Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs August 8, 2017
from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2010-B-977
Mark Fishburn, Judge
Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Steven Woodrow
Johnson, of first degree felony murder, especially aggravated
burglary, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, and
possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous
felony, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective
sentence of life in prison. This court affirmed the
Petitioner's convictions on appeal, save the especially
aggravated burglary conviction, which we modified to
aggravated burglary. State v. Steven Woodrow
Johnson, M2011-00859-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 3877787, at *1
(Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Sept. 7, 2012), perm.
app. denied (Tenn. Feb. 13, 2013). In 2013, the
Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief
alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of
counsel. The post-conviction court held a hearing on the
petition and denied relief. On appeal, we affirm the
post-conviction court's judgment.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
B. Russ, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark
B. Thornton, Senior Counsel; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney
General; and Janice Norman, Assistant District Attorney
General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.
W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE
Facts and Procedural History
case arises from the death of the victim, John Young, inside
his home during a home invasion. For this offense, a Davidson
County grand jury indicted the Petitioner for first degree
felony murder, especially aggravated burglary, attempted
especially aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary,
aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm during the
commission of a dangerous felony.
opinion on the Petitioner's first appeal, this court
summarized the facts presented at trial as follows:
Officer Eric Bacon with the Metropolitan Nashville Police
Department testified that in the early morning hours of
November 23, 2008, he responded to a shooting call at a
residence located at 524 Wesley Avenue in East Nashville.
Upon entering the residence through the front door, Officer
Bacon briefly spoke with George Young, the victim's
roommate and brother. He then went to the rear bedroom where
the victim, John Young, was "near death, " lying on
the bed with a gunshot wound to his head. Upon entering the
bedroom, Officer Bacon discovered a revolver on the floor
next to the victim's foot and secured it. Paramedics soon
arrived to transport the victim, and Officer Bacon was able
to conduct a walk-through of the residence. He observed that
the back door had been forced open, shell casings were
scattered on the floor, and bullet holes were in the walls.
George M. Young, Jr. testified that he resided at 524 Wesley
Avenue with the victim. On the night of November 22, 2008,
they watched a football game and went to bed around 10:30
p.m. A few moments later, Mr. Young heard a knock at the back
door. The victim went to the bathroom window through which he
could see two men standing on the back porch; Mr. Young stood
beside the victim. The victim told the two people to leave,
and they complied. From the front door of the residence, Mr.
Young then observed the two men walking west down the street.
The victim told Mr. Young that the men stated that
"Dewayne" sent them to borrow money. After Mr.
Young returned to bed, a noise in the home awakened him, and
he discovered a man in his room, pointing a gun at his face.
The man told him to get up. When Mr. Young stood up, the man
hit him in the back of the head with his gun, knocking him to
the floor. Gunshots began to ring out, and Mr. Young lay face
down on the floor. Mr. Young then heard glass breaking, which
the shooter caused by jumping through the bedroom window. Mr.
Young called 9-1-1 and called out to his brother. However, he
"never could hear anything." Mr. Young testified
that he kept some money in the back of his closet, but the
intruder did not take anything from the home that night.
Richard Allen testified that he resided at 308 Dinwiddie
Drive with Robert Taylor and Mr. Taylor's wife, Crystan
Shawn Taylor. On the evening of November 22, 2008, Allen was
in possession of Crystan's cellular phone. He received a
call from [the Petitioner] in which he asked if Allen
"wanted to go out and do something." [The
Petitioner] thereafter drove to Allen's residence with
[the Petitioner's] brother, Richard Johnson, and another
man whom Allen had never met before. The men all got into
[the Petitioner's] vehicle, and Allen had a conversation
in the back seat of the vehicle with the man whom he did not
know. Allen testified that the man "[w]anted to hit a
lick. They were going to do a robbery." Allen stated
that the man wanted $60, 000 that was in a shoe box in the
home of "two old guys." Allen was not certain if
[the Petitioner] could hear the conversation, but Allen asked
[the Petitioner] what he thought about the conversation.
However, Allen could not recall how [the Petitioner] replied.
Allen then stepped out of the vehicle and returned to his
house, not wanting to participate in the robbery. Allen left
instructions with Crystan "to just answer the phone and
say no[, ]" if [the Petitioner] called. Allen and Robert
Taylor then left the residence to go to a tattoo shop. After
hearing about the home invasion and murder on the news, Allen
contacted [the Petitioner] the next day and asked [the
Petitioner] if he had been involved. [The Petitioner]
responded that he had no involvement in the reported
Crystan Shawn Taylor testified that on November 22, 2008,
Allen was in possession of her cellular phone at their
residence while she was at a tattoo shop with a friend. When
Crystan returned home, Allen was leaving the residence with
Robert Taylor, and Allen stated to Crystan that "[the
Petitioner] may call. If he calls, tell him I'm not here
and I said no." After midnight, Crystan received a call
from [the Petitioner], asking for "Ricky." Crystan
responded that "Ricky said to tell you he's not here
and he said no, " although she did not know the meaning
of her response. [The Petitioner] then replied,
"[T]hat's all I need to know."
Alicia Catherine Johnson, [the Petitioner's] wife,
testified that in 2008, she and [the Petitioner] resided with
[the Petitioner's] parents in their home at 1221 London
Bridge Road. [The Petitioner's] brother, Richard Johnson,
also resided there. She stated that she and [the Petitioner]
were arguing constantly, and their marriage was "falling
apart." On the evening of November 22, 2008, she was at
a family dinner at church with [the Petitioner], Wendy
Johnson, Richard Johnson, and other family members. Also in
attendance was a man named Francisco Ancona, whom Alicia knew
as "Brobro, " and Gail Barber. At the dinner,
Alicia overheard [the Petitioner] and Ancona talking about
"hitting a lick." Although she did not think they
were referring to committing a robbery, she knew this term
could refer to a robbery. She stated that she thought [the
Petitioner] said the term, but she was "not
positive." She stated that, although she did not know
what they were referring to, it made her feel
"sick" because "anything that has to do with
hitting a lick would be somebody getting in trouble."
After the dinner, she and [the Petitioner] returned home with
their children in his vehicle. Alicia got into an argument
with [the Petitioner], and [the Petitioner] left the home.
Alicia began calling [the Petitioner] on his cellular phone,
but he did not answer. Later that night, [the Petitioner]
returned home with Richard Johnson. They were carrying Ancona
into the home. Ancona had a cut on his leg, and the two men
put him into the shower. Alicia testified that she knew
something was wrong because [the Petitioner] was very upset.
Wendy Johnson and Barber also appeared at the home between
3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. [The Petitioner] would not tell
Alicia what had happened, but later [the Petitioner] turned
on the news, which was broadcasting a story about the victim,
and stated, "[T]hat's it."
Alicia Johnson further testified that [the Petitioner] and
[the Petitioner's] fiancee, Tangia Tobitt, contacted her
and attempted to "intimidate" her about testifying.
She stated that she was afraid of them. Alicia spoke to
Detective Curtis Hafley with the Metropolitan Nashville
Police Department about the incident on two occasions, but
she gave different statements each time. She said she was
scared the first time, and the second time she "felt
more comfortable" with Detective Hafley. In her first
statement on May 28, 2009, Alicia told Detective Hafley that
she was asleep when [the Petitioner] and the other men came
to the home that night, and a loud noise awakened her.
However, she did not mention Wendy Johnson and Barber being
in the home or that she saw any blood. She gave her second
statement to Detective Hafley on March 28, 2010, in which she
proffered this additional information. However, she did not
tell Detective Hafley about the conversation she overheard
between [the Petitioner] and Ancona at the family dinner
about "hitting a lick" because she "didn't
want to get in trouble." She only revealed that
information shortly before trial.
Elizabeth Gail Barber testified that on November 22, 2008,
she and her son went to the Walmart parking lot in Madison,
Tennessee, to meet [the Petitioner], Richard Johnson, and
Ancona, whom she knew as "Frank." Wendy Johnson was
also at the meeting. [The Petitioner] asked Barber if she
"wanted to make some money, about a thousand
dollars." They wanted
to use her vehicle, a Chevrolet S-10 truck, "[g]oing to
the robbery." She stated that she followed [the
Petitioner] in his vehicle to a side street off Trinity Lane,
where they exchanged vehicles, and she saw [the Petitioner]
remove a gun from the middle console of his vehicle. She
stated that she thought "that they were going to use
[the gun] to go do the robbery, " meaning she thought
Ancona was going to take the gun into the home when he
committed the robbery. Richard Johnson and Ancona then took
her truck "to go by and do the robbery." After
Richard Johnson and Ancona took Barber's vehicle, she and
Wendy Johnson went with [the Petitioner] in his vehicle.
[The Petitioner] then drove to a White Castle restaurant and
waited in the parking lot. Barber heard [the Petitioner]
talking on the phone to someone, asking "if that was
gunshots" approximately twenty to twenty-five minutes
after the meeting on Trinity Lane. Richard Johnson and Ancona
then approached them in Barber's truck, and Ancona got
into [the Petitioner's] vehicle. [The Petitioner] ...