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State v. Ferguson

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

September 26, 2019

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
RONTAVIOUS S. FERGUSON and TRAMON T. KEY

          Session June 5, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Dyer County Nos. 16-CR-140, 16-CR-140A William B. Acree, Senior Judge.

         The State appeals from the trial court's dismissal with prejudice of a two-count indictment against the Defendants, Rontavious S. Ferguson and Tramon T. Key, for attempted second-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery. The State contends that it had discretion to nolle prosequi the charges and that dismissal without prejudice would not have placed the public interest at stake. After review, we affirm the dismissal of the indictment against the Defendants but remand to the Dyer County Circuit Court for entry of an amended order dismissing the case without prejudice.

         Tenn. R. App. P Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed in Part; Reversed in Part; Remanded

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Danny Goodman, Jr., District Attorney General; and Lance Webb, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

          Noel H. Riley, II, Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellee, Rontavious S. Ferguson.

          Hal James Boyd, Tiptonville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tramon T. Key.

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

          OPINION

          JOHN EVERETT WILLIAMS, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On June 13, 2016, the Defendants were indicted for attempted second-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery. The trial court conducted a hearing on July 24, 2018, for the purpose of setting a trial date. During that hearing, the court noted that it had been designated to hear the case after the previous judge recused himself, and the court alluded to the fact that the case had been set for trial on at least two previous occasions. The State advised the court that there would be few witnesses and that the case was very factually uncomplicated. With consent of the parties, the case was set for trial on September 19, 2018.

         On September 26, 2018, the trial court entered an order dismissing the indictment with prejudice. In its order, the court explained that the day before the scheduled trial date of September 19, the State advised the court that it intended to enter an order of nolle prosequi because the victim was out of state for work, and it learned from the defense the day before that a witness whom the State had not subpoenaed because he said he did not know anything about the crimes would testify on behalf of the defense as to facts previously unknown by the State. The court determined that even though the Defendants were not opposing the State's request to enter an order of nolle prosequi, the case should be dismissed with prejudice "because the State is unprepared for trial while the [c]ourt and the Defendants are properly prepared for trial."

         At the dismissal hearing, the following exchange occurred between the court and the State:

State: . . . [W]e have decided to nolle this case. . . . [A] couple of reasons, one, the victim is actually in North Carolina with his company. They are doing something related to ...

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