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State v. Covington

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

August 24, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs in Jackson on June 6, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2014-D-3175 Monte Watkins, Judge

         A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Jeanet Marie Covington, of aggravated arson, and the trial court sentenced her to serve fifteen years in the Department of Correction. The Defendant timely filed a motion for new trial, which the trial court denied. The Defendant appeals the trial court's denial of her motion, maintaining that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

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

          Luke Hammond, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jeanet Marie Covington.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ruth Anne Thompson, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Deborah Housel, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Norma McGee Ogle, J., joined.



         This case arises from a house fire that occurred on August 6, 2014. A Davidson County grand jury indicted the Defendant for aggravated arson and domestic assault. At a trial on the charges, the parties presented the following evidence: Shetika Goode testified that she used to live on Fain Street. She said that she had three children, ages fifteen, twelve, and seven, who lived with her on August 6, 2014. Ms. Goode noted that at the time of this event her son, who was autistic, had recently been hospitalized for seven days due to a "near drowning incident." Still recuperating from this incident, he, along with his siblings, were in the home at the time of the fire. While Ms. Goode lived in the home with her three children, Deshawn Covington had been "staying there" for a couple of days. Ms. Goode confirmed that she was aware Mr. Covington lived with another woman but was unaware that he was married.

         Ms. Goode testified that August 6, 2014, was the first day of school for her children. At the time, she worked third shift, from 10:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m., at a manufacturing company. After work, she returned home where Mr. Covington was watching her children. She took her children to school and then returned to the house. Mr. Covington was still at the residence when she arrived. Shortly after she returned home, someone knocked at the door. Ms. Goode looked out the window and saw the Defendant, who was yelling "about a prescription." According to Ms. Goode, the Defendant claimed that she had learned that Ms. Goode had picked up the Defendant's husband's, Mr. Covington's, prescription and wanted to know Ms. Goode's name.

         Ms. Goode testified that she began to open her door, and the Defendant pushed her way inside and walked back to the bedroom where Mr. Covington was sleeping. By the time Ms. Goode made it to the bedroom, the Defendant was "on top of [Mr. Covington] hitting him." The Defendant and Mr. Covington began to "scuffle[ ] a little bit, " and Ms. Goode warned them she was going to call the police. Ms. Goode repeated that she was going to call the police and the Defendant began "scuffling" with Ms. Goode. Ms. Goode told Mr. Covington that she wanted the Defendant out of her house, so Mr. Covington picked up the Defendant and "started hauling her to the front door."

         Ms. Goode testified that she began picking up items that had been knocked to the floor during the altercation and called 911, who advised that the police were already at her residence. Ms. Goode went outside and found the Defendant talking with police officers. Both the Defendant and Mr. Covington were arrested. Twelve hours later, Mr. Covington was released from jail, and Ms. Goode drove to the jail to pick him up. Mr. Covington exited the building with the Defendant who appeared "angry" that Mr. Covington was leaving with Ms. Goode. To avoid another altercation, Mr. Covington flagged down a police officer for assistance. Ms. Goode said that Mr. Covington had obtained an order of protection against the Defendant. Ultimately, Mr. Covington left with Ms. Goode, and the Defendant left with her mother.

         Ms. Goode testified that, when she arrived home, Mr. Covington and his mother went inside while she remained outside and spoke with LaFonda Matthews. Ms. Goode explained that her daughter and Ms. Matthews's daughter were best friends. Ms. Goode and Ms. Matthews walked into the house and to the kitchen. Ms. Goode recalled that her three children were asleep on the couch, Mr. Covington was in the bedroom, and Mr. Covington's mother was standing next to the television located near the entry of the house. Ms. Goode charged her phone while in the kitchen and approximately thirty minutes later, while still in the kitchen, she saw a person outside the window. She said that she did not know what it was at the time but that she saw "a person's arm go up, I seen a glare."

         Ms. Goode testified that the subsequent events "just kind of happened fast." She looked to her left and saw smoke coming out of her bathroom. She opened her back door and saw the Defendant. She recognized the Defendant because of her "distinctive" hair cut which Ms. Goode described as "a low cut. It was shaved on the sides and on the back and it had hair at the top." Ms. Goode began yelling for her children to get out of the house because the house was on fire. She grabbed her son, and the other children followed. Ms. Goode then moved her car, so it would not catch on fire. One of her daughters began having a panic attack.

         Ms. Goode testified that Mr. Covington tried to put out the fire but was unable to do so. Mr. Covington came from around the back of the house and collapsed in the front yard. He was later transported to the hospital in an ambulance. Ms. Goode told the firemen that she needed to get her dog, a Shihtzu, out of the house, but they would not allow her to reenter the house. Firemen entered the residence and retrieved the dog who was suffering an asthma attack.

         Ms. Goode testified that she had moved into the residence on Fain Street two months before the fire. She said "everything" in the residence she had purchased new for her new home. She had bought a new stove and refrigerator on credit, and she had been unable to make the payments following the fire. Ms. Goode confirmed that she did not have renter's insurance at the time of the fire. Ms. Goode confirmed that she lost "most" of her valuables in the fire.

         Ms. Goode testified that, at the time of these events, she was hysterical, in shock, and angry. Ms. Goode identified photographs taken of her home and the resulting damage. Ms. Goode confirmed that in 2009 she was convicted of theft.

         LaFonda Matthews testified that she was at the residence on Fain Street on the night of August 6, 2014. She could not recall the exact time but said that she had picked up her friend, Ms. Smythe, from work and then gone to the Fain Street residence. Ms. Matthews said that Ms. Smythe waited in the car while she went inside to talk with Ms. Goode. Ms. Goode and Ms. Matthews went into the kitchen so that Ms. Goode could charge her cell phone. The women remained in the kitchen talking about their daughters for about thirty minutes when, through the window, she saw someone run "in the alley, " and get into a car. Ms. Matthews said that she smelled smoke, so went to the door and saw "a great big fire." After seeing the fire, she began yelling for everyone to get out of the house and "as soon as [they] got out of the house, the house went in flames." She described these events as having "happened so quick."

         Ms. Matthews testified that she did not see the Defendant's face that night but based upon her shape and distinct haircut, "a 27 piece, " she identified the Defendant in court as the person she saw fleeing the Fain Street residence in August 2014. Ms. Matthews stated that the Defendant got into the driver's seat of the vehicle that was parked in the alley located at the rear of the Fain Street residence. Ms. Matthews stated that she had never seen the Defendant before the night of the fire.

         On cross-examination, [1] Ms. Matthews testified that, when she saw the Defendant running down the alley, the Defendant was wearing a white t-shirt. She stated that she identified the Defendant when the police returned the Defendant to the scene. She said the Defendant had the same skin color, body ...

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