Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
Session September 24, 2019
from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 107953 Bobby R.
County jury convicted the Defendant, Reginald Bernard Wilson,
of resisting arrest, and the trial court sentenced the
Defendant to ninety days of unsupervised probation. On
appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when
it denied his request for a jury instruction on self-defense
and that the evidence is insufficient to support his
conviction for resisting arrest. After review, we conclude
that the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the
jury as to self-defense. We, therefore, reverse the judgment
of conviction and remand for a new trial.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
Court Reversed and Remanded
E. Stephens, District Public Defender, and Jonathan Harwell,
Assistant Public Defender, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Reginald Bernard Wilson.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Benjamin A. Ball, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Charme
Allen, District Attorney General; and Molly T. Martin and
Jordan H. Murray, Assistant District Attorneys General, for
the appellee, State of Tennessee.
W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Thomas T. Woodall and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ.,
W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE.
case arises from the police investigation of a reported
burglary in the area where the Defendant resides. As a result
of a police officer approaching the Defendant and the
subsequent interaction, a Knox County grand jury indicted the
Defendant for aggravated assault and two counts of resisting
arrest. At trial, the parties presented the following
evidence: Knoxville Police Department ("KPD")
Officer Tyler Wiggins testified that he was working a night
shift on October 19, 2015, when he heard a dispatch about a
potential burglary in progress at a residence on East Moody
Avenue in Knox County, Tennessee. Officer Wiggins testified
that he generally used Google Maps, a mapping service, to
determine the exact house or business to which he has been
dispatched. He noted that "for some reason" Google
Maps could not pinpoint the exact address he had been given
in this case. He would later learn that this was because the
address initially given to him by the dispatcher was not a
Wiggins testified that he and his partner, Officer William
Romanini, agreed to meet at an intersection near the address
and walk to the residence on foot. Officer Wiggins parked his
vehicle in front of an apartment complex in a "central
location for the crime [he] believed was happening."
Officer Wiggins exited his patrol car to put on his jacket
when he noticed the Defendant, who was parked improperly with
no headlights, blocking parking spaces, and with his vehicle
"running." Officer Wiggins thought this was
suspicious and consistent with his experience with
"getaway vehicles." He said that, based upon the
active call about an ongoing burglary, he approached the
vehicle. He held a flashlight in his hand and briefly shone
the light in the vehicle to determine whether someone was
inside before pointing the flashlight toward the ground
again. He demonstrated the brevity of the use of his
flashlight for the jury.
Wiggins testified that he was approximately five or six feet
from the vehicle and directly in front of it when the
headlights illuminated. The vehicle then backed up very
quickly, possibly thirty or forty feet, startling the
officer. Officer Wiggins repeatedly issued verbal commands
for the driver to stop. Officer Wiggins recalled that
"the [D]efendant then beg[a]n to drive forward very,
very quickly and swerve[d] at an angle toward [Officer
Wiggins] and then away." As the vehicle advanced toward
Officer Wiggins, he "side stepped," so the vehicle
missed hitting him by approximately a foot. Officer Wiggins
testified that he was "terrified" and believed the
Defendant was "going to kill [him]."
Wiggins testified that the vehicle stopped and began
"backing up" "aggressively." Officer
Wiggins, still holding his flashlight, began hitting the car
window in an attempt to get the Defendant's attention and
possibly to break the window to better see the suspect for a
suspect description. When Officer Wiggins hit the window, the
vehicle came to a stop, and Officer Wiggins opened the
driver's side door. The compartment light illuminated,
and Officer Wiggins identified himself as a police officer
and stated that he was investigating a burglary in the area.
Officer Wiggins described the Defendant as irate and acting
"very erratic." The Defendant reached for the right
side of the steering wheel where the gearshift was located.
Believing the Defendant was about to drive away, potentially
dragging the officer, Officer Wiggins ordered the Defendant
out of the vehicle. The Defendant did not comply, so Officer
Wiggins physically removed the Defendant from the vehicle.
The Defendant continued to resist despite Officer
Wiggins's verbal commands to "stop."
Wiggins testified that he and the Defendant were both
standing in "the V" of the open driver's side
door with the Defendant facing the vehicle. The Defendant
began "elbowing" Officer Wiggins in the chest with
his left elbow, followed by swinging his right arm around to
hit the officer. Officer Wiggins recognized that the
Defendant had escalated from resisting to actively trying to
hurt the officer. He was concerned because he had been unable
to conduct a proper pat down of the Defendant for weapons.
Officer Wiggins then unsuccessfully initiated "pain
compliance," which consisted of several closed fist
strikes to the Defendant's head, to try to contain the
Defendant. He explained that he was holding his radio in his
right hand at the time because he had been trying to
communicate with dispatch about the situation. He did not
release the radio before striking the Defendant because he
did not want to lose the ability to communicate with
Wiggins testified that he had control of only one of the
Defendant's arms when Officer Romanini arrived. Officer
Romanini took control of the Defendant's free arm, while
Officer Wiggins handcuffed the Defendant. Even so, the
Defendant still actively resisted, preventing the officers
from doing a proper search. The officers were ...