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Cook v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

May 21, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs April 16, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Bedford County No. 16258 Forest Durard, Jr., Judge

         The petitioner, Ashley M. Cook, appeals the summary dismissal of her petition for writ of error coram nobis, which petition challenged her 2008 convictions of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Ashley M. Cook, Nashville, Tennessee, pro se.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Assistant Attorney General; Robert J. Carter, District Attorney General; and Mike Randles, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., and Camille R. McMullen, JJ., joined.



         A Bedford County Circuit Court jury convicted the petitioner of first degree premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder for her role in the death of the victim, William Ross. This court summarized the evidence supporting the petitioner's convictions in our consideration of the sufficiency of the evidence on direct appeal:

[T]he record shows that during the weeks leading up to the murder on February 14, 2007, [the petitioner] participated in several conversations with Justin Young and Kimberly Ross about killing the victim. A plan was then developed during which [the petitioner] would take a cab to the Golden Gallon, walk from the store to the victim's residence, and use a ladder to climb in Mr. Young's bedroom window. [The petitioner] would then be given a gun to shoot the victim while he was in bed asleep. Mr. Young testified that he was supposed to wipe down the gun and place it in the gun cabinet with a clip in it waiting for [the petitioner]. Mr. Young and Mrs. Ross were then to be tied up, and they would tell police that two black men broke into the residence looking for Jimmy Whitmire, a former resident. After the shooting, [the petitioner] was supposed to leave town in Mrs. Ross' Nissan Versa.
The plan went into action on the evening of February 13, 2007, and continued into the early morning hours of February 14, 2007. The plan was originally supposed to have occurred the previous night, but [the defendant] could not be there. After the victim left for work on the morning of February 13, Mr. Young loaded a .380 pistol with five rounds, wiped it down, and placed it back inside the gun cabinet with one door left slightly ajar. He and Mrs. Ross had several phone conversations with [the petitioner] throughout the day to make sure that she was still coming over and to let her know that everything was "ready to go" when she arrived. [The petitioner] indicated that she would be there around 12:00 to 12:30 a.m. Although not part of the plan, [the petitioner] called two black men, Rodney Tinnel and Floyd Vinson, and arranged for them to be at her residence at the time of the murder.
At 12:54 a.m., while Mr. Tinnel and Mr. Floyd were still at her trailer, [the petitioner] dressed in dark clothing and called for an MTS cab to pick her up and take her to the Golden Gallon. [The petitioner] then left the store without paying her cab fare and walked to the victim's residence. She climbed up the ladder to Mr. Young's window wearing purple latex gloves, and he helped pull her inside. Mr. Young then gave her some money and the keys to Mrs. Ross' Nissan Versa. They walked down the hall to the living room where Mrs. Ross was waiting. Mrs. Ross then took the .380 pistol out of the gun cabinet and showed [the petitioner] how to use it. Mrs. Ross chambered a round so that all [the petitioner] had to do was "point and shoot." [The petitioner] then tied Mr. Young's hands and feet with bailing twine, and she used a phone cord to tie Mrs. Ross. Mr. Young positioned himself on the floor between the chair and the hallway, and Mrs. Ross laid on the couch with her cell phone on the arm of the couch. [The petitioner] walked over to the bedroom where the unarmed victim was sleeping, pushed the door open with her foot, and began shooting. The three fatal shots hit the victim's left forehead, right chest, and left flank above the kidney. [The petitioner] then left as planned in the Nissan. Mrs. Ross called 911 and when police arrived, she and Mr. Young told them that two black men broke into the residence looking for Jimmy Whitmire and shot the victim. The victim was still alive when police arrived, and at no time did [the petitioner], Mr. Young, or Mrs. Ross render aid to him.
After shooting the victim, [the petitioner] acted with calmness and in taking steps to conceal her crime. She tossed the purple gloves out of the car, and she abandoned the car in a church parking lot. [The petitioner] arrived home and hid the .380 pistol underneath her mattress. In her first interview with Agent Wesson, [the petitioner] denied any involvement in the murder. She eventually told him about the plan to kill the victim, and she confessed [to] the murder. Although [the petitioner] claims that the dominion and control exerted over her by Mrs. Ross negates the element of premeditation, the record does not support this claim. Mr. Young testified that although Mrs. Ross could be persuasive and provided both him and [the petitioner] with financial assistance, she did not exert any undue influence over them. [The petitioner] herself testified at one point that Mrs. Ross never "personally" asked [the petitioner] to kill the victim, and she never thought that Mrs. Ross was serious about killing the victim.

State v. Ashley Mai Cook, No. M2009-00136-CCA-R3-CD, slip op. at 20-22 (Tenn. Crim. App., Nashville, Feb. 24, 2011) (Cook I). This court affirmed the petitioner's convictions and accompanying sentence of life plus 20 years on direct appeal. See id., slip op. at 1, 31. The petitioner later filed a timely but unsuccessful petition for post-conviction relief, and this court affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief. See Ashley ...

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