Judge overturns death penalty sentence

Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 11:45pm

A judge has overturned the death penalty sentence of Christopher Davis, convicted of murdering two men in February 1996, and granted him a new sentencing hearing.

Judge J. Randall Wyatt Jr. found in his review of the petition for relief from conviction or sentence that a previous conviction may have harmed Davis’ chances of a fair sentence in a subsequent case.

Wyatt wrote that while there wasn’t enough proof to overturn Davis’ convictions, the death sentence should be overturned and a new sentencing hearing set.

Davis was found guilty in July 2000 of killing Gregory Ewing and D’Angelo Lee. He was convicted on two counts of premeditated first-degree murder, two counts of felony murder (which were merged into the first two counts), two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping and two counts of especially aggravated robbery.

In the petition, a laundry list of more than 40 claims filed by Davis’ attorney Matt Sweeney included questions raised over deficient representation by Davis’ previous attorneys, questionable character and testimony of witness Antonio Cartwright, problems with due process, ineffective use of expert witnesses, etc.

But the claim Wyatt found merit with asserts that a prior first-degree murder conviction in the case of 12-year-old Adrian Dickerson, which was later removed, may have influenced the jury’s decision on Davis’ death sentence in the double murder case. 

In his order filed Tuesday, Wyatt wrote, “The mere reference to another first degree murder, by its very nature, likely left a lasting impression on the jury at sentencing.”

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed both Davis’ convictions and sentences in 2003, as did the state Supreme Court in 2004.

Davis was scheduled to be executed March 15, 2005. He had been convicted in the 1995 murder of 12-year-old Adriane Dickerson in a random gang shooting that raised the specter of gang violence in a then-slower-paced Music City. Davis was later exonerated in that case following his convictions in the Ewing and Lee cases.

Sweeney, one of three attorneys from the Nashville office of the Baker Donelson law firm appointed by the court to represent Davis, declined to comment on the case, as it is ongoing.

28 Comments on this post:

By: SeymourButz on 4/9/10 at 5:02

The "Judge" has become a "partner-in-crime" in this case. An "enabler" to all of the would be murders in Tennessee. That's why the "death penalty" does not work, because you have old, foolish men without either the wisdom or the backbone to understand "equity and judgement." "Justice delayed, is justice denied." Judge, Wyatt, what is the first duty to society? Judge Wyatt..... is the "trigger" man in these murders. Yes, "Thou art thee man!"

By: ghost7638ghost7... on 4/9/10 at 6:07

They should excute Judge Wyatt in his place. If he doesn't have the moral obligations to God and the family of the ones he killed then he needs to get off the bench.This is why this country is going down the drain, they should of excuted that person before the setting of the next sun. Instead a stupid lawyer who is geting rich off theses people and a name for themselves, is keeping a murder alive while the tax payer pay a fortune to keep him alive. They should excute the Judge and the lawyer in his place.

By: yogiman on 4/9/10 at 6:09

How many people must a person kill before Wyatt will allow him to be put to death? How many times are they allowed to kill someone before they are eliminated?

When proven guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, they should follow the ones they killed and be put to death.

By: Dragon on 4/9/10 at 6:40

"...a prior first-degree murder conviction may have influenced the jury’s decision on Davis’ death sentence in the double murder case."

Well, duh.

By: govskeptic on 4/9/10 at 6:41

Since these sentences were previously upheld by the Tenn
Court of Appeals as well as the Tenn Supreme Court why
is it back before Judge Wyatt? While I have always thought
rather highly of his trials and decisions I can only hope he
hasn't just personally joined the cadrey of Judges that
oppose the death penalty.

By: oldman101 on 4/9/10 at 6:42

This scum of a life form has all reade killed it should be know for sentancing, it should be taken out for public execution within 24 hours. I served my country for 9 years, it wasn't to protect this trash or the likes of him. I would serve again if needed, as executioner. You folks are right, the "judge" should at least be brought up on charges of harboring a murder and at minium put in prisonfor five years,, the OLD STYLE prison.

By: bfra on 4/9/10 at 6:49

Wyatt has a WARPED sense of Justice and should be removed from the bench!

By: johnnysee2 on 4/9/10 at 8:03

What I've read in these comments I agree with wholly This wound on the public has festered to long and should be cleaned and bandage.. first lets get the germs out etc: Judge Wyatt.
It makes no sense to keep paying the leaches that continue to suck our money (lawyers) just to keep their life styles up with the rich and famous...This is an outrageous way the courts are conducting the business of Tennessee...

By: jimmythespider on 4/9/10 at 8:36

The jury was only informed of the previous conviction of Adriane Dickerson after finding Chris Davis guilty of the double homicide. This was the mitigating circumstance that directed the jury to find the death penalty for the double homicide.

This is how the jury was instructed to decide on the death penalty. Since he was found guilty of murder before was this not the correct method for sentenceing and the right decision.

By: SeymourButz on 4/9/10 at 9:26

The "Judge" has become a "partner-in-crime" in this case. An "enabler" to all of the would be murders in Tennessee. That's why the "death penalty" does not work, because you have old, foolish men without either the wisdom or the backbone to understand "equity and judgement." "Justice delayed, is justice denied." Judge, Wyatt, what is the first duty to society? Judge Wyatt..... is the "trigger" man in these murders. Yes, "Thou art thee man!"

By: BEOWULF on 4/9/10 at 9:44

BEOWULF: "judge?" wyatt! Sounds like you are about as popular as a tabasco enema. However, before administering said cathartic procedure, would you mind to pull your head ... .. .... ...?

By: PromosFriend on 4/9/10 at 10:20

I'm not a legal beagle, but I would think that it would be right and proper for a sentencing jury to know about any and all previous convictions, especially one of murder, regardless of whether it was first or second degree. The jury needs that information to help it understand whether the convicted murderer has any chance for redemption or if he/she is so defective and callous as to deserve to die. In this case the convicted murderer has shown a callous disregard for human life by killing a 12 year old girl, followed by the murder of two other people. I don't see any redeeming factors in this case and would likely have reached the same decision as the sentencing jury.


By: metoo on 4/9/10 at 10:53

Look into the case big guys before you start slandering a great man, and Excellent Judge, Perhaps the article should have noted that the Conviction for the "Adrianne Dickerson" murder did not stand because it was impossible. So much so that the state conceded as such. THUS, You bunch of idiots the reference to the "prior murder" was to one that he did not do. So do you think referring to a Murder conviction that you did not do should be used in your sentencing . . . Also, anyone who cares to debate Judge Wyatt's character or career I would love to do it with you anytime any place (in person) contact info to follow. Nice how you all would execute a judge and a person based on a brief article in any paper with absolutely no understanding of the case, its history, or even reading the opinion. Also, brief history of his public service, MARINE CORP, METRO OFFICER, FBI AGENT, ASST DIST ATTY etc. I guess all of you lynch mobbers have served your country as well or better. Give me a call and lets meet up Guido @ 972-9793.

By: jckspann on 4/9/10 at 11:31

metoo, Hooray for your comments! Of course no one will take you up on your offer! They are cowards that choose to hide behind a computer screen where they can spew their ignorance without being exposed or required to provide any factual justification to support their stupid and baseless rants.

By: yogiman on 4/9/10 at 12:31

Why does it matter whether a person killed two or three people. Do they deserve to live after the murder/s?

The only reason I can understand why a person should live after killing someone would be if it was done in self-defense or the defense of others. In such a case, they should not even be tried.

Judge Wyatt may be a good man, but we all think differently in old age.

By: metoo on 4/9/10 at 12:43

What no calls yet. Again Michael Rohling (615) 255-0595 or (615) 972-9793.

Yogi your opinions are just that opinions. Unfortunately Judges and most citizens follow what is called the LAW. When what you think is, or becomes the law, then they may have merit. As they are not the Law, then we have to follow the law as it is written, not by what YOGi thinks it should be. If you want some existential debate then go for it. But, do not fault Judges for following the Law enacted by your elected legislators. He is a great man and his age or lack there of it has absolutely nothing to do with it. Bet, you voted for Reagan . . . he did not hold Mondale's "youth and lack of experience" against him. Mike

By: nashtnman on 4/9/10 at 1:19

Things like this will not get better until we get back to the basics, "An eye for an eye." The liberal media and lawmakers/judges are at fault for billions of dollars in waste and thousands of lives.

By: metoo on 4/9/10 at 1:38

Oldman - thank you for for service, but before yopu reenlist remember your Oath . If memory serves it goes something like I do solemly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States . . . Are you saying you get to pick who the Constitution applies to, with all due respect hope you do not reenlist. My family and myself know a whole lot about Oaths, seeing as my father is dead (Vietnam) and Grandfather WWII (Iwo Jima), glad we fought for what we took an Oath to, not to what we wanted to.

SeymourButz - you do not have the "backbone" to call or post your name so I will consider the source. If you are so in the mood to do stuff Old School than call??!!

GovSkeptic - Not the only death penalty case that has come before Judge Wyatt, i would venture to guess that he has followed the reccomendation of the jury and sentenced more people to Death than any other Judge on the Bench in Nashville. Not because he wanted to, but because HE FOLLOWED THE LAW.

BeoWulf - Sounds like you have an a$$ fixation. If thats the case do not call me.

Do people really waste their time like this. Mike

By: not_guilty on 4/9/10 at 4:15

The story omits the reason that Mr. Davis's conviction of killing Miss Dickerson was set aside. In that trial, posecutors presented testimony from a snitch who claimed to have been in the car with Mr. Davis and his co-defendant, Mr. Berry, when the fatal shots were fired. In fact, that snitch was in custody and locked away when the fatal shooting took place. (Full disclosure: I was appointed to represent Mr. Davis on direct appeal in that case to the Court of Criminal Appeals. His conviction was not set aside until later, when the true whereabouts of the snitch became known.)

If the jury in the death penalty case relied (at least in part) on a conviction that was later set aside, then a new sentencing hearing is entirely appropriate. Keep in mind, if a new jury finds, without relying upon an invalid conviction, that a death sentence is appropriate, then Mr. Davis would again be sentenced to death.

I have practiced criminal defense law before Judge Wyatt for more than two decades. I am confident that he would not set aside a sentence without careful consideration of the factual and legal issues in the case, and I am confident that he has ruled correctly in this case.

John Herbison, attorney at law

By: PromosFriend on 4/9/10 at 4:26

"meetoo" Thanks for the clarification on the removal of the prior conviction in the 12 yr. old girl case. I guess I should have done a better job or reading the article. Since that is the case then of course the judge was correct in finding that that conviction should not have been presented to the sentencing jury. Now, as to the death penalty in this case, one still could make the argument that if Davis was indeed guilty of and subsequently convicted of the murders of the two others then the death penalty probably should be considered by the new jury. One has to wonder though at your apparent rage in this instance. Just because some folks have a different view of the death penalty, particularly for cold blooded murder, doesn't necessarily make them idiots, nor do I understand your enthusiasm for mixing it up with anybody that disagrees with you.

By: metoo on 4/9/10 at 5:46

Dude, Metoo is the name the system gave me, my name is Michael Rohling,. Search my name and I think you will be confident that I am not a soft liberal by any stretch. if you do not believe me ask Christa Pike. This has nothing to do with the death penalty, personally aside from vengeance it serves no purpose: deterrence=no, monetary savings=no and a life sentence requires 52 calendar years in TN before even eligibility for parole= safety no. My problem is simple a poorly reported story and idiots calling for the execution of a judge who in effect saved everyone lots of money by not taking the easy way out. He could have denied the motion but any Lawyer with even the remotest common sense would tell you it would be overturned. I.E. Judge Wyatt has the Cahonnas that many of the commentters lack. He could have very easily passed the buck and sent it to the CCA or Supreme CT., but for what, the very same result. I love disagreement and informed debate, but this is not it. This is simply a baseless attack on one of, if not the finest Jurist, sitting on the bench today. My passion is only toward the TRUTH, not the issue. Mike

By: metoo on 4/9/10 at 5:52

Oh and as to the whole mixing it up with anybody who disagrees. I am at best 5,9 and 140 lbs. i like to discuss stuff in person. However, I have never and would not back down. yes, i would most likely be on the losing end of any physical altercation, but i will not let me stop a discussion. If that is rage, I am sorry. If you are threatened by a 5"9 140 pound 38 year old I pity you. Mike P.S. sometimes I wonder If i could kick my own a$$.

By: metoo on 4/9/10 at 6:07

PromosFriend: exactly right it is not a Death Reprieve etc. The jury can still sentence Davis to Death, however, they cannot rely on the "invalid" murder conviction. If they do, more power to them. And, this is the point, it will then not bounce around for 5 more years to reach the inevitable conclusion on this issue. The State must prove valid Aggravators that outweigh any Mitigators to sustain a death sentence. Obviously, one of the aggravators is now invalid and certainly was at the time of sentencing (known or not), presented to the jury. Thus, the State can still get the death sentence, but without the use of the invalid murder conviction. Mike

By: metoo on 4/9/10 at 6:24

And for the record please note: Michael D. Rohling and John Herbison are in complete agreement with an issue. That being Judge Wyatt's decision was correct. We probably could not agree that that the sky is blue or that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

By: metoo on 4/9/10 at 7:28

ghost7638ghost7: Please give me a call: coward. You are all into executing people but do not have the courage to call someone who will gladly let you have a free go at them (execute me fairly if you so dare). I will happily give you a lesson on God, Family and Friends you COWARD. You would not kill a roach. (615) 972-9793 Still Waiting and no calls!!!!!!!

By: metoo on 4/9/10 at 9:26

Come on Ghost: I am at the West Park (End) / Elmington Park Tennis Courts : West Nashville 37205 West End Jr. High or right off -I40. We will talk, let's say 11:30 ish. At the Tennis Courts. I guess you will be the one wearing the hood. I will be alone, bring all your friends, if you want. Mike Again RSVP 972-9793

By: metoo on 4/9/10 at 10:30

A guy from Boston calls and knows more about the case then the author. HELP Kirk Loggins where are you. Come back. PLEASE. Mike

By: AtheistVoice on 4/14/11 at 1:30

Shit - I hate it when a Judge follows the law. I mean anyone charged with murder should get the death penalty - the trial process and appeal process is just a waste of time and taxpayer dollars -sarcasm.
I'm no expert nor do I know the facts of either case but as the article mentions Judge Wyatt made his decision b/c the jury's decision was made in part b/c of a prior murder conviction which the defendant was EXONERATED of……Too big for the ignorant?? The definition of Exonerate(d) - to clear from accusation or blame - I took the time to check best the source on the web - Wiki (sarcasm) - for an explanation and the 1st sentence reads - Exoneration occurs when a person who has been convicted of a crime is later proved to have been innocent of that crime.
He was charged and convicted of a murder that (Gasp) HE DID NOT COMMIT. Which means the police, the Grand Jury, the D.A. and a jury made a mistake that would have - if not for Judge Wyatt's decision - caused the death of another human. It happens and 9 times out of 10 there is no Judge Wyatt - who is man enough to admit the system that he has a role in - made a mistake.
Please explain to me when it is ok to choose death for a person for choosing death for a person?
Good job Judge Wyatt. Full disclosure here - I think Judge Wyatt is one of the best in Davidson County.
***Mr. Rholing, Bravo on your passion and your willingness to back it up! Careful with the loonies - violence seems prevalent among them.

Free thinker.