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State v. Simmon

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

March 19, 2018


          Session June 27, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 101910B Steven W. Sword, Judge

         The Defendant, Lavonte Dominique Simmon, appeals as of right his jury convictions for first degree premeditated murder and two counts of aggravated assault. On appeal, the Defendant alleges the following errors: (1) that the Defendant was deprived of his right to present a viable defense when the trial court permitted Charles Maples to assert the privilege against self-incrimination and, thereafter, refused to allow defense counsel to withdraw so that defense counsel could testify about Mr. Maples' past statements; (2) that the trial court improperly denied the Defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment after the State failed to preserve exculpatory evidence in the form of Mr. Maples' testimony; (3) that the trial court should have granted the Defendant's motion to suppress his statement to the police in light of testimony that the Defendant suffered a brain injury causing intellectual impairment, that the Defendant invoked his right to counsel, and that the Defendant did not voluntarily waive his Miranda rights; (4) that the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce numerous photographs of weapons, weapons-related items, and ammunition found during the search of the home where the Defendant was apprehended; (5) that the evidence was insufficient to support the Defendant's convictions because the State failed to prove that the Defendant was the person who shot the murder victim or that the Defendant acted with premeditation; and (6) that the trial court should have instructed the jury on diminished capacity.[2] Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Douglas A. Trant (on appeal), Knoxville, Tennessee; Mark E. Stephens, District Public Defender (at trial); and Eric Lutton and Jonathan Harwell, Assistant Public Defenders (at trial), for the appellant, Lavonte Dominique Simmon.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; Charme P. Allen, District Attorney General; and Leslie R. Nassios, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Camille R. McMullen and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.


          D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE.


         Following a drive-by shooting at the home of Charles Maples and Uniqua Brown, the Defendant, along with co-defendant Shawn O'Neill, [3] was indicted for the first degree premeditated murder of Uniqua Brown and the aggravated assaults of Jasmine and Akeem Hollingsworth, both of whom were also present. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-102, -202. The Defendant filed multiple pretrial motions, including a motion to suppress his statement to the police, a "motion in limine" seeking suppression of much of the evidence found at the residence where he was apprehended, and a motion to dismiss the indictment based upon a Ferguson violation. Defense counsel also filed a motion to withdraw, so they could testify on the Defendant's behalf about statements Mr. Maples made to them. The case proceeded to trial on May 11 through May 15 of 2015.

         A. Shooting.

         On June 7, 2013, siblings Jasmine and Akeem Hollingsworth[4] were standing in the driveway of 1430 Nolan Avenue talking with one of the residents of that home, Uniqua Brown. Ms. Brown was sitting in the passenger seat of a Chevy Caprice that belonged to her boyfriend Charles Maples, who also lived in the residence ("the Brown-Maples residence"). Mr. Maples had just taken the couple's three-day-old twins inside the house.

         As the Hollingsworths and Ms. Brown were in the driveway talking, the Defendant's green Camry approached. As the car passed by, the Defendant, who was in the passenger's seat, made eye contact with Akeem, and Akeem recognized the

          Defendant because they went to school together. The Camry then stopped at "the neighbor's driveway, " and the Defendant "pulled out" an AK-47 and "opened fire" on the group. It all "happened pretty quickly[, ]" and both of the Hollingsworths dropped to the ground to avoid the gunfire.

         The green Camry sped away, and the shooting stopped. Akeem suffered a "very minor injury" to his side, and Jasmine was uninjured. Ms. Brown ultimately died as a result of her wounds.

         B. Police Response and Investigation.

         Officers received "a call to 1430 Nolan in Knoxville around 11:45 a.m." Knoxville Police Department ("KPD") Officer Brian Bumpus was the first to arrive. Officer Bumpus described the scene as he approached the residence: "[T]here were several people standing outside, fairly frantic running around. I could tell that somebody was being tended to. . . . So I exited my vehicle, I walk around the front of it and then could see the victim laying [sic] there on the ground." According to Officer Bumpus, Ms. Brown "had a rather large wound . . . to her left side." Although someone was performing CPR on Ms. Brown, Officer Bumpus thought she was likely deceased due to the size of the wound. The ambulance arrived and took Ms. Brown to the hospital.

         Officer Bumpus received a description of the suspect vehicle, and the shooter was identified as "Dominique Simmon[]." Thereafter, a "be-on-the-lookout" ("BOLO") was issued for the Defendant's vehicle.

         Officer Bumpus had "two people that [he] believed to be good witnesses, " so he had them sit in the back of his police car to keep them from leaving the scene. These two witnesses turned out to be Jasmine and Akeem Hollingsworth. After spending approximately ten minutes on the scene, Officer Bumpus took the Hollingsworth siblings to the police department, so they could each give a statement to investigators. Officer Bumpus described them as "obviously very traumatized by what had happened."

         Officer Bumpus's cruiser's equipment recorded "everything, " and the recording was admitted as a trial exhibit. It provided video of Officer Bumpus's arrival on the scene, as well as audio. In addition to Officer Bumpus's conversation with those on the scene, the Hollingsworths' dialog while they sat in the car was likewise recorded.

         On redirect, Officer Bumpus agreed that it was "inherently more dangerous to have a drive-by [shooting] in the daytime." Officer Bumpus also clarified that the man on the video who said he could not identify shooter was also the same person who was frantic and said "my wife is dead."

         After the BOLO went out, the Defendant's car was spotted parked on Gross Avenue. As Lieutenant Gauffney[5] approached the vehicle, he "was flagged down by a passerby on foot, " who told him that "the people ran from that car" into the residence at 1605 Moses Avenue ("1605 Moses"). Shortly thereafter, officers surrounded the three-story home, and three people emerged from inside-Braxton Williams, Andre Harshaw, and Ray Johnson. Teressa Williams was the owner of 1605 Moses, and she lived there with her children, Braxton, Bronson, and Blair Williams. Ms. Williams, who had arrived on the scene, gave consent to search, and the SWAT team went inside. They found the Defendant and Shawn O'Neill hiding underneath a pile of clothes in the basement.

         After the Defendant was taken into custody, a search warrant was obtained for 1605 Moses. An abundance of evidence from 1605 Moses was introduced at trial, including weapons, weapons-related items, and ammunition. It was unknown if the items found inside the house belonged to the Defendant.

         Officers also examined the scene at the Brown-Maples residence, 1430 Nolan Avenue, as well as the two adjoining residences, 1428 to the east and 1434 to the west. Seven bullets hit the Brown-Maples residence in total-four entering the house, and three striking the screened-in front porch area. Four bullets in total hit the residence next-door at 1434-three hitting the carport and continuing into the house, and one going straight into the house. Additionally, one "bullet defect" of unknown origin was observed on the far side of 1434 possibly "from a prior incident in the neighborhood[.]"

         Moreover, several vehicles were damaged. A black Chevrolet Trailblazer parked in the driveway at 1428 had seven bullet holes in the driver's side and three holes on the passenger's side, suggesting that several projectiles had passed through the vehicle. A "possible eighth bullet" flattened the Trailblazer's left front tire. Furthermore, one bullet struck the ground near that vehicle.

         At 1430, the Chevrolet Caprice that Ms. Brown was sitting inside had three holes on the driver's side, and five defects in the windshield that were caused by "one or more" bullets fragmenting after hitting something. To the untrained eye, it might have appeared that something hit the windshield directly. In addition, two fragments were found inside the Caprice. A maroon Buick Park Avenue, parked in front of the Caprice, had six bullet holes to the driver's side.

         The damage to these vehicles and residences all came from an easterly direction. Immediately following the shooting, police discovered thirty-two spent 7.62 x 39 shell casings in the road just to the east of the Brown-Maples residence in front of the house at 1428.

         A GMC Envoy diagonally parked in yard of the Brown-Maples residence just to the left of the Caprice, had a bullet hole in the right, rear passenger's side. It was noted in the ballistics report that the bullet hole in the Envoy could "have been caused by return fire." In addition, four live 9mm rounds were located near the rear bumper of the Envoy. In front of the Envoy "to the right and around [a] little doghouse area, " four spent .45 caliber shell casings, by two different manufacturers, were discovered.

         C. Co-defendant's Testimony.

         Shawn O'Neill, the co-defendant and driver of the Camry, testified at the Defendant's trial. Mr. O'Neill knew the Defendant because their parents "were together" for ten years. According to Mr. O'Neill, he, the Defendant, and the Defendant's younger brother, Daquawn, had lived in Memphis in the same household for several years, and Daquawn was approximately two years younger than the Defendant. Mr. O'Neill testified that, when they "all bec[a]me of age, " they moved out of their parents' home. In June of 2013, Mr. O'Neill and Daquawn still lived in Memphis, but the Defendant had moved to the Knoxville area. According to Mr. O'Neill, the Defendant "was always back and forth because his mom lived in Knoxville, and his dad lived in Memphis."

         During the first week of June 2013, Daquawn asked Mr. O'Neill if Mr. O'Neill would drive him to Knoxville because Daquawn had a court date but no valid driver's license. Mr. O'Neill agreed, knowing that Daquawn was carrying a fairly large amount of cash on him for court costs and fines. According to Mr. O'Neill, they left Memphis that Wednesday[6] evening around 7:00 or 8:00 p.m., and this was Mr. O'Neill's first trip to Knoxville.

         When they arrived at approximately 4:30 the following morning, June 6, 2013, they went to Braxton Williams's house-1605 Moses. Later that afternoon, the

         Defendant came over to the residence, and he was driving a green Toyota Camry, according to Mr. O'Neill. Mr. O'Neill left with the Defendant and "hung out with him all day because [he] hadn't seen [the Defendant] in almost a year." Daquawn stayed behind with Braxton. Although they went by 1605 Moses once more that evening, Mr. O'Neill and the Defendant ultimately spent the night at the Defendant's home.

         Mr. O'Neill testified that he was awakened the following morning about 11:00 a.m. by the Defendant: "[The Defendant] taps me on the leg and he says, wake up, we've gotta go over to check on Daquawn because he got robbed last night." So they got in the Defendant's Camry and drove to the Williams's home at 1605 Moses. According to Mr. O'Neill, when they arrived, there was group sitting outside on the balcony talking; this group included Jasmine Hollingsworth, an eventual victim. Mr. O'Neill said that Daquawn was sitting down, and "[e]verybody was pretty much talking about . . . what happened and stuff, you know, where . . . was he at when he got robbed and all that stuff." Daquawn had reported the robbery to the police, but he did not think they could help much.

         According to Mr. O'Neill, while Daquawn did not identify the robbers, Daquawn did say that "he thought a guy named Little Tony[7] had something to do with it" and that, after they robbed him, they "made him walk back naked" to 1605 Moses. This information, Mr. O'Neill said, made the Defendant even angrier. The Defendant said, "I'm tired of stuff like this happening[.]" However, Daquawn "really wasn't like saying or doing anything, he was just sitting there[, ]" and Mr. O'Neill was "more frustrated at the fact that . . . [Daquawn] didn't have . . . any money or anything for [them] to get back home[.]"

         The Defendant and Braxton went inside the house, and the Defendant emerged with an AK-47 in his hands. Jasmine was "act[ing] kind of scared" at that point and left, according to Mr. O'Neill. A short time thereafter, Blair Williams made a phone call to Jasmine, and during that call, the Defendant "got up" and said, "I'll be back." The Defendant, armed, got in the Camry alone and left. Mr. O'Neill assumed that the Defendant was going to find Mr. Dixson, aka "Little Tony." However, the Defendant returned about five minutes later, got out of the car with the gun, and started to converse with the group again. The Defendant told them that "[h]e didn't see anybody out there."

         After that, Blair was on the phone with Jasmine again, and she put Jasmine on speaker phone. According to Mr. O'Neill, "all of the sudden . . . there was [sic] voices heard over the speaker phone[, ] and somebody busted out and said, they're over there, they're over there, because they're telling [Jasmine] to hang up the phone, hang up the phone." Mr. O'Neill testified that, in response, he and the Defendant got in the Camry. Mr. O'Neill was driving. Mr. O'Neill said that Daquawn tried to talk them out of going to find Mr. Dixson, saying, "[D]on't worry about it, I've already filled out a police report." They went anyway.

         The Defendant, who had brought the AK-47 with him, gave directions to Mr. O'Neill as he drove because Mr. O'Neill did not "know where to go" being unfamiliar with the area. After turning onto Nolan Avenue, they spotted Jasmine's car. The Defendant instructed Mr. O'Neill "to go slow[, ]" and he "pulled the gun out the window." Mr. O'Neill said that he then saw "movement out of [his] peripheral, but [he] never looked directly at the house." The Defendant "opened fire" just as they passed the Brown-Maples residence, according to Mr. O'Neill. Mr. O'Neill did not see anyone else shooting and did not hear any other shots being fired. The Defendant then said "go, go[.]" Mr. O'Neill "hit the gas, " and the Defendant directed him back to 1605 Moses. When Mr. O'Neill was asked, "[The Defendant] certainly knew what he was gonna do a couple of minutes before, didn't he?" Mr. O'Neill replied, "It seemed like it."

         When they arrived at 1605 Moses, the Defendant ran into the house and told Mr. O'Neill to hide the car. Mr. O'Neill claimed that he never saw the AK-47 again. Mr. O'Neill parked the car next to a nearby park and "walked back to Braxton's house across the park." Once Mr. O'Neill returned to 1605 Moses, they were "running around trying to figure out what to do, " and about ten or fifteen minutes later, the police had the house surrounded. The Defendant and Mr. O'Neill went "downstairs to the bottom part[, ] like where there's a garage and storage areas, " and hid underneath "a bunch of stuff" before being apprehended.

         Mr. O'Neill also testified that he had a conversation with the Defendant the Monday before the trial began. According to Mr. O'Neill, the Defendant requested that Mr. O'Neill "help him out" by saying that "it wasn't [the Defendant] in the car, it was [Mr. O'Neill] that was driving and . . . Daquawn was the one that was shooting." Although Mr. O'Neill agreed at the time, he testified that he "wouldn't do that" despite the fact that it was hard for him to testify against the Defendant.

         On cross-examination, Mr. O'Neill testified that, in addition to Tony Dixson, Akeem Hollingsworth's name was mentioned as a potential robber by Daquawn. According to Mr. O'Neill, that was the reason Jasmine left 1605 Moses when she did "because she was going to get her brother, " Akeem. Mr. O'Neill further stated that Jasmine was present when Daquawn described that he had been stripped of his clothes during the robbery. Mr. O'Neill also affirmed that Daquawn would have gone to jail without his money for court.

         Mr. O'Neill asserted that he "willingly got in the car" with the Defendant and that he knew "the reason for going over there, " although it had not been specifically stated by the Defendant. Mr. O'Neill maintained that the "purpose of going over there [was not] to try and get the money back."

         When asked where he saw movement in yard of the Brown-Maples residence, Mr. O'Neill replied, "[F]rom the back of a truck that was kind of parked diagonally across the grass and the front of the Chevy, there was some movement in that area. Other than that, I didn't see any movement . . . anywhere else out of my peripheral." Mr. O'Neill was referring to the GMC Envoy in the yard. Mr. O'Neill also admitted that he was "playing with" his phone when they were "rolling up" to the Brown-Maples residence.

         When asked if it was possible that someone else fired in addition to the Defendant, Mr. O'Neill said, "I don't think so" because all he "heard was the rapid fire" from the Defendant's weapon. Mr. O'Neill acknowledged that he had previously spoken with the assistant district attorney and that he indicated to her that, although he was "not a hundred percent sure, " "[he] believe[d] a shot had been fired" by someone else first "[a]t one point in time." On redirect, Mr. O'Neill further explained that he told the prosecutor "that it was possible that it was a shot [the Defendant] fired off before he sprayed."

         C. The Defendant's Statement.

         After the Defendant was taken into custody, he was escorted by a patrolman from 1605 Moses to the police station and was placed in an interview room where he remained shirtless and handcuffed. At 2:24 p.m., KPD Investigator Jason Booker began to interview the Defendant. This video recording was admitted as an exhibit.

         During the interview, the Defendant denied shooting anyone or having any knowledge of the robbery involving his brother Daquawn. According to the Defendant, he "was already inside" 1605 Moses and did not run from any car. In addition, the Defendant told Investigator Booker that his Camry had been stolen the evening before and that Shawn O'Neill had just arrived in Knoxville that morning. In addition, the Defendant asked Investigator Booker, "Listen, where is the gun at? If I . . . did that, where's the gun at?"

         The Defendant sat in the interview room for a while after the initial questioning by Investigator Booker. KPD Investigator Brandon Wardlaw entered the room sometime later, accompanied by a gunshot residue technician. While the gunshot residue technician was swabbing the Defendant's hands and face, the Defendant and Investigator Wardlaw conversed. The Defendant stuck by his initial story. Additionally, the Defendant explained that, if the test was positive, it was because he had shot a gun "in the woods" the day before. The Defendant told Investigator Wardlaw that he lived in Sevierville.

         At several points during the recording the Defendant was left alone in the interview room. During these moments, he expressed concern that he was "going to jail, " that his "life [was] over, " and that he would not see his son again. At one point, the Defendant cried out, "Lord, I'm so sorry. I don't want my kid to grow up with anybody else." Investigator Booker, with use of noise cancelling headphones, was able to hear the Defendant say, "God, forgive me, clearly, I f-ked up." The Defendant was also taken for fingerprinting while he waited.

         D. Mr. Maples' Statements.

         Because Mr. Maples was unavailable due to his invoking his right against self-incrimination, an agreed-upon stipulation between the parties was read to the jury and entered as an exhibit, and it relayed what Mr. Maples' trial testimony would have been had he been available. Contained in the stipulation, Mr. Maples said that Tony Dixson took his car during the early morning hours of June 7, returning it around 7:30 a.m. According to Mr. Maples, Mr. Dixson told Mr. Maples that, while he was gone with the car, he and Shaquan Andrews had robbed Daquawn. Mr. Maples did not know whether Akeem Hollingsworth was involved in Daquawn's robbery.

         Mr. Maples said that, later that day, he and Ms. Brown went looking for strollers for their three-day-old twins. According to Mr. Maples, Jasmine Hollingsworth called him while they were in route to the store and "warned him the Moses men were looking to shoot them." Jasmine told Mr. Maples that she was on her way to his house. When Mr. Maples and Ms. Brown returned home, Mr. Maples saw Mr. Dixson's "car backed up in the driveway, " Mr. Andrews's girlfriend's car "in the driveway ahead of him[, ]" and Jasmine's car parked on the street. Ms. Brown instructed Mr. Maples "to get them out of the house."

         While Mr. Maples was getting one of the twins out of the car, he saw the Defendant "slowly" drive by the house in the Defendant's green Camry. According to Mr. Maples, the Defendant spoke to him, asking him, "What's up?" The Defendant travelled on out of Mr. Maples' view.

         Mr. Maples said that he then took the twins inside while Ms. Brown waited in the car. According to Mr. Maples, Jasmine, Akeem, Mr. Andrews, Mr. Dixson, and "Little Ty" were all inside his home, but he told them they had to leave. Mr. Maples said that, at that time, he saw Mr. Dixson with a .45 caliber handgun and Mr. Andrews with a 9mm.

         Approximately five to seven minutes had passed before Mr. Maples went back outside. Mr. Maples agreed that Jasmine, Akeem, Mr. Dixson, and "Little Ty" exited the residence before he did. According to Mr. Maples, Mr. Dixson moved into the yard, though Mr. Maples did not see where Mr. Dixson went, and Mr. Maples and Mr. Andrews were on the screened-in porch when the shooting occurred. Mr. Maples said that he did not see Mr. Dixson or Mr. Andrews holding a gun as they exited, and Mr. Maples was unsure if anyone else fired besides the passenger of the Camry. Mr. Maples identified the shooter as Daquawn, but he was "not certain." According to Mr. Maples, Mr. Dixson, Mr. Andrews, and Little Ty fled immediately.

         In addition to the stipulation, a video recording of Mr. Maples June 13, 2013 interview with Investigator Chaz Terry was likewise made a trial exhibit. Mr. Maples was very emotional immediately after the shooting so he was not interviewed until several days later. During the interview, Mr. Maples was very concerned about the damage done to the windshield of his Chevy Caprice, thinking that possibly one of the people coming from inside his house had fired the shot that killed Ms. Brown. According to Mr. Maples, he saw Mr. Dixson with a .45 handgun, Mr. Andrews had an SKS rifle "in his hand, " and Akeem had a 9mm when they came out of his house that day. However, he said that he did not see "nobody return no [sic] fire." He said that Mr. Andrews left the SKS on his front porch after the shooting and that he took the SKS next-door before the police arrived. Mr. Maples also claimed that the Defendant was the one driving the Camry and was not the shooter, but that it was the Defendant's "little brother" from Memphis with dreadlocks, whom Mr. Maples had met the night before. In addition, Mr. Maples stated that Akeem Hollingsworth was not involved in the robbery of Daquawn but noted that Akeem was very close with Mr. Dixson. At one point during the interview, Mr. Maples asked, "Can I ask you a question? Do you feel like I had something to do with that?" and Investigator Terry said, "No." Mr. Maples also expressed concern with Investigator Terry putting his name on any paperwork.

         E. Other Witnesses' Trial Testimony.

         Akeem testified that he called 9-1-1 immediately after the shooting stopped. He testified that he "was scared for [his] life" and that it was the first time he had "ever witness[ed] anything like that." Akeem noticed that Ms. Brown appeared to be seriously injured while he was dialing 9-1-1.

         Akeem went to speak with the officers when they arrived on the scene "telling them who did it and all[.]" Akeem described that, during this time, Mr. Maples "came back outside" and "was freaking out" because he realized that Ms. Brown had been shot. Akeem also saw his sister who was visibly upset.

         Akeem identified the driver of the Camry as "kind of like mixed, like Mexican looking guy." According to Akeem, he saw this man around 2:00 p.m. the day before while he was standing outside 1605 Moses. When Akeem was asked who lived at 1605 Moses, he responded, "Braxton, [the Defendant], the Mexican looking guy and his brother Bronson."

         Akeem also testified that he had seen the Defendant in the Camry earlier that day. When asked if the Defendant looked "anything" like his younger brother Daquawn, Akeem replied, "Not-kind of, but not really." Furthermore, according to Akeem, Daquawn had "dreadlocks" back then, and the Defendant's hair was short.

         On cross-examination, Akeem averred that only he, his sister, Ms. Brown, and Mr. Maples were at the residence when the shooting occurred and, specifically, that neither Mr. Dixson nor Mr. Andrews were present. Akeem said that he had been there talking with Ms. Brown and Mr. Maples for some time. Akeem maintained that he was unarmed.

         According to Akeem, his sister had only arrived shortly before the shooting, and after her arrival, she instructed Mr. Maples to take the twins inside because it was getting hot. Jasmine also "started telling [them] that Daquawn had got [sic] robbed and he thought . . . that [Akeem] had something to do with it[.]" Akeem denied being involved in Daquawn's robbery. Akeem said that the Defendant "came around the corner" and opened fire.

         Jasmine Hollingsworth also testified, relaying much of the same information as her brother, including that the driver of the Camry was "Mexican, " that Mr. Maples "came running out of the house saying" Ms. Brown had been "hit, " that Ms. Brown appeared to be gravely injured, and that they were all "going crazy" from these events. Jasmine recollected that Mr. Maples was in the house when the shooting started. Jasmine further stated that she was scared and "didn't like . . . being in that situation."

         On cross-examination, Jasmine stated that she "stopped by" 1605 Moses before she went to the Brown-Maples residence and that Blair Williams told her about Daquawn's robbery, although she never provided specific details. According to Jasmine, Blair had come out of the house and "was talking off the balcony." Furthermore, Jasmine denied telling anyone at the Brown-Maples residence "that the guys at 1605 were coming down to shoot[.]"

         On recross, Jasmine viewed a portion of her police station interview to refresh her recollection, and the video recording was also played for the jury.[8] Jasmine then recalled that she spoke on the porch of 1605 Moses with Blair Williams, the Defendant, and the Defendant's "Mexican" brother, and that a gun was exchanged on the porch. Also, Jasmine agreed that she said during the interview "that this was all on that Little Boy" and that Daquawn was robbed of $1500. Jasmine denied ever calling Mr. Maples after leaving 1605 Moses.

         Shawn Matson lived on Brookside Avenue behind Nolan Avenue. On June 7, 2013, he was in his backyard when he heard twenty-eight to thirty shots coming from an AK-47. Mr. Matson further relayed, "And then I heard probably three or four more shots in the middle of all that going on, " which he said sounded different "like an M-80 or something going off[, ] . . . [l]ike a firecracker." Shortly after the shooting, Mr. Matson saw a green Toyota Camry drive by his residence. According to Mr. Matson, the passenger was "hanging out the window" and pretending to make "the noise that the gun was making just three seconds prior to that." Mr. Matson explained that the man, whom he described as "slender-built" African-American with "short hair at the top" and "wearing a black t-shirt, " was pointing at him and mimicking "[p]ow, pow, pow." Furthermore, Mr. Matson depicted the driver of the car as "light-skinned[, ]" possibly "Hispanic" maybe "mixed[, ]" and "heavy built, " with "some tattoos." However, Mr. Matson also said that his view was limited because he "was on the other side of the car."

         Mr. Matson went to 1430 Nolan to offer assistance, and he started administering CPR to Ms. Brown. He observed Ms. Brown's boyfriend and another male and female present. Mr. Matson described them as "[h]ysterical, screaming, crying." He had never met any of these individuals prior to this time.

         Tony Brown also lived on Brookside Avenue and heard "a whole bunch of gunshots" the morning of June 7, 2013. He testified that he ran to his backyard and saw "like green, maybe a dark-colored car coming" up the street before it turned. He further described it as a "small car like a Honda, Toyota, something like that." Mr. Brown was able to identify the driver of the car as "dark-headed, had some facial, tattoos, kind of a . . . like dark-skinned, but he wasn't black or he wasn't Hispanic[, ] . . . like a good tan[.]" He was unable to get a good look at the passenger of the vehicle. According to Mr. Brown, the car "was moving faster than it should." After the car turned, Mr. Brown observed a man hollering "help me, help me, they've killed her, they've killed her[.]" He thought the man was the victim's husband or boyfriend and said that "the guy was running crazy." Mr. Brown had never met any of these individuals prior to this incident.

         Whitney Berry testified that she knew the Defendant "from the neighborhood, " and the night before the shooting, she talked with the Defendant and Mr. O'Neill in a parking lot in "Western Heights right across from the Baptist Center[.]" She had never met Mr. O'Neill before. According to Ms. Berry, on this occasion, the Defendant received a phone call from his brother saying that he had just been robbed, and she heard the Defendant's telling his brother "where some guns were" located in a closet.

         Rosevelt Malone testified that he was arrested on June 7, 2013, for failure to appear and that, on that day, he was transported, along with the Defendant and others, "in a wagon that was being driven by Knoxville Police Department officers[.]" According to Mr. Malone, he overheard the Defendant say, "[T]hey don't have anything on us, stick with your story." He also heard the Defendant admit to "[c]leaning his self off" with alcohol to remove any "gunpowder" and to "hiding out" from police.

         At trial, Investigator Booker described the Defendant as "nonchalant" during the recorded interview. According to Investigator Booker, the Defendant became

         "aggravated" when Investigator Booker did not believe the Defendant's story. Investigator Booker also found it "as very odd" that the Defendant asked about the gun during the interview, "almost like he knew we didn't have the gun."

         Investigator Booker also interviewed Mr. O'Neill. When Mr. O'Neill was told that he was getting charged with murder, his "response was literally 'okay.'" Like the Defendant, Mr. O'Neill told Investigator Booker that they had been at 1605 Moses that morning and had not left. Investigator Booker confirmed that the Defendant and Mr. O'Neill were transported together "in a wagon" after questioning.

         In addition, because of information provided by Mr. Maples during his interview, Investigator Booker "learned of two more people that may have possibly been at the scene, " Mr. Dixson and Mr. Andrews. Investigator Booker then spoke with both Mr. Dixson and Mr. Andrews, but neither of them admitted to being present during the shooting. Investigator Booker determined that the red Buick in the driveway of the Brown-Maples residence belonged to Mr. Dixson. Mr. Dixson admitted to regularly staying with Mr. Maples and Ms. Brown.

         Investigator Booker discovered that Mr. Andrews's aunt lived at the residence next-door to Ms. Brown at 1428 Nolan Avenue. Investigator Booker confirmed that, during a 9-1-1 call following the shooting, a female said that she "saw someone carrying a gun from the scene of the shooting." Mr. Maples admitted to hiding an SKS rifle at Mr. Andrews's aunt's house before the police arrived. Investigator Booker also spoke with Ms. Brown's other neighbor at 1434 Nolan Avenue. That neighbor "had nothing but praise for [Ms. Brown]." However, he also told Investigator Booker that "[Mr. Maples] ran with a bad group of folks, and he said there's actually been shootings there at the house before." According to Investigator Booker, shootings occurred somewhat often in this area of Knoxville, and it was not that unusual to find ballistic evidence at a scene that was possibly related to another crime.

         Investigator Booker also testified that he had received a call from Daquawn on June 7, prior to the shooting, during which Daquawn reported that he had been robbed at approximately 3:00 a.m. that morning. According to Investigator Booker, Daquawn did not provide the name of his assailants. When Investigator Booker contacted Daquawn after the shooting, Daquawn was "stunned" by news of the shooting, but he refused to speak with Investigator Booker further.

         F. Autopsy and Forensics.

         Medical examiner Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan performed Ms. Brown's autopsy and determined that Ms. Brown died as a result of an "atypical[, ] large" gunshot wound to the back. Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan described the path of the bullet:

[T]he entrance was on the left back area toward the side and then entered the left chest where it affected the lung, it crossed the midline going upward, it affected the vessels in the neck region, actually, also nicked the aorta, and that's where major bleeding was coming from, and then as it . . . transferred toward the right side of the body, affected the thyroid gland, and then the bullet was lodged in the right side of the neck.

         Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan described that the "overall trajectory" of the bullet "was from back to front, left to right, and upward, " and it "affect[ed] all the major organs along its path[.]" Furthermore, "as the bullet actually fractured one of [Ms. Brown's] ribs, " it "pretty much fragmented[, ]" which led Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan "to believe that there was some intermediate target" before the bullet reached Ms. Brown. Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan was also able to determine that Ms. Brown was "leaning forward" when she was shot.

         KPD firearms examiner Patricia Ann Resig was given four "small lead fragments" and "one metal fragment" taken from Ms. Brown's body to examine. According to Officer Resig, the four lead fragments were "recovered from the right neck, the right bronchus and mediastinum of" Ms. Brown. The metal fragment was "recovered from the left arm of" Ms. Brown. However, these fragments did not have any "class characteristics or individual characteristics" that would allow Officer Resig "to say whether [they] came from a specific gun, or whether or not it was, in fact, bullet material."

         The Defendant's Camry was examined once at the police impound lot, and no bullet damage was observed. Also, several of the Defendant's identification cards were found inside. Five fingerprints were "lifted" from the Camry-four belonged to the Defendant and one to Braxton Williams.

         The gunshot residue test performed on the Defendant was inconclusive. That meant that the results could not "eliminate the possibility that the [Defendant] could have fired, handled or was near a gun, if fired but they [were] inconclusive."

         G. Defense Proof.

         Mr. O'Neill was recalled and testified that he anticipated a plea deal from the State in light of his testimony against the Defendant. There was no specific deal in place, but Mr. O'Neill hoped for a "facilitation" charge and ...

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