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State v. Pike

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

January 25, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
STEVEN JEFFREY PIKE

          Assigned on Briefs September 20, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 97142 Bob R. McGee, Judge

         The Defendant, Steven Jeffrey Pike, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated murder. See T.C.A. § 39-13-202(a)(1) (2014). He received a life sentence. On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and (2) the trial court erred by admitting his statements to the police. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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

          J. Liddell Kirk (on appeal) and Gregory P. Isaacs and Andrea Mohr (at trial), Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven Jeffrey Pike.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; Charme P. Allen, District Attorney General; and Leslie Nassios, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Alan E. Glenn, J., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE.

         This case relates to the January 15, 2011 killing of Angelo Gradillas, who was beaten to death at the home of Alma Pike, the Defendant's grandmother.

         Morgan Savage testified that on January 15, 2011, she lived across the street from Ms. Pike. She said that she arrived home at about 3:00 a.m., that she heard a door open, and that she saw someone entering Ms. Pike's house. Ms. Savage stated that she went upstairs and got into bed and that she heard "a lot of ruckus and yelling." Ms. Savage said that she looked out the window and saw the Defendant yelling and holding a cell phone. Ms. Savage heard the Defendant say, "=N-----, I'm gonna kill you.' And something about you don't do that to a girl, or you don't treat a girl that way."

         Ms. Savage testified that she watched the Defendant for a while, that she returned to her bed, and that she heard the Defendant yelling again, possibly a woman's voice, and a car driving away. Ms. Savage said that she looked out the window again and saw a "shadow" pacing at the house. Ms. Savage stated that she thought a woman was driving the car leaving Ms. Pike's house. Ms. Savage said that she had seen the Defendant with his girlfriend at the house previously. Ms. Savage said that she heard a truck without a muffler pass the house two or three times within ten minutes. She stated that when she awoke, police cars were parked outside her house.

         On cross-examination, Ms. Savage testified that she thought only the Defendant was home because only two or three cars were parked in the driveway and that she heard cars coming and going that night.

         A recording of a 2:27 a.m. 9-1-1 call was played for the jury. In it, an unidentified man told the dispatcher that his friend Angelo "beat the s--- out of me" and that Angelo was beside him. The man told a second man in the background, "You don't do me like that, " and the two men argued loudly. The man said, "Look at me, look the f--- at me, dude, " and the second man responded, "I didn't do it." The speaker said, "Then who the f--- did it?" The second man responded, "I don't know, you did it, I didn't do it." The man told the dispatcher that he did not require medical attention, that he wanted Angelo to leave, that no weapons were in the house, and that they had been drinking "a little bit." The man began arguing with the second man and told him he was "lucky as f---, I don't give a f--- .... Bring all your n------.... I will kill your a---." The second man said that the man was not going to kill him, and the man reiterated that he was going to "kill you, b----." The man told the second man that he got blood on his carpet and that he should leave the man's house. The dispatcher hung up because the man was not responding to questions.

         A recording of a 2:46 a.m. 9-1-1 call was played for the jury. In it, the Defendant identified himself and told the dispatcher that Angelo "came over here . . . [and] beat my a--." The Defendant said that he did not need an ambulance and that he wanted Angelo "picked up." The Defendant stated that he wanted to file charges against Angelo, that Angelo had left his location, and that he knew where Angelo lived. The Defendant confirmed that he was at his home and said that he had already reported the assault in a previous 9-1-1 call. The Defendant said that no deputies had responded to his first call and that he wanted the police to respond more quickly. The Defendant stated that he knew his call was not important because it was "just a fight, " that he had been drinking earlier in the evening, and that he did not deserve to be beaten.

         A recording of a 3:35 a.m. 9-1-1 call was played for the jury. In it, an unidentified woman, who reported living across the street from Ms. Pike, told the dispatcher that she heard a disturbance involving multiple vehicles in her subdivision. She said that a "truckload" of young men drove down the street and took off their shirts, that the men were driving and walking in the neighborhood's driveways, and that the truck was a "silver-ish" Ford. She said that the young men were leaving the neighborhood and that one of them went into a house across the street from her house. She referenced a group of young men who were "juniors and seniors" and who had previously caused disturbances in the neighborhood.

         A recording of an 8:17 a.m. 9-1-1 call was played for the jury. In it, the Defendant identified himself and told the dispatcher without emotion that he was at a Krystal restaurant and requested that the police come to arrest him. When asked why he wanted to turn himself in, the Defendant said that he would rather not discuss it. The dispatcher told the Defendant that the police would not arrest him without an outstanding warrant, and the Defendant responded that he had killed someone earlier in the day. The Defendant told the dispatcher that he was wearing blue jeans covered in blood and a black hooded sweatshirt, that he knew the location of the victim's body, and that he was unarmed.

         Knox County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Monroe testified that about 3:00 a.m. on January 15, 2011, he and another deputy responded to a disturbance complaint at Ms. Pike's house. Deputy Monroe stated that he noticed that the complainant, the Defendant, had a cut over his left eye and a knot on his forehead. The Defendant was intoxicated and told the deputies he and a friend had fought. Deputy Monroe said that although the Defendant initially seemed confused as to why his friend hit him, the Defendant later told the deputies he and his friend liked the same woman. The Defendant refused medical attention and requested to make a report in order to prosecute his friend. Deputy Monroe said that he told the Defendant he could call the deputies the next day when the Defendant was sober, that the Defendant refused to take Deputy Monroe's telephone number and said he would not call back the next day, and that the deputies left. Deputy Monroe stated that the Defendant was "pretty angry" and upset but was polite. Deputy Monroe said that the Defendant understood the deputies' questions and instructions and that he seemed to be aware of what was going on around him.

         A video recording from Deputy Monroe's police cruiser camera was played for the jury. The recording depicted the interaction between Deputy Monroe, his partner, and the Defendant and was consistent with Deputy Monroe's testimony. Deputy Monroe testified that he returned to the Defendant's neighborhood around 3:46 a.m. due to a noise complaint from a neighbor and that the neighborhood was quiet. Deputy Monroe said he noticed a silver car in the Defendant's driveway that was not present during his first visit.

         On cross-examination, Deputy Monroe agreed that the Defendant was injured when he spoke to the deputies and that the Defendant told them the victim had beaten him. Deputy Monroe acknowledged that he was concerned about the Defendant's being intoxicated. Deputy Monroe agreed that a few minutes after he left the Defendant, a neighbor made a noise complaint about individuals at Ms. Pike's house. Deputy Monroe identified a photograph of a cut on the Defendant's forehead and the photograph was received as an exhibit.

         On redirect examination, Deputy Monroe testified that the Defendant was able to open the door for the deputies, that the Defendant refused medical attention, and that the deputies accompanied the Defendant inside to ensure no one else was in the house. Deputy Monroe said that the house was "pretty neat" and that the Defendant characterized the person who hit him as his friend. Deputy Monroe said that he did not have a reason to think the Defendant and the victim were in a romantic relationship. Deputy Monroe stated that he did not feel the Defendant was in danger because he told the deputies the victim had left the area. Deputy Monroe said that the Defendant never expressed fear to the deputies. Deputy Monroe stated that when he returned to the neighborhood, he was there to determine whether several males in a silver truck were screaming and yelling as they drove through the neighborhood. He said that when he arrived, the neighborhood was quiet and that he did not think he needed to knock on the Defendant's door.

         Knox County Sheriff's Deputy Roger Morgan testified that he went to a Krystal restaurant around 8:24 a.m. in response to the Defendant's 9-1-1 call in which he said he had killed someone and wanted to surrender himself. Deputy Morgan said that when he arrived, the Defendant stood in a grassy area beside the parking lot, that the Defendant wore blue jeans, a black hooded sweatshirt, and tennis shoes, and that the Defendant's blue jeans and shoes were covered in blood. Deputy Morgan stated that Deputy Capley restrained the Defendant, that the Defendant was cooperative, and that the Defendant's demeanor was calm. Deputy Morgan said that the Defendant appeared to understand the deputies' questions and did not appear intoxicated. Deputy Morgan stated that he spent between fifteen and twenty minutes with the Defendant before driving the Defendant to Ms. Pike's house. Deputy Morgan said that the Defendant cried "a little bit" when they left Krystal but otherwise remained calm.

         Deputy Morgan identified four photographs of the Defendant and the clothing he wore at the time of his arrest. The Defendant's blue jeans and his shoes were heavily splattered with blood. The Defendant had a cut on the left side of his forehead and a few small scratches on his hands. Deputy Morgan testified that the Krystal restaurant to which he responded was about one mile from Ms. Pike's house.

         Knox County Sheriff's Deputy Chad Capley testified that he responded to Krystal with Deputy Morgan. Deputy Capley said that when the deputies arrived, the Defendant stood under a sign, that the Defendant turned his back to the deputies and put his hands in the air, and that the Defendant had a "significant amount of blood" on his clothing. Deputy Capley stated that he asked the Defendant if he was injured, that the Defendant said the blood was not his, and that the deputies handcuffed the Defendant and "Mirandized him at that time." Deputy Capley said that the Defendant had a visible head injury and was calm, although "he was a little reluctant . . . [and] didn't want to tell us what he had done." Deputy Capley stated that the Defendant was placed in Deputy Morgan's car, that the deputies met with their supervisors, and that the group went to Ms. Pike's house. Deputy Capley said that Deputies Morgan and Sharp went inside the house while Deputy Capley supervised the Defendant. Deputy Capley stated that the Defendant did not cause any trouble.

         Joseph Merrell testified that he considered the victim to be his best friend, that he had known the victim for ten years, and that he met the Defendant on the night before the victim's death. Mr. Merrell said that he picked up the victim around 4:00 p.m., that they planned to go to the Southbound nightclub later in the evening, that they shopped and ate dinner, that Mr. Merrell drove his mother's silver Kia Rio, and that while they were at a restaurant, the victim spoke to the Defendant on the telephone. Mr. Merrell stated that the Defendant "very adamantly said . . . my grandma's out of town, we could all crash [at her house] and hang out[.]" Mr. Merrell said that at about 9:30 p.m., he, the victim, and another friend, later identified as Jordan Kuzne, drove to Ms. Pike's house and that Mr. Kuzne drove a truck. Mr. Merrell stated that he, the victim, the Defendant, Mr. Kuzne, and Blake Wallace "hung out and drank a little bit, " that they left and went to Brittany Covington's apartment, and that they went to Southbound. Mr. Merrell stated that about 11:30 p.m., he became separated from the victim and the Defendant, that the victim had Mr. Merrell's car keys, that the victim and the Defendant left without him, and that Mr. Merrell, Mr. Kuzne, and Mr. Wallace obtained a ride to "the strip, " where the three men went to two other bars and looked for a ride to Ms. Pike's house. Mr. Merrell later said that the victim and the Defendant left Southbound about 2:00 a.m. Mr. Merrell noted that it was not unusual for the victim to drive Mr. Merrell's car. Mr. Merrell said that they rode to Ms. Pike's house in the bed of a man's white Ford pickup truck around 3:30 a.m. Mr. Merrell stated that the truck was noisy. He said that the driver of the truck dropped off the men and "peeled out and left."

         Mr. Merrell testified that when they arrived, the house was as they had left it and that the Defendant and the victim were present. Mr. Merrell said that "the night was pretty much over, " that the men prepared to go to sleep, that he and Mr. Wallace decided to stay the night at Mr. Wallace's house, and that the group, apart from the Defendant, acted normal. Mr. Merrell stated that the Defendant had a "big knot on his head, " that "they" had already been in a fight, and that the Defendant was adamant that Mr. Merrell and Mr. Wallace leave and the victim stay because the victim had plans to meet the victim's girlfriend in the morning. Mr. Merrell said that the Defendant put his hands on Mr. Merrell's and Mr. Wallace's shoulders and separated them from the victim, that the men could not talk to the victim about why he and the Defendant fought, and that the Defendant said, "He busted my head. We're friends. It's no big deal." Mr. Merrell stated that he asked the Defendant two or three times whether the Defendant and the victim would fight if he and Mr. Wallace left and that the Defendant assured Mr. Merrell they would not fight. Mr. Merrell said that the Defendant "was very normal about it. He was just very cool and collected . . . and just wanting me and [Mr. Wallace] to leave." Mr. Merrell stated that at the last moment, the victim decided to stay because his girlfriend planned to pick up the victim from Ms. Pike's house.

         Mr. Merrell testified that when he left the house, the Defendant did not seem intoxicated "past the point to where he was slurring his words . . . or stumbling or anything like that . . . . [He] did not seem to be completely inebriated or intoxicated at that time. He was not any more intoxicated than anybody else." When asked whether the Defendant seemed angry, Mr. Merrell said, "Not at all, which was very weird and just did not seem right . . . he didn't seem angry, but he was very loud and he continued to not want [the victim ] to speak . . . . [It] was a very weird, eerie feeling[.]" Mr. Merrell stated that the victim did not indicate he wanted to talk to Mr. Merrell and that the victim "seemed like he was trying to hide it, whatever had happened . . . because [the Defendant] would not give him the space for him to be able to speak to us to tell us what had happened." Mr. Merrell said that the victim did not have a car or a cell phone.

         Mr. Merrell testified that to his knowledge, the victim and the Defendant were acquaintances but were not "good friends." Mr. Merrell said that the victim's girlfriend was pregnant and that the victim dated multiple women simultaneously. Mr. Merrell stated that the victim's demeanor was normal when they were at Southbound and that when the victim was at Ms. Pike's house, he was quiet and calm but acted uneasy. Mr. Merrell said that the victim stated he was going to sleep and that the victim walked Mr. Merrell and Mr. Wallace to the door. Mr. Merrell agreed that the victim shaved his body hair and said the victim was "metrosexual." Mr. Merrell denied that the victim was homosexual and said that the victim was not homophobic.

         On cross-examination, Mr. Merrell testified that the victim would often "crash" with various friends, including Mr. Merrell. Mr. Merrell stated that when he arrived at Ms. Pike's house, he drove the group to a liquor store, that he bought a "handle" of vodka and a "large magnum" of wine, and that the group drank moderately. Mr. Merrell did not see anyone drinking at Ms. Covington's house. Mr. Merrell agreed that he, the Defendant, and the victim drank vodka and that Mr. Merrell smoked marijuana. Mr. Merrell said that the victim acted normal and that he did not notice the victim's being especially intoxicated. Mr. Merrell acknowledged that he continued drinking at Southbound and at the other bars he visited. Mr. Merrell estimated that he had about ten drinks over the course of six hours and said that for him, it was a moderate night of drinking.

         Mr. Merrell testified that he remembered the night's events in spite of his drinking and that he thought the victim "was definitely [with]holding information from us." Mr. Merrell stated that he had heard the recording of the Defendant's first 9-1-1 call and that he recognized the victim's voice in the background. Mr. Merrell said that when he returned to the house, the Defendant was less intoxicated than he was in the 9-1-1 recording. Mr. Merrell maintained that he did not consider the Defendant intoxicated because he did not stumble or slur his words, although Mr. Merrell later said that the Defendant was not sober. Mr. Merrell stated that the Defendant told him the victim had "busted my head" a few times.

         Mr. Merrell testified that he and Mr. Wallace were not permitted to talk to the victim and denied that the victim expressed fear of being arrested because the Defendant called the police. Mr. Merrell said that the victim and the Defendant never told Mr. Merrell and Mr. Wallace about the argument or about the 9-1-1 calls. Mr. Merrell denied that his intoxication affected his perception of the Defendant's level of intoxication.

         Mr. Merrell testified that he, the victim, and all of their friends shaved their body hair. Mr. Merrell said that there was "very little" of the victim's life of which he was not aware. Mr. Merrell denied that he was equally or more intoxicated than anyone in the group. On redirect examination, Mr. Merrell said that on the evening of January 14, the victim drank an average amount of alcohol based upon his usual habits.

         Blake Wallace testified that he considered the victim to be his best friend, that he had known the victim for six or eight years, and that although Mr. Wallace had seen the Defendant previously, he did not know him personally. Mr. Wallace said that he saw Mr. Merrell at Southbound, that he and Mr. Merrell were good friends, and that Mr. Wallace saw the victim come in briefly and leave. Mr. Wallace said that a friend gave them a ride to another bar between 12:30 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. Mr. Wallace stated that the friend left and that he, Mr. Merrell, and two other men obtained a ride to Ms. Pike's house with some "bar friends" in a large red truck. Mr. Wallace did not remember whether Jordan Kuzne rode with them.

         Mr. Wallace testified that when they arrived at Ms. Pike's house, the Defendant met them outside, that the Defendant was shirtless and had a gash over his eye, and that the Defendant said he and the victim "got into a scuffle." Mr. Wallace said that he asked the Defendant, "[A]re you all cool, " and that the Defendant told him everything was fine. Mr. Wallace stated that he went into the house and asked the victim whether he punched the Defendant and that the victim said he punched the Defendant because the Defendant "kept like poking him . . . when he was asleep[.]" Mr. Wallace said that no one seemed angry and that he thought everything was all right. Mr. Wallace stated that after about an hour, he and Mr. Merrell left together, that the victim and the Defendant were not arguing or angry, and that Mr. Wallace felt comfortable leaving the victim there.

         Mr. Wallace testified that although the group had been drinking, none of them were "extremely intoxicated, " and that they drank almost every weekend. He said that the Defendant was able to understand what was happening, that the Defendant knew Mr. Wallace's name, that the Defendant was not stumbling, and that the victim also acted normal.

         On cross-examination, Mr. Wallace testified that he arrived at Southbound around 11:30 p.m. and that he did not drink before he arrived. Mr. Wallace denied that his memory was hazy or foggy, although he said that his memory was not as good as it was on the date of the incident. Mr. Wallace stated that he was at Southbound for no more than two hours and that he briefly saw the victim between 12:15 and 12:30 a.m. Mr. Wallace agreed that the victim drank heavily and that it was apparent the victim had been drinking. Mr. Wallace said, though, that the victim drank every day, that the victim had a high alcohol tolerance, and that Mr. Wallace had never seen the victim extremely intoxicated, vomiting, or unconscious as a result of drinking. Mr. Wallace agreed that he saw Mr. Merrell but denied that Mr. Merrell appeared intoxicated. Mr. Wallace said that he drank beer at Southbound and that he did not see Mr. Merrell drink there. Mr. Wallace stated that he did not see the Defendant until he arrived at Ms. Pike's house. Mr. Wallace said that after he left Southbound, he did not accompany the group to another bar. Mr. Wallace stated that the bars closed at 3:00 a.m. and that he went to Ms. Pike's house between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m.

         Mr. Wallace testified that everyone at the house acted normal and seemed "kind of sober . . . it was just kind of one of those nights." Mr. Wallace said that he felt sober and thought he could have driven. Mr. Wallace stated that the victim did not appear to be intoxicated. Mr. Wallace remembered telling a police officer that the Defendant acted "the most intoxicated, but he was just acting weird all the way around. He was . . . patting [the victim] on the leg . . . getting all close to him and s---, that stuff normal guys don't do[.]" Mr. Wallace said, though, that he would not say the Defendant was the most intoxicated person in the room and that he saw the Defendant as "the strangest and doing things that I'm normally not used to doing[.]" Mr. Wallace denied that he characterized the Defendant's actions as affectionate and said that he characterized the actions as "homosexual." Mr. Wallace recalled telling the police that he speculated the cause of the fight between the Defendant and the victim was that the Defendant made a sexual advance toward the victim. Mr. Wallace stated that when he lived with another man, the victim stayed overnight once and that Mr. Wallace had never seen the Defendant at the man's house. Mr. Wallace said that he told the police about an incident two years before the victim's death in which "a guy [at a bar] slapped [the victim] on the a--." Mr. Wallace said that the victim hit the man and that the only time Mr. Wallace saw the victim fight was when a man made a sexual advance toward him.

         On redirect examination, Mr. Wallace testified that at Ms. Pike's house, the victim did not appear angry when the Defendant touched him. Mr. Wallace stated that "everybody was being friends" and that no one was arguing when he left the house.

         Ashley Maner testified that she had previous romantic relationships with the Defendant and the victim, that she remained friendly with both men, and that she believed the men were friends. Ms. Maner estimated that the victim and the Defendant had known each other between six and eight months before the victim's death. Ms. Maner said that on the evening of January 14, she went to Southbound and that she saw the victim and the Defendant together. She stated that she spoke briefly with the victim, that their conversation was friendly, and that the victim and the Defendant seemed to be having a good time. Ms. Maner agreed that the men appeared to have been drinking, that they were coherent, and that they behaved normally.

         Ms. Maner testified that when she arrived home around 3:30 a.m., she returned a call from the Defendant and that she thought the victim answered. She said that the conversation was friendly until suddenly, the victim called her a "whore." Ms. Maner stated that she thought he referred to her relationship with the Defendant, that she told the victim she wanted to speak to the Defendant, that the victim handed the telephone to the Defendant, that the Defendant asked her if everything was okay, and that she told the Defendant everything was fine. Ms. Maner said that at one point, Mr. Wallace was handed the telephone and said hello. She stated that the conversation lasted about fifteen minutes and that she heard music and male voices in the background. She said that it sounded as though the men were having a party and a good time. Ms. Maner denied that the victim and the Defendant argued or sounded angry. Ms. Maner said that "at some point" in the early morning, the victim stopped by her house when she was not there and that she thought he wanted to stay overnight with her. Ms. Maner stated that her friend was at the house with Ms. Maner's daughter and that Ms. Maner did not know whether the victim was alone when he came to her house. Ms. Maner said that the victim did not own a car or a cell phone and that she did not know how he traveled to her house. Ms. Maner denied the victim was homosexual.

         On cross-examination, Ms. Maner testified that her romantic relationship with the Defendant occurred "recently" before the victim's death. Ms. Maner said that she was aware the Defendant and the victim were roommates for an unknown period of time. Ms. Maner agreed that the Defendant and the victim talked frequently, were friendly, liked to drink alcohol, and "looked out for each other as friends would[.]" Ms. Maner stated that although she and the Defendant were physically intimate for a time, they were not "dating, " and that after she and the Defendant ended their relationship, she started dating the victim. Ms. Maner said that she knew the victim well, that she ...


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