Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/30/2014
Format: 07/30/2014
Scott Clevenger v. State of Tennessee
E2013-01786-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

In this appeal, the Petitioner, Scott Clevenger, contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Specifically, he alleges that trial counsel failed to meet with him an adequate amount of times and failed to give him a copy of the discovery materials so that he could make an informed decision about his case. After considering the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/29/14
State of Tennessee v. Terry Scott Yarbrough
M2013-02125-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Fishburn

Appellant, Terry Scott Yarbrough, pleaded guilty to driving under the influence (“DUI”), first offense, and received a sentence of eleven months, twenty-nine days, with all but forty-eight hours suspended to supervised probation.  As a condition of the plea agreement, appellant reserved the right to certify a question of law challenging the trial court’s denial of a motion to suppress.  Following our review, we conclude that we do not have jurisdiction to address the certified question of law because it does not comply with the strict requirements of Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) and State v. Preston, 759 S.W.2d 647 (Tenn. 1988).  Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/29/14
State of Tennessee v. Janet Lynn Jared
M2013-01739-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Patterson

Appellant, Janet Lynn Jared, was convicted of theft over $10,000.  She was sentenced to six years, with the sentence to be served on probation if she paid restitution of over $82,000 to her victims.  To satisfy the judgment, she sold the family farm, but the sale resulted in net proceeds of only about $48,000.  The State subsequently filed a motion to order that the remaining amount of restitution be paid.  After several hearings, the Criminal Court ordered that Appellant pay the remainder of her obligation at the rate of $500 a month.  Appellant does not challenge the amount of restitution ordered by the Criminal Court, but she contends on appeal that the Court erred by ordering a payment schedule without considering her means and ability to pay, in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-304(d).  The State asks us to dismiss this appeal because under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(b) there is no appeal as of right from a decision to modify the conditions of probation.  We agree with the State.  This appeal is dismissed.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/29/14
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Antonio Cole
W2013-02161-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Anthony Antonio Cole (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of driving under the influence, driving without a license, violation of the financial responsibility law, violation of the registration law, and failure to yield the right of way. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve a total effective sentence of twelve months and twenty-nine days in confinement. In this direct appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions for driving under the influence, driving without a license, and failure to yield the right of way. Upon our thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/28/14
State of Tennessee v. Dennis Butler
W2013-01397-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Dennis Butler (“the Defendant”) pleaded guilty to one count of sale of cocaine. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Defendant was sentenced to four years suspended to probation. Upon the filing of a probation revocation warrant, the Defendant was taken into custody, and a revocation hearing was held. At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation and ordered him to serve his original sentence in confinement. The Defendant timely appealed the trial court’s ruling. Upon a thorough review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/28/14
State of Tennessee v. Norman Branch
W2013-00964-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Special Judge Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula Skahan

A jury convicted the Defendant, Norman Branch, of theft of $500 or less and intentionally evading arrest in a motor vehicle. After a hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of six years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days, to be served in the workhouse. In this direct appeal, the Defendant contends the following: (1) the trial court erred in allowing him to be impeached with twelve prior convictions; (2) the trial court erred in excluding certain of his testimony as inadmissible hearsay; (3) the evidence was not sufficient to support his evading arrest conviction; (4) the trial court provided an improper jury instruction on the evading arrest charge; (5) the trial court erred in sentencing him as a career offender; and (6) cumulative error entitles him to a new trial. Upon our thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/28/14
State of Tennessee v. Michael Anthony Skettini
E2013-02780-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

The Defendant, Michael Anthony Skettini, appeals as of right from the Blount County Circuit Court’s revocation of his probation and order of confinement for one year. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion in revoking his probation based upon the “limited evidence” of driving under the influence (DUI) presented at the revocation hearing and that a “lesser period of split confinement . . . would have been more reasonable” under the circumstances. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s revocation of the Defendant’s probationary sentences and order of confinement.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/28/14
Mark L. Peck v. State of Tennessee, et al
E2013-01760-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

The petitioner, Mark L. Peck, appeals the denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis, arguing that newly discovered evidence of the unreliability of an FBI agent’s firearms testimony entitles him to a new trial. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/28/14
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TIMOTHY HOWARD CUNNINGHAM
M2013-2844-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Timothy Howard Cunningham, of reckless endangerment by use of a deadly weapon, namely a motor vehicle. The trial court sentenced him to four years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/25/14
KENNETH DEWAYNE JOHNSON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE
M2013-02491-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

Petitioner, Kenneth Dewayne Johnson, pled guilty to aggravated assault in Davidson County on November 17, 2011.  On June 10, 2013, Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because the foreman of the grand jury that issued the indictment was ineligible to serve for being a convicted felon.  Petitioner also asserted that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and entered an unknowing and involuntary plea.  The post-conviction court dismissed the petition as untimely.  On August 16, 2013, Petitioner, with the assistance of counsel, filed a second petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the statute of limitations should be tolled in his case because the ineligibility of the grand jury foreman was not made public knowledge until after the statute of limitations had expired and was, therefore, a “later-arising” ground for relief.  The post-conviction court dismissed the petition, finding that the ineligibility of the grand jury foreman did not divest the trial court of jurisdiction and that Petitioner was not denied effective assistance of counsel.  Petitioner appealed.  Upon a thorough review of the law and the facts in this case, we affirm the decision of the post-conviction court.
 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/24/14
MYRON L. JOHNSON v. STATE OF TENNESSEE
M2013-02314-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

The Appellant, Myron L. Johnson, appeals the trial court's summary dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief.  The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
 

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/24/14
Danny Lee Greene v. State of Tennessee
E2013-01583-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Joseph M. Tipton
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The Petitioner, Danny Lee Greene, appeals the Washington County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2007 conviction for second degree murder and his twenty-three-year sentence as a violent offender. The Petitioner contends that the trial court erred by denying him relief because (1) juror bias existed and (2) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/24/14
State of Tennessee v. Robert Lee Driskell
E2013-01783-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

Robert Lee Driskill (“the Defendant”) pleaded guilty to one count of driving under the influence (“DUI”) and one count of violating the implied consent law. Pursuant to the Defendant’s plea agreement, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months, twenty-nine days’ incarceration, to be suspended on supervised probation after the service of forty-eight hours’ confinement. In conjunction with his guilty plea, the Defendant reserved the following certified question of law: “Whether the officer’s conduct violated the Defendant’s rights under Article I, Section 7 or the Fourth Amendment when the officer through activating blue lights caused the Defendant to stop his moving vehicle and encounter the officer.” Upon our thorough review of the record and applicable law, we hold that the Defendant is entitled to no relief. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/24/14
Charles Middlebrook v. State of Tennessee
E2013-02411-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Joseph M. Tipton
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Petitioner, Charles Middlebrook, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2011 convictions upon guilty pleas for theft valued more than $1000 but less than $10,000 and assault and his Range III eight-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that his guilty pleas were involuntarily entered because he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/14
STEVEN JAMES MCCAIN v. STATE OF TENNESSEE
M2013-00992-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

The petitioner, Steven James McCain, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 1998 Davidson County Criminal Court jury convictions of two counts of first degree premeditated murder, claiming that the State withheld material evidence at trial and that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/14
State of Tennessee v. Jawaune Massey
E2013-01047-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jeffrey S. Bvins
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

Jawaune Massey (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of one count of first degree premeditated murder and one count of first degree felony murder as to victim Nolan; one count of first degree premeditated murder and one count of first degree felony murder as to victim Alexander; one count of especially aggravated robbery; one count of criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery; one count of criminal conspiracy to possess more than 26 grams of cocaine with the intent to sell or deliver; one count of possessing more than 26 grams of cocaine for resale; and one count of maintaining a dwelling where controlled substances are used or sold. For these crimes, the Defendant was sentenced to serve an effective term of two consecutive life sentences. In these consolidated appeals, the Defendant contends that the evidence was not sufficient to support his convictions. He also contends that the trial court (1) erred in consolidating offenses; (2) should have conducted a hearing to determine if a “stun belt” was a necessary restraint of the Defendant during trial; (3) should have instructed the jury that several witnesses were accomplices as a matter of law; and (4) should not have run his life sentences consecutively. Upon our thorough review of the record and applicable law, we reverse on grounds of insufficient evidence the Defendant’s conviction of criminal conspiracy to possess more than 26 grams of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver and his conviction of maintaining a dwelling where controlled substances are used or sold. We affirm the remaining judgments.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/14
State of Tennessee v. James Joseph Ryan
E2013-02135-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

Following a jury trial in Knox County Criminal Court, Defendant, James Joseph Ryan, was convicted of burglary of a business (an automobile dealership) and theft of property of more than $10,000.00 in value. He was sentenced as a Range II offender to an effective sentence of ten years. In this appeal, Defendant asserts that accomplice testimony was not corroborated, that the trial court erred by not finding a certain witness was an accomplice as a matter of law, and that the trial court erred by ordering Defendant to pay the court costs. After a thorough review we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/14
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TOMMY DALE ADAMS
M2013-01080-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Earl Durham

A Wilson County Jury convicted Defendant, Tommy Dale Adams, of first-degree felony murder, second-degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery.  He received concurrent  sentences of life for first degree felony murder, twenty years for second degree murder, and twenty years for especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) that the trial court erred in admitting a photograph into evidence after finding that its probative value outweighed its prejudicial effect; (2) that the trial court erred in excluding testimony by Dewy Raymond, finding that it was inadmissible hearsay; and (3) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for first degree felony murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery.  After a thorough review, we remand the matter to the trial court for entry of a corrected judgment to reflect that the convictions of felony murder and second degree murder are merged into one count of felony murder.  In all other respects, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/14
LEONARD ALLEN v. STATE OF TENNESSEE
M2013-00840-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth Norman

On January 3, 2003 the Davidson County Grand Jury indicted Petitioner, Leonard Allen, for especially aggravated robbery.  Following a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of the charged offense.  The trial court sentenced Petitioner to twenty years of incarceration.  Petitioner filed a notice of appeal.  Subsequently, Petitioner filed a petition to plead guilty to aggravated robbery in the same case.  The trial court, upon agreement of the parties, vacated the conviction for especially aggravated robbery and accepted a plea agreement to aggravated robbery with a sentence of ten years at thirty percent with credit for time served and the balance of the sentence to be served on probation.  Petitioner appealed, challenging various aspects of his original conviction as well as the guilty plea.  See State v. Leonard Allen, No. M2007-02581-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 1344462 (Tenn. Crim. App. at Nashville, April 5, 2011), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. July 14, 2011).  On direct appeal, this Court invalidated the plea agreement, finding, among other things, that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter the plea agreement where Petitioner had already filed a notice of appeal.  This Court then reinstated Petitioner’s conviction for especially aggravated robbery.  On remand, the trial court reinstated the accompanying twenty-year sentence.  Subsequently, Petitioner sought post-conviction relief in which he argued, inter alia, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.  Following a hearing, the post-conviction court entered an order denying Petitioner relief.  On appeal, Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his Petition for Post-Conviction Relief based on ineffective assistance of his trial counsel.  After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court denying the petition for relief.
 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Jacqueline Nicole Bolden
E2013-02324-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

Defendant, Jacqueline Nicole Bolden, pled guilty to one count of theft of property in an amount more than $60,000, a Class B felony, with an agreed upon sentence of eight years as a Range I offender with the trial court to determine manner of service of the sentence. The trial court ordered Defendant to serve her eight-year sentence on “split confinement” with fifty days to be served on the weekends. Defendant was also ordered to perform one day of community service per month for the first three years of her sentence. On appeal, Defendant contends the trial court erred by denying her request for full probation. We conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Claiborne County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/14
Johnvonta Sain v. State of Tennessee
W2013-00214-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The Petitioner, Johnvonta Sain, pleaded nolo contendere to aggravated assault with an agreed upon sentence of four years, suspended upon time served. The Petitioner filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief on the basis that his plea was involuntary and that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the Petitioner relief. The Petitioner now appeals, maintaining that his guilty plea was involuntary and asserting that the post-conviction court should have recused itself in this matter. After a thorough review of the record, the briefs, and relevant  athorities, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/18/14
Carl Randle v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00136-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

A Madison County jury convicted the Petitioner, Carl Randle, of aggravated assault and attempted voluntary manslaughter. The trial court merged the convictions and ordered the Petitioner to serve six years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Petitioner appealed, and this Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court. State v. Carl Randle, No. W2011–02374–CCA–R3-CD, 2012 WL 3642730, at *11 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Aug. 27, 2012), no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 filed. The Petitioner filed a petition for postconviction relief, in which he alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective. The postconviction court dismissed the petition after a hearing, and the Petitioner appealed that dismissal. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the postconviction court’s judgment.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/18/14
Vincent Hunt v. State of Tennessee
W2012-01468-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Petitioner, Vincent Hunt, was convicted of first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping in Shelby County. On direct appeal, his convictions and sentences were affirmed. See State v. Vincent Hunt, No. W2009-00165-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 1407236, at *1-5 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Apr. 8, 2010), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. Sept. 23, 2012). Petitioner then sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel and that the trial court issued improper jury instructions at trial. The post-conviction court denied relief and Petitioner appeals. After a review of the record and applicable authorities, we determine that Petitioner failed to establish that he is entitled to post-conviction relief. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/18/14
State of Tennessee v. Christopher I. Thrasher
M2013-02495-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Leon C. Burns, Jr.

The Defendant, Christopher I. Thrasher, was convicted by an Overton County jury of delivery of oxycodone within 1000 feet of a school zone, and the trial court imposed a sentence of seventeen years for that conviction.  In this direct appeal, the Defendant alleges that the following errors were made at his trial: (1) that his motion to suppress should have been granted because he was under the influence of drugs at the time he waived his rights and gave his statement; (2) that the chain of custody regarding the pills was not sufficiently established; and (3) that enhancement of his sentencing term above the range minimum was improper.  After a thorough review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Overton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/18/14
State of Tennessee v. William Avery Crisp
M2013-01339-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert G. Crigler

The defendant, William Avery Crisp, pled guilty to one count of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”), a Class A misdemeanor; one count of vehicular homicide, a Class C felony; one count of vehicular homicide as a proximate result of intoxication, a Class B felony; one count of vehicular assault as a proximate result of intoxication, a Class D felony, and one count of a violation of the open container law, a Class C misdemeanor.  The defendant’s guilty pleas reserved four certified questions of law having to do with the trial court’s denial of his motions to suppress certain evidence.  He also appeals the trial court’s denial of alternative sentencing.  We conclude that the trial court properly determined that there was probable cause to believe the defendant was driving while intoxicated even if he passed the field sobriety tests administered by law enforcement.  The other certified questions are not dispositive of any of the defendant’s convictions, and the trial court did not err in sentencing.  Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/17/14