Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/20/2014
Format: 12/20/2014
Mack Transou v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00537-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The petitioner, Mack Transou, appeals from the dismissal of his second coram nobis petition, some of which appears to be repackaged claims from his previous post-conviction attacks on his sentences, with others not cognizable for coram nobis relief. The coram nobis court concluded that his petition was without merit, and we concur. Accordingly, we affirm the denial of relief pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
Ricardo Davidson v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00565-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

The petitioner, Ricardo Davidson, filed a petition in the Maury County Circuit Court, seeking habeas corpus relief from four felony drug convictions.  The court summarily dismissed the petition, finding that the petitioner failed to file in the court closest to him and that, regardless, his claims did not entitle him to habeas corpus relief.  On appeal, the petitioner challenges this ruling.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
Anthony Todd Ghormley v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00363-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don R. Ash

In 2009, a Blount County jury convicted the Petitioner, Anthony Todd Ghormley, of two counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of especially aggravated burglary, and three counts of aggravated assault. State v. Anthony Todd Ghormley, No. E2010-00634-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 171940, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Knoxville, Jan. 20, 2012), no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application filed. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to an effective sentence of 105 years of confinement. Id. On direct appeal, this Court affirmed the judgments but reversed the trial court’s denial of a competency hearing and remanded the case for a competency hearing. Id. The Petitioner was deemed competent on remand. The Petitioner filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis, which the coram nobis court denied. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the coram nobis court erred when it denied his petition. He asserts that the coram nobis court’s dismissal was based on “known fraud” because “three of the State’s witnesses committed perjury at the [competency] hearing.” After review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
State of Tennessee v. Santos Medardo Funes Romero
E2013-02137-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Santos Medardo Funes Romero, of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of twenty-five years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it did not grant a mistrial or dismiss the jury after several members of the venire discussed having been victims of child sexual abuse; (2) the trial court erred when it denied defense counsel the opportunity to question the investigator about her comments about the weakness of the case; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we reverse the trial court’s judgments, and we remand the case for a new trial or other proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
State of Tennessee v. Santos Medardo Funes Romero
E2013-02137-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Santos Medardo Funes Romero, of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of twenty-five years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it did not grant a mistrial or dismiss the jury after several members of the venire discussed having been victims of child sexual abuse; (2) the trial court erred when it denied defense counsel the opportunity to question the investigator about her comments about the weakness of the case; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we reverse the trial court’s judgments, and we remand the case for a new trial or other proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
State of Tennessee v. Billy Jason Hancock
M2012-02307-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Patterson

The defendant, Billy Jason Hancock, appeals his Putnam County Criminal Court jury convictions of first degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, and abuse of a corpse, claiming that the trial court erred by concluding that certain communications with his wife and his pastor were not protected by any evidentiary privilege and that the trial court’s instruction regarding jury unanimity during the penalty phase was incorrect. Discerning no error, we affirm.

 

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
State of Tennessee v. Janice Kirkland
E2013-02243-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy Harrington

A Blount County jury found the Appellant guilty of two counts of assault against an unacquainted homeowner. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by subjecting her to double jeopardy in convicting her of two counts of assault rather than one. She also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the convictions. Because we find that the two convictions are based on separate offenses under applicable law, and because a rational jury could find the Appellant guilty based on the evidence presented, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/14
State of Tennessee v. Bobby Joe Mason
E2014-00571-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy Harrington

The appellant, Bobby Joe Mason, pled guilty in the Blount County Circuit Court to robbery, a Class C felony, and criminal impersonation, a Class A misdemeanor, and received an effective three-year sentence to be served as 160 days in confinement and the remainder on enhanced supervised probation. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by revoking his probation and ordering that he serve the remainder of his sentences in confinement. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/14
State of Tennessee v. Letivias D. Prince
M2014-00260-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey S. Bivins

The petitioner, Letivias D. Prince, appeals the Williamson County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis, which challenged his 1997 jury conviction of first degree murder.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/14
Perry L. McCrobey v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00369-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rebecca J. Stern

The Petitioner, Perry L. McCrobey, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, petition for post-conviction relief, and petition for a writ of error coram nobis, seeking relief from his conviction of possession of cocaine for resale and resulting eight-year sentence. On appeal, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the petitions

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/14
State of Tennessee v. David Patrick Armitage
E2013-02654-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Sword

The defendant, David Patrick Armitage, was convicted of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and sentenced to twenty years in the Department of Correction. The sentence was to be served consecutively to a previous out-of-state sentence. On appeal, the defendant raises two issues for review: (1) whether there was sufficient corroboration of an accomplice’s testimony with regard to the defendant’s identity; and (2) whether the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction. Following review of the record, we affirm the conviction and sentence as imposed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/10/14
Howard G. Bruff v. State of Tennessee
E2013-02223-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Leon Burns, Jr.

The petitioner, Howard G. Bruff, appeals the Cumberland County Criminal Court’s denial of his timely petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2005 convictions of first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery on the grounds that his trial counsel was ineffective. Because the record supports the decision of the post-conviction court, we affirm that court’s order.

Cumberland County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/10/14
State of Tennessee v. Rothes Taylor
W2013-02520-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Appellant was convicted of burglary and theft over $500 and sentenced to four years. On appeal, the Appellant argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions. After reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/10/14
Ricky Frith v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02435-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Petitioner, Ricky Frith, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based upon trial counsel’s failure to: (1) adequately communicate, investigate, and prepare for trial by obtaining “exonerating records”; (2) raise a Fourth Amendment challenge to the Petitioner’s illegal arrest; (3) subpoena the officer who took the victim’s initial suspect description; and (4) file a timely motion for new trial. Additionally, the Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel based upon appellate counsel’s advice that there was no legitimate basis for an appeal, and appellate counsel’s failure to request a delayed appeal. After our review, we conclude that the Petitioner has failed to establish that he is entitled to post-conviction relief and affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/10/14
State of Tennessee v. Calvin Ellison
W2013-02786-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan Jr.

Calvin Ellison (“Defendant”) was indicted on one count of attempted first degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony - attempted first degree murder. A jury returned verdicts convicting the Defendant of misdemeanor reckless endangerment as a lesser-included charge of attempted first degree murder, one count of aggravated assault, and employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the trial court’s ruling excluding a portion of his expert witness’s testimony; argues that his conviction for employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony should be overturned in light of the jury’s verdict in the first count of the indictment; and challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/10/14
Rodney Braden v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02767-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The Petitioner, Rodney Braden, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of relief from his conviction for second degree murder. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with his guilty plea. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/09/14
State of Tennessee v. Vanessa Coleman - separate concurring opinion
E2013-01208-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

I write separately because I feel it is necessary to adequately address the federal grand jury issue as presented by the Defendant in her appellate brief. The majority notes that the Defendant moved to dismiss the presentment under Rule 6(j)(6) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, arguing that her subpoena to testify before the federal grand jury barred her state court prosecution. I do not disagree that Rule 6(j) 6) “applies only to proceedings in state grand juries within the State of Tennessee.” However, the Defendant’s argument both in her interlocutory appeal, and as presented in this direct appeal, is that the federal authorities were acting as agents of the Knox County District Attorney General’s office. Specifically, she notes that the charges against her arose from a joint investigation between State and federal authorities. She continues, by virtue of this joint investigation, the federal authorities were acting as agents of the Knox County District Attorney General when they subpoenaed her to testify before the federal grand jury regarding her knowledge and participation in the crimes against the victims, thereby, triggering the immunity protection afforded by Rule 6(j)(6). In my opinion, to ignore the agency issue, ignores the issue presented by the Defendant.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/09/14
State of Tennessee v. Vanessa Coleman
E2013-01208-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

In this case both victims were sexually assaulted. Accordingly, we will identify them by their initials. Defendant, Vanessa Coleman, was one of four defendants charged by presentment for offenses which occurred in January 2007, involving the deaths of the victims, C.N. and C.C. In her first trial, Defendant was acquitted of all charges alleging the murder, kidnapping, and rape of victim C.N. She was convicted of several counts of the lesserincluded offense of facilitation of charges alleging the murder, kidnapping, and rape of victim C.C. Defendant was granted a new trial by the trial court based upon structural error in the proceedings of the first trial. Following the second trial, a jury found Defendant guilty of the following offenses against victim C.C.: three counts of facilitation of first degree murder, one count of facilitation of second degree murder, two counts of facilitation of aggravated kidnapping, six counts of facilitation of rape, and one count of facilitation of misdemeanor theft. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court merged Defendant’s convictions for facilitation of first degree murder and second degree murder into one conviction and imposed a sentence of 25 years for that conviction. The trial court also merged Defendant’s two convictions for facilitation of aggravated kidnapping and imposed a sentence of six years to be served consecutively to Defendant’s 25-year sentence. The trial court merged Defendant’s six convictions for facilitation of rape into three convictions and imposed a sentence of four years for each conviction, to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively to Defendant’s remaining sentences. For Defendant’s facilitation of misdemeanor theft conviction, the trial court imposed a sentence of six months to be served concurrently with the remaining sentences. Thus, Defendant received a total effective sentence of 35 years for her convictions. In this appeal as of right, Defendant raises the following issues for our review: 1) whether the evidence at trial was sufficient to sustain her convictions; 2) whether the trial court should have dismissed the presentment because Defendant was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury before the filing of the presentment in this case; 3) whether the trial court erred by admitting testimony of Defendant’s statements made during unrecorded interviews; 4) whether the trial court should have excluded photographs of the victims’ bodies; 5) whether all of Defendant’s convictions for facilitation of rape should have been merged into one conviction; and 6) whether the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentences. After a thorough review of the record before us, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/09/14
Derrick Campbell v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02567-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mitchell Keith Siskin

Petitioner, Derrick Devon Campbell, pleaded guilty to second degree murder with an agreed sentence of thirty years at Range II to be served at one-hundred percent as a violent offender. Petitioner now appeals the trial court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, in which he alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to properly explain his plea agreement and the consequences of the plea.  Having reviewed the record before us, we affirm the judgment of trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/09/14
State of Tennessee v. Rohman M. Harper
M2014-00944-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge George C. Sexton

The Defendant, Rohman M. Harper, was found guilty by a Cheatham County Circuit Court jury of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony.  See T.C.A. § 39-13-504 (2014).  Before the trial, the Defendant pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, a Class B misdemeanor, and to public intoxication, a Class C misdemeanor.  See id. §§ 39-16-602 (2014), 39-17-310 (2014).  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to concurrent terms of eight years at 100% service for aggravated sexual battery, six months for resisting arrest, and thirty days for public intoxication.  On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his aggravated sexual battery conviction.  Although we affirm the aggravated sexual battery conviction, we remand the case for entry of corrected judgments relative to the resisting arrest and public intoxication convictions.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/09/14
State of Tennessee v. Donald Terrell
W2014-00340-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Wright

The Appellant, Donald Terrell, filed a pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The trial court summarily dismissed the Appellant’s motion, and he appealed. Following our review of the record, we conclude that the Appellant’s motion presented a colorable claim that his sentences were illegal. We therefore reverse the trial court’s summary dismissal and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/14
State of Tennessee v. Jason Braden
E2014-00572-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

Defendant, Jason Braden, pled guilty to aggravated burglary, false imprisonment, and assault in Blount County in May of 2011. In exchange for the guilty plea, Defendant received a five-year sentence to be served on supervised probation. In October of 2011, a warrant was filed alleging a robation violation. Simultaneously, Defendant was in state custody, facing a new charge and probation violation in Anderson County. The revocation hearing in Blount County did not take place until March 2014. After hearing the evidence, the trial court found a material violation and ordered Defendant to serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. Defendant appeals. After a review, we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering Defendant to serve the balance of his sentence.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/14
State of Tennessee v. Lee Michael Gianaro
E2014-01200-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rebecca J. Stern

Defendant, Lee Michael Gianaro, was indicted by the Hamilton County Grand Jury for one count of aggravated burglary, one count of theft of property valued over $1,000, and one count of vandalism. Defendant pled guilty to aggravated burglary in exchange for a sentence of three years, to be served on probation, and payment of $1,500 restitution to the victim. The remaining charges were dismissed. Defendant violated the terms of his probation. The trial court partially revoked probation, ordering Defendant to Community Corrections until restitution was paid in full before returning Defendant to supervised probation. A second probation violation report was filed alleging Defendant violated the terms of his probation. After a hearing, the trial court revoked Defendant’s probation and ordered him to serve his sentence in incarceration. Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in revoking probation. After a review of the record, we conclude that substantial evidence supported the revocation of probation. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/14
State of Tennessee v. William Whitlow Davis, Jr.
E2013-02073-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John F. Dugger, Jr.

The defendant, William Whitlow Davis, Jr., pleaded guilty to first offense driving under the influence of an intoxicant with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or more and reserved as a certified question the propriety of the vehicle stop leading to his arrest. Determining that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings in its order denying the motion to suppress, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/14
William T. Johnson v. State of Tennessee - separate opinion
E2014-00828-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

I fully concur in the majority opinion in this case. I only write separately to express a view that counsel’s absence from court – even during jury deliberations and verdict announcement – for reasons no more substantial than coaching a basketball game presents a closer question than our opinion may suggest. It may be that a certain casualness has permeated the practice of law, and courts and lawyers should be vigilant in maintaining standards of regularity and professionalism

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/14