State v. Hall

Decision Date21 September 1998
Citation976 S.W.2d 121
PartiesSTATE of Tennessee, Appellee, v. William E. HALL and Derrick D. Quintero, Appellants.
CourtTennessee Supreme Court

Jennifer Davis Roberts, Dickson, Reese Bagwell, Clarksville, for Appellant Hall.

Shipp R. Weems, District Public Defender, Steve Stack, Assistant Public Defender, Charlotte, for Appellant Quintero.

John Knox Walkup, Attorney General and Reporter, Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General, Darian B. Taylor, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Dan M. Alsobrooks, District Attorney General, J. Kenneth Atkins, Special Prosecutor, James W. Kirby ,Assistant District Attorney General, Charlotte, for Appellee.

OPINION

DROWOTA, Justice.

In this capital case, the defendants, William Eugene Hall, Jr., and Derrick Desmond Quintero, were convicted by a jury of two counts of murder during the perpetration of first degree burglary, three counts of grand larceny, one count of petit larceny and three counts of first degree burglary. For their convictions of larceny and burglary, the defendants each were sentenced to eighty years incarceration, which sentences were ordered to run consecutively to the life sentences imposed for their conviction of the first degree murder of Buford Vester. With respect to the first degree murder of Myrtle Vester, the jury found the proof established the following five aggravating circumstances: (1) the defendants were previously convicted of one or more felonies involving the use or threat of violence, Tenn.Code Ann. § 39-2-203(i)(2) (1982); (2) the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel in that it involved torture or depravity of mind, Tenn.Code Ann. § 39-2-203(i)(5) (1982); (3) the murder was committed for the purpose of avoiding, interfering with, or preventing a lawful arrest or prosecution of themselves or others, Tenn.Code Ann. § 39-2-203(i)(6) (1982); (4) the murder was committed while the defendant was engaged in committing or was an accomplice in the commission of, or was attempting to commit, or fleeing after committing or attempting to commit, any first-degree murder, arson, rape, robbery, burglary, larceny, kidnaping, aircraft piracy, or unlawful throwing, placing or discharging of a destructive device or bomb, Tenn Code Ann. § 39-2-203(i)(7) (1982); and (5) the murder was committed by the appellants while they were in lawful custody or in a place of lawful confinement or during their escape from lawful custody or from a place of lawful confinement, Tenn.Code Ann. § 39-2-203(i)(8) (1982). 1 Finding that there were no mitigating circumstances sufficiently substantial to outweigh the aggravating circumstances, the jury sentenced the defendants to death by electrocution for the murder of Myrtle Vester.

On direct appeal to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, the defendants challenged both their convictions and their sentences. The appellate court found that the evidence did not support dual larceny convictions and ordered that the petit larceny convictions be merged with the grand larceny. convictions. The intermediate appellate court affirmed the defendants' convictions of first degree murder and sentences of life imprisonment and death by electrocution, finding the jury's erroneous reliance upon two inapplicable aggravating circumstances, (i)(6) and (i)(7), harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Pursuant to Tenn.Code Ann. § 39-13-206(a)(1) (1997 Repl.), 2 the case was docketed in this Court. The defendants have raised numerous issues in this Court. After carefully examining the law, the record, and the thorough opinion of the Court of Criminal Appeals, we have determined that none of the assignments of error require reversal. We have also concluded that the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in finding the evidence insufficient to support the (i)(6) aggravating circumstance, and accordingly reinstate the jury's finding of that circumstance. The evidence is sufficient to support the jury's findings as to the remaining aggravating circumstances and the mitigating circumstances. Finally we hold that the sentences of death are not arbitrary or disproportionate to the sentences imposed in similar cases, considering the nature of the crime and the defendant. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals upholding the defendants' convictions and sentences of death by electrocution is affirmed as modified.

BACKGROUND

The proof introduced by the State during the guilt phase of the trial demonstrated that Myrtle and Buford Vester were murdered in their home in the Leatherwood community of Stewart County, which is situated on Kentucky Lake and in close proximity to the Tennessee-Kentucky border. The Vesters were murdered sometime after their son left their home at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 19, 1988 and sometime before their bodies were discovered by their neighbor around 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 22, 1988.

Along with six other men, the defendants in this appeal, Derrick Quintero and William Hall, escaped from the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville during the early morning hours of June 16, 1988. Three of the escapees 3 were apprehended in the vicinity of the prison on or before June 18, 1988. However, the other five escapees, including Quintero, Hall, James Blanton, Joseph Montgomery, and Ronnie Hudson left the area in a 1966 Chevrolet pick-up truck 4 which they stole from Curtis Rogers who lived about one-half of a mile from the prison facility.

The Stewart County Sheriff's department was notified at 2:30 a.m. on June 16 that inmates had escaped from the penitentiary at Eddyville. After news of the escape had been broadcast to the public, the Sheriff's department received a telephone call from Zachery Pallay, a resident of the Leatherwood community, warning that Quintero was familiar with the area and would probably seek refuge there. The Sheriff's department's also received several reports of suspicious individuals in the Leatherwood area including a report of three men attempting to flag down a car. However, when a rash of burglaries broke out in the Leatherwood community, the Sheriff's department became convinced that the escapees were in the area. The burglarized residences in Stewart County were owned by Jim McMinn, Neal Foster, Essie Settles, Alfred Cherry, Thomas Harris, and John and Virginia Crawford.

Though it is not possible to determine from the record the precise order in which the burglaries occurred, the proof demonstrates that five of the six burglaries occurred before 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 19, 1988.

The first burglary was reported and occurred on June 18, 1988. That day, Jim McMinn of Clarksville, Tennessee, arrived at his cabin in the Leatherwood area at approximately noon. He left the cabin to go fishing in his boat at around 1:00 p.m. Upon returning to the cabin at 2:30 or 3:00 p.m., McMinn noticed a box of shotgun shells lying on the floor and discovered that his loaded .22 caliber pistol was missing from the bedroom. The telephone in his cabin had been removed from the wall, and the outside portion of the phone line also had been severed. McMinn went to his truck and discovered that the windows had been rolled up and the ignition destroyed with his ax. The telephone from McMinn's cabin was in the bed of the truck.

Following the report of the McMinn burglary on June 18, the Sheriff's Department initiated an intensive search of the area, utilizing helicopters, four-wheel drive vehicles, and tracking dogs. At one point law enforcement officers chased some individuals on foot through the woods, but they were not able to overtake the persons suspected to be the escapees.

At some point, perhaps during that chase, Hudson and Montgomery became separated from the defendants and Blanton. Hudson and Montgomery left the Leatherwood community and drove to Lebanon, Kentucky in a 1982 White Ford Fairmont they stole from Essie Settles, a resident of the Standing Rock Community, which is approximately six highway miles from the Leatherwood community. Montgomery's fingerprint was found on Settles' garage door. Hudson's fingerprint was found inside the car when it was later recovered. Settles had seen the car in her garage around 10:00 a.m. on Saturday morning and discovered that it was missing at approximately 1:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. The proof demonstrated that the car was stolen sometime Saturday night or before daylight on Sunday morning. Burned matches were found inside the garage indicating that it had been dark when the theft occurred. In addition, when she watered her flowers around 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, Settles noticed that someone had removed the hose from the outside faucet during the night. Settles stated that the hose had been connected when she had used it on Saturday evening around 6:00 p.m.

Hudson and Montgomery arrived at Hudson's brother's apartment in Lebanon, Kentucky on Sunday, June 19, at approximately 1:00 p.m. They were driving a white car with Tennessee license plates, which witnesses identified at trial as the vehicle which had been stolen from Settles. Hudson's brother and a friend accompanied the two escapees to a secluded area on the river where Hudson and Montgomery hid the stolen car among the weeds. Around 6:00 or 6:30 p.m., Hudson's brother left the two escapees in the company of Hudson's mother and sister. The next day, Hudson's sister, her two children, and Martha Grover picked up the two escapees and transported them to Grover's apartment where they stayed until early evening on Tuesday, June 21. The following day, Wednesday, June 22, Kentucky authorities apprehended both Hudson and Montgomery near the location where Settles' car had been hidden. Shots were exchanged prior to the convicts' apprehension. Hudson and Montgomery had in their possession McMinn's .22 caliber pistol and a .22 caliber pistol which had been stolen from another resident of the Leatherwood community, Neal Foster. Two live...

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    ...additional foundation as to the continuing accuracy of records produced by the computer and software used was required. State v. Hall , 976 S.W.2d 121 (Tenn. 1998). Telephone bill itemizing phone calls properly admitted into evidence because person with special knowledge about the operation......
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