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State v. Peters

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 14, 2019

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
THORNE PETERS

          Assigned on Briefs April 2, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 15-05021 J. Robert Carter, Jr., Judge.

         The Defendant, Thorne Peters, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony drug offense, a Class D felony; possession of marijuana with intent to sell, a Class E felony; and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, a Class E felony. The trial court merged the drug convictions and imposed an effective sentence of four years. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence convicting him of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony drug offense. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Stephen C. Bush, District Public Defender, and Harry E. Sayle III, Assistant District Public Defender (on appeal); and Thorne Peters, Pro Se (at trial), for the appellant, Thorne Peters.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Matt McLeod, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

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

          OPINION

          ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE

         FACTS

         The Defendant moved from California to Memphis with his girlfriend, Linda Harrah, with the goal of getting arrested and challenging Tennessee's marijuana laws. On February 3, 2015, officers executed a search warrant of a home owned by Ms. Harrah and frequented by the Defendant, resulting in the Defendant being indicted for two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony drug offense, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver. The State nolle prosequied one of the firearm charges before trial, and the trial court granted the Defendant's motion to proceed pro se.

         At trial, Sergeant Claudio Fernandez with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office testified that he set up surveillance of the house at 758 Marianna Street based on the Defendant's Facebook posts and information received from sources indicating that the Defendant was selling marijuana. Over the course of different times and different days, Sergeant Fernandez observed a considerable amount of foot and vehicle traffic and concluded that it was indicative of drug activity. He obtained a search warrant for the property, and officers executed it on February 3, 2015.

         The house was surrounded by a chain-link fence with a locked gate, which officers had to cut with bolt cutters to enter the yard. They were confronted by two aggressive dogs that tried to bite them. The officers used a shotgun to make a loud noise to distract the dogs. Once the dogs ceased to be a threat, the officers approached the front door and announced themselves. When the occupants of the house did not open the door, the officers forced their way into the house. The officers detained the Defendant and Ms. Harrah without incident.

         In conducting their search of the property, officers found three mason jars containing marijuana, a plastic bag containing marijuana, a digital scale, and two firearms. One of the firearms, a .45-caliber handgun, was loaded with a magazine and had a round in the chamber. It was found in the front bedroom off the entryway, sitting on a floor speaker and not obscured in any way. The Defendant gave a statement to police in which he said that the marijuana they found "was his and that he was selling it." The Defendant also told the officers that his fingerprints might be on the .45-caliber handgun.

         Detective Gary Lambert of the Shelby County Sheriff's Office investigated the case with Sergeant Fernandez and testified consistently with him. Detective Lambert elaborated that in the statement given by the Defendant, "[h]e really spoke about selling marijuana, buying it by the pound[, ] and he had several customers." The Defendant also told them that the firearms belonged to another individual but ...


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