Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/20/2017
Format: 07/20/2017
State of Tennessee v. Yelsin A. Cruz
M2016-01099-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The defendant, Yelsin A. Cruz, appeals his Maury County Circuit Court jury conviction of rape of a child, claiming that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his pretrial statement to the police, that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, and that the 27-year sentence is excessive.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/17
Orlando Malone v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01464-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell Parkes

The petitioner, Orlando Malone, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which petition challenged his 1999 Bradley County Criminal Court jury convictions of attempted especially aggravated robbery and aggravated robbery.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Walter Townsend
W2015-02415-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

After groping his twenty-five-year-old neighbor's crotch, eighty-two-year-old Walter Townsend, the Defendant, entered a plea of nolo contendere to the offense of sexual battery, a Class E felony. The trial court placed the Defendant on judicial diversion pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-313, and deferred prosecution for a period of eighteen months of supervised probation. Significantly, the trial court did not require the Defendant to register as a sexual offender under the Tennessee Sexual Offender and Violent Sexual Offender Registration, Verification and Tracking Act of 2004 (the “Act”), pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated sections 40-39-201 to -218. In this State appeal, the sole issue presented for our review is whether the trial court abused its discretion by not ordering the Defendant to register as a sexual offender. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/17
State of Tennessee v. Ronald Turner
E2016-00790-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

Defendant, Ronald Turner, appeals his convictions stemming from various drug and firearm offenses. He challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and argues that the criminal gang enhancement of some of his offenses pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-121(b) was unconstitutional in light of State v. Bonds, 502 S.W.3d 118 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016). Upon review, we determine that the evidence is sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions. However, because Defendant is entitled to retroactive application of the holding in Bonds, we vacate the sentences of the underlying convictions to which the enhancement was applied and remand those convictions for resentencing. Additionally, we conclude that the trial court committed plain error by improperly applying the Drug-Free School Zone Act and remand for resentencing on this basis. We also remand for correction of clerical errors.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/17
Mary L. Vaughn v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01309-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John F. Dugger, Jr.

The petitioner, Mary L. Vaughn, appeals the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged her 2014 Hawkins County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of second degree murder and aggravated child abuse, arguing that she was denied the effective assistance of counsel and that her guilty pleas were not knowingly or voluntarily entered. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/17
Eric Bledsoe v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00419-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Petitioner, Eric Bledsoe, appeals as of right from the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, wherein he challenged his conviction for aggravated rape, aggravated burglary, and theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-502; -14-103; -14-403. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that his attorney provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to call potential defense witnesses during trial and failing to adequately investigate the Petitioner’s mental health history. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/17
State of Tennessee v. Moriarco Montrell Lee
W2016-01391-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The Defendant, Moriarco Montrell Lee, and his co-defendant, Dequevion Lamar Lee, were indicted by a Madison County Grand Jury for attempted first degree murder and aggravated assault. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted as charged, and the trial court merged the aggravated assault conviction into the attempted first degree murder conviction and sentenced the Defendant to twenty-two years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand for entry of a judgment form as to count two reflecting that the Defendant’s aggravated assault conviction was merged with count one.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/17
State of Tennessee v. Charles Macklin
W2016-01711-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The defendant, Charles Macklin, appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 for failure to assert a colorable claim. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/17
State of Tennessee v. Willie Morgan
W2016-01445-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The defendant, Willie Morgan, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to a term of eleven years. On appeal, the defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction and that the trial court erred in excluding testimony about the victim’s compensation fund. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/17
State of Tennessee v. Marcus Boales
W2016-00567-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The defendant, Marcus Boales, appeals from the trial court’s dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 for failure to assert a colorable claim. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/17
Casey J. Lawson v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00403-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody Kane

The Petitioner, Casey J. Lawson, pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon and theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000.  He timely filed a petition for post-conviction relief; following a hearing on the petition, the post-conviction court denied relief.  On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel’s advice to plead guilty was deficient and because trial counsel failed to argue several pending motions before the Petitioner pled guilty.  He also argues that his pleas were unknowing and involuntary because the State coerced him into pleading guilty by moving to revoke his bail and because trial counsel moved to withdraw from the representation.  After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Smith County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/17
State of Tennessee v. Alexander Johnson and Michael F. Williams
E2015-02486-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

In this interlocutory appeal, the defendants, Alexander Johnson and Michael F. Williams, challenge the ruling of the Knox County Criminal Court granting the State’s motion to quash subpoenas duces tecum issued to four State’s witnesses. The State challenges that portion of the court’s ruling denying its motion to quash subpoenas duces tecum issued to various electronic communications service providers. Because the State lacks standing to challenge any of the subpoenas issued in this case, we reverse that portion of the court’s ruling granting the State’s motion to quash the subpoenas issued to the witnesses. We affirm that portion of the trial court’s ruling that the State lacks standing to challenge the subpoenas issued to the service providers. In the interest of judicial economy and to facilitate further appellate review, we have examined the preempted issues related to the subpoenas duces tecum issued in this case and have concluded that: (1) although nothing prevents the defendants in this case, generally, from obtaining the type of electronic communications at issue via a subpoena issued under the terms of Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 17 to the witnesses themselves, the defendants have failed to establish entitlement to all of the requested communications as discussed more fully below; and (2) under the terms of the Stored Communications Act, see 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701 - 2703, the defendants cannot obtain the contents of the electronic communications from any of the service providers via a Rule 17 subpoena duces tecum. Accordingly, the trial court’s November 3, 2015 order relative to the subpoenas duces tecum issued in this case is affirmed in part and reversed in part. The case is remanded to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/12/17
Dennis M. Dykes v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00845-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

Petitioner, Dennis M. Dykes, appeals from the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief.  After a review, we determine Petitioner waived his issues by failing to present them on direct appeal.  As a result, the judgment of the Circuit Court is affirmed.

Grundy County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/12/17
Jerry Kirkpatrick v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00955-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Sword

The petitioner, Jerry Kirkpatrick, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged the petitioner’s Knox County Criminal Court jury conviction of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/17
Cameron M. Cook v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00826-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The petitioner, Cameron Cook, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2012 Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of attempted first degree murder and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, for which he received a sentence of 30 years. In this appeal, the petitioner contends only that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/10/17
Alexander Haydel v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00667-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Alexander Haydel (“the Petitioner”) pled guilty to two counts of first degree murder and received two consecutive sentences of life without the possibility of parole. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief; the post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Petitioner appealed. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that lead trial counsel’s performance was deficient because “he misled the [Petitioner] in the events leading up to the [Petitioner’s] entering a guilty plea.” The Petitioner asserts that he was prejudiced by lead trial counsel’s deficient performance because absent that advice he would have proceeded to trial. Additionally, the Petitioner argues that his guilty pleas were entered unknowingly and involuntarily due to lead trial counsel’s deficient performance. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/10/17
David Enrique Leon v. Mike Parris, Warden
W2016-02156-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The petitioner, David Enrique Leon, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which petition challenged his 2009 Dickson County Circuit Court jury conviction of first degree felony murder. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/10/17
Warren Hildred v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02454-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Petitioner, Warren Hildred, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of second degree murder and resulting seventeen-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner claims that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/10/17
Darrell Jennings v. Michael Parris, Warden
W2016-01089-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The Petitioner, Darrell Jennings, filed a petition in the Lake County Circuit Court seeking habeas corpus relief from his first degree felony and second degree murder convictions and resulting life sentence, alleging that he is entitled to relief because he was convicted of an offense that was not alleged in the indictment and because the trial court failed to instruct the jury on lesser-included offenses. The habeas corpus court summarily denied the petition, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/10/17
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Durward Watson, II - Dissenting Opinion
E2016-00105-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

Only a person who has a legitimate expectation of privacy in an invaded place has standing to claim the protection of the Fourth Amendment and may seek to have illegally obtained evidence excluded. See Rakas v. Illinois, 439 U.S. 128, 133-34 (1978); Simmons v. United States, 390 U.S. 377, 389 (1968); State v. Willis, 496 S.W.3d 653, 720 (Tenn. 2016); State v. Cothran, 115 S.W.3d 513, 520-21 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2003). Because of his conduct, Defendant is not such a person. I believe that Defendant’s actions in this case fall squarely within the rule established by our supreme court in State v. Ross, 49 S.W.3d 833 (Tenn. 2001). Defendant disclaimed and abandoned whatever interest he may have had in the property, thus losing a subjective expectation of privacy. Therefore, I respectfully dissent.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/10/17
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Durward Watson, II
E2016-00105-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

The Defendant, Joseph Durward Watson II, was charged with possession with the intent to sell more than one-half ounce but less than ten pounds of marijuana. See T.C.A. § 39- 17-417 (2014). He filed a motion to suppress the evidence recovered from the search of the home in which the marijuana was found. The trial court granted the motion, determining that the police exceeded the scope of a levy issued for the collection of unpaid court costs and fines. On appeal, the State contends that the trial court erred by granting the motion to suppress because the Defendant disclaimed any expectation of privacy in the home, depriving him of standing to challenge the search. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/10/17
State of Tennessee v. John Talley
E2016-00213-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

Defendant, John Talley, appeals as of right from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 to correct an illegal sentence. Defendant contends that the trial court erred by concluding that relief was not available because his illegal sentence had expired. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Michael Chris Luthi
M2016-00427-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa A. Jackson

A Coffee County grand jury indicted the Defendant, Michael Chris Luthi, for DUI, third offense, DUI per se, and violation of the seat belt statute.  The Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence found as a result of a search of his vehicle, contending that the trooper did not have reasonable suspicion to support the stop.  The trial court denied the motion.  A Coffee County jury convicted the Defendant of DUI, third offense and of violating the seat belt statute.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trooper could not have seen that the Defendant was not wearing his seat belt and, thus, lacked reasonable suspicion to stop the Defendant’s vehicle.  After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Freddy Lee Penley
E2015-01960-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

The defendant, Freddy Lee Penley, appeals his Greene County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of filing a false report and leaving the scene of an accident, claiming that the trial court erred by ordering that he serve his entire three-year sentence in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Greene County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/07/17
Demetrius Armstrong v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00775-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The Petitioner, Demetrius Armstrong, appeals the denial of his petition for postconviction relief by the Gibson County Circuit Court. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was involuntary and unknowing. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/17