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Causey v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

December 19, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs November 7, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 11-05705 Chris Craft, Judge

         The petitioner, J.W. Causey, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2013 Shelby County Criminal Court jury conviction of first degree murder, for which he received a sentence of life imprisonment. In this appeal, the petitioner contends only that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Terrell L. Tooten, Cordova, Tennessee, for the appellant, J.W. Causey.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Melanie Cox, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.



         The Shelby County Grand Jury charged the petitioner with one count of first degree premeditated murder. The petitioner's first trial ended in a hung jury, but the petitioner was convicted as charged in a second trial in 2013 and was automatically sentenced to life imprisonment. This court affirmed the conviction on direct appeal. See State v. J.W. Causey, No. W2013-01432-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App., Jackson, Sept. 25, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 16, 2015).

         The evidence adduced at the petitioner's trial established that, on the night of December 17, 2010, a group of four teenage girls gathered at a Memphis-area hotel for a sleepover. J.W. Causey, slip op. at 4. Once the girls were in their hotel room, they began placing telephone calls to friends and inviting them to their room. Id., slip op. at 4-5, 6.

         Dedrek McVay arrived at the hotel and encountered the petitioner and two other men smoking and drinking in the lobby; Mr. McVay was unfamiliar with the men but later identified all three in a photographic lineup. Id., slip op. at 5-6. When Mr. McVay later entered the girls' hotel room, he encountered "about fifteen people" and stated that the girls were frightened by "uninvited guests" who were "trying to force themselves into the room." Id., slip op. at 6. One of those guests, a friend of the petitioner's, entered the room and was "touching the girls." Id. The petitioner then removed the man from the room. Id. According to Mr. McVay, Laterrica Mims contacted the victim, 17-year-old William "Peanut" Bibb, and his friends, Terriyuan Davis and Terrance Rossell, and asked them to come to the hotel. Id., slip op. at 1, 3, 6.

         Mr. McVay, Ms. Mims, and Amber Matthews went to the lobby to open the door for the victim, Mr. Davis, and Mr. Rossell. Id., slip op. at 5, 6, 7. According to Mr. Davis, the petitioner and two other men entered the hotel just ahead of his group, and the petitioner entered the elevator. Id., slip op. at 3. The victim, Mr. Davis, Mr. Rossell, Mr. McVay, Ms. Mims, and Ms. Matthews remained in the lobby for several minutes. Id., slip op. at 3, 5-7. Just as the victim and Mr. Davis were preparing to leave the hotel, the elevator doors opened, and the petitioner approached the group with a gun in his hand. Id., slip op. at 3-8. Ms. Matthews recalled that the petitioner asked if "'this [was] who you brought for me, was this who you called up here for me.'" Id., slip op. at 7. Mr. Davis and Mr. Rossell fled to their vehicle. Id., slip op. at 3, 8. The petitioner pointed the gun at the victim, and the victim put his hands up. Id., slip op. at 6. The victim "'[b]asically . . . beg[ed] for his life, " but the petitioner shot him once in the chest, killing him in front of Ms. Mims, Mr. McVay, and Ms. Matthews. Id., slip op. at 2, 5, 7.

         The 19-year-old petitioner, after being provided with Miranda warnings and executing a written waiver of his constitutional rights, provided a statement to police officers in which he admitted responsibility for the victim's death:

We were chilling at the hotel, had a couple of drinks, and two females were in the room with us. Me and Jay went to the Wendy's on Shelby Drive to get him something to eat. We came back to the room and we also seen women in the hallway. We went upstairs and me, Jay and JR came back downstairs to see the women that me and Jay saw. JR was drunk, JR kept going back to the young women room. JR went to the room twice. I got him out the room because they said they were going to call the police. I was fixin to take Blue home when I seen four guys walking into the hotel as I was walking to the car. I walk back into the hotel, went up stairs and got the gun. I came downstairs on the elevator and confronted the victim. The victim had a gun also. Blue got the gun out of the victim's ...

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