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State v. Huffine

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

April 3, 2018

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
SAMUEL HUFFINE

          Session September 20, 2017

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Sullivan County No. S64194 James F. Goodwin, Jr., Judge

         Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant, Samuel Huffine, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide by intoxication, reckless aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, driving under the influence of an intoxicant, driving under the influence of an intoxicant per se, driving left of center, and speeding, for an effective sentence of nine years, with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the sentence. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it denied an alternative sentence. We affirm the trial court's judgments.

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

          Troy L. Bowlin II, Morristown, Tennessee, for the appellant, Samuel Huffine.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Counsel; Barry P. Staubus, District Attorney General; and Lesley A. Tiller, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE

         I. Facts

         The State summarized the proof against the Defendant as follows:

[O]n July 19th, 2014 at approximately 5 a.m. Bobby Jarrett was driving a 2007 Kia Spectra eastbound on Stone Drive in Kingsport, Tennessee, Sullivan County, on his way to work at Food City. Meanwhile the defendant was driving west in the eastbound lanes on Stone Drive in a 2006 Honda Accord and he hit Mr. Jarrett's Kia head on. Mr. Jarrett died as a result of the crash and at trial the State would have presented testimony from a forensic pathologist that Mr. Jarrett died of blunt force trauma consistent with a car crash. At the time of the crash the defendant had a passenger in his vehicle, his wife, Summer Huffine, and she was injured in the crash. She suffered a concussion, broken bones in her foot and ribs and contusions on her face and elbow.
The State's proof would have been that in the hours leading up to the crash the defendant and his wife had been in downtown Bristol, Tennessee and at the time of the crash were on their way home. The State's proof would have been that in the area of Stone Drive where the crash occurred there were three eastbound lanes, three westbound lanes and a center turning lane and that the area of impact was in the middle eastbound lane. There was a tractor/trailer driven by Brian Hobbs traveling behind Mr. Jarrett's vehicle and the crash was captured on video by the tractor/trailer's in cab video recording system. Due to the close proximity of Mr. Hobbs' truck to the crash location Mr. Hobbs was placed in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury by the defendant's conduct.
The State would have presented testimony from Brian Gouge who saw the defendant's vehicle start traveling in the oncoming lanes of traffic near the Eastman Credit Union ATM located just west of IHOP on Stone Drive. The State's proof would have been that that location of the ATM was 1.1 miles west of the location of the crash.
The defendant consented to a blood draw which was drawn at 6 a.m., approximately one hour after the crash occurred and testing of his blood by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Laboratory revealed that his blood alcohol concentration was .152%. In addition Kingsport Police Officer Matt McGuire, who the State would tender as a crash reconstructionist, would put Mr. Huffine's speed at the time of the crash at, at least, 60 miles per hour and the posted speed limit was 45.

         The trial court reviewed the Defendant's rights and the attendant waivers to entering a guilty plea with the Defendant, who expressed his understanding and desire to enter guilty pleas to all offenses.

          The Defendant pleaded guilty to: (1) vehicular homicide by intoxication, a Class B felony, to serve nine years as a Range I standard offender, with a 30% release eligibility date, and a $350.00 fine; (2) reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony, to serve four years as a Range I standard offender, with a 30% release eligibility date, and a $50.00 fine; (3) reckless endangerment, a Class E felony, to serve two years as a Range I standard offender, with a 30% release eligibility date, and a $50.00 fine; (4) DUI, which the trial court merged with the vehicular homicide by intoxication conviction; (5) DUI with a BAC greater than or equal to .08, which the trial court merged with the vehicular homicide by intoxication conviction; (6) driving left of center, which the trial court merged with the vehicular homicide by intoxication conviction; and (7) speeding, which the trial court merged with the vehicular homicide by intoxication conviction. By agreement of the parties, the sentences were to run concurrently with each other for a total effective sentence of nine years, with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the sentences.

         At a subsequent sentencing hearing, the parties presented the following proof: Summer Huffine, the Defendant's wife, testified that she and the Defendant had two children. She stated that the Defendant was very involved in their children's lives. Due to his extensive involvement with their children, Ms. Huffine expressed concern over the effect of his absence on the children should the trial court order incarceration. Ms. Huffine said that the Defendant was currently employed in construction and was the major provider in the home. Ms. Huffine explained that she had Type I Diabetes and that the Defendant helped manage her medication and blood sugar levels and helped her to "insert [her] pump and glucose monitor." She described the Defendant as "a good, hardworking, honest man who live[d] to work and care for other people." Ms. Huffine said that the Defendant had expressed remorse and regret over the accident and the pain he had caused the Jarrett family.

         About the night of the accident, Ms. Huffine testified that she and the Defendant were celebrating their wedding anniversary and arranged for the Defendant's mother to watch their children. The two planned to stay the night in Bristol and were asleep when the Defendant's mother called saying the "baby" would not go to sleep. The Defendant woke up Ms. Huffine and told her they needed to go get their children. It was on the drive to pick up the children that the car accident occurred. Ms. Huffine agreed that she was injured in the accident. She could not recall the details of the statement she provided to the police on the day of the accident, but she agreed that the signed statement did not include the information about the phone call from the Defendant's mother. She explained that she did not remember "the crash at all" due to a concussion sustained during the incident. Ms. Huffine testified that the Defendant was not "the partying type" and that his main focus was their family. She described the Defendant's behavior as "isolated."

         Ms. Huffine stated that the Defendant had not had anything alcoholic to drink since the accident.

         Pamela Huffine, the Defendant's mother, testified that she was caring for the Defendant's children on the night of July 18, 2014. She said that she called the Defendant "a few times" to let him know the children would not go to sleep. Pamela Huffine said that she asked the Defendant to "come home." Pamela Huffine said that the Defendant did not indicate to her that he had been drinking and that it would be unsafe for him to drive. She stated that if the Defendant had told her he had been drinking, she would not have requested that he drive.

         Felicia Flannery, the Defendant's mother-in-law, testified about the Defendant's involvement in his children's lives. She stated that if the Defendant was not at work, he was at home with his family. Ms. Flannery stated that it was her understanding that the Defendant and Ms. Huffine had made arrangements to stay in Bristol the night of the accident.

         The State called Dustin Jackson, a Kingsport Police officer, who testified that he had been a traffic specialist assigned to the traffic unit. In this capacity, he compiled statistics on traffic accidents. He testified that in 2014, the Kingsport Police Department investigated approximately 3, 000 crashes. Of those 3, 000 crashes, approximately 500 were "serious injury crashes" and ten crashes were fatal. The ten fatal crashes resulted in twelve deaths in Kingsport, Tennessee. Officer Jackson testified that there were approximately 200 DUI arrests in 2014. He said the city of Kingsport was approximately fifty-two square miles and had a population of "about 52, 000." Officer Jackson testified that the 2015 statistics were similar except for a "record low" of four fatal crashes resulting in five fatalities.

         Officer Jackson described Stone Drive as a six-lane divided highway that runs the length of Kingsport and as "one of our major thoroughfares for the area." He said that ...


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