Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 02/06/2016
Format: 02/06/2016
Matthew Dixon v. State of Tennessee
W2015-00130-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The petitioner, Mathew Dixon, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition to reopen his petition for post-conviction relief as time-barred. The petitioner was convicted of first degree murder and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping. He subsequently filed both a direct appeal and a petition for post-conviction relief in his case. He has now filed the instant petition to reopen his petition for post-conviction relief, alleging a later-arising claim. Specifically, he contends that he subsequently learned that a witness at trial against him had an agreement with the prosecution. He contends that the post-conviction court erred in not finding that the statute of limitations should be tolled. Following review of the record, we conclude we are without jurisdiction to review the challenged issue. Accordingly, the summary dismissal is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/15
State of Tennessee v. Edward Sample
W2014-01583-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The defendant, Edward Sample, was convicted of one count of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, one count of attempted aggravated robbery, a Class C felony, and two counts of aggravated assault, Class C felonies. On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of his other crimes, that the trial court erred in failing to declare a mistrial, and that he was improperly fingerprinted during trial without counsel present. Following our review of the briefs of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, we conclude that the trial court erred in admitting the evidence of other crimes, and we reverse the defendant’s convictions and remand for a new trial.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/15
State of Tennessee v. Michael Smith
W2014-00900-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The defendant, Michael Smith, was convicted of aggravated burglary and sentenced as a Range II, multiple offender to ten years, the sentence to be served consecutively to a sentence previously imposed in another matter. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred by the following rulings: (1) instructing as to flight; (2) concluding that the defendant could be impeached with prior convictions for rape and attempted rape; (3) engaging in an ex parte communication with the jury; (4) refusing to grant a mistrial; (5) concluding the defendant could receive a fair trial even though the State had lost or destroyed recordings of telephone calls and jail visits; and (6) not allowing the defendant to present certain proof to impeach one of the State's witnesses. Following our review, we conclude that the issues raised on appeal are without merit and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/15
Jason Charles Austin v. State of Tennessee
E2014-01855-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

Petitioner, Jason Charles Austin, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner was indicted for one count of first degree murder. Petitioner was convicted by a jury of second degree murder and sentenced by the trial court to 23 years incarceration. Petitioner's conviction and sentence were affirmed by this court on direct appeal. State v. Charles Austin, No. E2010-00796-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 2445058 (Tenn. Crim. App., June 28, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn., Nov. 21, 2012). Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Having reviewed the entire record before us and the briefs of the parties, we conclude that the evidence does not preponderate against the post-conviction court's findings and conclusions. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/15
State of Tennessee v. Jon Michael Johnson
M2014-01834-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda McCendon

Pursuant to Rule 37(b) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, the defendant, Jon Michael Johnson, who pleaded guilty to one count of driving under the influence (“DUI”), appeals two related certified questions of law relative to the validity of the instrument used to measure his blood alcohol level following his arrest.  Because neither of the certified questions presented is dispositive of the defendant’s case, the appeal is dismissed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/15
State of Tennessee v. Carlos Campbell
E2014-00697-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword
The Defendant, Carlos Campbell, was indicted for seven counts of attempted first degree murder, a Class A felony; two counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony; and two counts of felony reckless endangerment by discharging a firearm into a habitation, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101, -13-103, -13-302, -17-1324(b)(1). Prior to trial, the State dismissed the reckless endangerment charges. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of two counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and five counts of misdemeanor reckless endangerment. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-103(b)(1). The jury acquitted the Defendant of the other charge of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of forty-six years. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress one of his confessions to the police; (2) that the portion of his confession played at trial contained impermissible evidence of other prior bad acts; (3) that there was no evidence corroborating his confessions; (4) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (5) that the trial court erred in setting the length of his sentences for attempted first degree murder; and (6) that the trial court erred in imposing partial consecutive sentences. At oral arguments, we instructed the parties to submit supplemental briefs on the issue of whether misdemeanor reckless endangerment is a lesser-included offense of attempted first degree murder. Following our review, we affirm the Defendant's convictions and sentences for attempted first degree murder and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. However, we conclude that misdemeanor reckless endangerment is not a lesser-included offense of attempted first degree murder; therefore, the Defendant's convictions for misdemeanor reckless endangerment are reversed and dismissed.
 
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/20/15
Jimmy W. Wilson v. David Sexton, Warden
E2015-00477-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Eugene Eblen

The petitioner, Jimmy W. Wilson, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which challenged the life sentence imposed based upon a Sullivan County Criminal Court jury's finding that he was a habitual criminal following his 1985 conviction of rape. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/19/15
Cyrus Randy Whitson v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01941-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Cyrus Randy Whitson, of first degree murder.  The Petitioner appealed, and this Court affirmed the conviction.  State of Tennessee v. Cyrus Randy Whitson, No. M2007-02197-CCA-R3-CD, 2009 WL 3787457, at *1-3 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Nov. 12, 2009) perm. app. denied (Tenn. April 23, 2010).  Thereafter, the Petitioner timely filed a petition for post-conviction relief, and, after a hearing, the post-conviction court issued an order denying the petition.  On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel.  After a thorough review of the record and relevant law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/19/15
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Dale
M2014-01932-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

The defendant, Gregory Dale, was convicted by a Williamson County Circuit Court jury of two counts of aggravated assault, Class C felonies, and simple assault, a Class A misdemeanor.  He was sentenced to four years, suspended to supervised probation after serving one year in the county jail.  On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of the victim’s prior violent mood swings to corroborate his claim that the victim was the first aggressor and he acted in self-defense.  After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/19/15
State of Tennessee v. Carl Christopher Dotson
M2015-00010-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley

Following a bench trial, the Defendant-Appellant, Carl C. Dotson, was convicted of driving on a revoked license, eighth offense, and driving under the influence (DUI), third offense, in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated sections 55-50-504 and 55-10-401, respectively.  For these offenses, the trial court imposed concurrent sentences of eleven months and twenty-nine days, to be served consecutively to an unrelated matter.  In this appeal as of right, the Defendant-Appellant argues that the trial court erred by using a prior 1998 DUI conviction to enhance the instant DUI to a third offense and that the evidence was insufficient to support his DUI conviction.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/19/15
Willis Holloway v. State of Tennessee
W2014-02444-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Petitioner, Willis Holloway, was convicted of two counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of aggravated burglary. He was sentenced to 135 years, and this court affirmed the judgments against him on direct appeal. Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was denied by the post-conviction court after an evidentiary hearing. On appeal, petitioner has abandoned his original claims for post-conviction relief and now argues that he should be granted a new trial because his trial counsel passed away prior to his post-conviction hearing. He also contends that his constitutional rights were violated by the trial court's assignment to hear the post-conviction proceeding. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Abraham Medina, Jr.
W2014-02358-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Following a transfer from juvenile court, the Madison County Grand Jury indicted Abraham Medina, Jr. (“the Defendant”), along with five other co-defendants, with three counts of aggravated robbery and one count of evading arrest. The Defendant was tried separately from his co-defendants and convicted as charged. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective twelve years' incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support the Defendant's convictions; (2) the trial court erred when it failed to include a lesser included jury instruction as to facilitation; and (3) the trial court erroneously imposed the maximum sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Justin Terrell Knox
W2014-01577-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Defendant, Justin Terrell Knox, was convicted following a jury trial of aggravated statutory rape, a Class D felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-506(c). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to six years as a Range II, multiple offender. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the State withheld exculpatory evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); (2) that the State knowingly presented false testimony at trial; (3) that the trial court erred in admitting testimony from two of the witnesses at trial; (4) that the State failed to file a timely notice of its intent to seek enhanced punishment; and (5) that the trial court erred by ordering his sentence in this case be served consecutively to his sentence for a prior felony conviction. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Michael Richardson
W2014-01053-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Defendant, Michael Richardson, was indicted for one count of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-402, -502. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of aggravated rape. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the aggravated robbery charge, a mistrial was declared with respect to that charge, and it was ultimately dismissed. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to twenty-two years for the aggravated rape conviction to be served at one hundred percent. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred “in ruling that if consent [was] raised as a defense,” then evidence of two other rapes committed by the Defendant “would be relevant to rebut the issue of consent.” Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Brian Allen Cathey
E2014-02320-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The defendant, Brian Allen Cathey, pled guilty to one count of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, and one count of theft of property of $1000.00 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony, in exchange for concurrent sentences of three and two years. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied an alternative sentence and ordered the defendant to serve his sentences in confinement. The only issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred by denying him an alternative sentence. Following our review of the briefs of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Aaron Dean Lawson
E2014-01788-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carroll L. Ross

The Defendant, Aaron Dean Lawson, was convicted of two counts of first degree premeditated murder and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, for which he was sentenced, respectively, to two life sentences and a consecutive two-year sentence. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by (1) disallowing expert proof of mental problems which were not such that they prevented his premeditating the murders; (2) admitting evidence of a jail telephone call which he made; (3) allowing proof of prior arrests, some of which resulted in his acquittal; (4) without a hearing, placing the Defendant in a stun-belt during the trial; (5) allowing evidence regarding pistol shells as proof of premeditation; and (6) excluding evidence of a prior consistent statement of the Defendant's father after he had been impeached with an allegedly inconsistent statement. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Jennifer Lopez and Sergio H. Gonzalez
M2014-01701-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

Following a jury trial, Jennifer Lopez (“Defendant Lopez”) was convicted of one count of aggravated child neglect, and her ex-boyfriend, Sergio H. Gonzalez (“Defendant Gonzalez”) was convicted of two counts of aggravated child neglect in connection with severe abdominal injuries received by Defendant Lopez’s two-year-old son, N.L, in September 2011.[1]  On appeal, Defendant Gonzalez argues that: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his September 27, 2011 interview with lead investigator, Detective Pilarski; (2) the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce evidence of N.L.’s bruises; (3) the trial court erred in preventing Defendant Gonzalez from impeaching Detective Pilarski with evidence from the detective’s personnel file; (4) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; and (5) the trial court erred when it sentenced Defendant Gonzalez to twenty years for one of his aggravated child neglect convictions.  Defendant Lopez argues that: (1) the trial court erred in failing to strike “improper statements made by the State’s attorney in closing arguments”; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction; and (3) the trial court erred when it sentenced her to seventeen years.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Darren Antonio Smith
M2014-01969-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

Defendant, Darren Antonio Smith, was indicted by the Montgomery County Grand Jury with one count of aggravated burglary, one count of vandalism over $1000, and one count of theft of property under $500.  After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of the lesser included offense of criminal trespass and was convicted as charged of vandalism and theft.  On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence.  Upon our thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/15
Chad Richard Dietz v. State of Tennessee
M2014-02180-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert G. Crigler

Petitioner, Chad Richard Dietz, sought post-conviction relief on the basis of an involuntary guilty plea and ineffective assistance of counsel.  After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief.  Because Petitioner has failed to provide clear and convincing evidence that he received ineffective assistance of counsel or that his plea was involuntary, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/16/15
State of Tennessee v. George Prince Watkins-Concurring In Part, Dissenting In Part
W2014-02393-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

I concur with the majority's conclusion that the Appellant has presented a colorable claim as to case numbers 90-227, 90-161, and 90-935 and that those cases must be remanded for appointment of counsel and a hearing unless waived by the parties. I respectfully disagree with the majority's conclusion that the Appellant presented a colorable claim as to case number 86-521, and I would affirm the summary dismissal of the motion as to that case. I write separately to explain my opinion concerning each of the four cases and to express my opinion that a felony committed while a defendant is released on bail for a probation violation does not trigger mandatory consecutive sentencing, and that if following the hearing on remand, the trial court determines that the six-year, illegal concurrent sentence entered in 1990 has been fully served and has expired, then the promise of concurrence has been fulfilled, and the claim raised by the Rule 36.1 motion is moot.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/15/15
State of Tennessee v. George Prince Watkins
W2014-02393-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Appellant, George Prince Watkins, appeals as of right from the Madison County Circuit Court’s summary denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion without a hearing. The State concedes that the trial court erred. Following our review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with Rule 36.1 and this opinion.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/15/15
James Lambert v. State of Tennessee
W2015-00238-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The Petitioner, James Lambert, appeals the McNairy County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for rape of a child, incest, and aggravated sexual battery, for which he is serving a twenty-five-year sentence. 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.

McNairy County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/15/15
Jerry Sandridge v. Michael Parris, Warden
W2015-00044-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

Petitioner, Jerry Sandridge, appeals from the trial court's summary dismissal of his pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus in which he alleged that his sentence of life without the possibility of parole for his aggravated robbery conviction is illegal and violates the 8th Amendment prohibition again cruel and unusual punishment. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/15/15
Tony C. Woods v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01660-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Petitioner, Tony C. Woods, filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis on December 17, 2013, seeking a new trial of the offenses for which he was convicted in 1989:  first degree murder, armed robbery, and possession of an illegal firearm, a sawed-off shotgun.  The petition for writ of error coram nobis alleges that he is entitled to relief because the forensic medical examiner who testified at his trial had his medical license revoked in 2005 due to “intentional misdeeds.”  The coram nobis court dismissed the petition because it was filed outside the applicable statute of limitations, and no due process concerns precluded application of the limitations period.  After a full review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/15/15
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth Lebron Wynn - dissenting
E2015-00575-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

Viewing the defendant's motion in the light most favorable to the movant, as we are obliged to do, see State v. David Morrow, No. W2014-00338-CCA-R3-CO, slip op. at 3-4 (Tenn. Crim. App., Jackson, Aug. 13, 2014); see also Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 28 § 2(H), we should accede to the State's concession that a fair reading of the claim indicates that it bespeaks an illegal sentence.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/14/15