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State v. Ferguson

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

January 30, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
STEPHANIE LYNN FERGUSON

          January 10, 2017 Assigned on Briefs

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2015-B-930 Monte Watkins, Judge

         The Defendant, Stephanie Lynn Ferguson, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault in the Criminal Court for Davidson County. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of twenty-six years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that her effective sentence does not comport with the fundamental purposes and principles of sentencing. Specifically, she contends that the sentence imposed was not the "least severe measure necessary, " that the trial court ignored applicable mitigating factors, and that the court improperly determined she was a dangerous offender. 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

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Courtney N. Orr, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Kyle Anderson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Elaine Heard, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Stephanie Lynn Ferguson.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         This case arises from a multi-vehicle crash in which a truck driven by the Defendant crashed into the back of a car occupied by Willie Nichols and Aaron Hall, forcing their car into the back of another vehicle and resulting in Mr. Nichols' and Mr. Hall's deaths. Based on the incident, the Davidson County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant for the following offenses:

Count

Offense

Victim

1

Vehicular Homicide

Willie Nichols

2

Aggravated Vehicular Homicide

Willie Nichols

3

Reckless Vehicular Homicide

Willie Nichols

4

Vehicular Homicide

Aaron Hall

5

Aggravated Vehicular Homicide

Aaron Hall

6

Reckless Aggravated Homicide

Aaron Hall

7

Reckless Aggravated Assault

Mistie Roberts

8

Reckless Aggravated Assault

Terrio Williams

9

Reckless Aggravated Assault

Coty Lavender

10

Reckless Aggravated Assault

Nichole Lavender

11

Vehicular Assault

Ashley Morrison

12

Driving on a Revoked License

N/A

13

Possession of a Controlled Substance

N/A

14

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

N/A

15

Filing a False Report

N/A

         On March 24, 2016, the Defendant pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide in Counts 2 and 5 and vehicular assault in Count 11, and the remaining counts were dismissed. At the guilty plea submission hearing, the State offered the following factual basis for the Defendant's plea:

[T]he facts are that on Thursday, the 22nd of January, 2015 at approximately 18 minutes after 11 a.m., Central and North Precinct officers responded to a motor vehicle crash, which occurred on Jefferson Street at 3rd Avenue North here in Davidson County.
This crash involved four vehicles. The first vehicle was a 2006 Toyota Tundra, which was driven by [the Defendant]; the second was a 2001 Cadillac Deville, which was driven by Mr. Willie Nichols; the third was a 2008 Ford Focus, which was driven by Coty Lavender, the fourth was a 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix, which was driven by Mistie Roberts.

The investigation revealed that the Toyota collided with the Cadillac, which started a chain reaction, pushing the Cadillac into the Ford and the Ford into the Pontiac. The driver of the Pontiac and her passenger, Mr. Terrio Williams, were transported to Centennial Hospital with non[-]life threatening injur[i]es. The driver of the Ford and her passenger, Ms. Nichole Lavender, were transported to St. Thomas Midtown with non[-]life threatening injuries. However, Mr. Nichols and his passenger, Mr. Aaron Hall, were transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center with life threatening injuries. [The Defendant] and her passenger, Ms. Ashley Morrison, were transported to Vanderbilt Medical Center where they were in critical and stable [condition]. Mr. Nichols and Mr. Hall were pronounced deceased upon arrival at the hospital.

The Fatal Team Unit was dispatched to conduct an investigation. They discovered a syringe at the accident. Officer Steele conducted interviews of [the Defendant] and Ms. Morrison. Officer Steele observed track marks on the left arm near the hand of [the Defendant].
[The Defendant] stated that she was not the driver of the vehicle but a . . . "dude named John" was driving. Officer Steele interviewed Ms. Morrison, and she advised that only she and [the Defendant] were in the vehicle, and Ms. Morrison said that she had not ...

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