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State v. Churchwell

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

August 15, 2017


          ASSIGNED ON BRIEFS JULY 19, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County Nos. 2015-D-2352, 2016-A-353, 2016-I-572 Mark J. Fishburn, Judge

         Defendant, Marquis Devann Churchwell, pled guilty to one count of robbery and two counts of assault with the sentence to be determined by the trial court. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of eight years, eleven months and twenty-nine days. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by imposing a sentence of confinement. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we remand the case for entry of judgment forms for each count of the indictment in case number 2015-D-2352.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal Court Affirmed and Remanded

          Nicholas McGregor, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Marquis Devann Churchwell.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Janice Norman, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and John Everett Williams, JJ., joined.



         Factual and Procedural Background

         This appeal concerns the sentences imposed on Defendant in three separate cases. On October 23, 2015, Defendant was indicted along with four codefendants[1] for two counts of aggravated kidnapping and one count of robbery for acts committed against the victim, Adrian Brown. While incarcerated on these charges, Defendant committed two separate assaults against Officers Consondra Wright and Marcus McGee. On July 6, 2016, Defendant entered a guilty plea to one count of robbery and two counts of assault[2]with the sentence to be determined by the trial court at a later sentencing hearing; the two counts of aggravated kidnapping were dismissed.[3]

         According to the State's summary of the factual bases for Defendant's pleas, the robbery of Mr. Brown occurred on July 14, 2015. On that date, officers responded to a call of a male with no clothing. The responding officers discovered the victim "unclothed and with multiple facial wounds." The victim was transported to the hospital for treatment of his "fairly extensive" injuries. The victim reported that he had stayed the night with several individuals who he identified by nicknames, including Defendant who was also known as "Throw It Off." The victim had offered to pay one of the codefendants $50 in gas money to take him to cash a check. When the victim could not cash his check, one of the codefendants told him that "he had one choice to either come willingly [back to the apartment], come forcibly or be killed. The victim felt threatened and got back into [the codefendant's] truck." Defendant took the victim's check and struck him in the head. Back at the apartment, "the victim was slapped several times and told to go onto Craigslist and to sell himself for money." The victim was commanded to "come out of his pocket." This resulted in the victim's relinquishing all of his belongings to the group, including his wallet, his phone charger, his phone, and his identification. The victim was "punched, kicked and struck with the knees by all of the members of the group." The victim was then forced to lie in the bed of the truck and was driven to the area where he was eventually discovered by the police. There, Defendant "held a knife on [the victim] while he was told to strip off all of his clothing." The group then drove off, leaving the victim on the street. During the investigation, officers conducted a search of the apartment with the consent of one of the codefendants. Inside, they found several of the victim's belongings. Defendant and other codefendants were positively identified by the victim from photographic lineups, "and multiple defendants made admissions to detectives throughout the investigation."

         With regard to the charge of assault against Officer Wright, the facts at trial would have shown that on December 28, 2015, Defendant was incarcerated at the Davidson County Sheriff's Department. Officer Wright was an employee at the jail. Defendant "grabbed [Officer Wright] from behind, pulled her hair and dumped a bottle filled with urine and feces on her face. The fluids got into the officer's eyes and ran[] down her back." The incident was captured on surveillance video. "At some point the [D]efendant claimed he was HIV positive, even though there were no records to corroborate that." Officer Wright was transported to the hospital for treatment. The record on appeal does not contain a summary of the factual basis for the charge of assault against Officer McGee, though the indictment indicates that it was committed on May 21, 2016.

         With regard to Defendant's mental health, Defendant informed the trial court during the plea colloquy that he had schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Defendant indicated that he heard voices but that he was not hearing any at the time he entered his plea. Defendant reported that had not been receiving his medications while in the jail. Specifically, Defendant indicated that the personnel at the jail "refuse[d]" to give him his medications while he was "in the hole for . . . almost nine months" or "in the safe room over 30 times . . . . when I do anything stupid." Defendant told the trial court that he knew why he was in court, knew what he was doing, and did not know of any reason that he "would not be able to fully understand and appreciate" what he was doing.

         During the August 30, 2016 sentencing hearing, Defendant's presentence report was entered into evidence. The report indicated that the 25-year-old Defendant had dropped out of school in the ninth grade. Defendant had two prior convictions for aggravated burglary as well as multiple misdemeanor convictions for theft under $500, harassment, and criminal trespass. Defendant had multiple probation violations and revocations, including having a diversionary sentence revoked in Rutherford County. Prior to being incarcerated, Defendant was homeless and unemployed, ...

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