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State v. Spencer

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 28, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs March 21, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Williamson County Nos. I-CR058025-A, I-CR058025-B, I-CR058025-C Michael Binkley, Judge

         After a jury trial, the defendants, Lenardo Dewayne Spencer, Reginald Tyrone Baxter, Jr., and Deandre Jajuan Dean, were convicted of robbery and theft of property over $1000. On appeal, the defendants assert the evidence was insufficient to support their robbery convictions, arguing the alleged taking was not accomplished by the use of violence or fear. The defendants also claim prosecutorial misconduct in the State's closing argument and challenge the State's expert witness testimony. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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

          Elizabeth Ann Russell, Franklin, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lenardo DeWayne Spencer.

          Matthew J. Crigger, Brentwood, Tennessee, for the appellant, Reginald Tyrone Baxter, Jr.

          Shane K. McNeill, Thompson's Station, Tennessee, for the appellant, Deandre Jajuan Dean.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Alexander C. Vey, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Tammy Rettig, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          J. Ross Dyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.


          J. ROSS DYER, JUDGE


         This consolidated appeal concerns the October 25, 2012, robbery of Platinum Jewelers in Williamson County by the three defendants. For his involvement, each defendant was charged with one count of robbery, elevated to a Class B felony as the State alleged the defendants acted in concert with one another, one count of theft of property greater than $1000 but less than $10, 000, a Class D felony, and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, a Class D felony.

         At trial, William Crawley, stated he was working at Platinum Jewelers on October 25, 2012, when Baxter and Dean entered the store "posed as customers." Mr. Crawley described the defendants as "standoffish, " which made him and fellow employee, Michael Brown, "real cautious" of the pair. Though Baxter asked if Platinum Jewelers made custom jewelry, Dean said nothing, and the two left within minutes of entering the store. After Baxter and Dean left, Mr. Brown placed a gun, normally kept in the store, on the front desk.

         Approximately an hour later, Mr. Crawley was alone in the store when he noticed a silver Dodge Magnum enter the parking lot. Mr. Crawley recognized Baxter as he entered the store for a second time, asking for a quote on a diamond. Less than a minute later, Dean and Spencer entered the store. Within seconds, Mr. Crawley saw Dean and Spencer "prop[] themselves up" on an open display case and reach inside. Spencer grabbed "a whole tray of watches, Luminox watches, and then [] Dean, he grabbed tennis bracelets." After the defendants began taking jewelry, Dean yelled: "If you move, we'll beat your ass." At the time of Dean's threat, Baxter was standing "within a foot" of Mr. Crawley, while Dean and Spencer were approximately twenty to twenty-five feet from his person.

         Mr. Crawley was frightened. He ran to the back of the store, pressed the panic button, and called 911. Mr. Crawley stated "as soon as . . . [he] got to the back, [the defendants] were already running out the door." Detailing his fear further, Mr. Crawley explained: "I was by myself. I had . . . three men that had threatened me and there was just a lot going through my mind that . . . made me scared and I didn't know what . . . could happen. I was just in fear of harm." According to Mr. Crawley, the defendants ran out of the store approximately five seconds after Dean made the threat. Two to three seconds later, Mr. Crawley pushed the panic button. He explained the entire episode happened "very fast."

          During cross-examination, Mr. Crawley stated he believed the defendants were going to steal from Platinum Jewelers regardless of Dean's threat. He also assisted defense counsel with a demonstration. Specifically, defense counsel extended a yellow rope across the courtroom until it reached a distance, which, according to Mr. Crawley, illustrated the space between him and Dean when Dean made the threat. At the end of the demonstration, the yellow rope reached approximately twenty to twenty-five feet.

         Once outside of the store, the defendants fled the scene in the silver Dodge Magnum. Officer Matt Hughey, of the Brentwood Police Department, spotted the defendants' vehicle on Interstate 65 after a "be on the lookout, " or "BOLO, " for the silver Dodge Magnum was issued. Officer Hughey noticed the vehicle was driving slowly. He pulled behind the silver Dodge Magnum and initiated his lights and siren. The defendants' vehicle then sped ...

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