Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 01/29/2015
Format: 01/29/2015
Monroe Dodson, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00073-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Petitioner, Monroe Dodson, Jr., pled guilty to one count of aggravated rape, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated burglary, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.  After a sentencing hearing, Petitioner received an effective sentence of eighty-two years.  He now appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his guilty plea was the result of ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.  After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the post-conviction court’s finding that Petitioner has failed to prove his ineffectiveness claim.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/15
State of Tennessee v. Ryan T. Brandon
E2014-00591-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Eugene Eblen, Jr.

Defendant, Ryan T. Brandon, was convicted of public intoxication and evading arrest. He received sentences of eleven months, twenty-nine days of supervised probation for evading arrest and thirty days of supervised probation for public intoxication. The sentences were ordered to be served concurrently. On appeal, Defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal on the evading arrest charge, limitation of his crossexamination of the arresting officer, and failure to instruct the jury as to the defense of necessity. We hold that Defendant waived any claim of error with regard to the motion for judgment of acquittal by continuing to participate in the trial after the close of the State’s proof by calling his own witness. However, we review the issue for sufficiency of the evidence. Based upon our review of the record, we hold that the evidence is insufficient to support the charge of evading arrest. The trial court’s judgment as to that conviction is hereby reversed and dismissed. We hold that the evidence is sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for public intoxication. We also hold that the trial court’s exclusion of impeachment evidence, though in error, was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, we hold that Defendant’s claim as to the jury instructions has been waived for failure to include the jury instructions in the record. The trial court’s judgment as to the public intoxication conviction is hereby affirmed.

Roane County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Jeffery Horskins
W2013-00888-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

A Shelby County Grand Jury returned an indictment against Defendant, Jeffrey Horskins, charging him with attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated burglary, and theft of property valued at more than one-thousand dollars. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated burglary, and theft of property valued between $500 and $1,000. The trial court merged the two convictions for aggravated burglary and imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days for reckless endangerment, nine years for aggravated assault, nine years for aggravated burglary, and three years for theft of property. The trial court further found Defendant to be an offender whose record of criminal activity was extensive and ordered Defendant’s sentences for aggravated assault, aggravated burglary, and theft to be served consecutively for an effective twenty-one-year sentence as a Range Two offender. The misdemeanor sentence for reckless endangerment was ordered to be served concurrently to the other sentences. On appeal, Defendant argues that the length of his sentences are excessive and that the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentencing. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/15
Jermaine Gwin v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00681-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The Petitioner, Jermaine Gwin, appeals from the summary dismissal of his pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus. On appeal, he argues that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to convict him because (1) his indictment failed to track the language of the second degree murder statute and (2) the indictment failed to include an essential element of the offense. Upon review of the record and applicable law, we find the issues are without merit and affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Kayln Marie Polochak
M2013-02712-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

The Defendant, Kayln Marie Polochak, was convicted by an Overton County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, conspiracy to commit first degree murder, a Class A felony, especially aggravated robbery, a Class A felony, and theft, a Class D felony.  See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202, 39-13-103, 39-13-403, 39-14-103 (2014).  The trial court merged the first degree and felony murder convictions and imposed a life sentence.  The court also imposed concurrent sentences of fifteen years at 30% service for conspiracy to commit first degree murder, fifteen years at 100% service for especially aggravated robbery, and two years at 30% service for theft.  On appeal, she contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support her convictions, (2) the trial court erred by denying her motion for a judgment of acquittal, (3) the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress her pretrial statements, (4) the trial court erred by refusing to exclude the video recording of the crime scene depicting the victim’s body at the scene and a photograph taken during the victim’s autopsy, (5) the trial court erred by excluding evidence of the victim’s fear of the codefendant, (6) the trial court erred by excluding witness testimony related to the Defendant’s mother’s consenting to police questioning of the Defendant, (7) the trial court erred by failing to provide an intoxication jury instruction, (8) the trial court erred by failing to provide a duress jury instruction, (9) the mandatory life imprisonment sentence violates the federal and Tennessee constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, and (10) the juvenile court erred by transferring her case to the criminal court.  We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Overton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/15
Antonio D. Alexander v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01022-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mitchell Keith Siskin
Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Roger Wayne Henry, Jr.
M2013-02490-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte D. Watkins

The Defendant, Roger Wayne Henry, Jr., was found guilty by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony.  See T.C.A. § 39-13-504 (2014).  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to nine years and six months at 100% service.  On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction, (2) the trial court erred by restricting his cross-examination, (3) the trial court erred by allowing the State to elicit inadmissible hearsay testimony, (4) the trial court erred by failing to order the State to play all of the Defendant’s recorded statements to the police, (5) the trial court erred by failing to grant trial counsel’s motion to withdraw, (6) the trial court erred by denying his requests to continue the trial and for funds for an expert, and (7) the trial court erred by failing to compel the State to produce the police file relative to the victim’s acting as a confidential informant.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/15
Teresa Deion Smith Harris v. State of Tennessee
W2014-01020-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

Petitioner, Teresa Deion Smith Harris, appeals the denial of her petition for writ of error coram nobis. In the circuit court, petitioner raised a claim of newly discovered evidence relating to the timing of the victim’s death and the degree of torture that he endured. The coram nobis court summarily denied the petition. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Henry County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/15
Frazier Perry v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00690-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore Jr.

The Petitioner, Frazier Perry, appeals as of right from the Dyer County Circuit Court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered due to the ineffective assistance of his trial counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/15/15
State of Tennessee v. Jeremy Leniel Middlebrooks
W2014-00469-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker III

The Defendant, Jeremy Leniel Middlebrooks, was indicted for two counts of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and being a felon in possession of a firearm. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-102, -13-103, -17-1307. Prior to trial, the State dismissed one of the counts of aggravated assault. Following a bifurcated jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of the lesser-included offenses of facilitation of aggravated assault and facilitation of reckless endangerment. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-11-403. The Defendant then pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm while the jury was deliberating during the second phase of the trial. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of five years. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions for facilitation of aggravated assault and facilitation of reckless endangerment; and (2) that the trial court erred by ruling that the Defendant’s prior conviction for attempted aggravated burglary could be used to impeach the Defendant if he chose to testify at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/15/15
Tina M. Dixon v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02173-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. S. "Steve" Daniel

The petitioner, Tina M. Dixon, filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that her trial counsel were ineffective for failing to request a ruling on a motion for additional findings of fact related to a motion to suppress; failing to raise the issue of the trial judge and the prosecutor’s potential conflicts of interest prior to trial; and failing to advise her of a proposed plea agreement.  The post-conviction court denied the petition, and the petitioner appeals.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Humphreys County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/15/15
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