Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/30/2016
Format: 09/30/2016
State of Tennessee v. Randall T. Beaty
M2014-00130-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

I respectfully dissent from that portion of the majority's opinion which modifies a judgment to impose a conviction for a lesser included offense even though there is legally sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction for the greater offense.  I concur in all other aspects of the majority’s opinion.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/08/16
State of Tennessee v. Randall T. Beaty
M2014-00130-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

Defendant, Randall T. Beaty, was indicted for first degree felony murder and aggravated child abuse.  After a jury trial, he was convicted of reckless homicide and aggravated assault, which were charged to the jury as lesser included offenses.  He received consecutive sentences of four years for reckless homicide and six years for aggravated assault, for an effective ten-year sentence to be served in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (2) that the trial court erred by allowing Detective Bachman to testify in violation of the rule of sequestration; (3) that the trial court erred by excluding a proffer by Amber Peveler; (4) that the trial court erred in failing to merge his convictions on double jeopardy grounds; and (5) that the trial court erred by ordering consecutive sentencing.  As to the alleged violation of the rule of sequestration, we hold, pursuant to State v. Jordan, 325 S.W.3d 1, 40 (Tenn. 2010), that the State had the rightunder Tennessee Rule of Evidence 615 to designate an investigating officer as exempt from sequestration and the designated investigating officer can remain in the courtroom during the testimony of other witnesses.  We further recognize, as a matter of plain error, that the jury’s verdict for aggravated assault failed to specify the mens rea with which the Defendant acted, and we conclude that the Defendant’s judgment of conviction for knowing aggravated assault, a Class C felony, must be modified to reflect a conviction for reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony.  We, therefore, modify the conviction in Count 2 to a Class D felony reckless aggravated assault, find sufficient evidence to support the conviction, and modify Defendant’s sentence in Count 2 to four years’ incarceration to be served consecutively to the four year sentence for reckless homicide. We also conclude that the conviction for reckless aggravated assault does not merge with the conviction for reckless homicide.  All other aspects of Defendant’s convictions are affirmed.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/08/16
State of Tennessee v. Aimee Denise Wallace
E2015-01962-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

Aimee Denise Wallace (“the Defendant”) pleaded guilty to one count of possession of drug paraphernalia and requested that she be placed on judicial diversion. The trial court, after acknowledging that the Defendant was a “qualified defendant” for judicial diversion under Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-313(a)(1)(B)(i), denied the Defendant’s request based solely upon the fact that she had a prior conviction for a class A misdemeanor. On appeal, the Defendant asks this court to reverse the trial court’s order denying judicial diversion, conduct a de novo review, and order that the Defendant be placed on judicial diversion. The State concedes that the trial court erred. After review, we conclude that the trial court erred because it denied judicial diversion without considering and weighing all the relevant factors. Because the trial court failed to conduct an evidentiary hearing, the record before us is not sufficient for us to conduct a de novo review. The judgment of the trial court is reversed and remanded for reconsideration and a hearing on the issue of judicial diversion.

Greene County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/16
Howard Hawk Willis v. State of Tennessee
E2015-00235-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

The Petitioner, Howard Hawk Willis, appeals the Washington County Criminal Court's summary dismissal of his pro se petition for writ of error coram nobis. The Petitioner seeks relief from his two premeditated first degree murder convictions and the resulting sentences of death, arguing (1) the coram nobis court abused its discretion in summarily dismissing his petition without taking into account due process considerations; (2) the coram nobis court's grounds for dismissal were erroneous; and (3) his pro se petition satisfied the coram nobis pleading requirements and, to the extent that it did not, he should be granted an evidentiary hearing given the pro se nature of the petition. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/16
State of Tennessee v. Rebekah Dearmond
M2015-01955-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Jones

The defendant, Rebekah Dearmond, appeals from her Maury County Circuit Court guilty-pleaded conviction of second offense driving under the influence (“DUI”), claiming that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress.  Because the defendant failed to properly preserve a certified question of law for our review, the appeal is dismissed.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/16
State of Tennessee v. Bernard Nelson
M2015-01690-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

A Montgomery County jury convicted the Defendant, Bernard Nelson, of two counts of indecent exposure.  On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the State breached its duty to preserve potentially exculpatory evidence.  The Defendant also contends that the convicting evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions.  We affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Lemonique Scherod Johnson
M2015-00595-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

A Maury County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Lemonique Scherod Johnson, of facilitation of aggravated robbery.  The trial court sentenced the Appellant as a Range III, persistent offender to twelve years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction, contending that the alleged victim was a participant in the robbery, that the evidence did not support a conviction of facilitation aggravated robbery because the victim was not “in fear,” and that the Appellant was not involved in the robbery.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Richard Dale Smith
E2015-01596-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

After the trial court denied his motion to suppress, the Defendant, Richard Dale Smith, pled guilty to driving under the influence (“DUI”). See Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-401. As a condition of his guilty plea, he sought to reserve the right to appeal a certified question of law challenging the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress. Following our review of the record, we dismiss the appeal because the Defendant failed to properly certify his question of law in accordance with Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2).

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Lindsey
E2015-02135-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The Defendant, Christopher Lindsey, appeals from the trial court's revocation of his community corrections sentence and order that he serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in admitting a certified copy of his nolo contendere plea to a shoplifting charge in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 410; that the court erred by “tolling” his community corrections sentence; and that the trial court did not properly calculate his pretrial jail credits or credit for time served on community corrections. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we remand this case to the trial court for the correction of inaccuracies in the revocation order relating to the calculation of credit for time-served.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/16
Ronnie Mills v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01066-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Petitioner, Ronnie Mills, appeals as of right from the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, he contends that his pleas were unknowing and involuntary due to counsel’s misinforming him regarding the specific terms of his plea agreement with the State and counsel’s subsequent failure to get those terms in writing or object when the alleged agreement was not honored. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Mark Stephen Williams
E2015-01393-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The defendant, Mark Stephen Williams, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation after a revocation hearing at which the defendant was not represented by counsel. He argues that he did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his right to counsel. Following our review, we conclude that the defendant did not execute a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to counsel. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand this case for the appointment of counsel.

Union County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Dennis Sprawling-Concurring
W2014-02511-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett

Although I concur with the majority's conclusion that the trial court did not err in suppressing the Defendant's blood test results and agree that the trial court's judgment should be affirmed, I write separately because I cannot agree with the inclusion of two sentences in the majority opinion concerning the adoption of a good faith exception to the exclusionary rule in Tennessee. The first sentence is: “We believe that Tennesseans have adjusted well for over three decades under our State's constitution without adoption of any good faith exception….” The second sentence is: “We should not alter Tennessee Law.”

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/16
State of Tennessee v. Dennis Sprawling
W2014-02511-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

Defendant, Dennis Sprawling, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for one count of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI), one count of driving with a blood alcohol content of more that 0.20% (DUI per se), and one count of reckless driving. A separate count alleged that Defendant had previously been convicted of DUI. In this interlocutory appeal, the appellant, State of Tennessee appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court's order granting a motion to suppress filed by Defendant. The State claims that the trial court erroneously suppressed Defendant's blood test results because the “arresting officer had both actual and implied consent” to draw a sample of Defendant's blood following Defendant's arrest for DUI. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/16
Marcie Lynn Pursell v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01375-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

Petitioner, Marcie Lynn Pursell, appeals from the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that she received ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failure to have expert witness testimony excluded, failure to impeach expert witnesses with prior inconsistent statements, and for lack of experience.  The decision of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/16
State of Tennessee v. Charles William Reed
M2015-00978-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt

This direct appeal presents a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A). Defendant, Charles William Reed, properly reserved a certified question of law as part of his plea agreement in which he asks this Court whether there was sufficient probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/01/16
State of Tennessee v. Charles Henry Midgett, III
M2015-00845-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The defendant, Charles Henry Midgett, III, pled guilty to two counts of attempted aggravated child abuse, a Class B felony. As part of the agreement, the defendant pled guilty as a Range I offender but waived the release eligibility within his range, and he agreed that the trial court would determine the length of the sentences, the release eligibility, and whether the sentences would run concurrently or consecutively. The trial court sentenced him to twelve years’ imprisonment for each count, to be served at forty-five percent. The sentences were to be served concurrently. The defendant appeals, asserting that the aggregate sentence is excessive and that the trial court erred in applying certain mitigating and enhancing factors. Discerning no abuse of discretion, we affirm the sentences imposed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/01/16
State of Tennessee v. Steven William Miller
M2015-02013-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

Defendant, Steven William Miller, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to serve his original sentence in confinement. Upon our review of the record, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by revoking Defendant’s probation and ordering Defendant’s sentence into execution. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/16
Michael Allen Gibbs v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01808-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The petitioner, Michael Allen Gibbs, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his first degree felony murder, aggravated burglary, and attempted especially aggravated robbery convictions. He asserts that the post-conviction court erred in denying his petition because he received ineffective assistance of counsel in that counsel did not thoroughly advise him regarding a plea offer and the proof needed to convict him. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Haywood County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Steven Shell
E2015-01103-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

In this appeal as of right by the State, the State challenges the ruling of the trial court dismissing the case as barred by the misdemeanor statute of limitations. Because no document in the record qualifies as a valid arrest warrant and no other event occurred to timely commence the prosecution in this case, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Laquinton Brown
E2015-00899-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve W. Sword

A Knox County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, LaQuinton Brown, of two counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony; two counts of employing a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony, a Class C felony; and two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter, a Class D felony. After a sentencing hearing, the appellant received an effective twenty-two-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; that the trial court erred by allowing the State to play a video showing him with a handgun because the video violated Rules 404(b) and 608(b), Tennessee Rules of Evidence; and that the trial court erred by imposing the maximum sentences in the range, by ordering consecutive sentencing, and by denying his request for alternative sentencing. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Marlin C. Goff
E2015-02201-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The defendant, Marlin C. Goff, appeals the summary dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence imposed for his 2005 convictions of rape of a child and failure to appear. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
Michael E. Stewart v. State of Tennessee
E2015-00418-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew M. Freiberg

The Petitioner, Michael E. Stewart, appeals the Polk County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2005 convictions for first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, kidnapping, and tampering with evidence and his effective sentence of life plus eight years. The Petitioner contends that (1) the post-conviction court failed to make proper findings of fact and conclusions of law relative to each ineffective assistance of counsel claim and (2) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Polk County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Felicia Jones
E2015-01101-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

The Defendant, Felicia Jones, was arrested without a warrant for driving under the influence (DUI) and possession of drug paraphernalia. The Defendant consented to a bench trial in Sullivan County General Sessions Court and was found guilty of both offenses. The Defendant then appealed to the Sullivan County Criminal Court. On appeal, the Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges against her, arguing that the affidavit of complaint filed after her arrest was void, that prosecution had never commenced in this matter, and that the applicable statute of limitations had expired. The trial court granted the Defendant's motion to dismiss, and the State now appeals. The State contends that the fact that the affidavit of complaint was sworn before a notary public rather than a qualified judicial officer was a mere technical defect that had “no impact on validity.” Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Lisa Hayes
E2015-01112-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin
The Defendant, Lisa Hayes, was arrested without a warrant for driving under the influence and simple possession of marijuana. More than one year later, the Sullivan County General Sessions Court held a preliminary hearing, and the Defendant's case was bound over to the grand jury. Following her indictment for the offenses, the Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment in the Criminal Court for Sullivan County, alleging that the prosecution was not commenced within the applicable one-year statute of limitations. The trial court agreed and granted the Defendant's motion to dismiss. In this appeal as of right, the State challenges the trial court's ruling dismissing the case. Because no document in the record qualifies as a valid arrest warrant and the State failed to establish that the Defendant's first appearance in general sessions court was within the applicable statute of limitations, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Milta Blanchard
W2015-00286-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett

Defendant, Milta Blanchard, filed a motion under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 alleging that the judgments against him were illegal because he was out on bond in one of his cases when he was arrested on the three other cases. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion and vacated three of the judgments against him. The trial court determined that the judgment for the offense for which Defendant was on bond was not illegal as it occurred first in time. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in correcting his illegal sentences on the concession of the State without first appointing counsel, holding a hearing, or providing him the opportunity to withdraw his plea. After review of the record and the briefs, we conclude that the trial court lacked authority to grant Defendant’s motion and that the judgments against Defendant should be reinstated.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16