Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 02/20/2017
Format: 02/20/2017
State of Tennessee v. Jerry Brandon Phifer
M2016-00227-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

On June 17, 2011, a Davidson County grand jury indicted the defendant, Jerry Brandon Phifer, for twelve crimes against five different victims.  The defendant pled guilty to one count of aggravated burglary (Count 11) and one count of theft of property greater than $1000 (Count 12) as charged in the original twelve-count indictment.  The trial court sentenced the defendant to thirteen years for aggravated robbery and twelve years for theft of property to be served consecutively.  On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court improperly enhanced his sentence for aggravated robbery from the minimum of ten years to thirteen years.  The defendant also argues the trial court improperly ordered his sentences for Counts 11 and 12 to run consecutively.  After our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Todd Dewayne Scruggs
M2016-00558-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The defendant, Todd Dewayne Scruggs, was convicted of selling and delivering heroin and possessing drug paraphernalia, for which he received an effective sentence of twenty-six years.  The defendant appeals his convictions, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence and his sentence.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Vanessa Renee Pinegar
M2015-02403-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

The defendant, Vanessa Renee Pinegar, was convicted of one count of facilitation of delivering 0.5 or more grams of cocaine within a school zone and two counts of attempted delivery of 0.5 or more grams of cocaine within a school zone.  The trial court merged her attempted delivery convictions and imposed an effective sentence of nine years and a fine of $2000.  The defendant appeals her convictions, challenging the denial of her motion to sever the trial of the defendants, certain evidentiary rulings, the jury instructions, the sufficiency of the evidence, and her sentence.  Upon review, we affirm the convictions and sentences.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/28/16
Brian Keith Good v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01736-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.
The Petitioner, Brian Keith Good, appeals from the post-conviction court's denial of relief from his convictions for criminally negligent homicide, attempted aggravated robbery, and unlawful possession of a deadly weapon. On appeal, he argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel's (1) failure to adequately investigate and discover a witnesses' third statement in preparation for trial and (2) failure to call Anthony Branche and Mark Tolley as defense witnesses. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/28/16
State of Tennessee v. George Prince Watkins
W2016-00171-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, George Prince Watkins, pleaded guilty to burglary in 1989 and was given a probationary sentence. The Defendant violated his probation, and while on bond for his probation violation, he committed four new offenses, to all of which he subsequently pleaded guilty. The trial court ordered concurrent sentencing for all of the convictions. The Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, contending that his sentence was illegal. The trial court summarily dismissed the motion, and the Defendant appealed. This Court held that the Defendant had presented a colorable claim and remanded the case to the trial court for Rule 36.1 proceedings. State v. George Prince Watkins, No. W2014-02393-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 6145899, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Oct. 15, 2015), no perm. app. filed. The Defendant moved forward with his Rule 36.1 motion, and the trial court again summarily dismissed the Defendant’s motion finding that he failed to state a colorable claim since his sentences were expired and citing State v. Brown, 479 S.W.3d 200, 211 (Tenn. 2015), which was released in December 2015. Based upon Brown, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/16
State of Tennessee v. Julie Fuller-Cole
W2015-01346-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

In 2012, the Defendant, Julie Fuller-Cole, pleaded guilty in Shelby County to theft over $10,000. The trial court sentenced her to ten years of incarceration to run consecutively to a probation sentence from a prior Fayette County conviction. The Fayette County probation sentence was later revoked. In 2015, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, seeking to correct an illegal sentence. The Defendant asserted that the Shelby County sentence was illegal because it was aligned consecutively to the Fayette County sentence and because the Fayette County sentence was not revoked until after she was sentenced in Shelby County. After a hearing, the trial court concluded that there was nothing illegal about the alignment of the sentences. On appeal, the Defendant maintains that her sentence is illegal and that the sentences should be run concurrently. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/16
State of Tennessee v. Arterious North
E2015-00957-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Sword

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Arterious North, of four counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and four counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to twenty-two years of confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to sever his case from the cases of his co-defendants and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After review, we reverse the trial court's judgments of conviction and dismiss the charges for the attempted voluntary manslaughter of L.P. and for employing a firearm during the commission of the attempted voluntary manslaughter of L.P. We affirm the trial court‟s judgments in all other respects.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth Kyle Fletcher
E2015-02256-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

The defendant, Kenneth Kyle Fletcher, was convicted by a Carter County jury of facilitation of initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine, a Class C felony. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced him to ten years on community corrections. In a separate case, the trial court sentenced the defendant to concurrent four-year sentences for five counts of promoting the manufacture of methamphetamine and ordered that the four-year sentence be served consecutively to the ten-year sentence in the instant case, for a total effective sentence of fourteen years on community corrections. In a timely appeal to this court, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the trial court's order of consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Carter County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/26/16
Travis Armstrong v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01244-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

Petitioner, Travis Armstrong, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Following convictions, Petitioner received an agreed sentence of 20 years for possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine with intent to deliver and 15 years for possession of a controlled substance in a penal institution, to run concurrently, in exchange for waiving his right to appeal from the convictions which he received in a jury trial. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. After appointment of counsel and filing of multiple amended petitions, this petition was denied following an evidentiary hearing. After careful review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Charles Dixon
M2016-00620-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

The defendant, Gregory Charles Dixon, appeals his Lawrence County Circuit Court jury conviction of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction and that the sentence imposed was excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Lindsey A. Ochab
M2015-02290-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

In this appeal, the State challenges the ruling of the trial court granting the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence and dismiss the two-count indictment charging the defendant with driving under the influence (“DUI”) and driving with a blood alcohol content greater than .08 percent (“DUI per se”). Because the trial court failed to consider the effect of a search warrant and because, at any rate, probable cause supported the defendant’s arrest, the trial court erred by granting the defendant’s motion to suppress. The judgment of the trial court is reversed, and the case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/26/16
Billy Debow v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00753-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The petitioner, Billy DeBow, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which petition challenged his 1999 conviction of first degree murder. Because the interest of justice does not require that we waive the timely filing of the notice of appeal in this case, the appeal is dismissed.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/26/16
State of Tennessee v. William Heath
W2015-01837-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A jury convicted the Defendant, William Heath, of especially aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a sentence of forty years for especially aggravated robbery after merging the reckless endangerment and aggravated assault convictions into the especially aggravated robbery conviction. The Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/16
Kelvin Townsel v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01641-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Petitioner, Kelvin Townsel, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his guilty plea to second degree murder and the resulting thirty-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was not entered knowingly and voluntarily. We affirm the post-conviction court's denial of relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Harold Smith
W2015-02229-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Harold Smith, of reckless aggravated assault, vandalism over $1,000, and attempted theft of property over $1,000. The Defendant received an effective sentence of twelve years as a career offender at sixty-five percent. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/16
Eddie Medlock v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02130-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

A jury convicted the Petitioner, Eddie Medlock, of two counts of aggravated rape and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping perpetrated during the brutal assault of his ex-girlfriend. On direct appeal, this court vacated one count of especially aggravated kidnapping but affirmed the other convictions and the Petitioner‘s sentence of one hundred and twenty years. The Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief on June 27, 2003, but the post-conviction court did not enter a final disposition until October 1, 2015, when it denied the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that the post-conviction court erred in denying him funding for expert analysis during the post-conviction proceeding and that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Demarcus Holman
W2015-01744-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

The trial court found that the Defendant, Demarcus Holman, was guilty of possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, a Class C felony. The Defendant asserts that the conviction should be overturned on the basis of insufficient evidence. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Frank C. Massengill
W2016-00349-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

Pro se petitioner, Frank Massengill, appeals from the Madison County Circuit Court’s dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the trial court erred in summarily dismissing his motion, his sentences have not expired, and the trial court failed to follow the sentencing procedures under Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-210(b). Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/19/16
Dorothy Denise Cross v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00104-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The petitioner, Dorothy Denise Cross, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court's summary dismissal of her petition for post-conviction relief. The State concedes that the post-conviction court erred in summarily dismissing the petition. Following our review, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand for an evidentiary hearing.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Zachary Gale Rattler
E2015-01570-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance

A Sevier County jury convicted Zachary Gale Rattler (“the Defendant”) of attempted first degree murder, aggravated burglary, especially aggravated robbery, and possession of a prohibited weapon. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of sixty years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on flight, violating the Defendant's right to trial by jury; (2) the trial court erred in admitting the Defendant's subsequent arrest in North Carolina as evidence of flight; (3) the trial court erred when it would not permit backstriking of potential jurors; (4) the trial court erroneously refused to reconvene the jury for the Motion for New Trial hearing; (5) the Defendant was denied his right to a fair and impartial jury because a juror failed to disclose knowledge of two of the State's witnesses; (6) the evidence was insufficient to support the Defendant's conviction for especially aggravated robbery; (7) the trial court erred in failing to require the jury to further deliberate after returning an “incorrect verdict”; (8) the sentence imposed by the trial court is excessive; (9) the jury improperly considered the Defendant's decision not to testify to the prejudice of the Defendant; and (10) cumulative error requires a new trial. Following a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/19/16
Russell Brown v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00437-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew Mark Freiberg

The petitioner, Russell Brown, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received the effective assistance of trial counsel. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/18/16
State of Tennessee v. Terry Vonner
E2016-00019-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Defendant, Terry Vonner, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of attempt to commit second degree murder, a Class B felony; reckless endangerment, a Class C felony; and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-210 (2014) (second degree murder), 39-13-103 (Supp. 2012) (amended 2013) (reckless endangerment), 39-17-1324 (2010) (amended 2012) (employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony), 39-12-101 (2014) (criminal attempt). The Defendant also pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm, a Class E felony. See T.C.A. § 39-17-1307(b)(1)(A) (2010) (amended 2012, 2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to serve an effective sentence of fifty-one years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by not placing more weight on the mitigating evidence presented at the sentencing hearing. We affirm the Defendant's convictions, but we remand for the entry of a corrected judgment in Count 2, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, to reflect 100% release eligibility.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/18/16
State of Tennessee v. Anita Marie Strickland
E2015-02195-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Defendant, Anita Marie Strickland, pled guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to twenty-one years in the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”). The sole issue presented for our review is whether the sentence imposed by the trial court was excessive. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/18/16
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Lishun Brewer
E2015-02178-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The Defendant, Joshua Lishun Brewer, entered a guilty plea to carjacking, a Class B felony, with an agreed-upon sentence of eight years and with the manner and method of service to be determined by the trial court. See T.C.A. § 39-13-404 (2014). The trial court ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by ordering confinement. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/18/16
David Lynn Brummitt v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02452-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The petitioner, David Lynn Brummitt, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition for post-conviction relief.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/18/16