the living room on the first floor watching television. Shortly after Ms. Brown went downstairs to the kitchen, she heard a single shot. Upon hearing the shot, she moved from the kitchen into a hallway and saw two men inside the home, whom she later identified from a photograph array as the Defendant and his co-defendant, Daniel Nesbitt. She also observed Ms. Jones run out the back door. She said Mr. Nesbitt "jacked [her] up and said, 'B---h, where the money at?'" She explained that Mr. Nesbitt had grabbed her by the shirt and that she repsonded, "There ain't no money [sic]." While this was happening, she testified that she saw the victim lying on the living room floor and that the Defendant was present. She was able to escape the intruders, who were both armed, and ran out the back door. She ran around the apartment building, knocked on a neighbor's door, and called the police from her neighbor's home. On cross-examination, Ms. Brown admitted that she had previously obtained convictions for identity theft and forgery. When asked if hearing a shot was "what made [her] come downstairs, " she replied, "Yes." She did not mention being in the kitchen prior to hearing the shot.

         Tarkeisha Jones testified that the victim was her friend. When asked to describe what happened on August 7, 2012 around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., she said that she and the victim were sitting on the couch in the living room. The Defendant, whom she had never met, knocked on the door and bought some marijuana. She explained that the victim sold marijuana out of his apartment, and she said from their conversation it appeared as if this was the Defendant's second time coming in the home that night. Ms. Jones said that the Defendant and the victim conducted a drug exchange, and then the Defendant picked up a candle jar and attempted to light a cigarette on the burning candle. Ms. Jones informed the Defendant that he was not allowed to smoke inside the home, and the victim gave the Defendant a lighter from his pocket. The Defendant took the lighter and went outside. Ms. Jones told the victim to retrieve the lighter from the Defendant. She stated that when the victim "stuck his head out, he kind of leaned back in and flinched[, ]" and she heard one loud shot, then "the guy who shot [the victim] came in." She testified that the man who shot the victim was not the Defendant. She further explained that when the victim flinched from the gunshot, he tried to push the door closed. She did not see the shooting. After hearing the shot, she ran out the back door of the apartment and hid behind a tree. From her hiding spot, she observed the shooter standing over the victim, and or, going through his pockets. She went to a neighbor's home and called the police.

         Ms. Jones testified that there was a third person present during the shooting. The third person never went inside the aparment, but he was "standing up against the wall with a gun pointing in the front door." The gun the third man was holding "looked like [an] AK[-]47[, ]" and the gun the shooter had was "a small black gun." She acknowledged on cross-examination that Mr. Nesbitt, the man with the handgun, was "five foot eight to five foot nine[, ]" "with brown skin, medium complexion[, ]" and he was wearing "a white T-shirt" and "red shorts." She did not see the Defendant holding a weapon and agreed that he had "a blue shirt, long dreads, and a ponytail, dark skin . . . a goatee . . . [and] blue shorts[.]" Ms. Jones also explained that Ms. Brown was in the apartment when the shooting occurred. She testified that Ms. Brown had been upstairs bathing her baby, and then she had gone downstairs into the kitchen. Ms. Jones heard a man "yelling at [Ms. Brown] . . . telling her to give him the money. And she was just screaming saying that she didn't have any money."

         Ms. Jones acknowledged that when she gave her statement to police, she told the officers her name was Darneisha Theus. She used another name "[b]ecause [she] had a warrant for violation of probation, and [she] just didn't want to [go] to jail while this was going on." She was afraid if she had used her real name, the police would have arrested her. In a photographic lineup, Ms. Jones identified the Defendant.

         At trial, Ms. Jones identified a photograph of the candle that the Defendant had picked up to light his cigarette. Additionally, the Defendant and the State agreed to two stipulations. First, they agreed that "the latent fingerprint found on the glass candle holder located at 4945 Clinchstone Circle on August 8th, 2012, by Memphis Police Department crime scene Officer Parish, corresponds to Shelby County Records and Identification No. 365971. This records and identification number belongs to that of the [D]efendant[.]" Second, they stipulated that "the identification uncovered by the ...


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