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Wilson v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

August 1, 2019


          Session: June 18, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 93-A-176 Seth W. Norman, Judge

         Cyrus DeVille Wilson, [1] Petitioner, filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis. He argued that two key witnesses for the State, Marquise Harris and Phedrek Davis, had recanted their testimony. Petitioner argued that this recanted testimony was newly-discovered evidence that may have affected the outcome of his trial if it had been admitted. The coram nobis court denied relief. On appeal, Petitioner asserts that the coram nobis court abused its discretion by denying his petition. He argues that the coram nobis court illogically credited Mr. Harris' and Mr. Davis' trial testimony as juveniles over their recanted testimony as adults. He also contends that Detective Bill Pridemore's testimony that Mr. Harris only spoke with police after being assured that he would receive a Crime Stopper reward was newly-discovered evidence that may have had an impact on the outcome of his trial. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

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

          Jessica Van Dyke, Nashville, Tennessee, (on appeal) and Jesse Lords, Madison, Tennessee, (at hearing) for the appellant, Cyrus DeVille Wilson.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn Funk, District Attorney General; and Dan H. Hamm, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams, P.J., and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., joined.



         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A jury convicted Petitioner of first degree murder. State v. Cyrus Deville Wilson, No. 01C01-9408-CR-00266, 1995 WL 676398, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 15, 1995), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 25, 1996). On direct appeal, this court affirmed Petitioner's conviction. Id. This court's opinion on direct appeal set out the following summary of the evidence admitted at Petitioner's trial:

On September 15, 1992, Metro Davidson police officers found the body of Christopher Luckett partly lodged underneath a chain link fence in East Nashville. The victim had sustained a fatal gunshot wound to the head. The officers also found empty shotgun shells, shotgun "wadding," and a blue duffel bag at the crime scene. On February 2, 1993, the Davidson County Grand Jury indicted . . . [Petitioner] for the victim's murder. The case proceeded to trial on January 31, 1994.

At trial, the [S]tate first called Chiquita Lee, the victim's sister, in order to establish the victim's age and health. Ms. Lee testified that the victim was nineteen years old at the time of his murder and that he had a deformity in his right arm that prevented its full use. Defense counsel objected on the ground that the [S]tate had not given prior notice of their intent to call Ms. Lee as a witness. The trial court overruled the objection.

The [S]tate next presented evidence to establish a motive for the murder. Officer Phillip Wright testified that during routine patrol on or about July 20, 1992, he was stopped by . . . [Petitioner] who reported that the victim, Luckett, had stolen his car. Officer Wright further testified that, when asked if he wanted to swear out a warrant against the victim, . . . [Petitioner] replied "not right now." Defense counsel objected to this testimony on the ground that . . . [Petitioner]'s statement to Officer Wright had not been disclosed prior to trial. Again, the trial court overruled the objection.

Next, the [S]tate called two eyewitnesses to the murder. The first, Rodriguez Lee, testified that . . . [Petitioner] had a twelve-gauge shotgun which came from Mr. Lee's house. Lee added that he saw . . . [Petitioner] remove the gun from a blue duffel bag. Lee stated that he saw . . . [Petitioner] chasing the victim on the night of the murder. He further testified that the victim got stuck underneath a patio fence. Lee then stated that he heard the victim plead "[p]lease don't kill me." According to Lee, . . . [Petitioner] paid no heed to the victim's pleas for mercy. Instead, he fired point-blank into the victim's face. Marquis[e] Harris, another witness for the prosecution, also testified that he saw . . . [Petitioner] shoot the victim in the face.

Other witnesses corroborated this testimony. Steve Crawley testified that he saw . . . [Petitioner] three weeks prior to the murder carrying a shotgun. Crawley also testified that he witnessed . . . [Petitioner] on the night of the murder "acting shaky and nervous." Another witness, [Phedrek] Davis, [2] testified that he overheard . . . [Petitioner] state that "he was going to get" the victim for stealing . . . [Petitioner]'s car.

. . . [Petitioner] testified as a witness on his own behalf. . . . [Petitioner] denied any involvement in the murder, contending that he was at home with his girlfriend at the time of the shooting. . . . [Petitioner] did admit that, after the victim stole his car, he threatened to "get" the victim. On cross-examination, the [S]tate asked . . . [Petitioner] if, on the night of the shooting, he was in possession of a shotgun. . . . [Petitioner] responded that he was not. The [S]tate then inquired if all the other witnesses who testified that . . . [Petitioner] did have a shotgun around the time of the shooting were "lying." . . . [Petitioner] responded affirmatively.

At the close of the defense's case in chief, the [S]tate called Detective Bill Pridemore as a rebuttal witness. Prior to trial, [Detective] Pridemore had made a summary of statements given to him by Rodriguez Lee during questioning. The statements corroborated Lee's trial testimony. On direct examination, the [S]tate asked [Detective] Pridemore to recount his summary of these statements. Defense counsel objected on the ground that [Detective] Pridemore was a material witness, and thus, should not be permitted to testify as a rebuttal witness. The [S]tate argued that . . . [Petitioner] had "opened the door" when he testified on cross-examination that anyone who said he possessed a shotgun on the night of the murder was "lying." The trial judge overruled defense counsel's objection.

Id. at *1-2 (footnote added).

         Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied. Cyrus Deville Wilson v. State, No. 01C01-9811-CR-00448, 1999 WL 994054, at *4 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 29, 1999). This court determined that it could not meaningfully review the post-conviction court's order because it lacked findings of fact and conclusions of law; thus, this court vacated the judgment and remanded for entry of a new order. Id. at *6. Thereafter, the post-conviction court entered a new order denying relief, which this court affirmed on appeal. Cyrus D. Wilson v. State, No. M2000-01237-CCA-R3-PC, 2001 WL 504910, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 14, 2001), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 17, 2001).

         On August 25, 2009, Petitioner filed his first petition for writ of error coram nobis. Wilson v. State, 367 S.W.3d 229, 232 (Tenn. 2012). In his petition, he alleged that on August 26, 2008, he obtained a document created by the State on December 28, 1992, that stated, "[G]ood case but for most of [the witnesses] are juveniles who have already lied repeatedly." Id. at 232-33. The coram nobis court tolled the statute of limitations but summarily dismissed the petition because the note was the State's work product and was not subject to disclosure. Id. at 233. This court reversed and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on the merits because "the State had waived the statute of limitations as a defense because it did not raise the issue in the trial court[.]" Id.; see also Cyrus Deville Wilson v. State, No. M2009-02241-CCA-R3-CO, 2011 WL 1344519, at *2-3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 6, 2011), perm. app. granted (Tenn. Sept. 21, 2011).

         After the Tennessee Supreme Court granted the State's application for permission to appeal under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 11, the court concluded that the coram nobis court did not err by tolling the statute of limitations in Petitioner's case. Wilson, 367 S.W.3d at 234. Additionally, the Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that the State's note was work product protected by Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(2). Id. at 236. Further, the court concluded that the note was opinion work product that was never discoverable and was inadmissible. Id. Thus, the supreme court concluded that the note was "not sufficient to support a petition for writ of error coram nobis[, ]" reversed the judgment of this court, and reinstated the judgment of the coram nobis court. Id. at 236-37.

         While Petitioner's first error coram nobis petition was pending, Rodriguez Lee, an eyewitness of the crime, recanted his trial testimony in an affidavit. Cyrus Deville Wilson v. State, No. M2013-01807-CCA-R3-CO, 2014 WL 3748573, at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 30, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Dec. 17, 2014). Petitioner then filed his second petition for writ of error coram nobis. Id. After appointment of counsel, the coram nobis court tolled the statute of limitations and held a hearing. Id. The coram nobis court denied relief because "it was not reasonably well satisfied that the testimony at the evidentiary hearing was true and that the testimony at trial was false" and because "other considerations would preclude coram nobis relief even if the witnesses were considered to be credible." Id. at *4. On appeal, this court affirmed the coram nobis court's denial of relief. Id.

         On May 4, 2017, Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of error coram nobis. In this petition, he asserted that the recanted testimony of Marquise Harris and Phedrek Davis constituted newly discovered evidence. The coram nobis court appointed counsel, who filed an amended petition.

         At the coram nobis hearing on October 23, 2017, Mr. Harris testified that in 1992, police interviewed him prior to his testimony in Petitioner's trial. He asserted that, at the time he spoke with police, he did not know the victim. He explained that he testified to whatever Detective Pridemore and the prosecutor wanted him to say at Petitioner's trial. Mr. Harris stated that he lied when he testified that he saw Petitioner use a weapon to shoot the victim. He asserted that his ...

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