September 6, 2017
from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 14-00658 James
C. Beasley, Jr., Judge
a jury trial, the defendant, Coynick Boswell, was convicted
of the first-degree murder of the victim, Kadrian Woods. On
appeal the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the
evidence to support his conviction for premeditated murder
and his request for and instruction on self-defense. Having
thoroughly reviewed the record and although the evidence is
sufficient to sustain the jury's verdict, we conclude
that the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the
jury as to self-defense. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment
of the trial court and remand the matter for a new trial.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
Court Reversed; Case Remanded
Michael R. Working, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David
H Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich,
District Attorney General; and Colin Campbell, Assistant
District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of
Ross Dyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Norma McGee Ogle, J., joined.
ROSS DYER, JUDGE
defendant was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder on
October 26, 2016. This case arises out of an altercation at
the Eden Point Apartments in Memphis, Tennessee on August 23,
2013. The defendant confronted the victim on the stairway of
the apartment complex. The defendant, armed with a handgun,
accused the unarmed victim of giving him counterfeit money.
The confrontation escalated, and the defendant discharged his
weapon several times. The victim was struck twice, once in
the upper back and once in the abdomen. The wound in his back
caused critical internal injuries from which he later died.
The defendant fled the scene but was later arrested.
defendant's trial focused primarily on the testimony of
three witnesses to the confrontation. First, Brandon Sails
testified that the victim had just left his apartment before
encountering the defendant on the stairway. Secondly, Wardell
Thomas explained he accompanied the defendant to Eden Point
Apartments. Finally, Carlos Daniel, the victim's cousin,
testified he was with the victim when they both left Mr.
Sails' apartment. Only Mr. Thomas and Mr. Daniel were
witnesses to the entire altercation, while Mr. Sails saw most
of the fight through his window and open door. All three
witnesses positively identified the defendant in a photo
line-up and at trial as the shooter.
conclusion of the trial, the defendant requested an
instruction on self-defense. The trial court denied the
request. The jury was instructed on first-degree murder as
well as the lesser included offenses of voluntary
manslaughter, reckless homicide, and criminally negligent
homicide. The jury found the defendant guilty of first-degree
murder. The defendant moved for a new trial, which was
denied. The defendant now appeals challenging the failure to
instruct the jury to consider self-defense and arguing there
is insufficient evidence to sustain the jury's verdict.
State's proof consisted of testimony from the
victim's mother, the responding officers, the three
witnesses from the scene, and the testimony and report from
the medical examiner. The victim's mother testified that
her son was twenty-three years old at the time of the
shooting. The first officer on the scene, Officer Matthew
Dyess, testified that by the time he responded, the
altercation had ended and his main role was securing the
scene for the other officers who were arriving. The State
called each of the three eyewitnesses to testify to their
recollection of the events.
Sails testified that on the night of the shooting, the victim
was in Mr. Sails' apartment "for maybe fifteen to
twenty minutes." Mr. Daniel arrived about a half-hour
before the victim. Mr. Sails testified that the victim and
Mr. Daniel left the apartment together and that he could view
them through the open blinds in the living room window and
through his open door. Mr. Sails noted that the victim was
not armed when he left the apartment. As the victim was
leaving, Mr. Sails saw two men ascending the stairs towards
Mr. Daniel and the victim, one of whom he recognized as Mr.
Thomas. Mr. Sails saw Mr. Thomas and Mr. Daniel shake hands
and then immediately heard two gunshots. He then heard the
victim shout, "What's up with you bro?" Mr.
Sails testified he heard nothing spoken between the parties
prior to hearing the shots. Mr. Sails stated he saw the
defendant gesture to something at his side during the
confrontation. The following exchange took place between Mr.
Sails and the State when he was asked about the gesture:
State: Prior to that gesture, did you see [the victim] use
any violence against the person that made that gesture?
Mr. Sails: I saw [the victim] charge the person who made the
gesture as intent to not let him get whatever it was that he
gestured at his waist side for.
Sate: Prior to that charge, did you see [the victim] use any
violence against that person?
Mr. Sails: It was -- it looked like in defense. Because the
way [the victim] said, What's up with you, Bro, it was a
scared intent, ...