State v. Thomas

Decision Date05 February 2015
Docket NumberNo. E2013-01738-CCA-R3-CD,E2013-01738-CCA-R3-CD
CourtTennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
PartiesSTATE OF TENNESSEE v. GEORGE GEOVONNI THOMAS

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Knox County

No. 86216C

Walter Kurtz, Judge

A Knox County jury found the Defendant, George Geovonni Thomas, guilty of thirty-eight criminal charges, including first degree murder, aggravated rape, especially aggravated robbery, and especially aggravated kidnapping. The jury imposed sentences of life in prison for the first-degree murder convictions. The trial court imposed sentences for the remaining convictions for an effective sentence of two consecutive life sentences plus twenty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Defendant appeals asserting that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress his statements; (2) the trial court improperly admitted an "unreliable unrecorded statement attributed by law enforcement to [the Defendant];" (3) the criminal responsibility statute is void for vagueness; (4) the trial court erred when it retroactively applied the Dorantes evidentiary standard pertaining to circumstantial evidence; (5) the presentment was insufficient for failure to charge criminal responsibility; and (6) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court's judgments.

Tenn. R. App. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Criminal Court Affirmed

ROBERT W. WEDEMEYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which JOHN EVERETT WILLIAMS and TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JJ., joined.

W. Thomas Dillard and Stephen Ross Johnson, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, George Geovonni Thomas.

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Deshea Dulany Faughn, Senior Counsel; Charme Allen, District Attorney General; Leland Price and Takisha Fitzgerald, Assistant District Attorneys General for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

OPINION I. Facts

This case arises from offenses surrounding the January 2007 carjacking, robbery, kidnapping, rape, and murder of C.C. and C.N., the victims.1 The victims in this case were last seen by friends on Saturday night, January 6, 2007. Concern grew when the victims failed to show up at a party that night as planned and when C.C. failed to show up for work the following day, Sunday, January 7, 2007. Family and friends located C.C.'s abandoned silver Toyota 4Runner on Sunday night, January 7, 2007, at the intersection of Glider Avenue and Chipman Street in Knoxville, Tennessee. In the days following the victims' disappearance, C.C. was found dead in a garbage can inside 2316 Chipman Street, a residence leased to Lemaricus Davidson and Daphne Sutton, and C.N.'s body was found next to railroad tracks that ran behind 2316 Chipman Street.

A Knox County grand jury charged the Defendant with forty-six counts2 for his role in these crimes. The Defendant was charged with multiple counts of first degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape, and theft. Three co-defendants were also charged and convicted for these crimes: Lemaricus Devall Davidson, Letalvis Darnell Cobbins, and Vanessa Coleman.

At trial, Josh Anderson, C.N.'s best friend, testified that on Saturday, January 6, 2007, he and C.N. played golf together. After golf, the two men went to Mr. Anderson's residence where C.N. spoke with his girlfriend, C.C., to make plans for the evening. C.N. arranged to drop Mr. Anderson off at a mutual friend's party and then take C.C. to dinner before the couple returned to join their friends at the party. C.N. drove Mr. Anderson in C.N.'s Chevy 2500 HD pick-up truck to the location of the party and then left to pick up C.C. at Kara Sowards's apartment and take her to dinner. Mr. Anderson said that he became concerned at around 10:00 p.m. when C.C. and C.N. had not arrived at the party as planned. Mr. Anderson placed telephone calls to both C.C. and C.N.'s cell phones, but neither phone was answered.

Mr. Anderson testified that he and a friend drove to Kara Sowards's apartment to see if they could find the couple. When they arrived, C.N.'s truck was parked in the parking lot, but C.C.'s vehicle, a silver Toyota 4Runner, was not there. The men knocked on the apartment door, but no one answered. It began raining, so Mr. Anderson retrieved the golf clubs that he and C.N. had left in the back of C.N.'s truck earlier in the day. While doing so, he looked inside the truck to see if C.N. had inadvertently left his cell phone in his vehicle as an explanation as to why C.N. had not answered any of his telephone calls. Mr. Anderson stated that he did not see C.N.'s cell phone inside the truck.

Mr. Anderson testified that the next morning, Sunday, January 7, 2007, he learned that C.C. had not shown up for work, which he described as a "red flag." Later in the day, Mr. Anderson learned of the area where C.N. and C.C.'s cell phones had last accessed a cell tower, and he joined a group in searching that area. It was in this area that C.C.'s 4Runner was found. Mr. Anderson said that C.C.'s vehicle was pulled off the road in the grass and stickers that had once been on the outside of the windows of the vehicle had been removed. He described one of the stickers as a "Power T" sticker. He also noted that the front seats in the vehicle were "leaned back really far," and there was mud inside, which he found inconsistent with how C.C. normally maintained her vehicle. Mr. Anderson said that he also noted a pack of Newport cigarettes in the car, which he thought strange because neither C.C. nor C.N. smoked cigarettes, and a cell phone charger that had been "ripped apart."

Mr. Anderson identified a photograph of the UT hat that C.N. had worn while playing golf on January 6, 2007. The photograph was taken of the hat after police had recovered the UT hat from a house located at 2316 Chipman Street. Mr. Anderson testified that he did not know the defendants charged in this case nor was he familiar with the residence at 2316 Chipman Street. He stated that neither C.C. nor C.N. knew the Defendant or any of the co-defendants or had ever been to the residence at 2316 Chipman Street prior to these offenses.

Kara Sowards testified that in January 2007 she lived at the Washington Ridge Apartments. She stated that her best friend, C.C., did not live with her but stayed at the apartment occasionally. Ms. Sowards recalled that C.C. arrived at her apartment at around 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 6, 2007. The two ran an errand together and then returned to the apartment to get ready for a birthday party at a friend's house. Ms. Sowards left for the party at around 8:00 p.m., while C.C. remained at the apartment waiting for C.N. to take her to dinner before the couple joined their friends at the party.

Ms. Sowards testified that she had been at the party for about an hour when she saw, through the bay window, C.N.'s truck pull into the driveway. When she didn't see C.C. and C.N. come in the house with the others that arrived at that time, she asked Mr. Anderson about C.C. and C.N. Mr. Anderson told her that C.N. had left to go pick up C.C. for dinner.Ms. Sowards said that she immediately called C.C. to notify her that C.N. was on his way since C.C. had been waiting for C.N. for an hour. Approximately an hour and a half later, Ms. Sowards called C.C. again to see why she and C.N. had not arrived at the party. C.C. did not answer her phone, so Ms. Sowards sent a text message asking C.C.'s location. Ms. Sowards said that it was unusual for C.C. not to respond to Ms. Sowards's telephone calls or text messages. Ms. Sowards continued to call C.C.'s phone throughout the evening with no response.

Ms. Sowards testified that she returned from the party to her apartment at around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, January 7, 2007. She said that she parked her car next to C.N.'s truck, thinking it was odd that his vehicle was in the parking lot, but C.C.'s vehicle was not. She explained that normally C.N. drove when he and C.C. went out together. When she went inside her apartment, she did not find C.C. or C.N..

Ms. Sowards testified that she awoke at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 7, and once again called C.C.'s cell phone. She said that, this time, the phone went directly to voicemail without ringing. Later that day Ms. Sowards learned that C.C. had never arrived for work at the Shoe Department in West Town Mall on Sunday. On Sunday evening, she joined a group of people to search the area where C.C.'s cell phone had last accessed a cell tower. During the search of the area, C.C.'s vehicle was found on the side of the road near the intersection of Glider Avenue and Chipman Street. C.C.'s vehicle normally had several stickers on the windows, but the "Power T" sticker and an "orange North Face sticker" had been removed. Once police arrived and opened the vehicle, Ms. Sowards observed mud inside the vehicle inconsistent with how C.C. maintained her vehicle. She also noticed that the front seats were pushed all the way back and were leaned back to the furthest position.

Ms. Sowards identified photographs of the clothing she saw C.C. wearing on the night of January 6, 2007, before Ms. Sowards left for the birthday party. The clothing items were recovered from 2316 Chipman Street. Ms. Sowards also identified several items of clothing and an iPod that were in C.C.'s vehicle before this incident and were later recovered by the police from 2316 Chipman Street.

Ms. Sowards testified that the area where they found C.C.'s vehicle was several minutes from her apartment but in an area unfamiliar to her. She stated that C.C. had never been to this area before and did not know any of the people charged in this case.

Xavier Jenkins testified that in 2007 he worked as a driver for Waste Connections located on Chipman Street. On Sunday, January 7, 2007, Mr. Jenkins arrived at work at 12:30 a.m. He...

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