Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Session: May 29, 2019
from the Criminal Court for Bradley County No. 16-CR-261
Sandra Donaghy, Judge
convicted Defendant, Sean Angelo Davenport, of first degree
premeditated murder, and Defendant was sentenced to life. On
appeal, Defendant argues that (1) the evidence was
insufficient for a rational juror to have found him guilty of
first degree premeditated murder; (2) the trial court erred
by instructing the jury on flight; (3) the trial court erred
by failing to give Defendant's requested jury instruction
on spoliation; (4) the trial court erred by admitting
evidence of Defendant's prior bad acts; and (5) the trial
court erred by failing to order a mistrial when, during
deliberations, the jury asked if Defendant had access to
their personal information. After a thorough review of the
facts and applicable case law, we affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
Charles P. Dupree, Chattanooga, Tennessee, (on appeal) and
Kenneth Miller, Cleveland, Tennessee, (at trial) for the
appellant, Sean Angelo Davenport.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Nicholas W. Spangler, Assistant Attorney General; Stephen D.
Crump, District Attorney General; and Krista Oswalt and
Heather Miller, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the
appellee, State of Tennessee.
L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which John Everett Williams, P.J., and Robert W. Wedemeyer,
L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE.
and Procedural Background
13, 2016, the Bradley County Grand Jury indicted Defendant
for first degree premeditated murder in the death of the
victim, Michael Shane Swafford.
the jury was selected and opening statements were completed,
the trial court held a 404(b) hearing outside the presence of
the jury to determine if McKala Sednek would be permitted to
testify regarding Defendant's behavior on the days
preceding and the moments directly following the killing of
the victim on April 14, 2015. Ms. Sednek and Defendant lived
together for three years prior to the homicide, and she was
the mother of one of Defendant's children. Ms. Sednek
testified that, a few days before the homicide, Defendant
vandalized her car and that on April 12, 2015, Defendant held
a gun to her head during an argument. The trial court found
that a material issue exists that is the complete story of
the crime, the Defendant's intent, and the victim's
state of mind, that those are information that the [j]ury
needs to hear in rendering the decision that they do, that it
does not go to character trait for violence by the Defendant;
that this proof is by clear and convincing evidence, and it
should not be excluded as the danger of unfair prejudice does
not outweigh the probative value of this evidence.
Sednek also testified that she and Defendant lost custody of
their child because she failed a drug test and Defendant
refused to submit one to the Department of Children's
Services ("DCS"). The trial court found it
permissible for the State to question Ms. Sednek about
Defendant's refusal to take a drug test because trial
counsel opened the door by mentioning Ms. Sednek's drug
problems during opening statement.
stating her name, Ms. Sednek, who was handcuffed during her
testimony, stated that she was being held on charges of
aggravated child neglect, aggravated burglary, forgery, and
theft of property. Ms. Sednek admitted that she had been
previously convicted of possession of marijuana one time and
shoplifting three times. She said she had a drug problem and
that she was using methamphetamine in 2015.
Sednek said that she and Defendant had been living at a
leased residence for three years and that the victim had been
living with them for about a week prior to April 14, 2015. On
Saturday, April 12, Defendant and Ms. Sednek had a heated
argument, and Defendant demanded that the victim leave. The
argument escalated after the victim left. At one point during
the argument, Defendant held a gun to Ms. Sednek's left
temple. Defendant left the residence after the argument
subsided, and Ms. Sednek called her father, who at some point
called the police. Defendant then returned to the residence.
morning of April 13, a police officer came to the residence,
but Ms. Sednek told him nothing happened. She testified that
she lied to the officer on April 13 because she was scared of
Defendant. On the same day, an officer returned to the
residence because Ms. Sednek reported that her Xanax and
hydrocodone had been stolen. Defendant left the residence
before the police arrived. The victim returned to the
residence after the police left, and Ms. Sednek invited the
victim back into the house. Ms. Sednek stated that she
believed she told the victim about her argument with
Defendant before she went to sleep that evening.
Ms. Sednek awoke on April 14, 2015, Defendant was at the
residence. When the victim discovered that Defendant had
returned, he came out of the bedroom into the living room
yelling at Defendant, and he began hitting Defendant. Ms.
Sednek claimed that the fight between Defendant and the
victim lasted a few minutes. She did not see either Defendant
or the victim with a firearm during this altercation. She
said that she had never seen the victim with a firearm.
Sednek testified that, once the physical altercation ended,
Defendant went outside, and the victim went to his bedroom.
The victim returned to the living room with his shoes and sat
down on the couch. Ms. Sednek said that she heard Defendant
run onto the porch, and then Defendant opened the front door,
stepped inside, and shot the victim multiple times as he was
sitting on the couch and leaning over tying his shoes.
Defendant then ran out of the house but stopped, turned
around, pointed his gun at Ms. Sednek, and said,
"Twenty-five to life." Defendant got in his truck
and drove away. Ms. Sednek said that she had seen Defendant
with the pistol used to kill the victim before. She said that
Defendant either wore it on his side or kept it under the
Sednek called 911 and told the operator she "woke up to
gunshots, and there is a guy that's been shot inside my
house and that I didn't know who shot him." Ms.
Sednek stated that she initially lied to police because she
was in shock but later admitted to detectives that she saw
Defendant shoot the victim. She denied having told anyone
that the victim had a gun during the altercation.
Sednek said that she and Defendant had a son together but
that they lost custody of their son because they both were
addicted to drugs. Ms. Sednek stated that her relationship
with Defendant was volatile. In the week prior to the
homicide, she said Defendant slashed all four of her
vehicle's tires and threw a brick through the windshield.
Anthony Cochran of the Cleveland Police Department
("CPD") testified that, when he arrived at the
scene of the homicide, he observed Ms. Sednek crying and
pointing to the back door of the residence. He tried to speak
with Ms. Sednek, but he could not understand her because she
was hysterical. Officer Cochran performed a walkthrough of
the scene where he observed the victim in the corner
facedown. After determining that there was no one else in the
house, he signaled for Emergency Medical Services to go in
Detective Andy Wattenbarger testified that he took
photographs of the scene and collected physical evidence,
including shell casings. Detective Wattenbarger also attended
the victim's autopsy. Detective Wattenbarger observed
five entry wounds and witnessed the medical examiner remove
three bullets from the victim's body, which he collected
and placed in a vault at the CPD to be processed by the
Tennessee Bureau of Investigation ("TBI"). The
following day, Ms. Sednek called and reported that she had
found a shell casing in the couch. Detective Wattenbarger
returned to the scene and retrieved the shell casing. During
redirect examination, Detective Wattenbarger testified that
the blood droplets discovered at the homicide scene indicated
that the victim was sitting when he was shot.
Detective Daniel Gibbs testified that he interviewed Ms.
Sednek at the police department. Although Ms. Sednek
originally claimed she did not see who shot the victim, she
ultimately admitted that she saw Defendant shoot the victim.
Detective Gibbs requested testing for DNA rather than
fingerprints on the firearms. He stated that the TBI lab
could not perform both tests because the methods used in DNA
and fingerprint testing affected the results of the other
test. Detective Gibbs chose the DNA testing because it was
the "newer" technology.
Cheryl Holloway of the Bradley County Sheriff's Office
("BCSO") testified that she was driving on the
APD-40 highway when she got off at the Blue Springs exit and
noticed a wrecked car to her left in the grass. Deputy
Holloway went to assist with this wreck and found Defendant
standing outside of the driver's door. Defendant had an
injury above his right eye, which he claimed he received
during the wreck.
Steven Warner of the CPD testified that he arrived at the
scene of Defendant's wreck after Deputy Holloway. Officer
Warner believed that Defendant had tried to flee from the
scene of the wreck because of the tire tracks in mud around
Defendant's vehicle. Officer Warner looked into the open
driver's door of Defendant's vehicle and saw the
handle of a firearm sticking up from between the passenger
seat and center console.
Detective Cody Hinson testified that he assisted in the
investigation of Defendant's wreck, took pictures of the
scene, and prepared the vehicle to be towed to the police
department. Detective Hinson took custody of a revolver and
some ammunition from CPD Detective Laura Lane and later
transported that evidence to CPD and delivered it to
Detective Wattenbarger. After Detective Hinson obtained a
search warrant for Defendant's vehicle, he and Detective
Wattenbarger searched the vehicle and found various household
items, clothing, bedding, a television, and a .380 pistol. In
addition to the items found during the search, Detective
Wattenbarger testified that a .38 caliber pistol and a box of
.380 rounds had been removed from the vehicle at the scene of
Laura Lane from the BCSO testified that she assisted
Detective Hinson in the investigation of Defendant's
wreck. Detective Lane photographed the scene and collected a
revolver loaded with five live rounds, as well as a box of
ammunition from the front seat of the vehicle, and placed the
items in evidence bags. Detective Lane turned over custody of
the items to Detective Hinson at the scene.
Agent Jessica Hudson testified that she was employed as a
forensic scientist with the TBI. Agent Hudson worked
specifically in the Firearm and Tool Mark Identification Unit
and conducted a microscopic examination of the cartridge
casings and firearms collected from the scene of the
homicide. Based on her examination, Agent Hudson concluded
that the cartridge casings were fired from the .380 pistol
recovered from Defendant's vehicle. Agent Hudson also
performed tests on the bullets recovered from the
victim's body, but these tests were inconclusive.
Steven Cogswell, the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner for
Hamilton County, testified that he performed the autopsy on
the victim. Dr. Cogswell stated that the victim's cause
of death was multiple gunshot wounds. One shot came from a
downward angle in the left shoulder at an intermediate range.
Another bullet came from a horizontal angle, which entered
the victim's body past the mid-line on the victim's
side at an undetermined range. Another gunshot wound entered
on the left side of the victim's chest wall at an
undetermined range. Another shot entered at the belt line
from an undetermined range and exited through the buttocks.
Dr. Cogswell concluded that the victim was sitting down at
the time he was shot because of the abrasions surrounding the
exit wound of the fourth bullet. Dr. Cogswell concluded that
the victim's manner of death was homicide. During
cross-examination, Dr. Cogswell ruled out the possibility
that the victim was bending over facing the shooter when he
was shot due to the angles of the entry wounds. Dr. Cogswell
testified that he did not observe any injuries on the
Ervin, Defendant's and Ms. Sednek's neighbor,
testified that he heard two gunshots while sitting on his
front porch on the morning of April 14, 2015. Mr. Ervin said
that he saw Ms. Sednek walk down the street in a northerly
direction but that he never saw her return to her residence.
During cross-examination, Mr. Ervin ...