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State v. Shipp

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

October 5, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
CHRISTOPHER TERRELL SHIPP

          Session: July 18, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2013-C-2700 Seth W. Norman, Judge

         The Defendant, Christopher Terrell Shipp, was convicted by a jury of one count of criminally negligent homicide, one count of felony murder, two counts of attempted aggravated robbery, and one count of attempted second degree murder, and he received an aggregate sentence of life in prison. The surviving victim of the crimes identified the Defendant as the perpetrator during her testimony at the preliminary hearing, but she died of natural causes prior to trial. The recorded testimony from the preliminary hearing was used to establish the identity of the Defendant at trial. The Defendant appeals his convictions, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to uphold the verdicts and that the victim's testimony was admitted in error because at the time of the preliminary hearing, he had not had access to a police report which could have impeached her testimony. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to uphold the verdicts and that the testimony was properly admitted, and we affirm the trial court's judgments. We remand for merger of the criminally negligent homicide conviction into the felony murder conviction.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Manuel B. Russ (on appeal), and David Harris and Ron Munkeboe (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Christopher Terrell Shipp.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Alexander C. Vey, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn Funk, District Attorney General; and Dan Hamm and Paul DeWitt, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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

          OPINION

          JOHN EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Defendant was charged with first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, two counts of attempted aggravated robbery, and attempted first degree murder for his role in the shootings of Mr. Dwight Bond, who died as a result of his injuries, and Mr. Bond's girlfriend, Ms. Wendy Goodrich. Ms. Goodrich survived the attack and identified the Defendant as the attacker to law enforcement, in a photographic lineup, and at the preliminary hearing, but she died prior to trial.

         The defense moved to exclude Ms. Goodrich's prior testimony, arguing that its admission would violate the rules excluding hearsay and the Confrontation Clause of the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. In particular, the defense objected to the admission of the testimony on the basis that Ms. Goodrich had made a statement to a law enforcement officer that the Defendant had a facial tattoo and that this information had not been available to defense counsel at the preliminary hearing. The Defendant argued that he was not able to effectively cross-examine the witness without her prior statement to law enforcement. The trial court found that the witness was unavailable and that her previous testimony was admissible.

         At trial, Ms. Goodrich's mother, Ms. Margaret Hatfield, testified that at the time of the shootings, she lived with Ms. Goodrich and Mr. Bond. A diagram of the home introduced at trial showed that the home had a small porch with a front door leading to the living room. The living room was connected with the first bedroom by a door, and the first bedroom served as a conduit to the second bedroom, which was connected to the kitchen and bath. Ms. Hatfield was in the second bedroom at around 10:00 or 10:30 p.m., when she heard gunfire. More shots were fired, and she heard her daughter ask "Chris" why he was going to shoot her. Ms. Hatfield stated, "All he kept saying was, '[W]here's the money?'" She had seen the Defendant once on a prior occasion and knew him as "Chris" but did not see him during the crimes and could not identify his voice. She did not know if there was an accomplice in the house. Ms. Hatfield remained in the second bedroom until her daughter "fell through the bedroom door, " with gunshot wounds in the chest and hand. Ms. Hatfield called 9-1-1 and assisted her daughter to the front porch. Mr. Bond was positioned behind the front door, leaning over and apparently deceased. Ms. Hatfield acknowledged that she had become aware in January that Mr. Bond was selling drugs from the home but denied that numerous strangers frequented the home in search of drugs and was not aware of any drug-related debts owed by Mr. Bond.

         Ms. Hatfield testified that her daughter died on February 4, 2015. An autopsy introduced into evidence showed that the cause of death was hypertensive cardiovascular disease. Ms. Hatfield authenticated an audio recording of her daughter's prior testimony from the July 11, 2013, preliminary hearing.

         At the preliminary hearing, Ms. Goodrich testified that prior to the shooting, she knew the Defendant as "Chris" and had seen him "nightly" because he bought marijuana from Mr. Bond. She had known him for a year or longer. On the evening of January 25, 2013, Mr. Bond was in the living room, and Ms. Goodrich had gone into the home's first bedroom, closing the door so that she could watch television. Between 10:15 and 10:30 p.m., she heard a sound like firecrackers, heard Mr. Bond say, "[O]h, sh*t, " and then heard another "popping" sound. By the time she got off the bed, the Defendant was in the bedroom, at the edge of her dresser, with a gun pointed to her chest. He was not wearing a mask or gloves. Ms. Goodrich testified that she was familiar with firearms and that the Defendant was holding a black revolver. The Defendant demanded money, and Ms. Goodrich tried to explain that there was not any money in the house, pulling out the dresser drawers to demonstrate there was nothing of value. She then felt a "heat go through" her chest and was knocked through the bedroom door. She felt a second heat in her hand. Ms. Goodrich fell to the floor and looked through the door to the living room, where she could see another intruder, whom she described as "a tall figure." She was not able to give any identifying information about this second person. Ms. Goodrich lay still and held her breath so that the Defendant would think she was dead.

         Ms. Goodrich testified that the Defendant took some marijuana from the living room and "a little money" from Mr. Bond's pocket. Ms. Goodrich stated that Mr. Bond had two ounces of marijuana prior to the shootings but that the police only found one ounce. His identification and cellular telephone were missing. Ms. Goodrich suffered a gunshot wound on the left side of her chest which broke two ribs and bruised her lung. She lost the tip of her index finger as a result of the gunshot wound in her hand. Ms. Goodrich was able to pick the Defendant out of a photographic lineup and testified that she had no doubt he was the shooter. She was not able to identify the second person who was in the home.

         Officer Rodney Clark, a patrol officer with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, testified that he was the first to arrive at the home. When he asked Ms. Goodrich who shot her, she said, "A guy named Chris." Officer Warren Fleak from the Identification Unit assisted in documenting the crime scene. He found one cartridge casing toward the rear of the seat cushion of a chair in the living room and two more casings on the floor behind the chair. Digital scales and a plastic bag of marijuana were also found in the living room. A fragmented bullet was recovered from a heater in the second bedroom. A second bullet was recovered from behind a dresser, near a pool of blood. Officer Fleak acknowledged that no samples of blood were taken for DNA testing, although blood was present on the porch, in the living room, and in both bedrooms.

         Detective Lindsey Farnow-Smith spoke with Ms. Goodrich at the hospital. Ms. Goodrich told Detective Farnow-Smith that she had heard a knock and had heard "Chris" say, "Where's the money? Where's the money?" The Defendant then told someone to "get the weed." Ms. Goodrich stated that she heard shots and that the Defendant then confronted her with a revolver and shot her. She told Detective Farnow-Smith that the Defendant was familiar to her because he had frequented the house to get haircuts. She gave a description of the Defendant. In her description, Ms. Goodrich stated that the Defendant had a facial tattoo. She could not describe the tattoo. Detective Farnow-Smith acknowledged that the Defendant, who was present in the courtroom, did not have a facial tattoo. She testified that he had a discoloration which she described as "shadowing close to his cheek bones and facial hair."

         Detective Andrew Davis investigated the crime and developed the Defendant as a suspect on January 27, 2013. He acknowledged that Ms. Goodrich only knew the Defendant as "Chris" and that Mr. Bond's family had told him that the Defendant's name was "something like Chris Graves." He also acknowledged that he investigated the name "Chris Grady." Detective Davis explained that Mr. Bond's family had initially given the Defendant's last name as possibly "Graves" and later ...


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