Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/19/2014
Format: 09/19/2014
State of Tennessee v. Andre Wilson
W2013-02012-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Defendant, Andre Wilson, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of aggravated robbery and felony reckless endangerment, for which he received an effective sentence of twelve years’ incarceration. The sole issue presented for our review is whether the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction of felony reckless endangerment. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/14
State of Tennessee v. Frank Kendale Sparkman, Jr.
M2012-02381-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy Easter

The appellant, Frank Kendale Sparkman, Jr., pled guilty in the Lewis County Circuit Court to selling one-half gram or more of cocaine, a Class B felony, and possession of less than one-half gram of cocaine, a Class C felony, and received an effective eleven-year sentence to be served on supervised probation.  On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by revoking his probation and ordering that he serve his effective sentence in confinement.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lewis County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/14
State of Tennessee v. Bill Shannon Wilson
E2013-02551-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

A Campbell County jury found the Defendant, Bill Shannon Wilson, guilty of two counts of rape of a child. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to concurrent twenty-year sentences for the convictions. The Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it: (1) denied the Defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal because the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; (2) denied the Defendant’s motion for new trial in light of newly discovered evidence; (3) denied the Defendant’s motion for new trial based upon an “insufficient” indictment; and (4) allowed the State to call a rebuttal witness for the sole purpose of proving collateral matters by extrinsic evidence. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/18/14
Gary Lilley v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02779-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Petitioner, Gary Lilley, pleaded guilty to first degree premeditated murder, and the trial court imposed a life sentence. The Petitioner filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief almost two years after pleading guilty, which the post-conviction court summarily dismissed. After a thorough review of the record, the briefs, and relevant authorities, we affirm the postconviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/14
Sonny Lyles v. Jerry Lester, Warden
W2014-00392-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker III

In 2011, the Petitioner, Sonny Lyles, pleaded guilty to multiple charges and received an effective sentence of twelve years and six months at 100%. In accordance with the plea agreement, this sentence was ordered to be served concurrently with a sentence in Arkansas. On February 18, 2014, the Petitioner filed a petition for habeas corpus relief in which he alleged that the 2011 judgments were void. He argued that because the state of Arkansas granted him an early release and he was transferred to Tennessee, his Tennessee sentence was now “consecutive” to his Arkansas sentence, which was not contemplated by the plea agreement. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the Petitioner’s petition. We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/14
Michael John Stitts v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02550-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan Jr.

A Madison County jury convicted the Petitioner, Michael John Stitts, of theft of property valued between $1,000 and $10,000. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to serve six years in confinement. On direct appeal, this Court affirmed the Petitioner’s conviction and sentence. State v. Michael John Stitts, W2011-02673-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 257069, at *8 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Jan. 23, 2013), no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application filed. The Petitioner filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief, claiming that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the Petitioner relief. The Petitioner appeals this denial, maintaining that his attorney was ineffective. After a thorough review of the record, the briefs, and relevant authorities, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/14
Devaron Taylor v. State of Tennessee
W2013-01588-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey Jr.

The petitioner, Devaron Taylor, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received effective assistance of counsel. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/14
Tyree Robinson v. State of Tennessee
W2013-00848-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula Skahan

The petitioner was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment and twenty years, to be served consecutively. He filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief, asserting that trial counsel was ineffective in dealing with a State’s witness; in not objecting to certain parts of the State’s closing argument; and in failing to conduct a proper investigation. The post-conviction court found that each claim was without merit, and, following our review, we conclude that the record supports that determination. Accordingly, we affirm the order of the post-conviction court denying relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/14
State of Tennessee v. Ricky Allen Hickman
M2013-02390-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee Russell

A Marshall County jury convicted the Defendant, Ricky Allen Hickman, of one count of rape of a child and three counts of aggravated sexual battery.  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to serve thirty-five years for the rape of a child conviction and twelve years for each of the aggravated sexual battery convictions.  The trial court ordered partial consecutive sentencing, for a total effective sentence of forty-seven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for rape of a child; and (2) his sentence is excessive and contrary to law.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/14
Christopher M. Collin v. James M. Holloway, Warden
M2014-00176-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

The Petitioner, Christopher M. Collin, appeals as of right from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. The Petitioner contends that his judgments of conviction were void because they improperly subjected him to community supervision for life. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/14
Blain Steven Covert v. State of Tennessee - separate dissenting opinion
E2013-02531-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

I would affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court and therefore respectfully
dissent from the majority opinion.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/14
Blain Steven Covert v. State of Tennessee
E2013-02531-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Joseph M. Tipton
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The State appeals the Campbell County Circuit Court’s grant of post-conviction relief from the Petitioner’s convictions for aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and sexual exploitation of a minor and his effective ten-year sentence. The State contends that the trial court erred by granting the Petitioner relief because he failed to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We have reviewed the trial court’s decision granting post-conviction relief and conclude that the Petitioner failed to show that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/14
Donna Leigh Pearson v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02539-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

The petitioner, Donna Leigh Pearson, appeals the summary dismissal of her amended petition for post-conviction relief.  Because the post-conviction court erred by summarily dismissing the amended petition as conceded by the State, the case is remanded to that court for an evidentiary hearing solely on the issue of counsel’s handling of the delayed direct appeal.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/15/14
DENNIS CEDRIC WOODARD, JR. v. STATE OF TENNESSEE
M2013-01857-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Crigler

The petitioner, Dennis Cedric Woodard, Jr., appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief and/or petition for writ of error coram nobis as untimely.  He asserts that the statute of limitations should be tolled in the interest of justice because he did not learn until well after its expiration that his trial counsel simultaneously represented one of the witnesses against him, Henry Young, without his knowledge.  After review, we reverse the summary dismissal and remand for an evidentiary hearing.   
 

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/15/14
State of Tennessee v. Letalvis Darnell Cobbins
E2013-00476-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter C. Kurtz

For his involvement in the January 2007 murders of the victims C.N. and C.C.,1 appellant, Letalvis Darnell Cobbins, was found guilty of multiple counts of first degree murder, facilitation of first degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, especially aggravated kidnapping, facilitation of especially aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated rape, for which he received an effective sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole plus one hundred years. He appeals his convictions and sentences on the following grounds: (1) whether misconduct of the trial judge constituted structural constitutional error; (2) whether the trial court erred in denying appellant’s motion for change of venue; (3) whether the trial court erred in admitting certain photographs; (4) whether the trial court erred in denying appellant’s motion to continue; (5) whether the trial court erred in allowing testimony concerning a firearm that appellant had possessed prior to the offense date; (6) whether the trial court erred in allowing family members to wear buttons with the victims’ likenesses; and (7) whether the trial court erred in imposing an effective sentence of one hundred years to be served consecutively to his sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. We have thoroughly reviewed the record in this case and discern no error. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/12/14
Thomas Edward Kotewa v. State of Tennessee - Concur
E2014-00430-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

JAMES CURWOOD WITT, JR., J., concurring. I write separately in concurring with the majority because some aspects of the case are worth explaining futher. In assessing whether the petitioner has framed a case for a due process tolling of the coram nobis statute of limitations, we see that the petition, even as amended by counsel, does not specify when and by what means the petitioner discovered the claim of affiant John D. Carter that, during the investigation of the homicide, Mr. Carter gave a statement to police that would have supported a claim of self-defense. Thus, the state of the record does not enable this court to discern whether the application of the statute of limitations afforded the petitioner a “‘reasonable opportunity to assert a claim in a meaningful time and manner,’” Workman v. State, 41 S.W.3d 100, 102 (Tenn. 2001) (quoting Seals v. State, 23 S.W.3d 272, 279 (Tenn. 2000)), or if it did not, whether the petitioner’s “‘reasonable opportunity after the expiration of the limitations period to present his claim in a meaningful time and manner’” expired before he filed the petition, Workman, 41 S.W.3d at 103-04 (quoting Williams v. State, 44 S.W.3d 464 (Tenn. 2001)). In other words, we cannot tell, despite the petitioner’s conclusory allegations, whether the delay of approximately five years in filing a timely petition for writ of error coram nobis is essentially reasonable.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/11/14
Thomas Edward Kotewa v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00430-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

In 2006, the Petitioner, Thomas Edward Kotewa, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. See Thomas E. Kotewa v. State, No. E2007-02193-CCA-R3-PC, 2009 WL 1635177, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Knoxville, June 11, 2009), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 19, 2009). For this conviction, the trial court sentenced the Petitioner to serve an agreed-upon sentence of fifteen years. In February 2012, the Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis alleging that he had discovered new evidence. The State filed a response to the petition requesting the trial court dismiss the petition on the basis that, among other things, it was untimely filed. The trial court agreed, and it dismissed the petition, finding that the petition was untimely filed. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that the trial court erred when it dismissed his petition. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/11/14
State of Tennessee v. Heather Lee Lane
E2013-01855-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

Defendant, Heather Lee Lane, pleaded guilty to violation of a habitual traffic offender order, a Class E felony, with an agreed upon sentence of two years as a Range II multiple offender with the trial court to determine manner of service of the sentence. The trial court ordered Defendant to serve her two-year sentence in confinement. On appeal, Defendant contends the trial court erred by denying her alternative sentencing. We conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/10/14
State of Tennessee v. Terrance McCracken
W2013-01396-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey Jr.

Appellant was convicted of rape, a Class B felony, and sentenced to nine years in confinement. On appeal, appellant argues (1) that the trial court erred by failing to grant his motion to suppress because there was an unreasonable delay in the judicial determination of probable cause; (2) that the trial erred by failing to grant his motion to suppress because his statements to police were involuntary; and (3) that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. Following our review of the parties’ briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/10/14
Jack T. Jones v. State of Tennessee
M013-00863-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The Petitioner, Jack T. Jones, appeals from the summary dismissal of his “Motion to Reopen Post-Conviction Petition,” seeking relief from his four 2007 convictions for aggravated sexual battery.  In his pleading, the Petitioner argued that the Sentencing Reform Act of 1989 is unconstitutional in violation of the separation of powers doctrine and, therefore, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to accept his guilty pleas and impose sentence.  The post-conviction court treated the pleading as a petition for post-conviction relief and dismissed it as untimely. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the statute of limitations should be tolled because trial counsel  “should have known that the 1989 [A]ct was declared unconstitutional” and, thus, he provided ineffective assistance.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
 

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/10/14
State of Tennessee v. Frederic A. Crosby
W2013-02610-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge William B. Acree

Appellant, Frederic A. Crosby, stands convicted of possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to deliver, a Class B felony, and simple possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor. The trial court sentenced appellant to twelve years for his cocaine conviction and eleven months, twenty-nine days for his marijuana conviction, to be served concurrently. On appeal, appellant argues that: (1) the trial court erred by failing to grant his motion to suppress because the arresting officer did not have probable cause to search him; (2) that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to deliver; and (3) that the trial court erred by imposing the maximum sentence within appellant’s sentencing range for his conviction for possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to deliver. Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Weakley County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/09/14
State of Tennessee v. Tan Vo
W2013-02118-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula Skahan

The Defendant, Tan Vo, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of sexual battery and incest. The trial court imposed concurrent sentences of two years and six years for the sexual battery and incest convictions, respectively, to be served in the county workhouse. The sole issue presented for our review is whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying the Defendant’s request for probation and imposing an effective sentence of six years to be served in the county workhouse. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/09/14
State of Tennessee v. Allen Lebron Tucker
E2013-02727-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

A Hamilton County jury found the Defendant, Allen Lebron Tucker, guilty of possession with intent to sell one-half gram or more of cocaine. The trial court ordered the Defendant to serve a fifteen-year sentence for this conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the execution of a search warrant and when it excluded evidence of his girlfriend’s prior drug conviction. After a thorough review of the record and relevant law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/09/14
State of Tennessee v. Michael L. Hufford
E2012-02162-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery

In his first trial, appellant, Michael L. Hufford, was convicted of eleven counts of harassment involving two victims. He was convicted in a second trial of driving with a suspended or revoked license, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Appellant represented himself during the first trial. However, on the morning of the second trial, he indicated a desire to have the trial continued so he could retain counsel. The trial court assented but conditioned the continuance upon raising appellant’s bond. Appellant withdrew his request for a continuance, proceeded to trial, and was found guilty on all counts. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of seven consecutive terms of eleven months, twentynine days at seventy-five percent release eligibility with three terms to serve and four to be suspended to probation. Appellant raises the following issues in this direct appeal: (1) whether appellant’s waiver of his right to counsel was valid; (2) whether the trial court prohibited appellant from presenting legal issues to the jury; (3) whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain appellant’s convictions for harassment; and (4) whether the trial court erred in sentencing him. Following our review, we affirm the judgments and sentences for the eleven counts of harassment for which he is incarcerated. However, because appellant’s right to counsel was violated in the second trial, we must reverse appellant’s convictions for driving with a suspended or revoked license, possession of marijuana, and possession of drug paraphernalia and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/08/14
Franklin D. Fish v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00385-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Earl Durham

The petitioner, Franklin D. Fish, pro se, appeals the Wilson County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief for failure to state a colorable claim.  The State concedes that summary dismissal was erroneous.  Upon our review, we reverse the decision of the post-conviction court and remand for proceedings consistent with the Post-Conviction Procedure Act.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/08/14