Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session October 16, 2019
from the Criminal Court for Fentress County No. 17-101 Shayne
Defendant, Johnny David Key, was convicted upon his guilty
pleas of vehicular homicide, a Class B felony, and vehicular
assault, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. §§
39-13-213 (vehicular homicide) (2018), 39-13-106 (vehicular
assault) (2018). The plea agreement called for Range I
sentences of eight and four years, respectively, to be served
concurrently, with the manner of service to be determined by
the trial court. After a sentencing hearing, the court
ordered that the Defendant serve his effective eight-year
sentence in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the
Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying
alternative sentencing. We affirm the judgments of the trial
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal
E. Deaton, Jamestown, Tennessee, for the appellant, Johnny
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Jared Effler,
District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of
H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court,
in which Robert L. Holloway, Jr., and Timothy L. Easter, JJ.,
H. MONTGOMERY, JR., JUDGE.
transcript of the guilty plea hearing has not been included
in the appellate record. However, the record contains
exhibits which were filed on the same date as the guilty plea
hearing, and which we presume are the hearing's exhibits.
These exhibits contain the following information relative to
the offenses: The Defendant and the victims, Sarah Phillips
and Jeremy Banks, were traveling toward each other on a
well-traveled road on June 20, 2016. As the Defendant entered
a curve, he veered into the victims' lane. Ms. Phillips
attempted to avoid him by going into the opposite lane, but
the vans collided. Mr. Banks died from injuries sustained in
the wreck, and Ms. Phillips and the Defendant were injured.
Photographs of Ms. Phillips's van show extensive
front-end damage. A blood alcohol report reflects that the
Defendant's blood alcohol content was 0.131 gram percent.
Mr. Banks's death certificate reflects that his primary
cause of death was traumatic chest injury and that his
secondary cause of death was cardiac arrest. The death
certificate lists the injury as having occurred in a head-on
sentencing hearing, Michael Beaty, a former employee of the
Fentress County Ambulance Service, testified that he
responded to the scene of the wreck. He said he noticed a
strong odor of bleach coming from the wrecked van, which had
a male occupant. He said he and other first responders
coughed and had symptoms of irritation to their airways,
noses, and eyes from the odor.
Highway Patrol (THP) Sergeant Joe Walker testified that, as
part of the investigation in this case, he interviewed the
hospitalized Defendant. Sergeant Walker agreed that the
Defendant asked about what happened to the bleach he had been
transporting at the time of the wreck. Sergeant Walker said
that when he asked the Defendant whether the Defendant had
been drinking on the date of the wreck, the Defendant stated
he had a Diet Pepsi. Sergeant Walker said that he asked the
Defendant about wine, liquor, moonshine, or beer and that the
Defendant denied drinking them. Sergeant Walker said that if
the Defendant had since admitted drinking four beers on the
date of the wreck, this information was inconsistent with
what the Defendant told him during the investigation.
Sergeant Walker did not recall the date on which he
interviewed the Defendant and did not know the extent of the
Defendant's injuries. As best Sergeant Walker recalled,
the Defendant appeared to understand their conversation.
Sergeant Walker agreed he would not have talked with the
Defendant if the Defendant had appeared not to understand.
Sergeant John McFarland, a member of the Critical Incident
Response Team, testified as an expert in crash
reconstruction. Sergeant McFarland said that he determined
after his investigation that the Defendant's van failed
to stay in its lane and hit a van driven by Sarah Phillips,
causing significant damage to both vans.
Phillips testified that her then-fiancé, Jeremy Banks,
was with her on the date of the wreck. She said he died from
the injuries he sustained in the wreck. She said she had some
minor injuries, which included deep tissue bruising on her
breast bone and neuropathy in both knees. She said that, at
the time of the sentencing hearing, her knees remained
swollen and hurt. She said she struggled to work to provide
for her family. She said her family had been impacted
emotionally by the loss of Mr. Banks, who had been like a
father to her children.
Phillips testified that she and Mr. Banks were on their way
to a store on the day of the wreck and that as they
approached a curve, a van came around the curve on her side
of the road. She said that she went into the opposite lane to
try to avoid being hit by the other van but that the other
van hit her van's front passenger side, spinning her van
sideways and causing the rear of her van to hit a rock wall.
She agreed that the road on which the wreck occurred was a
major road, that the wreck occurred during daylight hours,
and that her vehicle was too damaged to be repaired. She said
her van had been worth about $8, 000 and that she had reached
a settlement agreement ...