Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/17/2014
Format: 09/17/2014
State of Tennessee V. Jose Lemanuel Hall, Jr.
M2013-02090-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Randall Wyatt, Jr.

The defendant, Jose Lemanual Hall, Jr., was convicted of first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery.  He received an effective sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole.  On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence.  Within that general challenge, he specifically contends that he was convicted solely on the uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice and an uncorroborated confession he made to a fellow inmate.  Following review, we conclude that both were sufficiently corroborated and properly considered in the sufficiency determination.  We further conclude that the evidence presented at trial was more than sufficient to support the conviction.  As such, we affirm.  However, we remand for entry of corrected judgments of conviction reflecting the appropriate merger of the two murder convictions.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/05/14
James Alfred Reed, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
E2014--00227-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy A. Reedy

A Monroe County jury convicted the Petitioner, James Alfred Reed, Jr., of one count of the sale of one-half gram or more of cocaine within 1000 feet of a school and one count of the sale of less than one-half gram of cocaine within 1000 feet of a school. The trial court sentenced him as a Range II, multiple offender and ordered the Petitioner to serve an effective sentence of forty years. The Petitioner appealed, and this Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court. State v. James Alfred Reed, Jr., No. E2010-01138-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 2766766, at *5 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Knoxville, July 18, 2011), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Dec. 13, 2011). The Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to compel the State to disclose its confidential informant at trial and that his Momon hearing was improperly conducted. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition after a hearing. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/04/14
State of Tennessee v. Mark Lipton
E2012-02197-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance

The Defendant, Mark Lipton, was convicted by a Sevier County jury of aggravated assault and received a five-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant raises the following issues for our review: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction, citing to the inconsistencies in witnesses’ testimony and to the “physical facts rule”; (2) whether the trial court erred in the admission of improper character evidence, alleging both procedural and substantive errors in that ruling; and (3) whether the trial court properly denied his petition for error coram nobis relief by concluding that the new witness’s testimony was not credible.1 After reviewing the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/04/14
State of Tennessee v. Morris Marsh
E2013-01343-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

The Defendant, Morris Marsh, was convicted by a jury of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress his statement given to an investigator; (2) that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to dismiss the presentment against him; (3) that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s pro se motion to remove his appointed trial counsel; (4) that the State failed to disclose an incriminating statement made by the Defendant to a witness; (5) that the trial court erred in admitting audio recordings of prison phone calls made by the Defendant; (6) that the trial court erred in admitting an autopsy photograph of the victim; (7) that the trial court erred in determining that a witness was unavailable and allowing the witness’s preliminary hearing testimony to be presented at trial; (8) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction; and (9) that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during its closing argument. 1 Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/04/14
State of Tennessee v. James Cody Burnett
E2013-01369-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Sword

The Defendant, James Cody Burnett, pleaded guilty to one count of vehicular homicide by intoxication with an agreed sentence of eight years and the manner of the service of the sentence to be determined by the trial court. After a hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in confinement. The Defendant filed a Rule 35 motion to reduce his sentence, which the trial court denied. The Defendant filed an appeal of both the trial court’s sentence of confinement and its denial of his Rule 35 motion to reduce his sentence. We consolidated those two appeals. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s sentencing of the Defendant and its denial of his motion to reduce his sentence.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/03/14
State of Tennesee v. Troy James Keith Reynolds
E2013-02777-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy Harrington

The defendant, Troy James Keith Reynolds, appeals his Blount County Circuit Court jury convictions of burglary, theft, and possession of burglary tools, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Because the judgment in count two erroneously reflects a conviction of Class C felony theft, we remand that judgment to the trial court for entry of a corrected judgment reflecting a conviction of Class D felony theft. In addition, we remand for correction of other clerical errors in the judgments. In all other respects, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/02/14
State of Tennessee v. Steven Gregg Barker
E2013-02721-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy F. Reedy

Appellant, Steven Gregg Barker, pleaded guilty to 23 counts of the initiation of the process to manufacture methamphetamine and received an eight year sentence, suspended to supervised probation. As a condition of the plea agreement, appellant reserved the right to certify three questions of law challenging the trial court's denial of a
motion to suppress. Upon our review of the record and applicable law, we hold that the Defendant is not entitled to relief. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/02/14
State of Tennessee v. Dewoyne Gwynn
W2012-01865-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge John T. Fowlkes Jr.

Defendant, Dewoyne Gwynn, and two co-defendants, Ms. Chronda Walker, and Mr. Markhayle Jackson, were charged in a six-count indictment with (1) premeditated first degree murder of Kelvin Cooper; (2) felony murder of Kelvin Cooper during the perpetration of kidnapping; (3) felony murder of Kelvin Cooper during the perpetration of robbery; (4) especially aggravated kidnapping of Kelvin Cooper by use of a deadly weapon; (5) especially aggravated kidnapping of Kelvin Cooper wherein the victim suffered serious bodily injury; and (6) especially aggravated robbery of Kelvin Cooper. Defendant was tried by himself in a jury trial. The jury acquitted Defendant of all three counts of first degree murder and of especially aggravated robbery. On each of the two remaining counts, the jury convicted Defendant of the lesser included offense of facilitation of especially aggravated kidnapping. At sentencing the trial court merged the two convictions and sentenced Defendant to serve twelve years’ incarceration. Defendant raises three issues on appeal; (1) the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction of facilitation of especially aggravated kidnapping; (2) the trial court failed to properly charge the jury; and (3) the trial court erred in sentencing Defendant. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/14
Justin Michael Nunnery v. State of Tennessee
M2013-01841-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Earl Durham

Petitioner, Justin Michael Nunnery, appeals the dismissal of his pro se petition for post-conviction relief.  The trial court summarily dismissed the petition on the basis that it failed to state a colorable claim.  On appeal, Petitioner argues that the trial court erred in dismissing his petition without holding an evidentiary hearing.  The State concedes that the trial court erred in summarily dismissing the petition because if Petitioner’s claims are true, they would entitle him to post-conviction relief. Following a review of the record, we agree and accordingly reverse the order of dismissal and remand this case to the post-conviction court for an evidentiary hearing pursuant to all provisions of Tenn. Code Ann.  § 40-30-107 and Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 28, § 6(B)(2)-(3).  Furthermore, the trial judge is recused from further proceedings in this case.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/14
Robert Faulkner v. State of Tennessee
W2012-00612-CCA-R3-PD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Otis Higgs Jr.

The Petitioner, Robert Faulkner, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of first degree premeditated murder and resulting sentence of death. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that (1) the jury foreperson demonstrated bias and violated the Petitioner’s right to a fair and impartial jury; (2) he is intellectually disabled and, thus, ineligible for the death penalty; (3) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel during the guilt and penalty phases of trial; (4) the prosecution failed to disclose exculpatory evidence; (5) the prosecution presented false and misleading testimony; (6) the trial court demonstrated bias; (7) the “acquittal-first instruction” violated his due process rights; (8) Tennessee’s death penalty scheme is unconstitutional; and (9) cumulative error warrants a new trial. We conclude that due to the jury foreperson’s false statements about past domestic violence, the Petitioner was denied his constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court, vacate the Petitioner’s conviction and death sentence, and remand the case to the trial court for a new trial.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/14
State of Tennessee v. James Chesteen
W2012-01998-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, James Chesteen, of rape of a child, and the trial court imposed a sentence of twenty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction and the trial court’s decision to admit a photograph of the victim taken by a nurse practitioner at the Our Kids Center. Upon review, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient but that the trial court’s admission of the photograph was reversible error. Accordingly, the appellant’s conviction and sentence are reversed, and the case is remanded for a new trial.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/14
Frank Taylor v. State of Tennessee
W2012-01993-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The petitioner, Frank Taylor, was convicted of one count of first degree felony murder, a Class A felony, and criminal attempt: especially aggravated robbery, a Class B felony. He appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, the petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when: (1) trial counsel failed to investigate and pursue as a defense the petitioner’s absence from his juvenile detention hearing, his lack of representation at the hearing, and the fact that he did not receive advice regarding the ability to appeal the detention order; (2) trial counsel failed to pursue the denial of a meaningful transfer hearing; and (3) trial counsel failed to challenge the probable cause of the petitioner’s arrest warrant. After a review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/14
Charles Lane v. Bruce Westbrook, Warden
E2014-00356-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Buddy D. Perry

The petitioner, Charles Lane, filed a petition for habeas corpus relief challenging his Sevier County convictions of first degree murder and aggravated sexual battery. Petitioner seeks relief alleging he was not warned of his Miranda rights before giving a statement, and that he was suffering from mental deficiencies at the time of his guilty plea. Because the petition fails to present a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s summary dismissal of the petition.

Bledsoe County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/14
State of Tennessee v. Alex Hardin Huffstutter
M2013-02788-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Fishburn

The appellant, Alex Hardin Huffstutter, entered a plea of nolo contendre to driving under the influence (DUI), reserving the following certified question of law concerning whether Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-313 (2007) precludes judicial diversion for a charge of DUI.  The State contends that the question presented is not dispositive and, therefore, that this court is without jurisdiction to consider the appeal.  Upon review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we agree with the State and conclude that the appeal should be dismissed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/14
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Gordon, Jr.
M2013-02699-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

Curtis Gordon, Jr. entered a plea of guilty to robbery.  He appeals the sentence imposed of fifteen years as a persistent offender, consecutive to a sentence for which he was on probation at the time of the robbery.   Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/14
Travis Davison v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02048-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

The petitioner, Travis Davison, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence, asserting that his sentence was illegal in that he received a shorter term than that mandated by statute. The State agrees that the petitioner has made a colorable claim that his sentence is illegal and that the matter should be remanded. After review, we remand the case for the appointment of counsel and an evidentiary hearing pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/14
Courtney Watkins v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02046-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter Jr.

The Petitioner, Courtney Watkins, appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief by the Criminal Court for Shelby County. He was convicted of especially aggravated robbery and sentenced to twenty-three years’ imprisonment in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that the post-conviction court erred in denying his motion for continuance. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/14
Joseph Pollard v. State of Tennessee
W2013-01398-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Petitioner, Joseph Pollard, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of postconviction relief. He was convicted of first degree murder, attempted voluntary manslaughter, and aggravated assault and received an effective sentence of life with the possibility of parole. In this appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel due to trial counsel’s failure to qualify an expert witness or anticipate the trial court’s rejection of the witness’s qualifications. The Petitioner further claims that appellate counsel was ineffective due to his failure to include the same issue on direct appeal. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/14
State of Tennessee v. Daniel Mosby
W2013-01874-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley Jr.

The Defendant, Daniel Mosby, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s order revoking his community corrections sentence. The Defendant previously entered a guilty plea to aggravated burglary and, pursuant to the plea agreement, was sentenced to 10 years to be served in the community corrections program with credit for time served. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion in revoking his community corrections sentence and ordering him to serve his original sentence in confinement. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/14
Lakeith Humphrey v. State of Tennessee
W2013-01877-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Petitioner, Lakeith Humphrey, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief from his conviction for first degree premeditated murder and his sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, he argues that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to challenge the legal accuracy of the special jury instruction regarding premeditation given at trial. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/14
State of Tennessee v. Richard Griffis
W2013-02261-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan Jr.

The Defendant-Appellant, Richard Griffis, was convicted by a Madison County jury of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-103, -105 (2012). The trial court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to four years’ incarceration, suspended to supervised probation. The sole issue presented for our review is whether the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/14
Stacy Lee Fleming v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02160-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker III

The Petitioner, Stacy Lee Fleming, appeals the Tipton County Circuit Court’s denial of postconviction relief from his conviction for delivery of .5 grams or more of cocaine. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/14
Michael Williams v. Michael Donahue, Warden
W2013-02146-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker III

Petitioner, Michael Williams, was convicted of rape in 2001 by a Shelby County jury. As a result, he was sentenced as a violent offender to serve thirty years in incarceration. Petitioner’s conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. See State v. Michael Williams, No. W2001-01925-CCA-R3-CD, 2002 WL 1349520 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, June 20, 2002). Appellant subsequently sought post-conviction relief. The petition for postconviction relief was denied. See Michael Williams v. State, No. W2005-01810-CCA-R3- PC, 2006 WL 3371404 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Nov. 20, 2006), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. Mar. 19, 2007). Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in Hardeman County, alleging that the 2001 judgment is void because he was sentenced as a career offender. The habeas corpus court denied relief, dismissing the petition without a hearing after determining that Petitioner’s sentence had not expired. After a review of the record, we conclude that the habeas corpus court properly dismissed the petition for relief where Petitioner failed to show that the judgment was void or that his sentence had expired. For those reasons, the judgment of the habeas corpus court is affirmed.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/14
Robert Lewis Webb v. State of Tennessee
W2013-01250-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley Jr.

Pursuant to the terms of a negotiated plea agreement, Petitioner, Robert Lewis Webb, pled guilty to first-degree murder, aggravated rape, aggravated burglary, and aggravated robbery, and was sentenced to an effective life sentence without the possibility of parole. Petitioner subsequently filed an untimely pro se petition for post-conviction relief. He asserted, among other things, that the guilty plea was involuntary. Appointed counsel filed an amended petition, alleging that the statute of limitations should be tolled due to a new constitutional ruling, Petitioner’s mental incompetence, and misconduct on the part of Petitioner’s trial attorney. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition without an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner appealed. The State concedes that Petitioner is entitled to a hearing on whether the statute of limitations should be tolled. We determine that the post-conviction court erred by summarily dismissing the petition without an evidentiary hearing to determine whether due process requires that the statute of limitations be tolled. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/14
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Taylor
W2013-01820-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Wright

Appellant, Curtis Taylor, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury in a multi-count indictment for first degree murder (Count 1), attempted first degree murder (Count 2), possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony (Count 3), and use of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony (Count 4). After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in Count 1, and was convicted of the offenses as charged in Counts 2 through 4. According to the judgment forms, Appellant was sentenced to ten years in Count 1, fifteen years in Count 2, four years in Count 3, and ten years in Count 4, for a total effective sentence of thirty-five years. However, the transcript of the sentencing hearing reflects a sentence of two years in Count 3, but the same total effective sentence. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Appellant presents the following issues for our review on appeal: (1) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain the conviction for voluntary manslaughter; and (2) whether the trial court properly sentenced Appellant. After a review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgments and sentences. However, because the judgment forms do not accurately reflect the sentence as imposed by the trial court during the sentencing hearing, the matter is remanded for entry of corrected judgments to reflect that Appellant was sentenced to two years in Count 3, possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony, and that the sentences in Counts 1, 2, and 4 are to run consecutively to each other but concurrently to the sentence in Count 3, for a total effective sentence of thirty-five years. Accordingly, the matter is affirmed and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/14