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State v. Denton

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 21, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs July 25, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 12-02872 James M. Lammey, Judge

         After a jury trial, the defendants, Leon Denton and Devan Denton, were convicted of three counts of aggravated rape, one count of facilitation of aggravated rape, one count of facilitation of especially aggravated robbery, and two counts of facilitation of aggravated robbery. On appeal, the defendants assert the evidence was insufficient to support their convictions, arguing the State failed to overcome the defense of duress. The defendants also claim their right to a speedy trial was violated. Independently, Leon Denton argues his convictions violate double jeopardy. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Claiborne Ferguson, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Leon Denton.

          Shannon M. Davis, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Devan Denton.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Josh Corman, 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 H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.


          J. ROSS DYER, JUDGE


         This case involves five perpetrators and three victims. In the early morning hours of October 16, 2011, Leon Denton, Devan Denton, Antonio Howard, James Kerrigan, and Brian Norwood committed several crimes against three female victims.[1] As a result, the five men were jointly indicted on May 31, 2012 in Indictment No. 12-02872 for six counts of aggravated rape (Counts 1 through 6), one count of especially aggravated robbery (Count 7), two counts of aggravated robbery (Counts 8 and 9), and three counts of aggravated assault (Counts 10, 11, and 12).[2]

         At the various requests of the five co-defendants, the trial date in this matter was reset multiple times over the next two years. On February 5, 2014, the trial court set a final trial date for September 29, 2014. At the February resetting, the State announced its intent to possibly sever some of the defendants prior to trial. First, however, Antonio moved to sever his case from his co-defendants, and the State agreed. The trial court granted severance, and Antonio was tried and convicted on September 29, 2014. Subsequently, Leon filed a motion to dismiss claiming the trial court "improperly severed him out of the trial and thus violated his speedy trial rights and the case has now been tried to a jury, thus implicating double jeopardy/improper severance." The trial court denied Leon's motion, and the present defendants were tried together on August 31, 2015.[3]

         All three victims, K.W., L.G., and C.C., testified at the defendants' trial.[4] The trial began with testimony from K.W. who explained that on October 15, 2011, L.G. and C.C. came to her apartment at the Mount Moriah Trails Apartments in Shelby County before going to a nightclub around 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. While at the club, L.G. ordered one drink. K.W. stated none of the women were intoxicated when they left the club around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. As the three friends left the club that night, L.G. asked a man in the parking lot for a cigarette lighter. The man, whom the women later learned to be Antonio, gave L.G. a lighter and the two began talking. The conversation led to the women agreeing to hang out with Antonio and James at K.W.'s apartment. The men and the women drove towards K.W.'s apartment in separate cars. Antonio motioned for the women to stop at a gas station. When they stopped, the women realized five men in two separate cars were actually following them to the apartment. These men included Antonio, James, Brian, and the defendants. The men bought beer and cigarillos at the gas station, and the group continued to K.W.'s apartment.

         At the apartment, the three women, Antonio, and Brian sat at a table while James and the defendants sat in the living room. The group smoked marijuana and drank beer for approximately one hour. However, within a span of about twenty minutes, a gun fell from each of Antonio's and Brian's pockets, changing the mood of the evening. K.W. explained when Antonio's gun fell out of his pocket, she did not know what to do. Shortly thereafter, Brian's gun fell out of his pocket. As a result, K.W. asked everyone to leave because it was "getting late." Leon, Devan, Brian, and James moved towards the door, but Antonio asked to use the restroom. When Antonio came out of the restroom, he had his "gun drawn" and yelled, "This is a robbery." Antonio ordered the women to take off their clothes. K.W. initially thought he was joking, but upon the realization that he was not, told Antonio to take whatever he wanted. Antonio hit her in the face three times fracturing her eye socket. K.W. then lost consciousness.

         L.G. testified that she realized Antonio was not joking when he ordered her, K.W., and C.C. to take off their clothes. Antonio grabbed her and "twirled [her] around" in front of the other men, asking if anyone liked what they saw. Antonio then pointed his gun at her and "made [her] perform oral sex [on Antonio] on the couch in front of them." L.G. was then forced into the bedroom with Antonio and Leon. She explained what happened in the bedroom as follows:

[Antonio] led me to the room, and he had the gun. And he told me to get down and give him some head. And then [Antonio] got another guy in there with him to - so he could get some head. [Antonio] got behind me and started having sex with me; and then [Leon] got in front, and I had to give him oral sex. And the guy that I had to give oral sex to ejaculated in my mouth, and made me swallow.

L.G. testified that Antonio did not threaten Leon into engaging in oral sex with her and Antonio did not point his gun at him. Rather, L.G. stated Leon "made like he didn't want to, but he did it. I mean, he didn't pull back." Devan then entered the bedroom. Antonio said, "Oh man, get you some, " and L.G. was forced to perform oral sex on Devan. She again explained Antonio did not threaten or force Devan into receiving oral sex from L.G., but rather, "there was no pull back. He did it."

         C.C. testified that she turned her head while Antonio forced L.G. to give him oral sex on the couch. When Antonio and Leon took L.G. to the bedroom, C.C. was left in the living room with Devan, James, and Brian who was standing by the door. K.W. was unconscious on the floor. C.C. watched as Antonio and Leon walked to the bedroom. C.C. testified that she did not hear Antonio threaten Leon, explaining their interaction "wasn't like anything forceful." She further stated, "[Leon's] decision was to go" into the bedroom.

         After Leon, Antonio, and L.G. left the living room, C.C. noticed K.W. "start[] to come to." K.W. asked Brian for help, but he did not move. As a result, C.C helped K.W. onto the couch and got ice for K.W.'s eye which was swollen shut. C.C. realized that while she was in the kitchen getting ice, Devan left the living room. Antonio then reentered the living room and said, "Let's get all the stuff." Antonio ordered the women into the bathtub where they stayed for approximately ten minutes. When the women exited the bathroom, armed with brushes and hairspray, they saw the apartment door wide open and the men were gone. The women quickly dressed and drove to L.G.'s mother's home where the police and an ambulance were called.

         Co-defendants, James and Brian, testified against the defendants at trial. James explained Antonio is his brother and Leon and Devan are his cousins. He stated he bumped into Antonio, Brian, Leon, and Devan on Beale Street the night of October 15, 2011. The men left Beale Street and went to a nightclub where they met the female victims in the club parking lot. According to James, the two groups agreed to go back to K.W.'s apartment "to hang out and have fun." After stopping at a gas station, the groups arrived at the apartment where they smoked marijuana and drank beer. James stated that both Antonio and Brian's guns fell out of their pockets, but the mood among the groups did not change until Antonio "upped his gun." Antonio then controlled the evening. Specifically, James testified Antonio came out of the bathroom with his gun raised, telling the women to get on the ground and get naked. When K.W. laughed, Antonio hit her and she fell to the ground. Antonio then made L.G. give him oral sex, while the men were "just standing on the wall." According to James, Antonio "asked all of [the men] did we like what we see. We told him, 'No, ' that we didn't get down like that. That's when he said, more for him."

         James saw Antonio and Leon go to the bedroom with L.G. He stated Antonio "put his arm around [Leon] and told him to come to the back with him" absent any threats or use of force. James heard "sexual moans" coming from the bedroom and realized Antonio was raping L.G. During the rape, Devan stated he was ready to leave and went to the bedroom to get Leon. As a result, "Antonio came out [of the bedroom] and told him we weren't going nowhere until he gets what he wants." James stated "[a]fter that, [Antonio] went back into the room and continued to rape the girl." Antonio came out of the bedroom again "telling [them] to get the TVs." As Antonio gave the order, Devan entered the bedroom. James soon entered the bedroom in order to take a TV and saw "[t]he girl performing oral sex on [Devan]." Only Devan and L.G. were in the bedroom at the time.

         Antonio then told the women to get into the bathtub, threatening to kill K.W. if they did not comply. James testified that he stepped in between Antonio and K.W., telling Antonio he would not let him kill her, but Antonio pushed him out of the way. With the women in the bathtub, the men left the apartment with two TVs, a laptop, and three cell phones. After they left the apartment, James ended up with the three stolen cell phones. The police were able to track one of the phones, and James was ...

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