State v. Braden

Decision Date02 June 1993
Citation867 S.W.2d 750
PartiesSTATE of Tennessee, Appellee, v. Eddie BRADEN, Appellant.
CourtTennessee Court of Criminal Appeals

Charles W. Burson, Atty. Gen. Reporter, John B. Nisbet, III, Asst. Atty. Gen., Nashville, William S. Dossett, Dist. Atty. Gen., David C. Jennings, Asst. Dist. Atty. Gen., Knoxville, for appellee.

Herbert S. Moncier, Ann C. Short, Knoxville, for appellant.

OPINION

JONES, Judge.

The appellant, Eddie Braden, was convicted of two (2) counts of vehicular homicide, a Class C felony, and two (2) counts of aggravated assault, also a Class C felony, by a jury of his peers. The trial court found that the appellant was a standard offender and imposed the following Range I sentences: three (3) years in the Department of Correction for each count of vehicular homicide and two (2) years in the Department of Correction for each count of aggravated assault. The trial court ordered that the sentences for the two counts of vehicular homicide are to be served concurrently; and the sentences for the two counts of aggravated assault are to be served concurrently. However, the trial court ordered that the sentences for vehicular homicide and aggravated assault are to be served consecutively for an effective sentence of five (5) years. The trial court ordered that the appellant is to serve six (6) months in the Knox County Penal Farm; and the balance of the sentence will be served pursuant to the Community Corrections Act of 1985. Tenn.Code Ann. § 40-36-101, et seq.

The convictions of the appellant are affirmed as are the sentences for the individual offenses. However, the sentences are modified to the extent that all of the sentences are to be served concurrently. The sentences are further modified to show that all but six months of the appellant's sentences are suspended and he will serve the balance of the sentences on probation.

The appellant and his friend, Barry Phillips, were residents of Anderson County. On the evening of September 25, 1988, these two individuals decided to travel to Knoxville and patronize a club. Since the appellant was required to be at work at 11:00 p.m. that evening, they travelled to Knoxville in separate vehicles.

A witness who saw Phillips and Braden on Edgemoor Road in Anderson County testified that they were racing as they drove towards Knoxville. The red sports car driven by Phillips was approximately two car lengths behind the gray Ford Mustang being driven by Braden. The witness estimated the speed of the vehicles to be between 80 and 90 miles per hour. Phillips was trying to pass Braden as they passed the apartment building where the witness lived. Shortly thereafter, Phillips and Braden crossed the bridge leading from Anderson County to the Solway community in Knox County.

There is a blind, downhill curve that leads from the bridge to the Solway community. A witness travelling towards Anderson County saw Phillips' vehicle in the right hand lane as it exited the bridge. He then saw Braden's motor vehicle pull from behind Phillips' vehicle, move into the left hand lane, and pass Phillips' vehicle. The witness estimated that Braden was travelling 90 miles per hour.

A witness, who owned a business in the Solway community, heard Braden's vehicle pass his place of business. He testified that the vehicle was travelling "unbelievably fast" and made a "shoosh" sound. He estimated the speed of the appellant's vehicle to be between 90 and 110 miles per hour. The speed limit is 45 miles per hour. He estimated the speed of the red Ford Mustang being driven by Phillips to be 75 miles per hour.

Aaron Andrew, Geneva Andrew, his wife, and Mrs. Andrew's two children, Eliza and Shantel Satterfield, had been in the parking lot of a service station near the end of the downhill curve leading from the bridge. Mr. Andrew drove his 1972 Maverick to an exit leading from the service station. He intended to cross the lanes of traffic occupied by Phillips and Braden, pull into the median, and, when the traffic cleared, turn left towards Anderson County. Andrew stopped before entering the roadway. He waited while a pickup truck, which had been travelling from the bridge, entered the driveway. Andrew looked to his left, and, since the roadway was clear of oncoming traffic, proceeded to cross the lanes of traffic. Before Andrew had completely cleared the inside lane of traffic, the front of Braden's vehicle struck the left or driver's side of the Maverick. The impact began behind the driver's door and covered the entire left rear of the Maverick. Braden travelled in excess of two hundred feet before his vehicle came to rest.

The drive shaft of the Maverick was knocked loose and was lying beside the vehicle. The rear seat, where the children had been sitting, was found approximately 125 feet from the Maverick. The children, who were wearing seat belts, were thrown across the median and two lanes of traffic. One child was found on the parking lot of a business on the opposite side of the highway from the service station. The other child came to rest on a grassy knoll adjacent to the parking lot. Both children were killed as a proximate result of the injuries sustained when Braden struck the Andrew vehicle. Mr. Andrew sustained a broken jaw, a fractured skull, lost his right eye, lost the function of his right eyelid, his nose had to be reconstructed, and several teeth were either lost or knocked loose. Mrs. Andrew sustained a deep laceration to her ear, lacerations to her head, and a bruised liver.

A state trooper, who was qualified as an automobile reconstruction expert, testified that, based upon the physical evidence, Braden was travelling 93 miles per hour when he struck the Andrew vehicle. An automobile reconstruction expert who testified for the defense opined that Braden was travelling between 62 and 70 miles per hour as he rounded the curve; and he was travelling between 54 and 62 miles per hour when he struck the Andrew vehicle.

Several witnesses testified that a beer can fell out of Braden's vehicle; and there was another beer can, which was partially full, lying on the driver's side floorboard. There was evidence that a person who stopped to assist the injured removed a cooler from the Braden vehicle and threw it across the street. Phillips, who owned the cooler, testified that it was empty. Braden, testifying in support of his defense, admitted that he had drunk three cans of beer; and he had a partially filled can of beer between his legs when the collision occurred. In addition, Braden admitted that he had travelled the highway in question before, he was aware of the blind curve, and he was equally aware that there were businesses at the end of the curve. He stated that he was not aware of the speed limit for the area. Braden testified that he was travelling between 55 and 65 miles per hour prior to colliding with the Maverick.

After Braden had been taken to the hospital, blood was drawn and analyzed pursuant to the directions of his treating physician. The tests were performed on the blood serum as opposed to whole blood. The test revealed 91 milligrams of alcohol in the serum. The Director of Clinical Chemistry for the hospital testified that 91 milligrams would convert to between .0676 and .0762 percentage of alcohol in whole blood. According to the witness, there is a 3% coefficient of variation, margin of error, when the alcohol content of serum blood is converted to the alcohol content of whole blood.

I.

When an accused challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence, this Court must review the record to determine if the evidence adduced at trial is sufficient "to support the finding by the trier of fact of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." Tenn.R.App.P. 13(e). This rule is applicable to findings of guilt based upon direct evidence, circumstantial evidence, or direct and circumstantial evidence. State v. Brown, 551 S.W.2d 329, 331 (Tenn.1977); Farmer v. State, 208 Tenn. 75, 79, 343 S.W.2d 895, 897 (1961).

In determining the sufficiency of the evidence, this Court does not reweigh or reevaluate the evidence. State v. Cabbage, 571 S.W.2d 832, 835 (Tenn.1978). Nor may this Court substitute its inferences for those drawn by the trier of fact from circumstantial evidence. Liakas v. State, 199 Tenn. 298, 305, 286 S.W.2d 856, 859 (1956). To the contrary, this Court is required to afford the State of Tennessee the strongest legitimate inferences which may be drawn from the evidence. State v. Cabbage, 571 S.W.2d at 835.

Questions concerning the credibility of witnesses, the weight and value to be given the evidence, as well as all factual issues raised by the evidence are resolved by the trier of fact, not this Court. State v. Cabbage, 571 S.W.2d at 835. In State v. Grace, 493 S.W.2d 474 (Tenn.1973), our Supreme Court said: "A guilty verdict by the jury, approved by the trial judge, accredits the testimony of the witnesses for the State and resolves all conflicts in favor of the theory of the State." 493 S.W.2d at 476.

Since a verdict of guilt removes the presumption of innocence and replaces it with a presumption of guilt, State v. Grace, supra, the appellant has the burden in this Court of illustrating why the evidence contained in the record is insufficient to support the verdict returned by the trier of fact. State v. Tuggle, 639 S.W.2d 913, 914 (Tenn.1982). This Court will not disturb a verdict of guilt due to the sufficiency of the evidence unless the facts contained in the record, and any inferences which may be drawn from the facts, are insufficient, as a matter of law, for a rational trier of fact to find the accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Tuggle, supra.

II.

Before an accused can be convicted of vehicular homicide, the state is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

(a) the accused was operating an automobile, airplane, motorboat, or other motor...

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