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State v. Grant

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

April 18, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs January 4, 2018

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 16-05304 Chris B. Craft, Judge

         The Defendant, Jaselyn Grant, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of second degree murder, reckless endangerment, and aggravated assault and was sentenced to an effective twenty-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues: (1) the trial court erred in admitting a photograph of the minor victim; (2) the trial court erred in allowing a witness to testify about statements the minor victim made to her; (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain her convictions; and (4) the trial court erred in including a "defense of another" instruction in the jury charge. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Dewun R. Settle, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jaselyn Grant.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ronald L. Coleman, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Glenda Adams and Marianne Bell, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.



         In the early hours of November 19, 2014, the Defendant[1] fatally shot Keara Crowder after pointing a gun at Crowder's twelve-old-son, T.P. Thereafter, the Shelby County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant for first degree premeditated murder in Count

         1, attempted first degree murder in Count 2, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony in Count 3, and aggravated assault in Count 4.

         Pre-Trial Hearing.

         Immediately prior to the beginning of trial, the Defendant objected to the introduction of a photograph of the minor victim, T.P., that had been taken at the Child Advocacy Center the morning of the shooting The State argued that this photograph was "important to show [T.P.] as he appeared on the day of the event" because he was twelve years old when the shooting occurred but was fourteen years old at the time of trial. The State explained, "[T.P.'s] more mature [now] and that's important for the jury . . . to see why he did what he did during the incident." The trial court, noting that it had tried two cases that week where forensic videos were presented to show the age of the child in child cases, ruled that the photograph of T.P. was admissible because it was "probative" and the court did not see "how the . . . defendant would be unfairly prejudice[ed] by it." The photograph of T.P. was introduced without objection at trial.


         The proof showed that Keara Crowder and the Defendant entered into a relationship while Crowder was playing for the Lemoyne Owen College basketball team and the Defendant was a player's assistant while a student there. Crowder and the Defendant maintained a relationship for many years, and in June 2014, they got married in Illinois. In April 2014, they bought a home together, and the Defendant, Crowder, and T.P., [2] Crowder's minor son, lived in the home together. However, by November 2014, the Defendant and Crowder's relationship deteriorated, and Crowder decided to separate from the Defendant, although they continued to share a home. Shortly after this separation, Crowder began dating Shanetta Hartfield, a woman she had met at work.

         On November 18, 2014, Crowder picked up T.P. from the house, and they met Hartfield at a restaurant before going to Hartfield's home. Later that evening, Crowder and Hartfield received several phone calls from the Defendant, who worked as an officer for the Memphis Police Department. Only Crowder answered these calls, and when she did, she placed these calls on speaker phone so they could be heard by Hartfield and T.P.. During these calls, the Defendant said she wished Crowder were dead, instructed Crowder not to come home, and threatened to throw all of Crowder's personal belongings outside. In the early hours of the morning on November 19, 2017, Crowder and T.P. returned to the home they shared with the Defendant.

         Upon their arrival, Crowder parked in the garage, and she and T.P. entered the home. As soon as they got inside, the Defendant grabbed Crowder's injured wrist, twisted it, and took her cell phone, which she had been using to talk to Hartfield as they entered the home. Then the Defendant and Crowder began to have a "fist fight" in T.P.'s presence. When things calmed down, Crowder used T.P.'s cell phone to call Hartfield. During this conversation, the Defendant took T.P.'s cell phone from Crowder and threw it against a wall, breaking it, which prompted the Defendant and Crowder to begin arguing.

         As Crowder and T.P. were about to leave the house, the Defendant got two pistols from her closet. The Defendant set one pistol on the television stand in the living room and kept the other pistol in her hand and then informed Crowder and T.P. that they were not leaving the home. The Defendant then pointed her pistol at T.P.'s head. T.P., who was twelve years old at the time, "was scared she was going to shoot [him]." Crowder told the Defendant to stop pointing the gun at T.P., and when the Defendant failed to lower her weapon, Crowder picked up the pistol from the television stand and pointed it at the Defendant. When the Defendant still refused to lower the gun she was aiming at T.P., Crowder hit the Defendant in the head with the butt end of the gun she had just picked up, and the Defendant and Crowder began fist fighting again.

         At that point, Crowder and T.P. decided it was best to leave and walked toward the garage. On their way out of the house, Crowder placed her gun on the kitchen counter and never picked it up again. As Crowder and T.P. were about to enter the garage, the Defendant grabbed T.P. by his collar and pointed her gun at him. Crowder told the Defendant to stop, and when Crowder punched the Defendant in the face, the Defendant released T.P.

         T.P. initially tried to exit the home through the garage, but Crowder was afraid that exiting through the garage would alert the neighbors of their domestic altercation. Crowder and T.P. then tried to leave through the front door, but the Defendant slammed the front door shut before they could exit the home. At that point, Crowder announced that she was going to get help, and the Defendant pointed her pistol at T.P. and told Crowder that if she left, T.P. would not be there when she got back. Crowder, who did not have a weapon, stepped in front of T.P and told him to run to get help because she was not going to let the Defendant shoot him. T.P. hesitated, but when Crowder told him to run a second time, he opened the front door and began running. T.P. heard gunshots fired and heard his mother scream as he was running from the house. He then ran across the street and hid behind his neighbor's truck. As T.P. was running toward this truck, he was aware that bullets were flying past him. The Defendant continued to fire shots at the truck, and T.P. heard bullets ricocheting off of the truck. A moment later, after the gunshots stopped, T.P. ran up the street and knocked on the doors of several homes until a woman talked to him through the door and called 9-1-1.

         At the same time these events were unfolding, several neighbors heard shots fired and began looking out their windows to determine what was happening. John Simelton and his daughter Kayla heard at least three or four gunshots. Kayla looked out her window and saw the Defendant standing outside searching for something before going inside her home and turning out the lights. Kayla then opened the door leading out to her garage and heard someone screaming. Donald Thomas, another neighbor, was awakened by several gunshots. After a short pause, Thomas heard additional shots fired. When Thomas peered outside his window, he saw the Defendant running around the side of his yard before returning to her house and turning out the lights. Moments later, Thomas heard Crowder ringing his doorbell; however, because he did not realize she was injured, he did not open his door. Thomas saw Crowder walk to another neighbor's home and ring the doorbell, but no one answered. As Crowder struggled to make her way across that neighbor's yard, she fell down and did not get back up. Thomas said he did not see the Defendant or Crowder with any weapons in their hands that night. Still another neighbor, Cheryl Smith, heard two loud sounds that awakened her. When the police knocked on her door a short time later, Smith saw a body lying her yard.

         The paramedics arrived at the scene at 5:06 a.m. and attempted to treat Crowder. Although Crowder was alert and breathing, her shirt was soaked with blood, and she had at least three visible gunshot wounds to her right side. Upon examination, the paramedics learned that Crowder had also sustained gunshot wounds to her chest and right arm. Although Crowder was alive when the paramedics transported her to the Regional Medical Center, she later passed away from her injuries.

         Dr. Zachary O'Neill, the assistant medical examiner for the West Tennessee Regional Forensic Center, performed Crowder's autopsy and detailed her injuries. He stated that Crowder was shot four times. Crowder had an entrance wound on her right side and as well as a cluster of wounds on her right side where a bullet had entered, exited, re-entered, before exiting at the center of her chest. Crowder also had an entrance to the back of her right arm and exit wound to the front of her right arm where a bullet passed through. Another bullet entered the left side of her neck and exited her back. Lastly, a bullet entered Crowder's lower back, injuring her liver, pancreas, stomach, small intestine, and large intestine before remaining inside her body. This bullet, which did the most damage, was "the wound that caused the lethal injuries[.]" Dr. O'Neill recovered the bullet that was lodged in Crowder's body.

         Cervinia Braswell, a special agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, tested the bullet recovered from Crowder's body and concluded that it had been fired from the Defendant's Sig Sauer .40 caliber pistol, which was a police-issued handgun belonging to the Defendant that was recovered from the Defendant's home shortly after the shooting.

         T.P. testified that in the days leading up to the shooting, he called his aunt, Keyana Jones, to inform her that the Defendant "was acting crazy" and had knocked his bedroom door down. Keyana Jones also testified at trial ...

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