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State v. Hubbard

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

June 7, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
MARIO HUBBARD

          Assigned on Briefs May 2, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 15-01036 Chris Craft, Judge.

         A Shelby County jury found the defendant, Mario Hubbard, guilty of burglary of a motor vehicle and sentenced him to six years, as a career offender, in the county workhouse. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court erred when allowing the jury to hear a statement he gave to the arresting officer prior to receiving Miranda warnings and when denying his request for a jury instruction on the destruction of evidence. The defendant further argues the jury's verdict was against the weight of the evidence and instead supported by his uncorroborated statement only. Based on our review of the record and pertinent authorities, we agree the trial court erred when denying the defendant's motion to suppress, but given the otherwise overwhelming evidence presented at trial, this error was harmless. For the same reason, the jury's verdict was not against the weight of the evidence. Finally, the evidence submitted at trial did not warrant a jury instruction on spoliation, so the trial court did not err when denying the defendant's request for the same. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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

          John R. Holton, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mario Hubbard.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan J. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; Amy Weirich, District Attorney General; and Carla Taylor, 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 Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          J. ROSS DYER, JUDGE

         Facts and Procedural History

         On December 29, 2013, Corey Hentz, an officer with the Memphis Police Department (MPD), went to Chuck Hutton Chevrolet in Memphis, Tennessee to shop for a new truck. The dealership was closed at the time, and all the vehicles on the lot were locked. The dealership had not given permission for visitors to the lot to access the interior of the locked vehicles, but it was possible to walk through the closed lot and inspect the vehicles from the exterior. As Mr. Hentz did so, he observed "some legs hanging out of a truck" and approached the vehicle. The defendant was in the truck "doing something to the passenger side door panel in the mirror area." The defendant asked Mr. Hentz the price of the truck, and Mr. Hentz told him to check the sticker on the car window. As Mr. Hentz walked around the truck, he noticed some of the car paneling had been removed and there were bolts on the ground. Mr. Hentz then walked to an area of the parking lot where he could not be seen by the defendant and called MPD dispatch to report the suspicious activity. Mr. Hentz also gave a complete description of the defendant and the license plate number of a car parked close to the locked gate of the car lot.

         Officer Kenneth Walcott, also with the MPD, responded to the call regarding a suspicious looking person in the parking lot of Chuck Hutton Chevrolet. Officer Walcott was driving past the car dealership at the time he received the call and responded in approximately fifteen seconds. He pulled into the parking lot as the defendant got into his car, noted a silver socket wrench in his hand, and asked the defendant to step out of the vehicle. When the defendant refused, Officer Walcott drew his weapon and again commanded the defendant to step out of the vehicle. Once the defendant complied, Officer Walcott detained him, placed him in the back of the vehicle, and said, "[T]hat was pretty bold what you did because of the fact there's [sic] cameras out here. I don't know if you know it, but it was an off duty police officer that saw you doing what you were doing and he made the phone call." The defendant responded, "I was just getting it for a friend of mine." Officer Walcott understood "it" to mean the side mirror to a maroon Chevrolet truck. He did not ask any follow-up questions because the defendant had not yet been Mirandized, and it was not his job to ask questions. The detectives would do so later.

         Officer Walcott then contacted Kerry Melson, the general manager of Chuck Hutton Chevrolet, regarding the break-in. He and Mr. Melson discussed the video surveillance in the parking lot, and Mr. Melson was unsure it was working at the time. Mr. Melson did not follow-up with the dealership to obtain the video surveillance and, instead, assumed the detectives would obtain any existing video footage.

         Officer Katie Patrick, also with the MPD, came to the scene and viewed the vehicle. The side mirrors had been taken off the body of the vehicle, and the car was disassembled on the passenger side. There were rubber gloves in the front pocket of the defendant's hooded sweatshirt, and there was a silver socket wrench sitting inside his vehicle. She was informed there was video surveillance in the parking lot and noted in her report that "video surveillance of the incident is available and manger will retrieve it at a later date." She does not know what happened to the surveillance video.

         At trial, the State called Kerry Melson, Corey Hentz, Officer Kenneth Walcott, and Officer Katie Patrick to testify and introduced photos of the damaged vehicle into evidence. Prior to calling Officer Walcott as a trial witness, the trial court held a hearing outside the jury's presence on the defendant's oral motion to suppress his statement that he was "just getting it for a friend." During the jury-out hearing, Officer Walcott offered testimony consistent with the above narrative indicating he initiated contact with the defendant after responding to a call regarding a suspected break-in on the lot, and after getting the defendant's personal information and placing him in the back of the squad car, he commented on the intelligence of the defendant's actions. The trial court then denied the motion to suppress, finding that while the defendant was in custody at the time he spoke to Officer Walcott, he was not subject to interrogation. Officer Walcott then proceeded to offer similar testimony in front of the jury.

         After the State rested, the defendant then moved for judgment of acquittal, arguing in part that Mr. Hubbard's statement should not have been allowed into evidence because he was not Mirandized prior to giving it, and there was not a corroborating statement. The trial court denied the motion. The defendant declined to present any evidence on his behalf.

         At the subsequent jury charge conference, the defendant requested Tennessee Pattern Jury Instruction 42.23 on destruction of evidence, arguing the State had a duty to preserve the dealership's video surveillance footage and failed to do so. The trial court denied the request, finding neither party presented proof at trial that the security camera footage would have been exculpatory, and the State was never in possession of the footage. After being charged, the jury found the defendant guilty of burglary of a motor vehicle, and the trial court imposed a six-year sentence to be served at sixty percent as a career offender.

         The defendant filed a timely motion for a new trial, arguing the trial court erred when admitting the defendant's statement into evidence because it was the result of a custodial interrogation, and the defendant did not receive Miranda warnings prior to speaking with the arresting officer. The defendant further argued it was prejudicial error not to instruct the jury on the issue of spoliation of evidence despite proof the surveillance video from the car lot had not been preserved. Finally, the defendant argued his conviction was based on his statement alone, and the State did not introduce additional evidence to corroborate his statement. The trial court denied the motion and adopted the jury's verdict. This timely appeal followed.

         Analysis

         On appeal, the defendant again argues the trial court erred when admitting the defendant's statement into evidence and denying the defendant's request for a jury instruction on spoliation. The defendant further argues the jury's guilty verdict was against the weight of the evidence because it was based on the defendant's uncorroborated statement alone. Following our review of the submissions of the parties, record, and pertinent authorities, we conclude the trial court erred when denying the defendant's suppression motion, but this error was harmless. We further conclude the evidence presented at trial did not ...


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