State v. Davis, M2001-01866-SC-DDT-DD .

CourtSupreme Court of Tennessee
Citation141 S.W.3d 600
Docket NumberNo. M2001-01866-SC-DDT-DD .,M2001-01866-SC-DDT-DD .
PartiesSTATE of Tennessee v. Christopher A. DAVIS.
Decision Date25 August 2004
141 S.W.3d 600
STATE of Tennessee
Christopher A. DAVIS.
No. M2001-01866-SC-DDT-DD .
Supreme Court of Tennessee, at Nashville.
June 3, 2004 Session.
August 25, 2004.

Appeal from the Criminal Court, Davidson County, J. Randall Wyatt, J.

[141 S.W.3d 605]

Hershell D. Koger, Pulaski, Tennessee, and David Hornik, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Christopher A. Davis.

Paul G. Summers, Attorney General and Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; Mark A. Fulks, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, District Attorney General; and Tom Thurman and Katrin Miller, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


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

The defendant, Christopher A. Davis, was convicted of two counts of premeditated first degree murder,1 two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, and two counts of especially aggravated robbery. The jury imposed death sentences for both counts of premeditated first degree murder after finding that evidence of three aggravating circumstances, i.e., (1) the defendant was previously convicted of one or more felonies whose statutory elements involved the use of violence to the person, (2) the murders were committed for the purpose of avoiding, interfering with, or preventing a lawful arrest of the defendant, and (3) the murders were knowingly committed, solicited, directed, or aided by the defendant while the defendant had a substantial role in committing or attempting to commit a robbery or kidnapping, outweighed evidence of mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. In addition, the trial court sentenced the defendant to concurrent 25-year sentences for the especially aggravated kidnapping convictions to run consecutively to concurrent 25-year sentences for the especially aggravated robbery convictions.

After the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the convictions and the sentences, the case was automatically docketed in this Court. We entered an order specifying seven issues for oral argument, and we now hold as follows: (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's verdicts; (2) the trial court did not err in refusing to disqualify the District Attorney General; (3) the trial court did not err in refusing to allow defense counsel to withdraw; (4) the death sentences were not invalid on the ground that the aggravating circumstances were not set out in the indictment; (5) the

141 S.W.3d 606

trial court did not err in allowing the prosecution to establish the "prior violent felony" aggravating circumstance by relying on an offense committed as a juvenile; (6) the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's finding of three aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt and its determination that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the evidence of mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt; and (7) the death sentences were not arbitrary or disproportionate. We also agree with the Court of Criminal Appeals' conclusions with respect to the remaining issues, the relevant portions of which are included in the appendix to this opinion. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Guilt Phase

On the early morning of February 28, 1996, the bodies of the victims, Gregory Ewing and D'Angelo Lee, were discovered in a remote part of a construction site in the Berry Hill area of Nashville, Tennessee. Ewing had been shot seven times, including three gunshot wounds to his head. Lee had been shot five times, including three gunshot wounds to his head.

As a result of an investigation, the defendant, Christopher A. Davis, was charged with two counts of premeditated first degree murder, two counts of felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping. The evidence at the trial was as follows:

Antonio Cartwright, age 14, testified that on February 27, 1996, he was smoking marijuana in an apartment located on Herman Street in Nashville with the defendant, Christopher Davis, Yakou "Kay" Murphy, Gdongalay Berry, and an individual nicknamed "Sneak." Davis told Cartwright that there was going to be a "highjacking ... and a gun deal" that evening involving D'Angelo Lee and Gregory Ewing. Davis told the others that he wanted Lee's car and planned to "draw down on him." Davis told Cartwright that they would have to kill Lee and Ewing because the two victims knew where they lived.

Cartwright testified that when Davis, Berry, Murphy, and Sneak left the apartment on foot that evening, Davis was carrying a nine millimeter handgun and Berry was armed with a .45 caliber handgun.2 Davis and Berry returned in approximately one hour in a white Cadillac with four or five assault rifles, a pair of green tennis shoes with yellow laces, a black and blue jacket, an additional .45 caliber handgun, and a gold cross necklace. Davis told Cartwright that he had killed the two victims and that he had shot Lee nine times in the head. Davis said the bodies had been dumped where they could not be found. Berry said that they needed to burn the Cadillac.

Christopher Loyal testified that he saw Davis and Berry on the night of February 27, 1996, and that he helped carry assault rifles from a white Cadillac into Davis's room in the Herman Street apartment. Loyal saw a backpack with guns in it and noticed that Davis was wearing a gold chain with a cross on it. According to Loyal, Davis said that they had gone to get some guns and that he "unloaded his clip." Davis told Loyal that one of the victims had begun crying and begging for his life, and that they shot him. Loyal said that Berry seemed upset about what had happened but Davis just appeared "hyper."

141 S.W.3d 607

Detectives Mike Roland and Pat Postiglione were assigned to investigate the homicides of Gregory Ewing and D'Angelo Lee after the victims were found on the morning of February 28, 1996. Later that morning, Postiglione, along with two other detectives, went to an apartment at 2716-B Herman Street to investigate a tip they received from "Crimestoppers" regarding an unrelated murder that had occurred near Tennessee State University ("TSU"). While the detectives were questioning Ronald Benedict, the lessee of the apartment, and fourteen-year-old Antonio Cartwright, they noticed a rifle under a bed in an adjacent room.

As the detectives were discussing a search of the apartment, Christopher Davis walked in unannounced with Dimitrice "Dee" Martin, Berry, and Brad Benedict, Ronald Benedict's brother. Davis was talking on a cell phone and one of the other men was carrying an assault rifle. When the detectives announced their presence and drew their weapons, Davis, Berry and Brad Benedict fled from the apartment. Davis was caught one block from the apartment. A .45 caliber automatic handgun that Davis had discarded during the chase and the assault rifle that one of the other men had been carrying were also recovered. Berry and Brad Benedict, however, were not apprehended that day.

Davis was arrested, taken back to the apartment on Herman Street, and placed in a patrol car while the apartment was searched. Davis denied that he lived in the apartment. The search of Davis's bedroom uncovered a nine millimeter handgun, an M-1 assault rifle, three SKS assault rifles, several handguns, ammunition, $1,400 in currency inside a Crown Royal bag, two pair of muddy gloves, muddy tennis shoes, handcuffs, a pager, a cell phone, and a backpack containing cans of spray paint. Detective Postiglione also saw a pair of green tennis shoes with yellow laces that were later identified as belonging to the victim, D'Angelo Lee.

Davis was taken to the Criminal Justice Center in the back of a patrol car with Antonio Cartwright. Cartwright testified that while riding in the patrol car, Davis told him to remove the gold cross necklace from Davis's neck and to place it in Davis's pocket.

Dimitrice Martin testified that she was Davis's girlfriend. While she waited with Davis at the Criminal Justice Center, he asked her to take a gold cross necklace from his pocket and put it in her purse. Davis then told her that Berry and several others had purchased guns the previous night and had returned to the Herman Street apartment with the victims tied up in their car.3 Davis told her that he and Berry then drove somewhere, took the victims from the car, and began shooting the victims. Davis also told her that Berry had shot both of the victims and that he, Davis, shot D'Angelo Lee. Davis then told Martin to call Ronald Benedict's girlfriend and ask her to "get rid of" a pair of green and gold tennis shoes left in the apartment. Finally, Martin testified that she received two letters from Davis following his arrest in which he told her to "take the fifth" and not testify against him or in cases involving other members of the Gangster Disciples.4

141 S.W.3d 608

Detective Roland interviewed Davis regarding the homicides of Ewing and Lee. Because another detective had previously questioned Davis about the unrelated murder near the TSU campus, Roland confirmed that Davis had been advised of his rights and was willing to talk. Davis denied that he was involved in or had any knowledge of the Ewing and Lee homicides. Detective Roland stopped the interview after 30 minutes because Davis requested an attorney. According to Roland, however, he was later typing up criminal warrants to charge Davis with the Ewing and Lee homicides when Davis told him he wanted to talk to him.

Davis signed a written waiver of his rights and gave a videotaped statement. He said that Gdongalay Berry and Yakou "Kay" Murphy met with Ewing and Lee to buy guns and later returned in a Cadillac with the victims tied up in the car. After Berry brought the guns...

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