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State v. Minor

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

February 16, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs November 1, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. 15-167 Roy B. Morgan, Jr., Judge.

         In a bifurcated trial, a Madison County jury convicted the defendant, Christopher Minor, of two counts of first degree murder, two counts of aggravated burglary, one count of aggravated assault, one count of convicted felon in possession of a firearm, one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony having been previously been convicted of a felony, and six counts of violating Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-121, the criminal gang offenses enhancement statute. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of life plus twenty years. The defendant appeals his conviction, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence and the constitutionality of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-121. The State argues the evidence was sufficient to support the defendant's convictions, and the defendant waived his constitutional challenge by raising his argument for the first time on appeal. We agree with the State and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Lee R. Sparks, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher Minor.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Aaron J. Chaplin, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          J. Ross dyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams, J., joined. Camille R. McMullen, J., filed a separate opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.


          J. ROSS DYER, JUDGE.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         This appeal arises as a result of the murder and aggravated burglary of deceased victim Rico Swift, and the aggravated robbery and aggravated assault of female victim Julie Frye. The jury trial began on September 22, 2015. At trial, the parties presented the facts summarized below.

         The afternoon of June 8, 2014, Terron Kinnie called the defendant and asked that the defendant and Freddie Booth meet at his house around 4:00 p.m. Mr. Booth and the defendant complied. All were members of a street gang known as the Black P-Stone[1]Nation. Mr. Kinnie had the rank of "general" and oversaw the gang. The defendant was a low-ranking member of the organization known as a "foot soldier."

         When the defendant and Mr. Booth arrived at Mr. Kinnie's home, Rayshawn Norman, Kijuan Murphy, Terry Thompson, and Mr. Kinnie were present. Mr. Norman was also a member of the Black P-Stone Nation, but Mr. Murphy and Mr. Thompson were members of the Vice Lords, a related street gang. According to the defendant's trial testimony, Mr. Kinnie announced that Mr. Norman needed to prove himself to the gang by robbing the deceased victim. Mr. Kinnie chose the deceased victim because he had animosity towards him and considered him weak. The deceased victim also sold marijuana, and Mr. Kinnie knew he kept a large sum of cash in his apartment.

         The defendant testified that the men developed a plan. Later in the evening, they would go to the deceased victim's apartment. The defendant and Mr. Booth would enter first under the guise of purchasing marijuana. While making their purchase, they would surveil the apartment and determine whether anyone else was present. The remaining men would then enter the apartment and rob the deceased victim.

         Around 9:00 p.m., the men parked in the nearby driveway of a friend. The defendant drove Mr. Booth, Mr. Kinnie, and Mr. Norman in his girlfriend's white Chevrolet Malibu. A man known as "Big Ghost" drove Mr. Thompson and Mr. Murphy. The defendant and Mr. Booth then walked to the deceased victim's apartment.

         While the parties presented similar evidence at trial as to the subsequent events, the accounts of the female victim and the defendant differ as to who beat and injured the victims. The female victim testified that she and the deceased victim were in the apartment watching basketball on television when they heard a knock on the door. The deceased victim looked out the window, gave a funny look, and opened the door. He then let Mr. Booth and the defendant into the apartment and locked the door behind them.

         Mr. Booth entered the apartment first, followed by the defendant. The men each asked for a "blunt"[2] and gave the deceased victim $5 apiece. After taking the money, the deceased victim turned to get the marijuana. Once the deceased victim turned around, the defendant and Mr. Booth "jumped" him. The men grabbed the deceased victim around the neck and beat him in the left side of his head. The female victim testified that "[t]hey just kept busting him in his head, just everywhere." While this was happening, she sat on the couch in shock. Mr. Booth and the defendant eventually pushed the deceased victim onto the couch and continued to punch him in the head. They then choked him. The deceased victim's legs began jumping and he turned blue.

         The female victim testified that she decided to do something to help her boyfriend. She got up to walk to her bedroom and retrieve a pocketknife; however, before she got to the end of the couch, the defendant directed Mr. Booth to "[g]et that bitch, get that bitch, get that bitch." Mr. Booth then grabbed the female victim, slammed her into the wall, and threw her onto the kitchen floor. As she was being pushed into the kitchen, the female victim saw three other men in the apartment. According to the female victim, somebody must have let the men into the apartment because she remembered the deceased victim locking the door. The defendant then came into the kitchen, put a small gun between her eyes, and said, "Bitch, you got a phone? You got a phone, bitch?" After she did not respond, the defendant drew back the gun. She next remembers waking up on the kitchen floor covered in cockroaches and at trial agreed she got "knocked out or something."

         After waking on the kitchen floor, the female victim walked into the living room and found the deceased victim on his knees with his face down over the couch. She saw blood everywhere. In search of help, the female victim ran to the parking lot and found two men, Jarkius Person and Chance Mitchell. The men entered the apartment with her and called 911.

         At trial, the defendant offered a different account of his role in the events occurring June 8, 2014. According to the defendant, after leaving their friends in the nearby driveway, he and Mr. Booth walked to the deceased victim's apartment and knocked on the door. The deceased victim answered the door, and the defendant and Mr. Booth asked for two "dime sacks"[3] of marijuana. Mr. Booth then walked into the apartment followed by the defendant, who closed the door behind him.

         Once inside the apartment, the defendant began to look around and noticed the female victim in the bedroom. The deceased victim retrieved the marijuana from his bedroom, gave it to the defendant and Mr. Booth, and the men paid. Mr. Booth and the defendant then exited the apartment and found Mr. Kinnie, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Murphy, and Mr. Norman in the stairwell. The defendant walked past, said "no, " and held up two fingers, attempting to signal that there were two people in the apartment, so they should abandon the robbery. Despite his warning, Mr. Kinnie, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Murphy, and Mr. Norman went inside the deceased victim's apartment. Mr. Booth closed the door behind them, and the defendant and Mr. Booth ran to the nearby driveway where they had parked their cars. Big Ghost was waiting in his car, and the defendant advised him that there were two people in the apartment, but the men went forward with the robbery anyway. After a couple minutes, Mr. Kinnie, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Murphy, and Mr. Norman ran back to the cars. Mr. Kinnie, Mr. Murphy, and Mr. Norman got inside the car driven by the defendant. They were covered in blood, but Mr. Norman had the most blood on his body.

         The men returned to Ms. Kinnie's house. According to the defendant, once at Mr. Kinnie's house, they split the money taken from the deceased victim. The defendant, Mr. Booth, and Big Ghost each received $50 for driving and scoping out the property. The other four men received $300 apiece. Mr. Kinnie, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Murphy, and Mr. Norman discussed the beating in the defendant's presence. They told the defendant that the deceased victim tried to bite Mr. Norman, so Mr. Norman put him into a headlock. Mr. Kinnie bragged to the group about hitting the deceased victim in the head. The men said the female victim "just fell out." The defendant denied hitting either victim. The defendant further denied having a gun. According to the defendant, he did not learn about the deceased victim's death until the following day.

         Officers from the Jackson Police Department responded to the 911 call made following the apartment invasion and beating. Officer Ricky Stewart was one of the first officers to arrive at the crime scene, so he authored the police report. Officer Stewart encountered the female victim when he arrived and testified that he did not observe any blood, contusions, or bumps on her head. Officer Stewart noted in his report that the female victim denied medical treatment.

         Officer Darrell Listenbee, another patrol officer with the Jackson Police Department, also responded to the emergency call. When he arrived, the female victim was waiting outside of the apartment. Officer Listenbee testified that upon entering the residence, he found the deceased victim lying on the couch, unresponsive, and bleeding from his head. Along with the female victim and another officer, Officer Listenbee waited on the emergency medical responders to arrive. Officer Listenbee noted the living room and one other room were in disarray. The female victim told him that she had been hit in the head by one of the intruders and knocked unconscious.

         Investigator Daniel Long was the first investigator to arrive. When he got to the crime scene, Officer Stewart, Officer Listenbee, and a few other patrol officers were already present, and the emergency medical responders had just arrived. Officer Stewart informed Investigator Long that the emergency medical responders were inside working on the victim, who had been assaulted, shot, or stabbed. The female victim was distressed and reported to him that she had been smashed against a wall and struck in the head with a pistol. The female victim was not actively bleeding.

         Sergeant Chris Chestnut led the crime scene investigation. When he arrived, he met with Investigator Long, who recounted the details of the crime scene and told him the deceased victim had been taken to the hospital. Sergeant Chestnut then went inside the residence with the female victim and a crime scene technician. The female victim claimed she had been struck in the side of the head, but due to her hair, he could not see whether she was bruised or bleeding. Inside the apartment, there were large amounts of blood on the couch and floor and blood spattered on the walls. As the female victim walked through the residence with him, she pointed out the items that had been disturbed.

         The apartment had two bedrooms and both had been ransacked. The dresser drawers had been smashed and items were overturned. The female victim's purse was upside down on the bed in the master bedroom, and the contents of the purse had spilled. The mattresses in both bedrooms had been moved so that somebody could look under them. The female victim did not report any missing items, but she testified at trial that $90 had been stolen from her purse, along with a prescribed bottle of Xanax. [4]

         Once the female victim calmed down, Investigator Long took her to the station and obtained a statement. The female victim described the defendant as a tall, thin, black male with dreadlocks and Mr. Booth as a shorter black male. The investigators began canvassing the surrounding neighborhood for information. Sergeant Chestnut also went to the hospital and met with Rita McCoy, the assistant medical examiner, and the victim's family. He and Ms. McCoy were careful to preserve the body for autopsy but did visually inspect it. There were no visible gunshot wounds or stab marks. Investigator Long testified that there was a deep laceration on the deceased victim's forehead caused by some sort of blunt force. There was also some swelling to the deceased victim's eyes and a lot of blood.

         The following day, Sergeant Chestnut and his officers continued casing the neighborhood. They also received several Crime Stoppers tips. One of the witnesses they spoke with in the neighborhood reported seeing a suspicious white vehicle in the ...

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