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State v. Peterson

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

March 15, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs December 5, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 14-04003 Paula L. Skahan, Judge

         The Defendant, Deandrey Peterson, appeals his convictions for aggravated rape, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony for which he received an effective thirty-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court violated Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b) in allowing the State to present evidence of offenses committed against other victims. We conclude that the trial court committed reversible error in admitting evidence of other criminal offenses. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

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

          Robert Brooks (on appeal), Memphis, Tennessee, and Deandrey Peterson, pro se (at trial), for the appellant, Deandrey Peterson.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Linda D. Kirklen, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Abby Wallace and Carrie Shelton, Assistant District Attorneys 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 evidence presented at trial established that on March 9, 2014, the Defendant entered the victim's[1] apartment armed with a firearm, demanded money from her, raped her, and forced her to use her debit card to withdraw $200 from an ATM. On that evening, Ms. Clark, the victim's roommate, left to visit her boyfriend, and the victim expected her boyfriend to visit her later that night. The victim decided to take a shower before her boyfriend arrived.

         The victim testified that while in the shower, she heard Ms. Clark's dog barking and believed her boyfriend, who had a key, was entering the apartment. Ms. Clark's dog kept barking, but the victim continued with her shower because the dog barked often. The bathroom door opened, and the victim looked around the corner and saw a man, whom she later identified as the Defendant, pointing a gun at her.

         The victim had not seen the Defendant before that night. She said the Defendant was wearing a black "hoodie" and dark clothing, including dark denim or black jeans. He had white socks on his hands. The bottom of the Defendant's face was covered with what appeared to be a T-shirt. The victim could see the Defendant's eyes, a small portion of his forehead, and the top of his nose. She described the Defendant's gun as a "nice sized gun" that was black with silver at the top.

         The Defendant instructed the victim to be quiet and to remain in the bathroom. He exited the bathroom and closed the door. The victim remained standing in the shower for approximately five minutes. The Defendant looked inside the bathroom and then closed the door. He returned and instructed the victim to get out of the bathroom. The victim grabbed a towel and went into her bedroom. The Defendant demanded money and her jewelry. The victim told him that she did not have any cash, and she only had "[f]ake jewelry, " which was on the bed. The victim observed that the Defendant had been through her wallet and that its contents were scattered on her bed.

         The Defendant instructed the victim to sit on an air mattress that was against the wall in the corner of the bedroom. Because the victim was staring at the Defendant's face, he instructed her to stop looking at him and to face the wall. The Defendant rummaged through the victim's closet and left the room.

         The victim testified that her boyfriend began calling her and that at one point, he was driving around outside of her apartment. The Defendant instructed the victim to answer her cellular phone and to tell her boyfriend to leave. The Defendant looked outside through a window and saw her boyfriend driving around. The Defendant told the victim that if her boyfriend did not leave, the Defendant would shoot both the victim and her boyfriend. The victim said the Defendant was holding his gun while making the threats.

         The victim and the Defendant entered Ms. Clark's bedroom where the Defendant instructed the victim to sit on the bed. He used Ms. Clark's blue bandanna to blindfold the victim and instructed her to lie down on the bed. The Defendant asked the victim whether she wanted him to perform oral sex on her, and the victim said, "[N]o." The victim testified that when the Defendant asked her about oral sex, he "softened up" and that he "wasn't as mean. Like he wasn't telling me he was going to shoot me if I didn't have sex with him." The Defendant asked the victim where the condoms were, and the victim was crying and did not respond. He told the victim that if she did not stop crying, he would shoot her in the head and leave. He asked her whether she wanted him to shoot her in the head and leave. The victim told him that she did not know where any condoms were.

         While the victim was still blindfolded, the Defendant instructed her to lie down on the floor, and he produced a condom and vaginally raped her. Afterwards, the Defendant went into the bathroom, and the victim heard water running and the toilet flush. The victim opened her eyes under the blindfold and saw the Defendant rummaging through Ms. Clark's closet. The Defendant instructed the victim to go wash herself. After the victim washed herself in the bathroom, the Defendant told her to put on some clothes because they were going to walk to an ATM machine. The Defendant had taken the victim's cellular phone.

         The Defendant and the victim walked outside the apartment and through a few buildings. The victim testified that the Defendant was either leading the way or directing their path. She did not know where the Defendant's gun was but said it was likely in his hand. The Defendant told the victim "not to do anything stupid because it will get ugly." He stopped at a building and instructed the victim to withdraw $200 from an ATM machine located across the street. The victim stated that the ATM machine was inside a glass building next to a gas station. She did not know where the Defendant was while she was at the ATM machine and said she attempted to look around but did not see anyone. The victim stated that she did not flee because she did not know where the Defendant was. The victim withdrew $200, walked back across the street, and gave the money to the Defendant. The Defendant instructed the victim to reach into his pocket and retrieve her cellular phone.

         While the Defendant and the victim were walking back toward the victim's apartment, the Defendant asked her whether she wanted him to continue walking her home, and she said she did not. The Defendant asked whether she intended to call the police, and she assured him that she did not. He told her that he lived in the area and that if he saw that she contacted the police, he would return and shoot everyone. The Defendant then walked away, and the victim returned to her apartment. The victim called her boyfriend, who had returned to his home in Horne Lake, Mississippi, and he told her to leave the apartment. The victim walked across the street to an Extended Stay motel where she called Ms. Clark. The victim explained that she did not contact the police because she was afraid.

         After Ms. Clark and her boyfriend arrived, the victim got into their vehicle, and they drove around until they located a police officer. The victim reported the rape, and the officer contacted other officers to respond. The victim accompanied the officers back to her apartment where she walked through the apartment with the crime scene investigators. Officers then took her to the Rape Crisis Center to be examined.

         The victim identified the Defendant as her attacker in a photographic line-up on April 14, 2014, and at trial. She testified that she recognized the Defendant by his eyes. She stated that during the episode, she stared at the Defendant until he told her to not to look at him or blindfolded her. She maintained that she was "100 percent sure" that the Defendant was the man who attacked her.

         The victim was shown a photograph of a broken window at her apartment that was located on the same side as the door knob. She said the window was not broken prior to the Defendant's entry into the apartment. She believed the Defendant broke the window in order to unlock the door and open it.

         On cross-examination, the victim testified that in her written statement to the police, she described the perpetrator as an African-American male who was twenty-two or twenty-three years old, was approximately 5 feet, 7 inches or 5 feet, 8 inches tall, and had an average build. The victim told officers that the perpetrator was wearing a black jacket with a hood that was over his head and closed over his mouth and the lower portion of his face. She said he was also wearing either dark or black denim pants, dark tennis shoes with white trim, and socks over his hands. She did not see any tattoos on the perpetrator.

         The victim's boyfriend testified that he was supposed to visit the victim on the night of the offenses. He was living in Horn Lake, Mississippi, which was approximately thirty to forty minutes away from the victim's apartment. He said he did not have a key to the victim's apartment at that time. He called the victim several times while driving to her apartment, but she did not answer any of his calls. He arrived at the apartment complex and began walking toward the victim's apartment when the victim answered his call. The victim told him to go back home and continued to repeat the statement. Her boyfriend said that although he did not feel comfortable leaving, he complied with the victim's request. He said that he noticed that one of the window panes by the victim's apartment door was broken and that he had not noticed the broken window previously.

         The victim's boyfriend testified that he had not made it back home before the victim called him crying. She did not provide many details, but because he knew something bad had occurred, he turned his car around and drove back toward the victim's apartment. He found the victim in a patrol car a few blocks away from her apartment. She later told him that she had been assaulted.

         Ms. Clark testified that she left the apartment she shared with the victim around 11:00 p.m. or midnight to visit her boyfriend. Approximately one and one-half hours later, Ms. Clark checked her cellular phone and noticed multiple missed calls from the victim. When Ms. Clark called the victim, Ms. Clark noticed that the victim's voice was "quivering" and that the victim sounded like she had been crying. The victim told Ms. Clark that someone had broken into the apartment but did not take anything. Ms. Clark and her boyfriend then began driving toward the apartment. When they neared the apartment, the victim told Ms. Clark that the person raped her and that she ran to an Extended Stay Hotel. Ms. Clark and her boyfriend met the victim at the hotel. The victim was crying and ran to their car.

         Ms. Clark stated that the victim told her that she had not called the police because the man warned her that if she did so, he would return and kill both the victim and Ms. Clark. Ms. Clark said she and her boyfriend made the victim call the police anyway. After the victim was placed on hold, they decided to drive to the nearest precinct. While driving, they saw a police officer and flagged him down.

         Ms. Clark said she was allowed to reenter the apartment after the victim walked through the apartment with the officers. Ms. Clark noticed that everything that was in her closet and on her shelves had been thrown on the floor and that her comforter was missing. She stated that the window by the door was not broken when she left to visit her boyfriend earlier ...

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