State v. Crawford

Decision Date07 September 1971
Citation470 S.W.2d 610,225 Tenn. 478,3 Pack 478
Parties, 225 Tenn. 478 STATE of Tennessee, Appellant, v. Harry T. CRAWFORD, Jr., Appellee.
CourtTennessee Supreme Court

David M. Pack, Atty. Gen., Thomas E. Fox, Deputy Atty. Gen., Nashville, Lewis W. May, Dist. Atty. Gen., Mountain City, for appellant.

Burkett McInturff, Kingsport, Richard W. Pectol, Johnson City, for appellee.

OPINION

ERBY L. JENKINS, Special Justice.

The defendant below was tried in the Washington County Criminal Court in February of 1969 for the alleged murder of his wife, Jo Anne Crawford. He was convicted by a jury of the offense of second degree murder and his punishment was fixed at fifteen years in the State Penitentiary. Motion for a new trial was overruled by the trial judge, and the defendant appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which court in a split decision reversed and remanded the matter, and this Court granted certiorari.

The State's case is made out by circumstantial evidence alone, and thus, this Court in determining the issues presented is in effect sitting as a jury to determine whether or not the facts as revealed to the trial jury were in our opinion strong and convincing enough to sustain the conviction and to warrant the sentence in the penitentiary imposed by the jury below.

The facts surrounding the death of the deceased, Jo Anne Crawford, as revealed by a very careful reading and re-reading of the record are as follows. The defendant and his wife were, as far as can be determined, happily married, lived in a comfortable apartment in the Boone's Creek community, and the defendant was employed as a laboratory technician at the Holston Valley Community Hospital. The record reveals no motive on his part to kill her.

On November 2, 1968, the defendant and his wife were accompanied by a young single couple to dinner and they had a number of alcoholic drinks. After going to the theater and after dinner, the two couples went to a night club known as the Crow's Nest where they danced and consumed more alcoholic drinks. During the evening and early morning hours, the four of them had consumed a fifth and a pint of whiskey, this being over a six or seven hour period. The record does not reveal how much the defendant and his wife consumed, but apparently they were at least partially intoxicated when they returned home at about 1:30 a.m., the single couple leaving about an hour later. The defendant and his wife went to bed and engaged in sexual relations. After smoking a cigarette they finally went to sleep about 3:00 a.m.

At 6:00 a.m. the defendant, having been awakened by an alarm clock, went to the living-room, sat down on the couch and fell asleep again. At about 7:20 a.m. he reawakened and telephoned his place of employment to report that he would be late. He noticed that his wife was still asleep. He drove to the hospital, arriving there at about 7:40 a.m. where he worked all day, no evidence being presented that he acted in any manner other than his usual self. Much was made of the fact that the defendant clocked out at 4:00 p.m. but left some time earlier or about 3:00 p.m., but this, according to fellow-workers, was a common practice. He drove home, arriving there at about 3:20 p.m. When he entered the bedroom and saw that his wife had been killed, he immediately called the police and this call was recorded by the operator to have been placed at 3:00 p.m., some two minutes after the defendant arrived home from work.

The defendant's wife had been brutally murdered, having been beaten over the head with a rifle barrel owned by the defendant and strangled by a pair of panty hose knotted in the back.

The defendant readily submitted to questioning for hours and steadfastly denied that he had killed his wife. At one point in the interrogation he stated, 'General, I can care less what you do with me,' and at another time he is quoted as saying, 'Here's the damn shirt I wore today, I don't give a damn what you do with me.'

While there was some insistence that someone unknown could have entered from a trap door in the attic and killed the deceased, this is purely speculative, except that it was shown that there were some foot prints on top of the water heater. The time of death could not be ascertained, rigor mortis having set in and no technical witness was introduced with reference to the time of death.

In reviewing a conviction such as this where the defendant is convicted on circumstantial evidence alone, the mind of the Court must rest easy as to the certainty of guilt of the defendant, it of course, being the law that when a case is made by circumstantial evidence alone, that the circumstances must be so strong and cogent as to exclude every other reasonable hypothesis save the guilt of the defendant, and that beyond a reasonable doubt. While it is true that a jury verdict overturns the presumption of innocence, where it is apparent that justice has gone astray, there is precedent for this Court to review a question of fact in cases of this nature.

In C. M. Stuart v. State, 60 Tenn. 178, 1 Baxter, (1873), this Court cited with approval Judge Green's statement of the law contained in Davis v. State, 2 Hum., wherein Judge Green said as follows:

'In Davis v. State, 2 Hum., Judge Green said: 'The rule that this Court will not grant a new trial upon the facts,...

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