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Spicer v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

May 16, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs April 11, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Obion County No. CC-16-CR-2 Jeffrey W. Parham, Judge

         The petitioner, Jarrod Reese Spicer, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing the trial court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel. More specifically, the petitioner claims counsel was ineffective because he failed to fully assist the petitioner until receiving full payment for his services, failed to subpoena certain witnesses to testify at trial, failed to obtain a medical expert to rebut the medical examiner's opinion regarding the victim's cause of death, and failed to obtain a mental evaluation. Following our review of the record and submissions of the parties, we affirm the denial of the petition.

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

          Danny H. Goodman, Jr., Tiptonville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jarrod Reese Spicer.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Tommy A. Thomas, District Attorney General; and James Cannon, 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

         A. Trial Proceedings and Direct Appeal

         According to our opinion on direct appeal, the victim, John Thomas Hood, died on March 3, 2008. State v. Jarrod Reese Spicer, No. W2014-01817-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 5173969, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 31, 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan 14, 2016). That evening, the victim's neighbor stopped by to check on him and found the victim hunched in his kitchen doorway. Id. The victim appeared injured, and his body was "'ice cold.'" Id. The victim's home had been ransacked, and medications belonging to the petitioner's mother, who lived with the victim, were missing. Id. at *1-2. Additionally, "'old silver half-dollars and dimes'" that also belonged to the petitioner's mother were missing. Id. at *6.

         The neighbor called 911, and the victim was eventually pronounced dead. Id. at *3. Dr. Marco Ross performed an autopsy and "'found evidence of strangulation that consisted of some abrasions or scrape marks on the front of the neck, as well as a fracture of part of the thyroid cartilages[.]'" Id. According to Dr. Ross, "fractured thyroid cartilage is a 'serious bodily injury' that is primarily associated with strangulations and hangings and is caused by 'a fair amount of force in order to break that cartilage.'" Id. Dr. Ross also found heart disease, severe intestinal necrosis, and abnormalities in the victim's kidneys and liver. Id. Dr. Ross could not give a definitive cause of the victim's death. Id. Intestinal necrosis alone could have been the primary cause of death, but strangulation also could have triggered enough stress on the victim's heart and brain to cause his death. Id.

         Sometime in March of 2008, the petitioner asked Breanna Weaver to meet him at a motel in Haiti, Missouri. Id. at *5. Ms. Weaver testified that she saw hydrocodone and two guns on a table inside the motel room. Id. Ms. Weaver had sex with the petitioner in exchange for crack cocaine, and the two smoked the crack cocaine together. Id. The petitioner then confessed to accidentally killing the victim. Id. The petitioner told Ms. Weaver that he went to the victim's house "'to see if he could get his pills, and they got to fighting [be]cause he wouldn't give them to him, so that's when he choked him.'" Id.

         While incarcerated on an unrelated matter, the petitioner again confessed to accidentally killing the victim. Id. at *4. The petitioner told another inmate that he and the victim got into an altercation, and the victim pulled out a .38 caliber handgun. Id. The petitioner knocked the handgun from the victim's hand, and the dispute ended with the petitioner's "'grabbing [the victim] by the neck and sliding him down the refrigerator' so that [the victim] 'was sitting like a frog or something.'" Id. The petitioner also admitted to the inmate that he took hydrocodone pills, a .45 caliber pistol, and the .38 caliber pistol from the victim's home and threw the .38 caliber pistol into the Mississippi River. Id.

         On at least two occasions, the petitioner also informed Toby Hicks, the petitioner's brother-in-law, that he accidentally killed the victim. Id. at *6-7. He first confessed about a month after the victim's death while at a "'strip joint'" in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Id. at *6. The petitioner told Mr. Hicks that he accidentally killed the victim because "'he was mad about [the victim] getting all his mother's possessions.'" Id. At the time the petitioner made this confession to Mr. Hicks, he was under the influence of methamphetamine, methadone, hydrocodone, Xanax, valium, and alcohol. Id.

         In May of 2013, the petitioner again told Mr. Hicks he killed the victim. Id. Mr. Hicks was with the petitioner and his brother, and they were "'real bad doped up on meth.'" Id. According to Mr. Hicks, the petitioner said that "'he wasn't going to see [the victim] get any of [his] mom's stuff. [The petitioner] said it belonged to [him]. [The petitioner] said it was an accident but that he killed [the victim].'" Id. At trial, Mr. Hicks testified that the petitioner told him "'he hit [the petitioner] one time but he thought he knocked him out.'" Id.

         After the State rested, the petitioner called two witnesses to testify. Id. at *7. JoNelle Spicer, who was married to the petitioner at the time of the victim's death, testified that on the afternoon of March 3, 2008, she and the petitioner left their home in Haiti, Missouri and began driving to Troy, Tennessee to visit the petitioner's mother. Id. It began to rain heavily, so she and the petitioner eventually returned home. Id. The petitioner left the house for approximately twenty minutes that evening and then left again around midnight. Id. Ms. Spicer did not see the petitioner again until 9:30 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. the following night. Id. This testimony was ...

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