Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/13/2019
Format: 12/13/2019
State of Tennessee v. Buford Trammell
E2018-00382-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Buford Trammell, of six counts of rape, three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, one count of solicitation of a minor, one count of casual exchange of a controlled substance, and one count of sexual battery by an authority figure. After merging the appropriate convictions, the trial court ordered an effective sentence of twenty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that there is insufficient evidence to sustain the jury’s verdict and that the trial court erred when it imposed consecutive sentences. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Cory Lamont Batey
M2017-02440-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Cory Lamont Batey, of one count of aggravated rape, a Class A felony; two counts of attempted aggravated rape, a Class B felony; one count of facilitation of aggravated rape, a Class B felony; and three counts of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony. After a sentencing hearing, he received a fifteen-year sentence to be served at one hundred percent for the aggravated rape conviction and concurrent eight-year sentences for the remaining convictions for a total effective sentence of fifteen years. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court improperly instructed the jury on the mens rea for the offenses and erred by instructing the jury that voluntary intoxication was not a defense to aggravated rape; that the trial court erred by failing to dismiss the superseding indictment because it violated double jeopardy; that the trial court improperly admitted hearsay evidence regarding a codefendant’s statements and conduct; and that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions. The State argues that the trial court erred during sentencing by considering ex parte letters and emails written on the Appellant’s behalf and requests that this court remand the case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing. We conclude that the State should not have issued a superseding indictment charging the Appellant with aggravated rape in count four but that plain error does not require a retrial on that count. Accordingly, finding no reversible error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Kelley Hufford
M2018-01823-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

A jury convicted the Defendant, Kelley Hufford, of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, three counts of aggravated kidnapping, and tampering with evidence for the abduction and homicide of her boyfriend. On appeal, the Defendant raises only a challenge to the territorial jurisdiction of the court, alleging that the evidence did not establish that the crimes occurred in Tennessee. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence established that the trial court had territorial jurisdiction, and we affirm the convictions, remanding for merger of the kidnapping offenses.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/19
State of Tennessee v. Brijesh Mukesh Desai
M2018-01810-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

After a trial, a Davidson County jury found Defendant, Brijesh Mukesh Desai, guilty of theft of services valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000. The trial court sentenced Defendant as a Range I standard offender to four years in the Tennessee Department of Correction with a release eligibility of thirty percent. On appeal, Defendant argues that his conviction violates his constitutional right not to be imprisoned for a civil debt, that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction, that the indictment was fatally flawed, and that the trial court improperly admitted evidence at trial. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Jonathan Blake Hart
W2018-02123-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

A Henderson County jury convicted the Defendant, Jonathan Blake Hart, of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court sentenced him to fifty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it: (1) barred his father from testifying; (2) denied his motion to exclude the medical expert’s conclusion that child sexual abuse had occurred; (3) admitted drawings from the forensic interview; and (4) limited his cross-examination of an investigator. The Defendant also contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that his motion for new trial should have been granted on these same grounds. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/19
State of Tennessee v. Becky Jo Burlison
M2019-00148-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

In June 2015, a Davidson County Criminal Court jury convicted the Defendant, Becky Jo Burlison, of two counts of aggravated rape of a child, one count of aggravated child abuse, and one count of aggravated child neglect. Later, the trial court granted the Defendant’s motion for new trial on grounds that she had been deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Prior to the new trial, the Defendant provided notice that she intended to offer expert testimony of her diminished capacity at the time of the offenses. The State moved to exclude the testimony, arguing that the testimony was not admissible because it did not satisfy the requirements established in State v. Hall, 958 S.W.2d 679 (Tenn. 1997). Following a hearing, the trial court denied the State’s motion and deemed the testimony admissible. The trial court and this court granted the State’s application for permission to appeal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 9. In this interlocutory appeal, the State challenges the trial court’s denial of its motion to exclude expert testimony regarding the Defendant’s mental state at the time of the alleged offenses, reiterating the claim that the evidence does not satisfy the requirements for admission. Because we agree that the proffered evidence does not satisfy the requirements for admission established by Hall and its progeny, we reverse the ruling of the trial court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/19
Roy Anthony Haley v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00976-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

The Petitioner, Roy Anthony Haley, was convicted of theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000, and he was sentenced as a Range III, persistent offender to fifteen years in confinement. Subsequently, he filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied the petition. The Petitioner appeals, contending that he was denied due process at his post-conviction hearing because he was not afforded the opportunity to call critical witnesses and because the post-conviction court was so biased and prejudiced toward him as to render the hearing unfair. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/19
State of Tennessee v. Kayla Danielle Skillern
M2018-01718-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

The Defendant, Kayla Danielle Skillern, was convicted by a Wayne County Circuit Court jury of the sale of 0.5 gram or more of methamphetamine. See T.C.A. § 39-17-434 (2018). She received a sentence of ten and one-half years’ confinement. On appeal, she contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support her conviction, (2) the trial court erred in denying her motions for a judgment of acquittal, and (3) the trial court erred in admitting video evidence depicting the Defendant arguing with her codefendant in front of a child. We affirm the Defendant’s conviction but remand the case to the trial court for the entry of a corrected judgment.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/19
Tommy Leroy Bryant v. State of Tennessee
M2018-02151-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

The Petitioner, Tommy Leroy Bryant, appeals from the Marshall County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his three rape of a child convictions, for which he is serving a twenty-five-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/19
State of Tennessee v. Adarion C. Morris
M2018-02034-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The defendant, Adarion C. Morris, appeals the 48-year sentence imposed following the revocation of his community corrections placement, arguing that the trial court was without jurisdiction to impose the new sentence and that the sentence is excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm the revocation of the defendant’s community corrections placement and the sentences imposed following the resentencing.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/19
State of Tennessee v. Joan Odell
W2018-01341-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The Defendant, Joan Odell, appeals from her felony conviction for failure to appear, which resulted in a sentence of two years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support her conviction and challenges the jury instructions. She also contends that the State engaged in purposeful discrimination in striking a prospective juror in violation of Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986). We conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction and that there was no reversible error in the instructions. However, the trial court failed to comply with the procedure set forth in Batson by denying the Defendant’s Batson claim based upon the Defendant’s race, and we remand for a hearing on the issue.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/03/19
Danny Santarone v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01312-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

Petitioner, Danny Santarone, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner argues (1) that he was wrongfully convicted based on the fruits of an unconstitutional search and (2) that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. Following a review of the briefs and the record, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/02/19
Nathaniel P. Carson v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00042-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Petitioner, Nathaniel P. Carson, appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis in which he challenged his 2010 convictions of two counts of first degree felony murder and two counts of especially aggravated robbery. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/02/19
Petr Pompa v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00075-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Petitioner, Petr Pompa, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief from his convictions of two counts of sexual battery by an authority figure and two counts of statutory rape by an authority figure. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to: 1) raise in the motion for new trial the admissibility of opinion testimony from a school resource officer; 2) raise in the motion for new trial the admissibility of character testimony provided by a school counselor; and 3) object to the prosecutor’s statements during closing argument. Following a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/02/19
James Holmes v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01709-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

Petitioner, James Holmes, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner argues that he was denied effective assistance of counsel because his attorneys failed to adequately prepare for Petitioner’s trial and because there was a breakdown in communication between Petitioner and his attorneys. Following a review of the briefs and record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/27/19
State of Tennessee v. Dana Ray Davison
W2018-00968-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

A McNairy County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Dana Ray Davison, of attempted voluntary manslaughter; employing a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony; employing a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony while having a prior felony conviction; aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; felony reckless endangerment; possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony drug offense; criminal trespass of a habitation; and the intentional killing of an animal. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court merged the two convictions of employing a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony and ordered that the Appellant serve a total effective twenty-year sentence for all of the convictions. Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-1324(h)(2), the twenty-year sentence included a mandatory ten-year sentence to be served at one hundred percent for employing a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony while having a prior felony conviction. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the sentencing provisions of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-1324 violate the principles of due process because they lack definiteness and specificity. The State contends that the trial court erred by not sentencing the Appellant for both convictions of employing a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony before merging the convictions. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

McNairy County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/27/19
State of Tennessee v. Tommie Taylor
W2018-02269-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The defendant, Tommie Taylor, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction, arguing the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant was the person who shot the victim. After our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
Barry Leon Ferguson v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00134-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The petitioner, Barry Leon Ferguson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective the assistance of counsel prior to and during his guilty plea hearing. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Jamal Bowens
W2019-00253-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

The defendant, Jamal Bowens, appeals from the entry of an order denying his motion to suspend the remainder of his sentence pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 40-35-306(c). The defendant pleaded guilty to robbery and aggravated assault, both Class C felonies, for which he received a total effective sentence of six years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In denying the defendant’s motion, the trial court found the defendant was not a suitable candidate for probation. Following our review of the record, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
Antonio Richardson v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00368-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The petitioner, Antonio Richardson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial. The petitioner also challenges the constitutionality of Rule 13 of the Tennessee Supreme Court Rules, claiming the post-conviction court erred in its adherence to the same. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition and the post-conviction court’s application of Rule 13.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
Carl J. Wagner v. State of Tennessee
M2018-02000-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The pro se Petitioner, Carl J. Wagner, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction DNA analysis and the dismissal of his Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 motion to correct/relieve him of his judgments of conviction. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
Donald Peden v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01670-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The petitioner, Donald Peden, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his convictions of attempted first degree murder and theft of property valued at $500 or less, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Because the petitioner’s post-conviction counsel also represented the petitioner on direct appeal, we remand to the post-conviction court to determine whether the petitioner knowingly and voluntarily agrees to waive post-conviction counsel’s conflict of interest.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Ketorrence Eugene Rollins
M2018-02150-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The defendant, Ketorrence Eugene Rollins, appeals his Davidson County Criminal Court jury convictions of two counts of aggravated robbery, arguing that the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to sustain his convictions. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/19
Hubert Glenn Sexton, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01864-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The petitioner, Hubert Glenn Sexton, Jr., appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, in which the petitioner challenged his conviction for two counts of first degree murder, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we conclude the petitioner was denied his constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury and received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court, vacate the petitioner’s convictions, and remand the case to the trial court for a new trial.

Scott County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/25/19
Chad Ray Thompson v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01074-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

The Petitioner, Chad Ray Thompson, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury convictions for first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and facilitation of especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance at trial due to trial counsel’s (1) failure to seek funding for an investigator and adequately prepare for trial; (2) failure to call certain witnesses; and (3) failure to file any pretrial motions or object at trial to exclude evidence. He also submits that the cumulative effect of these errors deprived him of a fair trial. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/25/19