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State v. Christian

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

August 21, 2019

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
DOUGLAS EDWARD CHRISTIAN

          Session June 18, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Coffee County No. 41726-F Vanessa Jackson, Judge.

         Defendant, Douglas Edward Christian, was convicted of Class B felony possession of .5 grams or more of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance, with the intent to sell or deliver (Count 1); Class B felony possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance, with the intent to sell or deliver (Count 2); Class D felony possession of a Schedule III controlled substance, Bu[p]reno[r]phine, with the intent to sell or deliver (Count 3); and Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana, a Schedule VI controlled substance (Count 4). The trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective term of twenty-years as a Range II offender. On appeal, Defendant claims that the trial court "erroneously used foreign judgments" to sentence him as a Range II offender, considered unsubstantiated information in sentencing him, wrongly denied pretrial jail credits, and erred by denying Defendant his right to a speedy trial. After a thorough review of the record and briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Drew Justice (on appeal), Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and Bud L. Sharp (at trial) McMinnville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Douglas Edward Christian.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Craig Northcott, District Attorney General; and Joshua C. Powell, 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.

          OPINION

          ROBERT L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE.

         Procedural Background

         Because Defendant claims that he was denied his right to a speedy trial, we will include numerous dates in the procedural background section of this opinion.

         In March 2015, the Coffee County Grand Jury returned a four-count indictment in Case No. 41, 726F charging Defendant with Class B felony possession of .5 grams or more of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance, with the intent to sell or deliver (Count 1); Class B felony possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance, with the intent to sell or deliver (Count 2); Class D felony possession of a Schedule III controlled substance, Bu[p]reno[r]phine, with the intent to sell or deliver (Count 3); and Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana, a Schedule VI controlled substance (Count 4). After being released on bond, Defendant failed to appear for arraignment and was rearrested on May 11, 2015. Although he was denied bond, he was mistakenly released from custody. On August 8, 2015, Defendant was arrested on new charges.

         On January 5, 2016, Defendant's retained counsel filed a pretrial motion to suppress, a motion for medical care, and a motion to set or lower bond. The State responded to the motions on February 8. After numerous discussions with the State, retained counsel filed amended motions on February 23, 2016. Because of the expected time required to argue the motions, the parties agreed to a special setting. On May 27, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to suppress statements and a motion to suppress text messages. On June 1, 2016, the parties appeared in court, and the motions were set for argument. On July 14, 2016, the motions were argued.

         On July 20, 2016, retained counsel moved to withdraw. On August 1, the trial court entered orders setting a $250, 000 "blanket bond" for this case and three other cases pending against Defendant, granting Defendant's motion to be provided with proper diabetic care, and denying the other motions. New counsel entered an appearance on September 7, 2016, and filed a motion to reduce bond and a "Motion for a Fast and Speedy Trial" on September 13, 2016.

         On April 5, 2017, the trial court heard Defendant's "Motion for a Fast and Speedy Trial" in this case before starting the jury trial in Case No. 42, 4567F. After argument of counsel, the trial court found that because the case had been pending for over a year, there was "a presumption of prejudice which triggers examination of the next factors." After argument, the court denied the motion, finding:

If you look at the reasons for the delay, there's absolutely no showing of any intent by the State to delay this matter to the prejudice of the defendant or for any tactical advantage. That's no showing of any bureaucratic indifference.
Quite frankly, most of the delay in this matter was acquiesced to by the defense or was a result of waiting on the defense to amend certain --their motions to suppress. It appears that [the Assistant District Attorney] was very diligent in communicating with defense counsel in trying to get those motions in a position where they could be heard, so that factor weighs against the defense in this case.
Again, the delay I believe was necessary for a fair prosecution of the case because it was necessary to hear those motions to suppress.[1]

         On September 25, 2017, Defendant moved to sever his offenses in the instant case, alleging that there were two separate incidents. On September 27, 2017, Defendant filed another motion to dismiss for failure to grant a speedy trial. On October 16, the State moved to amend the indictment to remove the word "sell" from Counts 1, 2, and 3. The motion was granted the same day.

         Jury Trial

         Because Defendant does not contest the sufficiency of the evidence, we will limit our summary of the evidence presented at the jury trial to that necessary to give context to the issues raised.

         The case was tried by jury on October 17, 2017. Manchester Police Department (MPD) Investigator Butch Stewart testified that he received multiple text messages concerning Defendant on November 2, 2014. The author of the text messages said that Defendant was in a white Chevrolet Equinox but that she did not know his location. Investigator Stewart was unable to locate the vehicle. On November 3, 2014, Investigator Stewart received additional text messages from a different person stating that Defendant was at the Ambassador Motel in Manchester to deliver drugs. Investigator Stewart and two other MPD officers went to the motel to investigate. Defendant was standing beside the Equinox when they arrived, but he hurried into a motel room when he saw the officers. Investigator Stewart and the MPD officers knocked on the door. Defendant opened the door, was courteous to the officers, and upon request gave officers permission to search his motel room and the Equinox located in the parking lot. Inside the motel room, officers found empty plastic bags in the toilet. Inside the vehicle, Investigator Stewart found a pill bottle containing cocaine. Defendant was arrested at that time. Two days later, a motel maintenance employee notified MPD that he found a bag of drugs clogging up the toilet in the room Defendant had rented.

         Investigator Stewart testified in detail concerning the drugs found in the bag recovered from the toilet. He also testified about telephone calls made by Defendant from jail that were recorded. The recordings were played for the jury. Investigator Stewart stated that, in one recording, Defendant said that he "flushed everything," and all the police found was little plastic bags. Defendant stated, "I lost five or six thousand." Numerous texts between Defendant and other individuals before Defendant arrived in Manchester were introduced. Defendant sent a text message stating that he had various drugs, including "clear" which is crystal methamphetamine, "girl" which is cocaine, pain pills, and "loud" which is marijuana. Defendant asked one person, who wanted to buy drugs, if she could get a ride to Ambassador Inn. Defendant responded, "[C]ome to exit 110 Ambassador Inn go thru front its building on right go behind u will see white van room 120." Shortly before Defendant was arrested, he texted that he "was missing a pill bottle with my girl and clear[.]"

         The jury found Defendant guilty of the charged offenses.

         Sentencing Hearing

         The trial court conducted a sentencing hearing on November 29, 2017. At the beginning of the sentencing hearing, the State announced that it would be relying on two previous out-of-state convictions to establish that Defendant was a Range II offender. Defense counsel "agree[d] that the conviction in 1987 of a federal crime was [Defendant], and there's another conviction from 1977 that [Defendant] ...


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