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State v. Fitts

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

June 26, 2019

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
DAVERSEA A. FITTS

          Session March 20, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Sumner County No. 219-2015 Dee David Gay, Judge

         A Sumner County jury convicted the Defendant, Daversea A. Fitts, of first degree premeditated murder, and the trial court imposed a sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, asserting that the State failed to sufficiently corroborate accomplice testimony presented at trial. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

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

          Gregory D. Smith, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Daversea A. Fitts.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Lawrence Ray Whitley, District Attorney General; and C. Ronald Blanton and Eric S. Mauldin, Assistant District Attorneys 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.

          OPINION

          ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE

         This case arises from the shooting death of D'Anthony Hall ("the victim"), in a rural area of Sumner County on December 2, 2014. The investigation into the homicide revealed four individuals involved in the commission of the homicide: Tracy Clark, Doyle Cammon, Johnny Austin, and the Defendant. For his role in the offense, a Sumner County grand jury indicted the Defendant for first degree premeditated murder of the victim.

         At trial the parties presented the following evidence: William Holls, a Metropolitan Nashville Police Department officer, testified about an interaction he had with the victim on November 21, 2014, approximately a week and a half before the victim's death. Officer Holls was in the vicinity of the Andrew Jackson Housing Development in Nashville, Tennessee, when he responded to a "'shots fired' call." When he arrived, he came into contact with the victim, who Officer Holls described as "very excited, very worked up," "nervous, anxious," and "very animated with his body language." The victim cooperated with Officer Holls' investigation of the shooting, and Officer Holls obtained arrest warrants.[1] Officer Holls testified on cross-examination that the Defendant was not charged in this shooting incident or listed as a potential witness.

         A couple of weeks later, on December 2, 2014, Jeff Cooper, who lived with his uncle, Dicky Alexander, at the corner of Mutton Hollow Road and Rock Springs Road, a rural area of Sumner County, returned home at around 10:00 pm. After parking his car, he heard four to six gunshots nearby. The gunshots were so loud and close in proximity that Mr. Cooper believed the gunshots were coming from either inside the house or on the other side of the house. He heard his uncle yell, so he went inside the house to find him. When he did not find him inside, he called his uncle, who was backing out of the driveway to go check on their horses because he believed someone was shooting at them. The two men remained on the phone talking, until Mr. Alexander said to Mr. Cooper, "hang up and call 9-1-1 there is somebody laying [sic] in the road dead."

         Mr. Cooper testified that he could see his uncle driving from where he stood outside the house and noticed his uncle swerving to miss something in the road before instructing him to call 911. As Mr. Cooper spoke with the 911 operator, he drove his truck to the area where he had seen his uncle swerve and found a person lying on the road. Mr. Cooper said that his uncle had continued driving to try and see "where the vehicle went." He stated that neither he nor Mr. Alexander moved or touched the body, but, based upon Mr. Cooper's observations, he believed the person was dead. Mr. Cooper said it was "pretty dark" because there were no lights in that area. After his uncle returned, the two men positioned their vehicles to block the roadway and used their headlights to provide light for the authorities when they arrived.

         Shawn Lester, a Sumner County Sheriff's Office deputy, testified that on December 2, 2014, at 10:13 p.m., he was dispatched to the area of Rock Springs Road and Mutton Hollow Road in Sumner County in reference to a call about "shots fired." At the scene, two trucks with their headlights on illuminated the area where a body was lying in the roadway. The body was later identified as the victim.

         Tracy Clark, a co-defendant, testified that he attended high school with the victim and both men were members of the "Gangster Disciples." Mr. Lester recalled that he became involved with the Gangster Disciples through co-defendant Doyle Cammon. Mr. Lester testified that he served as the assistant secretary for the Gangster Disciples in North Nashville for a period of time. His role as assistant secretary required him to "keep up with the roster and everything and pass paperwork along or reports to anybody." Ultimately, however, Mr. Lester "stepped down" from this position due to "disorganiz[ation]" and "a few family issues." As a result, Mr. Lester gave co-defendant Johnny Austin all of the paperwork he had been maintaining as assistant secretary. According to Mr. Lester, Mr. Austin was the chief of security ("COS") for the Gangster Disciples in North Nashville.

         Mr. Clark testified that in late November 2014, the Gangster Disciples had an "organizational celebration" for their chairman, Larry Hoover. The celebration was for Mr. Hoover's birthday and held in Memphis, Tennessee. Mr. Clark did not attend the celebration in Memphis but drove Mr. Cammon and Mr. Austin to the "meeting spot" where members were assembling to drive to Memphis together. It was at this time that he first met the Defendant. Due to his absence from the celebration, Mr. Clark anticipated receiving "a fine" but believed that he was not "in trouble" with the Gangster Disciples. Mr. Clark distinguished a "fine" from a "violation," explaining that a violation generally occurred if a member was repeatedly late to a meeting or "disrespect[ed] another brother or brother's family members." If a member committed a violation, "[e]verybody in that area would come together and discuss it" to determine a punishment. He explained that a punishment might be "six straight licks to the chest" or a designated period of time where the member would be unable to fight back or protect themselves during a "beating."

         Mr. Clark testified that, after the members returned from Memphis, on November 30, 2014, Mr. Cammon called Mr. Clark and told him to "meet up with everybody" at Mr. Austin's residence on Scovel Avenue[2] ("Scovel Avenue"). At the meeting, the group addressed Mr. Clark's fine for not attending the event in Memphis. The group assessed a fine of seventy-four dollars for Mr. Clark's infraction. He explained that the amount of the fine was determined by "numbers." The letter "G" in Gangster is the seventh letter in the alphabet and the "D" from Disciples is the fourth letter of the alphabet, thus the fine amount was seventy-four dollars. After Mr. Clark paid the fine, the group addressed a social media posting made by the victim. A photograph was passed around for the group to view. On the right side of the photograph was a picture of the victim with four pistols, two in his hands and two pistols lying on his lap. On the left-side of the photograph was a portion of the November 21, 2014 warrant for aggravated assault. The group members discussed the punishment for the photograph and concluded that the victim should "get a three minute with a no coverup." Mr. Clark said that he "was on the fence about the situation," so he excused himself and went "up front" to check on the victim before the members finished discussing the punishment.

         Mr. Clark testified that he could not remember whether the Defendant attended the November 30 meeting but was certain that Mr. Austin, Mr. Cammon, Dewayne Woodson, Lamont Harding, and "Twin" were present. When the group members confronted the victim about his violation, he began explaining that his aunt was "in jeopardy of losing her place to live" due to the November 21 aggravated assault. As the victim began his explanation, Mr. Clark left. At the time he left the meeting, Mr. Clark believed he was receiving a fine, and the victim was going to receive some type of punishment.

         Mr. Clark testified that Mr. Cammon called him on December 2, 2014, asking to meet at Scovel Avenue. When he arrived, Mr. Cammon and Mr. Austin were there. Approximately twenty minutes later, the victim arrived. The men talked and "smoked some weed" together while Mr. Cammon, the victim, and Mr. Austin made a plan to "rob somebody." As part of the robbery plan, the men asked Mr. Clark to "drop them off up in Gallatin." Mr. Clark drove his Honda Civic EX Sport Coupe ("Honda"), Mr. Cammon rode in the front passenger seat, and Mr. Austin and the victim rode in the back seat. Mr. Clark described the Honda as having fog lights on the undercarriage, a loud muffler, a sunroof, and a spoiler. As they drove, Mr. Austin, who was intermittently talking on his cell phone, directed Mr. Clark, who was unfamiliar with Gallatin, where to drive.

         Mr. Clark testified that they met the Defendant near a Regions Bank in Gallatin. The victim, Mr. Cammon, and Mr. Austin exited the car and spoke with the Defendant about the potential robbery while Mr. Clark remained in the car smoking cigarettes. After the three men returned to Mr. Clark's Honda, they followed the Defendant, who was driving a black SUV, to an apartment complex. At the apartment complex, the victim, Mr. Cammon, and Mr. Austin got into the Defendant's vehicle and drove away while Mr. Clark waited in his car. After the men drove away, Mr. Clark testified that he moved his car several spaces over to a larger parking space. Approximately forty minutes after they left, Mr. Cammon and Mr. Austin returned without the victim. By way of explanation for the victim's absence, Mr. Cammon told Mr. Clark that the victim was going to stay in Gallatin because he was having "a little issue at home." Mr. Clark drove to Nashville where he left Mr. Cammon at "one of his girlfriend's house" and Mr. Austin at a hotel room.

         Mr. Clark testified that he learned of the victim's death the following morning when someone asked him about the victim being killed in Gallatin. Unaware of the victim's death, Mr. Clark called Mr. Cammon, but he did not answer the phone. Mr. Clark went to Scovel Avenue and "before everybody showed up," Mr. Austin instructed Mr. Clark "we weren't up there." Based upon statements of this nature from Mr. Austin and Mr. Cammon, Mr. Clark initially told sheriff's deputies that the men had not been in Gallatin on the night of December 2, 2014. Mr. Clark explained that he lied because he was "trying to keep [his] involvement as little as possible."

         The State played surveillance video taken from the Defendant's apartment of Mr. Clark's Honda following the Defendant's vehicle on December 2, 2014 at 10:06 p.m. Another segment showed the Defendant's vehicle leaving the apartment complex while Mr. Clark's Honda remained in the parking lot. The footage showed the Honda, with a spoiler, moving to another parking space consistent with Mr. Clark's testimony. At 11:25 p.m., according to the time provided on the surveillance video, the Defendant's vehicle returned to the apartment complex parking lot.

         Mr. Clark testified that he did not see Mr. Cammon, Mr. Austin, or the victim with a gun on the night of the homicide. He confirmed that he, Mr. Cammon, and Mr. Austin all had ...


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