State v. Bonds

CourtTennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
Writing for the CourtTimothy L. Easter, J.
Citation502 S.W.3d 118
Parties State of Tennessee v. Devonte Bonds, Thomas Bishop, Jason Sullivan, and Brianna Robinson
Decision Date07 April 2016

502 S.W.3d 118

State of Tennessee
v.
Devonte Bonds, Thomas Bishop, Jason Sullivan, and Brianna Robinson

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, AT KNOXVILLE.

August 19, 2015 Session
Filed April 7, 2016
Application for Permission to Appeal Denied by Supreme Court August 18, 2016


John M. Boucher, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Devonte Bonds.

Wesley D. Stone (on appeal and at trial), Timothy Jones (on appeal), and Joseph A. Fanduzz (pre-trial), Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Thomas Bishop.

Leslie M. Jeffress, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jason Lamont Sullivan.

J. Liddell Kirk (on appeal) and Susan E. Shipley (at trial), Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Brianna Michelle Robinson.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Ta'Kisha Fitzgerald and Philip Morton, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Camille R. McMullen, JJ., joined.

502 S.W.3d 127

OPINION

Timothy L. Easter, J.

Defendants Devonte Bonds, Thomas Bishop, Jason Sullivan, and Brianna Robinson were tried jointly and convicted of attempted second degree murder, aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The jury found that the underlying offenses committed by Defendants Bonds, Bishop, and Sullivan constituted criminal gang offenses, and they received enhanced punishment under Tennessee Code Annotated section 40–35–121. All of the defendants raise multiple procedural and evidentiary issues with regard to the guilt phase of the trial on the underlying offenses. Defendants Bonds, Bishop, and Sullivan also raise several issues regarding their criminal gang enhancements. Defendants Bishop and Sullivan each raise an issue with regard to their sentencing. After an exhaustive review of the record, we ascertain no error in the guilt phase of the trial on the underlying offenses. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment as to Defendant Robinson is affirmed. However, because the subsection of the criminal gang enhancement statute employed by the State violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and is facially unconstitutional, we reverse the judgments of the trial court as to Defendants Bonds, Bishop, and Sullivan, vacate the criminal gang enhancements, and remand for modification of the judgments and a new sentencing hearing on the underlying offenses of attempted second degree murder, aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.

This is a direct appeal by the four defendants who were convicted by a Knox County jury of various serious crimes of violence involving firearms and gang enhancement that resulted from a "beating out" of a fellow gang member. Because of the nature of the charges, the defendants were tried jointly in a trifurcated proceeding.

I. Procedural History and Factual Summary

All of the defendants were indicted for attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. A jury convicted them of attempted second degree murder, aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony; they were acquitted of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Defendants Bishop and Sullivan were each found to have committed the underlying firearm offense while having previously been convicted of dangerous felonies. Defendants Bonds, Bishop, and Sullivan were found to have committed criminal gang offenses and received enhanced punishment pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40–35–121. The following facts were adduced during the guilt phase on the underlying offenses.1

On May 30, 2012, Jonathan Dyer was living with his girlfriend, Carnisha Dibrell, in Arbor Place Apartments on Townview Drive. Katherine White lived upstairs from the couple in the same apartment complex. That morning, Ms. White asked Mr. Dyer to take out his trash because she could smell it at her apartment, and she

502 S.W.3d 128

gave him a trash bag to do so. Mr. Dyer removed the trash and cleaned off his porch. Afterward, around 11:00 a.m., he went inside to brush his teeth and to prepare for a job interview. He also woke up Ms. Dibrell so that she could get ready to go to work.

Ms. White was sitting on the stairs outside of her apartment and smoking a cigarette when she saw a group of people approach and knock on Mr. Dyer and Ms. Dibrell's front door. Mr. Dyer and Ms. Dibrell heard the knock on the door, and Mr. Dyer shut the bedroom door before going to answer the front door. When Mr. Dyer opened the door, the defendants immediately entered the apartment. Ms. White saw Mr. Dyer let the group inside the apartment.

Mr. Dyer and the defendants were members of a street gang known as the Five Deuce Hoover Crips. Mr. Dyer knew the defendants, primarily, by their gang monikers: Defendant Bonds was known as "Lil Doozie"; Defendant Bishop was known as "Hoova T"; Defendant Sullivan was known as "Crank Deuce"; and Defendant Robinson was known as "Yella Deuce." Mr. Dyer's gang moniker was "J Hoover." Mr. Dyer knew Defendant Bonds the best of all the defendants because they grew up together, and Defendant Bonds's legal name was the only one of which Mr. Dyer was aware at that time. Mr. Dyer had only met Defendant Sullivan recently.

After entering the apartment, Defendants Bishop and Sullivan told Mr. Dyer that he needed "to put some money on [his] big homey, L.G.'s, books." Mr. Dyer refused this demand on the basis that fellow gang member L.G. was not his big homey; Mr. Dyer's big homey was another individual.2 Mr. Dyer explained that a "big homey" is a gang member who "calls the shots." A gang member under the authority of a "big homey" is called a "little homey," and a little homey must get the big homey's permission "to do something."

Defendant Bishop then accused Mr. Dyer of abandoning Defendant Robinson during a previous incident when someone fired a gun at her. Defendant Bishop indicated that Mr. Dyer's conduct was unacceptable because he had "left the home girl on stuck," meaning that Mr. Dyer "didn't defend her." Mr. Dyer maintained to the group that such an event had never happened and told them that Defendant Robinson was lying. Defendant Robinson "swore up and down that it did happen" and insisted, "Yeah, it did. You left me on stuck." Defendant Bishop reprimanded Mr. Dyer, chiding "these are the most precious things to us. You're supposed to hold it down, cuz. That's bogus." In making mention of "the most precious things," Defendant Bishop was talking about all female Crips. Mr. Dyer explained that, as a gang member, he was expected to "step up" and defend a fellow gang member if being threatened. Thus, if Defendant Robinson had been attacked, he would have had an obligation to protect her.

While in the bedroom during the confrontation, Ms. Dibrell heard a familiar

502 S.W.3d 129

male voice say, "These are the most precious B's in the world.... You ain't supposed to leave them like that. [They] are supposed to be protected." She then heard Mr. Dyer deny the accusations by responding, "No, that ain't what happened. That ain't what happened."

According to Mr. Dyer, failing to provide money for an incarcerated inmate and failing to protect a fellow female gang member could be potential grounds for a gang member to be expelled from the gang. The group surrounded Mr. Dyer against the wall leading into the kitchen of his apartment, and all of them "ganged" him, which meant that Mr. Dyer was "getting hands and feet put to" him. Mr. Dyer explained that receiving a gang beating or a fight is both the manner of initiation into the gang and expulsion from the gang. These rituals are known as "ganged in" and "ganged out." Mr. Dyer was ganged in to the gang when he was seventeen years old. During his initiation, Mr. Dyer was only ganged with fists, not feet, and he fought back against the gang members who were "jumping" him. There were no weapons during the initiation. Mr. Dyer did not need medical attention after he was ganged in. For this particular gang, the beating or fight is supposed to last for two minutes. However, on this occasion, Mr. Dyer did not remember having "too much of a chance to fight back." Mr. Dyer acknowledged that the beating he received was him being "ganged out" of the Five Deuce Hoover Crips and that he is no longer a member of the gang. Mr. Dyer testified that a gang member is also expected to fight back when he is ganged out. He was unaware of any gang member sustaining injuries as serious as he did while being ganged out.

Mr. Dyer remembered that Defendant Sullivan had a pistol "inside his front pocket," which Mr. Dyer described as a "little .22." Mr. Dyer could see the handle "hanging out," and he recognized the gun as belonging to Defendant Robinson. However, Mr. Dyer did not see Defendant Sullivan remove the weapon from his pocket, and as far as he knew, he had not been...

To continue reading

Request your trial
41 practice notes
  • State v. Minor, No. W2016-00348-SC-R11-CD
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • April 11, 2018
    ...review preservation requirements and the plain error doctrine. Accordingly, the Court of Criminal Appeals' decision in State v. Bonds, 502 S.W.3d 118 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 18, 2016), declaring the criminal gang offense statute, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-12......
  • Bowen ex rel. Doe v. Arnold, No. M2015-00762-SC-R11-CV
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • September 29, 2016
    ...sexually battered" John Doe N does not prevent any of the other defendants from contesting Ms. Bowen's allegations of negligence against 502 S.W.3d 118them. Finally, none of the other circumstances enumerated in sections 28 and 29, or any other compelling circumstance, justifies affording M......
  • State v. Arevalo, No. CR-19-0156-PR
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • September 1, 2020
    ...due process requirement applies with equal force to substantive offenses and sentencing enhancements. See, e.g. , State v. Bonds , 502 S.W.3d 118, 154–58 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016) (finding unconstitutional a statute enhancing criminal sentences for gang members without requiring a nexus betwe......
  • People v. Villareal, 1-18-1817
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • May 3, 2021
    ...distinguish the statute here from the statutes found unconstitutional in State v. O.C. , 748 So. 2d 945 (Fla. 1999), and State v. Bonds , 502 S.W.3d 118, 154 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016). Because I find the reasoning of O.C . and Bonds persuasive, I would find section 24-1.8 unconstitutional.¶ 3......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
41 cases
  • State v. Minor, No. W2016-00348-SC-R11-CD
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • April 11, 2018
    ...review preservation requirements and the plain error doctrine. Accordingly, the Court of Criminal Appeals' decision in State v. Bonds, 502 S.W.3d 118 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 18, 2016), declaring the criminal gang offense statute, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-12......
  • Bowen ex rel. Doe v. Arnold, No. M2015-00762-SC-R11-CV
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • September 29, 2016
    ...sexually battered" John Doe N does not prevent any of the other defendants from contesting Ms. Bowen's allegations of negligence against 502 S.W.3d 118them. Finally, none of the other circumstances enumerated in sections 28 and 29, or any other compelling circumstance, justifies affording M......
  • State v. Arevalo, No. CR-19-0156-PR
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Arizona
    • September 1, 2020
    ...due process requirement applies with equal force to substantive offenses and sentencing enhancements. See, e.g. , State v. Bonds , 502 S.W.3d 118, 154–58 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016) (finding unconstitutional a statute enhancing criminal sentences for gang members without requiring a nexus betwe......
  • People v. Villareal, 1-18-1817
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • May 3, 2021
    ...distinguish the statute here from the statutes found unconstitutional in State v. O.C. , 748 So. 2d 945 (Fla. 1999), and State v. Bonds , 502 S.W.3d 118, 154 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016). Because I find the reasoning of O.C . and Bonds persuasive, I would find section 24-1.8 unconstitutional.¶ 3......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT