John Ballard April 14, 2023
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DARRIES LEON JACKSON
State v. Jackson, No. E2022-00298-CCA-R3-CD, 2023 Tenn. Crim. App.
This case is about a defendant accused of shooting two victims, with key evidence involving GSR, text messages, and an inmate's testimony.
MPD Detective Vicky Arnold testified that the defendant was intoxicated but still able to understand the situation and conversation. The defendant made a statement implicating himself, but did not confess.
MPD Detective Michael Morrison testified that the defendant appeared unsurprised and compliant during the arrest. The defendant mentioned he didn't know who shot Ms. Ramos or her mother, which surprised Morrison as nobody had mentioned the mother being shot.
Detective Vicky Arnold, recalled by the State, testified that she found a cellular flip phone with the same number as the one used to send text messages she had read in her earlier testimony.
HCSO Detective David Lafollette found a .380 Tula shell casing and a projectile at the crime scene. He also found a single round of .380 Tula ammunition in the defendant's minivan.
Marcus Washington, a fellow inmate of the defendant, testified that the defendant admitted to killing the victims and asked for help fixing a motion he had written. Washington contacted the authorities to disassociate himself from the defendant, and identified letters in which the defendant used code words to refer to the hidden murder weapon and false statements.
Teri Arney, a retired TBI special agent, testified that the bullets and shell casings from both Hawkins and Hamblen County cases had been fired from the same firearm.
TBI Assistant Special Agent Riley Lewis Gray found GSR on the defendant's black hoodie, with particles consistent with GSR on other articles of clothing, but could not confirm their origin due to only two of the three required elements being present.
Dr. Christopher Hauch, a forensic pathologist, testified that the victim's cause of death was a gunshot wound to her brain, and the manner of death was homicide. The gunshot stippling on her face suggested that the gun's muzzle was within one to three feet of her face when fired.
The defense presented witnesses to challenge the credibility of Washington's testimony, the towing of the Defendant's minivan, the GSR findings, and blood evidence. They also provided an expert in forensics who questioned the presence of GSR on the Defendant's hands and the absence of blood spatter on his clothing. The Defendant did not testify. Ultimately, the jury found him guilty, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Sufficiency of the Evidence: Whether the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support the Defendant's conviction for first-degree murder.
Admitting Evidence of Other Murder (404b): Whether the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the Defendant's interactions with other individuals for the purpose of establishing a pattern of behavior and motive.
Testimony in Violation of Marital Privilege: Whether the trial court erred in allowing Mrs. Jackson to testify in violation of the Defendant's marital privilege.
Jury-Out Proceedings Overheard from Jury Room: Whether the Defendant's right to a fair trial was violated by the trial court allowing jurors to overhear jury-out proceedings, which included recordings that were never admitted as trial exhibits.
Speedy Trial: Whether the more than seven-year delay between the date of the Defendant's presentment and his trial violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial.
The defendant argued that the circumstantial evidence presented at trial was insufficient to sustain his conviction for murder. However, the court found that the evidence was sufficient for the jury to determine the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, including the defendant's identity, intent, and premeditation. The court also ruled that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence related to the defendant's alleged attempted murder of another individual, as it was relevant to the defendant's intent and part of a common scheme or plan. The court ultimately affirmed the defendant's conviction for first-degree premeditated murder.
The defendant argued that the trial court should not have admitted evidence related to his alleged attempted murder of Ms. Ramos, asserting that it was not relevant to the murder case at hand and that its probative value was outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.
The court disagreed, stating that the evidence of the Morristown shooting of Ms. Ramos was relevant and admissible as it was part of a common scheme or plan and demonstrated the defendant's intent in the victim's killing. This means that the two incidents were connected, and the evidence could help establish the defendant's intent and motive in the murder case. Additionally, the evidence was relevant to prove the defendant's identity as the killer.
The trial court conducted a pretrial hearing and determined that the evidence of the Morristown shooting was clear and convincing. Furthermore, the court found that the probative value of this evidence was not outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to the defendant. In other words, the importance of this evidence in establishing the defendant's guilt was greater than any potential harm it could cause to the defendant's case by unfairly influencing the jury.
As a result, the court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence related to the alleged attempted murder of Ms. Ramos, and this decision was a factor in upholding the defendant's conviction for first-degree premeditated murder.
The defendant argued that the trial court erred in allowing Mrs. Jackson to testify in violation of his marital privilege. However, the appellate court agreed with the State that the defendant waived this issue by not including the trial court's relevant findings in the record. Consequently, the appellate court concluded that the defendant had waived consideration of this issue.
Jury-Out Proceedings Overheard from Jury Room
The defendant claimed that his right to a fair trial was violated when the trial court allowed jurors to overhear jury-out proceedings, including recordings not admitted as trial exhibits. However, the appellate court agreed with the State that the defendant had waived the issue by not raising any objection at trial or requesting any curative action. The court found no plain error and upheld the trial court's decision.
The defendant contended that his constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated due to the over seven-year delay between his presentment and trial. The appellate court acknowledged the length of the delay but determined that it was primarily caused by the defendant's repeated requests for new counsel. The court also found that the defendant failed to demonstrate how he was prejudiced by the delay, concluding that his right to a speedy trial was not violated.