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Taliaferro v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

December 21, 2017


          Assigned on Briefs November 7, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Haywood County No. 6740 Clayburn Peeples, Judge No. W2017-00138-CCA-R3-PC

         The petitioner, Shaun Taliaferro, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2013 Haywood County Criminal Court jury convictions of second degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, for which he received an effective sentence of 44 years. In this appeal, the petitioner contends 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

          Rachele Gibson, Assistant District Public Defender, for the appellant, Shaun Taliaferro.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; and Hillary Parham and Jason Scott, Assistant District Attorneys 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 Haywood County Grand Jury charged the petitioner with one count each of first degree premeditated murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Following a jury trial, the petitioner was convicted of the lesser-included offense of second degree murder and was convicted as charged of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of 44 years' incarceration. This court affirmed the convictions and sentences on direct appeal. See State v. Shawn O'Neal Taliaferro, No. W2013-01620-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App., Jackson, Nov. 24, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 13, 2015).[1]

         The evidence adduced at the petitioner's trial established that the victim, David Lee Capers, was the best friend of Kendell Turner. Id., slip op. at 1, 3. On September 3, 2010, the victim and Mr. Turner were attending a gathering where both the petitioner and Joseph Vaughn were present. Id., slip op. at 3, 4. At some point, the four men left the gathering in Mr. Turner's mother's van to visit the victim's sister and to patronize a liquor store. Id. After leaving the liquor store, the men drove toward the victim's mother's residence. Id. Mr. Turner was driving, the victim was seated in the front passenger seat, the petitioner was seated directly behind the victim, and Mr. Vaughn was seated directly behind Mr. Turner. Id. Mr. Turner then described what happened next as he was driving on Highway 19 toward Brownsville:

[T]he victim was talking about his life in Decatur, Illinois, and showing pictures of his baby when Mr. Turner heard a "pow" like someone had "slapped [the victim] in the head." Mr. Turner stated that upon hearing the "loud clap noise" he reflexively applied the car brakes. He looked over at the victim, who was slumped over, and saw blood coming from the right side of the victim's head. He said that he saw the [petitioner] pulling "[a] little chrome gun" away from the victim's head.
Mr. Turner testified that he continued driving and then heard a gun fired multiple times. He applied the brakes again slowing the van, and the victim jumped out of the van. Mr. Turner recalled that the [petitioner] stated "y'all know what this mother f**ker did to me." He said that he believed the [petitioner] was referencing "bad blood" between the victim and [the petitioner]. In response to the victim's flight, the [petitioner] said "f**k that mother f**ker ain't dead, " and he ordered Mr. Turner to stop. Mr. Turner said that he turned the van around and headed back toward Ripley telling the [petitioner] that the victim was dead. The [petitioner] continued to tell Mr. Turner to stop the van. Mr. Turner did not stop and continued driving back toward Ripley while the [petitioner] searched for bullets or shells in the van. The [petitioner] told Mr. Turner to explain the blood in the van to his mother by saying that the victim had borrowed the car. Mr. Turner testified that he assured the [petitioner] he would not "tell on [him]" and told the [petitioner] he "just want[ed] to get out." Mr. Turner stopped the car, he and [Mr.] Vaughn exited the van, and the [petitioner] drove away. Mr. Turner stated that he never saw the van again but that he was told that "it got burnt up." Mr. Turner said that one of Mr. Vaughn's relatives came and picked up him and Mr. Vaughn, and that he later went to the police about the shooting.

Id., slip op. at 3-4.

         Mr. Vaughn testified similarly about the events leading up to the shooting. Id., slip op. at 4. Of the shooting, Mr. Vaughn testified as follows:

He recalled that as they drove down Highway 19, they talked and listed to the radio, "normal stuff, " when the [petitioner] shot the victim. He said the [petitioner] fired one or two shots at first, followed by five or six more gun shots. Mr. Vaughn stated that he observed the [petitioner] firing the gun and that he threw ...

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