Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/28/2017
Format: 07/28/2017
State of Tennessee v. Michael Dewayne Hall
E2015-02173-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy M. Harrington

The Defendant, Michael Dewayne Hall, was convicted by a Blount County Jury of sale or delivery of cocaine under 0.5 grams in the drug-free zone of a public park, a Class C felony, and sale or delivery of cocaine over 0.5 grams in the drug-free zone of a public park, a Class B felony. As a career offender, he received an effective sentence of thirty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant claims: (1) the trial court improperly admitted a map into evidence at trial; (2) the trial court improperly denied his motion to dismiss the indictment; (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; and (4) the trial court improperly acted as thirteenth juror to approve the jury’s verdict. We conclude that the trial court properly admitted the map, denied the motion to dismiss, and acted as thirteenth juror, and that the evidence is sufficient to sustain the Defendant’s convictions. However, after a plain error review, the duplicitous nature of the Defendant’s convictions for “sale or delivery” of cocaine constitutes reversible error and violates the Defendant’s fundamental and substantial right to a unanimous jury verdict. Accordingly, we reverse, vacate, and dismiss the Defendant’s convictions.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/17
Henry Epps v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00626-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

Henry Epps (“the Petitioner”) entered a best interest plea to six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor; the remaining nine counts of sexual exploitation of a minor were dismissed per the negotiated plea agreement.  The Petitioner received an effective sentence of eight years with release eligibility after service of 100% of the sentence in the Department of Correction.  The Petitioner filed an original and an amended petition for post-conviction relief.  After an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief.  On appeal, the Petitioner argues that trial counsel’s performance was deficient in failing to subpoena the Petitioner’s computer forensic expert to testify at trial and in failing to inform the Petitioner until the Friday before his Monday trial that the expert had not been subpoenaed.  Petitioner claims that absent trial counsel’s deficient performance, the Petitioner would have proceeded to trial, and therefore the Petitioner’s best interest plea was entered involuntarily.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we reverse and remand for a new post-conviction hearing.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/17
State of Tennessee v. Dequan Hasani Bertrand
M2016-00920-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Dequan Hasani Bertrand, of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.  The jury acquitted the Defendant of one count of aggravated rape and was unable to reach a verdict as to two other counts of aggravated rape.  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of twenty-four years.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it admitted the victim’s identification of him; (2) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; and (3) the trial court erred when it sentenced him to the maximum sentences within his range and ordered his sentences to run consecutively.  After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/17
State of Tennessee v. Jacqueline Allen
M2014-01475-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge George C. Sexton

The Defendant, Jacqueline Allen, was found guilty by a Humphreys County Circuit Court jury of assault, a Class A misdemeanor, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a Class E felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-101 (2010) (amended 2013), 39-17-1307 (2010) (amended 2012, 2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as Range I, standard offender to an effective two years’ probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by failing to inquire about a violation of the sequestration rule pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 615. We conclude that the appeal should be dismissed because the Defendant’s motion for a new trial was untimely.

Humphreys County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/03/17
State of Tennessee v. Bobby Joe Campbell
E2016-00389-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

The defendant, Bobby Joe Campbell, appeals his Sullivan County Criminal Court jury conviction of second offense driving under the influence (“DUI”), arguing that the trial court committed plain error by failing to declare a mistrial following certain comments from a member of the jury, that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, and that the sentence is excessive. We affirm the judgment of the trial court but remand the case for the entry of a corrected judgment that reflects the 180-day period of confinement ordered by the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/02/17
State of Tennessee v. Thomas Braden
M2015-00991-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The Appellee, Thomas Braden, was indicted for possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana, and possession of Alprazolam, all misdemeanors.  He filed a motion to suppress the evidence, arguing that the affidavit in support of the search warrant for the home in which the drugs were found was defective because it failed to establish ongoing criminal activity at the residence, and the Maury County Circuit Court granted the motion.  The State appealed to this court, and we concluded that the trial court properly granted the motion to suppress.   The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the State’s application for permission to appeal and remanded the case to this court for reconsideration in light of the court’s recent opinion in State v. Jerry Lewis Tuttle, ___ S.W.3d ___, M2014-00566-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 5812945 (Tenn. Apr. 5, 2017), which overruled State v. Jacumin, 778 S.W.2d 430 (Tenn. 1989), and adopted a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis for determining whether an affidavit establishes probable cause for issuance of a search warrant.  Upon reconsideration, we again conclude that the trial court properly granted the motion to suppress.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/02/17
State of Tennessee v. David Scott Hall
M2015-02402-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Appellant, David Scott Hall, was convicted in the Davidson County Criminal Court of attempted especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class C felony, and sentenced to four years to be served as one year in confinement and the remainder on supervised probation.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction, that the trial court erred by allowing an expert witness to give irrelevant and highly prejudicial testimony, that he is entitled to coram nobis relief, that his right to a speedy trial was violated, that the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce evidence without showing a proper chain of custody, that the trial court erred by allowing the State to play only a portion of a controlled telephone call to the Appellant, that the trial court erred by allowing the victim to testify about habit, that the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce into evidence a letter supposedly written by the Appellant, and that the trial court erred by allowing the State to make improper closing arguments.  Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction, that the trial court erred by allowing a witnesses to give irrelevant testimony but that the error was harmless, that the Appellant is not entitled to coram nobis relief, and that his right to a speedy trial was not violated.  Finding no plain error as to the remaining issues, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/02/17
State of Tennessee v. John N. Porterfield
W2016-01012-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Defendant, John N. Porterfield, appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. Because the challenged sentences are expired, the Defendant is not entitled relief. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/17
Raquel Hayes v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01385-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Petitioner, Raquel Hayes, appeals from the dismissal of her petition for postconviction relief. At oral argument, the State acknowledged that the post-conviction court erred, and we agree. As a result, the judgment of the Criminal Court is reversed and the matter is remanded for a full evidentiary hearing.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/17
State of Tennessee v. Garry Baker
M2016-01164-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Defendant, Garry Baker, was convicted by a Rutherford County Circuit Court jury of attempt to commit voluntary manslaughter, a Class D felony, and two counts of aggravated assault, Class C felonies.  See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-211 (2014), 39-12-101 (2014), 39-13-102 (2014).  The trial court merged the convictions into a single count of aggravated assault and sentenced the Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to eight years to be served consecutively to a previously imposed sentence.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred (1) by permitting the State to introduce evidence of his previous conviction and (2) by imposing consecutive service.  We reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/17
Ashley Bradshaw v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01692-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The petitioner, Ashley Bradshaw, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from her 2013 Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, and aggravated child endangerment, for which she received a sentence of 20 years. In this appeal, the petitioner contends only that she was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Ricky Thompson - dissenting opinion
E2015-02464-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

I agree with the majority’s discussion of the photographs and subsequent legal analysis of their admissibility; however, I do not agree that the error in admitting the surgical photographs was harmless.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Ricky Thompson
E2015-02464-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Defendant, Ricky Thompson, appeals from his conviction for reckless aggravated assault, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion when it failed to declare a mistrial after a potential juror made highly prejudicial remarks that undermined the authority of the trial proceedings and contaminated the rest of the venire. Additionally, Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted photographs of surgical procedures performed on the victim. Following our review, we conclude that the trial court properly exercised its discretion in denying the Defendant’s motion for a mistrial. Additionally, we conclude that the surgical photographs were improperly admitted into evidence but find the error to be harmless. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Douglas Gwinn
E2016-01228-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Scott Green

Defendant, Jeffrey Douglas Gwinn, was convicted of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”). On appeal, he argues: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court erred by permitting the arresting officer to testify about Defendant’s fitness to drive a motor vehicle and his performance on field sobriety tests; and (3) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during its rebuttal closing argument. We conclude that the evidence was sufficient and that the lay opinion testimony was proper. We also conclude that remarks in the State’s rebuttal were improper, but we find the error to be harmless. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/26/17
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Lamar Baker
E2016-01332-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy M. Harrington

The defendant, Timothy Lamar Baker, appeals the denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea arguing that he provided fair and just reasons in support of his motion and that the trial court failed to engage in the proper analysis. After our review of the record, briefs and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/26/17
Joe Travis Northern v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01058-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Joe Travis Northern, Jr. (“Petitioner”) appeals from the denial of his petition for postconviction relief. Petitioner claims that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel and of counsel appointed to represent him in a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Joseph L. Smith
W2016-01229-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

Joseph L. Smith (“the Defendant”) was convicted of attempted arson under a theory of criminal responsibility and received a three-year sentence; he was ordered to serve one year in the workhouse and the remainder of the sentence on community corrections. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in its denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal and his motion for new trial because the testimony of the accomplices was not sufficiently corroborated by independent evidence. The Defendant also contends that the evidence introduced at trial was insufficient for a rational juror to have found him guilty of attempted arson beyond a reasonable doubt and that the trial court should not have instructed the jury on the offense of attempted arson. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm.

Henry County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/17
James Britt v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00928-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Petitioner, James Britt, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his premeditated first degree murder conviction, alleging he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/17
David Andrew Oliver v. State of Tennessee
E2016-02244-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Petitioner, David Andrew Oliver, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his rape of a child conviction and twenty-five year prison sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel, arguing that trial counsel should have advised him to testify at trial. We affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Mark Oden Potts
M2016-02079-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

Defendant, Mark Oden Potts, pled guilty to various drug-related offenses.  He received an effective sentence of eight years as a standard offender.  On appeal, he argues that the trial court abused its discretion by denying an alternative sentence of probation or community corrections.  After reviewing the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Thomas R. Davis
E2016-01622-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Thomas R. Davis, of simple possession of a controlled substance; simple possession of a controlled substance, third offense; and misdemeanor evading arrest. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days each for simple possession of a controlled substance and evading arrest and one year for simple possession of a controlled substance, third offense. The trial court merged the drug convictions and ordered the Defendant to serve his sentences concurrently, for an effective sentence of one year. On appeal, the Defendant contends that due to an amendment to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-418(e) that went into effect prior to the sentencing hearing, he did not qualify for enhanced punishment for simple possession of a controlled substance based on prior convictions. We conclude that the amendment to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-418(e) controls and that, as a result, the Defendant did not qualify for enhancement punishment for his simple possession conviction based on his prior convictions. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are reversed in part and affirmed in part. The Defendant’s conviction for simple possession of a controlled substance as a Class E felony as reflected in the judgment for count 12 is dismissed, and the case is remanded to the trial court for entry of a corrected judgment reflecting the $2,500 fine imposed by the jury in count 11 and for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/17
Josh L. Bowman v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01028-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Petitioner, Josh L. Bowman, was convicted by a jury of three counts of first degree felony murder, one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of especially aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated burglary, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. After the verdict, the Petitioner pled guilty to one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony when he had previously been convicted of a felony. The trial court merged the murder convictions, merged the burglary convictions, and merged the firearms convictions. This court on appeal reversed the especially aggravated kidnapping conviction and remanded for a new trial, affirming all other judgments. See State v. Josh L. Bowman, No. E2012-00923-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 4680402, at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 29, 2013), overruled in part by State v. Teats, 468 S.W.3d 495 (Tenn. 2015). The Petitioner filed a timely post-conviction petition, alleging that his trial counsel was deficient in allowing him to enter a guilty plea to the firearms offense and deficient in failing to object to the racial composition of the jury venire. The post-conviction court granted relief on the firearms conviction, finding that the Petitioner did not have a qualifying prior “dangerous felony” and dismissing the charge. The post-conviction court found that the Petitioner could not show deficiency or prejudice on the jury issue. Both parties filed notices of appeal in this court. The State asserts that the postconviction court misinterpreted Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-1324 (2008) in granting relief and argues that the prior felony need not be a dangerous felony according to statute. The Petitioner asserts that he is entitled to relief from all his convictions based on the jury composition. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the postconviction court’s judgment. We remand for the post-conviction court to enter judgment on the merged conviction which survives the dismissal of the firearms offense.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Justin Ray Lane
E2016-01756-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

A Sullivan County jury convicted the defendant, Justin Ray Lane, of four separate felony offenses for his participation in a controlled drug buy of heroin and cocaine within one thousand feet of a school. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions arguing the State failed to prove he authored the text messages which established the details of the illegal transaction. Additionally, and for the same reason, the defendant argues photographs of the text messages establishing the drug deal were not properly authenticated at trial. Finally, the defendant contends the trial court prejudiced the jury by including the preamble to the Drug-Free School Zone Act in its charge. After reviewing the record, submissions of the parties, and pertinent authorities, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Maurice Marlin
M2016-01376-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

The Defendant, Gregory Maurice Marlin, was convicted of evading arrest while operating a motor vehicle, evading arrest on foot, and operating a motor vehicle while declared a habitual traffic offender.  The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a standard offender to two years for the evading arrest while operating a motor vehicle conviction, eleven months and twenty-nine days for the evading arrest on foot conviction, and two years for the operating a motor vehicle while declared a habitual offender conviction, all to be served consecutively to each other.  After the sentencing hearing, the trial court amended the sentence and merged the evading arrest on foot conviction with the evading arrest while operating a motor vehicle conviction, for an effective sentence of four years in prison.  The Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Johnathan Robert Leonard
M2016-00269-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

Johnathan Robert Leonard (“the Defendant”) appeals his Marshall County convictions for three counts of rape of a child, two counts of soliciting sexual exploitation of a child, and one count of aggravated sexual battery, for which he received an effective sentence of ninety-six years.  The Defendant asserts that he was denied due process and a fair trial based on numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct and that the cumulative effect of “irregularities” during voir dire and jury selection resulted in structural constitutional error, necessitating a new trial.  After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/17