Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Session November 15, 2016
from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 104175 G. Scott
Ricky Thompson, appeals from his conviction for reckless
aggravated assault, arguing that the trial court abused its
discretion when it failed to declare a mistrial after a
potential juror made highly prejudicial remarks that
undermined the authority of the trial proceedings and
contaminated the rest of the venire. Additionally, Defendant
argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it
admitted photographs of surgical procedures performed on the
victim. Following our review, we conclude that the trial
court properly exercised its discretion in denying the
Defendant's motion for a mistrial. Additionally, we
conclude that the surgical photographs were improperly
admitted into evidence but find the error to be harmless.
Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
L. Gulley, Jr. (on appeal) and Scott C. Frith (at trial),
Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ricky Thompson.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Robert
W. Wilson, Assistant Attorney General; Charme P. Allen,
District Attorney General; Kevin Allen, Assistant District
Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J. joined.
TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE
case arose after a physical altercation between the Defendant
and the victim, Nathaniel Drew, on May 31, 2014. The victim
suffered injuries to his face that resulted in extensive
surgeries and a two-week long hospital stay. The Knox County
Grand Jury charged Defendant with one count of aggravated
assault and one count of aggravated robbery. See
T.C.A. §§ 39-13-102, -402. The case proceeded to a
jury trial on September 8, 2015.
voir dire, the following colloquy occurred between the trial
court, counsel for Defendant, and Tom Miller, a member of the
THE COURT: Is there anything else any of you feel like you
need to bring to the attention -- yes, sir? Mr. Miller?
MR. MILLER: Just prior to being carjacked, burglarized,
raped, beaten, and tortured, humiliated, Chris Newsom had
just left our house. And I agree wholeheartedly with Gary
Christian when he says the court system is flawed,
and is an advocate for the guilty and does nothing for the
victim. And that's the way I feel and my mind is focused
on him today. Is this young man over here guilty? Based on
where he's at, yeah, I think he is.
COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT: Your Honor, I object.
MR. MILLER: Well, I'm just saying -- I mean, that's
what you brought us up here -- you said say what's on
your mind. That's what I'm saying.
THE COURT: You think maybe if you were in [Defendant's]
position you would want a juror with a little bit different
mindset than what you've got?
MR. MILLER: I would think I would want somebody with a
totally different mindset than what I've got.
THE COURT: All right. I'm going to allow you to be
excused for cause, Mr. Miller. Thank you for your candor.
for Defendant objected to Mr. Miller's comments and made
a motion for a mistrial. The trial court denied his motion
and made the following comments to the potential jury
[Mr. Miller] was speaking his mind. This is the process by
which we speak our mind. Anybody else feel that way? All
right. I'm going to remind you again, just because they
accuse somebody doesn't mean they've done anything.
He may or may not be guilty of anything. We don't know
yet. But he is presumed at this point to be innocent. Every
one of us carry that presumption with us.
trial, the victim testified regarding the incident with
Defendant. The victim lived in an apartment at the Walter P.
Taylor Homes ("Walter P.") and had known Defendant
for approximately one year. Defendant's mother lived at
Walter P., and Defendant occasionally stayed with her there.
The victim and Defendant spent a lot of time together, and
they "would sit, drink, smoke weed, . . . [and] drink
beer all day." The victim further explained that
"[j]ust about every day[, ]" he gave Defendant
"beer and weed." In the past, Defendant had asked
the victim to borrow money, but the victim refused. On
occasion, the victim gave Defendant money to purchase beer
for the two of them to drink together. Defendant would go to
the market, purchase beer, and return to the victim's
apartment at Walter P.
victim discussed the details of the day of the attack on May
31, 2014. He explained that his aunt was his
"overseer" and wrote him a check every month. That
day, she took him to the bank, and he cashed a check for
$350. He purchased some cleaning supplies and "went out
to eat." On the way home, he stopped and bought two
cases of beer. He returned home with the remainder of the
cash and bundled it into a "dummy bankroll." The
victim had requested that part of his check be cashed as
one-dollar bills, so that he when he rolled the cash
together, he appeared to have a "big bankroll." The
victim explained that he did this because he liked to gamble.
That evening, the victim testified that he showered around
8:30 p.m. or 9:00 p.m. and waited on a cousin to arrive and
take him to the "Old City."
victim did not remember the exact time that Defendant arrived
at his apartment that evening, but he claimed that it was
some time after he showered and was waiting on his cousin.
When Defendant arrived, the victim was sitting on a couch in
his living room counting his money. Defendant knocked,
identified himself, and the victim told him to "come on
in." Once inside, Defendant demanded that the victim
give him a beer, but the victim refused, saying, "I
can't give you a beer every day." While talking to
Defendant, the victim walked into the kitchen and ...