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Rice v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

October 12, 2017

RANDY A. RICE
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs August 1, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County No. C-12-43 Kyle Atkins, Judge.

         Petitioner, Randy A. Rice, appeals the denial of his petition seeking post-conviction relief from his convictions for felony murder and facilitation of especially aggravated robbery. Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of both trial and appellate counsel. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Michael Thorne, Lexington, Tennessee (on appeal), and John D. Hamilton, Jackson, Tennessee (at hearing), for the appellant, Randy Antonio Rice.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Zachary T. Hinkle, Assistant Attorney General; Jody S. Pickens, District Attorney General; and Al Earls, 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 Robert W. Wedemeyer, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Over thirteen years ago, Petitioner participated in the killing of the victim, David Martin. See State v. Randy Antonio Rice, No. W2010-00146-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 3556973 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 9, 2011), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Dec. 13, 2011). In 2004, the victim was discovered in his home deceased from four gunshot wounds, and his wallet was missing. Several years later, investigators received information regarding Petitioner's involvement in the victim's death from Cory Bowers, a childhood friend of Petitioner. Mr. Bowers was serving a federal sentence on drug charges after being set up by Petitioner's brother and was seeking a reduction of his sentence in exchange for his cooperation. According to Mr. Bowers, Petitioner had twice approached him and discussed robbing the victim, and each time Mr. Bowers declined. A few days later, Petitioner, accompanied by another childhood friend, Jessie Rodgers, told Mr. Bowers that he had stolen the victim's money and had shot the victim after a struggle.

         Petitioner consistently denied his involvement through multiple interrogations until November 13, 2007, when he made a statement to Lieutenant Jeff Fitzgerald admitting his involvement. According to Petitioner's statement, he, his brother, and Mr. Rodgers planned the robbery of the victim. Petitioner's role was essentially that of a getaway driver while Mr. Rodgers went into the victim's house to rob him. When Mr. Rodgers exited the house bleeding, he told Petitioner that the victim threw something that hit him in the eye and that he shot the victim during a struggle over a gun. Petitioner stated that Mr. Rodgers took $80 from the victim, of which Petitioner and his brother each received $20. Petitioner was eventually indicted for premeditated first degree murder, felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery.

         Prior to trial, Petitioner filed a motion to suppress his November 13 statement on the ground that Petitioner's right to counsel was violated. At the suppression hearing, Lieutenant Fitzgerald testified that while Petitioner was waiting to be arraigned in General Sessions Court, Petitioner motioned Lieutenant Fitzgerald over to him. Petitioner told Lieutenant Fitzgerald that they needed to talk, but Lieutenant Fitzgerald told him that they would have to wait until after the General Sessions judge was done with Petitioner. During the arraignment, the Public Defender was appointed to represent Petitioner. Afterward, Petitioner again motioned to Lieutenant Fitzgerald, who asked if Petitioner still wanted to talk. Petitioner said that he did, so Lieutenant Fitzgerald took Petitioner to his office. Lieutenant Fitzgerald read Petitioner the Miranda warnings and clarified that Petitioner initiated the contact; Petitioner waived his rights and agreed that he had contacted Lieutenant Fitzgerald. Lieutenant Fitzgerald recorded the statement and produced a written statement, which Petitioner read and initialed each paragraph before signing. Lieutenant Fitzgerald admitted that he did not consult with the Public Defender's Office before conducting the interview. Sergeant Felicia Stacy confirmed that Petitioner beckoned Lieutenant Fitzgerald over prior to arraignment, and she was present during the subsequent statement. The trial court found that Petitioner initiated contact with Lieutenant Fitzgerald prior to arraignment and that, afterward, Lieutenant Fitzgerald "followed through" with Petitioner's earlier request to talk. The court found that Petitioner made a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to counsel and denied the motion to suppress.

         At trial, the State relied heavily on the testimony of Mr. Bowers and Petitioner's November 13 statement to Lieutenant Fitzgerald. During deliberations, the jury submitted two questions regarding their consideration of lesser-included offenses for the charge of premeditated first degree murder; the State moved to nolle that charge. Thereafter, the jury convicted Petitioner of felony murder and the lesser-included offense of facilitation of especially aggravated robbery. The trial court imposed consecutive sentences of life and twelve years' imprisonment. On appeal, this Court held that the evidence was sufficient to sustain both convictions and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the sentences to run consecutively. See Randy Antonio Rice, 2011 WL 3556973, at *6, *8.

         On February 21, 2012, Petitioner filed a timely pro se petition for post-conviction relief, alleging multiple grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. Post-conviction counsel was appointed, and an amended petition was filed on August 22, 2016.[1] As relevant to this appeal, Petitioner alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when trial counsel failed to request a jury instruction on corroboration of accomplice testimony with regard to Mr. Bowers; when trial counsel failed to move for a judgment of acquittal on the felony murder charge after the jury found him guilty of facilitation of especially aggravated robbery; and when ...


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