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State v. Jones

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

February 21, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs December 5, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 14-05813 Lee V. Coffee, Judge No. W2017-00157-CCA-R3-CD

         A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Corey Jones, of aggravated kidnapping, robbery, aggravated burglary, and theft of property valued at $1, 000 or more. The trial court imposed an effective nineteen-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in requiring that the Defendant wear physical restraints at trial and that the trial court made improper comments in the presence of the jury regarding the credibility of the State's witnesses. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. We remand for entry of a corrected judgment reflecting a three-year sentence for the theft conviction.

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

          Eric Mogy (on appeal) and Mark Renken (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Corey Jones.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Stacy McEndree, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.



         The Defendant's convictions arose from a home invasion that occurred on August 14, 2014. Mr. Terry Redden, Mr. Charles Harris, Mr. Bobby McCain, and Mr. Redden's girlfriend, Ms. Shari House, lived in the home. Ms. House was inside the home when the invasion occurred.

         At the time of the offenses, Mr. Redden, Mr. Harris, and Mr. McCain were members of the football team at University of Memphis. The Defendant had been a member of the football team but was no longer on the team when the offenses occurred. At one point, Mr. Redden, Mr. Harris, Mr. McCain, and the Defendant were on the team's Leadership Council, which made various decisions on the team's behalf, including those related to player conduct. On one occasion, the Leadership Council reviewed issues involving the Defendant, and Mr. Redden, Mr. McCain, and Mr. Harris each supported the Defendant. Nevertheless, the Defendant was removed from the team for a period and then was allowed to return to the team.

         Mr. Redden testified that he was unaware of any animosity between him and the Defendant. Both Mr. Harris and Mr. McCain recalled a prior dispute between Mr. Redden and the Defendant over another woman. However, both Mr. Harris and Mr. McCain testified that the incident occurred long before August 2014, and neither noticed any other issues between the Defendant and Mr. Redden.

         On the morning of August 14, 2014, Mr. Redden, Mr. Harris, and Mr. McCain left their home to attend football practice. Mr. Redden locked his bedroom door where Ms. House, who had recently learned that she was pregnant, was asleep. Ms. House awoke to knocking on the door. She believed that Mr. Redden may have forgotten something and opened the door. She saw a man standing in the door way, wearing sheer pantyhose to cover his face, and pointing a gun at her. Ms. House did not recognize the man and described him as African-American and approximately 6'3" or 6'4" tall with broad shoulders and an athletic build. She could see the man's facial features through the pantyhose and later identified the Defendant as the perpetrator in a photographic lineup and at trial.

         Ms. House, initially, believed that the Defendant was joking and told him to "stop playing." However, the Defendant entered her bedroom, instructed her to turn around and lie down on the bed, and put the gun to her neck. Ms. House testified that the gun appeared to be real and that she was afraid and believed she was going to be shot. The Defendant took Ms. House's cellular phone and demanded the PIN number. After Ms. House gave him the wrong number, the Defendant shoved the gun further into the back of her neck and again demanded the PIN number. Ms. House provided the Defendant with the correct PIN number.

         The Defendant repeatedly asked Ms. House, "Where's the s**t?" Ms. House was crying and told the Defendant, "I don't know. I don't know what you're talking about." The Defendant searched through drawers while Ms. House was lying on the bed. Ms. House said she remained on the bed for approximately ten minutes.

         The Defendant instructed Ms. House to get out of the bed, grabbed her by the back of the neck, and told her to not look at him. He walked Ms. House down the hallway with a gun touching the back of her head for approximately twenty feet until they reached the bathroom. He ordered Ms. House to get into the bathtub and to not move or look at him. He turned on the water in the bathroom sink, and Ms. House heard him turn on the water in the kitchen. Ms. House heard the Defendant rummaging through drawers and opening and closing doors.

         Ms. House testified that she remained in the bathtub for approximately thirty minutes and that the Defendant returned to check on her twice. The Defendant did not lock her inside the bathroom. She explained that she did not attempt to flee because the Defendant threatened her and told her not to move and she was afraid of being shot.

         When the Defendant returned to the bathroom the second time, he asked Ms. House whether a red Chevrolet Trailblazer that was parked outside belonged to her, and Ms. House affirmed that she owned the truck. The Defendant left, and Ms. House heard a vehicle back into the driveway and a door close a few times. After Ms. House did not hear any other noises for a period of time, she ran to a neighbor's house where she called 9-1-1. Ms. House reported that the Defendant took her truck, which was worth more than $1, 000, and her cellular phone. Ms. House's truck was returned to her approximately one week later, but her cellular phone was never returned.

         Officers contacted Mr. Redden, Mr. Harris, and Mr. McCain, and they returned to the home. They discovered that the side entry door was damaged, that drawers were open, and that clothes were strewn throughout the house. Mr. Redden reported that approximately thirty pairs of shoes, a forty-two-inch television, four watches, and clothing were taken. Four or five pairs of shoes and two watches were later returned to him. Mr. Redden estimated that the value of the items that were not returned was approximately $2, 000 to $3, 000. Mr. Harris reported missing two watches, a television, a bottle of cologne, and a bottle of aftershave. He later received the watches and the aftershave and estimated that his television was valued at approximately $700 and that his cologne was valued at approximately $110. Mr. McCain reported missing a fifty-five inch television valued at approximately $600 to $800, a MacBook Air laptop valued at approximately $150, eight to ten pairs of shoes valued at approximately $150 to $200 for each pair, three watches, and hats. His three watches and his hats were later returned to him.

         Detective Joseph Cunningham of the Memphis Police Department was the first officer to arrive at the scene. He was met by Ms. House, who was "hysterical." Ms. House informed Detective Cunningham that her Chevrolet Trailblazer had been taken. Approximately five minutes after Detective Cunningham arrived, a neighbor stopped him and reported seeing a Chevrolet Trailblazer backed up to a Mazda Millenia with someone transferring items from the Trailblazer to the Millenia. Detective Cunningham located Ms. House's truck approximately one-half block from her home. The keys to the truck were on the hood, and property that appeared to be from Ms. House's home was inside the truck.

         The truck was towed to the Memphis Police Department's crime scene laboratory where fingerprints matching the Defendant's left index finger and left palm were lifted from the truck. Officers also located a woman's purse and an Xbox with games and some controllers inside the truck.

         Memphis Police Officer LaTanya West, the case officer, verified with Ms. House that she knew the Defendant and that the Defendant did not have permission to be in her truck. The Defendant was brought into the police station where he was advised of his rights and questioned after he waived those rights. The Defendant initially denied knowing Ms. House or taking her truck. He stated that he was out of town when the home invasion occurred and identified two people, who he stated accompanied him on his trip. After officers spoke to the two individuals, neither of whom confirmed the Defendant's story, Officer West confronted the Defendant, who "was still abstract and evasive about the whole thing, as if we were wrong, and it couldn't be him." When officers told the Defendant that the description of the car that had been seen with Ms. House's truck was similar to a car owned by the Defendant's brother, the Defendant denied that the car seen with Ms. House's truck was his brother's car or that the Defendant had driven the car.

         Officers obtained a search warrant for the Defendant's apartment. While executing the search warrant, officers recovered a Smith and Wesson .380 handgun and a magazine with .380 bullets inside a kitchen cabinet, a Black Ops BB gun inside the living room closet, three Apple iPhones, two Apple iPods, a Fossil watch, a black do-rag, a Samsung forty-inch television, a flat screen television, two pairs of Air Jordan Nike tennis shoes, one pair of Nike tennis shoes, an empty box for a .40 caliber gun behind the couch in the living room, and a box of .40 caliber ammunition in the living room. One of the televisions was found inside a bedroom closet covered by clothing. Officers did not recover a .40 caliber gun inside the apartment.

         Sergeant Shawn Hicks of the Memphis Police Department was asked to assist in questioning the Defendant after other officers were unsuccessful in obtaining the Defendant's cooperation. Sergeant Hicks began questioning the Defendant after he confirmed that the Defendant was advised of his rights and waived those rights. The Defendant was "totally evasive." He continued to claim that he was out of town when the home invasion occurred, that he did not know those who lived on the street where the home was located, and that he was not involved. Sergeant Hicks told the Defendant that he was aware that the Defendant knew the residents and went to school with them and that the Defendant had been to the home previously. The Defendant acknowledged that he may not have been honest with the officers but continued to insist that he was not involved. He did not change his story even after Sergeant Hicks informed him that officers executed a search warrant at his apartment.

         Once Sergeant Hicks showed the Defendant photographs of items belonging to the victims that were found inside of the Defendant's apartment, the Defendant admitted that he committed the offenses and provided details that Sergeant Hicks stated matched those details included in reports from the victims. The Defendant told Sergeant Hicks that he had played football with some of the occupants and that he was angry with one of the men about an incident involving a woman. The Defendant stated that he also was angry because one of the men provided him with free marijuana while they were on the same football team but that the man required the Defendant to pay for the marijuana once the Defendant was no longer on the team.

         The Defendant gave a formal statement in which he admitted taking shoes, televisions, and watches from the victims' home. He stated that he was armed with a BB gun and was driving a maroon Mazda Millenia and that no one was injured. The Defendant said he waited until everyone left, entered the house through the back door, and began packing items. He attempted to open the bedroom where Ms. House was sleeping, but it was locked. He stated that when Ms. House opened the door, he pulled out the BB gun and instructed her to lie down on the bed. He said that he saw the keys to Ms. House's vehicle and confirmed that the keys belonged to her. The Defendant told the officer that he "escorted" Ms. House to the bathroom and told her to get into the bathtub. He then walked around the house, packing items and loading them into Ms. House's truck. The Defendant drove Ms. House's truck around the corner, placed the items in his younger brother's car, and drove away.

         The Defendant stated that he committed the robbery "to get back" at Mr. Redden. The Defendant explained that Mr. Redden had "talked" to the Defendant's girlfriend and then denied it when the Defendant confronted him. The Defendant also stated that Mr. Redden sold marijuana, previously provided it to him for free, and then began requiring him to pay for it. The Defendant believed that most of the items he took were inside his apartment, although he may have lost some of the items. He stated that he attempted to conceal his identity when he saw Ms. House by covering his face with the hood on his shirt. He apologized and maintained that he did not want to hurt Ms. House. Sergeant Hicks acknowledged that it was possible that the Defendant may not have expected Ms. House to be home.

         Sergeant Hicks testified that upon reviewing the information related to the home invasion, he did not see any indication that drugs were at the victims' home. Mr. Redden testified that he did not sell drugs and that he did not have any drugs in the home. He stated that he saw the Defendant following the offenses and that the Defendant apologized to him. When Mr. Redden confronted the Defendant about his statements to the police that Mr. Redden sold drugs, the Defendant denied making the statements. Mr. Redden testified that the Defendant contacted him and offered him $1, 200 to not come to court and that as a result the Defendant was "still not trying to own up to what [he] did." When Mr. Harris saw the Defendant following the invasion, the Defendant apologized but did not return any of the items that had not been recovered.

         The Defendant testified that on the night prior to the home invasion, he attended a party where he was drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana. He said he was given a pill while at the party, but he did not take it. After he left the party, a police officer stopped him for running a stop sign, and the Defendant ingested the pill because he did not want the officer to find it on his person. The Defendant said that the pill caused his mind to "race" and that he became intoxicated. He explained that he decided to go to the victims' home to purchase marijuana in order to calm him because he was supposed to go to Atlanta the following day. The Defendant arrived at the victims' house at 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m and parked his car away from the house. He stated that he planned to wait until the victims would be awake but that he fell asleep in his car. He awoke around 7:00 a.m. and saw Mr. McCain leaving.

         The Defendant testified that he "felt a little rage" because he had learned that Mr. Redden had been involved in a relationship with the Defendant's girlfriend. The Defendant also testified that Mr. Redden previously provided him with marijuana for free but then required the Defendant to pay for it after they "fell out." The Defendant believed he was not going to obtain marijuana from Mr. Redden and said he was "furious" because he wanted to enjoy himself while on his trip. As a result, the Defendant decided to enter the home. He maintained that he was unaware that anyone was in the home at the time.

         The Defendant testified that he began searching for marijuana and believed that Mr. Redden had it hidden in his bedroom. The Defendant discovered that Mr. Redden's bedroom door was locked and "bumped" it two times with his arm. The Defendant stated that the door opened as he turned to walk away, that he was "startled, " and that he pulled out his BB gun from his back pocket. He explained that he had the BB gun because he had used it to shoot rodents and raccoons at the party he had attended. The Defendant instructed Ms. House to lie down on the bed. He stated that he asked for the PIN to her cellular phone because he did not want her to call the police. He also stated, "I wouldn't say I took her phone. It was kind of laying there, and I just picked it up."

         The Defendant said that he searched the house for marijuana and other drugs and that he located marijuana, which he placed in a bag along with other items from the home. He returned to Mr. Redden's bedroom to search for marijuana but did not want Ms. House to be in the room while he searched. The Defendant stated that he grabbed Ms. House's shoulder and "escorted" her to the bathroom. He maintained that he was intoxicated and did not understand the magnitude of his actions. He instructed Ms. House to get into the bathtub, turned on the water, and continued searching for items inside the house. The Defendant obtained the keys to Ms. House's truck, loaded up various items, drove the truck to the Mazda that he had been driving, and loaded as much as he could fit inside the Mazda. The Defendant apologized for his actions and said he believed "it was the worst decision" that he had ever made.

         On cross-examination, the Defendant denied forcing Ms. House into the bathroom but said he "escorted" her. He said that while he instructed her to get into the bathtub, he did not instruct her to remain there. He also said he did not tell officers that he found marijuana inside the house to prevent charges for stealing drugs. He denied selling or otherwise disposing of any of the items that he took from the home.

         The Defendant denied any attempts to dissuade Mr. Redden from coming to court and said he was merely attempting to repay Mr. Redden for any items that the Defendant may have taken and were not returned. The Defendant's bond was revoked as a result of his unauthorized contact. He acknowledged that he was prohibited from contacting Ms. House as a condition of his bond but maintained that he was unaware that he was prohibited from contacting Mr. Redden, Mr. McCain, or Mr. Harris. The Defendant denied asking his mother or his girlfriend to attempt to contact Mr. Redden in an effort to dissuade him from coming to court, and the State played the recordings of the Defendant's calls to his mother and his girlfriend from the jail to counter the Defendant's claims.

         The Defendant stated that while he was dressed for court in the holding area waiting for the trial one morning, he did not knock on the door of an adjoining courtroom and tell the deputy who opened the door that he ...

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