Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/24/2020
Format: 09/24/2020
State of Tennessee v. Mark Ethan Felices
M2020-00047-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The defendant, Mark Ethan Felices, appeals the revocation of his probation, arguing that the trial court erred by ordering that he serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Leonard B. Casteel
M2019-00611-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

The Defendant, Leonard B. Casteel, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault, and he received a six-year sentence on each count. The Defendant was sentenced to serve one year for each count and to complete supervised probation for the remaining time. The Defendant was released on probation, a revocation warrant was issued, and the trial court found that the Defendant had violated the terms of his probation and ordered him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant claims that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/20
State of Tennessee v. L. Clay Shuler, II
M2019-01231-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

Defendant, L. Clay Shuler, II, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, tampering with evidence, and setting fire to personal property or land. The trial court imposed a sentence of life for first degree murder, six years for tampering with evidence, to be served consecutively to the life sentence, and a concurrent two-year sentence for setting fire to personal property. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Kimberly Reed
E2019-01483-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The Defendant, Kimberly Reed, pled guilty to forgery, a Class E felony; identity theft, a Class D felony; theft of property valued at $2,500 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony; theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $2,500, a Class E felony; theft of property valued at less than $1,000, a Class A misdemeanor; attempted misdemeanor theft, a Class B misdemeanor; fraudulent use of a credit card, a Class A misdemeanor; criminal impersonation, a Class B misdemeanor; and criminal trespass, a Class C misdemeanor. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101, -14-103, -14-114, -14-118, - 14-150, -14-405, -16-301. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of ten years in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by denying alternative sentencing. Following our review, we affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/14/20
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. SCOTT A. BROWN
M2019-00988-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gary McKenzie

The Defendant, Scott A. Brown, pled guilty to one count of statutory rape, a Class E felony, and one count of possession of more than .5 grams of methamphetamine with intent to sell, a Class B felony, in exchange for an effective sentence of eight years in the Department of Correction. Following a hearing to determine whether the Defendant should be placed on the sex offender registry, the trial court ordered that the Defendant be placed on the registry, which decision the Defendant now appeals. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Clay County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/14/20
David Von Brown v. State of Tennessee
W2019-02181-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Petitioner, David Von Brown, appeals from the Madison County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for possession of 0.5 gram or more of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of 0.5 gram or more of cocaine with intent to deliver, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony by a person having a prior felony conviction, and being a felon in possession of a firearm, and the effective seventeen-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/11/20
William Rolandus Keel v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00612-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, William Rolandus Keel, of two counts of rape of a child, and the trial court ordered consecutive thirty-year sentences for each conviction, for an effective sentence of sixty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, this court affirmed the judgments. State v. William Rolandus Keel, No. M2016-00354-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 111312 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Jan. 11, 2017), perm. app. denied (Tenn. April 13, 2017). The Petitioner timely filed a pro se post-conviction petition and an amended petition through appointed counsel. After hearings on the petition, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that the post-conviction court failed to provide him a full and fair post-conviction hearing. He further maintains that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court on the Petitioner’s various motions, but conclude that the post-conviction court improperly limited the Petitioner’s right to testify at the third part of the post-conviction hearing. Accordingly, we remand the case for a hearing to allow the Petitioner the opportunity to provide testimony concerning the allegations in his petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/09/20
Micah Ross Johnson v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00491-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge. D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Petitioner, Micah Ross Johnson, challenges the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he attacked his jury convictions for first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Petitioner raises numerous grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel; in addition, he raises an allegation of cumulative error based upon counsel’s ineffectiveness. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we are constrained to agree with the Petitioner that the post-conviction court failed to make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to enable appellate review of all his claims. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand this case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Lee Smith
E2019-02085-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tom Greenholtz

The defendant, Anthony Lee Smith, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s order revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the 10-year sentence imposed for his theft conviction in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Steven King
W2019-01796-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett

The Defendant, Steven King, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion because his sentence of life plus twenty-five years was illegal pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), which held that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a juvenile defendant violates the Eighth Amendment. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/04/20
Patrick Bumpus v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01082-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The Petitioner, Patrick Bumpus, appeals the denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas and his petition for post-conviction relief. He asserts various allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel, challenges the knowing and voluntary nature of his pleas, and alleges that the State “breached the contract of [his] involuntary plea[s.]” After review, we affirm the judgments of the post-conviction court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/04/20
State of Tennessee v. Nathan Lamar Swanson, Jr.
E2019-00830-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Appellant, Nathan Lamar Swanson, Jr., pled guilty to attempted possession of a firearm by a felon, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance with the intent to sell. The Appellant was given a total effective sentence of fourteen years as a Range I offender. The Appellant subsequently filed a pro se motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea. Upon being appointed counsel, the Appellant filed an amended motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging that trial counsel failed to adequately investigate the charges and to advise the Appellant as to a viable defense, resulting in an unknowing, involuntary plea. The trial court denied relief, and the Appellant appeals. Following our review, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/04/20
State of Tennessee v. Terry William Smith
E2019-01572-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The defendant, Terry William Smith, appeals his 2019 Hamilton County Criminal Court jury convictions of speeding, failure to obey a traffic control signal, reckless endangerment, evading arrest, violating the open container law, and driving under the influence, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support some of his convictions and that the trial court erred by ordering a sentence of split confinement. We affirm the defendant’s convictions, the imposition of a two-year effective sentence, and the trial court’s decision to order split confinement. Because the confinement term of the split confinement sentence exceeds that allowed under the terms of Code section 40-35-501(a)(3), we modify the term of confinement and remand the case for the entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting the modified sentence and the proper place of confinement.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/03/20
State of Tennessee v. Tareaun Griffin
M2019-02102-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Defendant, Tareaun Griffin, is appealing the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence filed pursuant to Rule of Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/03/20
State of Tennessee v. David Charles Gambrell
M2019-00773-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

David Charles Gambrell, Defendant, was indicted for five counts of statutory rape by an authority figure and two counts of sexual battery by an authority figure based on allegations made by his fifteen-year-old stepdaughter. Defendant pled guilty to amended charges of four counts of aggravated statutory rape with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of the sentence. The remaining counts were nolle prossed. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied Defendant’s request for judicial diversion, ordering him to serve four years in incarceration for each conviction, with the sentences to be served consecutively, for a total effective sentence of sixteen years. Defendant appeals his sentences. After a review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/02/20
Christopher M. Ferrell v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00726-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Petitioner, Christopher M. Ferrell, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2015 conviction for second degree murder. Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on direct appeal. Following our review of the record, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/02/20
State of Tennessee v. Janice A. Campbell
M2019-01730-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

As part of a guilty plea to driving under the influence (“DUI”), Defendant, Janice A. Campbell, reserved a certified question for appeal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A). She asks this Court to determine whether her arrest for DUI in a private home without a warrant violated Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-7-103 when Defendant was arrested without being seen by an officer operating the vehicle in question and no vehicle accident was involved. After a review, we determine that the certified question is not dispositive. Consequently, the appeal is dismissed.

Franklin County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/02/20
State of Tennessee v. Andre Cabrere
W2019-02093-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

The defendant, Andre Cabrere, appeals the trial court’s entry of corrected judgment forms removing pretrial jail credits from two of the defendant’s consecutive sentences without providing the defendant notice prior to doing the same. The defendant claims the pretrial credits were part of his negotiated plea agreement. However, based on our review of the record and the briefs of the parties, it is unclear whether the awarding of pretrial credits was part of the defendant’s negotiated plea or a clerical error such that the trial court had the authority to amend the judgments under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case to allow the defendant the opportunity to respond and present proof of his claim.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/01/20
State of Tennessee v. Robert Thomas
W2019-01697-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Defendant, Robert Thomas, entered guilty pleas to facilitation of attempted especially aggravated robbery and possession of marijuana with intent to sell. The Defendant requested probation and judicial diversion. The trial court held a hearing and sentenced the Defendant to concurrent sentences of six years of probation for the facilitation of attempted especially aggravated robbery conviction and “one year and time served” for the drug conviction. The trial court denied judicial diversion, and the Defendant appeals. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying diversion, and we affirm the judgments and remand for correction of the various judgment forms.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/01/20
State of Tennessee v. Quantorius Rankins
M2019-00687-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

Defendant, Quantorius Rankins, entered a best interest plea pursuant to Hicks v. State, 945 S.W.2d 706 (Tenn. 1997) to statutory rape. The agreement provided that the trial court would conduct a sentencing hearing to determine if Defendant would be granted judicial diversion and to determine if Defendant would be required to register as a sex offender. Following the sentencing hearing, the trial court denied judicial diversion, ordered Defendant to register as a sex offender, and imposed an out-of-range sentence of six years’ probation pursuant to the plea agreement. Defendant appeals the trial court’s decision. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/01/20
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TOMMY C. SIMPSON, JR.
M2019-01222-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Pursuant to a plea agreement, Tommy Charles Simpson, Jr., Defendant, pled guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of a minor reserving a certified question for appeal in which he asserts that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Defendant argues that a state-licensed private security guard’s seizure of Defendant’s cell phone constituted “state action,” violating his Fourth Amendment rights. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/01/20
State of Tennessee v. Edward Walsh
M2019-00989-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gary McKenzie

In October of 2015, Defendant, Edward Walsh, was indicted by the Clay County Grand Jury for first degree murder, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, and theft of property. The theft of property charge was severed, and the tampering with evidence charge was nolled before trial. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of first degree murder and abuse of a corpse. The trial court sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment for the murder conviction and a concurrent two-year sentence for the abuse of a corpse conviction. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in not severing the offenses of first degree murder and abuse of a corpse, that the trial court erred in admitting hearsay, that the trial court was not impartial, that the State’s closing argument was based on inferences from facts not in evidence, and that evidence was insufficient to prove first degree murder. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Clay County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/20
State of Tennessee v. Cortez Lebron Sims
E2018-01268-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

The Defendant, Cortez Lebron Sims, was convicted by a Hamilton County jury of one count of first degree premeditated murder, three counts of attempted first degree murder, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court imposed a sentence of life for the first degree murder conviction as well as concurrent sentences of twenty-five years for each attempted first degree murder conviction and a consecutive sentence of six years for the employing a firearm conviction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred by: (1) denying the Defendant’s motion for a change of venue; (2) admitting evidence related to a photographic lineup and an unavailable witness’s prior identification of the Defendant; (3) admitting a gang validation form showing the Defendant’s gang membership; (4) admitting a jail phone call between the Defendant and a third party; (5) admitting evidence of a gun and shell casings that were later determined to be unrelated to this case; (6) admitting a bloody onesie worn by the infant victim in this case; and (7) admitting evidence related to gang violence and an on-going gang feud. Upon our review of the record, we determine that the trial court did not commit reversible error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/20
Ronallen Hardy v. State of Tennessee
M2019-02100-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

In this consolidated appeal, Petitioner, Ronallen Hardy, appeals the summary dismissal of his petitions for post-conviction and error coram nobis relief after being convicted of first degree murder, felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, conspiracy to commit especially aggravated robbery, and conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary and resulting sentence of life without parole. See State v. Ronallen Hardy, M2008-00381-CCA-R3-CD, 2009 WL 2733821, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 31, 2009), no perm. app. filed. The trial court merged the murder convictions and this Court merged the conspiracy convictions on direct appeal. Id. After a review of the record, the parties’ briefs, and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/20
State of Tennessee v. Otis Lamar Taylor
W2019-01256-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

The defendant, Otis Taylor, appeals the order of the trial court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his original three-year sentence in confinement. Upon review of the record, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the defendant violated the terms of his probation, and the imposed sentence is proper. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/20