Session July 11, 2017
from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 15-00211 Paula
L. Skahan, Judge
Appellant, Martiness Henderson, was convicted in the Shelby
County Criminal Court of first degree felony murder and
received an automatic life sentence. On appeal, he contends
that he is entitled to a new trial because he was denied
proper jury selection and that his life sentence violates the
United States and Tennessee Constitutions. Based upon the
oral arguments, the record, and the parties' briefs, we
conclude that the trial court committed reversible error
during jury selection. Therefore, the Appellant's
conviction is vacated, and the case is remanded to the trial
court for a new trial.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
Court Vacated, Case Remanded
Claiborne H. Ferguson, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich,
District Attorney General; and Pam Stark and Sam Winnig,
Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State
McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which
D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Camille R. McMullen, JJ., joined.
MCGEE OGLE, JUDGE
January 2015, the Shelby County Grand Jury indicted Brandon
Vance, Walter Collins, and the Appellant for the first degree
felony murder of Larry Wilkins. The Appellant, who was
seventeen years old at the time of the crime, was transferred
from juvenile to criminal court and was tried separately from
Appellant does not contest the sufficiency of the evidence.
Nevertheless, we will briefly summarize the evidence
presented at trial.
Lee, the victim's fiancée, testified that in March
2014, she and the victim lived together in the Sycamore Lake
Apartments. The victim was trying to sell his black Ford
Mustang and had placed an advertisement on Craigslist. On the
night of March 9, Lee took a nap in bed, and the victim slept
on the couch. At some point, Lee was awakened by five or six
gunshots. She noticed that the victim was not on the couch,
went outside, and saw people standing around. She asked them
what had happened, and they told her that "the guy in
the Mustang had shot the guy right there." Lee turned
around and saw the victim lying on the ground. The
victim's Mustang was gone, but a gold Chevrolet Monte
Carlo was present. Lee had never seen the Monte Carlo at the
apartments previously. She felt the car, and it was warm.
Michael Huff of the Memphis Police Department (MPD) testified
that when he arrived at the scene, the victim was lying on
the ground, and a Monte Carlo was "[n]ot very far"
from the victim. Officer James Smith arrived and found four
spent shell casings.
O'Bryant testified that on March 9, she was living in the
Sycamore Lake Apartments and arrived home just before
midnight. She saw three or four men looking under the hood of
a Mustang, which she thought was "kind of abnormal for
that time of night." O'Bryant parked her car and
heard gunshots. She went into her apartment and heard a woman
screaming. O'Bryant went back outside and saw the victim
lying on the ground where the Mustang had been parked. The
Mustang was gone.
Allen testified that she lived in Sycamore Lake on March 9
and was doing homework when she heard four or five gunshots.
She looked out her apartment window and saw three or four men
standing outside. One of the men fell, and two or three men
ran. A dark-colored Mustang left the apartment complex.
James Sewell of the MPD testified that he obtained a search
warrant for the gold Monte Carlo and that a
"drive-out" tag issued to Brandon Vance was in the
vehicle. Sergeant Sewell also found property belonging to
Vance and Walter Collins in the car. A two-way radio or
"walky-talky" was in the back seat and was still
James Johnson of the MPD testified that on March 10, he heard
a be-on-the-lookout or "BOLO" for a Ford Mustang
used in a homicide. He saw the vehicle traveling ahead of him
and later found it abandoned with a door open. A witness told
Officer Johnson that he had seen "some guys run
Cunningham testified that on March 10, he was working as a
technician for Memphis Light, Gas and Water and was tearing
down an electrical meter when he heard "the loud roaring
of a car" and saw a black Mustang drive by. He then
heard "[a] ruckus" and "some footsteps"
and saw two young African-American males run by him. The
Mustang's doors were open. A police officer arrived, and
Cunningham told the officer what he had seen.
Kevin Lundy of the MPD testified that the Appellant was
identified as a suspect in the shooting and taken into
custody. On March 11, Sergeant Lundy spoke with him and
advised him of his rights. The Appellant's mother was
present, and the Appellant signed a waiver of rights form. At
first, the Appellant claimed he did not know anything about
the shooting. However, after Sergeant Lundy
"confronted" the Appellant with information about
the case, the Appellant stated as follows: The Appellant and
his two "cousins, " Vance and Collins, found a car
for sale on Craigslist and made arrangements with the victim
to look at the car. The three of them planned "to go
look at the car and do a test drive and once they came back
they were going to rob the guy and take his car." The
Appellant was armed with a pistol and was the only person
with a weapon. After they test-drove the Mustang, the
Appellant "upped the gun at the dude, panicked and shot
him." The Appellant later threw the gun into the river.
The Appellant told Sergeant Lundy that they went to the
victim's apartment to steal the victim's car but that
he did not mean to kill the victim.
Michael Coburn of the MPD testified that he processed the
Mustang for fingerprints and obtained prints from the hood,
front bumper, two front quarter panels, and driver's door
window. The parties stipulated that Vance's fingerprints
were on the Mustang's front bumper and that the
Appellant's fingerprints were on the outside of the
Marco Ross, the Chief Medical Examiner at West Tennessee
Regional Forensic Center, testified as an expert in forensic
pathology that the victim sustained six gunshot wounds. The
bullets entered the victim's upper right back, middle
right back, lower left back, the back of his upper left arm,
his right elbow or upper right arm, and the back of his right
thigh. Some of the bullets passed through the victim's
vital organs, and his cause of death was multiple gunshot
wounds. Toxicology tests on the victim were negative for
alcohol and drugs. On cross-examination, Dr. Ross
acknowledged that none of the bullets entered the front of
the victim's body.
Appellant testified that at the time of the shooting, Brandon
Vance was twenty-one years old and Walter Collins was
seventeen. Vance and Collins were brothers. The Appellant was
friends with them and referred to ...