Assigned on Briefs June 25, 2019 at Knoxville
from the Circuit Court for Lauderdale County No. 9775 Joe H.
Walker III, Judge
Defendant, Darius Deshun Mitchell, was convicted by a
Lauderdale County Circuit Court jury of two counts of first
degree premeditated murder, two counts of first degree felony
murder, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, and one
count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202 (2014)
(subsequently amended) (first degree murder), 39-13-403
(2018) (especially aggravated robbery), 39-17-1307(b)(1)(B)
(2010) (subsequently amended) (possession of a weapon by a
person who has been convicted of a felony drug offense). The
trial court merged the first degree murder convictions with
respect to each of the two victims into a single judgment of
conviction for first degree murder as to each victim and
imposed concurrent life sentences, which were to be served
concurrently with a federal sentence and consecutively to a
sentence for which the Defendant was on parole. The court
imposed twenty-five-year sentences for each of the two
especially aggravated robbery convictions and ordered that
they be served concurrently with each other and to federal
sentence and consecutively to the first degree murder
sentences and to a sentence for which the Defendant was on
parole. The court imposed a six-year sentence for the firearm
conviction and ordered that it be served concurrently with a
federal sentence and consecutively to the first degree murder
sentences and to a sentence for which the Defendant was on
parole. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence
is insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm the
judgments of the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit
Richard McFall, Covington, Tennessee, for the Appellant,
Darius Deshun Mitchell.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia
S. Lee, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Mark E. Davidson,
District Attorney General; Julie Pillow, Assistant District
Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court,
in which Norma McGee Ogle and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.
H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE
Defendant's convictions relate to the September 4, 2011
shooting deaths of Eric Washington and Jonathan Jones. The
Defendant was tried jointly with his codefendant, Darius
trial, Hertha Barlow testified that she was driving in
Henning on September 4, 2011, when she came upon a car that
was stopped, had the driver's door open, and was blocking
the road. Because the roadway was impassable due to the
location of the stopped car, she called 9-1-1.
Police Officer Dan Rayner testified that, on September 4,
2011, he was dispatched to Tate Road to investigate a report
of a car stopped in the middle of the road. He said he
arrived at 4:09 p.m. He saw a beige car with its engine
running and both doors open. He said he checked the car's
registration and learned it was registered to Ola Jones.
Rayner testified that he saw two black males who had been
shot inside the car. He identified photographs of the men in
the car, and the photographs were received as exhibits.
Officer Rayner said that he recognized Eric Washington, who
was in the driver's seat, but that he did not recognize
the other man. Officer Rayner said he secured the scene until
an investigator arrived.
Rayner testified that the area where the car was found was
wooded and secluded and that a cemetery was nearby. He said
Midway Market was one to two miles and no more than two
minutes away. He said the cemetery was a common meeting area.
Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Special Agent Forensic
Scientist Donna Nelson, an expert in serology and DNA,
testified that she was the crime scene leader and that she
analyzed the evidence collected for DNA evidence. She said
she arrived at the scene at 9:13 p.m. on September 4, 2011.
She said that when she arrived, "It was pouring down
rain," and that canopies were erected to preserve the
evidence. She identified photographs of the scene, which were
received as exhibits. The photographs depicted the slain
victims inside the car and a package of "Homestyle Fried
Chicken" on the front seat. She said the crime scene
investigators located a shotgun shell on the driver's
floorboard and a baseball cap on the passenger's
floorboard. The shotgun shell was received as an exhibit.
Agent Nelson said that more than half of the bill of the
baseball cap was detached and that the hat had a large hole
in one side. She said the investigators returned to the scene
the next day to search in daylight for additional evidence.
She said they found gunshot residue tabs on the car the
Nelson testified that the DNA evidence from the inside rear
driver's side door indicated a partial profile from a
female but that further identification could not be made. She
said cigarette butts from the car's ashtray were not
tested because the victims were known smokers. She said
samples from Victim Washington's pants near the pockets
contained insufficient or degrading DNA which could not be
developed into a DNA profile. She said that she tested a
t-shirt for blood and that the t-shirt had been submitted to
the laboratory by TBI Agent Mark Reynolds. She said Agent
Reynolds told her to determine whether the t-shirt contained
blood, whether the DNA from any blood matched the
victim's DNA profile, and if not, to determine if
the DNA profile of any blood matched the DNA profile of
"Jack." She said she did not know Jack's
identity. She said no DNA evidence was found which matched
the Defendant's and co-defendant's DNA profiles.
Faye Jones, Victim Jones's mother, testified that she had
seen Victim Jones on the morning of September 4, 2011. She
said that after he left her house, she went to her boyfriend,
Kelvin Lee's, house to launder clothing. She said that an
unidentified person came to the door and told her that
"he" had received a call in which he had learned
that two cars had been found and that her license plate
number had been broadcast over a police scanner. She said she
went to the scene but was unable to get close to the car
because the police had secured the area.
Jones testified that she knew the Defendant because he had
been an associate of her son. She said the Defendant had come
to her house on occasion. She said she had been with them
behind the Defendant's mother's house, that the
Defendant's mother had been argumentative and told them
to move off her yard, that the Defendant told Victim Jones he
would kill him, and that the Defendant turned and went
inside. She said her daughter, Jameka Phillips,
"Della," and "Stephanie" were present
when the threat was made. Ms. Jones said she told Victim
Jones that this did not make sense and that they were
"family folks." She said she asked Victim Jones,
"[W]hat [is] up with this?" She said Victim Jones
did not respond. She did not know when this happened other
than that it had been less than a year before Victim Jones
was killed. She said she did not report it to the police but
encouraged Victim Jones to contact them. She said that she
saw the Defendant on occasion after this incident and that
they never had cross words. She said she never saw the
Defendant and Victim Jones "running around
together" after the incident.
Jones testified that on another occasion, Victim Jones called
her and asked her to have someone pick up his car because the
Defendant had "pulled a gun on" Victim Jones. She
could not identify when this occurred. She acknowledged she
had called the Defendant and asked "[W]hat's
up?" and that she told him, "[W]e are family
folks," referring to the fact that they were related.
Jones testified that Mr. Lee picked up a white t-shirt from
"[w]here Jack was standing" and took it to Agent
Reynolds. She said Mr. Lee put the t-shirt in a bag without
touching the t-shirt. She said Mr. Lee picked up the t-shirt
near the highway the first time he and she went to the scene.
She did not recall if this was on the day of the homicides.
She later said she did not recall if Mr. Lee or she gave the
t-shirt to Agent Reynolds.
Pettigrew, the mother of three children with Victim
Washington, testified that she and Victim Washington had been
in a romantic relationship for nine years. She said Victim
Jones was her cousin. She identified the codefendant as
Victim Washington's cousin and said she had "heard
of" but did not know the Defendant.
Pettigrew testified that on the day of the homicides, Victim
Washington had been having his Uncle Richard repair her
Chrysler. She said she and Victim Washington planned to go to
a family reunion later. She said that while her car was being
repaired, he had Victim Jones's car to drive. She said a
dice game took place at her house that day. She said the
Defendant, the codefendant, and Victim Washington's
father were present. She said she asked Victim Washington why
the Defendant was present. She said she had "heard
things" about the Defendant, did not trust him, and did
not want him around her house. She said she was unaccustomed
to seeing him at her house. She said that money was involved
in the dice games that sometimes took place at the side of
her house and that Victim Washington always possessed large
sums of cash. She estimated he possessed $6000 to $7000 on
the day of the homicides. She was unaware of any plans Victim
Washington may have had to purchase a motorcycle.
Pettigrew testified that the last time she saw Victim
Washington, he stated he was going to Auto Zone. She said she
cleaned her house and took care of her children until Victim
Washington's niece arrived and told her Victim Washington
had been in a car wreck. Ms. Pettigrew said she went to the
area near the cemetery and stayed for three to four hours but
was unable to get close to the scene. She said she went home
until Victim Washington's mother came to get her because
a TBI agent wanted to speak with her.
Pettigrew testified that the codefendant came to her house
the next day and that he offered to repair her car and
"put minutes on" her cell phone. She said she did
not accept the offer.
Pettigrew testified that the victims were close and had been
friends since an early age. She said that Victim Jones began
a relationship with Victim Washington's sister and that
the victims saw each other frequently after this relationship
Pettigrew testified that she was unaware of any "ill
feelings" the codefendant harbored toward the victims.
She acknowledged, however, that she was aware the Defendant
"was mad about some stuff that went on way back
Pettigrew testified that Victim Washington sold drugs. She
said that, to her knowledge, he was not a gang member and did
not have any pending drug charges. When asked if Victim
Washington had pending murder charges, Ms. Pettigrew
responded that he had been in jail for about eleven months
but that she did not know the offenses with which he had been
Haley testified that Victim Washington was his son and that
Victim Jones was Victim Washington's cousin. Mr. Haley
testified that he knew the Defendant because they both lived
in Henning and that the codefendant was Mr. Haley's
Haley testified that he saw Victim Washington at Midway
Market around 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. on September 4, 2011. Mr.
Haley said that his son was with Victim Jones, that they were
in Victim Jones's car, and that they were going to
purchase a car starter. Mr. Haley identified a photograph of
the car in which he saw the victims. Mr. Haley said Victim
Washington stated he was considering purchasing a motorcycle
from "Lamar and them" in Ripley for $6500. Mr.
Haley said that the victims planned to go to Auto Zone and
that Victim Washington wanted Mr. Haley to ride the
motorcycle later to determine if it was in good working
order. Mr. Haley said that Victim Washington showed Mr. Haley
money in Victim Washington's hand and that Victim
Washington said "if this is not enough" and put his
hand on his pocket. Mr. Haley said Victim Jones purchased a
"snack sack" from Midway Market. Mr. Haley said
that Stacey Balden and Chris Burnett arrived and that Mr.
Burnett told Victim Washington "he wanted to holler at
him before he left." Mr. Haley said that Victim
Washington answered a cell phone call, that Victim Washington
told the caller he was at Midway Market, and that Victim
Washington said he was not far from the caller.
Haley testified that he left Midway Market with his
sister-in-law and "them" to return to a barbecue,
which was less than three to four minutes away. He said he
saw the codefendant "standing on the rock road"
under a railroad viaduct that was "towards the cemetery
road" within 200 yards of Midway Market. Mr. Haley said
he had been at the barbecue thirty to forty-five minutes
before he received a telephone call that something had
happened to Victim Washington. Mr. Haley said that, based
upon his sighting of the codefendant and the location of the
barbecue at which the codefendant claimed to have been when
the homicides occurred, it was not possible that the
codefendant had been at the barbecue at the time of the
homicides. Mr. Haley acknowledged that the codefendant might
have been at the barbecue at some other time that day. Mr.
Haley was positive the person he saw on the rock road was the
Haley testified that when he arrived at the scene, "a
lot of people" were standing around. Mr. Haley said he
was not with Josephine Haley, whom he said was at home. He
said Josie and Veronica Washington were together and that Ms.
Washington was the codefendant's girlfriend. He said Ms.
Washington kept asking Josie "to bring the truck to take
her to Henning."
Haley testified that he did not know about any animosity
between the codefendant and Victim Washington. He said he
would have known if any existed. Mr. Haley said he knew
Victim Washington "was hustling" and that dice
games took place daily at Victim Washington's house. Mr.
Hayley said he saw the Defendant "afterwards" when
the Defendant came to Mr. Haley's sister-in-law's
house to see "Little Wayne," Mr. Haley's
nephew. Mr. Haley said the Defendant gave Mr. Haley $10 and
told him to buy himself a beer.
Haley, Victim Washington's mother and Victim Jones's
cousin, testified that she knew the Defendant from living in
Henning and the codefendant because he was Victim
Washington's cousin. She said that on the day of the
homicides, she attended a Labor Day family gathering at her
sister Betty's house. She said that she spoke by phone
with Victim Washington twice, that he was looking forward to
attending the gathering because his aunt was making
spaghetti, and that he never arrived.
Haley testified that Veronica Washington asked her repeatedly
to take her to get cigarettes for the codefendant. Ms. Haley
identified Ms. Washington as the mother of the
codefendant's infant boy. Ms. Haley said she passed the
cemetery on the way to the store for the cigarettes but did
not know Victim Washington was already dead. She said they
saw an ambulance traveling toward the cemetery. She said she
called her son repeatedly but did not receive an answer. She
said Ms. Washington and the codefendant spoke outside and
looked toward Ms. Haley and that Ms. Haley wondered
"what's going on." She said they went to
"Michelle's" house after purchasing cigarettes.
She said that she called "Big Memphis" and
Michelle's boyfriend and that they told her the victims
had been in a wreck in which one of them had been killed. She
later said her son Travis gave her this information. She said
she looked outside and saw the codefendant cooking on a
Haley testified that she went to the scene, where she
screamed and cried. She said that the codefendant approached
and hugged her, that he said "Goon" killed Victim
Washington, and that the codefendant said he would have
killed Goon if he had a gun. She identified Goon as her
cousin. She said Big Memphis and "L. Barber"
"came and got" the codefendant after the
codefendant finished hugging her. She said the codefendant
removed his shirt and threw it in the grass. She said that
Big Memphis placed the codefendant in a car and that they
left. She said Victim Washington would have been dead by the
time she saw the codefendant at the family gathering. She
said that Ms. Washington had been insistent about getting
cigarettes, and that it was "like [the codefendant] was
rushing [Ms. Washington] to get me there for an alibi."
Ms. Haley said the codefendant had been at the family
gathering after the homicides had occurred. She said that the
codefendant had worn a bulletproof vest at her sister's
house but that no one treated him differently because he was
family and because no one knew what had happened. She said
she had seen the Defendant and the codefendant together
frequently and thought they were "best friends . . . or
Haley testified that she went to her sister Betty's house
around 8:00 a.m. on September 4, 2011. She said Veronica
Washington arrived around 10:00 to 10:30 a.m. but not later
than 11:00 a.m. She said that the codefendant was not with
Ms. Washington when Ms. Washington arrived and that she ...