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State v. Smith

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

March 20, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs November 8, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Franklin County No. 2015-CR-170 Justin C. Angel, Judge

         The defendant, Christopher L. Smith, pled guilty to two counts of aggravated burglary and one count of aggravated assault, all Class C felonies, in exchange for an effective sentence of six years with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a sentence of confinement, which the defendant now challenges. After review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

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

          B. Jeffery Harmon, District Public Defender; and R. Chris Albright, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Christopher L. Smith.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; James M. Taylor, District Attorney General; and David O. McGovern, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., joined.


          ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE


         The defendant was indicted for multiple charges stemming from a continuous course of criminal conduct that took place in both Marion and Franklin Counties. The defendant waived venue, and the charges were addressed together in a single guilty plea hearing held in Marion County. Under the Marion County indictment, the defendant pled guilty to aggravated burglary and aggravated assault and by agreement received three-year sentences for each offense, to run concurrently with one another. Under the Franklin County indictment, the defendant pled guilty to aggravated burglary and by agreement received a three-year sentence to run consecutively to the Marion County sentence. The defendant received a total effective sentence of six years with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court.

         At the guilty plea hearing, the State recited the facts it would have presented had the case gone to trial:

Your Honor, if we had gone to trial against [the defendant], we would be calling a number of witnesses, both in Marion County and Franklin [County]. It's all one event and if it's okay with the Court I'll just tell the story.
. . . .
Your Honor, we would be calling first of all, Mr. Danny Hibbs, and Mr. Danny Hibbs' wife, who would testify that back on February the 24th of [2015], that they were at home . . ., there was family present. They were trying to get some sleep and in the late . . . hours into the early morning hours of that particular night they heard a noise. They heard banging on the door. [The defendant] came into their home. Mr. Hibbs was armed. It could have been a - we could have been dealing very easily with [the defendant's] funeral on that count. But he was incoherent, he was making irrational yelling noises. Making demands. He did some damage to the home. This prompted ultimately law enforcement to become involved and as he was there, law enforcement arrived including Sergeant Tim Prince, with the Marion County Sheriff's Department[, ] along with Deputy Chris Ladd from the Marion County Sheriff's Department among others who responded to this. The Defendant, this was . . . at the time when there was snow on the ground, it was very cold outside. The Defendant was running around barefooted in his pajamas, making incoherent statements. Ultimately when the officers arrived there, Sergeant Prince and Officer Ladd, who are sizable individuals at least not small men began to engage in . . . trying to arrest the Defendant. He fought them to the point where . . . Officer Ladd was injured, was out of work for several months, and had to have surgery on his shoulder. Additionally, . . . Sergeant Tim Prince also was engaged in trying to arrest him and had to ultimately use a tazer. [The defendant] grabbed the tazer and after it had penetrated him, pulled it out and bit[] it, and then ran off through the woods.
Ultimately the Defendant did obtain a vehicle of another individual without that individual's permission. He began driving erratically and ended up in Franklin County.
Judge, at that time, he once again irrationally making comments and statements busted into the home of the Johnston[s], homeowners there in the Sewanee area, the school area. Mr. Johnston actually was armed and in his room there was yelling going on as the individual came in. Something about his daughter needing help, but his daughter was not in the area. There's blood - there is glass busted out in the living room, there is blood spattered in the home where he was injured and bleeding probably from the run through the woods, and also due to the breaking of the glass.
We would possibly be calling personnel from the [Tennessee Burearu of Investigation] who would testify that the substance in the . . . home . . . was, in fact, blood. And maybe would testify that that blood matched the blood of the Defendant.
Mr. Johnston, who kept his head, and nevertheless felt at one point as he saw the door knob turning coming into his bedroom with his wife present and with a child in another room nearby discharged the weapon over the top of the doorway in such a way that very likely would not strike him, and did not strike him. That seemed to temporarily calm him down, but he ran back outside, the Defendant did. Other law enforcement officers came there from Sewanee Police Department, who would also testify some of them also engaged him in . . . trying to arrest him. And one to the point that he . . . was so exhausted he literally vomited while in the home of the Johnston[s].
Ultimately, [the defendant] was apprehended, . . . we would be calling personnel from Emerald-Hodgson Hospital who would testify that he was babbling incoherently at the hospital. No statement could be taken from him at that time. That all of this occurred, the first charges referenced occurred in Marion County and the other charge occurred in Franklin County.

         The trial court conducted a consolidated sentencing hearing at which Deputy Chris Ladd, of the Marion County Sheriff's Department, testified that he first became involved with the defendant after receiving a series of dispatch calls that ultimately led him to the scene of a home invasion "where a subject had just kicked the door in at a residence and run in their house." Deputy Ladd and Sergeant Tim Prince encountered an "individual wearing a pair of pajama pants and a white T-shirt running down the road in the snow, " not wearing any shoes. Upon seeing the officer, the subject began to run, and Deputy Ladd gave chase and tackled him in a ditch. The subject went "haywire . . . screaming kill me." Deputy Ladd described the subject as "incoherent, " explaining, "[Y]ou could tell by looking in his eyes that there was something wrong with him." Deputy Ladd and Sergeant Prince fought with the defendant on the side of the road for seven to ten minutes, even shooting him with a Taser stun gun. Deputy Ladd expounded on the use of the Taser:

Usually it only takes one pop, one cycle. He took five and after the fifth one, I mean it was he just reached around and grabbed the leads, which [are] the wires that are attached to the cartridge, which lead to the darts that are injected. He grabbed the leads while 50, 000 [volts] w[ere] going through it and put 'em in his mouth and was sitting there trying to break 'em with his teeth and sparks just ejecting out of his mouth.

         Deputy Ladd stated that, ultimately, however, the defendant escaped. The officers went to Franklin County and caught the defendant after he crashed a truck he had stolen into a tree and was engaged with other police officers in a fight. It took six or seven officers to subdue the defendant. As a result of his fight with the defendant, Deputy Ladd sustained a torn rotator cuff and damaged tendons in his shoulder. He underwent surgery and was off work for ten months.

         Patrick Allan Johnston testified that, during the early morning hours of the day in question, he, his wife, mother-in-law, and eight-year-old son were asleep in their home. At the time, Mr. Johnston had recently undergone surgery and was "basically . . . bedridden." Mr. Johnston was awakened by the sound of his dog barking and pounding on the door. Within seconds, he heard glass shatter and knew that someone was intruding. Mr. Johnston armed himself with his AK-47 weapon and "started screaming I have a gun, I ...

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