Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session January 17, 2018
from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2015-C-1928
Cheryl A. Blackburn, Judge
Marcus K. Williams and Corey Zimberlist Rutland, Jr., were
indicted for aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery
and aggravated assault. Defendant Williams was also indicted
for aggravated burglary. After a jury trial, Defendants
Williams and Rutland were convicted of aggravated robbery and
aggravated assault, and Defendant Williams was convicted of
aggravated burglary. At a sentencing hearing, Defendants
Williams and Rutland received identical sentences of eleven
years for aggravated robbery and five years for aggravated
assault. Defendant Williams received a five year sentence for
aggravated burglary. On appeal, Defendant Williams challenges
the sufficiency of the evidence for his aggravated robbery
charge. Defendant Rutland argues that the trial court
improperly excluded the content of a phone call between
Defendant Rutland and Defendant Williams, that the evidence
was insufficient to support his convictions under a theory of
criminal responsibility, and that his sentence is
disproportionate and excessive. Finding that the only error
by the trial court was harmless, we affirm the judgments of
the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal
Umerley, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Marcus K.
Jessica M. Van Dyke, Nashville, Tennessee for the appellant,
Corey Zimberlist Rutland, Jr.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ruth
Anne Thompson, Senior Counsel; Glenn R. Funk, District
Attorney General; and Doug Thurman, Assistant District
Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J. and Robert L. Holloway, Jr.,
TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE
and Procedural Background
Davidson County Grand Jury indicted Defendant Williams for
one count of aggravated burglary and Defendants Williams and
Rutland for aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery,
and aggravated assault. Prior to trial, the State chose to
nolle prosequi Count Three, attempted aggravated robbery. A
trial was held on the remaining counts. The following
narrative of events is derived from the consistent testimony
of the State's witnesses at trial.
Anderson, Michele Howard, and their one-year-old son lived in
Room 146 at the Congress Inn. For a period of time,
Defendants Rutland and Williams lived next door in Room 145.
Mr. Anderson saw the Defendants almost every day. On June 1,
2015, Mr. Anderson and Ms. Howard got into an argument. The
volume of this argument prompted Defendant Williams to knock
on their window and ask them to "keep it down"
because they were "keeping his daughter awake." Ms.
Howard told Defendant Williams to get away from the window
and called him a "peeping Tom." Mr. Anderson
recounted that Defendant Williams walked up to the door and
shoved it open with his shoulder in response to Ms.
Howard's statement. Once in the room, Defendant Williams
raised his hand as if he was going to hit Ms. Howard, but Mr.
Anderson intervened to stop him. Mr. Anderson said, "He
didn't actually throw a punch, but he made the
gesture." Ms. Howard explained Defendant Williams tried
to "swing" at her. Ms. Howard thought that
Defendant Williams was going to try to hit her. However, she
stated that he did not make contact. Mr. Anderson
demonstrated the action by holding his arm up at shoulder
level and pushing his arm forward as if he were going to
punch but did not make a full punching motion. At the time
that Defendant Williams made this motion, he was partially
inside the room, but his right leg was still outside the
door. Mr. Anderson was concerned that Defendant Williams
would strike Ms. Howard. When he intervened, Mr. Anderson
told Defendant Williams that he "wasn't going to
fight him, " and Defendant Williams walked away.
this altercation, Mr. Anderson and Ms. Howard placed their
son in the car and went on a search for houses. Around this
time, Mr. Anderson saw Defendant Rutland arrive at the
Congress Inn. Once Mr. Anderson and Ms. Howard returned in
the afternoon, Mr. Anderson and Ms. Howard noticed Defendants
Williams and Rutland outside. At this time, Defendant
Williams was smoking a cigarette, and Defendant Rutland was
standing at the door for Room 145. As typical, Mr. Anderson
backed his white Cadillac into a parking spot. Mr. Anderson
and Ms. Howard sat in the car for a short period of time
before Ms. Howard got out and opened the rear door of the car
to get their son out of the back seat. Mr. Anderson walked to
the door of Room 146 to unlock it, and Defendant Williams
walked up behind him.
encounter escalated when Defendant Williams pulled out his
gun and put it to Mr. Anderson's head. Mr. Anderson
recalled Defendant Williams saying, "[G]ive me your
money." Defendant Williams had a silver revolver that
Mr. Anderson could see was fully loaded. When Mr. Anderson
felt the gun touch him, he tried to smack the gun out of
Defendant Williams's hand. Defendant Williams attempted
to dig into Mr. Anderson's pockets but was unsuccessful.
Eventually, Mr. Anderson reached into his pockets and gave
around $420 to Defendant Williams. Defendant Williams also
took Mr. Anderson's car keys. After taking the items,
Defendant Williams waived the gun around and pointed it at
Ms. Howard while she held the one-year-old child before he
backed off and walked away. Ms. Howard was scared for the
life of her son and herself when Defendant Williams pointed
the gun at them.
Defendant Williams held Mr. Anderson at gunpoint, Defendant
Rutland approached Ms. Howard and said "give me your
phone" and "don't call the police." Ms.
Howard had her phone in her hand and put it in her back
pocket. Ms. Howard thought about calling the police, but
refrained when Defendant Rutland asked for her phone. Ms.
Howard's first instinct was to go to the front desk at
the hotel and summon help, but she was prevented from doing
so when Defendant Rutland walked into her path and told her
not to move. After Defendant Rutland cut her off, Ms. Howard
went back to the car to put her son inside the car to keep
him safe. However, Defendant Rutland shut the car door and
prevented Ms. Howard from getting inside the vehicle. This is
contrary to Mr. Anderson's recollection that Ms. Howard
got into the passenger's seat of the car. Ms. Howard
admitted that Defendant Rutland did not place his hands on
her, but she claimed that he was less than two feet away from
her. Ms. Howard could not recall overhearing any
communication between Defendant Williams and Defendant
Rutland. Both Defendants walked away at the same time.
Defendants were gone, Mr. Anderson, Ms. Howard, and their
child went inside their room. At that point, the police were
called. Moments after getting inside the room, Mr. Anderson
saw Defendants Williams and Rutland leave. Ms. Howard
recalled Defendant Rutland leaving in a different vehicle
from Defendant Williams. Mr. Anderson did not specify. In
order to determine the full names of the Defendants, Ms.
Howard looked them up on Facebook. Mr. Anderson and Ms.
Howard independently identified Defendant Rutland and
Defendant Williams in a photographic line-up.
Jack Stanley of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department
was dispatched to the Congress Inn and was met there by
Officer Joshua Reece. Officer Reece briefed Detective Stanley
on the incident and then Officer Reece spoke with Mr.
Anderson, Ms. Howard, and Shanquita Jeter. Detective Stanley
stated that the witnesses were able to identify the
perpetrators by their first names immediately when he spoke
with them. After speaking with the witnesses, Detective
Stanley retrieved the surveillance footage from the Congress
Inn. When Detective Stanley inquired about who had rented
room 145, he obtained a handwritten receipt as well as
photocopies of the driver's licenses of Defendant
Williams and Shanquita Jeter. Detective Stanley testified
that between $400 and $420 in addition to a set of car keys
were taken from Mr. Anderson, but neither the money nor the
keys were recovered.
Williams chose to testify on his own behalf. He stated that
he lived in room 145 at the Congress Inn with Ms. Jeter, his
daughter, and Defendant Rutland. Mr. Anderson and Ms. Howard
lived next door, and within the first few weeks of moving to
the Congress Inn, Defendant Williams began having issues with
the noise coming from Mr. Anderson and Ms. Howard's room.
Defendant Williams could "constantly hear the arguing
and fighting as if someone was yelling . . . . [T]he wall
would be shaking where . . . my head was at." He said,
"It prevented me from sleeping, it prevented me and my
daughter from sleeping, it prevented me from having peace. It
agitated me, and it angered me." Defendant Williams
recalled asking Mr. Anderson and Ms. Howard to keep the noise
down, but nothing changed.
Williams stated that, on the day of the crimes, he went to
the window of Room 146 to ask Mr. Anderson and Ms. Howard to
be quiet. At this point, Ms. Howard made a statement that
Defendant Williams perceived as a threat. He indicated that
this threat was a statement that did not include the words
"peeping Tom." Defendant Williams went back to his
room. Later, he returned to Room 146. This time Defendant
Williams stated that he simply opened the door. According to
Defendant Williams, the door was unlocked and he opened it by
simply turning the handle. Once the door was open, Defendant
Williams said, "If you thought Mr. Anderson was beating
your a**, I would knock your a** out." At that point,
Mr. Anderson stepped toward Defendant Williams. Upon review
of the video, Defendant Williams noted that his arm was
cocked back in response to the arguing with Mr. Anderson and
Ms. Howard. Defendant Williams stated that there was not a
physical altercation between him and Mr. Anderson or Ms.
Howard. Once he exited their room, he went back to his room.
cross-examination by the State, Defendant Williams admitted
that he entered Mr. Anderson and Ms. Howard's hotel room
without permission and drew his arm back as if he were going
to throw a punch. However, Defendant Williams maintained that
he never threw a punch, but only jerked or cocked his arm
back. Defendant Williams admitted that it was his intent to
intimidate Mr. Anderson and Ms. Howard when he cocked his arm
regard to the second encounter, Defendant Williams described
the events that occurred as follows:
Mr. Anderson pulls up in his vehicle. He backs his car in.
I'm standing outside of my room. I wait for Mr. Anderson
to get out of his car. I walk over to Mr. Anderson, and I
state to him, what are we going to do about the noise. That I
asked him, I said, what is that s**t you're talking. He
looks at me like . . . he doesn't even care. I then
pulled the weapon from my hip, and I pointed the weapon at
Mr. Anderson's head. And I threatened him.
Williams denied taking anything from Mr. Anderson. Defendant
Williams admitted that he had made a mistake and maintained
that he did not intend to hurt anyone. Rather, his intention
was to scare Mr. Anderson and Ms. Howard.
a review of the video of the second altercation during the
State's cross-examination, Defendant Williams admitted
that he changed his position relative to Mr. Anderson, but
denied reaching into Mr. Anderson's pocket. Defendant
Williams also denied any type of exchange or acceptance of
anything from Mr. Anderson. Defendant Williams admitted to
pointing the firearm at Ms. Howard while she was holding her
one-year-old son. However, he said that this was in reaction
to her making statements toward him. At the time that he
pointed the firearm at Ms. Howard, Defendant Williams agreed
that Defendant Rutland was standing beside her. When speaking
about the vehicles leaving the ...