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State v. Palmer

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

July 19, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs June 20, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2015-C-2248 Steve R. Dozier, Judge.

         Defendant, Ricky Lee Palmer, appeals from his conviction of aggravated assault for which he was sentenced to six years. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. We determine that the evidence was monumentally sufficient to sustain the conviction for aggravated assault. Therefore, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

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

          Manuel B. Russ (on appeal) and W. Douglass Love (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ricky Lee Palmer.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ruth Anne Thompson, Senior Counsel; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and J. Wesley King, 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 Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.



         Defendant, Maria Deleta Flowers, and Scottie Lee Mofield were indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury for the aggravated assault of a homeless man, Robert Vaughn.[1] At trial, the fifty-year-old victim explained that he was living in a homeless camp with his friend, Dane McPeak, "in the Murfreesboro Road area in between Thompson Lane and . . . Fesslers Lane area . . . around Mill Creek." The camp was located near the Casa Linda Apartments. The victim worked by "selling the homeless paper" called "The Faith Unity."

         Pauline Spaulding was the manager of the Casa Linda Apartments. At the time of the incident, "90 percent" of the residents were felons or formerly homeless. The victim and Mr. McPeak used to live at Casa Linda but were evicted for failing to pay their rent. Ms. Spaulding knew the men were living behind the apartments.

         On the evening of June 5, 2015, the victim "left the camp [on foot] and . . . was going to the store to get something to drink and a pack of cigarettes." He walked through the woods and down a sidewalk before crossing the street to get to the store. As the victim entered the store, he saw Defendant, Ms. Flowers, and Mr. Mofield outside the store. The victim recognized them "from moving up and down the streets" but did not know their names at that time. The victim went inside the store, purchased his drink and cigarettes, and exited the store at approximately 10:00 p.m. The three defendants were still outside.

         The victim sat his drink down on the steps right outside the store and "[o]pened the pack of cigarettes to light a cigarette and that's when everything started to happen from there on." The victim was "approached" by Ms. Flowers who asked if he could "spare a cigarette" or part of his drink. When the victim refused, Ms. Flowers "pushed [his] back, picked up the beverage, [and] broke it on the ground, " telling the victim that "nobody's going to drink the beer." Defendant and Mr. Mofield "assaulted [the victim] from the back and side, " hitting him "with their fists repeatedly" all over his body. The victim was kicked in the face, chest, back, stomach, and legs. The victim could not fight back, instead "trying to cover up" to protect himself. The victim had a knife in his pocket but was unable to use it during the attack. The beating went on for an undetermined period of time before the men "finally just quit." The victim tried to get himself together to "get back to [his] shelter as quick as [he] could."

         The victim managed to walk back to his camp. His face was extremely swollen. One eye was "completely shut, " and his "eyelid was hanging down on the lower part of [his] face." He could not see out of his eye and was not sure if he was actually blind from the beating. Mr. McPeak described the victim's injuries as follows: "[h]e had been severely beaten, " and the victim was bleeding "profusely" from his nose, mouth, and eyes. Mr. McPeak tried to help the victim bandage the wounds, but they could not get the bleeding to stop. The victim did not call 911 because he was "in shock and in fear for [his] life." He stayed up most of the night and described his pain on a scale of one to ten as "above ten."

         The next morning, Mr. McPeak talked to Ms. Spaulding and explained the situation. Initially, she gave him ten dollars "to go get some bandages and stuff" to attend to the victim's injuries. After she "thought about it and pondered, " she called the fire department and the police. Ms. Spaulding assisted the rescue squad in locating the victim. They were able to track his location by following a trail of blood. The victim was in "horrible" condition when they found him. His "jaw was hanging . . . down. He looked like something out of a horror show. His eye was gone" and blood was "going fast" out of his eyeball. The victim refused to go to the hospital despite being asked to get medical treatment. Ms. Spaulding called the victim later that day, urging him to go to the hospital because she was ...

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