Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 01/16/2018
Format: 01/16/2018
Danny O. Owens v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02068-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Petitioner, Danny O. Owens, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his second degree murder conviction, alleging he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Reginald Bernard Coffee
M2016-01834-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

The Defendant, Reginald Bernard Coffee, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of especially aggravated robbery, a Class A felony, and sentenced to fifteen years. See T.C.A. § 39-13-403 (2014). On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and (2) the fingerprint evidence was admitted without a sufficient foundation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/17
Michael Terrell McKissack v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02113-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Petitioner, Michael Terrell McKissack, filed a petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of especially aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery, and facilitation of attempted carjacking. In the petition, the Petitioner argued that his trial counsel was ineffective (1) by failing to call two of his co-defendants to testify on his behalf; (2) by failing to inform him that his third co-defendant would testify against him; and (3) by failing to adduce proof during the guilt phase regarding his lack of education and mental health issues. The post-conviction court denied relief, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Anthony M. Crawford - Concurring
M2015-02426-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

I respectfully concur in results only. My concern in this case is that inadmissible polygraph testing evidence was presented at the suppression hearing.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Anthony M. Crawford
M2015-02426-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

A Wilson County jury convicted the Defendant, Anthony M. Crawford, of aggravated assault and child abuse. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to consecutive prison terms of six and four years, for a total effective sentence of ten years. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his motion to dismiss the indictment on double jeopardy grounds; (2) the trial court improperly commented on the evidence; (3) the trial court erred when it precluded the Defendant’s expert witness from testifying at the suppression hearing; (4) the trial court erred when it denied the Defendant’s motion to suppress his October 19, 2012 statement; (5) the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; (6) the trial court erred when it allowed the State to cross-examine witnesses about “highly prejudicial statements” the Defendant made about the victim; (7) the State did not properly make an election of offenses, thus depriving the Defendant of a unanimous verdict; (8) the cumulative effect of the errors deprived the Defendant of a fair trial; and (9) the trial court improperly ordered consecutive sentencing. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/17
Elbert Bryant Gleaves v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02371-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

The petitioner, Elbert Bryant Gleaves, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition. The petitioner argues he received ineffective assistance of counsel prior to trial forcing him to accept the State’s plea offer. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/17
Steven Padgett King v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00058-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The petitioner, Steven Padgett King, appeals the dismissal of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in dismissing the petition as time-barred. Following our review, we agree with the petitioner and reverse the order of the post-conviction court dismissing the petition as untimely.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Holly N. Hilliard
E2015-00967-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

This is a consolidated appeal by the State. Holly N. Hilliard (“Ms. Hilliard”), Brian K. Reynolds (“Mr. Reynolds”), and Joseph A. Tester, II (“Mr. Tester”) (collectively, “the Defendants”) were charged, via presentment, with conspiracy to manufacture over .5 grams of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school. The presentment also charged Ms. Hilliard and Mr. Reynolds with one count of manufacturing greater than .5 grams of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school, two counts of attempted aggravated child neglect, one count of maintaining a dwelling where controlled substances are used or sold, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. The Defendants moved to suppress evidence found in a warrantless search of their residence. Following a suppression hearing, the trial court found that the officers’ subjective reasons for entering the house were inconsistent, that there were not sufficient exigent circumstances to justify a protective sweep, and that the officers’ entry into the residence was an illegal warrantless search. The trial court granted the motions and suppressed the evidence found in the residence. Upon review, we conclude that the trial court erred by using a subjective rather than objective test in finding that the exigent circumstances were not sufficient to justify the officers’ entering the residence to perform a protective sweep. However, we determine that the police officers’ knocking on the front door for ten to fifteen minutes while announcing their badge of authority rendered the encounter with Ms. Hilliard nonconcensual and the knock and talk investigation unlawful. The subsequent warrantless entry of the residence therefore violated the prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and article 1 section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution. The subsequent consent to search given by Ms. Hilliard was not voluntary and resulted from an exploitation of the prior illegality. We, therefore, affirm the judgments of the trial court suppressing the evidence in these three cases.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/17
State of Tennessee v. Andre Hill
E2016-02314-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Defendant, Andre Hill, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s revocation of his probation. On appeal, the Defendant argues that (1) the admission of a witness’s statements at the revocation hearing violated his right of confrontation; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to serve his original sentence in confinement. Upon review, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/17
Donnell V. Booker v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00378-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The Petitioner, Donnell V. Booker, appeals as of right from the Trousdale County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. He claims entitlement to habeas corpus relief, alleging that his eight-year sentence for Class B felony cocaine possession is illegal because it should have run consecutively to his prior sentences, rather than concurrently, as was agreed to in his plea agreement. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s summary dismissal of the petition but do so on a different ground—the Petitioner has failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that his sentence is illegal. See Mike Settle v. Ricky Bell, Warden, No. M2007-02743-COA-R3-CV, 2008 WL 4725599, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 28, 2008) (affirming using similar procedure).

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/17
State of Tennessee v. Jacob Scott Hughes
M2016-01222-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Defendant, Jacob Scott Hughes, was convicted of first degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse, for which he was sentenced, respectively, to life and twenty-five years, to be served consecutively, as a result of the death of the sixteen-month-old daughter of his girlfriend.  On appeal, he raises three issues:  (1) the trial court erred in ruling that he could not refer to his co-defendant, who was the mother of the child, as his "co-defendant," as well as to the fact that she had entered a guilty plea to lesser-included offenses; (2) the trial court erred in not redacting from his Facebook message a racial slur, which previously had been ruled inadmissible; and (3) whether autopsy photographs were properly admitted as exhibits during the testimony of the medical examiner.  Following our review, we conclude that the issues raised on appeal are without merit and arrim the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/17
State of Tennessee v. Mark Harold Lullen aka Luellen
W2016-00709-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

We granted this interlocutory appeal to review the trial court’s order granting the motion of the defendant, Mark Harold Lullen a.k.a. Luellen, to suppress his statement because officers did not give Miranda warnings. Upon review, we conclude Miranda warnings were unnecessary because the defendant was not in custody when questioned by law enforcement, so the trial court erred when granting the defendant’s motion to suppress on that basis. Despite arguments by the defendant that he did not voluntarily give his statement because he was under the influence of prescription drugs, the trial court failed to make findings of fact in this regard. Accordingly, we remand for full hearing and additional findings as to whether the defendant’s statement was voluntary.

Fayette County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/17
State of Tennessee v. Michael Smith
W2016-01513-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/24/17