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Hawkins v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

October 30, 2019


          Session May 29, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Claiborne County No. 17-CR-2776 E. Shayne Sexton, Judge.

         A Claiborne County jury convicted the Petitioner, Robert Andrew Hawkins, of one count of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated assault, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of sixteen years in confinement. The Petitioner appealed his convictions on the basis of a juror issue and sentencing. This court affirmed his convictions and sentence. State v. Robert Andrew Hawkins, No. E2015-01542-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 5210770 (Tenn. Crim. App, at Knoxville, Sept. 19, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Dec. 14, 2016). The Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that: (1) the State withheld evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 93 (1965); (2) Counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate or communicate effectively with him; and (3) the cumulative effect of these errors entitles him to a new trial. The post-conviction court denied relief, and the Petitioner maintains his allegations on appeal. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court's judgment.

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

          Chelsea C. Moore, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Robert Andrew Hawkins.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Jared R. Effler, District Attorney General; and Graham E. Wilson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which John Everett Williams, P.J. and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., joined.



         I. Facts

         In our opinion affirming the Petitioner's convictions, we summarized the

         Petitioner's case as follows:

Four days after the victim, Anna Falce, required her live-in boyfriend, [the Petitioner], to vacate her home, he returned, held her hostage for over three hours, and viciously attacked her. As a result of the attack, the Claiborne County Grand Jury indicted [the Petitioner] for aggravated burglary in count one, especially aggravated kidnapping in count two, aggravated domestic assault in counts three and four, and coercion of a witness in count five. After a trial, [the Petitioner] was acquitted in counts one and five, convicted of the lesser included offense of aggravated kidnapping in count two, and convicted of aggravated assault in counts three and four.

Hawkins, 2016 WL 5210770, at *1. Because the Petitioner had not appealed sufficiency of the evidence, our summary did not include the facts presented at trial. Those facts, however, are relevant herein based upon the Petitioner's argument that Counsel's representation prejudiced him at trial. Therefore, we turn to summarize the facts as presented at trial.

         A. Trial

         During the Petitioner's trial, the parties presented the following evidence: The victim testified that she was living in a home with her daughter on April 24, 2013, a home from which she had recently asked the Petitioner to vacate. The two had dated for four years, and she broke off their relationship and asked him to move out. The Petitioner refused, and the victim had to go to a friend's house, hide her vehicle, and then threaten him with calling the police before he would leave. The home was owned by the victim's mother, where she had lived since 2001, and the victim paid her $100 a month to live there. While the Petitioner shared some expenses, he did not pay rent.

         On April 24, 2013, the day of the attack, the victim's daughter, I.R., had a friend over. I.R.'s friend's father, Tim Brantley, picked them up to drive them to school. The victim said she was preparing for work as a supervising nurse and was expecting a friend, Mindy Walker. When the victim heard someone come in the door, she assumed it was Ms. Walker, but it was the Petitioner. He said "I hope you kissed your daughter goodbye because that's the last time you're gonna see her."

         The victim said that the Petitioner grabbed her and threw her on the ground and then punched her. The Petitioner called her a "whore," dug through her bathroom trash looking for dirty condoms, and told her that she did not deserve to live. The Petitioner told her that he had been standing outside her window waiting for I.R. to leave. The Petitioner then told her that if she did not stay with him that he would kidnap, torture, and kill her.

         The victim testified that the Petitioner then got on top of her and strangled her until she could no longer breathe. He repeatedly slammed her head onto the floor. As he loosened his grip on her neck, she began screaming, and he told her that she was not going to scream anymore. He put his fingers in her throat, and made a large hole in the back of her gum with his finger. The victim said that, at one point, she fled and made it to her carport before the Petitioner grabbed her by the hair and "jerked" her into the house.

         The victim said that she tried to hit the Petitioner with a vase, but she had no strength. He said that he was going to tape her up because she was not cooperating. He then got duct tape from a toolbox, hit her in the head with the vase, and taped her hands and feet. The Petitioner kept smacking her face and told her that he had decided to kill himself but then he decided that killing her would be more fun. The Petitioner told her that his father was going to testify that the two were together at the time of the murder so he would not be caught. The victim said that the Petitioner told her that he was going to put her in his car, go get I.R. from school, and let I.R. watch while he tortured and killed the victim. He also said he was going to call the victim's mother and let her listen to the victim being killed.

         The victim said that the Petitioner began looking through her work and personal cell phones. He kicked her any time he saw something that he did not like on her phone, such as a text message from someone who he assumed was a male. The Petitioner sent and received text messages from the victim's phone during this ordeal, but she did not have access to her phones at this point. As the Petitioner looked at her phones, he accused the victim of sleeping with other men, put his face by her "lower area" and said that she smelled like another man's "dick." The victim said that she was in the process of changing when the Petitioner arrived, so she did not have any pants or underwear on during these events.

         Mr. Brantley returned from taking the girls to school, bringing the victim breakfast. The Petitioner taped the victim's mouth, told her that he would kill her if she made a sound, and went outside and yelled at Mr. Brantley that the victim was not there and that Mr. Brantley should leave. The victim said that, when the Petitioner came back into the house, he ripped the duct tape off of the victim's mouth. Her lip ripped away from one side of her mouth. She said that there was blood in her throat from where the Petitioner punctured it with his finger and she could barely breathe when her mouth and nose were taped.

         The victim said that she convinced the Petitioner to let her call her work and inform them that she was unable to come to work. When she did so, the person whom she called knew that there was something wrong, so she had the victim's boss, Dana Schaaf, call her to confirm her absence. When the Ms. Schaff called her, the victim gave her a "code word," which let her Ms. Schaff know that there was something wrong.

         The victim said that the Petitioner began rocking in a chair and asked her if he had fallen asleep. She told him no, but she became aware that he was on drugs. The Petitioner told her that he had taken "Mollie" that weekend and then had gone to his night shift as a coal miner. The victim said that she began talking to the Petitioner about his mother and about how maybe the two of them could work things out in an attempt to calm him down. The victim asked the Petitioner to cut the tape on her hands, and he agreed. She then cut the tape on her feet.

         The victim testified that, at that point, the Petitioner said that he was going to take a brief rest but that if she tried "anything" he would kill her. The victim said that, as the Petitioner rested, she called Ms. Walker who arrived shortly thereafter. The victim convinced the Petitioner to let Ms. Walker in, saying if he did not that Ms. Walker would call the police. When Ms. Walker saw the victim, she asked the Petitioner what he had done to her and handed the victim some pants from a clothing pile nearby. The Petitioner acted remorseful. Ms. Walker repeatedly asked the Petitioner what he had done, and he became incensed. He went to the back bedroom, called the victim to him, and told her to "get rid" of Ms. Walker. The victim reminded him that three people had seen him there that day, Mr. Brantley, Ms. Walker, and herself, and the Petitioner said he had time to kill all three. The victim agreed to ask Ms. Walker to leave, and the victim left the room, began running, told Ms. Walker to leave, and then fled the house herself.

         The victim said that she ran to Jack Creech's garage and called 911. From the garage, she saw the Petitioner leave her driveway in his green Bravada SUV. The victim said that she did not see the Petitioner again until his first court date regarding these events. Before the Petitioner was apprehended, however, the police asked her to keep texting with the Petitioner because they were tracking his cell phone. The Petitioner told the victim via text that he could be behind her house again at any minute.

         The victim described her injuries from this attack, which the police photographed. She said the pictures depicted her neck, which was swollen and red from the strangulation; her hair, which was ripped out; her injured lip, and her black eyes. The victim also identified photographs of bruises to her legs, arms, elbows, and kidney area from the Petitioner kicking her. Not pictured were her punctured gum and the injury from him smashing the vase on top of her head.

         The victim identified photographs taken of the text messages the Petitioner sent from the victim's phone to Ms. Walker. In one of the text messages, Ms. Walker asked if the victim was alright, saying that Mr. Brantley was worried about her. The Petitioner responded as the victim saying that she was fine and was talking to the Petitioner who was upset. Ms. Walker then asked the victim via text whether she was okay, and the Petitioner responded as the victim that she was fine and just arguing with the Petitioner.

         The victim also identified pictures of text messages between the Petitioner and herself before he turned himself in to the police. In those messages, the Petitioner told the victim that he had heard that she said he was on "bath salts" and had kidnapped her, both of which he stated were untrue. He texted that he had lived with her for five years, the two had argued, and so he went to stay with his father for three days. He accused her of allowing another man to stay with her during this time. He told her that the lies she had said about him had caused him to lose his job and leave town. Other text messages became more threatening, with the Petitioner telling the victim that he was "closer to [her] than [she] would ever think."

         During cross-examination, the victim testified that she and the Petitioner had agreed that he would move out but that he would sleep on the couch until he earned money to do so. The victim agreed that the Petitioner knew that she kept a firearm in ...

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