Supreme Court Rules Defendant Criminally Responsible for Accomplice’s Murder Attempts

October 8, 2013

The Tennessee Supreme Court has upheld a Sevier County man’s two attempted first-degree murder convictions for his role in an attack on several people in a cabin.

In January 2008, Kevin Anthony Dickson, Jr. became angry after purchasing cocaine that he felt was of very poor quality. Dickson enlisted the help of two other men to confront the drug dealers at a Sevierville cabin where the purchase had been made. Dickson borrowed a handgun, purchased ammunition for the gun, and gave it to one of the men, whose name is Johnny Ramirez. Dickson then drove all three men to the cabin. Dickson kicked open the front door of the cabin and demanded drugs as well as the return of his money.

During the intrusion, Ramirez shot two unarmed victims. A trial judge found Dickson guilty of two charges of attempted first-degree murder based on a criminal responsibility theory in the shooting of the two victims by Ramirez. The trial judge imposed a sentence of 25 years for each attempted first-degree murder charge and imposed consecutive sentencing, for an effective sentence of 50 years.

On appeal, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed one attempted first-degree murder conviction, but reduced the other to attempted second-degree murder. The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that Ramirez shot one victim as he was attempting to flee, but shot another victim quickly without premeditation, which would only support a conviction for attempted second-degree murder.

The Tennessee Supreme Court partially affirmed and partially reversed the Court of Criminal Appeals. The Supreme Court reasoned that Dickson was criminally responsible for the conduct of Ramirez, as Dickson solicited Ramirez’s help and armed him with a loaded handgun. The Supreme Court also reasoned that there was sufficient evidence of premeditation on the part of Ramirez in the shooting of both unarmed victims. Thus, the Supreme Court approved of the trial court’s finding of two convictions of attempted first-degree murder.

The Supreme Court also determined that the trial judge properly sentenced Dickson consecutively, based on his extensive criminal history.

To read the unanimous Opinion in State of Tennessee v. Kevin Anthony Dickson, Jr., authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, visit the Opinions section.