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Dooley v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

March 1, 2018

TOMMY GEORGE DOOLEY APPELLANT
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS STATE

         FROM THE 355TH DISTRICT COURT OF HOOD COUNTY TRIAL COURT NO. CR13341

          PANEL: SUDDERTH, C.J.; KERR and PITTMAN, JJ.

          OPINION

          BONNIE SUDDERTH, CHIEF JUSTICE

         In a single issue, Appellant Tommy George Dooley appeals his conviction for capital murder. Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 19.03(a)(2) (West Supp. 2017). We affirm.

         Background

         Appellant shot and killed his wife, LaVera, on February 12, 2015. He shot her six times while she was sitting in her SUV in their driveway and on the phone with 911. LaVera died while she was still on the phone with 911.

         In an interview that evening with Investigator Robert Young, Appellant explained the tumultuous relationship he and LaVera shared. They had been married just over three years. During that time, they had worked together in an insurance business that LaVera owned, but had been struggling financially and often argued over money. The couple had discussed divorce as a possibility, and according to Appellant, he had been in the process of moving out of their home at the time of the shooting.

         Appellant described LaVera, who was his fourth wife, as verbally and emotionally abusive toward him, claiming that LaVera would "get in [his] f***ing face" all the time when they argued, which was often, "beat down" on him, and according to Appellant, "[s]he just wouldn't f***ing leave [him] alone." Appellant told Young that he could not take it anymore.

         LaVera had called 911 on one prior occasion, and when they began to argue again earlier in the evening of LaVera's death, Appellant said that LaVera went outside and threatened to call 911 again. Appellant told Young, "I asked her to get out of the g**d*** car, she wouldn't get out of the g**d*** car, I went into the house, I got the gun, I went back and I shot her. I guess I shot her six times because the gun was empty."

         Appellant made multiple statements along these lines. At one point he said he told LaVera, "Open the window, let's talk, " but LaVera replied, "I'm talking to 911, " and then he shot her. At another point, he explained that he said, "Come here, let's talk, " and she said, "I've got 911, I'm calling the police on you again, " and Appellant thought, "Well, this is it, I'm f***ed." Yet another time he explained, "[S]he [went] and got in her g**d*** Mercedes and [said] 'I'm calling 911.' When you push somebody so much, then-well" and, "she just decided that she was going to go out and call the g**d*** police on me again." Appellant said that after he shot her initially, LaVera screamed to the 911 operator, "He shot me! He shot me!" so he shot her again. At another point, he told Investigator Young that he shot her "because she [was] f***ing mean."

         Appellant also explained to Young that he was concerned she would report him for domestic abuse. Although he strenuously denied ever hitting or otherwise physically abusing LaVera, he was worried that domestic abuse charges could place his license to sell insurance at risk.

         Appellant was charged with capital murder for killing LaVera in retaliation for or to obstruct her from calling 911 and reporting him to the police. See id. (providing elements of capital murder), § 36.06 (West 2016) (providing that a person commits an offense if he harms another by an unlawful act in retaliation for or to prevent their reporting of a crime).

         At trial, Appellant only contested whether he shot LaVera in retaliation or obstruction of her call to 911. To support his defensive theory, Appellant offered the testimony of Dr. Brian Falls, a forensic psychiatrist who met with Appellant once about a year after the murder. The State challenged the admissibility of Dr. Falls's testimony, and at a pretrial hearing, Dr. Falls explained his opinion.

         Dr. Falls testified that, after meeting with Appellant for approximately five hours, he diagnosed Appellant with severe alcohol use disorder, general personality disorder, and a depressive disorder. Dr. Falls also testified that based on his review of a dozen or perhaps "a few dozen" peer-reviewed journals and literature from the Food and Drug Administration, Appellant's use of the drug Chantix, a smoking-cessation aid, was "one of several contributing factors" that caused Appellant to kill his wife. According to Dr. Falls, medical literature reported that Chantix had ...


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