Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 03/03/2015
Format: 03/03/2015
State of Tennessee v. Lorenzo Malone
M2014-01316-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wooten, Jr.

Appellant, Lorenzo Malone, filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, which was summarily denied by the trial court.  Because Appellant has failed to state a colorable claim that his life sentence for first degree felony murder is illegal, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/15/15
State of Tennessee v. Jarrett Dunn
E2014-01946-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew M. Freiberg

The pro se appellant, Jarrett Dunn, appeals as of right from the McMinn County Criminal Court’s order denying his motion to correct illegal sentence. The State has filed a motion to affirm the trial court’s order pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we conclude that the State’s motion is well-taken and affirm the order of the trial court.

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/15
James Clark v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00514-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey Jr.

The Petitioner, James Clark, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis. The Petitioner contends that the trial court erred by summarily dismissing his petition for procedural defects and for failing to state a cognizable claim. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/15
Jefferson Lawton Freeman v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00605-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

The Petitioner, Jefferson Lawton Freeman, appeals as of right from the Henry County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by summarily dismissing his petition for having been untimely filed. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Henry County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/15
State of Tennessee v. James Richardson Reece
M2014-01000-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wooten, Jr.

The Appellant, James Richardson Reece, appeals the judgment of acquittal of aggravated assault and the trial judge’s findings of contempt of court.  The appeal of the judgment of acquittal is hereby dismissed and the findings of contempt are affirmed.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Devonta Amar Cunningham
M2012-02203-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Devonta Amar Cunningham, of first degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery, a Class A felony.  After a sentencing hearing, the appellant received an effective life sentence. Subsequently, he filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis.  On the same day, he filed a motion for new trial and for judgment of acquittal.  The petition and the motion were denied by the trial court.  On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his murder conviction and that the trial court erred by refusing to compel a witness to testify after the witness asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination; by refusing to admit a co-defendant’s prior statement as substantive evidence; by limiting his cross-examination of a State’s witness; by allowing evidence to be admitted in violation of the rules of discovery; and by denying his petition for a writ of error coram nobis.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Derek Horne
W2014-00333-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The defendant, Derek Horne, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of the latter. We affirm the convictions but remand for correction of clerical errors in one of the judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Johnny Frank Royston, Sr. - concurring opinion
E2014-00018-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.

CAMILLE R. MCMULLEN, J., concurring.
I respectfully concur in the majority opinion. I write separately because I would have concluded that there was no White error in instructing the jury. In my view, the trial court properly instructed the jury. I part with the reasoning of the majority because the issue raised by the Defendant- ppellant in his brief was as follows:

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Johnny Frank Royston, Sr.
E2014-00018-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.

The defendant, Johnny Frank Royston, Sr., was tried by a jury and convicted of attempted second degree murder, a Class B felony; two counts of aggravated rape, a Class A felony; especially aggravated kidnapping, a Class A felony; and aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony. The defendant was sentenced to an effective sentence of fifty years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the defendant challenges: (1) the sufficiency of the evidence, including the trial court’s instructions pursuant to State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559, 577 (Tenn. 2012); (2) an alleged amendment to or variance from the indictment; (3) the denial of his motion for a change of venue; (4) the “contamination” of certain evidence; (5) the trial court’s alleged limits on jury deliberations; (6) alleged prosecutorial misconduct in closing arguments; and (7) cumulative error. Having conducted a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the defendant is not entitled to relief, and we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Dylan M. Yacks
E2013-02187-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

The Defendant-Appellant, Dylan M. Yacks, entered a guilty plea to driving under the influence (DUI), see T.C.A. § 55-10-401 (1) (2012), in exchange for a 1 sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days, which was suspended after service of two days confinement. As a condition of his guilty plea, the Defendant-Appellant properly reserved a certified question of law challenging the constitutionality of the stop and subsequent arrest. Upon our review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and vacate the Defendant-Appellant’s convictions.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Terrence Lamont McDonald
E2013-02524-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Sword

Following a jury trial, Terrence Lamont McDonald (“the Defendant”) was convicted of four counts of aggravated rape and one count of reckless endangerment, as a lesser-included offense of aggravated assault. At a sentencing hearing, the trial court merged the Defendant’s convictions for aggravated rape in counts two and four into his aggravated rape convictions in counts one and three, respectively. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of 25 years in the Department of Correction. In this direct appeal, the Defendant raises claims that: 1) the State violated Batson by striking African-American potential jurors from the venire; 2) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct in closing argument; 3) the trial court erroneously admitted evidence under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b); 4) his convictions for two counts of aggravated rape violate principles of double jeopardy; 5) count five of the indictment fails to state an offense; 6) the Defendant’s conviction for reckless endangerment in count five violated his right to an unanimous verdict; and 7) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing  Following a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we discern no error and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/15
David Dewayne Smith v. State of Tennessee
E2013-02833-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway
Trial Court Judge: Judge Leon C. Burns

The Petitioner, David Dewayne Smith, was indicted along with three other individuals for first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder. Before trial, the State entered a nolle prosqeui as to the charges against one co-defendant and entered into a plea agreement with another. The trial proceeded against the Petitioner and the remaining codefendant. On the third day of trial, the State announced that it had entered into a plea agreement with the remaining co-defendant, and the co-defendant would testify against the Petitioner. Trial counsel made oral motions for a mistrial and a continuance, both of which were denied by the trial court. The Petitioner was convicted of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder, and this Court affirmed his conviction on appeal. The Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the petition was denied. On appeal, the Petitioner challenges the denial of post-conviction relief on 12 grounds. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Cumberland County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Skylar Matthew Gant
M2014-00500-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Defendant-Appellant, Skylar Matthew Gant, entered guilty pleas to two counts of the sale of .5 grams or more of crack cocaine, two counts of the delivery of .5 grams or more of crack cocaine, and one count of failure to appear, with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of the sentences.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court merged the alternative counts of the sale and delivery of crack cocaine and imposed two concurrent twelve-year sentences for the drug offenses.  For the felony failure to appear, the court imposed a four-year sentence to be served consecutively to the twelve-year sentences, for a total effective sentence of sixteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion in denying him an alternative sentence.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Cecilia Williams
W2013-02447-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Cecilia Williams, was convicted of three counts of assault and one count of resisting arrest. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to concurrent terms of 11 months and 29 days for each of the assaults and to a consecutive sentence of six months for resisting arrest. The court ordered split confinement for a period of six months and suspended the remainder of the Defendant’s sentence to supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that there was insufficient evidence to support her convictions. After reviewing the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/12/15
Alexa Williams a.k.a. Elizabeth Williams EL v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00312-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

Alexa Williams a.k.a. Elizabeth Williams El (“the Appellant”) was convicted by a jury of ten traffic offenses. In this direct appeal, the Appellant contends: (1) the judgments of conviction are not valid because bail was excessive; (2) the trial court improperly refused to allow the Appellant to have “counsel of her choice”; and (3) the trial court lacked jurisdiction. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we find the issues without merit and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/12/15
Abraham Mitchell v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00047-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Abraham Mitchell (“the Petitioner”) pleaded guilty to one count of vandalism over $10,000 and one count of attempted theft of property valued over $1,000 and was sentenced to four years as a Range I offender. In this appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief, the Petitioner argues that his plea was not entered voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently; that he was denied effective assistance of counsel; and that he was denied due process of law. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/12/15
State of Tennessee v. Romarcus Echols
W2013-01758-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

A jury convicted the Defendant, Romarcus Echols, of especially aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of 60 years. The sentences for especially aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated robbery, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony were ordered to be served consecutively with each other, but concurrently with his sentence for aggravated burglary. The Defendant raises three issues on direct appeal: (1) whether the trial court erred when it instructed the jury that especially aggravated kidnapping as charged in this case could be the predicate felony for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony; (2) whether there was sufficient evidence to support the Defendant’s conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping; and (3) whether the trial court abused its discretion by ordering consecutive sentences. Upon review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments for especially aggravated kidnapping, especially aggravated robbery, and aggravated burglary, but reverse the judgment for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/12/15
Martrell Holloway v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00836-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter Jr.

Petitioner, Martrell Holloway, appeals the summary dismissal of his second petition for postconviction relief, which was filed during the statute of limitations period but after he previously withdrew his first petition before an evidentiary hearing was held. The postconviction court concluded that petitioner had waived the claims because they were the same as those contained in the first petition. In its brief, the State conceded that the postconviction court committed reversible error in doing so. Following our review, we conclude that the doctrine of waiver does not preclude petitioner from seeking post-conviction relief in this subsequent petition and reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/09/15
State of Tennessee v. Antoine Cardet Smith
M2013-01891-CA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

Defendant, Antoine Cardet Smith, was indicted by the Montgomery County grand jury for one count of aggravated robbery.  A jury found Defendant guilty of the charged offense, and the trial court sentenced Defendant to serve 11 years and six months in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  Defendant appeals his conviction and asserts that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence of his identification resulting from a photographic lineup and evidence of a DNA comparison; that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; and that the trial court erred by denying his motion for new trial based on the comments of a prospective juror during voir dire.  Having carefully reviewed the record before us, we find no error and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/09/15
State of Tennessee v. William Edward Arnold, Jr.
M2014-00075-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Defendant, William Edward Arnold, Jr., was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury for three counts of aggravated sexual battery and three counts of rape of a child for acts that took place while Defendant was a mentor for the victim through Big Brothers Big Sisters.  Prior to trial, Defendant sought to introduce evidence of the victim’s prior sexual knowledge pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 412.  The trial court granted the motion in part but prohibited the introduction of any extrinsic evidence at trial.  At the conclusion of the proof at trial, the trial court granted a motion for judgment of acquittal on two counts of aggravated sexual battery, finding them “impossible” under the facts as presented to the jury.  The jury convicted Defendant of the remaining charges: one count of aggravated sexual battery and three counts of rape of a child.  The trial court denied the motion for new trial and sentenced Defendant to an effective sentence of twenty-five years.  On appeal, Defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of the motion for judgment of acquittal as to the counts for which he was found guilty, the denial of the motion for new trial, and the trial court’s ruling on the admissibility of evidence under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 412.  After a thorough review of the record, the applicable authorities, and the issues, we determine the evidence is sufficient to support the convictions, and the trial court properly denied the motion for judgment of acquittal.  Further, we determine that the trial court properly determined that specific instances of conduct of prior sexual behavior of the victim were not admissible under Rule 412(c)(4).  Additionally, we agree with the trial court’s determination that due process permitted the victim to be subject to cross-examination, limited by Tennessee Rule of Evidence 608.  Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/15
State of Tennessee v. William Darelle Smith
M2014-00059-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

A jury convicted the defendant, William Darelle Smith, of first degree (premeditated) murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison. On appeal, this court affirmed the denial of the motion for a new trial.  The defendant appealed a single issue to the Tennessee Supreme Court: that his right to an impartial jury was compromised because the trial court did not hold a hearing after the discovery, during jury deliberations, that a juror was not only acquainted with one of the State’s witnesses but had sent the witness a communication through Facebook complimenting her on her testimony.  The Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that the trial court had erred in refusing to hold a hearing and remanded the case.  After a hearing during which the juror and the witness testified regarding the nature of both their relationship and the communication, the trial court again denied the defendant a new trial.  The defendant appeals.  We conclude that the State sufficiently rebutted any presumption of prejudice raised by the juror’s extrajudicial communication or by his concealment of his acquaintance with the witness, and accordingly we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/15
Alvin Malone v. State of Tennessee
W2013-01682-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula Skahan

Petitioner, Alvin Malone, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of two counts of first degree felony murder, one count of first degree premeditated murder, and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping. The first degree murder conviction merged with one of the felony murder convictions, and Petitioner was sentenced to two life sentences and two twenty-year sentences, all running consecutively. This Court affirmed Petitioner’s convictions and sentences on direct appeal. State v. Alvin Malone, No. W2007-01119-CCA-R3-CD, 2008 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 813, at *73-74 (Oct. 2, 2008), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 23, 2009). Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel both at trial and on direct appeal. After several evidentiary hearings over an extended period of time, the post-conviction court granted relief in part and denied it in part. As it relates to this appeal, the post-conviction court found that Petitioner had not established deficient performance as to trial counsel’s failure to call two proposed alibi witnesses. The post-conviction court held that Petitioner was not entitled to relief from his convictions. However, the post-conviction court found that Petitioner was prejudiced by both trial and appellate counsel’s failure to object to or raise on appeal the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentences based on the dangerous offender category without making the requisite findings under State v. Wilkerson, 905 S.W.2d 933 (Tenn. 1995). The post-conviction court granted relief in the form of a new sentencing hearing solely on the issue of consecutive sentences. Both the State and Petitioner appealed. Upon our review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s decision on the issue of the alibi witnesses. However, we find that Petitioner has failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that he was prejudiced by trial and appellate counsel’s failure to raise the Wilkerson issue. Therefore, we reverse the post-conviction court’s judgment on that matter and reinstate Petitioner’s sentences as they were originally ordered by the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/15
Jeffery Yates v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00325-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter Jr.

The Appellant, Jeffery Yates, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Appellant contends that the trial court erred in summarily denying his motion because his motion stated a colorable claim for relief. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/15
State of Tennessee v. Darius Jones
W2013-02010-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Defendant, Darius Jones, was convicted by a jury of second degree murder, first degree felony murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, reckless endangerment, and two counts of aggravated kidnapping. The jury sentenced the Defendant to life with the possibility of parole on the first degree felony murder charge. Following the jury’s sentence, the trial court merged the second degree murder conviction into the first degree felony murder conviction. The trial court then sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of forty-nine years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days on the remaining counts, to run consecutively to the life sentence. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence underlying his convictions for second degree murder, first degree felony murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, and both counts of aggravated kidnapping. Because we hold that the evidence is sufficient to sustain the Defendant’s convictions on all counts, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/15
State of Tennessee v. Cedric Taylor
W2014-00329-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter Jr.

Appellant, Cedric Taylor, was convicted of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony; aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony, for which he received an effective sentence of eleven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In this appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence underlying his convictions. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/15