704 S.W.2d 314 (Tenn. 1986), State v. Harbison

Citation:704 S.W.2d 314
Opinion Judge:The opinion of the court was delivered by: Drowota
Party Name:STATE of Tennessee, Appellee, v. Edward Jerome HARBISON, Appellant.
Attorney:Rodney C. Strong, Chattanooga, Tennessee 37402, For Appellant.
Case Date:February 03, 1986
Court:Supreme Court of Tennessee

Page 314

704 S.W.2d 314 (Tenn. 1986)

STATE of Tennessee, Appellee,


Edward Jerome HARBISON, Appellant.

Supreme Court of Tennessee, At Knoxville.

February 3, 1986.

Page 315

Rodney C. Strong, Chattanooga, for appellant.

Gordon W. Smith, Asst. Atty. Gen., Nashville, for appellee; W.J. Michael Cody, Atty. Gen. & Reporter, Nashville, Stanley J. Lanzo, Asst. Dist. Atty. Gen., Chattanooga, of counsel.


DROWOTA, Justice.

The defendant, Edward Jerome Harbison, appeals directly to this Court his conviction of first degree murder and the sentence of death imposed by the jury, and his convictions of second degree burglary and grand larceny, for which he was sentenced to three years in the state penitentiary. He raises numerous issues in this appeal; but, after careful review of the entire record and the law, we find these issues to be without merit. The verdict and judgment are supported by material evidence, and the sentence of death is in no way arbitrary or disproportionate. We therefore affirm the convictions and the sentences.

Since the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for his convictions, we summarize the evidence presented at trial. On Saturday, January 15, 1983, around midnight, Frank Russell returned to his home in Chattanooga to find that his wife, Edith, had been murdered. Mrs. Russell's body was lying on the floor of an apartment at the back of the home, which had been rented to a tenant. The tenant was away on vacation in Florida at the time of the murder.

Upon returning home from work, Mr. Russell first noticed that the porch lights were off and the front door was wide open, which, he stated, was unusual. There were pry marks on the door. The room in which Mrs. Russell was found was in disarray and there was evidence of a struggle. Both the house and the apartment had been burglarized and numerous items were missing,

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including an RCA XL-100 television, two cable television converters, a quartz heater, a Polaroid 210 camera, a silver Cross pen and pencil set, a jeweler's loop, a jewelry box, antique jewelry, a marble vase, and Mrs. Russell's purse.

Mr. Russell testified that when he and his 62-year-old wife purchased the house seven years earlier, James Harbison and his son, Edward Jerome, the defendant, did some repair work on the house. Since that time, the two had worked on the house periodically, and the defendant performed some work at the house about a month prior to the murder.

Mrs. Russell left home about 1:30 p.m. to go to a neighborhood market, where witnesses spoke with her around 2:30 to 2:45 that afternoon. Mr. Russell left for work about 2:30 p.m. before she had returned home. No one saw or heard from Mrs. Russell after she left the market. Her car was found parked in the driveway of their home with the key still in the ignition, and sacks of groceries still in the car.

The investigation of the crime led police to the residence of Janice Duckett, the defendant's girlfriend and the sister of David Schreane. Schreane had been seen in the area of the Russell home on the day of the murder. A search of the Duckett residence yielded several of the items stolen from the Russell home, including the quartz heater, the Polaroid camera, the silver Cross pen and pencil set and a jeweler's loop was found in a shaving kit belonging to the defendant. In an adjacent unoccupied apartment, police found a burned jewelry box in the fireplace, and a purse belonging to Mrs. Russell containing a small change purse. Two large paper sacks were also found containing antique glassware and brassware.

On February 21, 1983, David Schreane was taken into custody and questioned. As a result, his girlfriend's home was searched by police and there they found the stolen RCA television set. Schreane then led the officers to the marble vase which was lying inside a hedgerow beside a street. Chemical testing of the vase revealed the presence of blood. Debris vacuumed from the carpet of defendant's automobile revealed crystalline calcite fragments consistent with the marble vase.

Harbison was arrested on February 21, 1983, and brought to the police service center at 5:46 p.m. A taped statement was taken from him at 7:55 p.m. In the statement, he confessed to killing Mrs. Russell. He stated that after he had picked his girlfriend up and taken her home, he and Schreane went to check out the Russell residence. He stated that after determining that no one was there, he and Schreane backed their car up to the rear of the house and then went to the front door and opened it with a screwdriver. They then went inside and began accumulating items. He stated that they got an RCA XL-100 television set, a Cross pen and pencil set, a Polaroid 210 camera, a jewelry box, a .25 automatic pistol, a pocketbook, a clutch purse, a jeweler's loop, a heater and a marble vase. They had been at the residence 15 to 20 minutes carrying items out to the car. He then told how he and Schreane had been surprised by Mrs. Russell as they were burglarizing her house and the tenant's apartment. They did not hear her drive up in her car. He stated that when Mrs. Russell came in the door and reached for her pocketbook, he thought she was reaching for a gun and he grabbed her and they began "tusslin." The defendant grabbed the marble vase and hit her...

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