Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 10/21/2017
Format: 10/21/2017
State of Tennessee v. Michael Smith
W2016-01513-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The pro se defendant, Michael Smith, appeals the summary denial of his motion to correct clerical errors on the face of an order suspending a forty-month sentence for a felony escape conviction. The defendant argues the trial court actually resentenced him to one year, time served, and the order did not accurately reflect this ruling. The defendant further argues the trial court should have entered an amended judgment reflecting the resentencing. On review, we conclude the record is insufficient to support the defendant’s arguments and affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/17
State of Tennessee v. James Mark Thornton
E2016-01022-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ben W. Hooper, II

The State appeals as of right from the Cocke County Circuit Court’s grant of the Defendant’s, James Mark Thornton’s Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The State contends that the trial court erred because the challenged sentence was not illegal. We agree with the State and dismiss the Defendant’s Rule 36.1 motion.

Cocke County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/17
Anzar McFarland v. State of Tennessee and Randy Lee, Warden
E2017-00212-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa N. Rice

The Petitioner, Anzar McFarland, appeals as of right from the Johnson County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. He claims entitlement to habeas corpus relief, alleging that his judgment of conviction for class A felony rape of a child was void because he was not granted pretrial jail credit. Following our review, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s summary dismissal of the petition.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/17
State of Tennessee v. Robert Lamar Kelley
M2016-01425-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane

Following the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress, the Defendant-Appellant, Robert Lamar Kelley, entered a guilty plea in the Wilson County Criminal Court to the charged offense of possession of more than ten pounds of marijuana, a Class D felony, for which he received a sentence of four years, with service of six months in confinement and the remainder on supervised probation. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-417(a)(4), (g)(2). As a condition of his guilty plea, Kelley properly reserved two certified questions of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) regarding the stop and search of his vehicle. After reviewing the record, we find no error in the denial of the motion to suppress and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/17
State of Tennessee v. Edward Joseph Benesch, II
M2015-02124-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

The Defendant, Edward Joseph Benesch II, stands convicted by a Dickson County jury of aggravated child neglect and voluntary manslaughter, for which the trial court sentenced him to an effective term of eighteen years’ incarceration. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant raises the following allegations of error: (1) that the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress his statement to police after he first requested an attorney and that request did not need clarification in the Defendant’s opinion; (2) that the evidence was insufficient to support the Defendant’s convictions because he did not intentionally neglect the victim and because the element of adequate provocation was absent; (3) that the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted photographs of the victim taken at the crime scene and during the victim’s autopsy given their gruesome nature; (4) that trial court erred by allowing a paramedic to testify as an expert about the “significance of the force” that caused the victim’s injuries; (5) that it was improper for the trial court to allow two witnesses, Shannon Edmonson and Shara Tisdale, to testify about the Defendant’s alleged drug usage and drugs being found in his home; (6) that the trial court should not have allowed testimony from the Defendant’s next-door neighbor that bore “no indicia of reliability and was completely unverifiable”; (7) that the trial court’s refusal to allow the Defendant’s “mitigation expert” to testify regarding how the Defendant told her he fell on the victim violated the Defendant’s constitutional right to present a defense; and (8) that the trial court erred when it allowed the State to play, as a prior inconsistent statement, the video recording of Judith Lane’s interview with law enforcement. Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we must conclude that the evidence was insufficient to support the Defendant’s conviction for voluntary manslaughter because the Defendant was not adequately provoked by the eighteen-month-old victim, and therefore, that conviction is reversed and vacated. However, because the proof is sufficient to support the lesser-included offense of reckless homicide, we remand this matter to the trial court for entry of an amended judgment reflecting a reckless homicide conviction and imposition of a consecutive, four-year sentence for that conviction. The Defendant’s remaining issues do not entitle him to relief, and his conviction for aggravated child neglect is affirmed. Accordingly, the trial court’s judgments are affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Kalpesh Patel and Patikkumar v. Patel
M2016-00460-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Defendants, Kalpesh Patel and Pratikkumar V. Patel, were each convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, a Class A felony, and one count of solicitation to commit first degree murder, a Class B felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-102, -103, -107. The trial court merged the solicitation convictions into the conspiracy convictions and sentenced each Defendant to fifteen years as Range I, standard offenders. On appeal, the Defendants raise the following issues: (1) both Defendants contend that the evidence was insufficient to sustain their convictions for conspiracy to commit first degree murder; (2) both Defendants contend that the trial court erred in denying their motions to suppress evidence retrieved during warrantless searches of their cell phones; (3) Defendant Kalpesh contends that the trial court erred by not sentencing him as an especially mitigated offender; (4) Defendant Kalpesh contends that a new trial is warranted based on newly discovered evidence impeaching the State’s primary witness; (5) Defendant Pratikkumar contends that the State withheld exculpatory evidence; and (6) Defendant Pratikkumar contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel from his trial counsel. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/17
State of Tennessee v. James W. Burton
M2016-01190-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton
A Fentress County jury convicted the Defendant of perjury, and the trial court sentenced him to serve eleven months and twenty-nine days on supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support the jury’s verdict against the Defendant for perjury. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.
 
Fentress County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Corey E. Huddleston
M2017-00029-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Wallace

Defendant, Corey E. Huddleston, pleaded no contest to sexual battery on February 8, 2016. As a result of the no contest plea, he was sentenced to one year of incarceration and placed on the sex offender registry. Defendant sought to withdraw his no contest plea, and the trial court denied the motion. Defendant appeals the denial of his motion to withdraw his plea. We affirm the trial court’s decision.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/17
Steven Woodrow Johnson v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02363-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Fishburn
A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Steven Woodrow Johnson, of first degree felony murder, especially aggravated burglary, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of life in prison. This court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions on appeal, save the especially aggravated burglary conviction, which we modified to aggravated burglary. State v. Steven Woodrow Johnson, M2011-00859-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 3877787, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Sept. 7, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Feb. 13, 2013). In 2013, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court held a hearing on the petition and denied relief. On appeal, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.
 
Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Edward Nolan Lee Thomas
M2017-00040-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.
The Defendant, Edward Nolan Lee Thomas, pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and theft of property valued at less than $500. By agreement, the Defendant’s sentence was four years for the burglary conviction, concurrent with a sentence of eleven months, twenty-nine days for the theft conviction, with the trial court to determine the manner of service. The trial court subsequently ordered the Defendant to serve the sentences in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied him judicial diversion and imposed a sentence of continuous confinement. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.
 
Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/17
Anthony T. Brandon v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00080-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Petitioner, Anthony T. Brandon, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for possession with intent to sell .5 grams or more of cocaine and simple possession of marijuana. Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon our review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we determine that Petitioner has waived his claim for failing to present an adequate argument in his appellate brief. Waiver notwithstanding, we also determine that Petitioner failed to prove his claim by clear and convincing evidence. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Danielle Chandria Jensen
M2016-01553-CCA-R10-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

Following the trial court’s denial of an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Rule 9 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, the State sought and was granted permission for an extraordinary appeal pursuant to Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. In this appeal, the State argues that the trial court erroneously dismissed a burglary count in a superseding indictment against the Defendant, Danielle Chandria Jensen, who had previously been charged with theft of property valued at $500 or less, assault, and criminal trespass involving the same conduct. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-101(a)(1), 39-14-103, -105(a)(1), -402(a)(3), -405 (Supp. 2014). We affirm the judgment of the trial court dismissing the burglary count.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/17
State of Tennessee v. William Christopher Davis
E2016-02132-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

Upon the request of the Department of Safety, the State filed a petition to declare William Christopher Davis, the Defendant, a “habitual offender” pursuant to Motor Vehicle Habitual Offenders Act (“the MVHO Act”). The trial court dismissed the petition after concluding that the MVHO Act was ambiguous regarding when the State had a duty to file a petition. On appeal, the State argues that it has an appeal as of right under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c) from the dismissal of its petition and that the trial court erred in dismissing its petition on the grounds that the MVHO Act was ambiguous and penal in nature. The Defendant argues that the State does not have an appeal as of right from the dismissal of its petition and that the trial court correctly dismissed the petition. After a thorough review of the facts of this case and applicable case law, we conclude that the State does not have an appeal as of right from the dismissal of a motor vehicle habitual offender petition, and thus we dismiss the State’s appeal.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Raymond Deshun Ross
W2016-01220-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The defendant, Raymond Deshun Ross, appeals the dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence imposed for his 2005 Henderson County Circuit Court jury convictions of aggravated assault, carjacking, felony theft, and misdemeanor reckless endangerment. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/24/17
Maurice O. Byrd, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01061-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

A Montgomery County jury convicted the Petitioner, Maurice O. Byrd, Jr., of aggravated robbery, first degree felony murder, and premeditated first degree murder, and the Petitioner received an effective sentence of life. On appeal, this court affirmed the judgments. See State v. Maurice O. Byrd, No. M2010-02405-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 5989817, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Nov. 29, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Dec. 11, 2013). The Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition, and the post-conviction court denied relief following a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that he received the ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Jeanet Marie Covington
M2016-02310-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Jeanet Marie Covington, of aggravated arson, and the trial court sentenced her to serve fifteen years in the Department of Correction. The Defendant timely filed a motion for new trial, which the trial court denied. The Defendant appeals the trial court’s denial of her motion, maintaining that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Jonquarius Cunningham
W2016-00065-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The Defendant, Jonquarius Cunningham, was convicted of one count of attempted second degree murder, one count of reckless endangerment, two counts of employing a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony, and two counts of aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of twenty-three years’ incarceration. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions and that the trial court erred by ordering consecutive sentences. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/23/17
State of Tennessee v. Tarell D. Lewis
M2016-02513-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier
The defendant, Tarell D. Lewis, appeals his Davidson County Criminal Court guiltypleaded convictions of two counts of the sale of heroin, one count of the possession with intent to sell heroin, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, claiming that the trial court erred by ordering a fully-incarcerative sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm.
 
Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/22/17
Elza Evans, III v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02332-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Petitioner, Elza Evans III, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his convictions for aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping and his effective sentence of two consecutive terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance at trial and on appeal. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/21/17
State of Tennessee v. Leon Denton and Devan Denton
W2016-00910-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

After a jury trial, the defendants, Leon Denton and Devan Denton, were convicted of three counts of aggravated rape, one count of facilitation of aggravated rape, one count of facilitation of especially aggravated robbery, and two counts of facilitation of aggravated robbery. On appeal, the defendants assert the evidence was insufficient to support their convictions, arguing the State failed to overcome the defense of duress. The defendants also claim their right to a speedy trial was violated. Independently, Leon Denton argues his convictions violate double jeopardy. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/21/17
State of Tennessee v. Errol Johnson
W2016-00839-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The defendant, Errol Johnson, was convicted of two counts of aggravated child neglect, a Class A felony, and two counts of criminally negligent homicide, a Class E felony. The trial court merged the two aggravated child neglect convictions and sentenced the defendant as a violent offender to twenty-two years in the Department of Correction. The trial court also merged the defendant’s convictions for criminally negligent homicide and sentenced him to two years. The defendant’s sentences were ordered to be served concurrently for an effective sentence of twenty-two years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions for aggravated child neglect and that the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. We conclude that the evidence is sufficient to sustain the jury’s verdict and affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, because aggravated child neglect is not an enumerated offense included in Tennessee Code Annotated § 40-35-501(i)(2), the trial court erred in its applying the statute and sentencing the defendant as a violent offender at 100% release eligibility. Therefore, we remand the matter for a new sentencing hearing.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/21/17
Tony Britton v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01298-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The petitioner, Tony Britton, appeals pro se from the summary dismissal of his 2015 petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged his 2011 guilty-pleaded conviction of second degree murder. Because the petition was filed well beyond the applicable statute of limitations and because the petitioner failed to prove a statutory exception to the timely filing or a due process tolling of the statute of limitations, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/21/17
State of Tennessee v. William Harold Smith, Alias
E2016-02137-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

William Harold Smith, alias (“the Defendant”), was convicted of failure to appear after a jury trial. The trial court sentenced him to serve three years with a thirty-five percent release eligibility in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence introduced at trial was insufficient to support his conviction. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we reverse the Defendant’s conviction and dismiss the charge.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/17
Larry A. Pullum v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00171-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The Petitioner, Larry A. Pullum, appeals from the Wayne County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The habeas corpus court dismissed the petition because it failed to state a cognizable claim. We affirm its judgment.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Jabriel Linzy, Alias
E2016-01052-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Defendant, Jabriel Linzy, alias, appeals as of right from his convictions for first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The Defendant argues (1) that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions, and (2) that evidence from social media posts was improperly admitted. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/17