Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Assigned on Briefs December 18, 2018
from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 103488 Steven W.
Defendant, Michael Freeman, appeals his second degree murder
conviction, alleging that (1) the trial court improperly
denied his motion to suppress his police statement because he
made an unequivocal request for a lawyer; (2) that the
evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; and (3)
that the trial court erred by issuing a flight instruction to
the jury. Following our review of the record and the
applicable authorities, we conclude that the Defendant's
issues do not entitle him to relief. Accordingly, the
judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
E. Shipley, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Michael
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ronald
L. Coleman, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Charme P.
Allen, District Attorney General; and Leslie Nassios and
Hector Sanchez, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the
appellee, State of Tennessee.
Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Norma McGee Ogle and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.
KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE.
April 15, 2014, a Knox County grand jury charged the
Defendant with first degree felony murder. See Tenn.
Code Ann. § 39-13-202. Prior to trial, the Defendant
filed a motion to suppress his recorded statement given at
the police department. In it, he argued that he
"explicitly invoked his rights to the assistance of
counsel to three separate law enforcement officers" and
that these requests were not "scrupulously"
honored. A hearing was held on the motion. The trial court
thereafter entered a written order denying the motion,
concluding that the Defendant "never made an unequivocal
invocation of his rights" and that he "made a
voluntary and knowing waiver of all of his Miranda
rights."In its order, the trial court examined, in
detail, each instance when the Defendant made any reference
to an attorney. After the denial of his motion to suppress,
the Defendant proceeded to a jury trial, where the following
evidence was presented.
1:00 a.m. on January 22, 2014, the Defendant called 911 to
report "a crime" and requested that he be picked up
by an officer. Initially, the Defendant would not provide any
more details. The Defendant eventually told the operator that
he stabbed a friend who was attacking him, that it was
"self-defense," that he did not know if the other
person was alive or not, and that he left the scene because
he was afraid the person would get a gun and retaliate. The
Defendant provided his name, his general description, and his
location, and he advised that he would be waiting for an
officer to arrive to take him to the victim's location.
Police Department ("KPD") Officer James Lockmiller
testified that he arrived at the Defendant's residence on
South Dewey Road. The officers knocked on the front door, and
the Defendant "started to come outside." According
the Defendant came out of the residence with an object in his
hand. The Defendant was ordered to drop the object, and he
complied. The object was a pocketknife that was wrapped in a
toboggan, and the victim's blood was found on the knife.
Officer Lockmiller testified that the Defendant appeared to
"have an injury"; the Defendant had a cut on his
hand that required bandaging.
Defendant "said that he was involved in a stabbing
incident because he had been attacked." The Defendant
was unsure of the victim's address but agreed to show
them the location. The Defendant was placed in a police
cruiser and provided "turn-by-turn" directions to
the victim's residence, which was "[r]oughly three
Officer John Martin testified that, when he entered the
victim's residence, he first observed "the victim
lying on the floor just inside the doorway." Also,
Officer Martin observed a large amount of blood
"directly around the victim" and noted that
"[i]t appeared to have dried" already in some
places. Officer Martin performed a "protective
sweep" of the victim's residence, opining that
"it was a very well kept residence." According to
Officer Martin, he did not "see any sort of disorder or
a sign of a struggle anywhere else" inside the home.
There were also four vehicles parked outside, and car keys
were found near the victim.
Defendant was transported to the KPD. While waiting to speak
with the lead investigator, Amy Jinks, the Defendant
explained to Investigator Brian Moran that, before he stabbed
the victim with the victim's pocketknife, the victim had
struck him in the mouth and kept threatening to kill him. The
Defendant showed Investigator Moran his lip. The Defendant
claimed that the victim had "flipped" and that he
acted in self-defense. When Investigator Jinks arrived at the
police station, she spoke with the Defendant after giving him
Miranda warnings. The Defendant told Investigator
Jinks that he had known the Defendant for about three or four
years and that they spent time together often. The Defendant
relayed that the victim would sometimes drink too much and
Defendant told Investigator Jinks that he had visited the
victim three times that day and that, earlier in the day,
they drank vodka and watched television together. The
Defendant claimed that he had asked the victim to hold $600
in cash for him. According to the Defendant, when he returned
later in the evening, the victim was still drunk and began
threatening him. In addition, the Defendant said that he knew
the victim had a gun and brass knuckles inside the house. The
Defendant claimed that the victim punched him in the mouth,
so he picked up a "little bitty" pocketknife that
was on the table in the den. The Defendant ultimately
admitted that he stabbed the victim and took cash from the
victim's pocket. He acknowledged that the victim did not
have any weapons on his person at the time of the stabbing.
The Defendant described that "he shoved [the victim]
down and he stabbed him in the back of the neck, and he held
him until he quit moving." The Defendant said that he
left the residence with the knife wrapped in a toboggan and
drove a few blocks to his residence before calling the
crime scene technician Stephanie Housewright testified that
she examined the victim's residence immediately following
the victim's death. While she did not observe any brass
knuckles inside the victim's home, she admitted that she
did not look underneath the recliner. Ms. Housewright
testified that she found an empty liquor bottle and a change
purse containing several crack cocaine rocks next to the
victim's recliner in the den. Ms. Housewright also noted
that she saw boxed home security systems and some tire rims
inside the home. She photographed the residence, agreeing
that an object shown to her in one of the photographs of an
upstairs bedroom "[p]otentially" looked like a
addition, after the Defendant arrived at the police station,
Ms. Housewright photographed "clean, crisp 20-dollar
bills" that were taken off the Defendant's person.
The Defendant was also photographed, and those photos were
shown to the jury. The victim's blood was also discovered
on the Defendant's clothing.
victim's cellphone was examined. It was determined that
an incoming call was made and answered at 11:12 p.m. on
January 21, 2014.
Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan, the Chief Medical Examiner for
Knox County, performed the autopsy of the victim, determining
that the cause of death was "multiple stab wounds,"
five at least, and that the manner of death was homicide. The
first wound she documented was a "complex stab wound on
the chin" that went through the lower lip and "into
the oral cavity or inside the mouth." She opined that it
was possible that this was two separate stab wounds due to
the complexity of the wound, but she could not say for
certain. The second wound was on the right lower neck, where
the knife penetrated the victim's thyroid gland. The
third wound was a superficial cut. The fourth wound entered
the left side of the neck, went through the victim's
thyroid gland, penetrated his larynx, and cut his main
carotid artery. According to Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan, the
victim "would bleed quite profusely" from this
wound, which she categorized as a "deadly wound."
The fifth wound was a stab wound to the "nuchal
region" at the back of the victim's head, where the
blade went between the first and second vertebrae and
penetrated the victim's cervical spinal cord, which
"would cause partial paralysis of the extremities."
Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan observed that this stab wound was
downward, whereas the other four to the victim's front
side were inflicted in an upward manner.
victim's blood alcohol level was determined to be .32
percent at the time of his death. Moreover, the victim tested
positive for cocaine metabolites, Valium, and a
"veterinary drug . . . used to deworm cows." Dr.
Mileusnic-Polchan believed that the victim had used
"cocaine sometime within a couple hours of
Mileusnic-Polchan reviewed the photographs of the crime scene
and the information provided by one of her field
investigators. Her investigator described the victim's
body "as being still warm and flaccid[,] meaning that
rigidity [had] not set in and that lividity was not prominent
yet." Dr. Mileusnic-Polchan was able to observe from her
review of the photographs that "the blood was drying . .
. on the exposed surfaces that were not under the body,"
that "it was already dry on the . . . coffee
table[,]" and that "it had penetrated and . . .
diffused through the carpet." She maintained that,
"on [the victim's] clothing items, the blood was
starting actually to separate into kind of [a] serum in the
blood clot" and that it had "already diffused all
over the rest of the shirt and then remained in that position
even the next day[.]" She stated that, "obviously,
some time ha[d] to pass for all of those processes to take
place." Moreover, she opined that "several
hours" had passed between the victim's death and
when his body was discovered and photographed, but she could
not provide a precise determination of the time of death.
Mileusnic-Polchan assented that the victim's wounds were
consistent with his being involved "in a
struggle[.]" She could not determine, "to a
reasonable degree of medical certainty[,]" the sequence
in which the victim's wounds were inflicted. Dr.
Mileusnic-Polchan was able to opine that the victim was
"low down on the floor" when he was stabbed in the
neck. She further stated the nature of the victim's wound
to the back of the head was consistent with the
Defendant's being behind the victim or "above him if
he's already down" and stabbing him. Moreover, the
"jagged nature of some [the victim's] wounds in the
facial and neck area" were also "consistent with .
. . movement[.]"
victim's daughter, Cashauna Lattimore, testified that her
father lived alone, received monthly social security
disability, and participated in "the numbers" or
"illegal number bracket." According to Ms.
Lattimore, her father frequently carried cash on his person
and hid cash "throughout the residence[.]" Ms.
Lattimore confirmed that her father was a daily drinker, but
she claimed that "[h]e was always able to function . . .
[e]xcept for when he drank something that was not his regular
brand of vodka." She additionally acknowledged that her
father had used cocaine in the past. Ms. Lattimore had no
knowledge of her father's possessing any guns or brass
knuckles immediately before his death, but he did have
"several pocketknives on the side table in his
den." According to Ms. Lattimore, her father no longer
carried a gun because "he had gotten in trouble . . .
with a weapons charge several years" prior, so "he
got rid of that gun[.]" She claimed that she had not
seen him with a gun since 2014.
Lattimore testified that she had known the Defendant for
"maybe two or three" years prior to her
father's death, that she was aware the Defendant and her
father were friends, and that she had would often see the
Defendant at her father's house when "their
friendship was strong." However, at some point, the
Defendant's and her father's friendship had
"weakened" due to a disagreement, and the Defendant
did not visit. According to Ms. Lattimore, the Defendant had
begun "coming back" around to her father's
house "closer in time to [her] father's
Lattimore stated that she visited her father's home the
day after his death. While there, she did not find the cash
her father kept inside a pillowcase or any brass knuckles.
Ms. Lattimore reported that a burglary occurred at the
residence several days later. Ms. Lattimore also admitted
that there were several females who were "out stealing
things and bringing [them to her father] for him to
fence." She was aware that this happened "on a
victim's cousin, Avery Maurice Jack, testified that the
victim "played the numbers every day[.]" Mr. Jack
identified two calendars on the wall above the victim's
desk that showed several sequences of numbers on specific
days. The last entry was January 21, 2014. Mr. Jack also
testified that the victim kept ...