The Tennessee Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the murder conviction and life sentence of a man who shot his wife at a gas station in Chattanooga in 1994.
In March 1994, Edward Kendrick shot and killed his estranged wife, Lisa Kendrick, at the gas station where she worked. He fled the scene, threw the rifle out the car window, and was later arrested at the Chattanooga airport. A Chattanooga jury convicted him of first-degree premeditated murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
Kendrick's defense at trial was that his rifle discharged accidentally. Years later, Kendrick tried to appeal his conviction by saying he had ineffective counsel. The trial court in Chattanooga denied Kendrick's request. However, the Court of Criminal Appeals disagreed, vacated Mr. Kendrick's conviction and sentence, and granted Mr. Kendrick a new trial. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the State's appeal.
In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the Court of Criminal Appeals' decision and reinstated Mr. Kendrick's murder conviction. The Court found that trial counsel made a reasonable decision to rely on the officer's accident as the best evidence that Mr. Kendrick's rifle was defective. Additionally, the Court found that counsel's failure to invoke the exception to the hearsay rule did not constitute deficient performance because counsel vigorously cross-examined the officer and effectively undercut the officer's testimony that he did not remember whether he was touching the trigger when the rifle discharged.