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State v. Golden

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

June 7, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs April 11, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Carroll County No. 14CR49 Donald E. Parish, Judge

         The Defendant, Larry Donnell Golden, Jr., was convicted by a Carroll County Circuit Court jury of second degree murder, a Class A felony, and reckless endangerment for discharging a firearm into an occupied habitation, a Class C felony. He was sentenced to an effective term of twenty-three years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred by sua sponte modifying the Tennessee Pattern Jury Instructions relative to the charge of reckless endangerment and that the State improperly commented in its closing argument on his decision not to testify. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          J. Neil Thompson, Huntingdon, Tennessee, for the appellant, Larry Donnell Golden, Jr.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Matthew F. Stowe, District Attorney General; and R. Adam Jowers and Carthel L. Smith, Jr., Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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


          ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE


         On February 2, 2014, an altercation arose outside a home located at 328 Hunt Street in Huntingdon, Tennessee, that led to the Defendant's firing a gun at and/or into the residence. Houston Dewayne Brown was shot and pronounced dead a short time later at a hospital. The Defendant was indicted for first degree premeditated murder on May 5, 2014, as a result of the shooting of Mr. Brown. On October 21, 2014, the Defendant was indicted for one count of reckless endangerment for discharging a firearm into an occupied habitation. On September 8, 2015, the Defendant was indicted for five additional counts of reckless endangerment arising out of the same set of facts, each count listing a specified victim. The indictments were consolidated under one docket number, and the case proceeded to trial. At the close of the State's proof, after the trial court denied the Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal on the first degree murder charge and was beginning to rule on the Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal regarding the reckless endangerment charges, the parties announced that they had reached an agreement wherein the State would dismiss all of the reckless endangerment charges except for the one that was originally Count 5 in the September 2015 indictment, at the time known as Count 6 in the consolidated indictment. After the Defendant's proof, the jury convicted the Defendant of the lesser-included offense of second degree murder and of reckless endangerment.

         The State presented lengthy proof at trial from multiple witnesses to support the charge of premeditated first degree murder. However, the jury's verdict of second degree murder renders most of this proof irrelevant to this appeal, especially considering that the Defendant only appeals a portion of the jury charge and the propriety of the State's closing argument.

         The proof at trial showed that Houston Brown and his fiancée, Sharmaine Algee, hosted a Super Bowl party on February 2, 2014. An argument broke out between two of the attendees, Jermaine Crawford and Shemile Adams. Mr. Adams pinned Mr. Crawford against the wall during the course of a verbal argument about a possible sexual assault committed by Mr. Crawford sometime earlier. Ms. Algee asked Mr. Crawford to leave, and Mr. Crawford went to Dorothy Williams' house across the street.

         Ms. Algee determined that Mr. Adams might have been mistaken about Mr. Crawford, so she and Mr. Adams went across the street to Ms. Williams' home to apologize to Mr. Crawford. Mr. Crawford told them, "I'm not trying to hear that shit. It's all about to be handled." Ms. Williams later went to Ms. Algee's house and told her that she had overheard Mr. Crawford on the phone telling someone to "come strapped up, " meaning armed, but Ms. Algee did not take Ms. Williams' information seriously.

         Sometime later, the Defendant, Cedric Harris, and Jermaine Crawford showed up in Ms. Algee's and Mr. Brown's front yard. Mr. Brown, Mr. Adams, and Landon Gilbreath went outside to meet them, and Mr. Brown told the Defendant and the two men with him "that he couldn't have this at his house because he was on parole and he couldn't afford for the police to be there." However, Mr. Adams and Mr. Harris started fighting. Ms. Algee saw that the Defendant had a gun in his pocket and went back inside to call the police. While Ms. Algee was on the phone with the dispatcher, several gunshots sounded. After the gunfire stopped, it was discovered that Mr. Brown had been fatally wounded.

         Landon Gilbreath saw Mr. Adams and Mr. Harris exchanging words in the yard before fighting each other. The Defendant was on the other side of the cars parked in the driveway. Mr. Harris fell to the ground, and when Mr. Adams hit or kicked him, Mr. Harris screamed something. After that, the Defendant began firing. Mr. Gilbreath heard Mr. Brown say, "I'm hit, " and then everyone "scattered."

         Ja'Leesa Cherry, who testified for the Defendant, said that Mr. Harris was down on the ground and Mr. Adams was kicking him. Mr. Harris yelled, "Shoot, " after which Ms. Cherry saw flashes coming from where the Defendant was standing and heard Mr. Brown say that he had been shot.

         Mr. Adams, who also testified for the Defendant, said that his confrontation with Mr. Crawford at the Super Bowl party was motivated by an incident several nights earlier at a nightclub between Mr. Adams's girlfriend and Mr. Crawford. Mr. Adams admitted pushing Mr. Crawford during the confrontation at the party but then went across the street to apologize to him. Sometime after returning to Mr. Brown's house from apologizing to Mr. Crawford, Mr. Adams heard Mr. Brown "ranting and raving" about Mr. Crawford. Mr. Adams said that a short time later Mr. Brown and others left in a hurry when they saw a group of men, including the Defendant and Mr. Harris, approaching the front yard. Mr. Adams and Mr. Harris exchanged words and began fighting. Mr. Adams admitted to kicking Mr. Harris in the face while Mr. Harris was on the ground. When Mr. Adams kicked Mr. Harris in the head a second time, Mr. Harris yelled "shoot."

         The Defendant did not introduce any evidence at trial refuting the fact that he fired a firearm during the altercation on February 2, 2014. The State presented proof that the Defendant made statements to several of his cellmates after he was taken into custody, in which he admitted to firing the shots. In particular, the Defendant told one cellmate that he went to a ...

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