Monday, May 14, 2012

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Refuses to Overturn Murder Conviction Based on Self-Defense

In State of Tennessee v. Nicholas Short, a Nashville man was convicted of one count of premeditated  first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder--both convictions stem from a single homicide committed during an aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the convictions and sentenced Short to life imprisonment. The sole issue on appeal is whether the evidence presented is sufficient to overturn the convictions based on Short's claim of self-defense. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied Short's claim.

Short was convicted from charges in conjunction with an especially aggravated robbery. Both murder counts arose from the death of Tyrone Davis, the victim. Short admitted to shooting and killing Davis, but insisted that it was done in self-defense. Davis supposedly rushed at Short and, in an attempt to resist, Short began shooting wildly in the air. Three witnesses testified to Short shooting Davis in the back, refuting his claim. 

Doctor Sandra Thomas, a doctor in the Davidson County Medical Examiner’s Office testified that she reviewed the report and body diagram after the autopsy was performed. According to Thomas, one of the gunshot wounds was consistent with a victim being shot while on his knees by a person standing behind him. There were further abrasions on the victims’ body, his forehead, the side of his nose and the heel of his right hand that indicated the victim had fallen on the ground. There were also raw abrasions on both knees, consistent with crawling. 

Short argues the evidence presented in insufficient to support a verdict of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court disagreed. The Court said that when viewing the evidence in light most favorable to the State, the result clearly demonstrated premeditation and intent, the necessary components for a first-degree murder conviction. 

The victim appeared to be attempting to escape when he was shot in the back by Short. Telephone calls from prison revealed that the killing was the result of a prior arrangement with other criminal friends. Finally, Short admitted that the victim did not have a weapon. The Court held that by convicting Short of first-degree murder the jury clearly rejected his version of events. The Court refused to second-guess the jury’s decision and said that the facts surrounding the event were sufficient to infer that the killing was premeditated and intentional. 

Foe the full opinion, click here.

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