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Arnold v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

September 18, 2019


          Assigned on Briefs July 9, 2019.

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Shelby County No. 13-03894 W. Mark Ward, Judge.

         The petitioner, Cordricus Arnold, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

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

          J. Jeffrey Lee, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Cordricus Arnold.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jonathan H. Wardle, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Holly Palmer, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          J. Ross Dyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr. and Robert W. Wedemeyer, JJ., joined.


          J. ROSS DYER, JUDGE.

         Facts and Procedural History

         In 2013, the petitioner stabbed his victim to death, and a jury later convicted him of first degree felony murder. The defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction and the trial court's failure to instruct the jury on voluntary manslaughter on direct appeal. In denying relief, this Court summarized the facts surrounding the murder, as follows:

This case arose after the victim was stabbed behind a Memphis restaurant. In a statement to police, the [petitioner] said that on the evening of March 23, 2013, he was in a Kroger grocery store "[t]o get warm." The Kroger was in the same shopping center as the restaurant El Toro Loco, and the store was adjacent to the restaurant. The [petitioner] said that he was wearing a "[b]lack hoodie and some black pants and some orange and gray shoes," and video footage from the store depicted the [petitioner] in this attire. The [petitioner] exited the store without making a purchase, and he "went to the back of Kroger and just sat there." While sitting behind the store, the [petitioner] noticed the victim, who worked at El Toro Loco, when the victim was taking out the trash. The [petitioner] approached the victim when he was emptying bottles and boxes into the trash. The [petitioner] said that the victim turned around "because I guess he saw a shadow and he tried to use the bottles to hit me with them. I guess he realized what I was fixing to do." The [petitioner] then pulled out a knife and stabbed the victim with a "[b]lack butcher knife." The victim ran into the restaurant, and the [petitioner] said that he followed him in an attempt to find the victim's car keys. He explained that he wanted to obtain the victim's keys so that he would have a place "to lay [his] head."
Video footage from inside the restaurant showed the victim loading boxes into a cart and then pushing the cart toward the rear exit of the restaurant. A little over one minute later, the victim came back into the restaurant and collapsed writhing on the floor. Shortly thereafter, the [petitioner] came into the restaurant. The footage showed that he was holding a butcher knife and wearing a black hoodie and black pants, and the footage clearly shows the [petitioner's] face. The video captured the [petitioner] placing the knife on a counter and walking from one end [of] the kitchen to the other several times. The [petitioner] then retrieved the knife and knelt over the victim's body. The [petitioner] stated that he took the victim's keys and wallet and left in the victim's vehicle, which he described as a "[g]reen" truck.
Jose Miranda testified that he worked at El Toro Loco with the victim. He testified that the victim drove a green RAV 4 and that he usually parked behind the restaurant. He stated that on the evening of the victim's death, he and the victim were cleaning up the restaurant, and the victim went outside alone to take some boxes to the dumpsters behind the restaurant. A short time later, the restaurant supervisor asked Mr. Miranda if he knew where the victim was, and Mr. Miranda replied that he did not. Mr. Miranda went to look for the victim in the back of the restaurant and found him lying dead on the floor in the kitchen. Mr. Miranda rushed back to his manager and told him to call the police.
Members of the Memphis Police Department ("MPD") homicide bureau and crime scene unit were dispatched to the scene. Sergeant Kevin Lundy obtained footage from the cameras in the restaurant, and he had a video analyst create still photographs from images in the videos. Sergeant Lundy contacted Cecil Wages, who was a loss prevention officer for Kroger and a reserve MPD officer, and provided him with a still photograph of the [petitioner] from inside the restaurant. Mr. Wages examined the footage from the Kroger adjacent to El Toro Loco, and he discovered that a person matching the [petitioner's] description was in the Kroger about two hours before the victim was stabbed. Mr. Wages sent the video to the homicide bureau, and they verified that the person in the video was their suspect.
Four days after the killing, Sergeant Robert Wilkie received a call informing him that the victim's vehicle was parked behind El Toro Loco. Officers recovered the vehicle, and Officer Michael Coburn processed the vehicle. He discovered the victim's wallet and credit card in the cupholder of the vehicle. He also tested ...

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