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State v. Patterson

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

September 18, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs August 1, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 14-01032 Chris Craft, Judge

         A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Mario Patterson, of first degree felony murder, and the trial court imposed a mandatory life sentence. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the State failed to prove that he intended to commit a robbery and, therefore, he was improperly convicted of first degree felony murder. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

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

          Laurie W. Hall, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mario Patterson.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Tracye Jones, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.



         A Shelby County grand jury indicted the Defendant and his co-defendant, Dondre Johnson for the first degree felony murder of David Santucci, the twenty-seven-year old victim. The Defendant's and co-defendant's cases were severed, and the Defendant's case proceeded to trial. At trial, the parties presented the following evidence: Steven Ferguson worked as a bouncer at the nightclub Rumba Room on August 12, 2013. Mr. Ferguson was standing outside the Rumba Room with some co-workers, smoking, at around 1:45 a.m. on August 12. Mr. Ferguson observed a Pontiac driving south on South Main Street, make a U-turn on South Main Street, and begin driving north. The car appeared to back up "like they was fixin to park" and then Mr. Ferguson heard a gunshot. He immediately looked down the street and saw a man hop into the Pontiac and then the Pontiac "peeled out" and turned off of South Main Street onto Pontotoc Street.

         After observing the Pontiac drive away, Mr. Ferguson and another security guard walked ten to twenty feet down the street and saw the victim lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to his chest. Two "girls" had followed the men down the street, and the other security guard asked one of them to call the police and the other to apply pressure to the victim's wound. The victim attempted to speak but was unable to do so. Mr. Ferguson and the other security guard provided a description of the car to the police, and the Pontiac was located shortly thereafter. On cross-examination, Mr. Ferguson agreed that the nearest street light was off when the shooting occurred.

         Taneshia Lawrence was sitting with two friends outside the Rumba Room nightclub in the early morning hours of August 12, 2013. While waiting for some others to join them, she noticed a "greenish-silver" Pontiac Grand Am driving down South Main Street with a black female driving, and she also noticed the victim walking down the street. She saw the victim talking with a man who wore his hair in dreadlocks. She turned to her friends and then heard a gunshot coming from the direction she had seen the two men speaking. She looked down the street and saw the Pontiac speed away and turn onto Pontotoc Street. Before the vehicle sped away, Ms. Lawrence observed the man wearing his hair in dreadlocks "jump" in the back passenger side of the Pontiac. She also saw two people, a male and a female, in the front seat of the Pontiac with the male now driving.

         Ms. Lawrence walked down the street and saw the victim lying on the ground. She knelt down next to him and tried to comfort him. The victim did not say anything to Ms. Lawrence but held her hand "extremely tight" and appeared to be trying to catch his breath. Ms. Lawrence remained with the victim until the ambulance arrived and then spoke with police providing a statement about what she had witnessed.

         Sharae Robertson was at the Rumba Room in the early morning hours of August 12, 2013, and standing outside when she heard a gun fire. She then saw a "green" Pontiac Grand Am speed down South Main Street and make a left on to Pontotoc Street. She saw the "shadows" of the heads of three people in the Pontiac. Ms. Robertson walked down the street and found the victim lying on the ground between a black truck and a burgundy car. Ms. Robertson applied pressure to the victim's chest wound and attempted to comfort the victim along with Ms. Lawrence. Ms. Robertson remained with the victim until the police arrived.

         Ashton Britton, a Memphis Police Department ("MPD") officer, heard the dispatch providing a vehicle description linked to the shooting on South Main Street. He drove to the Foote Homes apartment complex to look for the vehicle matching the description. As he drove around, he noticed a vehicle with the parking lights on. He approached the vehicle, initially, to see if it had broken down. He did not see anyone in the vehicle until he was "right up on the vehicle" and saw people "ducked down" inside. He immediately drew his gun and ordered the occupants to sit up with their hands up. At this point, Officer Britton realized that the car matched the description provided by dispatch. The back seat passenger, the co-defendant, attempted to exit the vehicle, and Officer Britton ordered him to remain in the car. The Defendant, who sat in the front passenger seat, kept dropping his hands. On the third time he did so, Officer Britton warned the Defendant that if he dropped his hands again, he would fire. The Defendant complied. Officer Britton called for back-up and, once additional officers arrived, the occupants, two males and one female, were taken into custody. During a search of the vehicle, a gun was recovered from the floor by the front passenger seat where the Defendant had been seated.

         Marcus Berryman, an MPD officer, executed a search warrant on the Pontiac. Inside the vehicle he recovered two cell phones, a gun with a magazine, a single live round of ammunition found inside the chamber of the gun, and a ski mask. The magazine contained thirty rounds of live ammunition.

         Robert Wilkie, an MPD sergeant in the Homicide Bureau, interviewed the Defendant on August 12, 2013, about the homicide of the victim. The Defendant signed a waiver of his rights and agreed to speak with Sergeant Wilkie. The Defendant indicated that he did not need glasses to read but that he did not read or write "well." Sergeant Wilkie provided the Defendant with a written copy of his rights but also read them to him.

         The Defendant told Sergeant Wilkie that he, Jerrica Norfleet, and the co-defendant were out together and "then a bunch of bad stuff happened because he blank[ed] out." The Defendant did not disclose what the "bad stuff" was. The Defendant maintained that he did not know what happened but said that he knew that "Jerrica wasn't the killer and that he wasn't the killer." When asked how he knew that neither he nor Jerrica was "the killer, " he responded that he did not know.

         During a break, Sergeant Wilkie spoke with the case coordinator who updated him on new information learned through other witnesses. He confronted the Defendant with the new information that indicated that the Defendant was present and active during the shooting. The Defendant told Sergeant Wilkie that he remembered getting out of the car when the co-defendant shot the victim. Sergeant Wilkie began interviewing the Defendant at 9:40 a.m. on August 12, 2013, and at 1:00 p.m. they took a typed statement from him, with breaks throughout that time period. Sergeant Wilkie read the Defendant's responses:

Q. Are you aware that the Memphis Police Department is investigating a homicide that happened on August 12, 2013 at 275 South Main Street?
A. Yes.
Q. Are you the person responsible for this homicide?
A. No.
Q. Do you know who is responsible for this homicide?
A. Yes.
Q. Who's responsible for this homicide?
A. Dondre Johnson.
Q. Who is Dondre Johnson to you?
A. My cousin.
Q. How do you know that Dondre Johnson is the person responsible?
A. I was there.
Q. Who else was present?
A. Jerrica Norfleet-Burns.
Q. Do you know [the victim]?
A. No.
Q. Have you ever seen him before this incident?
A. No.
Q. What type of weapon was used in this ...

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