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State v. Baker

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

June 7, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs April 2, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Madison County, No. 17-413 Donald H. Allen, Judge

         Defendant, Sangria Venturia Baker, Jr., was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault, one count of felony evading arrest, one count of possession of an imitation controlled substance with intent to sell or deliver, one merged count of possession of marijuana with intent to sell or deliver, one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count of resisting arrest. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions and argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion in limine to exclude mention of the subject matter of the warrant the officers were serving at the time of this incident and by denying his request for a jury instruction on misdemeanor reckless endangerment as a lesser-included offense of aggravated assault. Because the evidence was insufficient to establish that the white powder substance found in the back of Defendant's vehicle met the statutory definition of an imitation controlled substance, we reverse and vacate Defendant's conviction for possession of an imitation controlled substance with intent to sell or deliver. In all other respects, we affirm the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for the imposition of a sentence in Count 6, which merged into Count 7.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed in Part and Reversed in Part, Case Remanded

          Terita Hewlett, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Sangria Venturia Baker, Jr.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Jody Pickens, District Attorney General; and Aaron J. Chaplin and Bradley F. Champine, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams, P.J., and Alan E. Glenn, J., joined.



         On March 29, 2016, officers with the Jackson Police Department and the United States Marshal Service went to serve an outstanding arrest warrant for attempted murder on a juvenile named Jarrod[1] James after receiving a tip that he was located in the area of Stanfill Lane. Deputy U.S. Marshal Shane Brown, Investigator Terrance Smith, Investigator Mark Headen, and Special Agent Joe Frye set up surveillance in an unmarked black Ford Explorer. Deputy Brown identified James exiting the residence and getting into the back seat of a black Lexus SUV parked in the street. Another passenger, later identified as John Martin, was also getting into the front seat of the SUV. Deputy Brown then notified Sergeant Richard Newbill and Special Agent Emily Sikes, who were waiting in the area in a separate vehicle. Deputy Brown used his vehicle to block the front of the SUV, and Sergeant Newbill used his vehicle to block the rear of the SUV. Both vehicles had their blue lights on. The four officers exited Deputy Brown's vehicle with their guns drawn, each wearing raid vests clearly marked as either "Police" or "US Marshal." The officers identified themselves and gave commands for the occupants of the SUV to place their hands where they could be seen, for the driver to turn off the car, and that James was under arrest. The driver of the SUV was identified as Defendant.

         Defendant looked back over his shoulder at Sergeant Newbill's vehicle. Agent Sikes grabbed Sergeant Newbill and told him not to get out of the vehicle. Defendant then put the SUV into reverse and rammed the front of Sergeant Newbill's vehicle, causing it to spin over 90 degrees. The front passenger door of the SUV, which had not been closed all the way, folded back against the front fender as it struck Sergeant Newbill's vehicle. Some of the officers ran after the vehicle on foot, yelling for Defendant to stop. Defendant drove the SUV in reverse at a high rate of speed down Stanfill Lane before putting it in drive and turning onto Summar Avenue. Sergeant Newbill activated his siren and gave chase. According to Sergeant Newbill, there was a lot of traffic because it was around 3:30 in the afternoon, around "the time when kids get out of school"; however, Defendant did not slow down. Defendant eventually turned onto West Forest Avenue and drove past the hospital, which was congested due to construction. At the intersection of Forest Avenue and Campbell Street, Defendant almost ran into a citizen driving a silver sedan. Defendant then turned into an apartment complex off of Forest Avenue. He and the other passengers bailed out of the SUV and fled on foot; one of the passengers was armed with a handgun. The SUV rolled backwards and struck Sergeant Newbill's vehicle a second time.

         Investigators Joseph Williams and Rodney Savage responded to the radio call about the pursuit of suspects. Both investigators, as well as other officers, responded to a residence on Walnut Street, just behind the apartment complex, where two of the suspects were hiding under vehicles inside of a garage. Orders were given for the suspects to come out and show their hands. Officers had to drag the suspects, Defendant and Martin, out from under the vehicles. Defendant had one arm underneath his body and the other stretched out. The officers ordered Defendant to put his hands behind his back. Defendant struggled before his hands were eventually put behind his back, and Investigator Williams was able to put handcuffs on him. James was subsequently apprehended at a different location.

         Investigator Savage then went to the apartment complex to assist Investigator Kelly Schrotberger in the search of the abandoned SUV, which was registered to Defendant's mother. A bag of approximately 375.6 grams of marijuana, enough to be broken into smaller quantities for resale, was found in plain view on the front passenger side floorboard of the SUV. A plastic bag containing approximately 24.4 grams of a white powder substance was found inside a box of sandwich bags in the rear cargo area of the SUV. The powder appeared to be two eight balls of cocaine, which would have a street value of approximately $500. A digital scale was found in the pocket of the driver's side door. Some mail with Defendant's name and a wallet containing Defendant's driver's license were also found inside of the SUV. Approximately $500 in cash was seized from Defendant's property at the jail.

         The following day, Investigator Williams and Investigator Savage interviewed Defendant. Defendant signed a waiver of his rights. After speaking to Defendant, Investigator Williams wrote out a statement and read it back to Defendant to make sure it was correct. After Investigator Williams reviewed the statement and allowed Defendant to make any changes, Defendant signed the statement. The statement read as follows:

I, Sangria Baker, was driving in the area of Stanfill Drive when the police jumped out on me. I was scared, so I ran and drove to the area of West Forest Avenue. I ran from the vehicle. I had a digital scale on the driver's side of the vehicle and a white powder substance that was in the back. The powder substance is fake and is not drugs. I did not have anything else illegal inside the vehicle.

         The marijuana and the white powder were submitted to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) for testing by then-Special Agent Peter Hall. The white powder weighed 21.96 grams without packaging and was determined not to contain any controlled substances. The testing indicated that the powder may have been benzocaine, but this could not be confirmed because the TBI did not have a known standard with which to compare it. The green leafy substance was confirmed to be marijuana and weighed 346.32 grams without packaging.

         The jury convicted Defendant as charged for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon against Sergeant Newbill in Count 1 and against Agent Sikes in Count 2, see T.C.A. § 39-13-102; felony evading arrest creating a risk of death or injury to others in Count 3, see T.C.A. § 39-16-603; manufacturing, selling, delivering, or possessing with the intent to sell, deliver, or manufacture an imitation controlled substance in Count 4, see T.C.A. § 39-17-453; possession of drug paraphernalia in Count 5, see T.C.A. § 39-17-425; possession of more than one-half ounce of marijuana with intent to sell in Count 6 and with intent to deliver in Count 7, see T.C.A.§ 39-17-417; and resisting arrest in Count 8, see T.C.A. § 39-16-602. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court merged the marijuana offenses into a single conviction[2] and imposed a total effective ...

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