Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/23/2017
Format: 09/23/2017
Vernon Livingston v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02188-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The petitioner, Vernon Livingston, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition. The petitioner argues he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial which forced him to enter a guilty plea prior to the conclusion of the trial. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Mario Hubbard
W2016-01521-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A Shelby County jury found the defendant, Mario Hubbard, guilty of burglary of a motor vehicle and sentenced him to six years, as a career offender, in the county workhouse. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court erred when allowing the jury to hear a statement he gave to the arresting officer prior to receiving Miranda warnings and when denying his request for a jury instruction on the destruction of evidence. The defendant further argues the jury’s verdict was against the weight of the evidence and instead supported by his uncorroborated statement only. Based on our review of the record and pertinent authorities, we agree the trial court erred when denying the defendant’s motion to suppress, but given the otherwise overwhelming evidence presented at trial, this error was harmless. For the same reason, the jury’s verdict was not against the weight of the evidence. Finally, the evidence submitted at trial did not warrant a jury instruction on spoliation, so the trial court did not err when denying the defendant’s request for the same. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Jackson Martin v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01388-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The petitioner, Jackson Martin, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of one count of attempted second-degree murder and two counts of carjacking. Over one year after this Court affirmed his convictions, the petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief. The trial court subsequently denied the petition on its merits. Following our review of the record and pertinent authorities, we conclude the petition was untimely, and so this Court is without jurisdiction to consider this appeal. Accordingly, we dismiss this appeal and remand the matter to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Edward Hood, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01998-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The petitioner, Edward Hood, Jr., appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief as untimely. The petitioner asserts the applicable statute of limitations for his claim should be tolled as he was incompetent during the filing period. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Justice Ball
W2016-01358-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

A Shelby County jury found the defendant, Justice Ball, guilty of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, carjacking, employing a firearm during a dangerous felony, and evading arrest. The trial court imposed an effective fifteen-year sentence to be served at one hundred percent, and the defendant appealed. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions, arguing the evidence was insufficient to find him criminally responsible for the indicted offenses, while further challenging the constitutionality of the criminal responsibility statute. The defendant also argues the trial court erred in instructing the jury on criminal responsibility and their duty to not independently investigate the case. The defendant asserts the trial court erred by not granting his pre-trial motion to suppress or motion for a mistrial made during the State’s case-in-chief. Finally, the defendant asserts the trial court’s cumulative errors warrant a new trial. After our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Zachary Carlisle v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01357-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Petitioner, Zachary Carlisle, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and received an effective sentence of thirty years, all of which was affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Zachary Carlisle, No. W2012-00291-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 5561480, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 7, 2013), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 17, 2014). Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial vindictiveness. The post-conviction court denied relief after a hearing. We affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Courtney Means
W2016-02209-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

More than twelve years ago, Defendant, Courtney Means, was convicted of three counts of aggravated robbery. As a result, he was sentenced to an effective sentence of twenty-four years in confinement. His convictions and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Courtney Means, No. W2005-00682-CCA-R3-CD, 2006 WL 709206 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 21, 2006), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 5, 2006). In January of 2016, Defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The trial court appointed counsel, had a hearing, and then determined that Defendant’s claims were not colorable. As a result, the trial court denied relief. Defendant appealed. We affirm the denial of relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Calvin Ellison v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01784-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy Morgan

The petitioner, Calvin Ellison, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2013 convictions of misdemeanor reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, and employing a firearm during the commission of a felony. Because the petitioner failed to establish that he was prejudiced by counsel’s failure to challenge the consecutive alignment of his sentences and because he failed to establish that counsel performed deficiently in any other regard, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Douglas Martinez v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00093-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

Petitioner, Douglas Martinez, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Because the record is inadequate for our review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court. However, an error in the judgment form necessitates a remand for correction of the judgment to reflect the proper conviction.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Alex Goodwin and Joey Lee aka Joey Currie
W2015-00813-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camile R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

In this consolidated appeal as of right, Defendants Alex Goodwin and Joey Lee challenge their convictions of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, see T.C.A. § 39-13-402, for which they received eleven and ten years’ imprisonment, respectively. Both Defendants challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting their convictions. Defendant Goodwin argues that the trial court erred in (1) denying his motion to suppress text messages obtained from Defendant Goodwin’s cell phone and (2) refusing to instruct the jury on facilitation as a lesser included offense of aggravated robbery. Defendant Lee argues that the trial court erred in (1) admitting into evidence a BB gun located remotely in time and place to the offense without any testimony to connect the weapon to the offense; (2) allowing an expert witness to interpret the meaning of slang terminology used by the co-defendant in the text messages; and (3) the cumulative effect of the errors committed during trial denied him a fair trial. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Alvina Tinisha Brown
E2016-00314-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Defendant, Alvina Tinisha Brown, was convicted by a McMinn County Criminal Court jury of tampering with evidence, a Class C felony, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, misdemeanor possession of alprazolam, and possession of drug paraphernalia, Class A misdemeanors. See T.C.A. §§ 39-16-503 (2014) (evidence tampering), 39-17- 418 (2010) (amended 2014, 2016) (misdemeanor possession), 39-17-425 (2014) (possession of drug paraphernalia). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range III, persistent offender to an effective fifteen years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress, (2) the evidence is insufficient to support her tampering with evidence conviction, and (3) the tampering with evidence sentence is excessive. Because the evidence is insufficient to support the Defendant’s conviction for tampering with evidence, we reverse the judgment of the trial court, vacate the conviction, and dismiss the charge. We affirm the remaining judgments of the trial court.

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Tony Edward Bigoms - separate opinion
E2015-02475-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

All members of the panel agree that the Defendant must receive a new trial, although we disagree, in part, about the reasons why a new trial is required. Specifically, Judge Easter and I disagree with Judge Thomas’s analysis regarding whether a jury separation occurred when the jurors were allowed to speak with family members by telephone while in the presence of court officers, and we conclude that no separation occurred. Likewise, Judge Easter and I depart from Judge Thomas’s analysis of the trial court’s admission of evidence related to the Defendant’s knowledge of DNA matters due to his presence at a prior judicial proceeding at which expert DNA proof was received. Although Judge Easter and I agree with Judge Thomas that the evidence was inadmissible, we disagree with his analysis pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b) and believe, instead, that the proper framework for determining the admissibility of the evidence is provided by Rules 401, 402, and 403.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Tony Edward Bigoms
E2015-02475-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Tony Edward Bigoms, was convicted of premeditated first degree murder and abuse of a corpse, a Class E felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202, -17-312(a). The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of imprisonment for life plus four years. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that jury separations occurred when the sequestered jury members were allowed to go to their individual homes, unsupervised, to pack their belongings at the start of the trial, were allowed to make phone calls to family members during the trial, and were allowed to visit with family members the day before the trial concluded; (2) that the trial court erred in admitting testimony from a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) special agent regarding that agent’s testimony during a previous murder trial at which the Defendant was acquitted; (3) that the trial court erred in admitting evidence found as a result of a warrantless search of the Defendant’s cell phone; (4) that the State failed to prove venue by a preponderance of the evidence; and (5) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s convictions. Following our review, we conclude that jury separations occurred when the jurors were allowed to go home unsupervised and to make phone calls during the trial. Furthermore, we conclude that the State failed to meet its burden to show that no prejudice to the Defendant occurred during these separations. Additionally, we conclude that the admission of the TBI agent’s testimony regarding the Defendant’s previous murder trial violated Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b)’s prohibition against evidence of other bad acts and that this error was not harmless. Finally, we conclude that the trial court erred in admitting the evidence found on the Defendant’s cell phone as that evidence was not relevant. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial. With respect to the Defendant’s remaining issues, we will address those issues so as not to pretermit them. See State v. Parris, 236 S.W.3d 173, 189 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2007) (following a similar procedure).

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Raina Fisher v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00594-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell Parkes

The Petitioner, Raina Fisher, was convicted of three counts of theft of property valued over $1,000, one count of theft of property valued over $500, and one count of attempted theft of property valued over $1,000. The Petitioner filed a timely post-conviction petition, alleging that her trial counsel had provided ineffective assistance by failing to suppress evidence obtained through a judicial subpoena, failing to exclude evidence of her prior convictions, and failing to call certain witnesses who could have discredited the victim. She also alleged that appellate counsel was ineffective and that she was entitled to relief under a theory of cumulative error. The post-conviction court held a hearing and denied relief. After a thorough review of the evidence, we conclude that the Petitioner has not demonstrated prejudice resulting from any of her claims, and we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/06/17
David Hearing v. Cherry Lindamood, Warden
M2016-02114-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The Petitioner, David Hearing, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that his concurrent sentences of life for his two convictions of felony murder were illegal and void. The habeas corpus court dismissed the petition upon finding that the issue had been raised and addressed in prior pleadings. On appeal, the Petitioner challenges the habeas corpus court’s ruling. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/06/17
State of Tennessee v. Jeffery Dwight Ray
E2016-01533-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery H. Wicks

Following the Defendant’s, Jeffery Dwight Ray’s, guilty-pleaded conviction for aggravated statutory rape, the trial court imposed a sentence of three years’ incarceration. The Defendant appeals, arguing that he is a suitable candidate for alternative sentencing pursuant to the statutory considerations outlined in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-103. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s alternative sentencing decision.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/06/17
John Willie Stone v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01269-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

A Bedford County Circuit Court jury convicted the defendant, John Willie Stone, of burglary of an automobile, theft of property valued at $500 or less, and aggravated assault, and the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of 21 years’ incarceration. Shortly after the conclusion of his trial and prior to the entry of his judgments or his sentencing hearing, the defendant filed a pro se motion seeking new counsel, which the trial court interpreted as a petition for post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. Following a combined hearing on the defendant’s motion for new trial and his purported petition for post-conviction relief, the trial court denied all claims. In this appeal, the defendant challenges both the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the length of his sentence in addition to the ineffectiveness of his trial counsel. Because the trial court erroneously treated the defendant’s motion for new counsel as a petition for post-conviction relief, we vacate the portion of the trial court’s judgment which denied post-conviction relief to the defendant. In all other respects, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/06/17
State of Tennessee v. George Joseph Raudenbush, III
E2015-00674-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

In his first trial, Defendant, George Joseph Raudenbush, III, was convicted of driving on a suspended license, violating the financial responsibility law, speeding, felony evading arrest, misdemeanor evading arrest, assault, and reckless endangerment. The trial court merged the misdemeanor evading arrest conviction into the felony evading arrest conviction and imposed an effective four-year sentence. On appeal, this court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial because the trial court denied Defendant his Sixth Amendment right to counsel by requiring him to proceed pro se at trial. State v. George Joseph Raudenbush, III, No. E2012-02287-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 62372011 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 3, 2013). In his second trial, the subject of this appeal, Defendant was convicted of driving on a suspended license, violating the financial responsibility law, speeding, felony evading arrest, misdemeanor evading arrest, assault, and reckless endangerment. The trial court again imposed an effective four-year sentence to be served on supervised probation. On appeal, Defendant raises the following issues: (1) whether the trial court erred in overruling Defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal; (2) whether the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for felony evading arrest and assault; (3) whether the trial court erred by denying his motion for a change of venue; and (4) whether there was juror misconduct. Defendant is not entitled to relief on the issues presented. However, the trial court failed to merge the conviction for misdemeanor evading arrest with the conviction for felony evading arrest. We therefore remand the convictions for merger. In all other respects the judgments are affirmed.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/06/17
State of Tennessee v. Terry Trammell
E2016-01725-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Defendant, Terry Trammell, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of two counts of burglary, a Class D felony, and two counts of theft of property, a Class E felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-402 (2014) (burglary), 39-14-103 (2014) (theft). The trial court merged the burglary and theft convictions and sentenced the Defendant to concurrent terms of twelve years for the burglary conviction and six years for the theft conviction, which were ordered to be served consecutively to a previously imposed sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/05/17
State of Tennessee v. Martin E. Hughes
E2016-01415-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

The Petitioner, Martin E. Hughes, pled guilty to two counts of aggravated assault; introducing contraband into a penal institution; facilitation of possession of a schedule II controlled substance; possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver; possession of drug paraphernalia; a second offense of driving under the influence of an intoxicant; possession of a firearm while intoxicated; and vandalism of property valued under $500. The Petitioner received an aggregate five-year sentence, with credit for time he had served in prison and the remainder of the sentence to be served through the community corrections program. The Petitioner violated the terms of his alternative sentence, and he was sentenced to serve the remainder of the five years in prison. The Petitioner then filed a petition for post-conviction relief. At the hearing on the petition, the Petitioner sought to establish that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that he was entitled to withdraw his guilty pleas as not knowingly and voluntarily entered based on newly discovered evidence in the form of a victim recanting an earlier statement. The post-conviction court found that the Petitioner was not entitled to relief because he received the effective assistance of counsel and because the victim’s testimony at the hearing established that the material elements of her statement to police were accurate. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that a delay in the post-conviction proceedings attributable to the State resulted in the loss of a witness’s testimony and that his due process right to present his post-conviction claims was violated. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude there is no basis to disturb the Petitioner’s guilty pleas, and we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamblen County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/05/17
Rathal Y. Perkins v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02047-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The petitioner, Rathal Y. Perkins, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which challenged his 1995 Haywood County Circuit Court jury conviction of first degree murder. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/05/17
State of Tennessee v. Robert Guerrero
M2016-00481-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

Defendant, Robert Guerrero, appeals from the trial court’s summary denial of his Motion for Correction of Illegal Sentence filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure (Tenn. R. Crim. P.) 36.1.  In his motion and on appeal, Defendant asserts that his nine consecutive fifteen-year sentences for nine convictions of attempted first degree murder are illegal.  He asserts that by imposing consecutive sentencing, the trial court failed to base its ruling on at least one of seven criteria found in Tennessee Code Annotated (T.C.A.) section 40-35-115.  After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/05/17
Larry Peoples v. State of Tennessee
E2016-02315-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

The Petitioner, Larry Peoples, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, challenging his conviction of violation of sex offender registration and sentence of one year. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he is entitled to post-conviction relief because the underlying sex offense was vacated and he is no longer required to register as a sex offender. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/02/17
Travarious White v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01773-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The petitioner, Travarious D. White, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/02/17
Paul Richardson v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02189-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

The petitioner, Paul Richardson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/02/17