An error in jury instructions means a Chattanooga man convicted of murder and robbery is entitled to a new trial.
Dominique Greer wanted $1,500 for a mix tape and knew Darrian Moore had a job and a bank account.
Moore, 21, was sitting in his car in the driveway of his Shady Hollow Lane home when Greer got into the car and fired a .380-caliber bullet into his head, jurors found.
At Greer's trial in November 2013, co-defendant Franklin Wood Jr. — Moore's friend before a quarrel — and Dwight Turner Jr. testified about planning the robbery. Neither participated in the crime, though Wood gave Greer clothing and shoes afterward, and Greer told Turner the gun went off when Moore began struggling. Turner was never charged. Wood pleaded guilty to facilitation of especially aggravated robbery and took a plea deal.
Greer was found guilty of first- degree murder and especially aggravated robbery, and was sentenced to life in prison on the murder charge and eight years in the robbery.
In appealing his conviction, Greer argued, among other issues, that Criminal Court Judge Rebecca Stern shouldn't have allowed jurors to hear evidence of a prior robbery or instructed the jury it could consider that robbery for issues other than intent and identity.
The earlier robbery took place about 5:20 p.m. that same day. A local businessman, Steve Carroll, testified an armed man dressed in black took his cellphone and wallet as he was leaving his work a block off Bonny Oaks Drive.
Carroll identified Greer as the robber in a photo lineup. The wallet was later found behind an apartment where Greer's grandmother lived and where he sometimes stayed. Phone records showed three calls made to Wood and to Jamicah Moore, who allegedly drove Greer from the Darrian Moore slaying scene.
In Tennessee, evidence of prior bad acts is allowed for certain purposes, such as to establish identity, motive or intent.
However, the appeals judges said, Stern instructed the jurors they could also consider the "totally unrelated" Carroll robbery to prove a "common scheme or plan" in the Moore robbery/slaying.
"The trial court told the jury the prior robbery could be used to prove Defendant's motive," the appeals court judges wrote. They said Stern essentially told jurors the earlier robbery was proof of Greer's propensity to rob people.
"The instruction permitted the jury to consider the robbery of Mr. Carroll for purposes other than intent and identity," the ruling stated.
That error was serious enough that Greer deserves a new trial, the judges wrote.
That's not automatic, though.
The Hamilton County District Attorney's Office will decide within 30 days whether to appeal the ruling, spokeswoman Melydia Clewell said.
"If not, yes, he comes back and we re-try him," Clewell said.
Assistant public defender Jay Underwood, who handled the appeal, said Friday he was "very happy" about the ruling.
"I think it was the right decision," Underwood said.
If the DA's office doesn't appeal, Greer could be returned to Hamilton County to await retrial. Underwood said he's not sure whether Greer would be entitled to bond but, as a practical matter, any bond would probably be too high for him.