Shawn A. Jones
Serving Life Term
In The Killing Of
Jimmy Lee Cutshall
BY KEN LITTLE
The appeal of a man convicted of first-degree murder in the 2009 home-invasion shooting death of a Greene County man was recently denied by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
Shawn Anthony Jones, 35, formerly of Burkey Road, was convicted in January 2012 of first-degree murder by a Greene County Criminal Court jury for the Oct. 13, 2009, killing of Jimmy Lee Cutshall during a robbery inside the victim's mobile home.
Jones was sentenced by Third Judicial District Circuit Court Judge John F. Dugger Jr. to life in prison, an effective sentence of 60 years, with an 85 percent release eligibility.
He must serve at least 51 years of the sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
There are two other defendants in the case.
Jessica Marie Myers was convicted in 2012 by a Greene County Criminal Court jury of first-degree murder.
In January, Chad Eric Rader entered a guilty plea to facilitation of first-degree murder.
Myers is serving a life sentence, and Rader, who was the driver and was never inside the mobile home where Cutshall died, received a prison sentence of 34 years, at 35 percent release eligibility.
The appeal was fashioned by defense lawyer T. Wood Smith, who was Jones' lawyer at trial.
BASIS OF APPEAL
Jones' appeal contended that the trial court erred by allowing the state to introduce into evidence "unduly prejudicial photographs" of shooting victims Cutshall and his wife Rhonda, and failed to suppress a series of statements given to investigators.
The appeal further contended that the trial court refused to allow Jones to show "that a co-defendant told police she kicked open the door to the victims' home" and failed to grant his motion for a mistrial "when the prosecutor commented on his failure to testify."
The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Eastern Section, at Knoxville, issued its opinion earlier this month.
"Based upon the record and the parties' beliefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court," Judge Norma McGee Ogle wrote on behalf of concurring judges Thomas T. Woodall and Robert W. Wedemeyer.
In the opinion, Ogle wrote that decisions regarding the admissibility of photographs lie within "the sound discretion of the trial court, and that ruling will not be overturned on appeal absent a clear showing of abuse of that discretion."
Jones also sought to suppress statements given to investigators "because he was intoxicated from prescription pills when he gave the statements."
Detectives and Sheriff Steve Burns testified at trial they were in close proximity to Jones before and during the time of his interviews. They testified he did not appear to be intoxicated and was acting "very normal."
"The evidence does not preponderate against the trial court's findings, and we conclude that the trial court correctly denied the appellant's motion to suppress," Ogle wrote.
The appeal maintains that the trial court erred in not allowing part of a statement by Myers in which she told sheriff's Detective Sgt. Danny Ricker that she kicked the door of the trailer in.
The trial court ruled Myers' statement was hearsay.
"We conclude that the trial court did nor err by refusing to allow the appellant to question Detective Ricker about Myers' statement," Ogle wrote.
The final point of the appeal, that the trial court erred by failing to grant Jones' request for a mistrial when prosecutor Cecil Mills Jr. commented about his failure to testify, was also found to be without merit.
The motion for mistrial was based on a statement made by Mills during his closing argument.
"Was there some kind of self-defense I haven't heard about?" was an indirect reference to Jones' decision not to testify, the appeal maintained.
Appellate judges agreed with the trial court's holding that Mills did not say anything prejudicial.
"Given the proof against the appellant, any error was harmless," Ogle wrote.
ANOTHER CHARGE ALSO
Jones is serving his sentence in the Morgan County Correctional Complex.
The jury also found Jones guilty of criminal attempt to commit first-degree murder in connection with the shooting of Jimmy Lee Cutshall's wife, Rhonda Cutshall, who was shot in the head as she slept in a rear bedroom during the home invasion crime.
She suffered permanent vision and hearing impairment as a result of her injuries.