Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs November 8, 2016
from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2011-A-663
Cheryl Blackburn, Judge
petitioner, Cedric Watkins, appeals the denial of his
petition for post-conviction relief from his first degree
premeditated murder conviction, arguing that the
post-conviction court erred in finding that he received
effective assistance of trial counsel. Following our review,
we affirm the denial of the petition.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
M. Hopkins, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn R.
Funk, District Attorney General; and Megan M. King, Assistant
District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of
E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., joined.
E. GLENN, JUDGE
2013, the petitioner was convicted of the first degree
premeditated murder of Thomas Turner and sentenced to life
imprisonment. Our direct appeal opinion reveals that the
conviction stemmed from the petitioner's having shot the
victim, who had bought drugs from him, in the belief that the
victim was a "snitch" who might have been
responsible for the arrest of two of the petitioner's
associates. State v. Cedric Wayne Watkins, No.
M2013-01268-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 2547710, at *1-3 (Tenn. Crim.
App. June 4, 2014). Among the State's witnesses at trial
was the petitioner's associate, William Carter, who
testified that after he let the petitioner out of his vehicle
at the victim's hotel, the petitioner came running back
to his car carrying a laptop computer, got back inside, and
said, "[T]wo shots to the head[;] he ain't talking
no more." Id. at *3 (internal quotation marks
State witnesses included Brianna Stanton and Stephanie
Littlejohn, who each heard the petitioner make incriminating
statements about the killing. Among other things, Ms.
Littlejohn testified that the petitioner "told her that
he had shot the victim three times." Id. at *2.
Ms. Stanton testified that several days before she learned
about the victim's death, the petitioner went somewhere
with Mr. Carter and then returned to their hotel room where
he "said that they 'were all supposed to take it to
the grave.'" Id. at *1. Ms. Stanton agreed
she had testified at an earlier court hearing that the
petitioner "said something 'along the lines of [ ]
they had to do what they had to do to somebody who was
snitching'" before making the statement about taking
the information to their graves. Id. The State also
introduced recorded jail telephone calls between the
petitioner and Ms. Stanton in which the petitioner "told
Ms. Stanton to 'stick to the script' and said that
they would 'fight this s*** to the end.'"
Id. at *2.
petitioner presented as a witness in his behalf a woman named
Deborah Cox, who testified that Ms. Littlejohn told her that
she had shot the victim and that the gun she had used would
never be found. Id. at *4.
January 20, 2015, the petitioner filed a pro se petition for
post-conviction relief in which he raised a number of claims,
including ineffective assistance of counsel. Following the
appointment of post-conviction counsel, he filed an amended
petition in which he alleged that trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to adequately investigate the case or
consult with the petitioner, failing to effectively
cross-examine Ms. Cox on inconsistencies in her trial
testimonies, not objecting to hearsay testimony from a police
detective, and failing to call Clifford Parrish and Lashona
Wooten as defense witnesses. The petitioner alleged that Mr.
Parrish would have testified that Ms. Littlejohn confessed to
him that she killed the victim. The petitioner alleged that
Ms. Wooten, who testified at his first trial that resulted in
a hung jury, would have testified that she did not see the
petitioner at the scene of the crime, but instead
"another individual she could identify and an
unidentified person." Finally, the petitioner alleged
that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to file a
timely Rule 11 application for permission to appeal.
evidentiary hearing, appellate counsel testified that she
intended to file a Rule 11 application in the
petitioner's case but got his case ...