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Buford v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

May 9, 2017

RAYMOND BUFORD
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs November 1, 2016

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 09-02882 Glenn Ivy Wright, Judge

         The Petitioner, Raymond Burford, was convicted of premeditated first degree murder and received a life sentence. He appeals the post-conviction court's denial of relief arguing that trial counsel was ineffective by (1) recalling a witness knowing that she would offer evidence of the Petitioner's prior bad acts that had not been introduced in the State's case in chief and (2) failing to adequately research diminished capacity as a defense. Upon 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

          Samuel J. Muldavin (on appeal) and Robert C. Brooks (on petition for post-conviction relief), Memphis, Tennessee, for the Petitioner, Raymond Buford.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Courtney N. Orr, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Lora Fowler, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          CAMILLE R. McMULLEN, JUDGE

         On the night of February 14, and early morning hours of February 15, 2009, after dragging his wife, the victim, by force from a Valentine's Day party, the Petitioner stabbed her nine times and killed her. The victim's death was particularly cruel with "one of the stab wounds to [her] head pass[ing] through her right eye, 'through the skull behind the eye, the bone of the orbit behind the right eye and penetrated, partially, into the brain on the right side.'" The victim's and the Petitioner's two sons, ages fifteen and seventeen years old, as well as three other friends of their family witnessed the events leading up to the victim's death. Significantly, the Petitioner provided a statement to police admitting to stabbing and killing the victim. A Shelby County jury subsequently convicted the Petitioner of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment. State v. Raymond Buford, No. W2011-00368-CCA-R3CD, 2012 WL 4340657, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 24, 2012). The Petitioner appealed his conviction, which was affirmed by this court. Id.

         At trial, the defense primarily relied upon showing the Petitioner's diminished capacity at the time he killed the victim. Dr. Hutson, an expert in the field of forensic psychology, testified that "he found [the Petitioner] competent to stand trial, but that Defendant suffered from diminished capacity on February 15, 2009, when he killed the victim. He said that in the Petitioner's case, there were several "issues working or placing undue pressure" on the Petitioner. Dr. Hutson characterized the factors affecting Defendant as "situational stress, " and noted that the Petitioner had never been diagnosed with or treated for depression. He believed that the Petitioner suffered from "at least, dysthymia, which is a level of depression which is not incapacitating, or maybe at times, a more significant depression, he was never incapacitated by depression, though." Raymond Buford, 2012 WL 4340657, at *11.

A letter by Dr. Hutson, addressed to the court and dated September 9, 2009, contained the following statement:
With regard to [the Petitioner's] mental condition at the time of the alleged offense, it is the opinion of the staff that at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the alleged offense(s), severe mental disease or defect did not prevent the defendant from appreciating the nature or wrongfulness of such acts pursuant to T.C.A. § 39-11-501.
A subsequent letter to the trial court dated March 18, 2010, contained the following: "[The Petitioner] appears to have some diminished capacity at the time of this offense. His functioning was impaired by a combination of intoxication (alcohol), depression, ...

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