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Britt v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

April 25, 2017

JAMES BRITT
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs April 11, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 08-05557 W. Mark Ward, Judge

         The Petitioner, James Britt, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his premeditated first degree murder conviction, alleging he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

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

          Eric Mogy, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, James Britt.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and D. Gregory Gilbert, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Timothy L. Easter and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE

         FACTS

         The Petitioner was convicted of the premeditated first degree murder of his wife and sentenced to life imprisonment. This court affirmed the trial court's judgment on direct appeal, and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied the Petitioner's application for permission to appeal. State v. James Britt, No. W2010-02090-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 2022692, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 5, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 18, 2012).

         The facts giving rise to the Petitioner's conviction were recited by this court on direct appeal as follows:

Kelly Czekalski spoke to her sister, Jennifer Britt (the victim), on February 24, 2008, sometime between 7:30 and 9:00 p.m. in a phone conversation. The victim was very upset and sounded as though she had been drinking or using drugs. Ms. Czekalski testified that she spoke with the victim for thirty to forty-five minutes and calmed her down. She said that the victim wanted to know the whereabouts of her daughter, who had been staying with the victim's aunt in Wisconsin. Ms. Czekalski's grandmother later called her around 2:00 a.m. and said that the victim had been killed.
Kristi Tackett, the victim's neighbor, testified that during the day on February 24, 2008, she and her children were looking out a back window and saw the victim and [Petitioner] fist fighting in their front yard. The two then went inside the house and came back out around dark and continued fighting. Ms. Tackett explained that the victim and [Petitioner's] house did not have any electricity, and the couple used the street light between the two houses for light. Ms. Tackett saw the victim hit [Petitioner] in the face "with something or her hand." She testified that the victim and [Petitioner] then went back inside the house and continued fighting, and she then heard two gunshots approximately twenty minutes later. Ms. Tackett testified that some other neighbors called police, and she saw "the big guy" who lived with [Petitioner] and the victim run outside, and he was "running in circles saying he shot her." When police arrived on the scene, Ms. Tackett told an officer what she had heard. Ms. Tackett testified that [Petitioner] and the victim "would fight all the time."
Renee LaMondue, a communications supervisor for the Memphis Police Department, testified concerning the 911 call of the shooting. She said that a female neighbor called the police department for a "male neighbor, stating that the male can't speak with us, stating that he has accidently shot his wife in the head."
Officer Joseph Johnson of the Memphis Police Department was the first officer on the scene. There were a "handful" of people in the front yard of the residence, and he spoke to [Petitioner] who said that he had accidently shot his wife. Officer Johnson went inside the residence, which was dimly lit, and saw the victim lying on a bed located to the left side of the door in the living room. He saw that the victim had a gunshot wound to her head, and he immediately "backed out" of the house and secured the scene. Officer Johnson testified that the house was messy and "extremely dirty."
Daryl McConnell, a firefighter paramedic for the Memphis Fire Department, responded to the scene of the shooting. He walked inside the residence and saw the twenty-five-year-old victim lying on her right side in the bed with a gunshot wound to her head. "She had no pulse, was not breathing, was not moving. Her lips were purple, had the beginning stages of lividity, which is basically purpleness around the chest area, which is indicative of no circulation in the body." Mr. McConnell testified that he placed a heart monitor on the victim, and it showed no electrical activity in her heart. There was a .357 Magnum revolver lying on the bed.
Crime scene investigator Marlon Wright secured the evidence and photographed the scene. He found the victim lying in the bed fully clothed with a gunshot wound to the back of her head, and the pistol was lying next to her. Officer Wright testified that the house did not have electricity, and he and other officers used several flashlights to light the area. He examined the gun and found blood and human tissue on the barrel and cylinder. Officer Wright looked inside the cylinder and noted that two of the six rounds had been fired. He said that one of the fired bullets was at the twelve o'clock position and the other was at the six o'clock position. Officer Wright also noted that if a gun had been fired twice in rapid succession, the bullets would have fired in order. Gunshot residue tests were obtained from [Petitioner] ...

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