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State v. Reynolds

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 25, 2019


          Session March 19, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Maury County No. 25527 Stella L. Hargrove, Judge

         A Maury County jury convicted the Defendant, Early Reynolds, of unlawful possession of a firearm after a prior felony conviction involving use, or attempted use, of force, violence, or a deadly weapon. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a career offender to serve fifteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress statements made to the police after he invoked his right to remain silent; (2) the trial court improperly admitted a photograph of the Defendant holding a gun; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. After review, we affirm the trial court.

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

          Brandon E. White, Columbia, Tennessee, for the appellant, Early Reynolds.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Brent A. Cooper, District Attorney General; and S. Scott Speer, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.



         I. Facts

         This case arises out of the Defendant's charges for aggravated domestic assault and violation of an order of protection after he made repeated phone calls to his ex-girlfriend, Alvanette Caldwell, and sent her a text message with a photograph of him holding a revolver. At the time of his arrest, the Defendant gave consent for the police to search his residence and officers found a revolver wrapped in a rag near a storage shed. Consequently, a Maury County grand jury indicted the Defendant for unlawful possession of a firearm after a previous conviction for a felony involving force, violence, or a deadly weapon. The Defendant filed a motion to suppress his statement to police and a motion to exclude the photograph of him holding the revolver. After both motions were heard and denied, the case proceeded to trial.

         A. Pretrial Motions

         1. Motion to Suppress Statements

         At the suppression hearing, the Defendant argued that Sergeant Michael Kash, Columbia Police Department officer, failed to honor his right to remain silent by proceeding with the interview after the Defendant requested that the interview stop. He further claimed that Sergeant Kash threatened him by telling him that he would report to the district attorney his lack of candor and dishonesty during the interview. The State responded that Sergeant Kash was honest with the Defendant about the procedures he followed and that the Defendant did not unequivocally terminate the interview.

         A recording of the interview is included in the record on appeal. Our review of the interview is summarized as follows: Sergeant Kash entered the interview room and reviewed Miranda with the Defendant. He then confirmed the Defendant's cell phone number with him and asked if law enforcement could retrieve information from the cell phone. The Defendant declined to allow law enforcement to conduct a "dump" of the information on the phone, and Sergeant Kash told him that he would seek a search warrant for the phone. The Defendant then gave consent for a search of the phone.

         Initially, the Defendant denied calling Ms. Caldwell, asserting that she had called him. As Sergeant Kash and the Defendant talked, the Defendant admitted to calling Ms. Caldwell. The Defendant denied being at Ms. Caldwell's home on two separate days and further denied sending her a photograph via text message. Sergeant Kash began questioning some of the Defendant's responses as inconsistent with the police report. Sergeant Kash stated, "I didn't have to bring you here, you could have been arrested." In response, the Defendant stood up and said, "Come on, arrest me!" and "Take me to jail." As the Defendant made these statements, Sergeant Kash continued talking over the Defendant about the police report and how he was trying to give the Defendant an opportunity to tell his side of the story. The Defendant stated, "I'm through talking," but sat down in the interview room chair. He then said, "You know what? It's not going to help the judge with nothing." Sergeant Kash responded that the district attorney received copies of the interviews and that Sergeant Kash included information about whether an interviewee was cooperative or lying. The Defendant expressed his belief that he would receive jail time "anyway."

         The Defendant then returned to the topic of the photograph and asked Sergeant Kash, "She showed the officer the picture of me?" Sergeant Kash confirmed that Ms. Caldwell had shown the photograph to an officer, and the Defendant inquired why his probation officer had not mentioned it to him when they met the day before. Sergeant Kash explained that the probation officer likely did not have the police report at the time the Defendant met with the probation officer.

         The Defendant admitted sending the picture to Ms. Caldwell and, after some discussion, admitted that he owned and had fired the revolver. He stated that he bought the revolver "a day ago."

         On the morning of trial[1], the trial court heard additional testimony from Sergeant Kash about his interview with the Defendant. Sergeant Kash testified that he recalled talking with the Defendant about the fact that Sergeant Kash did not believe the Defendant was being forthcoming and the Defendant's response that Sergeant Kash should "take [him] to jail." Sergeant Kash recalled that he and the Defendant were talking over each other at the time but that he believed the Defendant made statements about arresting him or taking him to jail "a few times." Sergeant Kash stated that he did not recall the Defendant saying, "I'm through talking." He agreed that he had reviewed the video recording and heard the Defendant make the statement during the review but, at the time of the interview, both men were speaking loudly and over one another so that he did not hear the statement.

         Sergeant Kash testified that during his eleven years as a detective, if a suspect stated they wanted a lawyer or did not want to talk, he ceased all questioning. Sergeant Kash explained, "[I]f somebody says, 'Take me to jail,' but continues to talk to me, they're telling me they really don't want to go to jail. They're just saying that they want to talk to me, as [the Defendant] did that day." About his statement to the Defendant that he would provide information to the district attorney about his interaction with the Defendant, Sergeant Kash said that he advised all interviewees that he always conveyed to the district attorney the interviewee's demeanor during the interview. Sergeant Kash denied that he used this practice as "a tool to threaten anybody." He clarified that he never advised the district attorney about what punishment to seek but only included information about the interview. He stated that he would answer any questions a prosecutor may have but that how the State proceeded on any given case was at the district attorney's discretion.

         Sergeant Kash summarized the interaction with the Defendant, explaining that he was attempting to convey to the Defendant that he wanted to hear the Defendant's "side of the story," and the Defendant responded that he did not think it would "matter." The Defendant then initiated the discussion about the photograph of him holding a gun.

         On cross-examination, Sergeant Kash testified that, when an interviewee invoked a right, he had never failed to honor their invocation of the right to counsel or to remain silent. Sergeant Kash reiterated that he did not hear the Defendant's statement about being "done talking" during the interview. Sergeant Kash stated that the Defendant took no actions consistent with a statement that he ...

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