BY KEN LITTLE
The appeal of a woman convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the 2009 home-invasion shooting death of a Greene County man was denied last week by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.
Jessica M. Myers, 30, formerly of Burkey Road, was convicted in May 2012 by a Greene County Criminal Court jury of first-degree murder and reckless endangerment for the death of Jimmy Lee Cutshall and permanent injuries suffered by Cutshall's wife, Rhonda, on Oct. 13, 2009.
Myers was convicted of four "theories," or elements, of first-degree murder: premeditated action, felony murder robbery, felony murder burglary and felony murder theft.
She was sentenced to life in prison by Circuit Court Judge John F. Dugger Jr. Her sentence totals 60 years with an 85 percent release eligibility, for a minimum sentence of 51 years.
Dugger merged the final two murder counts into the second count, and Myers received concurrent sentences on the two murder convictions.
On appeal, Myers' lawyer, Francis X. Santore Jr., challenged the sufficiency of the evidence, an alleged defect in count one of the indictment, and the admission of certain post-mortem photographs into evidence at trial.
"Having reviewed the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court," Judge John Everett Williams wrote on behalf of the three-member panel that reviewed the appeal.
In August, the Court of Criminal Appeals denied the appeal of Myers' co-defendant in the case, Shawn Anthony Jones, 35.
Jones, who lived with Myers on Burkey Road, was convicted in January 2012 of first-degree murder and criminal attempt to commit first-degree murder by a Greene County Criminal Court jury.
MOBILE HOME ROBBERY
Cutshall, 54, was shot to death during a robbery inside his mobile home on Old Wilson Hill Road.
Rhonda Cutshall, then 43, was shot once in the head as she slept in a rear bedroom. She almost died, and suffered permanent vision and hearing injuries.
At their trials, Jones and Myers implicated each other as the shooter in the crime.
Regarding evidence presented at Myers' trial, Williams wrote for the appellate court that evidence "is sufficient to support the verdicts."
Myers was convicted on different theories of murder, including premeditated murder, felony murder in the commission of a robbery, and felony murder in the commission of a burglary.
"However, we note that the trial court, while it merged two of the felony murder convictions into the third, did not merge the felony murder conviction with the first-degree murder conviction.
"Accordingly, we vacate the judgments and remand for entry of judgment sheets reflecting merger of the premeditated murder conviction into the felony murder convictions."
Santore, on behalf of Myers, asserted in the appeal that the indictment charging her with first-degree murder was "fatally defective" because the grand jury foreman had neglected to indicate on the face of the document that the grand jury had found a "true bill."
The appellate court concluded that the error "is not jurisdictional and was therefore waived when the defendant failed to raise it prior to trial."
"On remand, we direct the trial court to merge the conviction for premeditated murder in count one into the conviction for felony murder on count two. The defendant is not entitled to relief based on an error in the indictment," the opinion states.
As to the photographs, "while unpleasant, [they were] not particularly inflammatory, and they were relevant to the issue of intent," the appellate court wrote in stating the defendant is not entitled to relief on the issue.
"We affirm the convictions and the sentences but vacate the judgments and remand so that new judgments may be prepared to reflect the merger of all the homicide convictions," Williams wrote.
A third defendant in the case, Chad Eric Rader, entered a guilty plea to facilitation of first-degree murder in January 2012.
Rader acted as the driver for Jones and Myers on Oct. 13. 2009, but never entered the mobile home.
Rader, 38, received a prison sentence of 34 years, at 35 percent release eligibility.
Myers is serving her prison term in the Mark H. Luttrell Correctional Center in Shelby County.