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State v. Armstrong

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

July 5, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
FREDERIC JERMAINE ARMSTRONG

          Assigned on Briefs April 11, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hardeman County No. 14-CR-80 J. Weber McCraw, Judge

         Defendant, Frederic Jermaine Armstrong, was convicted of aggravated assault for the beating of a correctional officer. Defendant's conviction was also subject to a criminal gang enhancement pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-121(b), which was later vacated because of this Court's ruling in State v. Bonds, 502 S.W.3d 118 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016). On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and whether he was properly sentenced to the maximum within the applicable range. Upon review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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

          Bo Burk, District Public Defender, and Shana Johnson, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Frederic Jermaine Armstrong.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Joe Van Dyke, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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

          OPINION

          TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE.

         Factual and Procedural Summary

         Defendant was indicted with one count of aggravated assault and one count of criminal gang enhancement. A jury convicted him of aggravated assault at a bifurcated trial. The jury also convicted Defendant of a criminal gang offense pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 40-35-121. The criminal gang enhancement was later vacated. The following facts were adduced at trial.

         On March 11, 2013, Correctional Officer Timothy Boyd, Sr., was on duty as a floor officer at the Whiteville Correctional Facility in Hardeman County. As Officer Boyd was holding open a door for inmates, he asked Defendant to tuck in his shirt, per Tennessee Department of Correction's rules. Later, when Defendant was reentering from lunch or recreation, his shirttail remained untucked. Having completed his first floor shift, Officer Boyd rotated to working inside "the bubble, " a secured area with views of the nearby doors which contained locking mechanisms for those doors. Once there, he wrote Defendant up for "refusing a direct order."

         When Officer Boyd rotated back to working on the floor shift, Defendant approached him and asked why he had received a write-up. Officer Boyd said it was because of Defendant's failure to tuck his shirt in after being told to do so, to which Defendant said, "This is a bullshit write-up." Officer Boyd responded, "No, it's not. I asked you to put your shirttail in and you didn't." According to Officer Boyd and video recorded at the scene, Defendant then assaulted Officer Boyd by hitting and knocking him down. Correctional Officer Margaret Brown witnessed the assault from the "bubble" and called for assistance; she was unable to leave for any reason, including helping Officer Boyd.[1] Officer Boyd testified that he did not "antagonize" or "threaten" Defendant prior to the assault.

         Joseph Shields, an assistant investigator with the Internal Affairs Department at the Whiteville Correctional Facility, testified that when Officer Brown called for help, "she was very frantic" and "sounded like she was actually herself being assaulted." Investigator Shields testified that Defendant hit Officer Boyd thirty-two times "in the facial area." Tazma Robertson, a family nurse practitioner at the prison who was a first responder to the incident, testified that she considered Officer Boyd's injuries to be "severe" due to "his face appear[ing] to be wide open, bones depressed, eye hanging, massive bleeding, and a severe deformity noted to the left side of his face." Ms. Robertson interpreted a CAT scan for the trial court and noted fractures to Officer Boyd's nose and the bones around the left eye, a depression of the bone under the left eye, torn muscles around the eye, and a "displaced" palate.

         John Weaver, former director of Hardeman County Ambulance Service, responded to the incident at the Whiteville prison. Mr. Weaver testified that the guards employed nonstandard procedure when admitting his ambulance into the facility: guards did not perform an expected search of the ambulance; rather than being "buzzed through each individual section" of the prison, guards held doors open for the ambulance staff; and the guards had cleared the hallways entirely. Mr. Weaver testified that this indicated to him that whatever injury he was responding to was "something massively wrong." Mr. Weaver testified that Officer Boyd had "multiple fractures" on his face and head, and that he was able to feel bones moving under Officer Boyd's skin.

         Investigator Shields testified that he identified Defendant as the assailant by reviewing security video footage. Investigator Shields tracked Defendant's movement across multiple cameras from the scene of the incident to his cell after identifying Defendant by his clothing. Investigator Shields testified further that he searched Defendant's cell and found a blood stain on the wall under a hook where "inmates are allowed to hang their towels, [and] washcloths." Investigator Shields recovered a bloody t-shirt that ...


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