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Mason v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

February 14, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs December 6, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 09-04389 Lee V. Coffee, Judge

         Alexis Mason ("the Petitioner") was convicted of one count of second degree murder and three counts of aggravated assault by a Shelby County jury, for which the Petitioner received an effective sentence of thirty-seven years. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to argue self-defense. The post-conviction court denied relief after finding that trial counsel's failure to argue self-defense was not deficient and did not prejudice the Petitioner. On appeal, we affirm the post-conviction court's denial of relief.

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

          Monica A. Timmerman, Bartlett, Tennessee, for the appellant, Alexis Mason.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Karen Cook, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.



         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Jury Trial

         On direct appeal, this court summarized the facts of the Petitioner's case as follows:

Laketra Campbell testified that the last time she saw her sister, Sabrina [Campbell], alive was on March 21, 2009. Laketra stated that on March 20, 2009, she loaned her car to her friend, Sherika Swift, and her sister. When her sister and Swift returned home with Laketra's car, it had a dent in it. Laketra later learned that [the Petitioner] was responsible for the dent in her car. That same day, Laketra called [the Petitioner] to inquire "what happened, " and [the Petitioner] "[went] off and start[ed] cussing, " so [Laketra] hung up the phone.
The next day, March 21, 2009, Laketra called [the Petitioner] and told her that she was on her way to her house. Laketra, Sabrina, Swift, and [Shamika] Farris drove to the home of Swift's boyfriend, Rernardo Wilson, [1] and dropped off their children. On her way to [the Petitioner]'s house, Laketra saw [the Petitioner] and Derwin Owens. When Laketra asked [the Petitioner], "Why is this dent in my car, " she said that [the Petitioner] "talked crazy" and was "cussing." Laketra said that [the Petitioner] specifically told her, "Bitch, I'll kill again." Eventually, Farris, age fifteen at the time of the offense, and [the Petitioner] began to fight. [The Petitioner] had a knife; however, Owens took it from her. During the fight, [the Petitioner] was biting Farris "like a pit bull, " so Laketra hit [the Petitioner] to get her off Farris. Laketra said that [the Petitioner] went into the house and grabbed a broomstick, but Sabrina took the broomstick from [the Petitioner] and struck [the Petitioner] with it. Laketra then saw blood coming from a cut on [the Petitioner]'s eye. After approximately ten minutes, they stopped fighting. The victims got in the car and left.
Laketra, Sabrina, Farris, and Swift drove to Wilson's house to check on the children. Before Laketra left the area, [the Petitioner] called her on the phone. Laketra was able to see [the Petitioner] on the phone, standing outside of a black SUV waving a gun in her hand, but [the Petitioner] could not see Laketra. Laketra tried to "ride past [the Petitioner] real fast." When Laketra drove past the SUV, she saw the driver of the SUV and described him as a man with a dread lock hairstyle. Laketra later noticed the same SUV "on the side of her [car]" forcing her to "slid[e] and hit[ ] somebody's car[.]" She pulled her car to the side of the street, and the SUV pulled beside them. [The Petitioner]'s hand came out of the window of the SUV, and the victims said, "'We [sic] fixing to die.'"
Laketra heard shots and closed her eyes. When Laketra opened her eyes, her sister, Sabrina, had gotten out of the car. Laketra and the other passengers stayed inside Laketra's car for fear of being killed. Laketra panicked and later heard Sabrina say, "'I'm shot.'" Laketra and the other women then saw Sabrina "[fall] down real slow." Laketra called for help from a house nearby the shooting.
Laketra identified [the Petitioner] as the shooter in a photographic lineup on the day of the offense and at trial. Laketra also identified [co-defendant] Harris as the driver of the SUV in a photographic lineup on the day of the offense, which was admitted as an exhibit at trial. Laketra was unable to identify [co-defendant] Harris as the driver of the SUV at a previous hearing in May 2009, because he had a different hairstyle.
On cross-examination by [the Petitioner], Laketra was questioned regarding her preliminary hearing testimony and the statement she gave police soon after the shooting. She acknowledged testifying at the preliminary hearing that she closed her eyes during the shooting. She acknowledged telling the police that she drove to Wilson's house after the initial fight to get two crowbars. She testified at trial, however, that the crowbars had been in the car all along.
On cross-examination by [co-defendant] Harris, Laketra testified that she had never seen [co-defendant] Harris before she drove by him at the time of the shooting. He was not involved in the earlier confrontations. Laketra further acknowledged getting mad after she spoke to [the Petitioner] on the phone the evening of March 20.
On redirect examination, Laketra's police statement was admitted as an exhibit. Laketra testified that the crowbars had been in the car before the fight and that the ...

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