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State v. Pittman

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

May 16, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs April 11, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. 15-58 Kyle Atkins, Judge

         A Madison County jury found Eddie H. Pittman, the defendant, guilty of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, aggravated criminal trespass, and reckless aggravated assault. The trial court merged the reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon conviction with the reckless aggravated assault conviction and imposed an effective sentence of twelve years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his convictions and argues the trial court erred when imposing consecutive sentences. Following our review of the record and the pertinent authorities, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Joshua B. Dougan, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Eddie H. Pittman.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Jerry Woodall, District Attorney General; and Nina Seiler, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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


          J. ROSS DYER, JUDGE.

         Facts and Procedural History

         This matter arises as the result of a physical altercation between the defendant and Rodricus Morris, the victim, occurring early the morning of March 7, 2014. At the time, the victim resided on Simms Street, Jackson, Tennessee, in a room he rented from Mr. Donald Pirtle. Mr. Pirtle also resided there, as did Mr. Pirtle's niece, Benita Odom, who rented another room in the house. Ms. Odom had a romantic relationship with the defendant, and he spent the night in her room on occasion. Simon Beard, Mr. Pirtle's caregiver, occasionally spent the night in Ms. Odom's room. The victim was admittedly a crack cocaine dealer and had previously sold drugs to Ms. Odom, Mr. Pirtle, and the defendant. The victim testified at trial that the defendant owed him $10.00 from a prior drug transaction, but he had not attempted to collect the debt.

         According to the victim's trial testimony, the evening of March 6, 2014, he drank half a pint of vodka, smoked marijuana, consumed two small rocks of crack cocaine, and went to bed around 10:00 p.m. Around 2:30 a.m., the defendant broke into the victim's room uninvited and woke him. The victim recognized the defendant by sight because he had given him rides in the past and sold crack cocaine to him. The defendant reached into his back pocket, and the victim thought he had a gun. The victim ran to the defendant, attempting to grab whatever was in his hand. The victim and the defendant began "tussling, " and the defendant cut the victim on his right arm and across his chest with a sharp object. The victim identified the defendant as the aggressor. After the attack, the defendant disappeared, and the victim left the room to seek help. He first went across the street and knocked on a neighbor's door but did not receive an answer. He then walked to the back of the house and down an alley to a home located on Wilkinson Street. The resident called 911, and emergency responders came to the scene. While the resident on Wilkinson Street called for help, the victim returned to his house and hid a bag containing 26.3 grams of crack cocaine under a shed in the backyard. The victim never resided in the room again. After being released from the hospital, he returned to get his belongings and noted his cellular phone and iPad were missing.

         In a statement rendered by the defendant to the Jackson Police Department and entered into evidence at trial, the defendant offered this differing account of the incident:

On Thursday night about 11[:]30 [PM] I talked with [the victim] about him saying I owed him money. I bought dope from [the victim] three days in a row and I had paid him for the drugs. I bought more drugs from [the victim] at 11[:]30 [PM] and paid him for the drugs. He said I owed him $50.00 for drugs I bought the previous days. We argued about the money and I went back to Benita's side of the house and got high. About 1[:]00 AM he knocked on his door and said come here a minute. I went over to his room and [the victim] said he wanted his money. I told him I don't owe you any money and he said yeah, you owe me the money. I started to walk off and he grabbed me by the collar of my shirt, pushed me against the wall and was screaming at me. I started fighting back and hit him in the side of the face. We got separated and he ran out of the house, out the backdoor. Seconds later he came back in the front door and he ran at me. I saw something shiny in his hand. He had the shiny object at head level and I grabbed the hand with the object, [the victim's] wrist with both hands and held the object away from me. We fought and tussled until I got my body between the knife and [the victim] while holding [the victim's] wrist. We fought more and went to the floor where we wrestled and rolling around with the knife. We got back up and I still have his wrist and we pulled loose after he said I'm through with it, let me up, I'm cut. You cut me bad! I told him you cut yourself. [The victim] said I'm gonna get you! [The victim] ran out the front door. I looked to see if I was cut and wasn't so I went out the front door to leave toward Lane Avenue. I saw [the victim] when I was leaving. He was in the front yard of a house on Wilkinson. The house is white and is behind Benita's house but faces Wilkinson. [The victim] was yelling at Simon who was going to his truck. [The victim] was saying "you could have stopped this!" I'm not sure if he was yelling at me or Simon. Simon was there checking on Donald Pirtle.

         Following the attack and request for emergency assistance, Officer Jay Mullikin with the Jackson Police Department was dispatched to the scene around 2:50 a.m. He brought a trainee with him to take photographs. Additional officers responded, including Officer Jonathan McCrury and Sergeant Brian Spencer. The officers photographed a blood trail leading from the victim's room, across the street, down the alley, and to the front door of the house on Wilkinson Street. They also photographed a trail of blood leading to the shed, where they found the bag of crack cocaine, and recovered a bloody belt outside the home. Once officers were able to speak with the victim and assured him they were interested in pursuing the violent crime and not drug charges, he admitted to hiding the narcotics under the shed.

         The officers noted the victim's room was spattered in blood. There were two ways to enter the victim's room - one interior door and one exterior door leading to the front of the house. The lock on the exterior door had been broken, and photographs of the broken lock were exhibited at trial. Sergeant Spencer took statements at the scene from Benita Odom and Simon Beard. Sergeant Spencer additionally tried to speak with the victim, who had been taken to the hospital and was in and out of consciousness. The victim indicated the defendant attacked him. The officers recovered a box cutter from Ms. Odom's room that they suspected had been used during the ...

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