Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Assigned on Briefs Date: January 24, 2018
from the Criminal Court for Washington County No. 41230 Lisa
petitioner, James Allen, appeals the denial of
post-conviction relief from his 2013 Washington County
Criminal Court jury convictions of first degree murder and
possession of a firearm with intent to employ it during the
commission of first degree murder, for which he received a
life sentence. In this appeal, the petitioner contends only
that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at
trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.
R. App. P. 3; Judgment of the Criminal Court
A. Sears, II, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; Tony Clark,
District Attorney General; and Erin McArdle, Assistant
District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of
Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.,
CURWOOD WITT, JR., JUDGE
Washington County Grand Jury charged the petitioner with one
count each of first degree premeditated murder, possession of
a firearm with the intent to employ it during the commission
of a first degree murder, and an order of protection
violation. Prior to trial, the trial court dismissed the
order of protection violation charge, and following a jury
trial, the petitioner was convicted as charged of first
degree murder and the unlawful possession of a firearm. The
trial court imposed a sentence of life imprisonment. This
court affirmed the convictions and sentences on direct
appeal. See State v. James Henry Allen, No.
E2014-00529-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App., Knoxville, Jan. 23,
2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 13, 2015).
evidence adduced at the petitioner's trial established
that the petitioner and Deborah Kay Franklin Keplinger
divorced in 1994 after more than nine years of marriage, but
despite their divorce, the couple continued to occasionally
live together during their off-and-on relationship.
Id., slip op. at 2. In December 2009, during a time
in which she was not seeing the petitioner, Mrs. Keplinger
began dating the victim, Richard Carter. Id.
Although Mrs. Keplinger did not inform the petitioner of her
relationship with the victim, the petitioner eventually
discovered it and "expressed his disapproval" about
the relationship to one of his and Mrs. Keplinger's
daughters. Id. After enduring numerous disparaging
comments and threatening text messages from the petitioner,
Mrs. Keplinger obtained an order of protection against him,
although the text messages continued. Id. The
petitioner would also send messages to Mrs. Keplinger through
their daughter and would yell at Mrs. Keplinger while
standing across the street from her residence. Id.
Mrs. Keplinger reported this behavior to the police on
several occasions, eventually resulting in the
petitioner's arrest in March 2010 for violating the order
of protection. Id., slip op. at 2, 3. Following his
arrest, the petitioner continued to threaten Mrs. Keplinger,
telling their daughter "that he 'was going to kill
[Mrs. Keplinger] and [the victim].'" Id.,
slip op. at 3.
point, the victim began living with Mrs. Keplinger in the
same residence where she and the petitioner had lived during
their marriage. Id. On the night of May 10, 2010,
Mrs. Keplinger and the victim were at home when she heard her
dogs barking sometime after 9:30 p.m. Id. When Mrs.
Keplinger stepped outside to investigate, she noticed that
the front porch light did not illuminate. Id. Mrs.
Keplinger returned inside and asked the victim to look at the
light, knowing that the light bulb had recently been
replaced. Id. The victim stepped outside to examine
the light fixture and confirmed that the light bulb was
missing. Id. While Mrs. Keplinger walked to the
kitchen to retrieve a new light bulb, the victim closed the
front door and looked through the diamond-shaped window in
the door. Id. Mrs. Keplinger then heard four or five
gunshots, and she ran to the front door. Id., slip
op. at 4. The glass in the door had been shattered, and the
victim, stating that he had been shot, collapsed onto the
floor. Id. Mrs. Keplinger called 9-1-1 and
repeatedly told the dispatcher that the petitioner was likely
the shooter. Id., slip op. at 5. The victim was
transported to the hospital but succumbed to his wounds,
which included three gunshot wounds to the chest area.
Id., slip op. at 4, 5.
his arrest, the petitioner gave a statement to police
officers, which statement was admitted into evidence at trial
and included the following:
After being with [Mrs. Keplinger] for 26 years and seeing
[the victim] hug her was making me angry. I felt like I had
lost my second family at this point. It made me snap. It was
like a dream. I went up to th[e] house to the right of the
mobile home and got a rifle that was hid in the house after I
saw them hugging in the window. I went and was petting my
dog. I didn't want to be seen so I unscrewed the light
bulb and put it in my pocket. I went back to petting my dog
and Peaches the inside dog started barking and [Mrs.
Keplinger] came to the door and let the dog out and said
something about the light not working. She shut the door and
[the victim] came to the door and put his face in the window.
My son and daughter had told me that [the victim] had been
carrying a gun. I shot a warning shot or 2 in the air. In the
door window it looked as if [the victim] was pulling a gun up
and I shot a few shots through the door to scare him. I
started walking down Cherry Lane towards [H]ighway 93. I
crossed 93 and across the bridge behind the barn. I passed
out for about an hour because I was tired. After I woke up I
thought that I had dreamed it all. I got a phone call from
Jerry Arnold my nephew and he said that [the victim] had got
shot and I saw a rifle lying there and I figured it was true.
I walked into the woods and set up some snares. I shot me a
rabbit to eat and went to sleep. I had planned to stay in the
woods a couple of days to mellow me out. I hadn't been
over there in 6 weeks. I don't know why I went over
there. As I walked up Cherry Lane initially, I could see
through the rear sliding door where the pool table was and I
could see them hugging. That really made me snap. After
spending the night in the ...