Gregory Robinson was sentenced to death by the State of Tennessee for ordering a murder. According to court documents Gregory Robinson was a gang leader who ordered the murder of the victim who happened to be near a gang meeting. The victim was tortured for hours before he was murdered. Gregory Robinson was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
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The defendant, Gregory Robinson, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of the premeditated first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping of Vernon Green. Proof presented at trial established that on the afternoon of April 30, 1997, a squabble between two small children in the Hurt Village Apartments in North Memphis led to an argument between the mothers of these children, which escalated into a fight, including gunfire, between the women’s boyfriends, members of rival Memphis gangs-the Gangster Disciples and the Vice Lords.1 As a result of this fight, the Hurt Village Gangster Disciples called an “aid and assist” meeting, and Memphis-area Gangster Disciples congregated at an apartment in the Hurt Village complex for this meeting. Although the victim was not a gang member and had not been involved in the earlier fight, he was seen near the apartment where the aid and assist meeting was being held. When a gang member accused Green of acting as a lookout for the Vice Lords, the defendant instructed other gang members to “snatch him up” and bring him to the apartment. For one and one-half to two and one-half hours, the defendant, along with other gang members, beat and interrogated Green. Eventually Green was taken from the apartment by six gang members and shot to death in Jessie Turner Park.2 Green’s body was discovered in the park between 5 and 5:30 a.m., on May 1, 1997, by members of a local walking club, who called the police. When Officer Alvin Peppers arrived at the scene, he found the victim’s body lying face down in a prone position. Officer Peppers explained that he could not identify the victim’s features, such as eye color, because the “face of the body was so mutilated that there was nothing that we could identify.” Officer Peppers found no identifying objects on the body, such as a wallet or jewelry, but he recovered a numbered dry cleaner’s tag from inside the victim’s clothing that apparently was helpful in identifying the victim. Two live .45 caliber bullets, two .45 caliber bullet casings, and one .20 gauge shotgun shell casing were found within a five foot radius of the victim’s body. The following complicated and detailed recitation of the testimony at trial is necessary to a full and proper consideration of the issues presented in this appeal.
Several former gang members testified about the events surrounding Green’s kidnapping and murder. Two of these testified for the prosecution. The first, Christopher James, known as “Big Chris,” testified for the prosecution. James had been a Gangster Disciple for three or four months on April 30, 1997. Around 5 or 6 p.m. on April 30, 1997, James and fellow Gangster Disciples, Jarvis Shipp, known as “J-Roc,” and two other gang members called “Popcorn,” and “Steve,” witnessed a fight between Shipp’s girlfriend and the girlfriend of “Snoop,” a Vice Lords gang member. Later, as James, Shipp, and Popcorn were walking toward the apartment of Shipp’s girlfriend, Snoop approached them and begin swinging at Shipp. After Shipp and Snoop began fighting, another Vice Lord drew a gun. At this point, James and Popcorn fled, but a bullet grazed Popcorn’s hand as they were running from the scene. They arrived from the fight at the Hurt Village apartment of sisters Natalie, Nichole, and April Black around 8 p.m. Shortly thereafter, Shipp, along with fellow Gangster Disciples Prentiss Phillips, James Lee White Carradine, known as “Thug Life,” and “Steve,” and “Chuck” arrived at the apartment. Shipp was angry and decided to “call some more Gangsters over there to Hurt Village.” An aid and assist meeting was called, and according to James, twenty or thirty additional Gangster Disciples from all over Memphis arrived at the apartment for the meeting.
After their arrival, Phillips came inside the apartment and said that Vernon Green was outside “watching out at the apartment.” One of the later arriving Gangster Disciples, whom James identified as the defendant, instructed Shipp and three other Gangster Disciples to “go snatch up” Vernon Green. James said Shipp and the others followed the defendant’s instruction without hesitation. Green arrived at the apartment around 10 p.m., escorted by “[t]wo disciples in front [and] two disciples in the back.” Green stood in the middle of the floor as the defendant asked Green if he had been outside watching for the Vice Lords. The defendant then hit Green in the face, struck Green numerous times, both with his fists and with a broom stick, and then pushed Green onto the couch. James, who had lived in the Hurt Village apartments and known Green for seven years, described Green as the neighborhood comedian and stated that Green had not been a gang member and had not been involved in the fight earlier in the day.
After Green was beaten, he was taken upstairs by “two other guys.” Green remained upstairs for thirty to forty-five minutes. During this time, James was “jumped on” and “beat up” downstairs by six Gangster Disciples because he had not helped “Jarvis and them fight.” James testified that Phillips came out of the kitchen, where he had been meeting with Shipp and Kevin Wilkins, known as “Big Folk,” “cut on the radio and started picking out six people,” who then beat James for fleeing rather than aiding Shipp during the fight with Snoop. James testified that Phillips, not the defendant, selected the gang members who beat James and that the defendant had been upstairs at this time.
Green was escorted downstairs after James was beaten, but a short time later, Green was taken from the apartment. Before Green left the apartment, James saw the defendant, Shipp, and Phillips talking together in the kitchen and overheard the defendant say, “Y’all know what to do.” James believed this statement meant “[t]hey [were] going to kill [Green].” James recalled that the victim had been held at the apartment two or two and one-half hours. When asked if the victim said anything during this time, James said the victim “told Prentiss [Phillips], ‘tell them folks to stop.’ ” When Green was escorted from the apartment by Shipp, Wilkins, Charles Golden, known as “Fufu,” and Antonio Jackson, Green had been wearing a black shirt, black pants, and black shoes. Green’s black shirt had been pulled over his head so that Green was unable to see or use his arms to resist. As this group left the apartment, James overheard the defendant again say, “Y’all know what to do.” James also testified that the defendant at one point aimed a nine millimeter gun at his face, while threatening that the “same thing” would happen to James if James ever said “something about it.” James believed the defendant’s comment meant “[t]hey going to kill me too.” After Green and the other gang members left the apartment, Phillips and “Steve” walked James home in the early morning hours of May 1, 1997.
James admitted that he had never seen the defendant before April 30, 1997, and that the defendant had not been a member of the Hurt Village Gangster Disciples. James maintained, however, that the defendant had been a member of the Memphis Gangster Disciples and had been present at the Hurt Village apartment on April 30, 1997.
Defense counsel on cross-examination questioned James regarding a statement he made to the police on May 8, 1997, one week after these events occurred. In that statement, James informed the police that “[he] saw Anthony, Jarvis Shipp, Shaun, and a big heavy-set guy that I don’t know his name, Antonio Jackson, and Big Folk” kill Green. (Emphasis added.) In his May 8 statement James also said that “Shaun” instructed Shipp and three other gang members to “go snatch Vernon Green up” and that “Shaun” questioned and hit Green at the apartment. In his May 8 statement James provided the following account of the events:
J-Roc, MacKaos, Shaun, and Low-Down went into the kitchen for a private meeting. And I heard them talking softly to each other for about five minutes. And then J-Roc and Shaun came out of the kitchen. And then MacKaos and Low-Down came out of the kitchen. And MacKaos said, you all need to take care of this and told Jarvis, what you-all do now is personal. Then MacKaos and Low-Down left.
Also in his May 8 statement, James indicated that “Shaun came up to me and said I better not say nothing to nobody, and if you think this was something let us find out that you said something about this.” Although on May 8, 1997, James told the police that many gang members beat the victim, James testified at trial that only the defendant beat Green. Finally, in this May 8, 1997, statement James claimed he
heard three cars start and heard at least six doors close. And after they left-and Prentiss had a gun in his right hand and said, if anyone say anything about this they will be dealt with. And then he said, all the gangsters in here keep this on the 1919. And after that Prentiss and Steve escorted me to my house.
When asked by police on May 8 if he had anything else to add to his statement to aid the investigation, James had replied: “All I can say is that Vernon was a good person and didn’t need to be killed by anyone.” When defense counsel pressed James to explain why he had mentioned the name “Shaun” and had not once mentioned the defendant’s name in his May 8, 1997, statement, James replied:
Man, hold up man. When Vernon was getting beat, man, Vernon the one who called that man Shaun. So I went by what Vernon called him.
James admitted he had not previously provided this information to police and also conceded he had not previously indicated the defendant threatened him while holding a nine millimeter gun to his head. Although James had consistently “given the same name for everybody else that did everything that night,” the actions he attributed to the defendant at trial had been attributed to “Shaun” in his May 8 statement. In response to questions from defense counsel, James indicated that Phillips was “coordinator” and Shipp “chief of security” of the Hurt Village Gangster Disciples. James did not attribute a rank to the defendant, however.
On re-direct examination, James clarified his prior testimony and May 8 statement, explaining that many gang members beat the victim, but the defendant hit Green first and no other gang member beat Green at the same time as the defendant. James also explained he had not known the gang members present on April 30, 1997, by their legal names and had referred to them by their street names. James said he had never seen the defendant before that night, had not known the defendant’s name, and had referred to the defendant as “Shaun” in his May 8 statement because he heard Green refer to the defendant as “Shaun.” James explained that, when the police showed him a photographic array shortly after Green’s kidnapping and murder, he selected the defendant’s photograph but referred to the person in the photograph as “Shaun.”
James maintained the accuracy and truthfulness of his May 8 statement and claimed its only error was his use of the name “Shaun” when describing the defendant’s actions. James claimed he had not learned the defendant’s correct name until the first day of trial. James reaffirmed his direct testimony and reiterated that the defendant gave the order to “snatch up” Green; that the defendant beat Green; that the defendant met with Phillips, Shipp, and Wilkins in the kitchen; and, that the defendant twice commented,”Ya’ll know what to do.” On re-cross-examination, defense counsel pointed out that, despite his proclamation to the contrary, James knew the defendant’s correct name prior to trial and had used the defendant’s correct name when previously testifying. Sergeant William Ashton of the Memphis Police Department corroborated James’s testimony regarding the photographic array. Sergeant Ashton recalled that James identified the defendant’s photograph from the array, but referred to the person in the photograph as “Shaun.”
Testifying next for the prosecution, Jarvis Shipp, known also as “J-Roc,” admitted he had been a Gangster Disciple and that he had held the “chief of security” rank in the Hurt Village section of the gang. Shipp corroborated James’s testimony concerning the squabble between the children that led to the argument between the children’s mothers that eventually escalated to the altercation between Shipp and Snoop. Shipp also corroborated James’s testimony concerning James and Popcorn fleeing the fight and the gunshot injury to Popcorn.
When he arrived at the Hurt Village apartment of Natalie, Nichole, and April Black at about 9 p.m., Shipp saw James, Popcorn, Phillips, Isiah Triplett, Sepacus Triplett, Steve Hardin, and James Lee White Carradine, all members of the Gangster Disciples. The Black sisters also were present, but Phillips, the “coordinator” of the Hurt Village Gangster Disciples, ordered the Black sisters upstairs. After they complied, Phillips called an aid and assist meeting, stating that the Gangster Disciples were going to “step to another level” and retaliate against the Vice Lords. Shipp believed Phillips meant the Gangster Disciples were going back to hurt all or some of the Vice Lords as revenge for injuring Popcorn.
Shipp explained how the Gangster Disciples were organized into sections throughout Memphis. In addition to the Hurt Village section, where Phillips was the “coordinator” and Shipp the “chief of security,” the Gangster Disciples had sections in Mitchell Heights, South Memphis, Scutterfield, Frayser, Watkins Manor, Binghampton, Hyde Park, Douglass, Riverside, Castalia, Whitehaven, Tulane, and Westwood. According to Shipp, “T-Money,” who lived in Chicago, was the “head guy over the whole entire city” of Memphis. Kevin Foley, also known as “Kaos,” was the number two person over the entire city. However, because “T-Money” was out of town, “Kaos was like the governor” over Memphis. According to Shipp, the defendant was from the Mitchell Heights section of the gang and “at that particular time he was a active chief of security over the entire city of Memphis.” As such, the defendant ranked just below Kaos, and because T-Money was out of town, the defendant effectively ranked second in the Memphis Gangster Disciples. As chief of security for Memphis, the defendant ensured that all section security chiefs were organized and gave orders when Kaos was not around to do so.
Shipp and Phillips followed the chain of command when calling the aid and assist meeting on April 30, 1997, calling first Kaos then the defendant. After these calls were made, forty to eighty Gangster Disciples from all over Memphis arrived at the apartment, and many of them were armed with handguns. After their arrival, Phillips ordered James Lee White Carradine and another person upstairs to prevent the Black sisters from coming downstairs or leaving the apartment.
Kaos arrived at the apartment about 9:30 or 9:45 p.m. The defendant arrived shortly thereafter and immediately asked Shipp, “Why aren’t your guys on point?” Shipp said the defendant meant, “Why aren’t your guys on security, watching out, looking?” The defendant directed Shipp, as “the security of Hurt Village” to determine the identity of the “guy peeping around the corner.” After escorting the defendant inside the apartment, Shipp left to determine the identity of the person. When Shipp returned a short time later and advised the defendant that the person was Vernon Green, the defendant inquired, “Who is Vernon Green?” Phillips and others “started screaming” that Green was a Vice Lord. The defendant then ordered Shipp and five other gang members to place Green under “GD arrest.” According to Shipp, the defendant meant gang members were to detain and hold Green against his will.
After locating Green, Shipp told Green “my brothers, the Gangster Disciples, wanted to speak with him,” and escorted Green inside the apartment. After directing Green into the dining room, the defendant asked Green if he was a Vice Lord. When Green replied,”no,” the defendant asked Green if he knew where the Vice Lords were located. When Green again replied “no,” the defendant, Phillips, and Wilkins began punching, hitting, and physically abusing Green. After Green fell to the ground, Shipp asked the others gang members to “hold up” on beating Green. Shipp then assured Green “we weren’t going to do nothing to him, we just wanted to know” the location of the Vice Lords. Green then said the Vice Lords were at a particular location, so the defendant ordered Shipp, and five other gang members to verify Green’s information. About halfway to this location, Shipp and the others met a woman “who considered herself a sister of the Gangster Disciples.” She told them the Vice Lords were “running down Danny Thomas.”
Shipp and the others returned to the apartment, and when they arrived, the victim was sitting in a corner, away from the couch. According to Shipp, Green had been forced to sit in the corner because Green “had defecated on himself.” Shipp and other gang members ridiculed Green for doing so. After learning the Vice Lords had not been at the location Green provided, the defendant ordered Sepacus Triplett and another gang member to take Green upstairs. Shipp went upstairs as well and saw Green lying on the floor of a bedroom with gang members standing around him pointing guns at his head and threatening to kill him. Shipp said the Black sisters were in another upstairs bedroom with a box springs mattress across the door to prevent their departure. When Shipp heard loud music and returned downstairs, Phillips and the defendant were selecting gang members and instructing them to form a circle. Phillips “told James to get in the center of the circle.” Shipp said Phillips was in charge of the situation, but the defendant was advising on the proper procedure because Phillips had never before “put a brother in violation.” When asked which of the two had the higher rank, Shipp replied: “Basically, you’ll say Gregory Robinson.” However, Shipp qualified his reply by pointing out that these events occurred in Hurt Village, Phillips’s “turf.” Shipp agreed that the Gangster Disciples are structured somewhat like the United States, with a national leader and local leaders.
After James moved to the center of the circle, the defendant and Phillips announced James had “six minutes six seconds, no cover up,” meaning James would be beaten for six minutes and six seconds by six people.3 Gangster Disciples referred to this punishment as “a pumpkin head.” According to Shipp, James was placed in “retirement” or “on hold” for six months and told not to consider himself a Gangster Disciple. Phillips and another individual, whom Shipp did not know, then escorted James out of the apartment.
After James left, Shipp told “the guys to bring [Green] downstairs.” Green arrived downstairs with a t-shirt over his head to obstruct his sight and to restrict his hands so that he could not break away or defend himself. Shipp testified that the defendant, Phillips, and Wilkins each individually spoke to Kaos on a cellular telephone, during “one long continuous conversation.” Shipp reported that after hanging up, “[t]hey said Kaos said, ‘take him fishing.’ ” Shipp, who was not a part of the conversation with Kaos, understood this meant they were to “take [Green] way out somewhere out of the district, rough him up a little bit by physical abuse, and let him get back the best way he could.” Shipp then heard the defendant direct Phillips and Wilkins to select six men to take Green to a destination. Wilkins picked Antonio Jackson, a man known as “Paris,” and another individual Shipp did not know. Phillips selected Shipp, Charles Poole, and a man known as “MacEndo.” Shipp testified that Wilkins, Jackson, Paris, and MacEndo were from Mitchell Heights. Shipp was from Hurt Village, and Charles Poole was from Scutterfield.
Wilkins left with the six men selected, and Phillips remained at the apartment. The men drove in two separate cars to Bellevue Park. When Green pulled the shirt from his eyes and realized he was in a dark area, he began pleading with them, saying numerous times, “just let me go, man, I’m not going to say nothing, please, just let me go.” Shipp, Paris, Poole, and MacEndo physically carried Green to the top of a hill and dropped him onto the ground. Wilkins “suggested” the other men stand a few feet away from Green. Shipp testified that although Wilkins was not superior in rank to the defendant, Wilkins was the “big head” who was giving directions at the park. Wilkins kicked Green in the side and asked Green if he had any last words. Shipp then heard a gun being cocked and saw Jackson fire the gun. Green was lying face down, and bullets struck his lower back and buttocks. Green began gasping for breath and saying that he had been hit, that he was dead, and that he was not going to say anything. When Jackson remarked to Wilkins that the buckshot were not affecting Green, Wilkins asked Paris for his chrome plated automatic pistol. Wilkins handed the pistol to Jackson, who shot Green in the head. The gun jammed, but Jackson adjusted it and fired again. The gang members then fled the scene and later met at a gas station on South Parkway, where Wilkins advised them to “take the streets, act normal.” Wilkins gave them marijuana to “calm us down.” They met again at an apartment in the Mitchell Heights area. Shipp later learned this apartment belonged to “Fufu”-Charles Golden.
Two days after the murder, Phillips told Shipp to take a “six day vacation.” Phillips called the defendant, and the defendant arrived and drove Shipp, his “baby’s mother” and his children to a local motel. The defendant told Shipp not to answer his pager or use the telephone. However, Shipp answered a page from Phillips and learned that the police were looking for him. Shipp then paged the defendant, who immediately returned Shipp’s call but reprimanded Shipp for being “a knucklehead” who disobeyed orders not to use the telephone or answer his pager. After again telling Shipp not to answer the telephone or respond to his pager, the defendant assured Shipp that he, or “other brothers,” would be dropping by to check on Shipp. Three days later, the defendant sent “a guy by the name of Crenshaw and two more younger guys” to pick up Shipp and his family at the motel.
At the conclusion of his direct examination testimony, Shipp claimed that he had been threatened by Gangster Disciples for being a “snitch” and explained that he had sought protective custody because he feared he would be unable to survive in the general jail population, which included many Gangster Disciples. Shipp declared he had given truthful testimony and denied the State had offered any deals, promises, or representations in exchange for his testimony.
On cross-examination, Shipp admitted that he had given a lengthy statement to the police on May 27, 1997, and had not once mentioned the defendant’s name, even though he had mentioned numerous Gangster Disciples, including Kaos, Phillips, Jackson, and Wilkins. Shipp admitted he had identified numerous Gangster Disciples when shown photographic arrays, including Kaos, Phillips, Wilkins, Jackson, Carradine, Golden, “Smash,” Anthony, Johnny, and Sepacus Triplett, but had failed to identify the defendant when given the opportunity.
Although Shipp indicated in his May 27, 1997, statement that Kaos was the governor of Memphis, contrary to his trial testimony, in this same statement Shipp claimed that Wilkins, from the Mitchell Heights area, was the chief of security for North Memphis, that Phillips outranked Wilkins, and that Jackson was chief of security of Scutterfield. Furthermore, in his May 27, 1997, statement Shipp indicated that Phillips, not the defendant, instructed him to arrest Vernon Green; that Phillips, not the defendant, beat the victim; that Phillips, not the defendant, instructed gang members to take Green upstairs after he had been beaten; and that Phillips, not the defendant, decided Green’s fate because Phillips and others assumed Green would “put the law in [Phillips’s] business or [Green] would get the Vice Lords to retaliate against us.”
On cross-examination, Shipp admitted that Shaun Washington, a Gangster Disciple from Mitchell Heights, had been present at the apartment on April 30, 1997, although he had failed to mention Shaun Washington in his May 27, 1997, statement to the police or in his direct testimony. Shipp testified that some Gangster Disciples have gold teeth, that the Gangster Disciple symbols include the six-point star, the pitchfork, the heart with wings, a crown, a “devil tail,” and the world with a sword piercing it. Shipp claimed that he had never heard the phrase “take him fishing” before April 30, 1997, but he maintained he had believed the phrase meant they were to drive away and leave Green to make his own way home. Shipp admitted there had been no discussion at the park about whether or not they were to kill Green. Shipp also admitted that he had been acquainted with Green because he had dated Green’s sister. Shipp conceded that he had been charged with first degree murder after giving the May 27, 1997, statement, and that the prosecution had filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty. When asked if he expected any consideration from the prosecution in exchange for his testimony, Shipp responded, “Yes, because the simple fact I’m facing the death penalty.” When asked to clarify, Shipp stated, “If it’s in the progress. If it’s in the will.” When defense counsel commented, “You’re not up here testifying for your health, are you, sir?” Shipp responded, “I’m up here testifying to tell the truth on my behalf and on behalf of the victim’s family.”
On re-direct examination, Shipp confirmed that he had identified only one Gangster Disciple, Kaos, who outranked the defendant, and Shipp said he did so because “Kaos had told on” him. Shipp pointed out that the defendant, not Kaos, had taken him to a hotel and advised him how to protect himself. Shipp also claimed he had been afraid to identify the defendant because the defendant was “not playing with a full deck.” Shipp maintained he had told the truth at all times, including his May 27, 1997, statement, except for his failure to identify the defendant.
On re-cross examination Shipp emphasized that he had implicated Kaos because “[e]veryone knew that Kaos was a snitch.” Shipp conceded he had initially implicated and identified Phillips, even though he had testified that Phillips and the defendant were “kind of on the same level” in terms of authority. Shipp admitted he had never implicated the defendant prior to testifying at trial and acknowledged that he hoped to avoid the death penalty by testifying against the defendant.
Also testifying for the prosecution, Dr. Thomas Deering, the forensic pathologist and assistant Shelby County medical examiner who performed Green’s autopsy, explained that Green had a shotgun wound and two gunshot wounds to the right side of his head, a shotgun wound across his upper back, and a shotgun wound to his left buttock. The shotgun wound to the right side of Green’s head lacerated his brain and fractured the base of his skull and would have itself been fatal. Gunshot wound B, near Green’s right temple, also fractured Green’s skull and struck his brain and was alone “a severe if not fatal wound.” Gunshot wound C began at Green’s right temple, fractured his skull, broke his jawbone on the right, traveled through the back part of his tongue, and injured muscles in the right side of his neck. The shotgun wound to Green’s upper back caused superficial scraping and would not have produced death in and of itself, although it would have been painful. The shotgun wound to Green’s left buttock fractured the lower part of his back bone and his coccyx and also lacerated his rectum and bladder. Dr. Deering opined that the victim was alive when the various wounds were inflicted.
Dr. Deering cleaned and reconstructed the victim’s skull to determine the order of the gunshot wounds. After examining the reconstructed skull and considering the level of bleeding at each wound, Dr. Deering determined that the shotgun wound to the right side of Green’s head was inflicted first, that gunshot wound B was inflicted second, and gunshot wound C was next inflicted, in almost the same location as gunshot wound B. Although he could not determine if the shotgun wounds to Green’s back and buttocks preceded the wounds to his head, Dr. Deering testified that the shotgun wound to Green’s buttocks had a great deal of associated bleeding and would have been quite painful. Given the minimal associated bleeding, Dr. Deering opined that Green had very little blood pressure and was “in trouble” at the time Green was shot in the back.
On cross-examination, Dr. Deering agreed that he had reported no physical evidence of a severe beating. On redirect, Dr. Deering acknowledged that Green’s head was so severely damaged by the gunshot wounds that physical evidence of any beating about Green’s head may not have been visible. Nonetheless, on re-cross-examination, Dr. Deering admitted that “an average-sized guy” striking “hard blows with a closed fist” to a person’s head would result in visible injuries. The prosecution then rested its case.
Testifying first for the defense, James Lee White Carradine, known as “Thug Life,” admitted he had been present at the Hurt Village apartment on the evening Green was kidnapped and murdered. Carradine maintained, however, that he and Isiah Triplett had remained upstairs with the Black sisters for most of the evening. Although Carradine identified several Gangster Disciples who were at Hurt Village apartment, he maintained the defendant had not been present at the apartment. Carradine said he first met the defendant at the Shelby County jail and did not know whether the defendant was a Gangster Disciple.
Carradine explained that, although a man known variously as “Greg,” “MacGreg,” or “Red Greg,” 4 had been present at the apartment in Hurt Village on the evening of Green’s murder, the defendant was not that man. As to MacGreg’s rank, Carradine stated, “I’m just not familiar. You know, he had top rank.” Nonetheless, Carradine maintained that Phillips outranked “that MacGreg” and that “Kaos was the dude that was over all of it.” Carradine said the person he knew as MacGreg had been present at the apartment and armed with a gun. He described MacGreg as bald, with a light mustache, very light complected, about 5′6″ or 5′7″ in height, with “a bunch of tattoos,” and “twelve gold in his mouth,” a “six-point star in the web of his hand,” tattoos on his neck, body, and arms, including a “GD” tattoo, a “MacGreg” tattoo on his right forearm, and a “to the world blow” tattoo on his left arm. Carradine confirmed that he had told the police in a May 9, 1997, statement that MacGreg was chief of security and was know as the “Executioner.”
On cross-examination, the prosecution pointed out that Carradine had testified similarly at Kevin Wilkins’s trial, stating that he knew a person known as “Big Folk” but that Kevin Wilkins was not that person. Carradine reluctantly admitted he had been a Gangster Disciple but maintained that he had no leadership role or rank within the gang. While Carradine denied participating in the physical assault on Green, he recalled seeing the victim kneeling beside the staircase, with Shipp and six others standing around him. Carradine explained that Phillips, along with the men he knew as MacGreg and Big Folk, were “standing behind the six dudes that were around Vernon,” talking on the telephone. Carradine recalled Shipp had been walking between the two groups. After Green was moved to an upstairs bedroom, Carradine heard someone telling Green “to shut up before he got killed then.” Carradine confirmed that Phillips was the Hurt Village coordinator and Shipp the Hurt Village chief of security and said that MacGreg ranked “somewhere around” two or three in the Memphis Gangster Disciples.
After Carradine testified, the defendant displayed his person to the jury. The record reflects he had no tattoos on his chest, neck, or back, no “MacGreg” or “Greg” tattoo on his right arm, no star tattoos on his hands, and no tattoo of “to the world blow” on his left arm. The record also reflects that the defendant had on his left arm a tattoo of “two heart’s intertwined with each other, one with the name Sardie, one with the name Samantha.” Also tattooed on his left arm was the word “Red.” A tattoo on the defendant’s right arm was described as following in the record; “a number one with what appears to be a brick of a wall with Mom and Annie on it.” Finally, the record reflects that the defendant had six gold teeth on the bottom and four gold teeth on the top, for a total of ten. The letters “G” “R” “E” “G” appeared on his four top gold teeth. The record reflects there were no stars or “pitch forks or anything else on the teeth.”
Annie Robinson, the defendant’s mother, along with Nichole Robinson and Patricia Anne Robinson, two of the defendant’s sisters, testified that the defendant never had tattoos or gold teeth as described by Carradine. The defendant’s mother, along with the defendant’s friends, Danny Williams and Ronald Dowell, testified that the defendant had never been a gang member.
While admitting he had been at the Hurt Village apartment on April 30, 1997, Sepacus Triplett nonetheless denied being a member of the Gangster Disciples. However, Phillips directed Triplett to “control the door,” so Triplett had answered the door for “everybody” and knew “who came in and who didn’t come in.” Triplett said he had not seen the defendant at the apartment and believed Phillips was “in charge.” On cross-examination, Sepacus Triplett admitted he had lied to the police in a statement given on May 8, 1997, and that he had pleaded guilty to facilitation in connection with Green’s murder.
Frederico Mason testified that, although he was not a member of the Gangster Disciples, he had been present at the apartment on April 30, 1997. Mason had seen a man known as “MacGreg” a “couple of times at Hurt Village,” but Mason did not know if MacGreg was a Gangster Disciple. Mason maintained the defendant and MacGreg were not the same man. Mason did not see the defendant at the apartment on April 30, 1997, had never seen the defendant at the Hurt Village complex, and had first seen the defendant when shown a picture by a police detective. Mason did not know if MacGreg had been at Nichole Black’s apartment on April 30, 1997, because he was “going upstairs and downstairs.” Mason knew Kaos but said he did not know if Kaos had been at the apartment on April 30, 1997, but Mason had seen Phillips and Shipp discussing Green’s fate. When asked if he saw anyone else, Mason replied, “Like I said, them the only peoples that I just knew, you know.” On cross-examination, Mason admitted he left the apartment at approximately 10 p.m. and did not return until approximately 3 a.m.
Steven Hardin testified also and admitted he had pleaded guilty to facilitation to especially aggravated kidnapping in connection with Green’s kidnapping and murder. Hardin arrived at the apartment between 5:30 and 6 p.m. on April 30, 1997. Hardin said Shipp called the aid and assist meeting and many people arrived whom Hardin had never before seen. Hardin “vaguely” remembered some of the people who arrived for the meeting, and in particular, he remembered a man known as MacGreg being there that night. Hardin said MacGreg had tattoos on his hand, arms, neck, and shoulder and had a nicely trimmed “blondish beard.” Hardin maintained the defendant was not “MacGreg,” and said at no time during the evening did Hardin observe the defendant at the apartment. Hardin admitted that he had been “told to go upstairs by Prentiss Phillips and lookout the window and inform them” if anyone, the police, the Vice Lords, “whoever tried to come up to the apartment.” Hardin stayed at his upstairs lookout post from 6:30 p.m. until 12 or 1 a.m. On cross-examination, Hardin admitted that, after pleading guilty, he had feared revenge from other Gangster Disciples incarcerated with him and acknowledged that his incarceration with other gang members was a frightening situation.
April Black testified that, on the evening of April 30, 1997, she was held in an upstairs bedroom at gunpoint by members of the Gangster Disciples. Black acknowledged her acquaintance and association with members of the Gangster Disciples, including Kaos, MacGreg, and Phillips. She admitted MacGreg had been at the aid and assist meeting at her apartment, but maintained the defendant is not MacGreg. Black admitted she was serving a ten-year sentence in the Mississippi Department of Correction for armed robbery, but claimed she was not incarcerated with Gangster Disciples from Memphis. On cross-examination Black admitted her brother had been shot by Gangster Disciples in the Shelby County jail, but she denied being afraid of the gang, although admitting she was “concerned.”
Horace Black, April Black’s brother, admitted he had been a member of the Gangster Disciples for ten years. He also admitted knowing the defendant from jail, but said, to his knowledge, the defendant had never been a member of the Gangster Disciples. Horace Black said he did not know Kaos, despite being a gang member for ten years. On cross-examination, Horace Black admitted that he previously had been convicted of possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell, manufacture, or deliver, and aggravated robbery.
Sergeant Richard Parker, a Memphis police officer who had been assigned to the Gang Task Force for five years, testified for the defense about gang tattoos. Sergeant Parker described the readily identifiable tattoos often used by Gangster Disciples. He stated the defendant’s tattoos could “possibly” be gang tattoos, but he could not readily identify them as such. He indicated the letter “E” of the defendant’s “RED” tattoo resembled a Gangster Disciple trademark, “although it was missing the post under it.” He further noted that gang members often “camouflage” their tattoos, and he pointed out that tattoos can be easily changed. Sergeant Parker indicated that gang members had begun to eschew tattoos to avoid detection and explained that gold teeth, common among Gangster Disciples, can be removed and changed. Defense counsel pointed out that when he initially showed Sergeant Parker photographs of the defendant’s tattoos, Sergeant Parker opined that the defendant’s tattoos were not gang-related. After speaking with the prosecuting attorneys in the hall outside the courtroom, Sergeant Parker “came to the conclusion that the tattoos could possibly be gang-related.”
Based upon this proof, the jury convicted the defendant of premeditated first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping, finding the defendant criminally responsible for the conduct of another.