The Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville announced Friday it was upholding the 2017 conviction of Cortez Lebron Sims, who was found guilty in a mass shooting two years earlier at College Hill Courts in Chattanooga that killed Talitha Bowman.
Judge Barry Steelman imposed a sentence of life for the first-degree murder of Bowman, as well as concurrent sentences of 25 years for attempted murder in the shooting of Bianca Horton, her daughter Zoe Horton and Marcel Christopher.
According to a Saturday afternoon news release from the office of District Attorney General Neal Pinkston, Sims' attorneys had argued in their appeal that the trial court erred by: "(1) denying the Defendant's motion for a change of venue; (2) admitting evidence related to a photographic lineup and an unavailable witness's prior identification of the Defendant; (3) admitting a gang validation form showing the Defendant's gang membership; (4) admitting a jail phone call between the Defendant and a third party; (5) admitting evidence of a gun and shell casings that were later determined to be unrelated to this case; (6) admitting a bloody onesie worn by the infant victim in this case; and (7) admitting evidence related to gang violence and an on-going gang feud."
Pinkston's office reported that the appeals court addressed each alleged error, finding that "the investigators and prosecutors with the Hamilton County District Attorney's Office acted appropriately."
In affirming the conviction, the appeals court said that "the trial court found that the 'common thread' among these incidents was "the fact that all of these victims and perpetrators are members of the Athens Park Bloods or the Bounty Hunter Bloods and the fact that all of these people are apparently, by this totality of the circumstances and circumstantial evidence, involved in something that's causing them each to be victimized."
Pinkston called the opinion an affirmation of "the outstanding work of the Chattanooga Police Department and the tireless efforts of the jury in seeking justice," according to the news release.
The case was prosecuted by Lance Pope, now with the Chattanooga law firm of Patrick, Beard, Schulman and Jacoway, and Kevin Brown, now with the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee.