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State v. Scott

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

February 13, 2017


          Session November 15, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 103494 Scott Green, Judge

         Defendant, Rodney Lee Scott, was found guilty by a jury of attempted voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless aggravated assault, leaving the scene of the accident, and public intoxication as the result of an incident described as road rage on December 16, 2013. As a result of the convictions, Defendant received an effective sentence of six years. Defendant appeals, challenging: (1) the sufficiency of the evidence; (2) the denial of a motion to sever; (3) the denial of a motion in limine which sought to allow Defendant to cross-examine the victims about their criminal history; (4) his dual convictions for attempted voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault; and (5) the trial court's denial of a mistrial. After a review of the evidence and authorities, we affirm the judgments of the trial court with respect to Defendant's convictions for attempted voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, leaving the scene of the accident, and public intoxication. Because reckless aggravated assault cannot be a lesser included offense of aggravated assault based upon fearing imminent bodily injury, we reverse and dismiss Defendant's conviction for reckless aggravated assault. On remand, the trial court should enter judgment forms dismissing Counts Four and Seven of the indictment.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal Court Affirmed in Part, Reversed in Part and Remanded

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          John M. Boucher, Jr. Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Rodney Lee Scott.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Robert W. Wilson, Assistant Attorney General; Charme P. Allen, District Attorney General; and Kevin Allen, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.



         Factual Background

         In April of 2014, Defendant was indicted by the Knox County Grand Jury for attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, leaving the scene of an accident, public intoxication, and theft of property valued at $500 or less after incidents taking place on December 16, 2013. At around 3:42 p.m. that day, a call was made to 911 to report an ongoing "road rage" incident involving a black SUV and two motorcycles.

         Shortly before the 911 call, J.R. Trisler and his friend Tyler Lakin met at Moto 4 Us motorcycle shop. The two had plans to ride motorcycles on Highway 95. Instead, the men rode their bikes on I-640 and exited at East Town Mall Road where the exit ramp splits from one lane into two lanes prior to the end of the ramp. Mr. Lakin was in front of Mr. Trisler by about "two bike lengths" on the ramp in the right lane. A black SUV was in front of Mr. Lakin, driven by Defendant. When the ramp split into two lanes, Mr. Lakin got into the left lane. Before the SUV got to the end of the ramp, "[Defendant] swerved to try to hit [Mr. Lakin]." Mr. Trisler saw the SUV swerve toward Mr. Lakin twice.

         Defendant had been at the golf course that day but the weather prevented him from playing golf so he played a few rounds of cards with his friends instead. He was on the way home from the golf course when he realized that he needed to run an errand requiring him to turn left off the exit. He started to move his vehicle from the right lane over into the left lane when he changed his mind and decided to just go home. He then moved back into the right lane so that he could turn right and head toward his house. At that time, he heard motorcycles. As the motorcycles and Defendant approached the end of the ramp, the motorcycles were in the lane to the left of Defendant's SUV. Mr. Lakin "traded words" with Defendant at the end of the ramp and accused Defendant of running Mr. Trisler off the road. Defendant recalls that he asked the men something like, "What are you doing?" Defendant claimed that he did not know what Mr. Lakin was talking about but that he got "angry" nonetheless and the two men "had some choice words" between each other. Mr. Trisler recalled Defendant had his window down and "was screaming that he hated motorcyclists." Mr. Trisler heard Defendant "cussing" and using "racial slurs" like "N ----- " and "yellow boy, "[1] so he decided to "get his tag number and call the cops." After the exchange at the end of the ramp, Defendant turned right and went toward his own house. Mr. Trisler described Defendant's actions as "hysterical."

         The motorcyclists followed Defendant down Millertown Pike. At one point, Defendant "hit the brakes real hard" and almost made Mr. Trisler "rear end" Defendant. Defendant started driving again and eventually pulled in to a Regions Bank parking lot. Defendant sped around the building in his SUV. Defendant did not stop because he thought the men on the motorcycles were "going to beat [him] up or do something like that." Mr. Trisler pulled into the bank parking lot, hopped off his bike, and screamed at Ben Bellew, the security guard, to call the police. Mr. Bellew had been standing inside near the tellers when he "heard the squalling tires come through" the parking lot. He walked outside, saw a black Saturn SUV and two motorcycles, and was told by Mr. Trisler to call 911.

         Defendant drove his SUV back onto the main road and the motorcycles continued to follow him. After traveling down the road for a bit, Defendant stopped the SUV before he got to a stop sign and "put the brake - - reverse lights on and he backed up into [Mr. Trisler]." Mr. Trisler claimed Defendant's "car clipped [his motorcycle]" and he threw his motorcycle into the ditch to avoid a more serious accident. The bike sustained a small amount of damage. Thuan Mai, a nearby resident, was outside and heard a "quick stop from a vehicle" so he turned around just in time to see Defendant "put it in reverse" for one to two car lengths. The motorcycle behind the SUV tried to avoid the accident and went into the ditch "to avoid from getting hit." Mr. Mai helped Mr. Trisler get his bike back up on to the roadway. Mr. Mai observed minor damage to the motorcycle.

         Defendant testified the incident at the stop sign was the result of a traffic back up where he thought "there was enough room to where [he] could probably get out of there" so he "backed up" in order to try to drive forward around other cars and evade the motorcycles. Defendant stated, "[N]ext thing I knew, one of [the motorcycle riders] is on the hood of my car. [The motorcycle rider] grabbed my mirror and he grabbed the area right where my windshield wipers are, and beat the windshield, and sa[id], 'I'm going to kill you, you son of a bitch.'"[2] Defendant described backing up as a defensive move and admitted leaving the scene. Defendant testified he drove as fast as possible to get home, though the volume of traffic made it difficult.

         At a red light, Mr. Trisler yelled for someone to call 911. Joe Jackson was stopped nearby and overheard this request. He placed a call to 911 at around 3:42 p.m. During the phone call, Mr. Jackson reported that a black Saturn Vue just hit a motorcycle and was trying to leave the scene. He reported the location of the incident and the license plate number of the SUV. Mr. Jackson saw two motorcycles following the SUV. He decided to follow both the motorcycles and the SUV. Eventually they turned onto Mary Emily Lane where the SUV pulled into a driveway. Defendant exited the vehicle and walked into the house.

         Defendant came out of his house shortly thereafter. Mr. Trisler informed Defendant that someone had already called the police, but Defendant was "screaming and he had some guns in his hands." Mr. Jackson saw the guns, put his car in gear, and retreated toward the dead end of the street. Mr. Jackson was able to witness the events by turning partially around in the driver's seat while he was driving away. Defendant continued to walk toward Mr. Trisler and Mr. Lakin. As Defendant approached, Mr. Trisler walked backward and diagonally away from Defendant. At first, Mr. Lakin thought Defendant was "just trying to intimidate [them], . . . so [he] didn't run." Mr. Lakin put his hands up in the air. Mr. Lakin recalled turning to walk away around the time Defendant started shooting. Mr. Trisler heard two or three shots. Mr. Lakin did not immediately fall to the ground, and actually thought Defendant had "shot over [him]" in order to intimidate him. Mr. Trisler turned and started to run away when he heard the shots. When he turned back around, Mr. Lakin was "l[]ying face down . . . in the street." Mr. Trisler saw Defendant fire the first two shots and thought that they were fired "straight at [Mr. Lakin's] face." The second two shots were fired "in the back" as Mr. Lakin was lying on the ground.[3] Mr. Trisler heard Defendant yelling "racial slurs." "After he shot [Mr. Lakin] two more times in the back, [Defendant] kept putting a gun to [Mr. Lakin's] head and pulling the trigger." Defendant stated that he would "kill" the "mother f'er." When the shooting was over, Defendant walked back inside. Defendant exited the house moments later, drinking a soda. Mr. Trisler called 911.[4] Mr. Trisler asked Defendant why he shot Mr. Lakin. Defendant informed him that it was "self-defense."

         Mr. Jackson called 911 for a second time at 3:48 p.m. to report the shooting. A review of the recording clearly indicates that Mr. Jackson was obviously distressed by the situation and was struggling to breathe. He reported that "this guy just come out and shot this man" seven or eight times from "point blank" range. He described the shooter as an "older white guy" who shot the victim in the back. Several other neighbors heard shots fired and called 911.

         Mr. Lakin was shot one time in the hand, one time in the "lower spine area, " one time in the "upper spine area" and one time on the "right side of [his] back, about mid - - mid way." He spent about one week in the hospital. The bullets were not removed from his body.

         Joan Scott, Defendant's wife, was home when Defendant, Mr. Lakin, and Mr. Trisler arrived that afternoon. Mrs. Scott is legally blind as a result of macular degeneration. Defendant had been at the golf course, a place he went regularly to play golf or cards. Defendant came into the house, shoved her out of the way, and told her to stay inside. She testified at trial that she heard Mr. Trisler and Mr. Lakin call her an "old bitch" and threaten her so she called 911, "hysterical and terrified" that she "was going to be killed" by the motorcyclists.[5] She heard Defendant yelling at them but could not see what they looked like because they were both wearing helmets. Additionally, she remained inside and the three men were outside. Mrs. Scott did not think Defendant was drinking the day of the incident.

         Defendant described himself as "aggravated" when he pulled into his driveway because some of the things in his car spilled all over the place "during . . . the melee." He opened the car door to clean out the mess and heard motorcycles. Defendant claimed that he did not call 911 while he was driving because he could not see the phone well enough to dial without his reading glasses.

         Defendant entered the house and instructed his wife to call 911. Defendant went upstairs to retrieve a pistol thinking that when he went outside with the pistol that the men would leave. Defendant walked outside and fired the gun in the air. The men were screaming obscenities at him. There were "a lot of verbal MF's, both of us, [and] SOB's." Defendant claimed that he was afraid and that the men threatened both him and his wife. Defendant walked toward the men and told them to "go ahead and leave." Defendant insisted his "gun was down" at that time when Mr. Lakin's arm reached and came up toward him. Defendant fired and the pistol went "bam, bam, bam, bam, bam as [Mr. Lakin] went down." Defendant had "never fired a pistol before in [his] life" and did not want to kill anyone.

         The first officer on the scene was Detective Heather Rayda with Knox County Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit, who was on her way to work and received a "BOLO"[6] for a "possible road rage incident." While she was driving, the matter evolved into a report of a shooting and changed from city to county jurisdiction. When she arrived on Mary Emily Lane, she observed "a man l[]ying face down in the grass, " Defendant "to [her] left standing in a driveway, " and a third person in her "peripheral vision on the right." She exited her unmarked patrol car, and Defendant "raise[d] his hands." Detective Rayda patted him down and placed him in handcuffs.

         Mr. Lakin was "struggling to breathe." Once Defendant was handcuffed, Mr. Trisler came out from where he was seeking refuge. He and the victim were still clothed in motorcycle gear. Detective Rayda described Defendant as "intoxicated" with "bloodshot and red" eyes and noticed that he smelled of alcohol. He acted "calm" and "aloof." Detective Rayda described his speech as "a little bit slurred." Mr. Trisler and Mr. Lakin were both "extremely upset" and seemed "petrified."

         The scene was processed by Kimberly Trotter of the Knox County Sheriff's Department Crime Scene Unit. She recovered eight spent shell casings from a .25 caliber gun outside, and a "small .25 caliber Beretta handgun" from the garage of Defendant's residence. Officers also found a bottle of Fireball whisky in Defendant's golf bag. A toxicology test ...

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