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Hodge v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

February 23, 2017

CHRISTOPHER D. HODGE
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs September 7, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Lauderdale County No. 7359 Joe H. Walker, III, Judge

         The Petitioner, Christopher D. Hodge, appeals the Lauderdale County Circuit Court's summary dismissal of his petition requesting DNA analysis of evidence pursuant to the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Christopher D. Hodge, Pro se, Clifton, Tennessee.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Julie K. Pillow, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert W. Wedemeyer and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          NORMA MCGEE OGLE, JUDGE

         I. Factual Background

         In May 2002, the Petitioner and Ricky Ardd were prisoners at West Tennessee State Penitentiary. See State v. Christopher David Hodge, No. W2003-01513-CCA-R3-CD, 2004 WL 2290495, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. at Jackson, Oct. 11, 2004), perm. to appeal denied, (Tenn. Feb. 28, 2005). On May 27, Ardd was transferred to cell 24 in Unit 2 with the Petitioner as his cellmate, and they were the only two men in the cell. Id. at *2. A correctional officer checked on their cell about 5:45 p.m. and did not see a problem. Id. However, when she returned about 6:00 p.m., the Petitioner called out to her that Ardd was unconscious. Id. A prison nurse went to the cell and found that Ardd did not have a pulse. Id at *2. The Petitioner was indicted for second degree murder. Id. at *1.

         At trial, Dr. O.C. Smith, the Shelby County Medical Examiner, testified as follows regarding the victim's autopsy:

[T]he victim was five feet, six inches tall and weighed 145 pounds. Dr. Smith concluded that the victim died of strangulation. He stated that the victim's neck was scraped and bruised by a ligature. The victim had bled into the muscles of his neck, as well as into the eyeball covering of both eyes. Dr. Smith also noted contusions and abrasions on the back of the neck, contusions of the tongue, and four superficial, non-fatal puncture wounds on the victim's back. He stated that the injuries suffered by the victim, specifically the bleeding into tissues, indicated that the victim did not die an instantaneous death. He stated that the victim did not die of manual strangulation but by the application of a ligature which left marks on the victim's neck. Dr. Smith was shown a long strip of torn bed sheeting attached to a plastic fork that was later introduced as an item seized from cell 24. Dr. Smith opined that the victim's injuries were consistent with strangulation by means of such an instrument. He said that he could not determine the time of death from the autopsy results. He explained that it takes approximately ninety seconds of oxygen deprivation to cause unconsciousness and four minutes of oxygen deprivation to cause death to the brain.
On cross-examination, Dr. Smith admitted that he could not say for certain that the ligature presented caused the victim's death. He also agreed that a sleeper hold can induce unconsciousness in approximately fifteen seconds. On redirect examination, Dr. Smith stated that the victim would be expected to again start breathing ...

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