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Garrett v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

May 31, 2017


          Session April 26, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 99056 G. Scott Green, Judge

         Deadrick Garrett ("the Petitioner") appeals the Knox County Criminal Court's denial of post-conviction relief from his conviction for first-degree premeditated murder and resulting life sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel's failure to: (1) communicate with the Petitioner and adequately explain criminal and trial procedure; (2) review discovery with the Petitioner, including witness statements and forensic evidence; (3) have the Petitioner evaluated by a mental health expert and pursue a diminished capacity theory of defense; (4) anticipate that the trial court would deny a self-defense jury instruction and develop a viable alternative defense; and (5) object to the Petitioner's demonstrating on cross-examination that he could open the knife used in the murder with one hand. The Petitioner further asserts that trial counsel improperly: (6) advised a defense witness to be hostile towards the victim; (7) instructed the Petitioner to "cry on cue"; and (8) fabricated the Petitioner's trial testimony "so as to create some justification for [the Petitioner's] stabbing [the victim]." After a thorough review of the appellate record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Forrest L. Wallace, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Deadrick Garrett.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Robert W. Wilson, Assistant Attorney General; Charme Allen, District Attorney General; and Leland Price, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.



         I. Factual and Procedural Background


         After a jury trial, the Petitioner was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder in the stabbing death of his half-brother, Rashad Miller, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. On direct appeal, this court summarized the facts presented at trial as follows:

At trial, the nephew of both the [Petitioner] and victim testified that he lived with the victim at the time of the killing. He recalled that on the July 22, 2007, he woke up to a knock on the front door. He answered the door, and the [Petitioner] asked if the victim was at home. The nephew told the [Petitioner] he was not sure, but he could check. He did not recall seeing the [Petitioner] with a weapon and described the [Petitioner] as "calm." The nephew heard the [Petitioner] knock on the victim's door and heard the victim ask "who's there?" The nephew returned to his bedroom, shut the door, and turned on the television. About two minutes later, he heard a loud "boom" and what sounded like "tusslin'" or "wrestlin'" in the victim's bedroom. He heard the victim's door slam and heard the [Petitioner] talking loudly as he walked out of the apartment. The victim called the nephew's name, but the nephew could not enter the bedroom because the door was jammed. He had to "barge in" and found the victim on his knees behind the door. The nephew asked his girlfriend to call the police while he stayed with the victim. The victim could not stand and struggled to breathe. The nephew witnessed the victim take his last breath. He observed a hole in the sheet rock that he believed was the result of the loud "boom."
An evidence technician of the Knoxville Police Department Forensic Unit testified that she responded to the crime scene. She observed a gouge mark on the exterior of the bedroom door that was consistent with someone holding a knife against the door from the outside. The furniture in the bedroom did not appear to have been disturbed. The only sign of a struggle was a large hole in the drywall behind the bedroom door. She opined that the bloodstains on the interior of the bedroom door were consistent with blood being thrown from a knife. She explained that the blood appeared to have hit the door and run down. There was also blood on the bed that appeared to have been flung. The victim's tee shirt remained in the bedroom and was saturated with blood. A broken piece of metal was found behind the bedroom door, and a knife was later recovered in a wooded area. The back portion of the knife had been broken off and was consistent with the piece found in the victim's bedroom.
The [Petitioner] executed a written waiver of his rights and gave a recorded statement. The [Petitioner] told police that his twelve-year-old sister had informed their family that the victim, who was their half-brother, had raped her on the Friday before the crime. The [Petitioner] said his mother called him at work to tell him what had happened. He told police that he "just lost it" when his sister told him about the rape. The police asked if the [Petitioner] was concerned that the victim would have a gun, to which the [Petitioner] responded that he was angry and felt "bullet proof." The [Petitioner] told police that they fought and crashed into the wall before falling to the floor. He said the victim jumped on top of him and told him to calm down. The [Petitioner] told police that he was frightened and that he began "sticking [the victim] in the stomach" with a stick. He denied using a knife. The [Petitioner] told police that killing the victim was in his mind when he went to confront him and that he went to the apartment with the intention of hurting the victim. The [Petitioner] turned himself in to police after attempting to conceal the weapon and shirt he was wearing during the crime.
The doctor who performed the autopsy testified that the victim died of multiple stab wounds, which totaled fourteen. The wounds were consistent with the victim and attacker facing each other. The victim also had wounds to his back consistent with moving away from his attacker.
The [Petitioner's] sister testified that she was twelve years old in July 2007, and that she told her mother and the [Petitioner] that she had been raped by the victim. She testified that she, the victim, and the [Petitioner] had the same father. She recalled that her father was mad that she told her mother what had happened. She told the [Petitioner] what happened on the phone and recalled that he was mad. Even though she told the [Petitioner] that their father did not want to report the rape, the [Petitioner] insisted she go to the hospital and report the rape.
The [Petitioner's] mother recalled that the [Petitioner] was upset and angry and that he cried when he was told about the rape. She also testified that the [Petitioner] might have said that he stabbed the victim.

         The [Petitioner] testified that two days after he learned of the rape, he went to see the victim and took a weapon. He said he took the knife because he was afraid of the victim. He testified that he punched the victim in the head after the victim made crude statements about their sister. He said that they struggled and that the victim got on top of him. He acknowledged stabbing the victim and then running from the room. He went to the home of friends and asked them to wash his shirt and dispose of the knife. He acknowledged that he only surrendered after attempting to destroy evidence.

         State v. Deadrick Garrett, No. E2009-02365-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 486846, at *2-3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 11, 2011), perm. app. denied (Tenn. July 15, 2011). This court affirmed the judgment of the trial court on direct appeal, and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied the Petitioner's application for further review.

         Post-Conviction Proceedings

         The Petitioner filed a timely, pro se petition for post-conviction relief, asserting that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Following the appointment of counsel, the Petitioner filed an amended petition.

         At an evidentiary hearing, Leslie Nassios, an Assistant District Attorney with the Knox County District Attorney General's Office, testified that she had been employed with the office since 2002 and that she primarily handled violent felony offenses. Ms. Nassios stated that she had tried eight murder cases with the Petitioner's trial counsel before trial counsel's death.[1] She explained that, in her professional experience working with trial counsel, trial counsel "had a lot of zeal for his work" and "really enjoyed being a defense lawyer." Ms. Nassios recalled:

I know that [trial counsel] spent a lot of time with his clients. He was always at the courthouse. He was frequently working late at the jail when inmates were housed here. I know he was at the detention facility a lot.

Ms. Nassios stated that she and trial counsel discussed cases frequently, "even cases that [they] didn't have in common" and that trial counsel "liked to talk about his work."

         Ms. Nassios testified that she discussed the Petitioner's case with trial counsel often and that trial counsel considered the murder charge "a defensible case at least in terms of . . . the level of homicide" because of the allegation that the victim had sexually molested the Petitioner's sister. Upon her review of the case, however, Ms. Nassios believed that the proof "strongly supported" the charge of first-degree premeditated murder, and she informed trial counsel that she would not make an offer to reduce the charge. Additionally, Ms. Nassios explained that, while out on bond in the instant case, the Petitioner murdered someone else.[2] She stated that because of this additional murder she did not make any offer to settle the Petitioner's case; rather, she intended to take both cases to trial. Ms. Nassios stated that the Petitioner's options were to enter an open guilty plea to the charged offense or proceed to trial.

         Ms. Nassios recalled that trial counsel made a formal request for discovery, and she agreed that trial counsel filed multiple motions on the Petitioner's behalf, which were litigated before trial. Regarding the facts of the case, Ms. Nassios recalled that the Petitioner fled the scene of the murder ...

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