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State v. Humphrey

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

September 19, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
SAVANNAH HUMPHREY

          Session July 19, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County No. 41400113 William R. Goodman III, [1] Judge.

         Defendant, Savannah Humphrey, was convicted of one count of aggravated child abuse and one count of aggravated child neglect for injuries sustained by the three-month-old victim while in Defendant's care. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and argues that the trial court erred in denying her motion for judgment of acquittal. Based upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Stephanie Ritchie Mize (on appeal) and Jeffry Grimes (at trial), Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Savannah Ellen Humphrey.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; John W. Carney, District Attorney General; and Kimberly S. Lund, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and John Everett Williams, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Defendant was indicted by the Montgomery County Grand Jury with one count of aggravated child abuse and one count of aggravated child neglect. The victim in this case was the three-month-old daughter of Defendant's cousin, Lelia Burke, whom Defendant was watching while Ms. Burke was at work. Ms. Burke explained that she had grown up with Defendant and had been paying her to watch the victim for a couple of weeks prior to the incident in question. Defendant also cared for three or four other children, including her own young son and daughter.

         On June 12, 2013, Ms. Burke dropped the victim off at the Defendant's apartment around 4:15 or 4:30 a.m. Ms. Burke stated that the victim had a "little sniffle" but was otherwise fine. Ms. Burke told the victim that she loved her and gave her a kiss before leaving for work.

         Around 1:30 p.m., Defendant's neighbor, Ciara Jenkins, texted Defendant and asked to borrow a cigarette. Ms. Jenkins borrowed $5 from Defendant to buy cigarettes from the store near their apartments, ate lunch, and then met Defendant around 1:45 p.m. to smoke the cigarettes. Ms. Jenkins and Defendant went to the front porch of their apartment building to smoke. Ms. Jenkins described Defendant as acting normal and calm. Defendant said that she had fed the baby and put her down. Ms. Jenkins and Defendant spent about fifteen to twenty minutes smoking, talking, and using their phones-Ms. Jenkins was texting while Defendant was reading their horoscopes. During this time, Defendant's son was running up and down the interior hallway of the apartment building, knocking on the windows. Ms. Jenkins believed that he was trying to get Defendant's attention, but Defendant ignored him and continued using her phone.

         When the women got up to go back inside, Ms. Jenkins saw Defendant's two-year-old daughter with the victim dangling in her arms. As Ms. Jenkins described it, the two-year-old was "pulling the baby." Ms. Jenkins said that the victim's head was back, and she knew the victim was unconscious. There was "spit up" on the victim. Defendant followed Ms. Jenkins into the hallway, grabbed the victim from her daughter, and told Ms. Jenkins to call 911. 911 received the call at 2:03 p.m.[2] While Ms. Jenkins was on the phone, Defendant put her daughter back inside the apartment, laid the victim on the ground, and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Ms. Jenkins described Defendant as appearing nervous, but she otherwise seemed to be performing CPR correctly. Ms. Jenkins denied ever touching the victim.

         Officer Justin Doolittle of the Clarksville Police Department was the first to respond to the 911 call. When he arrived, Defendant and Ms. Jenkins were standing over the victim, who was gray in color and was not breathing. Defendant said that she had fed the victim and laid her down for a nap and that, when she checked fifteen minutes later, the victim had vomited. When Defendant cleared the vomit, she noticed that the victim was not breathing. Defendant began performing CPR, then ran out into the hallway and asked a neighbor to call 911. Defendant told Officer Doolittle that the victim had been lying in a "small bassinet . . . like a child seat swing type deal, " but Officer Doolittle did not see any vomit on the seat or anywhere around it. Even though the apartment was dirty, including broken eggs on the kitchen floor and overturned couch cushions, Officer Doolittle did not see any vomit on any rags or blankets in the apartment or anywhere on Defendant.

         Michael Rios, an emergency responder with Clarksville Fire and Rescue, arrived soon after Officer Doolittle and saw Defendant performing CPR on the victim. He and his partner took over chest compressions and rescue breathing. The victim was pale, had no pulse, was not breathing, and showed no signs of life. After several minutes of CPR, the firemen briefly detected a pulse, but it quickly faded. They continued performing CPR until the paramedics arrived. Mr. Rios testified that he repositioned the victim's head by slightly tilting it to clear her airway. Mr. Rios ...


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