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State v. Butler

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

February 15, 2018

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
ERNEST BUTLER, aka ANTONIO BUTLER

          Assigned on Briefs October 3, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 15-01445 Lee V. Coffee, Judge

         The Defendant, Ernest Butler, aka Antonio Butler, was convicted of first degree felony murder and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and fifteen years, respectively, to be served consecutively. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain the murder conviction. We disagree and affirm the judgments.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          James E. Thomas (on appeal) and Juni S. Ganguli (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Ernest Butler, aka Antonio Butler.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Alanda H. Dwyer and Ann L. Schiller, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Norma McGee Ogle, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE.

         FACTS

         While his three companions, who were not aware of his intentions, waited in a vehicle on July 19, 2014, the Defendant entered Midway Liquors in Memphis, where he purchased a pack of cigarettes and became angry at the clerk, Kent Smith, whom he shot and killed. During the incident, the victim returned fire, striking the Defendant in the arm. A surveillance camera recorded the shooting, as well as the Defendant's taking money from the cash register. We will review the trial testimony.

         Joy Smith testified that she had been married to the victim for thirty-five years at the time of his death. She viewed a photograph of the victim's body and identified it as that of her husband.

         Officer Thomas Parker of the Memphis Police Department testified that on the day of the homicide, he went to Midway Liquors and obtained the video which had been made by the store's DVR recorder. From the video, he made individual still shots of the incident, which were admitted into evidence.

         Todd Smith, the victim's son, testified that he and the victim arrived at Midway Liquors at about 8:00 a.m. on July 19, 2014. Mr. Smith operated The Beverage Center which was next door to the liquor store. Five to ten minutes after they arrived, Mr. Smith heard five or six gunshots and, looking through a window between the stores, saw a man with a gun in the liquor store. He pressed the panic button, secured a pistol, and ran outside. He saw a vehicle attempting to back out and pointed his pistol at the driver. The car hit a parked truck, and Mr. Smith ran into the liquor store, where he found his father's body facedown in the office. He immediately called 911 for assistance and, later, went to police headquarters where he viewed mug shots, but he was unable to identify the shooter.

         Autumn Hill testified that, during the early morning hours of the day of the homicide, she was with the Defendant, who was known as "Bald Head, " as well as Autry Hampton and Reginald Mull, at the Getaway Club near the victim's liquor store. Around 8:00 a.m., the four of them got into Mr. Hampton's car, and the Defendant complained that he had spent $40 on some "bad dope." Mr. Hampton told the Defendant to "let it go." Then, they saw the victim walk in front of their car; and Mr. Hampton said, "Look Bald Head, there go that man with that bag." The Defendant said, "Hold on, " ...


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