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State v. Walker

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

March 16, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs: February 15, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Williamson County No. I-CR017785 Joseph W. Woodruff, Judge

         Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant, Terrance Lavar Walker, pleaded guilty to delivery of more than .5 grams of cocaine with an agreed upon Range I sentence of nine years, with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the nine-year sentence. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied the Defendant's request for an alternative sentence and ordered that the Defendant serve nine years in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends the trial court erred when it denied him an alternative sentence. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

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

          Vanessa Pettigrew Bryan, District Public Defender; and J. Gregory Burlison, Assistant Public Defender, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Terrance Lavar Walker.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Sean B. Duddy, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Timothy L. Easter, J., joined.



         I. Facts

         A Williamson County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant for delivery of more than .5 grams of cocaine in a Drug-Free School Zone. On November 20, 2015, the Defendant pleaded guilty to delivery of cocaine with a recommended Range I sentence of nine years. The issue of alternative sentencing was reserved for the trial court's determination. A copy of the guilty plea submission hearing is not part of the appellate record; however, the pre-sentence report summarizes the Defendant's offense:

On Thursday 5/9/13, 21st Judicial District Drug Task Force Agents P. Wheeler, J. Ashmore, and C. Wright used [a confidential informant ("CI")] to purchase one gram of cocaine from [the Defendant] for $80.00. . . . CI phoned [the Defendant] to further tentative arrangements that had been previously made to conduct a drug transaction. [The Defendant] instructed CI to meet him at a church near the Shell gas station on Fairground Street. . . . CI placed multiple calls and texts to [the Defendant]. The transaction was about to be canceled [sic], when [the Defendant] pulled into the parking lot.
At approximately 6:22 pm, [the Defendant] parked next to CI. CI waited for [the Defendant] to get off the phone and approached the passenger side of [the Defendant]'s vehicle. [The Defendant] stated, "Drop it on the seat" (referring to the money). "Hey keep the CD (inaudible) . . . Damn (Inaudible) . . . Man, that's why I can't be doin it like this at people man . . . Y'all do stupid shit like . . . I gave you the CD for a reason." CI took the drugs, said "Bye" and walked away from the vehicle. CI later explained that [the Defendant] handed CI a CD with the cocaine in the open hold of the CD. . . CI relinquished a small solid piece of cocaine to the agents and a post amble [sic] was conducted. CI noted that [the Defendant] had been wearing his work uniform from Drive Now.

         The trial court held a sentencing hearing on March 24, 2016, to determine the manner of service of the Defendant's nine-year sentence. The trial court, at the State's request, entered the pre-sentence report as evidence. The defense then called its first witness, Shelika Poynter, the Defendant's girlfriend. Ms. Poynter testified that the Defendant lived with her and her two daughters, one of whom was also the Defendant's daughter. Ms. Poynter also had a third daughter who was an adult and no longer lived with them. She described the Defendant as being "great with the kids." Specifically, she said that the Defendant was a "big help" with their eleven-year-old daughter. Ms. Poynter explained that their child had "ADHD, she's borderline schizophrenic, she has ODD, she's on medication for anxiety, schizophrenic. So, one of us has to be with her at all times." She said that both she and the Defendant held two jobs, so they scheduled their work to allow one of them to be with their daughter.

         Ms. Poynter testified that her mother had died in 2012, leaving her without other options for help with her children. She explained that if the Defendant was unable to help her, she would likely have to quit one of her two jobs. Ms. Poynter said that the Defendant was like a mentor to her seventeen-year-old daughter, encouraging her to make good decisions. She reiterated that the Defendant held two jobs and was attending "church now." She said that the Defendant also helped care for her oldest daughter's son.

         Ms. Poynter testified that she had observed positive change in the Defendant. She attributed this change to personal growth and the fact that he had a family who cared about him now. Ms. Poynter reiterated that the Defendant's absence from their home would create a significant hardship concerning childcare and finances.

         On cross-examination, Ms. Poynter testified that her aunt and three cousins lived near her. She agreed that her aunt often helped supervise her youngest daughter when she and the Defendant were both at work. Ms. Poynter agreed that the Defendant had "numerous felony" drug convictions from 2000 through 2007 and that he had been terminated from Drug Court for selling drugs. Ms. Poynter said that the Defendant was not currently attending any type of drug rehabilitation treatment but that he had contacted Educare about a drug assessment class but was unable to afford the enrollment fee.

         The Defendant testified that he had "a rough life growing up without [his] parents" but that he had found support through Ms. Poynter and her family. He said that he was trying to "do better" for his children. He described his childhood saying that he did not meet his mother, who was incarcerated, until he was five or six years old when she retrieved him from his home in Jackson, Tennessee and moved him to Franklin, Tennessee. From then on he was "back and forth" between Jackson and Franklin until he was ten or eleven. He said that, at the time, he believed his "so called ...

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