Tennessee Court of Appeals Reduces First Degree Murder Conviction

Tennessee Court of Appeals Reduces First Degree Murder Conviction

Court of Appeals
Court of Appeals, Jackson, TN
The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals recently reduced the first-degree murder conviction of a Gibson County man accused of killing and dismembering his own mother. In this disturbing case, the state failed to include sufficient proof of premeditation to survive a challenge on appeal. However, the Appeals Court decided that there was sufficient evidence to support a lesser, second-degree murder conviction.

The case began in January 2008, when Climer led authorities to the remains of his mother, Dorris DeBerry. Climer had buried DeBerry in woods in northwest Madison County, Tennessee. Investigators believe DeBerry was killed in late November 2007 and that Climer buried her remains around December 5, 2007. The mother and son had lived together in a mobile home near Gibson, Tennessee prior to her death.

Climer admitted to authorities that he was responsible for dismembering his mother’s body, but was vehement that he had not killed her. He was sentenced to life in prison on the first-degree murder charge after a jury found him guilty and on the abuse of a corpse count. The abuse of a corpse charge was intended to run concurrently with his life sentence.

On appeal, Climer’s attorneys argued that the evidence was insufficient to support a premeditated murder conviction. Moreover, his attorney claimed that Climer was suffering from insanity when he decapitated his mother’s corpse. The insanity claim was rejected on appeal.

The Court noted, "that the parties’ opening and closing statements, in which the State would have argued its theory of the case to the jury, have not been included in the record on appeal. According to the State’s brief, the prosecution’s theory of the case was that the appellant killed his mother and dismembered her body and hid it to conceal his crime." Obviously, the Court struggled to find premeditation and when it could not find the proof included in the record, it was reluctant to infer it from the mere gruesomeness of the crime.  In a fairly unusual move, the court reversed the conviction for first degree murder absent sufficient proof of premeditation.

The Court reduced Climer’s conviction to second-degree murder and remanded the case to a trial court for resentencing. Climer’s conviction of abuse of a corpse was affirmed. His resentencing is set for early April in Humboldt County. Here is a link to the full opinion: STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DAVID HOOPER CLIMER, JR.


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