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State v. Coffee

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

August 31, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs May 10, 2017.

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2012-D-3081 Seth W. Norman, Judge

         The Defendant, Reginald Bernard Coffee, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of especially aggravated robbery, a Class A felony, and sentenced to fifteen years. See T.C.A. § 39-13-403 (2014). On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and (2) the fingerprint evidence was admitted without a sufficient foundation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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

          Kevin Kelly (on appeal and at motion for new trial), Michael Freeman (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Reginald Bernard Coffee.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn Funk, District Attorney General; and Renee Erb, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.



         This case relates to a June 5, 2012 robbery, during which David Johnson was shot in the abdomen. At the trial, Paresh Patel testified that on June 5, 2012, a shooting occurred at the hotel he owned. He said three surveillance cameras were located at the front of the building, and he identified photographs of the hotel and marked the location of one of the cameras. Mr. Patel stated that he lived at the hotel, that the police responded to the shooting, and that he gave them a copy of the surveillance recording. Mr. Patel said that he was told to stay away from the location of the shooting, and he denied that he or an employee picked up money from the parking lot and placed it on an air conditioning unit. He stated that he did not witness the robbery, that he did not know the victim, and that he did not remember if the victim's truck was in the parking lot when the police arrived.

         The surveillance recordings were received as an exhibit and depicted three angles of the incident. The first recording depicted the length of the hotel and the corresponding parking lot. In the recording, which was time stamped June 5, 2012, at 6:02 a.m., a black sedan parked to the right of a pickup truck. The sedan's passenger side faced the camera. A man exited the rear passenger-side door of the sedan and walked to the pickup truck, momentarily reached into the truck bed, and returned to the sedan. The man paused and looked toward the front passenger window before reentering the passenger-side backseat, and the door remained slightly open. The man ran from the sedan and toward the hotel, and a small cloud of dust rose in the parking lot halfway between the sedan and the hotel. The sedan drove in reverse toward the entrance to the parking lot and the direction in which the man ran, and the sedan's rear driver's side door opened.

         The second recording depicted the hotel and parking lot from the opposite end of the parking lot. It showed the black sedan's driving backward and the man's running. The rear driver's side door was open and a person's leg was hanging out. The third recording depicted the parking lot as visible from the hotel, and it showed the sedan's driving backward with the rear driver's side door open.

         On cross-examination, Mr. Patel testified that on June 5, he heard a gunshot at about 6:00 a.m., walked outside, and saw "that guy . . . on the front of my door." Mr. Patel said that he made a recording on his cell phone of the surveillance recording and later transferred the cell phone recording to a disc. He stated that the police did not have the original surveillance recording and that it had been destroyed.

         The forty-six-year-old victim testified that he was shot at the hotel owned by Mr. Patel. He said that he had stayed at the hotel previously and that he was only there for one night. He stated that he was a tattoo artist and trained others, that he "bounced around" and did not have a home, and that before the shooting, he did not have medical problems. He said that a few days before the shooting, he met a woman named Meagan Pursell, that they "hooked up, " and that she asked him to come to Nashville to give her a tattoo. He stated that they met at a hotel, that he went to Clarksville the following day, and that he returned to Nashville that night. He said that Ms. Pursell visited him at a second hotel but that she did not stay the night. He stated that their third meeting occurred at Mr. Patel's hotel, that he arrived between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m., and that Ms. Pursell joined him two hours later. He said that they smoked cocaine and marijuana, that he did not generally use cocaine, and that he had been "clean" for years after a previous prison sentence resulting from a drug conviction. He stated that after his release from prison, he married and had a child, discovered his marriage was invalid, obtained custody of his daughter, and "stayed off of everything but pot."

         The victim testified that when Ms. Pursell arrived, she had a "little bit" of cocaine and wanted him to give her money to purchase more. He said that he refused to give her the money, that he wanted to accompany her to buy the cocaine, that he helped her get the cocaine she wanted, and that he used some of the cocaine. He stated that she drove a black, late 1990s Ford Focus with a broken window or passenger's side mirror. He said that he drove a Ford F-150 truck. He stated that they left the hotel in her car, that they returned to wait for someone who never arrived, and that they drove around looking for someone to sell them cocaine. He said that they were unsuccessful and that he left the car at about 1:30 or 2:00 a.m., three or four hours after Ms. Pursell came to the hotel. He stated that he got out of the car because Ms. Pursell wanted to go to a neighborhood in East Nashville and that "I'm a white man and I don't put my life in jeopardy like that at 2:00 . . . in the morning in the projects." He stated that Ms. Pursell insisted on going to the neighborhood and that she tried to "forcibly" take him with her. He said that he "jerked" the steering wheel to get Ms. Pursell to pull over, that he got out of the car on the interstate, and that she drove away. He said that he walked to a market and called a taxi, that a taxi would have taken too long to arrive, and that he decided to walk to a nearby truck stop and get something to eat. He said that he went to the truck stop, got something to drink, and Ms. Pursell called and asked where he was. He noted that Ms. Pursell had called him several times and that he initially ignored her calls.

         The victim testified that Ms. Pursell offered to pick him up, that he walked to a nearby gas station, and that when she arrived between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m., she was accompanied by two male passengers whom he did not know. The victim estimated that the gas station was fifteen to twenty minutes from the hotel. He said that he paid for gas, entered the backseat, and sat behind the passenger. The victim stated that he tried to talk to the man in the backseat about his tattoos and the victim's being a tattoo artist but that the man did not talk much. The victim described the man as a "big older man" around age thirty-two or thirty-three who was African-American and had short hair. The victim said that when they arrived at the hotel, Ms. Pursell was supposed to return because she wanted the victim to give her thirty dollars for drugs. He stated that he would keep the money at the hotel and give it to her when she returned, that Ms. Pursell was satisfied with the arrangement, that the victim left and acted like he had to retrieve the money from his truck, and that he reentered Ms. Pursell's car but did not completely close the door. The victim explained that he did not want the men to know he was carrying more than thirty dollars. The victim said that the man in the front seat was supposed to have the drugs and that the victim asked to buy thirty dollars' worth of cocaine from him. The victim stated that the man, who was young, African-American, slender, and had "[r]eally long braids, " pointed a gun at him.

         The victim testified that the man in the front seat said, "Give me your d---money, " that the victim threw thirty dollars at the man, and that the man said, "No, I want all of the d--- money." The victim said that he told the man he did not have any more money, that the man said he knew the victim had more, and that the victim reached into his pocket to pull out the rest of his money. The victim stated that as he reached into his pocket, the man shot him, that the victim "hit the door and rolled out running, " and that he dropped cash totaling about $260 inside the car and on the ground. The victim said that he did not see the shooter other than "a piece of an eye and his hand" and that he was unable to identify the shooter in a photograph lineup.

         The victim testified that after he left the car, he ran to a maintenance worker's room and the hotel office, that he tried unsuccessfully to get help, and that he sat down on a curb and called 9-1-1 from his cell phone. He said that the police and an ambulance arrived quickly.

         The victim identified his truck and Ms. Pursell's car in the surveillance recording, his exiting the car and walking to his truck, his reentering the car but not closing the door fully, and his exiting the car. The victim stated that the second time he exited the car, he had been shot and that the events transpired faster than what was depicted in the recording. The victim said that dawn was breaking at the time of the shooting. He identified a leg protruding from the car and stated that it appeared as if the man in the backseat attempted to exit the car. The victim said that the man in the rear seat looked shocked when the man in the front passenger seat pulled out the gun. The victim said that Ms. Pursell told him to give the man his money and that she seemed shocked.

         The victim testified that he did not know Ms. Pursell was "setting [him] up" and that he provided her license plate number to the police. He acknowledged that he told the police that he was suspicious of Ms. Pursell and thought she had set him up, although he had no proof. The victim noted that he was presently "not really" suspicious of her because she looked shocked and scared when the shooter pointed the gun at the victim. The victim stated that Ms. Pursell "freaked out" and told him to "just give him the money." The victim said that Ms. Pursell had been "genuinely concerned about" him since the shooting and that when they saw one another, she asked how he was doing and wanted to see his scars.

         The victim testified that he was in the hospital for "a while, " although he did not remember for how long because he was taking medication during that time. He said that he lost a portion of his liver, several feet of his intestines, a portion of his upper colon, and one kidney. He stated that he required a colostomy bag from June until December, that he had two operations and a chronic infection, and that he suffered from chronic intestinal distress. He said that after his release from the hospital, he had difficulty finding work because of perceived sanitation issues with the colostomy bag, that he had to drop out of college, that he lived in a tent for a period of time, and that he eventually purchased a camper.

         On cross-examination, the victim testified that he was smoking marijuana when Ms. Pursell arrived at the hotel, that they spent a couple of hours smoking crack cocaine, and that she brought the cocaine with her. The victim denied having supplied the money to buy the cocaine. The victim stated that he was also hoping to have sex with Ms. Pursell. He said that he was going to pay for more cocaine but that he wanted to ride along because "I'm not going to hand anybody my money and expect them to come back." He stated that generally, a person did not pay for drugs until the person saw the drugs and that people did not trust one another when drugs were involved. He said that they made several stops trying to procure cocaine and were unsuccessful. The victim agreed that Ms. Pursell seemed anxious to get more cocaine, that at one point, she left the hotel room to find more cocaine, and that when she returned, she asked for money. He agreed that he did not want to go to East Nashville and that Ms. Pursell left him on the side of the interstate about twenty minutes from the hotel. He said that he answered Ms. Pursell's telephone call because he was tired of walking. He noted that Ms. Pursell did not tell him anyone was in her car. He said that when Ms. Pursell arrived at the gas station, she asked if he had money for gas. He stated that Ms. Pursell did not have any money, that he had paid for gas several times when they were looking for drugs, and that he told her he had ten dollars, although he had more.

         The victim testified that the man in the backseat of Ms. Pursell's car had "[j]ailhouse tattoos" and gang-related tattoos on his forearms and that the man appeared to be "high" and "spaced out." The victim denied that the police described the tattoos of various individuals to him. He said that no one talked in the car and that they listened to music. He stated that when he went to his truck at the hotel, he turned his back to the car in order to pull out cash from his pocket, remove thirty dollars, and return the remaining cash to his pocket. He agreed that Ms. Pursell knew he was carrying money because "that's how I got her to come to the motel room." He said that when he returned to the car, he was uncertain as to which man had the drugs, that the man in the backseat gestured for him to give the money to the man in the front seat, and that when he turned toward the front seat, he saw the gun.

         The victim testified that when Ms. Pursell told him to give the shooter his money, he knew Ms. Pursell had told the man about the victim's money. The victim said that he intended to give the money to the man and "get the h--- out of the situation" but that he was shot. He said that he constantly relived that night and would never forget the car's license plate number. He agreed that he could not identify the Defendant as the shooter and said that he only saw half of the man's face. He stated that Ms. Pursell called the man "worm." The victim said that he believed Ms. Pursell told the men that he had money.

         On redirect examination, the victim testified that his abdomen had a permanent hole as a result of the shooting, that he had no abdominal strength and suffered from back pain, that he formerly lifted weights and wrestled, and that he could no longer perform one sit-up. He stated that the police showed him blurry photographs of six African-American men with long hair. He said that he could not see any detail to the photographs and that he did not "even try to pick him out." He stated that the Defendant was the man who shot him and that he remembered "that smile and . . . that smirk when I looked in the [car] window." The victim recalled thinking that the Defendant was good-looking, that he was probably Ms. Pursell's "real boyfriend and I've been getting duped all along, " and that the victim should be careful. The victim stated that he realized he was in a dangerous situation and did not want the Defendant to know he was carrying money.

         On recross-examination, the victim testified that he remembered testifying at the preliminary hearing that he never saw the shooter's face. When asked whether seeing the Defendant at the preliminary hearing influenced his memory, the victim said that he never claimed to have seen details of the shooter's appearance. He said that he never "got a really good look" at the shooter's face, that the police photographs depicted men who could have been age forty or fifty, and that he remembered seeing a good-looking young African-American man smiling at him when he initially entered the car. The victim stated that he thought the men and Ms. Pursell were probably going to try to rob him and that as a result, he told Ms. Pursell that his money to purchase the drugs was at the hotel.

         Metro Nashville Detective Russell Thompson testified that he responded to the scene of the shooting and reviewed the surveillance tapes with Mr. Patel. He said that the victim had been transported to the hospital by the time he arrived and that the victim had provided responding officers the name Meagan and the car's license plate number. Detective Thompson said that the police issued a news report based upon the license plate number, that Ms. Pursell's mother contacted them, and that the car was registered in Ms. Pursell's mother's name. Detective Thompson stated that he and crime scene investigators went to Ms. Pursell's mother's home, that they collected evidence from the car, and that Officer Bill Kirby, who had since retired, collected fingerprints. Detective Thompson said that they recovered money in the parking lot at the hotel and nearby and that some of the money had been placed on an air conditioning unit.

         Detective Thompson identified photographs of the victim's truck, the Ford Focus Ms. Pursell drove, and the hotel sidewalk. Detective Thompson said that a black jacket and a pack of cigarettes belonging to the victim were recovered from the sidewalk in front of the hotel. He stated that the jacket contained two bullet holes, one in the front and one in the back. He identified a photograph of a traffic citation issued to Ms. Pursell, which was found inside the Ford Focus.

         Detective Thompson testified that no bullet holes were found in the car and that after reviewing the surveillance recording, he determined that the victim was shot while the car door was open. He said that that a bullet strike was visible on the pavement in the recording and that officers recovered a bullet from the outside wall of the hotel. He noted that the victim was shot "through and through." He identified photographs of the hotel wall where the bullet was located.

         Detective Thompson testified that he saw crime scene investigators collect fingerprints from the car, that he had seen the process many times previously, and that the investigators dusted black powder on a surface and used tape to lift the powder from the surface. Detective Thompson stated that he was "by no means an expert in fingerprints, " but that he had been a detective for ten years and had "done this a lot." He said that the investigators put the tape on index cards, wrote the location from where the fingerprint was collected, and wrote the complaint number on the card. He agreed that "all that goes into the evidence locker." He stated that he saw Officer Kirby "doing that."

         Detective Thompson testified that twelve hours after the shooting, he went to the hospital and interviewed the victim. He stated that the interview was not recorded and that the victim was on medication. He said that the victim identified "Meagan" as the driver of the car and described the shooter consistently with the victim's trial testimony. Detective Thompson stated that he and another person interviewed Ms. Pursell and that as a result of that interview, he developed a photograph lineup and showed it to the victim. He said that the victim did not identify anyone from the photographs and that Ms. Pursell chose the Defendant's photograph and identified him as "Worm" and "Reggie." A copy of the marked photograph lineup, which contained a circle around the Defendant's photograph and Ms. Pursell's signature, was received as an exhibit.

         Detective Thompson identified a twenty-dollar bill and a ten-dollar bill that were recovered next to a hotel room. He said that the money contained at least one stain but that the stain was not tested. He identified a five-dollar bill that was recovered next to another hotel room. Detective Thompson said that based upon information from Ms. Pursell, he went to the Defendant's cousin's house and that the gun used in the shooting was not found. He said that Ms. Pursell took the police to the Defendant's cousin's house and to the Defendant's house. He stated that he questioned Ms. Pursell about her being an accomplice to the robbery, that he "press[ed] her" about it, and that he could have been perceived as being "mean." He said, though, that Ms. Pursell did not admit any involvement in the robbery and that she cooperated with officers throughout the investigation. He stated that Ms. Pursell was never charged and that no evidence showed she was an accessory to the robbery.

         On cross-examination, Detective Thompson testified that before Ms. Pursell's mother contacted the police, he searched for the car's registration based upon the license plate number provided by the victim. Although Detective Thompson did not remember the reason, he saw Ms. Pursell's mother's name but was unable to contact her. He said that Ms. Pursell's mother called the police on June 5, that she told them Ms. Pursell was not at home, and that the police instructed her to call back when Ms. Pursell returned. Detective Thompson said that after he reviewed the surveillance recording and saw the bullet strike, another detective returned to the scene to search for the bullet. Detective Thompson stated that during their first interview, he showed the victim a photograph lineup containing Ms. Pursell's photograph. He said that another detective showed the victim the photograph lineup containing the Defendant's photograph. Detective

         Thompson "assume[d]" that the photograph lineup shown to the victim was the same one shown to Ms. Pursell. He stated that photograph lineups were constructed using individuals with similar aspects to their appearances and that wearing dreadlocks and a short goatee was "fairly common[.]" He said ...

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