Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/09/2016
Format: 12/09/2016
State of Tennessee v. James Ray Bartlett
M2016-00217-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durand, Jr.

The defendant, James Ray Bartlett, appeals the dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence. In this appeal, the defendant asserts that the trial court erred by denying his motion on the grounds that his sentence had expired.  Because Rule 36.1 cannot avail the defendant of meaningful relief, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Michael Holmes
W2014-02437-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Defendant, Michael Holmes, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for two counts of aggravated robbery, one count of especially aggravated robbery, three counts of first degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder, and one count each of facilitation of a felony and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Following a trial, the jury convicted Defendant of two counts of aggravated robbery, three counts of first degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court sentenced Defendant to ten years for each count of aggravated robbery, to be served concurrently. The trial court merged Defendant's three convictions for first degree murder into one conviction and imposed a sentence of life, to be served consecutively to the sentences in Defendant's other convictions. In addition to the sentence for the aggravated robberies, the trial court sentenced Defendant to fifteen years for attempted first degree murder and six years for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions, and that the trial court erred by not ruling that Devin Herndon was an accomplice whose testimony required independent corroboration. Following a careful review of the record, we find no error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/16
State of Tennessee v. Guary L. Wallace
W2015-00708-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn L. Peeples

Defendant, Guary L. Wallace, was convicted in the Crockett County Circuit Court of attempted first degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated robbery, and two counts of especially aggravated assault, all under a theory of criminal responsibility. Following a sentencing hearing, Defendant received the following sentences of incarceration: 40 years for attempted first degree murder; 40 years for especially aggravated robbery; 20 years for each aggravated robbery conviction; and ten years for each especially aggravated assault conviction. His 40-year sentences were ordered to run concurrently, and his remaining sentences were ordered to run consecutively, resulting in a total effective sentence of 100 years. Defendant appeals his convictions and sentences and argues: 1) that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions on a theory of criminal responsibility; 2) that the trial court failed to fulfill its role as thirteenth juror; 3) that the trial court failed to properly instruct the jury on criminal responsibility; 4) that the prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument; and 5) that his sentences amount to cruel and unusual punishment. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Crockett County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/16
State of Tennessee v. Obada D. Abujaber
W2015-00590-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The defendant, Obada D. Abujaber, was indicted for two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance, and one count of vandalism of property valued at $500 or more but less than $1000. Following trial, a jury found the defendant not guilty of one count of aggravated assault, guilty of one count of the lesser-included offense of attempted aggravated assault, guilty of two counts of the lesser-included offenses of attempted possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance, and guilty of one count of vandalism of property valued at less than $500. The trial court sentenced the defendant to an effective sentence of four years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days. On appeal, the defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/16
State of Tennessee v. Richard Bryant Long
M2015-02093-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

A Lawrence County jury convicted the Defendant, Richard Bryant Long, of rape of a child, and the trial court sentenced him to serve twenty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it allowed a video recording of the victim’s interview to be admitted without satisfying the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated section 24-7-123.  After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/16
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Ray Rust
M2015-02284-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin Lee Russell

The appellant, Brandon Ray Rust, pled guilty in the Bedford County Circuit Court to burglary and was granted judicial diversion with the requirement that he complete three years on probation.  Subsequently, the trial court revoked probation and ordered that the appellant serve the balance of his sentence in confinement.  On appeal, the appellant acknowledges that he violated probation but contends that the trial court should have ordered a sentence that included an alternative to confinement.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/16
State of Tennessee v. Marcus Anthony Robey
M2015-00306-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mitchell Keith Siskin

Defendant, Marcus Anthony Robey, was convicted of aggravated robbery by a Rutherford County jury and was sentenced to thirty years.  On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred by failing to provide a supplemental jury instruction following a jury question during deliberations and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.  After a thorough review of the record, we determine that Defendant waived his right to appeal this conviction.  Therefore, the appeal is dismissed.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/16
State of Tennessee v. James Moore
W2015-01483-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The defendant, James Moore, was convicted of one count of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and one count of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony, and sentenced in each case, as a Range II offender, to forty years confinement. The court merged the Class B aggravated sexual battery conviction into the Class A rape of a child conviction. On appeal, the defendant argues, as to each conviction, that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the conviction and the sentence was excessive. Following our review, we conclude that the arguments are without merit as to the conviction for rape of a child and affirm the judgment for that conviction. As for the conviction for aggravated sexual battery, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to sustain the conviction but remand for an amended judgment because the sentence imposed for that offense exceeds the range available for a Range II offender.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/23/16
State of Tennessee v. Ladon Antoine Doak
M2015-01454-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The appellant, Ladon Antoine Doak, was convicted in the Davidson County Criminal Court of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, and the trial court sentenced him to concurent sentences of fifteen and eight years, respectively. On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/22/16
Joe Billy Russell, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2015-02101-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The petitioner, Joe Billy Russell, Jr., appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for relief. On appeal, the petitioner asserts that his petition is timely because it falls within one year of certain federal opinions which establish a constitutional right requiring retrospective application. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Mervan Eyup Ibrahim
M2016-01360-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Mervan Eyup Ibrahim, was convicted of two counts of aggravated rape, a Class A felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-502. The trial court subsequently sentenced the Defendant to twenty-five years’ incarceration to be served at one hundred percent. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions because the State failed to prove that the victim suffered a bodily injury; (2) that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his interview with the police; (3) that the trial court erred in admitting the audio recording of a 911 call; (4) that the trial court erred in allowing a witness to read, verbatim, portions of a report made during a forensic medical examination of the victim and in admitting that report into evidence; (5) that the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial after one of the witnesses stated that the Defendant “had engaged in the illegal sale of marijuana and the illegal acquisition of Xanax pills” on the night of the offenses; and (6) that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during its rebuttal closing argument. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Tony Meeks
M2015-01813-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

The appellant, Tony Meeks, filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence in the Coffee County Circuit Court pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The trial court summarily dismissed the motion, and the appellant appeals the ruling. Based upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the motion.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/22/16
Anthony H. Dean v. Cherry Lindamood, Warden
M2016-00033-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell Parkes

Petitioner was convicted of aggravated rape and sentenced to forty years as a Violent Offender for the rape of an eighty-nine-year-old woman. Petitioner’s conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Dean, 76 S.W.3d 352, 357-60 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2001). After unsuccessfully utilizing various avenues to receive relief from his conviction, Petitioner filed the petition for writ of habeas corpus at issue herein. The trial court denied relief, and Petitioner appeals. After a review of the record and appropriate authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Dava Martin
E2015-01814-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Defendant-Appellant, Dava Martin, was convicted by a Bradley County jury of one count of casual exchange of a controlled substance. See T.C.A. § 39-17-418. Martin received a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days, suspended to supervised probation after sixty days’ incarceration, and a $2,000 fine. She subsequently filed a motion to reconsider her sentence, which the trial court interpreted as a motion for a reduction of sentence pursuant Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 35, and, following a hearing, the motion was denied. The sole issue raised on appeal is whether the trial court improperly denied Martin’s motion for sentence reduction. Upon review, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/22/16
Jereme Dannuel Little v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01190-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rebecca J. Stern

Following an evidentiary hearing, the Hamilton County Criminal Court granted the Petitioner, Jereme Dannuel Little, post-conviction relief and vacated his conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping. On appeal, the State contends that the post-conviction court erred by concluding that the Petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel based on counsel's (1) failure to seek a severance of two counts of aggravated robbery from the especially aggravated kidnapping charge, either pre-trial or after judgments of acquittal were granted on the aggravated robbery charges; (2) failure to interview witnesses from the store where the victim was allegedly kidnapped; and (3) decision to call a witness to testify without first adequately interviewing that witness. Following our review, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and reinstate the Petitioner‟s conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Lajuan Harbison
E2015-00700-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Defendant, Lajuan Harbison, stands convicted by a Knox County jury of four counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and four counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, for which the trial court sentenced him to an effective term of twenty-two years' incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant argues (1) that the trial court erred by refusing to grant his motion for a severance; (2) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, including therein a double jeopardy challenge to his employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony convictions, and (3) that consecutive sentencing was improper. Following our review, we first conclude that a severance of defendants should have been granted and that the failure to do so constitutes reversible error. We also conclude that the evidence was insufficient to support one of the Defendant's convictions for attempted voluntary manslaughter because the doctrine of transferred intent is inapplicable to such a conviction, and therefore, the corresponding count of employing a firearm during the commission of said dangerous felony likewise cannot stand. Additionally, multiple convictions for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony violate double jeopardy principles because the statute does not authorize separate firearms convictions for each felony committed in a single transaction. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Travis Dewayne Gipson
E2015-01273-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy Harrington

The defendant, Travis Dewayne Gipson, appeals the denial of his motion to withdraw the guilty pleas he entered to two counts of the delivery of cocaine. Because the defendant failed to establish a manifest injustice requiring that he be allowed to withdraw his pleas, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Erin Lea Gentry
M2015-02183-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

Defendant, Erin Lea Gentry, pled guilty to aggravated statutory rape and reserved a certified question for appeal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A) in which she asked this Court to determine whether the initial search warrant which led to the discovery of evidence supporting the indictment was overly broad; whether the affidavit supported a finding of probable cause to search specific items; and whether the officers exceeded the scope of the warrant.  After a review, we determine that the motion to suppress was properly denied, and thus we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/16
Michael D. Boone v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01200-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The petitioner, Michael D. Boone, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.  The petitioner pled guilty to possession with intent to sell or deliver .5 grams or more of a Schedule II drug (cocaine), a Class B felony, and possession with intent to sell or deliver between one-half ounce and ten pounds of a Schedule VI substance (marijuana), a Class E felony.  He is currently serving an effective twenty-four-year sentence for these convictions.  On appeal, the petitioner contends that his guilty pleas were not entered knowingly and voluntarily because he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel.  Specifically, he contends that trial counsel “battered [him] with tactics designed to scare or otherwise misinform” the petitioner, which resulted in his acceptance of the plea agreement.  Following review of the record, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/16
Jerome S. Barrett v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01161-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Petitioner, Jerome S. Barrett, appeals as of right from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief wherein he challenged his conviction for second degree murder.  On appeal, he asserts that trial counsel was ineffective in the following ways: (1) for failing to call an alibi witness; (2) for failing to call a deoxyribonucleic acid (“DNA”) expert; and (3) for failing to timely request independent DNA testing.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/16
State of Tennessee v. Sedrick Clayton
W2015-00158-CCA-R3-DD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

The Defendant, Sedrick Clayton, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of three counts of first degree murder, attempt to commit first degree murder, possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, employing a firearm during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony, and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. See T.C.A. §§ 39-12-101 (2014), 39-13-202(a)(1) (2014), 39-14-106, 39-17-1324(a) (2010) (amended 2012). The jury sentenced the Defendant to death for each first degree premeditated murder conviction. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to fifteen years for attempted first degree murder, three years for possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, six years for employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony, and eleven months, twenty-nine days for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions for first degree premeditated murder and attempted first degree murder; (2) the trial court erred in denying the Defendant's motion to suppress his statements to the police; (3) double jeopardy principles prohibit his dual convictions for possessing a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony and employing a firearm during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony; (4) the trial court erred in admitting photographs of the victims during the penalty phase; (5) the trial court erred in admitting recordings of two 9-1-1 calls made from the victims' residence around the time of the murders; (6) Lieutenant Goods' testimony during redirect examination was improper in numerous respects; (7) Tennessee's death penalty scheme constitutes cruel and unusual punishment; (8) Tennessee's death penalty scheme is unconstitutional in numerous other respects; and (9) the Defendant's sentences of death are disproportionate. Although we affirm the Defendant's convictions and sentences for each first degree premeditated murder and attempted first degree murder, we conclude that the trial court should have merged the convictions for possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony with the employing a firearm during the commission or attempt to commit a dangerous felony. Therefore, we remand for the entry of corrected judgments. We affirm the judgments of the trial court in all other respects.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/16
State of Tennessee v. James K. Hudgins
E2015-01363-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

The defendant, James K. Hudgins, was convicted of one count of first degree (premeditated) murder. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; that the trial court erroneously admitted evidence of a phone call from jail; and that the trial court erred when it allowed the State to introduce evidence that the defendant had previously accused someone of molesting his daughter. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/16
State of Tennessee v. Lance Elliott Falcon - concurring
E2015-00935-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

I concur with the majority’s opinion affirming the judgments of the trial court. I write separately to express my opinion that the question posed by the trial judge was essentially a comment on credibility and violated an unequivocal rule of law. “[J]udges in Tennessee are prohibited by our constitution from commenting upon the credibility of witnesses or upon the evidence in the case.” State v. Suttles, 767 S.W.2d 403, 406 (Tenn. 1989); see also Tenn. Const. Art. VI, § 9.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/17/16
State of Tennessee v. Lance Elliott Falcon
E2015-00935-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The defendant, Lance Elliott Falcon, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of rape, statutory rape by an authority figure, and sexual battery by an authority figure, arguing that the trial court improperly commented on the defendant's credibility in front of the jury, that the trial court erred in its instructions to the jury, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, that the sentence is excessive, and that the cumulative effect of the errors at trial entitles him to a new trial. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/17/16
State of Tennessee v. Javonte Thomas
W2015-01473-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The defendant, Javonte Thomas, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. In this appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress his statement to police. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/16/16