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State v. Rivers

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 9, 2019


          Session June 4, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Lake County No. 16-CR-10223 R. Lee Moore, Jr., Judge

         Defendant, Kendrick Rivers, [1] was found guilty of aggravated assault in concert with two or more other persons after an incident at Northwest Correctional Complex ("Northwest") in Tiptonville, Tennessee, during which a correctional officer was attacked by several inmates. As a result of the conviction, Defendant was sentenced to fifteen years in incarceration. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction, that the trial court erred in refusing to allow Defendant to introduce another inmate's conviction for the same offense, and that the trial court erred in sentencing Defendant. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

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

          David Camp, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, Kendrick Rivers.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Jody S. Pickens, District Attorney General; and Lance Webb, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Thomas T. Woodall, J., and John Everett Williams, P.J, joined.



         Defendant and Darrell Lamont Fleming, Jr., were indicted by a Lake County grand jury in July of 2016 for attempted first degree murder and aggravated assault for their role in an attack on Officer Shannon Williamson at Northwest. Defendant filed a motion to sever his case from the codefendants, Mr. Fleming and Kaleb Tate, because they were "indicted on the same charges as the movant."[2] The motion goes on to explain that the severance was necessary because Mr. Tate had already pled guilty to the offense and Mr. Fleming gave a statement implicating Defendant in the offense that could not be redacted. The trial court granted the motion to sever. Prior to trial, the State nolle prossed the attempted first degree murder charge in Count One of the indictment.

         At trial, the following facts were introduced. On September 2, 2014, Defendant, Mr. Fleming, and Mr. Tate were all inmates at Northwest. The correctional facility was arranged in pods. Each pod contained cells on two "tiers" or levels, with thirty-four cells on the upper tier and thirty cells on the lower tier. On the lower tier, located in the center, was a protected area referred to as "the cage" where correctional officers could complete paperwork and maintain a safe position as they supervised activities within the pod. Defendant, Mr. Fleming, and Mr. Tate were all housed in Pod Nine. Defendant's cell was located on the first tier.

         Officer Shannon Williamson, a correctional officer at Northwest, was the only officer working in Pod Nine on the day of the incident. Pod Nine contained approximately 128 inmates. Officer Williamson acknowledged that department policy regarding tier management was in place at the time of the incident. Tier management involved allowing only inmates on one tier out of their cells at a time. He "tried" to follow that policy but acknowledged that he was not completely successful.

         According to Officer Williamson, Defendant wanted to get back into his cell after Officer Williamson "got a call on the radio saying that it was [recreation time for] the top tier." Officer Williamson "just told him to hold on and stuff and [he] would let [Defendant] in his cell" after he "let out the top tier for rec." Officer Williamson explained that Defendant "wanted to argue [with him] a little bit." Officer Williamson returned to Defendant's cell about fifteen or twenty minutes later. Mr. Tate was standing outside the cell with Defendant. Officer Williamson recalled that "another inmate c[a]me to [Defendant's] cell and they w[ere] standing at each - - each side of the doorway. And [Defendant] pushed the door wide open and said if I try to shut it, to hurt me." Officer Williamson turned around and "went to the cage," letting Defendant stay in his cell while it was open.

         A short time later, Defendant came out of his cell and approached Officer Williamson while he was standing near the cage. According to Officer Williamson, Defendant was "trying to argue" or "pick a fight." The officer agreed that Defendant appeared angry. Officer Williamson told Defendant that he was not "going to deal with it," so he intended to go back to the cage and start writing in his log. Officer Williamson's next memory is of being "on the ground" with someone hitting him on his back. Once the assault was over, Officer Williamson was able to get up and press the emergency button on his radio, walk to the cage, and shut the door, but he had no other recollection of the incident. As a result of his injuries, Officer Williamson was out of work for approximately three months.

         Officer Williamson denied using the "N" word and acknowledged that the use of the word would violate the policies of the Department of Correction.

         David Abel of the Tennessee Department of Correction, Office of Investigation and Compliance, worked as the Institutional Investigator at Northwest. Investigator Abel testified that the facility housed about 2400 inmates and was equipped with video surveillance cameras. The cameras did not record audio. Investigator Abel was notified within less than fifteen minutes of the incident during which Officer Williamson was attacked by three inmates. After being notified of the ...

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