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State v. Graves

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

May 23, 2018

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
BOBBY RAY GRAVES, JR.

          Session December 12, 2017

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Warren County No. 14-CR-372 Larry B. Stanley, Jr., Judge

         A Warren County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Bobby Ray Graves, Jr., of failure to appear, a Class E felony, and the trial court sentenced him to six years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction because the State failed to prove that he "went into hiding to avoid prosecution" and that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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

          Nathan Scott Luna (on appeal), Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Rick Stacy (at trial), McMinville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Bobby Ray Graves, Jr.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Lisa Zavogiannis, District Attorney General; and Thomas J. Miner, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Norma McGee Ogle, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Camille R. McMullen and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          NORMA MCGEE OGLE, JUDGE.

         I. Factual Background

         At trial, Jonathan Crouch, a correction officer with the Warren County Sheriff's Department (WCSD), acknowledged that on September 13, 2013, he appeared before the Warren County Grand Jury and asked for an indictment against the Appellant for introducing contraband into a penal institution, a felony. In September 2014, Crouch received a subpoena to appear and testify at the Appellant's trial for the offense, which was set for October 7, 2014. Crouch, other witnesses, and the Appellant's attorney were present for trial on October 7. However, the Appellant was not present, so the trial did not go forward. On cross-examination, Crouch testified that he did not know why the Appellant did not appear and acknowledged that the Appellant's case for introducing contraband into a penal institution still had not gone to trial.

         Ryan Julian Moore testified that he represented the Appellant in the case for introducing contraband into a penal institution. Moore appeared with the Appellant at the Appellant's arraignment, and the trial court set a trial date. The Appellant was out on bond while awaiting trial, and he and Moore maintained contact. The State asked Moore what information he obtained from the Appellant in order to stay in contact with him, and Moore answered, "Well, his whereabouts, telephone numbers. You know, we would also typically get email addresses. [The Appellant] did not have an email address to my understanding."

         Moore testified that the Appellant's trial initially was set for May 20, 2014, but had to be continued to July 2, 2014. Moore spoke with the Appellant by telephone and met with him in person to make him aware of the date change. At some point, the Appellant's trial was reset for October 7, 2014. On June 27, 2014, Moore contacted the Appellant by telephone to discuss the new trial date. On July 10, 2014, Moore and the Appellant met in Moore's office, and Moore "reaffirmed" to the Appellant that October 7 was the date for trial. On September 26, 2014, the Appellant and Moore met in Moore's office to discuss trial strategy.

         Moore testified that as October 7 approached, he began to worry that the Appellant might not show up for trial because the Appellant's bondsman, Len Murray, was having "trouble" locating the Appellant. Moore began trying to contact the Appellant and used five different telephone numbers to try to reach him but was unsuccessful. Moore did not try to contact the Appellant by mail. The Appellant's brother, Brandon Graves, lived in Knoxville, and Moore received a telephone call from Graves the day before trial. On October 7, 2014, the Appellant's witnesses appeared for trial, but the Appellant did not appear. Moore said he did not remember if he tried to contact the Appellant after October 7.

         On cross-examination, Moore testified that the Appellant was having "some marital difficulties" before trial. He said that he did not know if the Appellant owned a car and that he did not know why the Appellant did not appear for trial.

         Len Murray testified that he retired from the Rutherford County Sheriff's Department in 2007, went into the bail bonding business, and was a licensed bail bondsman. The Appellant's bail for introducing contraband into a penal institution was set at $2, 500, and Murray signed the Appellant's bail bond on June 4, 2014. At that time, the Appellant's trial date was July 2, 2014. However, the trial was later reset for October 7, and Murray advised the Appellant of the new date.

         Murray testified that when he signed the Appellant's bond, the Appellant was required to provide him with addresses and telephone numbers so that he could stay in contact with the Appellant. While the Appellant remained on bond, the Appellant was required to report to Murray every Tuesday by telephone so that Murray could "verify phone numbers, addresses, where [he] is staying, is he working anywhere." Murray said the Appellant complied with ...


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