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Lambert v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

March 2, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs January 10, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County No. 40900680 William R. Goodman, III, Judge.

         Khaleefa Lambert ("the Petitioner") was found guilty of first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping by a Montgomery County jury, for which the Petitioner received a sentence of life plus eighteen years. This court affirmed the Petitioner's convictions and sentences, and our supreme court denied further review. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, which the post-conviction court denied. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance based on trial counsel's failure to: (1) investigate evidence and case law that would have contradicted the State's argument of premeditation; (2) discuss jury selection with the Petitioner; and (3) discuss the decision to testify with the Petitioner. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm.

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

          Gregory D. Smith, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the petitioner, Khaleefa Lambert.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrew C. Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; John W. Carney, District Attorney General; and Lee Willoughby, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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



         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         This court summarized the facts of this case in its opinion for the Petitioner's direct appeal as follows:

The grand jury returned a multi-count indictment against the [Petitioner], charging him with the murder and kidnapping of his wife, eighteen-year-old Ashley Barnes. At trial, the proof revealed that the victim was in the Army and was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. On November 14, 2008, she married the [Petitioner], and she was deployed to Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on December 18, 2008.
Clarksville attorney Adrian Bohnenberger testified that shortly before the victim was deployed, she contacted him about obtaining an uncontested divorce from the [Petitioner]. A few weeks before the victim returned from overseas, the [Petitioner] called Bohnenberger and said he would not sign the divorce papers without being paid "a rather absurd" amount of money as compensation for the loss of support he was receiving from the Army. Bohnenberger informed the [Petitioner] that the victim was trying to have the [Petitioner]'s military support payments discontinued, and the [Petitioner] became agitated. The [Petitioner] never indicated that he did not want to divorce the victim; he was merely concerned about the money he would receive. After the [Petitioner]'s refusal to sign papers for an uncontested divorce, the victim told Bohnenberger she wanted to pursue a contested divorce.
The victim's mother, Michelle Bosarge, testified that on February 28, 2009, the victim flew to Nashville and that Bosarge met her there. They spent a few days together at Bosarge's home in Mobile, Alabama, and the victim left for Clarksville, Tennessee, on March 5, 2009, to pursue her divorce from the [Petitioner].
Katelyn Rondeau and her boyfriend, Lavell Traylor, testified that on the night of Friday, March 6, 2009, the victim stayed at a Microtel Inn in Clarksville. Rondeau, Traylor, Benita Gold, and a man named Nathaniel came to the victim's room, and they watched television and drank alcohol. Rondeau and Traylor said that the victim never gave any indication that she might be having an extramarital affair. However, she did express her desire to divorce the [Petitioner]. While in the motel room, the victim received calls from the [Petitioner] on her cellular telephone. The victim used the speakerphone feature, and Rondeau and Traylor heard the [Petitioner] beg the victim to not leave him. Everyone in the motel room was intoxicated and laughed during the call.
Rondeau and Traylor estimated that they, Gold, and Nathaniel left the motel room sometime around 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. The victim was planning to go to bed when they left.
Tiffany Almeyda, a friend of the [Petitioner] who lived in his apartment complex, testified that on the night of March 6, 2009, the [Petitioner] called and asked her to pick him up at a gas station in Clarksville. Brittany Randolph Gribble and Brittany Lester testified that they accompanied Almeyda. The [Petitioner] was in a good mood. When they arrived at the apartment complex around 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., the [Petitioner] asked if he could borrow Almeyda's white 2007 Mercury Mariner to visit his son, and Almeyda agreed. No knives or other weapons were in the vehicle at that time.
Jonathan Haynes, a front desk clerk at the Microtel Inn, testified that around 3:30 or 4:00 a.m., the [Petitioner] came into the lobby and asked for the victim's room number, saying that she was his wife and that he was trying to surprise her for their anniversary. Haynes refused, and the [Petitioner] offered Haynes twenty dollars to reveal the information. Haynes offered to call the victim's room to verify that the [Petitioner] was supposed to be there, but the [Petitioner] asked him to not do that because it would ruin the surprise. The [Petitioner] tried to look over the counter to see the registry or the computer. After his attempts to discover the victim's room number proved fruitless, he whispered, "[D]amn." The [Petitioner] paced in the lobby for about fifteen to thirty minutes, Haynes asked him to leave, and he left.
Army Lieutenant Shanda Garth, who acted as a liaison between deployed servicemen and servicewomen and their family members, testified that the [Petitioner] called her around 6:00 a.m. on March 7. The [Petitioner] had contacted Lieutenant Garth on previous occasions about support payments from the Army and to complain that the victim wanted to divorce him. Lieutenant Garth helped the [Petitioner] with financial matters but advised him that she could not help with personal matters. On the morning of March 7, the [Petitioner] told Lieutenant Garth that the victim was in a hotel with another man. Lieutenant Garth once again advised the [Petitioner] that she could not assist him with relationship matters. After a "pregnant pause, " the [Petitioner] said, "[A]ll right, ma'am, " and hung up. Lieutenant Garth denied she advised the [Petitioner] that he needed photographic proof of the victim's adultery.
Doris Henson testified that she arrived at the Microtel Inn around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. on March 7, 2009, to relieve Haynes at the front desk. At 9:18 a.m., the victim, who was alone, checked out of the motel. Henson noticed that the victim had long, black hair that was "done up real pretty" and that she was talking on a cellular telephone. ...

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