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Bledsoe v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

April 13, 2017

ERIC BLEDSOE
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs January 18, 2017 at Knoxville

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 09-06393 Chris Craft, Judge

         The Petitioner, Eric Bledsoe, appeals as of right from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his conviction for aggravated rape, aggravated burglary, and theft of property valued at $1, 000 or more but less than $10, 000. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-502; -14-103; -14-403. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that his attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to call potential defense witnesses during trial and failing to adequately investigate the Petitioner's mental health history. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Terrell L. Tooten, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Eric Bledsoe.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Marianne L. Bell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On October 8, 2009, the Shelby County Grand Jury indicted the Petitioner of one count of aggravated rape, one count of aggravated burglary, and one count of theft of property valued at $1, 000 or more but less than $10, 000. On April 16, 2012, the Petitioner's case went to trial, and the jury convicted him as charged. At the subsequent sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Petitioner to an effective sentence of sixty-five years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On direct appeal, the Petitioner challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his aggravated rape conviction, and this court affirmed the judgment of the trial court. See State v. Eric Bledsoe, No. W2012-01643-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 3968780, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 31, 2013).

         In its opinion, this court summarized the facts of this case as follows:

C. O. ("the victim") testified that the incident took place on May 18, 2009. At the time, she was residing in a townhome at 303 Bishop Drive, Memphis, Tennessee. The previous night the victim left her downstairs kitchen window partially open. She awoke at approximately 5:00 a.m. to what she described as a "creeping noise." The victim initially thought the noise was her young son moving around the house, but when she looked out of her bedroom door, she saw a man on all fours just outside her bedroom. The intruder was dressed in a brown denim jacket, jeans, a red baseball cap with an "A" on it, and a "dewrag." At trial, the victim identified the [Petitioner] as the intruder who entered her home that night.
The victim testified that she did not react immediately upon seeing the [Petitioner] because she was in shock. When the [Petitioner] realized he had been seen by the victim, he stood up, entered the bedroom, turned the lights on, and stood over the victim's bed. The [Petitioner] told the victim, "I'm not going to hurt you. I want some." The victim understood his words to mean he "wanted sex, " and she immediately began kicking and hitting him. In response, the [Petitioner] placed both hands around the victim's neck and choked her until she was unconscious. When the victim regained consciousness, the [Petitioner] was gone, and she noticed that her underwear had been pushed to the side.
After rearranging her underwear, she went to her son's room to make sure he was unharmed, and from her son's window she saw that her vehicle was missing. The victim then went downstairs to check the rest of her home and discovered that her car keys, student identification, some money, and her driver's license were missing from her purse. She noticed her kitchen window was completely open, and the screen over the kitchen window was missing. The victim called her mother and 911. After police arrived at the scene, the victim was transported to the Memphis Sexual Assault Resource Center ("the Rape Crisis Center"), where Dr. Amanda Taylor conducted a full physical examination of the victim. The victim's injuries were photographed, DNA samples were taken for a rape kit, and she was given a Plan B pill. The underwear the victim had been wearing during the incident was kept by the Rape Crisis Center as part of the rape kit. After leaving the Rape Crisis Center, the victim worked with a sketch artist to create a composite picture of her attacker, and she also gave a statement to police.
On cross-examination, the victim denied knowing the [Petitioner] prior to the attack. When questioned about why she failed to state, in a written statement made during a photo identification three days after the crime, that the [Petitioner] had assaulted or sexually assaulted her, the victim testified that she still was too distraught and that she already had told the police that she had been sexually assaulted.
Dr. Amanda Taylor, a sexual assault nurse examiner at the Rape Crisis Center, testified as an expert witness in forensic nursing and sexual assault examinations. The victim arrived at the Rape Crisis Center at 9:30 a.m. on May 18, 2009. Dr. Taylor explained that the procedure following a victim's arrival at the Rape Crisis Center is to first talk to the patient with an advocate present, then to do a full physical examination, collect "labs, " administer medications, and collect a rape kit. Any injuries a victim might have are photographed. In this case, the victim had injuries both to her neck and thighs, and they were fresh injuries at the time of the physical examination. The victim also had a genital examination, which involved both an internal and external examination. The victim did not have any injuries to her genitals. Dr. Taylor testified that women commonly do not have any genital injuries after being sexually assaulted and that 80% of sexual assault victims do not show injuries in their genital area. Dr. Taylor collected a rape kit consisting of four swabs from the victim's mouth for baseline DNA, four swabs from the "vulvar area, " and four swabs from the internal genital area. The kit also included the victim's underwear. Dr. Taylor testified that, after a kit has been collected, all of the evidence is sealed and sent to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation ("TBI") for analysis. The kits are kept in a secure location until they are transported to the TBI.
On cross-examination, Dr. Taylor explained that the advocate who is present during the initial interview at the Rape Crisis Center is there to explain to a victim the legal proceedings involved. The advocate is not present for the medical exam. Dr. Taylor confirmed that the victim did not have any injuries to her genitals and that she could neither confirm nor negate sexual abuse had taken place. The victim's statement taken at the Rape Crisis Center did not include anything about her underwear being awry after she recovered from unconsciousness. On redirect, Dr. Taylor confirmed the victim's injuries were consistent with the statement the victim gave at the Rape Crisis Center.
Dyane Karl, a forensic technician with TBI, testified that it is her job to receive and label evidence and then place it in the TBI's vault until it is ready to be analyzed. Karl testified that the TBI will not accept evidence that is either unsealed or not delivered by law enforcement. She received the sealed rape kit taken from the victim's examination from Hyun Kim, a Memphis Police Department ("MPD") officer. Karl testified that Francesca Sanders, who also worked as a forensic technician at TBI, received the DNA standard swabs of the [Petitioner] from Officer Kim.
Donna Nelson, a special agent forensic scientist assigned to the serology[, and] DNA unit with the TBI, testified as an expert witness in the area of DNA analysis. Her job at the TBI was to process evidence for DNA and test any DNA evidence for possible matches. After receiving the rape kit, Special Agent Nelson first tested the vaginal swabs for the presence of semen. The vaginal swabs tested negative for the presence of semen. The vulvar swabs were then tested for the presence of alpha amylase, an ezyme found in saliva. The tests returned positive results for the presence of alpha amylase. Because alpha amylase is found in other substances, its presence only indicates the possibility of the presence of saliva, and is not conclusory. The victim's underwear tested positive for the presence of semen, on the inside of the underwear, in the "front of the crotch area." After these tests were performed, the evidence was returned to the TBI's evidence vault, and Special Agent Nelson requested a DNA standard from the [Petitioner]. The semen found on the victim's underwear was matched to the [Petitioner's] DNA. Dr. Taylor's report on the DNA test results stated that the "probability of an unrelated individual having the same DNA profile from either the African American, Caucasian, Southeastern Hispanic or Southwestern Hispanic population exceeds the current world population."
Marvin Pender, a supervisor at Memphis Police Communications, testified that the victim made an emergency call on May 18, 2009. His testimony was based on a 911 chronology record. The dispatcher initially classified the call as a "prowler call, " but after talking with the victim, the dispatcher discovered the victim was sexually assaulted, and the call was changed to criminal assault. A dispatch to the victim's home was made at 5:37 a.m.
Officer James Henderson of the MPD responded to the victim's 911 call first. The victim told Officer Henderson that she had been sexually assaulted and that she suspected the intruder had entered her home through the open kitchen window. Officer Henderson observed that the window was open and that its screen was on the ground outside. He also noticed injuries on the victim's arm and neck. Officer Henderson took a description of the victim's assailant, and noted that her car, keys, and student identification had been stolen.
Officer David Galloway, a crime scene unit officer with the MPD, photographed the crime scene and processed the kitchen window's sill for fingerprints. He also processed the window screen and sent it to the crime lab to be dusted for fingerprints. The screen was not processed at the scene because Officer Galloway determined that, due to the nature of the window screen, better fingerprints could be obtained in the crime lab.
Sergeant Roger Wheeler of the MPD was a part of crime scene investigation at the time of the incident. He obtained three fingerprints from the window screen, and sent those fingerprints to be examined by a latent print examiner.
Officer Archie Rudd of the MPD received a call over his radio to be on the lookout for the victim's Jeep. A vehicle matching the description was located on the lot of a Mapco. A witness at the scene informed Officer Rudd that a black male had been attempting to change the tire on the vehicle. The Jeep was still on a jack when officers arrived on the scene, and a tire was pushed under the vehicle. After talking to witnesses, Officer Rudd then went to a nearby McDonald's. He attempted to use the restaurant's surveillance cameras to identify the suspect and also located another tire from the Jeep in a dumpster behind the McDonald's. Officer Rudd then returned to the Jeep and had it towed to the city impound lot. Officer Rudd testified that either he or his ...

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