STATE OF TENNESSEE v. THOMAS LEE HUTCHISON - Articles

All Content


Posted by: Amelia Ferrell Knisely on Jan 14, 2016

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Robert L. Jolley, Jr., and Megan A. Swain, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Thomas Lee Hutchison.

Attorneys 2:

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General, John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel of Criminal Justice Division, Randall Eugene Nichols, District Attorney General; and TaKisha Fitzgerald, Assistant District Attorney General, for appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): KIRBY

A jury convicted the defendant of three counts of facilitation of first degree murder and one count of facilitation of aggravated robbery. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and the sentence. On appeal to this Court, the defendant contends, inter alia, that the admission into evidence of an autopsy report through the testimony of a medical examiner who did not perform the autopsy violated his right to confront the witnesses against him under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution. The defendant also argues that the warrantless search of his home by officers who entered the home after the first responding officer constituted an unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution, so the trial court should have suppressed the evidence seized in that search. We hold that, under the circumstances of this case, the autopsy report is not testimonial under Williams v. Illinois, 132 S. Ct. 2221 (2012), so its admission into evidence did not violate the Defendant‘s rights under the Confrontation Clause. We further hold that, where the responding officer‘s initial entry into the home was justified by exigent circumstances, the subsequent entry into the home by other officers constituted a mere continuation of the initial officer‘s lawful entry into the home. Consequently, the trial court did not err by denying the Defendant‘s motion to suppress the evidence that was in plain view and within the scope of the exigent circumstances search. Finally, we hold that the admission into evidence of items that were not in plain view, even if erroneous, constituted harmless error. Accordingly, we affirm.