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State v. Harris

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

January 20, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs September 7, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 13-06187 Glenn I. Wright, Judge

         A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Krishon Harris, of three counts of criminally negligent homicide, one count of vehicular assault, one count of reckless aggravated assault, two counts of driving under the influence, one count of reckless driving, and one count of driving with a suspended license. The trial court merged the three homicide convictions, merged the aggravated assault conviction and the two driving while under the influence convictions into the conviction for vehicular assault, and then sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions for criminally negligent homicide and vehicular assault. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgments.

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

          Mark Mesler, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Krishon Harris.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Stephanie Johnson and Jennifer Morris, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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



         I. Facts

         This case arises from a traffic accident that occurred on August 9, 2013. A Shelby County grand jury indicted the Defendant for eleven counts: three counts of vehicular homicide of the victim, Eric Beasley (two of these alleged intoxication, one of which was .08 or more); one count of vehicular assault of a second victim, Miesha Lucas; one count of reckless aggravated assault of Ms. Lucas; four counts of driving while intoxicated ("DUI") (two of these counts involving marijuana); one count of reckless driving; and one count of driving while his license was suspended, second offense. Before trial, the State dismissed the two counts of driving under the influence of marijuana. The parties presented the following evidence at trial: Matthew Chaney, an officer with the Memphis Police Department ("MPD"), testified that he responded to a call on August 9, 2013, about a domestic dispute involving a mother and her son. When he arrived, the son had left the scene, but the officer noticed the Defendant drinking a beer and sitting in the driveway of the home to which he had responded. Officer Chaney said that he knew the Defendant and told the Defendant that he should not drive and should stay home that evening. Officer Chaney said that he left the scene and resumed his regular duties. A short time later, as he was issuing a driver a misdemeanor citation, he observed the Defendant drive by in a Lincoln Town Car. He said that he could not stop the Defendant at the time, as he was engaged in issuing a citation. Two minutes later, a witness flagged down the officer while he was still issuing the citation and said that there had been an accident.

         Officer Chaney testified that he went to the accident scene, and he saw a motorcycle and the Lincoln Town Car that the Defendant had been driving. A man, who appeared to be dead, and a critically injured woman were lying on the ground. Officer Chaney focused his attention on the woman, helping to support her until emergency responders arrived. Officer Chaney said he had no contact with the Defendant at the accident scene.

         During cross-examination, Officer Chaney agreed that the domestic dispute to which he was called earlier that evening did not involve the Defendant. He said that the dispute involved the Defendant's brother and the Defendant's mother. Officer Chaney was aware at the time that the Defendant's brother suffered some mental health issues. Officer Chaney agreed that he was not at the home for long and that he saw the Defendant with only the one beer. He briefly told him not to drink and drive, but it did not appear the Defendant had any intention of doing so. The officer said that, when he issued the misdemeanor citation, he was ten to twelve houses away from where he originally encountered the Defendant. He confirmed that there was a BP gas station one traffic light away from where the accident occurred.

         James Brown, an officer with the MPD, testified that he responded to the call about the traffic accident in this case. While he was with Officer Chaney and another officer, Officer Till, a motorist flagged him down saying that there had been a car accident. All three officers went to the accident scene, which he described similarly to Officer Chaney's testimony. Officer Brown said that, when he first arrived at the scene, he began asking witnesses questions. Officer Brown noted that the Defendant was standing by the Lincoln Town Car and told him that he was the driver of the car at the time of the accident. Officer Brown asked him for his license and insurance, and the Defendant responded that he only had identification. Officer Brown noted the "moderate" smell of an intoxicant on the Defendant's breath. Officer Brown asked the Defendant to sit in his patrol car while he investigated the accident. Officer Brown said that he then taped off the area, called for back-up, and called paramedics.

         During cross-examination, Officer Brown testified that he had not seen the Lincoln Town Car before the accident. He said that he responded to the accident scene as soon as the motorist flagged him down, and he was the ...

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