Andre Bland was sentenced to death by the State of Tennessee for the murder of a man. According to court documents Andre Bland was among a group of men who attempted to rob a pair of men. When the victim attempted to intervene he was shot and killed by Andre Bland. Andre Bland was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death
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The evidence presented at the guilt phase of the trial established that on the evening of October 9, 1992, the defendant, then nineteen years old, along with Darryl Bailey, Martell Pollard, Carlos Sanders, and two men known only as Steve and Yogi, attended a crap game at the apartment of Charles Sanders in the Southbrook Apartment Complex in Memphis. When the crap game ended around 10:00 p.m., these young men wandered outside and, at some point between 10:30 and 11:30 p.m., decided to rob two strangers, Earnest Norman and Marcel Nugent, whom they had seen arriving at the complex earlier. Nugent had come along to the complex with Norman to visit a friend. Norman and Nugent both testified that when they arrived, four to six men were standing around in the parking lot, and as they were nearing Norman’s car to leave about thirty minutes later, the group of men approached them, asked who they were, where they were from, and whether they had any money. When Norman and Nugent ignored the group of men, one of the defendant’s party struck Norman in the back of the head as he was about to get into his car. Norman fled. As he ran, Norman realized he was being pursued by one of the men, and he heard someone urging another person to shoot, and then heard a gun fire. Norman escaped unhurt to a nearby service station and called 911.
In the meantime, Nugent, who had locked himself inside Norman’s car, found himself trapped and surrounded by the group of men as they tried to force him out of the car. About this time, the victim of the murder, twenty-year-old Ontrain (Terry) Sanders,4 drove into the parking lot, got out of his car, and approached the men surrounding Nugent. According to Nugent, the men said something to Sanders, who turned and headed back to his car without replying. The defendant then fired a gun, hitting Sanders in his right leg. Bleeding profusely, Sanders fled some 273 feet, almost 100 yards, through the apartment complex. The defendant and Darryl Bailey jogged after Sanders who was limping from the leg injury. When, during the chase, the defendant shot Sanders in the leg again, Sanders attempted to hide under a pickup truck. However, Sanders was discovered and the defendant shot him at least two or three more times while he lay underneath the truck. The defendant and Darryl Bailey then left Sanders, under the truck, pleading for help, and ran back around the apartment complex to the car where Nugent was trapped.
Upon hearing gunfire, Henry Adams, who lived in an upstairs apartment, looked out his back door and saw a man with a large shiny gun kneeling down as if shooting under the truck. Adams heard three shots fired, then saw the man with the gun turn and run. Hearing a man screaming, “Oh God, please help me,” Adams called 911 just after midnight. When Adams returned to his back door to look out into the parking lot, he saw someone trying to crawl out from underneath the pickup truck, and heard the person yelling and pleading for help for a short while longer.
Floyd P. Johnson owned the green pickup truck under which Sanders had taken refuge, and Johnson’s upstairs apartment also overlooked the area in which the shooting occurred. Johnson testified that after hearing three gunshots, he looked out his window and saw a man lying partially under his truck with his upper body exposed and covered in blood. Johnson testified that the man was calling out, “Oh God, help me!” Because he feared for his own safety, Johnson stayed on his balcony, but attempted to calm Sanders down by talking to him and encouraging him to remain still. Johnson said he talked with Sanders for ten or fifteen minutes until the ambulance arrived.
While Sanders fought for his life under the truck, the defendant and Darryl Bailey returned to Norman’s car. Bailey helped the group of men break through the passenger window and pull Nugent from the automobile. Nugent scuffled with the men before breaking free. As Nugent fled, his jacket was pulled off his back. According to Martell Pollard when someone shouted, “he has a gun,” the defendant shot Nugent in the leg. The men then took his watch and his money, kicked him, beat him, and finally, the defendant again shot Nugent in the leg. The group of men then disbanded, leaving Nugent lying in the parking lot. Nugent made it upstairs to the apartment of Norman’s friend, where he waited until an ambulance arrived.
The first ambulance on the scene transported Sanders to the hospital. One of the paramedics testified that the unit arrived nine minutes after receiving the call, but Sanders’ condition was very grave at the time of their arrival. Sanders died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
Two days later, at the urging of his mother and grandmother and after learning that the police were looking for him, the defendant turned himself into the Memphis Police Department on the afternoon of October 12, 1992, approximately two days after the killing. At that time, the defendant gave a statement in which he confessed to shooting Nugent and Sanders with a chrome 9-millimeter pistol. The following is the defendant’s account of the crime:
Me, Little Darryl, Carlos’ daddy, Carlos, and a guy named Pat were shooting dice. We were inside Carlos Sanders’ house inside the Southbrook Apartments. Little Steve knocked on the door and he came out and got the 9-millimeter pistol that I had. By that time I got up and came outdoors and got the gun from Little Steve. And Yogi approached me saying he was fixing to rob dude that was up in the house. Carlos, Martell, Yogi, Darryl, Steve and me were standing out there, and Yogi was telling us he was going to rob the dude. I gave him the gun, the 9-millimeter. By that time the dudes had come out the apartment. Yogi approached him saying something to him, and then they got into physical contact. Then he hit the dude and the dude broke loose and ran. The other dude got in the car and locked himself in. Steve and Darryl grabbed objects from the ground and started hitting the car window. Darryl pulled the dude up out of the car. Steve, Yogi, Darryl, Carlos, Martell, they was hitting the dude with objects they picked up. I got the gun back from Yogi, and the dude in the Cadillac [the victim] drove up and jumped out and started towards us. And then I shot him in his leg. Then he went around the building and I went around the building and shot him in his leg again. And then he had tried crawl up under a truck and I shot him again. Then he continued up under the truck. I went back around the corner, and they was continuing to beat the dude that got out of the car. Then I walked up and shot in both his legs. I wasn’t shooting to kill, that’s why I shot them in their leg. I turned around, threw the gun and ran to the Kings Gate Apartments over to my girlfriend house, Teresa Wiggs ․ and then we went to sleep.
When asked by the police why he shot Sanders the first time, the defendant replied, “Because when they was beating on the dude, he jumped out and approached us and said, ‘What’s up?’ And I turned around and I shot him in his leg.” The defendant said that he shot Nugent “so he couldn’t get away.” The defendant denied getting any money or valuables from either Sanders or Nugent or being involved in the robbery. He knew the other men “went in the dude pockets” but did not know if they got anything. Nugent, however, testified that he was robbed. In addition, police found an unemployment check, a bloody dollar bill and assorted change, keys, and a black cap near the pickup truck where Sanders was killed. Sanders’ wallet was also missing and never found.
Dr. Sandra Elkins, a forensic pathologist who had performed the autopsy on Sanders, testified that the cause of his death was multiple gunshot wounds, one of which lacerated his femoral artery and caused him to bleed to death. Dr. Elkins found nine separate gunshot wounds to the victim’s right leg, extending from the groin area of the upper thigh to just above the knee, which included both entrance and exit wounds. From the combination of entrance and exit wounds, Dr. Elkins deduced that the victim had actually been shot four or five times. A person with the victim’s injuries, Dr. Elkins testified, could live from two to fifteen minutes and be conscious four to five minutes after suffering such a wound.
Based upon the proof summarized above, the jury found the defendant guilty of first degree premeditated murder, especially aggravated robbery, attempted first degree murder, and attempted aggravated robbery.
The trial proceeded to the sentencing phase on the conviction for first degree murder. The State presented two witnesses. Dr. Elkins again testified that someone with the victim’s injury could live from two to fifteen minutes and be conscious up to four to five minutes. Since the victim’s femoral nerve had only been bruised and not severed, and because the muscles and nerves of his right thigh had been completely destroyed, Dr. Elkins testified that the victim would have experienced pain from the wounds in his leg during the time he remained conscious.
The second State witness was the victim’s mother, Vivian Lewis, a deaf mute who testified through an interpreter. She testified that her son was sweet and good and had never been in any trouble. She said that the victim’s two small daughters, two-years-old and four-years-old at the time of trial, were “very, very worried” and wanted to see their father. Lewis also testified that her son’s murder had left his family “very, very hurt.”
The defense presented three witnesses: the defendant’s mother, Marilyn Boyd; his maternal grandmother, Virginia Bland; and the defendant himself. The defendant had never known his father and was raised by his mother and grandmother, who both testified that he had turned himself into the police at their urging. The defendant had dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade, when he was suspended for being “disrespectful to a teacher.” He had a juvenile record beginning at the age of eleven, consisting of multiple assaults and batteries, car thefts, and at least one drug conviction. The defendant testified that he shot the victim because the victim ran back to his car as if he was “fixing to get his gun or something;” that he did not know why he and Darryl had followed the victim; that he had been drinking and the crime was a spur of the moment decision; and that the victim was shot several times because the automatic gun “kept on repeating shots.” He expressed remorse and repeated that he was not trying to kill the victim: “[t]hat’s why I shot him in the leg.” The defendant also admitted that he carried a gun because he sold drugs and that he had been selling drugs on the night of the killing. During closing argument, counsel for the defendant stressed his youth, lack of education, and single parent upbringing.
Based on the proof, the jury determined that the State had proven the existence of one aggravating circumstance beyond a reasonable doubt: “[t]he murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel in that it involved torture or serious physical abuse beyond that necessary to produce death.” Tenn.Code Ann. § 39-13-204(i)(5) (1991 Repl. & 1996 Supp.). In addition, the jury found that the aggravating circumstance outweighed the mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt, and as a result, sentenced the defendant to death by electrocution. The trial court entered a judgment in accordance with the jury’s verdict and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed.5 After reviewing the record and considering the errors assigned by the defendant, we affirm the judgment of the trial court and Court of Criminal Appeals.