State v. Davidson, No. M1998-00105-SC-DDT-DD.

CourtSupreme Court of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtJanice M. Holder, J.
Citation121 S.W.3d 600
Decision Date20 October 2003
Docket NumberNo. M1998-00105-SC-DDT-DD.
PartiesSTATE of Tennessee v. Jerry Ray DAVIDSON.
121 S.W.3d 600
STATE of Tennessee
v.
Jerry Ray DAVIDSON.
No. M1998-00105-SC-DDT-DD.
Supreme Court of Tennessee, at Nashville.
February 4, 2003 Session.
October 20, 2003.

[121 S.W.3d 604]

Brock Mehler, Nashville, Tennessee (appeal only); Michael J. Love (trial and appeal);

[121 S.W.3d 605]

Collier W. Goodlett, Clarksville, Tennessee (trial only), for appellant, Jerry Ray Davidson.

Paul G. Summers, Attorney General & Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; Alice B. Lustre, Assistant Attorney General; Dan Alsobrooks, District Attorney General, for appellee, State of Tennessee.

OPINION

JANICE M. HOLDER, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which FRANK F. DROWOTA, III, C.J., and WILLIAM M. BARKER, JJ., joined. E. RILEY ANDERSON, J., filed a dissenting opinion, joined in part by ADOLPHO A. BIRCH, JR., J., who also filed a dissenting opinion.


The defendant, Jerry Ray Davidson, was convicted of premeditated murder and aggravated kidnapping. He was sentenced to death for the premeditated murder and to a consecutive sentence of twenty years for the aggravated kidnapping. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions and the sentences. Thereafter, the case was automatically docketed in this Court pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-206(a)(1). We entered an order designating the following issues for oral argument:1 (1) whether the trial court committed reversible error in denying the defendant's motions for change of venue and for additional peremptory challenges; (2) whether the trial court committed reversible error in refusing to strike the venire; (3) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain the defendant's convictions; (4) whether the trial court committed reversible error by admitting the testimony of Darla Harvey; (5) whether the sentencing verdict form was incomplete and erroneous; and (6) all issues mandated by Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-206(c)(1). Having carefully reviewed these issues and the remainder of the issues raised by the defendant, we find no merit to his arguments. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Between 8 and 9 p.m. on September 26, 1995, the victim, Virginia Jackson, and her dog arrived in a taxi cab at Bronco's Bar in Dickson, Tennessee. Jackson was carrying a large purse and a white bed pillow and wearing multicolored hair clips. When Jackson arrived at Bronco's Bar, the defendant, Jerry Ray Davidson, was sitting quietly by himself drinking beer. Jackson spent the next several hours at the bar drinking two beers and talking with the bartender, Carol Owens, and other bar patrons. Although Jackson and Davidson sat next to one another at one point, the two did not converse, and the evidence does not suggest that they were acquainted. By closing time, only Jackson, Davidson, and Owens remained in the bar. Owens tried to call a cab for Jackson, but the cab company was closed for the night. Jackson accepted a ride home from Davidson and was last seen alive around 11:30 p.m., carrying her purse and pillow as she got into Davidson's red pickup truck with her dog.

Members of Jackson's family became worried when they did not hear from her for several days. On October 1, 1995, her family filed a missing person report with law enforcement officials, who began an investigation of her disappearance.2

121 S.W.3d 606

On September 30, 1995, only a few days after Jackson was last seen, Jackson's brother-in-law observed a pile of clothing lying along a farm road leading to her house. At that time, he did not connect the clothing with her disappearance. On October 18, however, he reported the clothing to law enforcement authorities. On October 18 and 19, law enforcement officers found the following items belonging to Jackson along the farm road: hair clips, a cell phone, panties, a pillow, a sweatshirt, and a sock. On October 19, 1995, two deer hunters found Jackson's decomposing, nude body. The body was partially buried in a shallow grave several miles from her house in a wooded area off an old logging road along the Houston/Dickson County line.

At trial, the condition of Jackson's body was described by Dr. Murray Marks, the forensic anthropologist who disinterred the body, and by Dr. Charles Harlan, the forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy on the body. Dr. Marks stated that the body was found lying chest down. The head was missing, although it appeared that a space had originally been dug for it in the grave. Part of the torso and left arm of the body were exposed, and the left hand was missing. There was evidence that animals had gnawed on the left arm, the neck, and the shoulder area. However, other trauma to the body was inconsistent with animal activity. Dr. Harlan observed that the skin at the front and back of the neck had been cut; the trachea exhibited a clean, sharp cut; the hyoid bone, which is located in the upper throat, had also been cut; and there was clear disarticulation of the cervical vertebral column. In addition, the torso, including the breast bone, had been cleanly cut open with some type of sharp instrument. This incision ran almost the entire length of the torso from the sternum to the navel and exposed the internal organs. Several superficial cuts had been made in the soft tissue next to the large incision. Dr. Harlan opined that both the major incision and the lesser cuts were inflicted after death. Toxicology tests revealed the presence of alcohol and Prozac in the body, although the quantity of these substances was not determined. According to Dr. Marks, it was possible that Jackson's neck had been cut and her head removed after death by either animal or human activity. Dr. Harlan opined that a human being, not an animal, had removed the head after death. Relying on changes in the body's color and texture, Dr. Marks concluded that Jackson had been dead for four to six weeks. Based on the degree of the body's decomposition, Dr. Harlan testified that death had probably occurred within twenty-four hours of Jackson's departure from Bronco's Bar on September 26, 1995. A cause of death could not be determined from Jackson's remains. Dr. Harlan, however, expressed his belief that her death was a result of homicide and that she could have died from wounds to her neck or head.

All of the evidence regarding Davidson's role in the killing is circumstantial. For example, Davidson was a janitor in a hospital department where surgical instruments were cleaned. Although he had been a good and reliable employee, he did not return to work as scheduled after September 26, 1995. He did not contact anyone at work about his absence, and he was eventually fired. In addition, he did not return to his residence at his mother's home for almost three weeks after Jackson's disappearance. On October 2, 1995, Davidson's mother informed the Dickson police that he was missing. Mrs. Davidson withdrew the missing person report on October 8, 1995, after Davidson telephoned her. Davidson later returned to his mother's house, once spending the night, and a second time retrieving a camper top for his pickup truck.

121 S.W.3d 607

There was also evidence that Davidson was in the area where the body was found in the days following Jackson's disappearance. Between October 4 and 6, 1995, approximately a week after Jackson disappeared, Melinda Jones saw Davidson driving a red truck very slowly down Old Yellow Creek Road in Dickson County. Jones saw an object in the passenger seat that was tightly wrapped in a white sheet and was about as high as Davidson's shoulder. As the truck went by, Jones saw the white object fall over onto Davidson, who pushed it away. Later that evening, Jones observed the same truck traveling in the opposite direction at a high rate of speed. Jones also testified that she remembered seeing the same truck go down the road a few days to a week earlier, shortly after Jackson disappeared. At that time, the truck was going very slowly, and Jones, who was able to see inside the vehicle as it passed, noticed that "there was something that wasn't right about the passenger's seat." Jackson's body was discovered about one and a half miles from Jones's home.

Additionally, between October 2 and 6, 1995, around 8 to 9 a.m., Davidson came into Kim's One Stop Market not far from Jones's home. He was wearing work pants and was covered with dirt to his waist. According to one witness, Davidson looked "like he'd been digging in like a garden or something." Davidson sat in the store drinking a cup of coffee for about an hour before driving away in a red pickup truck with a camper top. A week later he returned to the market to purchase a soft drink.

The State's proof also showed that on September 29 and 30, 1995, Davidson made purchases at a grocery store and at a Wal-Mart in Waverly, Tennessee, in the county just southwest of the area where Jackson's body was found. On October 4, 1995, around the time Melinda Jones saw Davidson driving his truck down Old Yellow Creek Road, Davidson also made a withdrawal from an automatic teller at a bank in Erin, Tennessee, in Houston County. All of these transactions place Davidson in the vicinity where Jackson's body was found at a time shortly after her disappearance.

Other sightings of Davidson after Jackson's disappearance also connect him with the killing. For example, on October 9, 1995, Davidson reappeared at Bronco's Bar in Dickson. When Owens, the bartender, asked him where he had taken Jackson on September 26, 1995, Davidson told her that he had dropped Jackson off at a Kroger grocery store. Later that same day, when Timothy Eads of the Dickson County Sheriff's Department went to Bronco's Bar to speak with Owens, Davidson was still there. After Owens identified Davidson as the man who had taken Jackson home, Eads questioned Davidson about Jackson for several minutes. Davidson informed Eads that he had left Jackson at the Kroger...

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292 practice notes
  • State v. Willis, No. E2012-01313-SC-DDT-DD
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • July 6, 2016
    ...supplemented with photographs, certificates, and numerous letters of support from community members and friends.In State v. Davidson , 121 S.W.3d 600 (Tenn.2003), the fifty-two-year-old Caucasian male defendant killed the victim during the course of a kidnapping. He severed her head and lef......
  • State v. Robinson, No. W2001-01299-SC-R11-DD.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • September 28, 2004
    ...concurring and dissenting); State v. Holton, 126 S.W.3d 845, 872 (Tenn.2004) (Birch, J., concurring and dissenting); State v. Davidson, 121 S.W.3d 600, 629-36 (Tenn.2003) (Birch, J., dissenting); State v. Carter, 114 S.W.3d 895, 910-11 (Tenn.2003) (Birch, J., dissenting); State v. Reid, 91 ......
  • State v. Copeland, No. E2002-01123-CCA-R3-DD (TN 8/22/2005), No. E2002-01123-CCA-R3-DD.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • August 22, 2005
    ...to determine whether to grant a change of venue. Its decision will be reversed only for a clear abuse of discretion. State v. Davidson, 121 S.W.3d 600, 611-12 (Tenn. 2003) (citing Dellinger, 79 S.W.3d at 481). "Moreover, before a conviction will be reversed for the trial court's failur......
  • State v. Rogers
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • February 17, 2006
    ...case is subjectively "more or less" like other "death" cases or other "life" cases. State v. Davidson, 121 S.W.3d 600, 623 (Tenn.2003) (citation omitted). Instead, our review requires that we identify an aberrant death sentence by determining whether the case i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
292 cases
  • State v. Willis, No. E2012-01313-SC-DDT-DD
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • July 6, 2016
    ...supplemented with photographs, certificates, and numerous letters of support from community members and friends.In State v. Davidson , 121 S.W.3d 600 (Tenn.2003), the fifty-two-year-old Caucasian male defendant killed the victim during the course of a kidnapping. He severed her head and lef......
  • State v. Robinson, No. W2001-01299-SC-R11-DD.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • September 28, 2004
    ...concurring and dissenting); State v. Holton, 126 S.W.3d 845, 872 (Tenn.2004) (Birch, J., concurring and dissenting); State v. Davidson, 121 S.W.3d 600, 629-36 (Tenn.2003) (Birch, J., dissenting); State v. Carter, 114 S.W.3d 895, 910-11 (Tenn.2003) (Birch, J., dissenting); State v. Reid, 91 ......
  • State v. Copeland, No. E2002-01123-CCA-R3-DD (TN 8/22/2005), No. E2002-01123-CCA-R3-DD.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • August 22, 2005
    ...to determine whether to grant a change of venue. Its decision will be reversed only for a clear abuse of discretion. State v. Davidson, 121 S.W.3d 600, 611-12 (Tenn. 2003) (citing Dellinger, 79 S.W.3d at 481). "Moreover, before a conviction will be reversed for the trial court's failur......
  • State v. Rogers
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Tennessee
    • February 17, 2006
    ...case is subjectively "more or less" like other "death" cases or other "life" cases. State v. Davidson, 121 S.W.3d 600, 623 (Tenn.2003) (citation omitted). Instead, our review requires that we identify an aberrant death sentence by determining whether the case i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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