Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs June 19, 2019
from the Criminal Court for White County No. 2016-CR-7976
David A. Patterson, Judge.
Defendant, Steven Dale Davidson, Jr., was convicted by a jury
of voluntary manslaughter and vehicular homicide. Thereafter,
the trial court merged the counts and imposed an effective
ten-year sentence, to run consecutively to a previous
sentence for which probation had been revoked due to the
convictions in this case. On appeal, the Defendant contends
that the trial court erred by excluding the complete police
interview of a defense witness and in its consideration
during sentencing of enhancement and mitigating factors. Upon
review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the
judgments of the trial court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal
Michael J. Rocco (on appeal), and David Barnes (at trial),
Sparta, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steven Dale Davidson,
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; Bryant C.
Dunaway, District Attorney General; and Bruce MacLeod and
Philip Hatch, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the
appellee, State of Tennessee.
Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which John Everett Williams, P.J., and Robert L. Holloway,
Jr., J., joined.
KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE.
case arises from the April 15, 2016 death of the victim, Nick
Culver. From the proof adduced at trial, the events were as
time, the Defendant was in a romantic relationship with
Christy Flewellen, who was separated from her then-husband
Joshua Flewellen. Early on the morning of April 15 around
4:00 a.m., the Defendant went with Mrs. Flewellen and Jayce
Passons to Mr. Flewellen's house in order to retrieve
Mrs. Flewellen's green GMC truck. Mr. Passons wore a
black ski mask. The testimony indicated that Mr. and Mrs.
Flewellen had a volatile relationship, with multiple
individuals stating that they were concerned for the safety
of both Mrs. Flewellen and Mr. Flewellen.
they arrived at Mr. Flewellen's house, Lacey Davidson,
who was the Defendant's sister, Mr. Flewellen, and the
victim were present at the house. Mrs. Flewellen started the
truck, and Mr. Flewellen, alerted to her actions, jumped off
of the house's roof and climbed into the passenger seat
through the truck's window. Mrs. Flewellen drove to the
parking lot of Bear Cove Baptist Church. The Defendant, Mr.
Passons, Ms. Davidson, and the victim followed in their
respective vehicles. The Defendant drove a yellow Dodge
Dakota pickup truck, and the victim drove a white Toyota
church, Mr. Flewellen and Mrs. Flewellen argued, and the
confrontation became physical. Mrs. Flewellen testified that
Mr. Flewellen "pull[ed] his knives and stuff out,"
but she was the only one to testify as to the presence of a
knife during the confrontation. At this point, the Defendant
intervened, and the two men fought until the Defendant pinned
Mr. Flewellen to the ground and held him by his throat. The
victim separated the Defendant and Mr. Flewellen by pushing
the Defendant with his foot, and all the witnesses at trial
agreed that the Defendant did not fight with the victim.
Although Mrs. Flewellen did not see the Defendant get hit,
she stated that the Defendant was injured on "his mouth
and stuff, [he was] was bleeding on top of his head and
stuff." There was some testimony indicating that Ms.
Davidson, who admitted she had smoked marijuana and consumed
a small amount of alcohol, wielded a "maul" and hit
the hood of the Defendant's truck, although she denied
having done so. There was a documented hole in the
Dodge's hood of the approximate diameter of the maul, and
the maul was found on the road near the crime scene.
group began to leave the parking lot. Mrs. Flewellen drove
the GMC, the victim drove the Toyota, and it was an issue at
trial whether the Defendant or Mr. Passons drove the Dodge.
Mr. Flewellen again got into the passenger seat of the GMC,
and Ms. Davidson jumped into the GMC's truck bed. Mrs.
Flewellen drove away from the church and after a short
distance, the victim's car sped ahead of the truck,
pulled in front of it, and stopped. The GMC braked,
"tossing" Ms. Davidson about in the truck bed, and
Mrs. Flewellen drove around the victim's car.
the accident reconstruction testimony, Ms. Davidson's
testimony, and the physical evidence, it appeared that at
this point, the victim exited his car and was standing inside
the hinge of the open driver's side door when the Dodge
accelerated and swerved toward him. The Toyota was struck by
the Dodge and pushed some distance before the vehicles
separated, and the Dodge went onto the grass on the opposite
shoulder. The driver of the Dodge course corrected and
swerved to the right to come back onto the road, and the
Dodge hit the Toyota a second time before driving away. The
victim was struck by the Dodge during one or both collisions.
No brake marks from a truck were evident near the location of
Davidson saw the crash occur as she looked backward from the
GMC truck bed. She yelled at Mrs. Flewellen to stop and
jumped out of the truck bed before running to the victim, who
was "suffocating on his own blood." She turned the
victim to clear his airway and eventually began CPR. The
Dodge drove away from the scene without stopping, passing Ms.
Davidson as she ran down the road. Ms. Davidson saw that the
Defendant was driving. Mrs. Flewellen also saw the Dodge
drive past her after she stopped the truck, but the windows
were too dark for her to see who was driving.
autopsy reflected that the victim's extensive blunt force
injuries were consistent with having been struck and dragged
by a motor vehicle for some distance. The victim suffered
from fatal contusions at the base of his skull and spinal
injuries that would have left him paralyzed. The medical
examiner concluded that the cause of death was multiple blunt
force injuries and that the manner of death was homicide.
Flewellen testified that when she made her way back to Mr.
Passons's house, she found the Defendant lying on a couch
inside the house; he was bleeding and unresponsive; and
eventually he began to speak but it "was quiet and . . .
a jumble." The Defendant had a seizure about one hour
later. The passenger compartment of the Defendant's truck
was spray-painted black after the accident and placed in some
woods down a hill behind Mr. Passons's house. Mr. Passons
evidently participated in the painting as well as the
Defendant. The Defendant stated in his police interview that
he painted the driver's side door. The arresting officers
documented black paint on the Defendant's hands.
audio recording of the Defendant's police interview
included in the record is of poor sound quality. However, our
review of the recording reflects that the Defendant initially
denied having driven the Dodge truck, but about halfway
through the interview admitted having driven the truck during
the crash. He stated that after hitting the victim's car,
he stopped, and Mr. Passons drove the rest of the way to Mr.
witnesses testified regarding their personal knowledge that
the Defendant had suffered a brain injury in an accident one
year prior to the victim's death and that as a result of
the injury, he suffered from seizures and was not permitted
to drive. The Defendant also discussed his injury during his
police interview. Ms. Davidson specifically testified that
the Defendant's seizure medications made him tired and
forgetful. Trista Atnip, the Defendant's cousin's
fiancée, testified that she had witnessed the
Defendant's seizures and the after effects, which could
last two to three days. The Defendant would suffer from
severe headaches and dizziness, want to be in a dark room,
and be "very forgetful." Ms. Atnip added that the
Defendant had generally forgotten things since the accident.
Fraze testified for the defense that he worked with Mrs.
Flewellen and that on April 15, 2016, he was at his
then-girlfriend's house between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. when
he heard a "commotion" and went outside to smoke a
cigarette. He walked down the street and up a hill, and he
saw a yellow truck in the parking lot of Bear Cove Baptist
Church that he was able to identify as a Dodge Dakota. He saw
two men, a taller blonde man and a "dark-haired
guy" who was six to ten inches shorter than the blonde
He could not identify either man. He estimated that he was
between one hundred fifty and two hundred yards away from the
men. The blonde man entered the driver's side of the
truck and the darker-haired man entered the passenger's
side, and they drove away from the church. Mr. Fraze agreed
that he did not hear a crash or screaming and that he did not
see any other cars. Mr. Fraze agreed that he, the Defendant,
and Mrs. Flewellen were ...