Supreme Court reinstates murder conviction, says circumstantial evidence sufficient to support conviction

October 12, 2012

Nashville, Tenn. – In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated Carl J. Wagner’s convictions of especially aggravated robbery and first degree felony murder for shooting nineteen-year-old Adriel Charles Powell in the laundry room of a Nashville apartment complex on August 27, 2008.

The Tennessee Supreme Court held that the prosecution introduced sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict finding Wagner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  The Court noted that the prosecution corroborated Wagner’s pre-trial statement with circumstantial proof and that the jury rejected Wagner’s claim of self-defense. The Court also explained that circumstantial evidence is sufficient to support a conviction and need not exclude every reasonable hypothesis except that of guilt.

Prior to trial, Wagner told the police that he shot the victim in self-defense.  At trial, the State introduced Wagner’s statement and other circumstantial proof to show that Wagner actually shot Powell during a drug deal as Wagner robbed Powell of a backpack containing narcotics.  After the jury found Wagner guilty of felony murder and especially aggravated robbery, Wagner appealed.  The Court of Criminal Appeals held that the State failed to introduce sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict and vacated Wagner’s convictions of felony murder and especially aggravated robbery.  Today, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed and reinstated Wagner’s convictions.

To read State of Tennessee v. Carl J. Wagner opinion authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, visit http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/wagnerc_opn.pdf.