STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JAMES HAWKINS - Articles

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Posted by: Chandra Williams on Aug 28, 2015

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Steven C. Bush, District Public Defender; Phyllis Aluko and Barry Kuhn, Assistant Public Defenders (on appeal); Gerald Skahan, Larry Nance, and Kindle Nance, Assistant Public Defenders (at trial), for the appellant, James Hawkins.

Attorneys 2:

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; James E. Gaylord, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Patience Branham, Marianne Bell, Jennifer Nichols, and Danielle McCollum, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): WOODALL

Defendant, James Hawkins, appeals from his Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of premeditated first degree murder, see T.C.A. ' 39-13-202(a)(1); initiating a false report, see id. ' 39-16-502, a Class D felony; and abuse of a corpse, see id. ' 39-17-312, a Class E felony. The jury sentenced Defendant to death for the first degree murder conviction based upon its findings that the defendant was previously convicted of one (1) or more felonies whose statutory elements involve the use of violence to the person, see id. ' 39-13-204(i)(2); and that the defendant knowingly mutilated the body of the victim after death, see id. ' 39-13-204(i)(13); and that these aggravating circumstances outweighed any mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. For the remaining felonies, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of 18 years= incarceration to be served consecutively to the death sentence. On appeal, Defendant alleges that (1) the trial court erred by denying Defendant=s motion to suppress his statements given to the police; (2) the trial court erred by refusing to accept Defendant=s guilty pleas to counts two and three of the indictment; (3) the trial court erred by admitting statements made by the victim through the victim=s children, through Melvin Gaither, and through an application for order of protection; (4) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of other acts in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b); (5) the trial court erred by admitting photographs of bone fragments taken from the victim;(6) the trial court erred by admitting crime scene photographs that had not been provided during pretrial discovery; (7) the trial court erred by permitting improper closing argument by the State; (8) the evidence is insufficient to support Defendant=s conviction of first degree murder; (9) the trial court erred by not requiring the State to provide discovery concerning an ongoing investigation of sexual abuse committed by Defendant=s father against Defendant=s sisters for use in the penalty phase of the trial; (10) the trial court erred by denying Defendant=s special jury instruction request to charge the jury on the presumption that any sentence imposed for the first degree murder conviction would be carried out according to the laws of this State; (11) myriad aspects of Tennessee=s ?? death penalty statutes and procedure are unconstitutional in general and as applied to Defendant; (12) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence in both length and manner of service relative to the sentences for filing a false report and abuse of a corpse; and (13) the cumulative effect of these errors violated Defendant=s right to due process. As an additional issue, Defendant alleges that the trial court erred by denying his petition for writ of error coram nobis. Following oral argument at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis and this court=s full consideration, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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