State of Tennessee v. Joshua W. Chambers

State of Tennessee v. Joshua W. Chambers

On January 5, 2017, the Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted Defendant, Joshua W. Chambers, for first degree premeditated murder of the victim, Richard Gibeau, and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Defendant claimed he killed the victim in self-defense. On May 24, 2018, a jury convicted Defendant of second degree murder. The jury did not reach a verdict on the firearm charge. On November 21, 2017, after the victim was killed but before Defendant’s trial, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued State v. Perrier, holding “that the legislature intended the phrase ‘not engaged in unlawful activity’ in the self-defense statute [Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-611] to be a condition of the statutory privilege not to retreat when confronted with unlawful force and that the trial court should make the threshold determination of whether the defendant was engaged in unlawful activity when he used force in an alleged self-defense situation.” 536 S.W.3d 388, 392 (Tenn. 2017). The trial court instructed the jury using Tennessee Pattern Instruction 40.06(b) as it existed before it was amended to comply with Perrier. The instruction given to the jury erroneously required the jury, rather than the trial court, to determine if Defendant was engaged in unlawful activity. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred by giving an improper jury instruction on self-defense. The State concedes error in the self-defense instruction but claims the error was harmless. Defendant also claims the trial court erred by granting the State’s motion to amend the indictment on the day of trial, by permitting the admission of prejudicial evidence, by denying Defendant’s Motion for Judgment of Acquittal and Motion for a New Trial, and by submitting an incorrect verdict form to the jury. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we find that the trial court committed reversible error by improperly instructing the jury on self-defense. Thus, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for a new trial. 

Authoring Judge: 
Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Originating Judge: 
Judge William R. Goodman, III
Date Filed: 
Thursday, March 26, 2020