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Ridley v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

January 16, 2020


          Assigned on Briefs September 17, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2014-A-258 Cheryl A. Blackburn, Judge

         The Petitioner, Montez Deontay Ridley, was convicted by Davidson County jury of aggravated robbery and received a sentence of nine years' imprisonment.[1] State v. Montez Deontay Ridley, No. M2015-01607-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 359091, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 24, 2017)(no perm. app filed). He appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel based on the failure to cross-examine the victim concerning his inconsistent description of the gun used in the robbery. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

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

          Ryan C. Caldwell, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Petitioner, Montez Deontay Ridley.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Glenn Funk, District Attorney General; and Megan King, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Camille R. McMullen, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which John Everett Williams, P.J., and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., joined.



         In August 2013, the Petitioner, along with his cohort, shoved a gun into the side of the victim and robbed him of several pairs of Air Jordan athletic shoes. The Petitioner eventually provided a statement to police admitting his involvement in the robbery; however, he claimed that the shoes were given to him in exchange for drugs, that the victim was angry because the Petitioner sold him fake drugs, and that he was not the individual who held the gun on the victim. At trial, the victim testified that he had placed an advertisement on Craigslist for the sale of athletic shoes and communicated by phone with a buyer, later identified as the Petitioner, to purchase the shoes. On the day of the exchange, the victim, accompanied by his cousin, arranged to meet the Petitioner at a restaurant in Nashville at one o'clock in the afternoon. The Petitioner did not come to the prearranged location, but he called later that night and arranged to meet the victim at an alley behind a retail store. When the victim arrived, the Petitioner and another man approached the victim's car.

         The victim got out of his car and his cousin remained in the front passenger seat. The victim walked to the back of his car to show the Petitioner the shoes, and they talked for a few seconds about the shoes. The Petitioner then pulled a gun out of his pocket and pointed it at the victim's side. As the Petitioner held the gun on the victim, another man searched the victim's pockets and took his wallet. The two men also took four pairs of shoes from the trunk of the Petitioner's car. The victim denied that he bought drugs from or sold drugs to the Petitioner. The victim called the police and described the robbers as follows:

Two men, African American, ... both of them were close to 6'3" or 6'4" one guy had dreads, the other guy had short hair. . . . I described the clothes, what kind of shirts they had on. . . . [T]he one that stuck the gun into my side had gold teeth, he had gold fronts.

         Although the victim was unable to identify the Petitioner from a photographic array, he positively identified the Petitioner in the courtroom as the person who robbed him. The victim also recognized the Petitioner's voice from their telephone conversations regarding the shoes. The victim gave the police the telephone number he used to communicate with the Petitioner, which was traced to Brittany Lee Hunter, the mother of the Petitioner's child. Hunter testified that the Petitioner was using her phone at the time of the robbery and that they lived together in a housing development near the location of the robbery. The Petitioner's cousin also testified consistently with the testimony of the victim. She also observed the Petitioner "point what appeared to be a silver gun at [the victim's] side."

         The Petitioner provided a statement to law enforcement, which was video recorded and played for the jury at trial. The Petitioner initially denied knowing anything about the robbery and denied any involvement in the crime. However, he eventually maintained that he had set up a transaction with the victim to exchange "fake drugs made up of baking soda" for the shoes. There was no evidence discovered by law enforcement that the victim was buying or selling drugs. As the Petitioner continued to deny involvement in the crime, the interviewing detective suggested that perhaps the victim accused the Petitioner of robbery because the victim was unsatisfied with a drug deal. The Petitioner eventually acknowledged that he needed new shoes and that he found someone willing to exchange shoes for cocaine. When the Petitioner met with the victim, he gave the victim some baking soda that was "rocked up" to resemble cocaine. The Petitioner admitted that he took possession of two pairs of new shoes, but he denied that a gun was involved. Neither the shoes taken during the robbery or the gun used in the robbery were found. State v. Montez Deontay Ridley, No. M2015-01607-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 359091, at *1-4 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 24, 2017).

         On September 18, 2017, the Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief. Following the appointment of counsel, on May 17, 2018, an amended petition for post-conviction relief was filed, alleging, inter alia, that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to adequately cross-examine the victim concerning inconsistencies in his description of the gun used in the robbery.[2] At the July 11, 2018 post-conviction hearing, the Petitioner testified, in relevant part, that there was no gun involved in the robbery of the victim. The Petitioner admitted that he "played a part of meeting up with [the victim], but when it come to a weapon, [he] don't know nothing about that." In support of his claim, the Petitioner pointed out that in the victim's statement to the police the victim said that the Petitioner "placed a silver gun to his back, but in the preliminary hearing [the victim] can't describe the color or nothing." The Petitioner was aggrieved because he advised trial counsel of this discrepancy and trial counsel failed to ...

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