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State v. Alston

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

February 8, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs September 7, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Tipton County No. 8245 Joe H. Walker, III, Judge

         A Tipton County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Dwight Michael Alston, of first degree premeditated murder, and he received a life sentence. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction because it fails to show he premeditated the killing. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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

          Melissa A. Downing (on appeal), Covington, Tennessee, and Leslie I. Ballin (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dwight Michael Alston.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Zachary T. Hinkle, Assistant Attorney General; D. Michael Dunavant, District Attorney General; and James Walter Freeland, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and J. Ross Dyer, J., joined.



         I. Factual Background

         This case relates to the Appellant's shooting his wife, Johnnie Patricia Alston, on September 20, 2014. Michael Alston, the Appellant's and the victim's son, testified that he was born on November 4, 1993, and was twenty-two years old at the time of trial. In September 2014, he lived with his parents on Andy Drive in Drummonds, Tennessee. At some point, the Appellant had moved out of the house, but he moved back in about three months before the shooting.

         Michael[1] testified that on the evening of Friday, September 19, his parents were at home arguing. His mother was dressed to go to a party, but the Appellant wanted "some family time" and did not want her to leave. The victim left in her blue Jaguar, and Michael went to his room to watch television. He fell asleep but was awakened by the garage door opening. He said that he knew the victim had returned home, that he heard his parents arguing in the garage, and that the Appellant sounded angry. Michael walked from his bedroom to the door that separated the house from the garage and looked through a window in the door. The Appellant was standing in front of the door, and the victim was standing in front of her car. Michael said that the victim "was begging him and stuff" and that the Appellant would not let the victim into the house. The Appellant kept pushing the victim backward toward the overhead garage door and kept telling Michael to "stay back."

         Michael testified that he saw the Appellant holding a shotgun and that the victim "fell to the ground on her knees and started begging and everything." The victim was crying and told the Appellant, "I'm sorry. I'll do anything. I'll do -- I'll sign the papers." The Appellant told Michael, "[G]et back, [you] don't need to see this." Michael walked into the kitchen and heard a gunshot one to two minutes later. He said that he was scared, that he grabbed the cordless house telephone, and that he ran across the street and hid under a neighbor's vehicle. The Appellant came outside, and Michael crawled out from under the vehicle. He did not see the Appellant holding a gun and asked if the Appellant was okay, but the Appellant would not answer. The Appellant told Michael to call the police, got into the Appellant's Nissan, and drove away. Michael called 911.

         On cross-examination, Michael testified that his mother left about 9:00 p.m. on September 19 and that he and the Appellant watched wrestling on television in the living room. About 9:20 p.m., Michael went to his room and fell asleep. Sometime before 10:00 p.m., he heard the front door of the house open and close. He went into the living room and looked outside but did not see the Appellant. The Appellant's Nissan was still in the driveway.

         Michael acknowledged that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and said that he used to take trazodone and Risperdal because he spoke to the devil and heard demons talking to him. However, he stopped taking the medications because they gave him headaches. He acknowledged telling a police officer that he thought the Appellant had the gun just to scare the victim and that he did not think the Appellant was going to shoot her. He also acknowledged that the victim would come home sometimes at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. and that one time, she did not ...

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