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State v. Jones

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 5, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs March 27, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2013-D-3445 Mark J. Fishburn, Judge

         The Defendant-Appellant, Troy Jones, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of three counts of aggravated burglary and one count of sexual battery, for which he received an effective sentence of five years' imprisonment. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-14-403, 39-13-505. On appeal, the Defendant argues that (1) the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce extrinsic evidence to impeach his statement to police, (2) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions, and (3) the trial court improperly sentenced him. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Joshua L. Brand, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Troy Jones.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Glenn Funk, District Attorney General; and Janice A. Norman, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.



         On September 22, 2013, Miracle Holt was awakened by an intruder, who was "hovering" over her and "feeling on her buttocks." When she confronted the intruder, he ran and hid behind a bathroom door. Holt alerted other family members in the apartment and called her brother from a back room for help. Holt's brother, G. D'Angelo Mason, encountered the intruder inside the apartment and observed him stuffing an alarm clock in his pants. Mason ran back to his room, put on his shoes, and chased the intruder. Within minutes, Mason apprehended the Defendant and physically confronted him at a nearby basketball court. The Defendant denied being the intruder and claimed that he had just retrieved an alarm clock from a friend and was returning to his dorm room at Fisk University. An investigation ensued, and the Defendant was subsequently indicted for the above charges.[1] The following proof was adduced during the April 17 through April 19, 2017 trial.


         Miracle Holt lived with her mother, her sister, Prodeon Johnson, and her brother, G. D'Angelo Mason, in the Herman Street Apartments in Nashville, Tennessee. At trial, Holt narrated the layout of their small apartment through several photographs, which showed where she slept on the night of the offense, the bathroom, the bathroom hallway, the kitchen, and the living room area. On the night of the offense, Holt, her brother and his girlfriend, Holt's sister, their cousin, and two children were asleep in the apartment. Holt testified that she awoke to an intruder with a shoulder length, dreadlock hairstyle "hovering" over her and "feeling on" her buttocks. The intruder "grasp[ed] [her buttocks], trying to work his way around . . . under the covers . . . like a . . . sexual motion." She felt the intruder grab her buttocks at least twice. Holt said the intruder's face was close to hers. When she made eye contact with him, the intruder ran and hid behind the bathroom door. The bathroom light was on, and Holt was able to see "everything," including the intruder's face, hair, clothes, and weight. Once Holt realized she was not "dreaming," she woke up her sister and cousin, who initially thought she was joking. Holt then called her brother on the phone for him to come out of a back room in the apartment. Holt said that when her brother came out of the back room through the hallway, her sister threw a baby car seat at the intruder, and the intruder ran out the front door of the apartment.

         Holt's brother and sister put on their shoes and ran after the intruder. Holt eventually caught up with them at a nearby basketball court, where they had confronted the Defendant. She recalled that upon being questioned about the intrusion, the Defendant said, "I was just going over to my friend's house to get an alarm clock to wake up in the morning." Holt said the Defendant pulled out an alarm clock, which she confirmed was the same alarm clock that had been taken from her apartment. During the confrontation, Holt's brother hit the Defendant with a spoon, and Holt struck the Defendant two or three times. Holt injured herself by hitting her head on the door on the night of the offense; however, she stressed it was not caused by the Defendant. Holt said her aunt's cell phone was also taken from the apartment, but she could not remember the exact description of the phone. She further explained that "a lady in the black car" apparently called the police, and Holt spoke to a detective about the incident. Holt identified the Defendant as the person who broke into her apartment at a hearing shortly after the offense and at trial. Holt explained that the Defendant looked differently at trial because of "[t]he dreads, and his face was rougher."

         On cross-examination, Holt acknowledged that she muttered, "What the F" upon seeing the Defendant in her bedroom. She denied having consumed any alcohol or illegal drugs on the night of the offense. She also did not observe her brother and sister throw a chair down the stairwell at the Defendant and did not observe the intruder leave the apartment with the alarm clock in his hands. Holt confirmed that she received a "cut" on her head, but she did not believe that the injury came from the intruder. She did not recall telling police officers or emergency responders that the intruder had injured her. The Defendant later called Detective Gilbert Mana to impeach Holt's testimony. Detective Mana testified, in relevant part, that on the night of the offense, Holt did in fact attribute her injury to the Defendant "punch[ing] her in the forehead."

         G. D'Angelo Mason, Holt's brother, testified consistently with the testimony of Holt. On the night of the offense, Mason awoke to his phone ringing. He answered the phone, but he went back to sleep because there was no verbal response from the caller. After his phone rang again, Mason heard his sisters and cousin yell his name. He jumped up and stopped by the bathroom to investigate. He initially thought they were joking, until one of his sisters told him an intruder was in the apartment. As Mason turned around, his sister, Prodeon Johnson, screamed, "someone's behind you." Mason jumped back as the intruder walked in front of him. At that point, Mason was in the kitchen, which was close to the bathroom, and the intruder was approximately three or four feet in front of him. Mason explained that light was emanating from his and his mother's bedroom, so the apartment was "bright." He was able to see the intruder's face and described him as black, heavy set, a little over six feet tall, with a dreadlock hairstyle, wearing a striped shirt.

         Mason testified that as the intruder was leaving, he observed the intruder "acting like he [was] on the phone, but [he was] stuffing something in his pants." Mason said he saw the intruder stuffing his sister's alarm clock into his pants. Mason was unable to describe the phone the intruder was using, but he said the intruder was not talking to anyone. At that point, Mason ran to his room, grabbed his shoes, and began to leave the apartment. Mason then observed the intruder "jingling on the bottom door to try to get into the next apartment." He said as he saw the intruder attempting to access another apartment at the bottom of the staircase, he picked up a chair and threw it toward the intruder. He recalled one of his sisters and his girlfriend being with him when the chair was thrown. Within two minutes of throwing the chair, Mason encountered the Defendant walking on the sidewalk.

         At this point, Mason was alone with the Defendant and confronted him about entering his apartment and touching his sister. Mason testified that the Defendant said, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about, I wasn't in your house, I was coming from a friend's house to get an alarm clock." The Defendant continued to explain, "I [go] to Fisk University. I can show you my [identification] badge[, ]" but Mason said he was never shown any such badge. Mason admitted that he was frustrated because he did not believe the Defendant, and he began to yell at him. Mason acknowledged that he punched the Defendant while still questioning him about being inside his apartment. Asked how he was so certain the Defendant was the intruder he had seen in his apartment, Mason testified, "I recognized his hair, his shirt and the clock[.]" Mason confirmed that from the time he discovered the intruder in his apartment to the time he confronted the Defendant on Herman Street, Mason had not spoken with his sister, Miracle Holt.

         Mason testified that the Defendant had his sister's alarm clock in his hands when he encountered him on the street. Mason stood in front of the Defendant in an effort to give security guards time to respond and to prevent the Defendant from getting away. Mason explained that the confrontation eventually reached a nearby basketball court, which was close to Fisk University. Mason testified that the Defendant never hit him and continued to explain that he attended Fisk University and had just left campus to get an alarm clock from his friend's house. Eventually, Mason's sisters, his girlfriend, and his cousin arrived at the basketball court. His sister, Prodeon Johnson, brought his mother's antique spoon, and Mason struck the Defendant with it. Two security guards and the police later responded to the incident, and Mason briefly spoke with them. He identified the alarm clock, admitted as an exhibit at trial, as the same alarm clock taken from his apartment on the night of the offense.

         On cross-examination, Mason confirmed that his mother was not present at the apartment on the night of the offense and that everyone who was at the apartment, except for his sister's child, went outside to the basketball court. Mason agreed that Holt also punched the Defendant while at the basketball court and that he did not see the intruder pick up anything in the living room of the apartment. He insisted, however, that he observed the intruder holding a cell phone up to his ear with his left hand. Mason specified that he encountered the intruder at the corner of Herman Street and 17th Avenue, walking towards the basketball court. Mason testified that there were several other houses and another apartment complex located between Herman Street Apartments and Fisk University. On redirect, Mason said that he knew the alarm clock the Defendant had was the same alarm clock taken from his apartment because it was no longer in their apartment where his sister had left it.

         Prodeon Johnson testified consistently with the testimony of Holt and Mason. She was the last person to go to sleep on the night of the offense. Holt woke Johnson up and told her that an intruder was inside the apartment. Although Johnson did not initially believe Holt, Johnson later observed the intruder behind the bathroom door. Johnson said she was lying on the couch facing the bathroom, kitchen, and her sister's room, approximately fifteen to twenty feet away from the bathroom. She confirmed that the bathroom light was on and described the intruder as wearing a shirt and some pants. Although Johnson could not see the intruder's face, she said that the intruder's hair was in "dreads" and that he was holding something in his hands. When she saw the intruder, she threw her child's car seat at him. She went into her mother's room with Holt, her cousin, and her child, and called her brother. Johnson said the intruder was "speed walking" out of the bathroom, towards the living room, and out the front door.

         As the intruder was leaving the apartment, Johnson saw him pick up something in the living room and stuff it into his pants. Johnson said she and Mason threw a chair down the stairs and began following the intruder to a parking lot at Fisk University. Johnson recalled taking her mother's golden, antique spoon with her. Johnson said she, Mason, and Holt next encountered "the guy that had left out the house" at "the big field right . . . behind Fisk University." When they confronted the intruder, he said, "he didn't touch nobody, he didn't rape nobody," and he was swinging her alarm clock by the cord. She identified the alarm clock at trial as the same alarm clock taken from her apartment on the night of the offense. Johnson said the intruder took the alarm clock from the table where the television was in the living room and that she had not given him permission to take the clock. Johnson sustained a black eye from the intruder swinging the alarm clock, which broke. Johnson said police officers eventually responded to the scene, that she spoke with a detective, and that she was never asked about the alarm clock. At trial, Johnson was unable to identify the intruder who broke into her apartment on the night of the offense.

         On cross-examination, Johnson admitted that she was involved in a fight with the Defendant but did not recall hitting him with the spoon. Johnson said the fight ensued after the Defendant denied being in their apartment, touching Holt, and taking her alarm clock. Johnson testified that she did not take the spoon from the apartment to the basketball court and could not remember how the spoon got to the basketball court. Johnson also did not recall how the spoon broke and said she never saw the Defendant being hit with the spoon. Johnson did not remember Mason's girlfriend being present at the basketball court. Johnson admitted to a prior theft conviction; however, she explained that she "pled guilty for a charge for my friends." Johnson said that prior to the burglary, the alarm clock was sitting on a table in the living room unplugged from the wall because she was in the process of moving her belongings from her mother's apartment to her new home. The alarm clock had a green and white back that was broken on the night of the offense; however, none of the broken pieces were recovered. On redirect examination, Johnson again said that the intruder she saw in her apartment was the same person she encountered later at the basketball court and that the alarm clock that that person had in his possession was hers. She again admitted to a prior theft conviction but said that her testimony at trial was truthful.

         Detective Gilbert Mana of the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) testified that in the early morning hours of September 22, 2013, he responded to a call at a basketball court near Herman Street. Initially, the call was reported as a fight in progress and later changed to a burglary. When he arrived at the scene, Detective Mana encountered several victims and the Defendant. After speaking with the individuals, Detective Mana learned of an incident that had occurred earlier at the Herman Street Apartments. Detective Mana described the victims' demeanor as "quite shocked and upset." He spoke with the Defendant, who claimed he had been "attacked by a group of males and females." Additional officers responded to the scene, and the crime scene unit was called to photograph the area. Upon canvassing the area, the crime scene unit recovered an alarm clock, which Detective Mana submitted to the police department's property room. Detective Mana identified the alarm clock, admitted as an exhibit at trial, and noted that the alarm cord was detached from the clock.

         On cross-examination, Detective Mana confirmed that as the reporting officer, he completed an incident report, arrest report, and a property sheet for the instant offense. Detective Mana testified that other officers were already on the scene when he arrived, but he was responsible for changing the call from a fight in progress to a burglary. Detective Mana confirmed that he spoke with four victims on the night of the offense and that the information contained in his reports would have "been probably taken directly from the victims." He did not recall if the area was canvassed for any additional suspects. He confirmed that he was the only person who came in physical contact with the alarm clock, but he admitted that he did not attempt to collect any fingerprints from it.

         On the night of the offense, Sergeant Jason Pierpoint with MNPD responded to the scene and was briefed by other officers. He determined that a "possible sexual assault had occurred during a possible burglary." Sergeant Pierpoint called Detective Ben Ward, a sex abuse detective, to report to the scene as well as additional crime scene officers to collect evidence. Officer Douglas Belcher, a crime scene investigator with MNPD, testified that he responded to a basketball court located near Herman Street, where he recovered several items including pieces of a plastic decorative spoon, pieces of an alarm clock, and a cell phone. Officer Belcher met with Sergeant Pierpoint and learned of an incident that had occurred earlier at one of the apartments in the Herman Street Apartment complex, which was nearby. Officer Belcher took photographs of the apartment and the basketball court and collected a cell phone from Detective Ward. He testified that all other property was collected by patrol officers. Officer Belcher testified the he took three pieces of the decorative spoon and a cell phone from Detective Ward to the property room, all of which were identified at trial and admitted as exhibits. He said a cell phone and alarm clock found on the basketball court were turned over to Detective Mana.

         On cross-examination, Officer Belcher confirmed that a cell phone was given to him by Detective Ward. To his knowledge, that cell phone had been in the police department's property room since the offense occurred. He said a second cell phone was collected from the basketball court and given to Detective Mana. Officer Belcher had no other contact with that phone. He said the cell phone found on the ground at the basketball court was believed to be the victim's phone. Officer Belcher confirmed that he generated a report of his investigation which provided, in relevant part, that the phone found on the ground was located in three pieces, photographed, and believed to belong to the Defendant. He explained that originally, that phone was believed to belong to the Defendant, but by the end of the investigation, officers believed the phone belonged to one of the victims. Officer Belcher said he never had any contact with the alarm clock, and he was not aware of any fingerprint analysis performed on it.

         MNPD Detective Ben Ward responded to the scene based upon a report of an alleged sexual assault that occurred during a burglary of an apartment in the Herman Street Apartment complex. Upon arrival, Detective Ward spoke with Holt, Johnson, and Mason. The Defendant also agreed to talk to Detective Ward at his office, which was about five minutes away. Prior to talking to Detective Ward, the Defendant was given an advice of rights form, which advised him of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602 (1966). The Defendant acknowledged that he understood his rights, signed the advice of rights form waiving said rights, and agreed to speak with Detective Ward. The advice of rights form was admitted as an exhibit at trial. The Defendant's statement to Detective Ward was audio and video recorded, the DVD of which was played for the jury and admitted into evidence. Although the jury was provided a transcript of the recording, the transcript was offered for identification purposes only. During the recorded statement, the Defendant stated, in relevant part, as follows:

DETECTIVE: Are you working anywhere?
DEFENDANT: No[, ] I'm a full, I'm a student.
DETECTIVE: Full time student?
DEFENDANT: Yeah. Fisk University.
DETECTIVE: . . . I know some of the basics just from what they have told me, but I want to hear it from you [, ] kind of how this all transpired.
DEFENDANT: I was coming back from walking by Burger King, because I had went to Burger king 'cause . . .
DETECTIVE: Down on Charlotte?
DEFENDANT: Down on Charlotte.
DEFENDANT: So I was walking up from uh, walking up from Charlotte on 17th. As I crossed by Jackson, no Herman Street, as I crossed Herman Street and get to where my school is almost by my dorm I hear some people, well I don't hear people but I sort of you know how you just see people moving from you, the corner of your eye and everything. And then the next thing I know I started hearing some oh that's him, there he is, there he is, there he is. So I slowed down 'cause I'm thinking like alright if I run that's just gone make them chase after me. So I slowed down and when I slowed down they started walking up and they were already walking up in a threatening manner. They saying, um, they said, they was saying like "yeah that's him, that's him right there. That's you, what you was doing over there? What you was doing"? I'm like what are you guys talking about. Where, I'm trying to talk to them the whole time. Trying to talk to them and then they just started attacking me. They just started attacking me like, you can see I'm bruised up from that. I got a knot, I got uh, uh, bump on my noggin and . . . they're going back and forth with me and everything. Hitting me and saying that "oh you, you came in, you came in you came in here. . . . How did you get into our ...

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