State v. Harris

Decision Date15 April 1996
Citation919 S.W.2d 323
PartiesSTATE of Tennessee, Appellant, v. Timothy D. HARRIS and Craig Thompson, Appellees.
CourtTennessee Supreme Court

Shelby County; Hon. Joseph B. McCartie, Judge.

Charles W. Burson, Attorney General & Reporter, Amy L. Tarkington, Christina S. Shevalier, Assistant Attorneys General, Nashville, Glenn I. Wright, Gerald Harris, Paul F. Goodman, Assistant District Attorneys, Memphis, for appellant.

Harry U. Scruggs, Memphis, David C. Stebbins, Columbus, Ohio, for appellee Harris.

John G. Oliva, Nashville, David C. Stebbins, Columbus, Ohio, Carolyn Watkins, Edward G. Thompson, Assistant Public Defenders, Memphis, for appellee Thompson.

OPINION

ANDERSON, Chief Justice.

The single 1 issue in this consolidated appeal is purely a question of law and requires a determination of whether a remand for resentencing is appropriate when an appellate court in a capital case concludes the sole aggravating circumstance found by the original sentencing jury is legally invalid and sets aside the sentence of death. Because there is no legal principle which precludes the State from seeking the death penalty upon resentencing, a remand for that purpose is appropriate. Accordingly, the Court of Criminal Appeals' judgments modifying the sentences to life imprisonment are reversed and the cases remanded to the respective trial courts for resentencing.

BACKGROUND

In separate trials in the Shelby County Criminal Court, the defendants, Timothy D. Harris and Craig Thompson, were each convicted of first-degree felony murder during the course of a robbery, and sentenced to death.

As to Harris, the proof introduced by the State established that on the evening of May 29, 1990, Jack Thomas was shot to death as he sat in his car outside his home in Memphis. The incident began when four young men approached Thomas as he was placing some items in his car. At least two of the men were armed. When Thomas realized that the men intended to rob him, he jumped in his car and closed the door. Thomas suffered eight gunshot wounds in the attack, during which the rear window of his car was shattered by gunfire. Thomas's girlfriend, who was inside the house at the time, identified the defendant as one of the four young men she saw approach. She did not see the defendant with a gun, but saw another of the men shoot Thomas four times. While she hid inside the house, three of the men ransacked the bedroom. During this time, Thomas was shot several times at close range. A cellular phone and gold necklace were taken in the robbery. Although Harris admitted participation in the burglary and in planning the robbery, he claimed that he was unarmed and did not shoot Thomas. While the identity of the person who shot Thomas was never definitively established, Harris's fingerprint was lifted from the passenger door of the victim's car. The jury convicted Harris, based on that evidence, of felony murder committed during the course of a robbery. 2

At the sentencing hearing, the State relied on evidence presented during trial and testimony from the victim's mother. Harris testified in his own behalf, admitting that he had instigated the robbery, but claiming that he had never intended that Thomas be shot. He expressed remorse and regret for what happened. The defense also relied on testimony from the defendant's aunt. At the time of the killing, Harris was twenty years old, a high school graduate with no prior criminal record.

Based on the proof, the jury imposed the death penalty after finding that the State had proven, beyond a reasonable doubt that the murder had occurred during the commission of a robbery and that the aggravating circumstance outweighed the mitigating factors.

As to Craig Thompson, the proof introduced at the guilt phase of the trial established that on December 16, 1990, Thompson entered a Delta Express Market in Memphis and shot to death the clerk, Carrie Lee Walker. A second clerk who had fled to the back of the store identified Thompson as a person matching the description of the killer, while a customer identified Thompson as the man who came out of the store with a gun in his hand. In addition, the homicide was videotaped by a security camera, and the jury saw the tape and photographs made from it. Thompson also admitted shooting the clerk to the driver of the get-away car and to a friend, but claimed that the clerk was trying to shoot him. The jury convicted Thompson of felony murder during the commission of a robbery.

At the sentencing hearing, the State relied on the proof presented at trial and in addition, introduced testimony from Walker's sister. Testifying for the defense, Thompson's mother said that he was eighteen or nineteen years old at the time of the killing, had no prior criminal record, and had been a well-behaved honor student from a stable family until he came to Tennessee and joined the Navy at age seventeen.

Based on the proof, the jury imposed the death penalty after finding that the State had proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the murder had been committed during the commission of a robbery, and that the aggravating circumstance outweighed the mitigating factors.

Accordingly, during the sentencing phase of each case, the State presented proof to establish the aggravating circumstance that the killing occurred during the course of a robbery. Tenn.Code Ann. § 39-13-204(i)(7) (1991 Repl.). 3

Each defendant separately appealed to the Court of Criminal Appeals raising numerous issues for review. The intermediate court, in each case, affirmed the conviction, but reversed the sentence of death concluding that the jury's reliance on the felony murder aggravating circumstance at the sentencing hearing was contrary to Middlebrooks. In that case, this Court held that, when a defendant is convicted of felony murder, the State's use of felony murder as an aggravating circumstance at the sentencing hearing violates Article I, Section 16, of the Tennessee Constitution because the aggravating circumstance is a duplication of the crime itself and does not narrow the class of death-eligible defendants as is constitutionally required. Reasoning that resentencing is precluded because the sentencing jury relied upon only one aggravating circumstance which was legally invalid to support imposition of the death penalty, the Court of Criminal Appeals modified the sentence in each case to life imprisonment. The State filed applications for permission to appeal, which were granted, and thereafter, the cases were consolidated for hearing and decision. For the reasons that follow, the judgments of the Court of Criminal Appeals modifying each sentence to life imprisonment are reversed and the cases remanded to the respective trial courts for resentencing.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY

Resolution of the issue in this appeal requires a review of well-settled principles of double jeopardy jurisprudence. The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution is applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, 4 and provides that no person shall "be subject to the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." Similarly, Article I, Section 10 of the Tennessee Constitution provides "[t]hat no person shall, for the same offence, be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb." The double jeopardy provisions of the state and federal constitutions have heretofore been interpreted as co-extensive. 5 The double jeopardy clauses were

designed to protect an individual from being subjected to the hazards of trial and possible conviction more than once for an alleged offense.... The underlying idea, one that is deeply ingrained in at least the Anglo-American system of jurisprudence, is that the State with all its resources and power should not be allowed to make repeated attempts to convict an individual for an alleged offense, thereby subjecting him to embarrassment, expense and ordeal and compelling him to live in a continuing state of anxiety and insecurity, as well as enhancing the possibility that even though innocent he may be found guilty.

Green v. United States, 355 U.S. 184, 187-88, 78 S.Ct. 221, 223-24, 2 L.Ed.2d 199 (1957); State v. Maupin, 859 S.W.2d at 315; State v. Knight, 616 S.W.2d 593, 595 (Tenn.1981).

The double jeopardy guarantee affords three separate constitutional protections against, 1) a second prosecution for the same offense after acquittal; 2) a second prosecution for the same offense after conviction; and 3) multiple punishments for the same offense. North Carolina v. Pearce, 395 U.S. 711, 716, 89 S.Ct. 2072, 2076, 23 L.Ed.2d 656 (1969); State v. Mounce, 859 S.W.2d 319, 321 (Tenn.1993). In application, these protections forbid retrial of a defendant who has been acquitted and, when a conviction has been set aside because of insufficiency of the evidence, double jeopardy forbids giving the prosecution "another opportunity to supply evidence which it failed to muster in the first proceeding." Burks v. United States, 437 U.S. 1, 11, 98 S.Ct. 2141, 2147, 57 L.Ed.2d 1 (1978).

When a defendant obtains a new trial through a successful appeal on some basis other than insufficiency of the evidence, however, double jeopardy does not preclude a retrial of the defendant. Id.; Ball v. United States, 163 U.S. 662, 16 S.Ct. 1192, 41 L.Ed. 300 (1896); State v. Campbell, 641 S.W.2d 890, 893 (Tenn.1982). The rationale for allowing retrial in such circumstances was aptly explained in United States v. Tateo, 377 U.S. 463, 84 S.Ct. 1587, 12 L.Ed.2d 448 (1964), as follows:

While different theories have been advanced to support the permissibility of retrial, of greater importance than the conceptual abstractions employed to explain the Ball principle are the implications of that principle for the sound administration of justice. Corresponding to the right of an accused to be given a fair trial is the societal interest in punishing one...

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