Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session February 13, 2018
from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County Nos.
CC-2015-CR-678 & CC-2015-CR-615 Jill Bartee Ayers, Judge
Montgomery County jury convicted the Defendants, Martavious
D. Brooks and Brittany G. Lee, of theft of property valued
over $10, 000, and it also convicted Defendant Lee of
aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced Defendant
Brooks as a Range II, multiple offender to ten years in
prison. The trial court merged Defendant Lee's
convictions and sentenced her to nine years in prison, at
85%, for the aggravated robbery conviction. On appeal,
Defendant Lee contends that the evidence is insufficient to
sustain her convictions and that the trial court improperly
limited her cross-examination of a witness. Defendant Brooks
contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his
conviction for theft. After review, we affirm the trial
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit
Allan Thompson, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Martavious D. Brooks.
Andrew Simmons and Jamie Simmons Tarkington (on appeal),
Hendersonville, Tennessee, Larry B. Hoover, Nashville,
Tennessee (at trial) for the appellant Brittany G. Lee.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Clark
B. Thornton, Senior Counsel; John W. Carney, Jr., District
Attorney General; and Daniel A. Stephenson, Assistant
District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of
W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr.,
W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE
case arises from the theft of a diamond ring from a
ninety-year-old woman living in an assisted living facility
on September 28, 2014. For this theft, a Montgomery County
grand jury indicted Defendant Lee, who was an employee of the
assisted living facility, and her husband Defendant Brooks,
for aggravated robbery, theft of property valued over $10,
000, especially aggravated burglary, and criminal
responsibility for especially aggravated burglary. At a trial
on these charges, the parties presented the following
evidence: Delbert L. Peterson testified that his mother,
Christine A. Peterson, resided in Sterling House, an assisted
living facility in Clarksville, Tennessee. On September 28,
2014, while his mother was residing at the facility, the
Clarksville Police Department called him at around 11:15 p.m.
and informed him that his mother had been assaulted. He went
to Gateway Hospital, where she had been taken, to be with
her. Mr. Peterson identified photographs showing that his
mother had bruising and other injuries from being beaten. Mr.
Peterson testified that his mother had a "broken
orbit" among other injuries.
Mr. Peterson arrived at the hospital, his mother said that
she did not understand why someone would have injured her for
her ring. The diamond ring about which she was talking was a
family heirloom, bequeathed to her some forty-five years
prior by her sister. Mr. Peterson testified that his mother
wore the ring "constantly." Mr. Peterson identified
an appraisal from 2009 for the ring, which found its
replacement value to be $10, 000.
cross-examination, Mr. Peterson said that he did not know the
story behind where his aunt originally got the ring.
Teague testified that he performed the appraisal of the
victim's diamond ring in 2009 when he worked for
MacKenzie and Smiley Jewelers. He said that his appraisal
described the ring as 14-carat yellow gold, diamond solitaire
with an approximately 1.5 carat round brilliant diamond with
a clarity of SI 2 and a color of H. The appraisal estimated
the replacement value for the ring at $10, 000. The appraisal
included a photograph of the ring.
Curtsinger, an emergency medical technician with the
Montgomery County EMS, testified that he responded to the
call about a suspected fall at Sterling House. When he
arrived, he found the victim, Ms. Petersen, with swelling and
a laceration to the side of her face. Mr. Curtsinger
identified photographs of the victim taken on the night of
Curtsinger found it strange that there was blood only on the
victim's bed and pillowcase and nowhere else in the room.
He said that, had the victim fallen, he would have expected
to see blood in other locations. The victim told him that
night that she had awoken to someone standing over her and
that they had struck her in the face. Mr. Curtsinger began
the process to transport the victim to the hospital, and she
felt her finger and said that her ring was missing. Mr.
Curtsinger noted a small tear on the side of the victim's
finger. On their way to the ambulance, the victim asked if
her son had been contacted, and Mr. Curtsinger's partner
went with the victim while Mr. Curtsinger contacted the
Clarksville Police Department and also asked Sterling staff
if they had contacted the victim's son.
cross-examination, Mr. Curtsinger agreed that two
African-American females were on duty on the night of this
incident. He agreed that it was not unusual for EMS to
receive calls about elderly people who had fallen. On
redirect examination, he said that this was unlike his other
fall calls in that there was no blood on anything except the
second EMS responder, Rita Cain, testified that she was
dispatched to respond to this call from the nursing home,
where she found the victim in the bathroom sitting on the
commode. The victim's eye was swelling, and she said that
someone had hit her. Ms. Cain said that she looked around the
room and saw no signs of blood anywhere but on the bed. Ms.
Cain said that she had responded to several calls about
elderly persons falling and usually there was blood in the
location where they had fallen.
Cain said that she placed the victim on a stretcher and put
her in the ambulance. During the ambulance ride, the victim
said that she had a ring missing, and Ms. Cain observed a
skin tear on the victim's finger from which the ring was
cross-examination, Ms. Cain said that there were no blood
specks between the bed and the bathroom, and she could not
explain why, if the victim went from the bed to the bathroom,
there was no blood trail. Ms. Cain said that the victim's
facial wounds had stopped bleeding by the time the ambulance
arrived. She further clarified that there was one staff
member in the bathroom helping to care for the victim when
Stevens testified that she was initially charged as a
co-defendant in this case. Ms. Stevens said that at the time
of this incident she worked at Sterling House, and she
arrived for work at 3:00 p.m. on that day for her 3:00-11:00
p.m. shift. Ms. Stevens said that Defendant Lee arrived for
work later and that at 10:00 p.m. it was just the two of them
working. Ms. Stevens testified that the building was kept
locked and required a code for entry. The doors sounded an
alarm if someone entered without the code. The patients'
rooms were also kept locked, and employees could gain access
to those rooms only with a key. Ms. Stevens said that she
checked on the residents before leaving at 11:00 p.m., and
the victim was sleeping in her bed. Ms. Stevens said that the
victim's door was locked when she checked on her and
locked when she left the room.
Stevens said that, after checking on her patients, she went
to the front lobby and began folding napkins. Defendant Lee
left the front lobby and went in the direction of the
victim's room, saying she was going to get clothes
hangers. Ms. Stevens said that, at the end of that hall,
there was an exit, which Ms. Stevens had never used. Ms.
Stevens said that shortly after Defendant Lee returned, the
victim's alarm sounded, and she cried for help. Ms.
Stevens arrived at the victim's room first, and she
unlocked it and saw blood on the pillows. The victim was
sitting on the toilet, her face swollen, and blood "all
on her face."
Stevens testified that Defendant Lee entered the room but not
the bathroom. Defendant Lee did not offer any assistance, but
she did call 911. The victim repeatedly said that someone had
"beat her up." When EMS responded, they cared for
the victim and then told Ms. Stevens that the victim said she
had a ring missing. Ms. Stevens told Defendant Lee to tell
"Debbie," the executive director of Sterling House,
that the victim mentioned a missing ring. Defendant Lee did
not comply with this request, and Ms. Stevens informed
"Debbie" that the ring was missing.
cross-examination, Ms. Stevens testified that she had been
employed less than six months at the time of these events.
She said that she did not know why the pillowcase had been
removed from the pillow but stated that she did not remove
it. Ms. Stevens said that Defendant Lee did not call 911 the
first time Ms. Stevens asked her to do so and instead called
Deborah ("Debbie") Elms.
further questioning, Ms. Stevens said that one of her
Alzheimer's patients was with her that evening, following
her around. Ms. Stevens explained that the patient did not
like to sleep and kept trying to walk out the door. The
patient was sitting in the lobby in a chair when the victim
called for help. Ms. Stevens said that, at the time of trial,
she had been in the nursing home care industry for seven
years and had never had a patient have personal belongings go
Boyd, also an employee of Sterling House at the time of these
events, testified that she was the health and wellness
director, meaning that she supervised the nurses and the
resident care associates. She described the resident care
associates position, saying that they would serve residents
their meals, dress and bathe them, wash their clothes, and
check on them every two hours, among other things.
Boyd described Sterling House as a secure facility, saying
that each of the doors has a key pad and that only employees
have the code to the doors. Further, the front door had
restricted access, meaning that a visitor had to ring a bell
before entering. At the time when the victim was injured, a
visitor would have had to ring the doorbell, go to a phone
system and speak with a staff member, who could then let them
into the building.
Boyd said that she was "[v]ery acquainted" with the
victim, whom had resided at Sterling House all nine years
that Ms. Boyd had been employed there. The two spoke on a
regular basis and had a "really good relationship."
The victim could accurately recognize and name Ms. Boyd's
children when they came to visit.
Boyd said that she responded to Sterling House on the night
of this incident. She said that Defendant Lee called her
between 10:30 and 10:45 p.m. saying that the victim had
pulled a cord indicating that she needed help and that, when
Defendant Lee responded, the victim had blood all over her
face and her eye was swollen. Ms. Boyd said that she informed
Defendant Lee that the victim's injury qualified as a
head injury and that 911 needed to be called. She also
informed Defendant Lee that the victim's son needed to be
called. Ms. Boyd said, at this point, Defendant Lee told Ms.
Boyd that the victim was saying that someone beat her up. Ms.
Boyd said she was confused and asked if there were any other
residents awake and whether the victim's room was locked.
Boyd said that she went to Sterling House and looked in the
victim's room. She noted that there were two pillowcases
"pretty saturated with blood" but that there was
not much in disarray. They searched the apartment numerous
times but did not see any blood anywhere but the bed. Ms.
Boyd testified that, normally, there would have been a pool
of blood wherever the victim had fallen, if she had fallen.
cross-examination, Ms. Boyd said that after she learned that
the victim had said that someone had beat her up, Ms. Boyd
called Deborah Elms, the executive director of Sterling
Elms, the executive director of Sterling House at the time of
these events, testified that the victim had been a resident
at Sterling House for ten years. She described her
relationship with the victim as "[v]ery friendly"
saying that the two were social with one another and spoke
several times a day. Ms. Elms recounted that the victim got
the ring at issue while she was a resident at Sterling House.
Initially, the victim's family asked Ms. Elms to keep the
ring locked up, but then they ...