Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Clayton

Supreme Court of Tennessee, Jackson

November 20, 2017


          Session June 1, 2017 Heard at Nashville [1]

         Automatic Appeal from the Court of Criminal Appeals Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 1203160 Carolyn W. Blackett, Judge

         A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant of the first degree murders of Arithio Fisher (Count I), Patricia Fisher (Count II), and Pashea Fisher (Count III), and the attempted first degree murder of A'reco Fisher (Count IV), as well as possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony (Count V), employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony (Count VI), and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle (Count VII). The jury sentenced the defendant to death for each of the first degree murders. The trial court imposed agreed-upon sentences of fifteen years for the attempted murder and three years, six years, and eleven months, twenty-nine days, respectively, for the remaining convictions, with the sentences for Counts I, II, III, IV, and VII to be served concurrently with each other and the sentences for Counts V and VI to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively to the previous sentences, for an effective sentence of death plus six years. On appeal, we hold that: (1) the evidence is sufficient to support the jury's finding that the defendant acted with premeditation in commission of the offenses; (2) the defendant waived his Fourth Amendment challenge to the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress his statements; and (3) each of the death sentences satisfies our mandatory statutory review pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-206. As to the remaining issues raised by the defendant, we agree with the Court of Criminal Appeals' conclusions and attach as an appendix to this opinion the relevant portions of that court's decision. The defendant's convictions and sentences, as merged by the Court of Criminal Appeals, are affirmed.

         Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-206(a)(1); Judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals Affirmed

          Stephen C. Bush, Shelby County District Public Defender; Tony N. Brayton and Harry Sayle, III, Assistant District Public Defenders (on appeal); and Gerald Skahan, Kindle Nance, and Anna Benson, Assistant District Public Defenders (at trial), for the appellant, Sedrick Clayton.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée Sophia Blumstein, Solicitor General; Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel; John Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Jennifer Nichols and Karen Cook, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Roger A. Page, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Jeffrey S. Bivins, C.J., Cornelia A. Clark, and Holly Kirby, JJ., joined. Sharon G. Lee, J., filed a separate concurring opinion.



         This case is before us pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-206, which provides for automatic review by this Court of sentences of death.[2] The evidence adduced at trial established that the defendant fatally shot his girlfriend, Pashea Fisher; her parents, Arithio Fisher and Patricia Fisher; and attempted to kill A'Reco Fisher. He then fled the scene with his and Pashea Fisher's four-year-old daughter.

         Factual and Procedural History

         Procedural History

         In his appeal as of right to the Court of Criminal Appeals, the defendant argued: (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for first degree premeditated murder and attempted first degree murder; (2) that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statements to the police; (3) that double jeopardy principles prohibited his dual convictions for possessing a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony and employing a firearm during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony; (4) that the trial court erred in admitting photographs of the victims during the penalty phase; (5) that the trial court erred in admitting recordings of two 9-1-1 calls made from the victims' residence around the time of the murders; (6) that Lieutenant Goods' guilt phase testimony on redirect examination was improper; (7) that Tennessee's death penalty scheme constitutes cruel and unusual punishment; (8) that Tennessee's death penalty scheme is unconstitutional in numerous other respects; and (9) that the defendant's sentences of death are disproportionate. State v. Clayton, No. W2015-00158-CCA-R3-DD, 2016 WL 7395628, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 18, 2016), appeal docketed (Tenn. Sept. 1, 2016). The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the judgments of the trial court but remanded the case for entry of corrected judgments reflecting merger of the convictions for possessing a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony and employing a firearm during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony.

         In the defendant's automatic appeal to this Court, he asserts that (1) the evidence was insufficient to establish that he acted with premeditation in committing the murders; (2) the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce photographs of the three victims during the penalty phase; (3) the trial court erred by allowing Lieutenant Goods to compare the murders in this case with other murder cases he had investigated; (4) the defendant's death sentence is disproportionate based on the pool of cases utilized to conduct the proportionality review; (5) Tennessee's death penalty scheme constitutes cruel and unusual punishment; (6) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statement that was obtained during an allegedly improper detention; (7) the trial court erred in denying his motion to exclude the recordings of two 9-1-1 calls; (8) and Tennessee's death penalty scheme is unconstitutional in several respects.

         In this Court's order setting forth the issues to be heard during oral argument, see Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 12.2, [3] we instructed the parties to present argument with regard to four issues: (1) sufficiency of the evidence, particularly evidence of premeditation; (2) failure to suppress the defendant's statement due to a delay in taking him before a magistrate, including whether the defendant waived consideration of the issue; (3) failure to exclude recordings of the two 9-1-1 telephone calls; and (4) mandatory statutory review of the death sentence.

         Guilt Phase

         On the morning of January 19, 2012, A'Reco Fisher[4] was asleep on the sofa in his family's living room. A'Reco lived in his parents' home, in which his sister Pashea Fisher also resided with her four-year-old daughter, J.C.[5] The defendant, who was Pashea's boyfriend and the father of her child, arrived at the residence around 12:40 a.m.; he did not reside there and did not have a key to the house, so Pashea met him at the door to let him in. The defendant walked straight back to Pashea's bedroom. In the early morning hours as A'Reco was sleeping, he was awakened by the sounds of an altercation and gunshots within the home. He heard Pashea crying, and he heard the defendant's voice. The gunshots startled A'Reco because the family did not own guns, and he did not know that the defendant had a gun. At this time of morning, it was still dark in the living room. A'Reco looked up and saw Pashea and the defendant arguing. Pashea walked down the hall toward their parents' bedroom. She entered the bedroom and shut and locked the door behind her. The defendant kicked open the door and fired his weapon. Pashea was yelling, "Stop, stop!" A'Reco then saw the defendant "handling" Pashea in the hallway. The defendant "dragged" Pashea to the front of the house, which was the living room. Pashea attempted to fight off the defendant and yelled at A'Reco to call 9-1-1. A'Reco heard the defendant tell Pashea that he was going to shoot her; he then continued to drag her and shot her in the head. The shooting occurred approximately twelve feet away from where A'Reco was positioned. The defendant then ran out of the house, taking J.C. with him. A'Reco heard a vehicle that sounded like Pashea's start up and drive away. He called 9-1-1. He checked on Pashea and determined that he could not do anything for her. A'Reco never saw his parents prior to the shooting, but he "glanced" in their bedroom afterward. Patricia was "fighting for her life, " and Arithio was "already unconscious."

         A Memphis Police Department ("MPD") radio dispatcher received a 9-1-1 call at 5:40 a.m. from the land line at the Fishers' residence. She described the call as an "open line call" in which the dispatcher listens to background noises or conversations but the caller never speaks. The dispatcher could hear male and female voices screaming in the background. She could also hear a small child crying. The dispatcher heard a "gurgling" sound but was unsure of the source. In the background, the dispatcher heard someone else placing a 9-1-1 call. While this open line call was ongoing, another dispatcher received the call from a male caller using a cellular telephone. The dispatcher also heard two gunshots, after which the female voice became silent. She dispatched the police, the fire department, and an ambulance to the address.

         After leaving the Fishers' home, the defendant telephoned Adrienne Lewis, an occasional girlfriend and the mother of one of his children. Ms. Lewis worked the late shift that night, and she was still at work when he called. Ms. Lewis said that the defendant sounded "scared." He said he needed her to "help him think." He asked her to leave work, and then he drove toward her place of employment. The defendant left Pashea's Cadillac in a parking lot near Ms. Lewis's place of work, and he and Ms. Lewis drove away in her vehicle. J.C. was also with the defendant. They drove first to Ms. Lewis's home. As he was crying and shaking, the defendant told Ms. Lewis that he had "flipped out" and that he had shot "them." He said, "I don't know who I shot or what I shot. I just know somebody in the house . . . ." They also picked up their daughter, Y.C., because the defendant did not know when he would see his children again. Around ten minutes later, they drove to the home of the defendant's sister Tameka Rhodes. While there, a news broadcast reported the shooting and stated that two people had been pronounced dead. Soon thereafter, Jesse Clements, the defendant's brother-in-law, drove the defendant, Ms. Lewis, and the two children to the police precinct in Mr. Clements's vehicle.

         MPD Sergeant Richard Borden with the Felony Response Bureau responded to the scene at Preston Street. Around 7:15 a.m., Lillian Harvey, the defendant's mother, walked up to Sergeant Borden at the scene. She had seen the news reports and thought she could help. She had spoken with the defendant and reported that he wanted to turn himself in to authorities. After several telephone calls between Sergeant Borden and the defendant, the defendant informed Sergeant Borden that he was proceeding to the Raines Station. At 8:47 a.m., Sergeant Borden received notification that the defendant was in custody and that J.C. was safe. A 0.40 Smith & Wesson pistol and two magazines were recovered from the rear passenger floorboard of the car in which the defendant arrived. The car was driven by another male and occupied by a female and two small children, both female.

         MPD Officer Chase Merritt was the first officer to arrive at the crime scene. Through the glass front door he observed a "motionless" female lying in the floor. Upon entering the residence, he noticed an apparent gunshot wound to her temple. At that time, someone called out from the rear of the house, and a black male, who was later identified as A'Reco Fisher, walked down the hallway. After explaining the circumstances of shootings, A'Reco told officers that the defendant took J.C. with him but that J.C. did not want to go.

         MPD Officers Matthew Biggs and Michael Tran were the next officers on the scene. When they entered, they had to step over the body of Pashea Fisher to access the rest of the house. Officer Tran approached the master bedroom and noticed that the door had been kicked in and was cracked, and there were pieces of wood scattered about. They observed the body of a black male. His eyes were open, and there was a great amount of blood around his face and torso. A black female was found at the other end of the room; she was moving with difficulty and "making noises." She was unresponsive to verbal instructions. She was later transported to the hospital. In the bedroom, officers noticed bullet holes and casings, but no firearms were recovered from the residence.

         MPD Lieutenant Anthony Mullins reviewed the scene and determined that the shooting began in the bedroom area and moved toward the front door. He also noted a bullet hole in the arm of the sofa through the pillow where A'Reco had been sleeping. A'Reco testified that he was startled awake by the sound of gunshots.

         Emergency personnel pronounced Pashea and Arithio dead at the scene. Patricia Fisher was pronounced dead at the hospital after life-saving efforts were unsuccessful. One of the three bullet wounds she sustained entered the chest, perforated the diaphragm, the transverse colon, segments of the small bowel, and the aorta. Arithio Fisher's fatal wound was a gunshot to the neck that tore the right carotid artery and traveled through the left lung. Pashea's cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head that went through the left temporal lobe, the left petrous temporal bone at the base of the skull, and exited through the left occipital bone. When her skull was fractured, bone fragments (secondary projectiles) broke loose and caused more damage. The gunshot left stippling at the wound site, which indicated that the bullet was fired from five or six inches to three feet away. The forensic pathologist determined that the causes of death for all three homicide victims were multiple gunshots, and the manners of death were murder.

         A firearms identification expert opined that all of the cartridge cases and the intact bullets that were submitted by law enforcement were fired from the firearm that was recovered at the time of the defendant's arrest. The gun was in operating condition, and the two magazines both fit the weapon and functioned in the firearm.

         During the course of the investigation, Lieutenant Darren Goods interviewed the defendant. Lieutenant Goods and Sergeant Joe Stark escorted the defendant to the restroom and began the interview shortly after 4:00 p.m. on January 19, 2012. The reason for the delay was that Lieutenant Goods waited to receive additional instructions and for the Crime Scene Unit to use the alternative light source on the defendant to detect any gunshot residue. Lieutenant Goods also wanted to ensure that he was aware of all of the evidence so he could determine whether the defendant was being truthful.

         Both officers entered the interview room unarmed. The defendant was shackled by his ankle to a bolted-down bench in the room. After making introductions, Lieutenant Goods assumed the lead role and explained why they were there. He told the defendant that they were investigating the homicide of the three victims. Lieutenant Goods wrote down the defendant's biographical information and noted that "[h]e was very coherent. He understood. There [were] not any issues with him not understanding anything that we were saying." The defendant said that he completed the ninth grade at Southside High School. He denied having consumed alcohol or taken prescription drugs prior to the interview but admitted smoking marijuana at 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. the previous night. He disclaimed any mental health issues. Based on Lieutenant Goods' twenty-nine years of experience in police work, the defendant did not appear to suffer any after-effects of smoking marijuana the night before.

         Before Lieutenant Goods could review the Advice of Rights form with the defendant, he began making a statement. The defendant said, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to do it . . ." or "something along those lines." Sergeant Stark, who was taking notes, transcribed the quote as, "I'm so sorry. You ain't even got to say it." Then the defendant whispered, "I'm sorry." Lieutenant Goods asked him to pause his statement so they could review with him the Advice of Rights form. The defendant then stopped talking, and the officers and the defendant read, reviewed, and signed the Advice of Rights form. As he was writing the date the defendant said, "This is Pop's birthday." The official start time of the interview was 4:32 p.m.

         Pursuant to the department policy, Lieutenant Goods began the process by taking a verbal statement from the defendant. He said that "[the defendant] began to tell his version of what happened. And his initial version of what happened wasn't exactly consistent with the evidence." The officers confronted the defendant with the initial evidence, the medical information, and the 9-1-1 recordings. Lieutenant Goods recalled that "Pashea could clearly be heard on the 9-1-1 tape of begging him not to kill her parents." The defendant commented, "She's playing a game cause they were already - that had already happened." The defendant's verbal statement lasted one hour, during which he had a break to use the restroom.

         The defendant changed his statement more than once during that hour. He never asked to stop the interview and never asked for an attorney. Lieutenant Goods said that he would have stopped the interview immediately if the defendant had requested either. The defendant had already been placed under arrest and was not free to leave at that time. If he had ceased the interview, he would have gone straight to jail.

         In the final version of the defendant's verbal statement, he said that he and Pashea had been dating for some time. Around 12:30 a.m., as the defendant and Pashea were engaged in sexual intercourse, the defendant noticed a strange smell as though Pashea had been having sex earlier in the day. An argument arose between them, and Pashea admitted to him that she had been seeing someone else. The two of them continued to argue, then the defendant calmed down. They discussed the issue for a couple of more hours then engaged in "makeup sex." Afterward, the defendant acted as though he was going to leave her. The defendant arose to leave, and Pashea begged him to stay. The defendant tried to walk out of the room and out of the house, but he realized he left his keys and some belongings in the house. He turned around and walked toward the bedroom area but stopped at the bathroom to "wash himself off." Pashea entered the bathroom, and they argued some more. As the defendant was attempting to leave, Pashea began to tug on his shirt or jacket, which led to a "tussle in the hallway."

         The defendant noticed that a light had turned on in Mr. and Mrs. Fisher's bedroom. At some point during the argument, her parents' bedroom door opened, and a "bright light" shined on him. "[A]ll of a sudden, [Arithio] knock[ed] him down, knock[ed] Pashea down." During the struggle, the defendant dropped his gun, the magazine, his keys, and his "dope" scales. He picked up the gun and started shooting. The defendant claimed that he fired because "he was in fear of his life."

         Arithio and Pashea then walked into Arithio's bedroom. The defendant used his shoulder to break down the door into the bedroom and forced his way in. He began shooting into the room. He saw Patricia crawling across the bed and fired in her direction. He watched her fall in front of the mirror. The defendant initially did not think that he shot her and that she was just hiding. He turned to leave but came back and reloaded his weapon.

         The defendant confirmed that he was aware that A'Reco, the Fishers' son, usually slept in the living room, either on the sofa or in the recliner. Because it was dark, the defendant shot in the general direction of where A'Reco would have been sleeping. Meanwhile, Pashea held onto the defendant, begging him not to kill her parents. The four-year-old child, J.C., began screaming. The defendant maintained that at some point, Pashea grabbed him and the gun discharged, which is when she was struck and killed. The defendant grabbed the child, left the residence, and telephoned another girlfriend to pick him up. During the call, he told the girlfriend that he had just shot the Fishers and Pashea and he was trying to get his head straight.

         As the transcriptionist typed the defendant's statement during the interview, the defendant corrected her as she typed and then reviewed the final statement for corrections. The defendant made more corrections to his statement than Lieutenant Goods had ever seen anyone make. During the typewritten statement, the defendant asked, "[W]hat if I want an attorney?" Lieutenant Goods said they would stop and get him an attorney, but the defendant said he wanted to continue. Lieutenant Goods opined that the defendant had no problem understanding what was happening; he made a correction on almost every page of the statement, and most of the changes were made in a way to try to mitigate his involvement. At one point, the officers tried to take a break for themselves, but the defendant said that he wanted to keep talking, so they sat back down.

         With regard to A'Reco Fisher, the defendant said that if he shot toward him, it was "not on purpose, but [he] shot in the living room to scare [A'Reco] so [he] could get out." After the interview was completed, Lieutenant Goods encountered the defendant as he was awaiting the transport car to escort him to the Shelby County Jail. Lieutenant Goods described the defendant's demeanor as "cavalier." He said, "We were just kind of sitting around, talking. And he was cavalier about what had happened and I started to get a little angry with him. And he said something - 'I don't know why you're raising your voice. It's not a big deal, ' or something along those lines."

         Upon this evidence, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged of all counts in the indictment: Count I: first degree murder of Arithio Fisher; Count II: first degree murder of Patricia Fisher; Count III: first degree murder of Pashea Fisher; Count IV: attempted first degree murder of A'Reco Fisher; Count V: possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony; Count VI: employing a firearm during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony; and Count VII: unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101, 39-13-202(a)(1), 39-14-106, 39-17-1324(a).

         Penalty Phase

         During the penalty phase, the victims' family members testified as to the impact the victims' deaths had on them and their family, specifically A'Reco and J.C.

         In mitigation, Tawana Brown, one of the defendant's sisters, offered insight into the defendant's early family life and the loss of his stepfather, with whom he was very close. She characterized the defendant as having never been a "bad person" but instead was a "joking" person who would not fight or retaliate. Ms. Brown maintained that imposition of the death penalty would be detrimental to the defendant's children. Another sister, Tameka Rhodes, spoke of the effect of the trial and possible death sentence on their mother. Adrienne Lewis testified that the death penalty would hurt her daughter, Y.C. Y.C. was, she described, a "daddy's girl, " and she and the defendant co-parented their child together. A member of the defense team testified that the defendant had offered to plead to consecutive sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole, as evidence of the defendant's acceptance of responsibility, but that the State had rejected the offer in favor of seeking the death penalty.

         Lieutenant Mullins, testifying as an expert in blood stain pattern, opined that the entire incident began in the hallway area, close to the master bedroom. Pashea was shot in the master bedroom, as evidenced by a splinter of wood that lodged in the pants she was wearing; the only wood splinters that were found came from the master bedroom. Pashea had blood impact spatter on her feet that came from someone else; she was not standing up when the blood landed on her. The evidence led Lieutenant Mullins to conclude that the defendant and Pashea were arguing when Arithio intervened. All victims ended up in the master bedroom with the door closed when the defendant began shooting through the door. Bullets were fired through door and door frame, and powder residue was found on the door frame. In addition, he noted gunfire damage to the door latch plate.

         Based on the evidence, Lieutenant Mullins concluded that Arithio was shot first. One of the shots through the door hit him as he was bent over in an attempt to hold the door closed, per the wound pattern. He was shot and then fell on the bed; the large stain of pooled blood on the bed was from Arithio. Lieutenant Mullins further deduced that Patricia was shot on the bed but that she ran around the bed and was shot again when she was on the floor by the television. Based on the pattern of bullet holes, it appeared that the defendant was "tracking" Patricia as she tried to escape. Pashea and the defendant exited the master bedroom, but Pashea was fatally shot close to the front door of the residence. Lieutenant Mullins described the defendant's shooting toward the sofa in the living room as a "deliberate shot at a very deliberate target, " knowing that A'Reco usually slept on the sofa. He also observed stippling around Pashea's head wound that was visible to the naked eye, which indicated that she was shot at a distance of six inches or less.

         Lieutenant Goods opined that the defendant used his shoulder to break down the bedroom door and then shot Patricia and Arithio. The defendant's shooting toward the sofa indicated an intent to shoot A'Reco.

         Upon this evidence, the jury found two aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt for each of the three victims of first degree murder: (1) the defendant "knowingly created a great risk of death to two (2) or more persons, other than the victim murdered, during the act of murder, " and (2) the defendant committed mass murder. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-204(i)(3), (12). Finding that these aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury sentenced the defendant to death for all three convictions of first degree murder. The State and trial counsel reached an agreement on the sentences for the remaining offenses, and the trial court imposed the agreed-upon sentences of fifteen years for attempted first degree murder, three years for possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony, six years for employing a firearm during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony, and eleven months, twenty-nine days for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.[6]


         I. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         The defendant does not contest the fact that he shot and killed the three victims, only that he lacked the requisite premeditation to support his three first degree murder convictions or his conviction for attempted first degree murder.

         A. Standard of Review

         The standard for appellate review of a claim challenging the sufficiency of the State's evidence is "whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979) (citing Johnson v. Louisiana, 406 U.S. 356, 362 (1972)); State v. Davis, 354 S.W.3d 718, 729 (Tenn. 2011) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). To obtain relief on a claim of insufficient evidence, the defendant must demonstrate that no rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. See Jackson, 443 U.S. at 324. This standard of review is identical whether the conviction is predicated on direct or circumstantial evidence, or a combination of both. State v. Dorantes, 331 S.W.3d 370, 379 (Tenn. 2011) (quoting State v. Hanson, 279 S.W.3d 265, 275 (Tenn. 2009)).

         On appellate review, "the State is entitled to the strongest legitimate view of the evidence and all reasonable or legitimate inferences which may be drawn therefrom." State v. Harris, 839 S.W.2d 54, 75 (Tenn. 1992) (citing State v. Cabbage, 571 S.W.2d 832, 836 (Tenn. 1978)); see also Davis, 354 S.W.3d at 729 (quoting State v. Majors, 318 S.W.3d 850, 857 (Tenn. 2010)). At trial, questions involving the credibility of witnesses and the weight and value to be given the evidence, as well as all factual disputes raised by the evidence, are resolved by the trier of fact. State v. Bland, 958 S.W.2d 651, 659 (Tenn. 1997); State v. Pruett, 788 S.W.2d 559, 561 (Tenn. 1990). This Court presumes that the trier of fact has afforded the State all reasonable inferences from the evidence and resolved all conflicts in the testimony in favor of the State; as such, we will not substitute our own inferences drawn from the evidence for those drawn by the trier of fact, nor will we re-weigh or re-evaluate the evidence. State v. Smith, 436 S.W.3d 751, 764 (Tenn. 2014) (citing State v. Buggs, 995 S.W.2d 102, 105 (Tenn. 1999)); State v. Wagner, 382 S.W.3d 289, 297 (Tenn. 2012) (citing Bland, 958 S.W.2d at 659); Dorantes, 331 S.W.3d at 379. "A guilty verdict by the jury, approved by the trial court, accredits the testimony of the witnesses for the State and resolves all conflicts in favor of the prosecution's theory." Bland, 958 S.W.2d at 659 (citing State v. Grace, 493 S.W.2d 474, 476 (Tenn. 1973)). Because a conviction removes the presumption of innocence that the defendant enjoyed at trial and replaces it with one of guilt at the appellate level, the burden of proof shifts from the State to the defendant, who must demonstrate to this Court that the evidence is insufficient to support the verdict. Wagner, 382 S.W.3d at 297 (citing State v. Parker, 350 S.W.3d 883, 903 (Tenn. 2011)).

         B. Premeditation

         The defendant stands convicted of three counts of first degree premeditated murder and one count of attempted premeditated murder. He contends that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's finding of premeditation. Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-202(a)(1) defines first degree murder as a premeditated and intentional killing of another. The defendant also stands convicted of attempted first degree murder. See id. § 39-12-101(a) (defining attempt as "acting with the kind of culpability otherwise required for the offense . . . [and] [acting] with intent to cause a result that is an element of the offense, and believ[ing] the conduct will cause the result without further conduct on the person's part"). Further,

"[P]remeditation" is an act done after the exercise of reflection and judgment. "Premeditation" means that the intent to kill must have been formed prior to the act itself. It is not necessary that the purpose to kill preexist in the mind of the accused for any definite period of time. The mental state of the accused at the time the accused allegedly decided to kill must be carefully considered in order to determine whether the accused was sufficiently free from excitement and passion as to be capable of premeditation.

Id. § 39-13-202(d).

         Whether a defendant acted with premeditation is a question of fact for a jury to decide and may be inferred by the jury from the context of all of the circumstances surrounding the killing. State v. Dotson, 450 S.W.3d 1, 86 (Tenn. 2014); State v. Davidson, 121 S.W.3d 600, 614 (Tenn. 2003). Proof of premeditation may be supported by either direct or circumstantial evidence. State v. Brown, 836 S.W.2d 530, 541 (Tenn. 1992). Several factors are considered to infer premeditation: the use of a deadly weapon upon an unarmed victim, the particular cruelty of the killing, declarations by the defendant of an intent to kill, evidence of procurement of a weapon, preparations before the killing for concealment of the crime, and calmness immediately after the killing. Davidson, 121 S.W.3d at 614-15. Additional considerations include a lack of provocation on the victim's part and a defendant's failure to render aid to a victim. Finch v. State, 226 S.W.3d 307, 318-19 (Tenn. 2007) (citing State v. Anderson, 835 S.W.2d 600, 605 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1992); State v. Fugate, 776 S.W.2d 541, 545 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1988)); State v. Lewis, 36 S.W.3d 88, 96 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2000).

         Briefly summarized, Pashea allowed the defendant to enter the Fishers' home in the middle of the night. In the early morning hours, an argument arose between Pashea and the defendant, which quickly escalated from a verbal confrontation to a physical altercation. At some point, the defendant shot Pashea in her leg. She retreated to her parents' bedroom and locked the door behind her. By force, the defendant entered the Fishers' bedroom, where he shot Arithio, killing him instantly, and Patricia, who died later at the hospital. The defendant subsequently began to retreat but instead reloaded his weapon and came back, at which time he fired into the area of the living room sofa where A'Reco was known to sleep. The defendant then dragged Pashea to the entryway of the home, where he fired a fatal shot into her head.

         The evidence established that the defendant fired a deadly weapon upon four unarmed victims. The evidence lacked any indication of provocation on the part of any of the victims. Not only did he fail to render aid to any of the victims, the defendant, having already injured Pashea, fired a second and fatal bullet to kill her after reloading his weapon. The defendant's claims with regard to sufficiency of the evidence of premeditation are without merit.

         II. Motion to Suppress the Defendant's Statement

         Prior to trial, the defendant filed a motion to suppress the statements that he made to the police on January 19, 2012, between 4:30 p.m. and 10:02 p.m. As grounds therefor, he asserted that officers violated his Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment Rights. See U.S. Const. amends. IV, V, VI, XIV. In this appeal, however, the defendant focuses his argument on his Fourth Amendment claim. The defendant states that he cited the Fourth Amendment in his motion to suppress, but he concedes that the trial court did not address this ground in its order denying the motion. Thus, the defendant failed to obtain an adverse ruling on this basis. He further acknowledges that his motion for a new trial addressed the suppression issue but omitted reference to his Fourth Amendment argument, thus the trial court did not rule on it in the order denying the motion for a new trial.

         Notwithstanding these procedural hurdles, the defendant asks us to consider his Fourth Amendment claims pursuant to our plain error review. The State responds that the defendant waived review of his Fourth Amendment claim and that the Court of Criminal Appeals correctly applied the doctrine of waiver to this claim. In its opinion, the Court of Criminal Appeals determined that "the [d]efendant included no argument or analysis on the Fourth Amendment issue in his motion to suppress . . . . After the trial court issued its order, the [d]efendant did not request the court address the Fourth Amendment issue." Clayton, 2016 WL 7395628, at *23. Accordingly, the court concluded that the defendant had waived his Fourth Amendment claim. Id. Nonetheless, the Court of Criminal Appeals conducted a plain error review, after which it found that no plain error occurred. Id. at **24-25.

         A. Standard of Review

         We have frequently articulated the standard of review for suppression hearings. Recently we stated:

[T]he standard of review applicable to suppression issues is well established. When the trial court makes findings of fact at the conclusion of a suppression hearing, they are binding upon this Court unless the evidence in the record preponderates against them. Questions of credibility of the witnesses, the weight and value of the evidence, and resolution of conflicts in the evidence are matters entrusted to the trial judge as the trier of fact. The party prevailing in the trial court is entitled to the strongest legitimate view of the evidence adduced at the suppression hearing as well as all reasonable and legitimate inferences that may be drawn from that evidence.
Our review of a trial court's application of law to the facts is de novo with no presumption of correctness. Further, when evaluating the correctness of the ruling by the trial court on a motion to suppress, appellate courts may consider the entire record, including not only the ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.