State of Tennessee v. TWANNA BLAIR

Rule 9 Interlocutory Appeal by Tawana Blair

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On January 17, 2007, an indictment (M-07-003) was returned against Defendant Blair charging her with three (3) counts of Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Murder (Counts 1-3) and one count of Aggravated Perjury (Count 4). That indictment alleged in substance that, on February 14, 1999, the Defendant conspired with Maurice Johnson and Michael Younger to commit the first degree premeditated murders of Dawn Rogers, Orienthal James “O.J.” Blair, and Cayci Higgins. The indictment further alleged that on February 26, 2006, the Defendant intentionally gave a false sworn statement to law enforcement in connection with an investigation of these murders. (R. p. 116.) At the time of Defendant Blair’s indictment, a separate indictment (M-06-614) was already pending against Maurice Johnson charging him with the first degree premeditated murders of Dawn Rogers, Orienthal James “O.J.” Blair, and Cayci Higgins, and a separate indictment (M-07-004) charged Michael Younger for his alleged involvement with these first degree premeditated murders. (R. p. 117.)

A second indictment (M-08-125) was returned against Defendant Blair on March 26, 2008. In that indictment, Defendant Blair was jointly charged with Johnson and Younger with Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Murder of Oreinthal James “O.J.” Blair (Count 1) and Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Robbery of Orienthal James “O.J.” Blair (Count 7). These offenses were alleged to have occurred on or about February 13, 1999. (R. p. 118.)

Defendant Blair was arraigned in M-08-125 on May 2, 2008. That same day the State orally announced that it would nolle prosequi the three counts of Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Murder in case number M-07-003 (Counts 1-3), leaving the charge of Aggravated Perjury (Count 4) still pending. (R. p. 119.)

On May 14, 2008, Defendant Blair filed a Motion to Sever in M-08-125. (R. pp. 10-12.) After a July 31, 2008 hearing on this motion, the trial court granted severance by Order dated August 22, 2008, thereby severing Defendant Blair from Defendants Johnson and Younger. (R. p. 41.)

On September 18, 2008, Defendant Blair filed a Motion to Dismiss which alleged that the charge of Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Robbery, as alleged in Count 7, was barred by the statute of limitations. (R. pp.44-46.) After a hearing on September 22, 2008, the trial court granted the Defendant’s motion. An order dismissing Count 7 on statute of limitations grounds was entered. (R. p. 57.)

Following the dismissal of the Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Robbery count, the state sought a third indictment against Defendant Blair on October 8, 2008 (M-08-455). (R. pp. 61-62.) In this indictment, Defendant Blair was jointly charged with Johnson and Younger with one count of Conspiracy to Commit the Especially Aggravated Robbery of Orienthal James “O.J.” Blair (Count 1), one count of Especially Aggravated Robbery of Orienthal James “O.J.” Blair (Count 2), and three counts of First Degree Felony Murder for the murders of Orienthal James “O.J.” Blair (Count 3), Cayci Higgins (Count 4) and Dawn Rogers (Count 5).

The state filed a Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty against Defendant Blair in this indictment, and she was ordered held without bond. (R. p. 90.)

On November 17, 2008, Defendant Blair filed a Motion to Dismiss Counts 1 and 2 of Indictment Number M-08-455. Count 1 was Conspiracy to Commit the Especially Aggravated Robbery or Orienthal James “O.J.” Blair and Count 2 was Especially Aggravated Robbery of Orienthal James “O.J.” Blair. (R. pp. 97-100.)

On July 15, 2009, the trial court entered an order denying the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Counts 1 and 2 of the Indictment Number M-08-455. (R. pp. 348-354.)

On August 11, 2009, Defendant Blair filed an additional Motion to Dismiss Count One of Indictment Number M-08-455, Conspiracy to Commit Especially Aggravated Robbery for statute of limitations grounds, T.C.A. §39-12-107 and T.C.A. §40-2-101. (R. pp.443-452.)

The trial court dismissed Count One of Indictment Number M-08-455 as being time-barred by the statute of limitations.

Defendant Blair filed motions pursuant to Rule 404(b) to exclude alleged prior bad acts by the Defendant, and a 404(b) hearing was held on September 25, 2009. The court heard testimony from potential witnesses, Amy Lonas, Shawanda Arnwine, and Larry Hardy. (Tr. Vol. 1, pp. 1-25.)

At the conclusion of that hearing, there was a discussion on the record between the trial court and the state, in which the trial court specifically asked the prosecution to elect which of the remaining Counts of the consolidated indictments would be tried on September 29, 2009. This discussion followed:

THE COURT: Okay. One thing that I know is going to come up, the Indictments were consolidated in this case. Does the State know how they are going to proceed? It is something to think about, certainly.

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Published In: Criminal Law Updates

Reference Info:Appellate Brief | State, 6th Circuit, Tennessee | United States

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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