Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/23/2018
Format: 09/23/2018
State of Tennessee v. Willie Jermaine Cunningham
W2017-01134-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

Defendant, Willie Jermaine Cunningham, appeals from the dismissal of several attempts to receive relief from an “illegal sentence” under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Because Defendant has failed to state a colorable claim for relief, we affirm the dismissal of the motion for relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/25/18
State of Tennessee v. William S. Vanwinkle
M2017-00812-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Defendant, William S. Vanwinkle, pleaded guilty in case numbers F-72538 and F- 74515 to initiating a process intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine, see T.C.A. § 39-17-435, and in case number M-75892 to shoplifting, see id. § 39-14-146. In this appeal, the Defendant contends that the twenty-year effective sentence imposed in this case is excessive and that the trial court erred by denying all forms of alternative sentencing. After a thorough review of the record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Court of Criminal Appeals 05/25/18
State of Tennessee v. Frank Edward Small
E2017-01266-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The Defendant, Frank Edward Small, was convicted by a Sullivan County Circuit Court jury of robbery, a Class C felony, and home improvement fraud, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-401 (2014) (robbery), 39-14-154 (2010) (amended 2012, 2017) (home improvement fraud). He received a Range I, effective five-year sentence to be served in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion to review the victim’s medical records. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/25/18
State of Tennessee v. Michael C. Carter
E2017-01292-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

Defendant, Michael C. Carter, was charged via presentment with one count of failure to appear, one count of being a habitual traffic offender, one count of failure to provide law enforcement evidence of financial responsibility, one count of operating a motor vehicle on a public road with a false registration, and one count of failure to dim headlights within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle. Defendant pled guilty and was sentenced to an effective sentence of four years in incarceration. Defendant appeals to this Court, arguing that the trial court improperly denied alternative sentencing. After a complete review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/25/18
Charles Elsea v. State of Tennessee
E2017-01676-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: E2017-01676-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Charles Elsea, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction DNA analysis on unprocessed specimens relating to his October 10, 1997 conviction for first degree murder. Because we hold that even favorable DNA results from the unprocessed specimens do not create a reasonable probability that Petitioner would not have been prosecuted or convicted or would have received a more favorable verdict or sentencing, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/18
Robert Edward Fritts v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00996-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

Petitioner, Robert Edward Fritts, was convicted of first degree murder and received a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. See State v. Robert Edward Fritts, No. E2012-02233-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 545474, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 10, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 19, 2014). Petitioner’s conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. Id. Petitioner subsequently sought post-conviction relief on the basis of a multitude of allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief after a hearing. After a complete review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/18
State of Tennessee v. John Wesley Cantrell, Jr.
M2017-00842-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Appellant, John Wesley Cantrell, Jr., pled guilty in the Davidson County Criminal Court to possessing one-half gram or more of cocaine with intent to sell and selling less than one-half gram of cocaine and received ten- and three-year sentences, respectively, to be served on supervised probation. Subsequently, the trial court revoked his probation. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by ordering that he serve his ten-year sentence in confinement. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/18
State of Tennessee v. Larry E. Orozco - Concurring in Part, Dissenting in Part
M2017-00327-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Paul G. Summers

I join the majority in affirming the Defendant’s convictions for two counts of attempted second degree murder, two counts of unlawful employment of a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony, and seven counts of reckless endangerment committed with a deadly weapon. I write separately to dissent from the majority’s conclusion that the trial court did not err by admitting exhibit 13, the photograph showing the Defendant pointing two handguns at the camera, into evidence.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/18
State of Tennessee v. Larry E. Orozco
M2017-00327-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Paul G. Summers

The Defendant, Larry E. Orozco, was convicted of two counts of attempted second degree murder, two counts of unlawful employment of a firearm during an attempt to commit a dangerous felony, and seven counts of reckless endangerment committed with a deadly weapon. The trial court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to an effective term of thirty-one years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant argues that (1) the trial court erred in admitting certain evidence in violation of Tennessee Rules of Evidence 403 and 404(b); (2) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; and (3) his sentence was erroneous and excessive. After a thorough review of the record and briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/18
Delvin Allison v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00707-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

Petitioner, Delvin Allison, pled guilty to aggravated robbery with an agreed sentence of seven years and two months as a mitigated offender, which was ordered to be served in the Department of Correction. Petitioner now appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he contends: the post-conviction court improperly determined that he was not entitled to discovery of the audio recording of the juvenile court transfer hearing; trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance both prior to and during the guilty plea proceedings; and his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/18
State of Tennessee v. Jamie Crowell
W2017-00799-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Defendant, Jamie Crowell, was convicted by a Chester County Circuit Court jury of aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony; facilitation of aggravated assault, a Class D felony; possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, a Class B felony; possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, a Class B felony; possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, oxymorphone, a Class A misdemeanor; and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. The trial court merged the methamphetamine convictions into one conviction and sentenced the Defendant to a total effective term of seventeen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the State’s questioning about the prior methamphetamine use of defense witnesses denied him a fair trial; and (3) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Chester County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/18
State of Tennessee v. Bobby Ray Graves, Jr.
M2017-00088-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

A Warren County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Bobby Ray Graves, Jr., of failure to appear, a Class E felony, and the trial court sentenced him to six years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction because the State failed to prove that he “went into hiding to avoid prosecution” and that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/18
State of Tennessee v. Peterpal T. Tutlam
M2016-01659-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Peterpal T. Tutlam, of two counts of especially aggravated robbery, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, and two counts of aggravated rape, Class A felonies. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Appellant to twenty-five years for each conviction and ordered that the sentences be served consecutively for a total effective sentence of one hundred fifty years. On appeal, the Appellant contends that his effective sentence is excessive. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/18
William Boatwright v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00211-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Petitioner, William Boatwright, appeals from the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his especially aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and two aggravated assault convictions, for which he is serving a forty-seven-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand the case for additional findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/22/18
Dustin Lucio v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00089-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: JudgeThomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Duane Slone

Petitioner, Dustin Lucio, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner was convicted by a jury of aggravated rape and sentenced by the trial court to 23 years in confinement to be served at 100 percent release eligibility. Petitioner’s conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Dustin Matthew Lucio, No. E2014-00642-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 1510830 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 31, 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 13, 2015). Petitioner contends that his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to include in the record on appeal a transcript of the hearing on the State’s motion in limine. In that motion, the State sought to exclude from evidence the victim’s medical records showing that she received treatment for drug abuse after the offense occurred. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/18
Frederick Wendell Thomas v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00917-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The petitioner, Frederick Wendell Thomas, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2013 Shelby County Criminal Court jury conviction of first degree murder, for which he received a life sentence. In this appeal, the petitioner contends only that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/18
Nathan Chaleunsak v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01186-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Evertt Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

The Petitioner, Nathan Chaleunsak, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2015 guilty-pleaded conviction of second degree murder, for which he received an agreed, out-of-range sentence of thirty years to be served at 100%. The Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, asserting that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was not voluntarily and knowingly entered. Following a hearing, the postconviction court denied relief. After review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Morgan Nyle Janyja
M2017-01835-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Defendant, Morgan Nyle Janyja, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the revocation. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/18
Robert Earl Borner v. State of Tennessee
M2017-02305-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The Petitioner, Robert Earl Borner, appeals the dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. He argues that the indictment is void because it failed to state the essential elements of the conviction offense. After a thorough review of the record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Ashley N. Menke
M2017-00597-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Thompson

On July 14, 2016, Ashley N. Menke, the Defendant, entered an open guilty plea in Case No. 925-CR-2015 to five felonies and three misdemeanors, including one count of theft in the amount of $1,000 or more but less than $10,000 (Count 9), and to a violation of probation in Case No. 268-CR-2014. The value of the property taken in Count 9 was exactly $1,000, and the Defendant was released on bail for felony offenses in Counts 3, 4, 5, and 6 at the time she committed the theft in Count 9. Following the December 2, 2016 sentencing hearing, the trial court took the matter under advisement without sentencing the Defendant. On January 1, 2017, the Public Safety Act of 2016 became effective. Section 5 of the Public Safety Act “deleted and replaced” Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-105(a), the “grading of theft” statute. Theft in the amount of $1,000 or less committed after January 1, 2017, is now graded as a Class A misdemeanor. In its March 10, 2017 sentencing order, the trial court imposed an eleven month and twenty-nine day sentence in Count 9 based on the criminal savings statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-112, and ordered the sentence to be served concurrently with the effective three-year sentence for the other seven counts. The judgment states that the conviction offense is a Class D felony. We hold that the criminal savings statute does not apply and that the trial court erred in sentencing the Defendant in Count 9 to a concurrent sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days because of the following: (1) the General Assembly did not specifically indicate that Section 5 of the Public Safety Act operated retrospectively so the statute is presumed to operate prospectively; (2) “the value of the property or services obtained” is an essential element of the offense of theft; and (3) the legislature changed an essential element of, not the sentence for, Class A misdemeanor theft, Class E felony theft, and Class D felony theft. We affirm the judgment of conviction for the Class D felony theft in Count 9, vacate the sentence in Count 9, and remand the case to the trial court for resentencing within the applicable range for Class D felony theft and for consecutive alignment of the sentence pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-20-111(b) and Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(c)(3)(C).

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Dequevion Lamar Lee
W2017-01449-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The defendant, Dequevion Lamar Lee, was convicted by a Madison County jury for attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault. On appeal, he argues the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand the case for entry of a corrected judgment form as to count two reflecting the defendant’s aggravated assault conviction was merged with count one.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Morris
W2017-00393-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Curtis Morris, of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, and felony murder of his seventeen-month-old son. On appeal the defendant argues: the trial court erred when excluding a daycare record; the trial court erred when permitting the jury to view autopsy photos of the victim; the trial court erred when allowing certain expert testimony; the State failed to properly elect offenses; the trial court erred when failing to define “knowing” in its aggravated child abuse instructions; the State presented insufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict; and the cumulative effect of these errors resulted in the denial of a fair trial. Based on our thorough review of the record, pertinent authorities, and arguments of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Pamela Moses
W2016-01762-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

Defendant, Pamela Moses, was placed on intensive probation following the entry of guilty pleas to several offenses. The State filed two petitions to revoke her probation. After a lengthy hearing, the trial court revoked Defendant’s probation and ordered the “original judgment of conviction” into execution with additional jail credit for time served in confinement. Defendant argues on appeal that the trial court improperly revoked probation. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/18
Donald Scott Kimbrough v. State of Tennessee
E2017-01354-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

In April 2005, Donald Scott Kimbrough (“the Petitioner”) pled guilty to second degree murder and attempted second degree murder. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant received an effective sentence of twenty-five years’ incarceration. Almost twelve years after his guilty plea, in March 2017, the Petitioner filed an untimely petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner acknowledged that his petition was untimely filed but asserted that the statute of limitations should be tolled because he was a minor at the time of the offenses. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition as time-barred after finding that no statutory exception existed to toll the limitations period and that the Petitioner failed to establish a basis for due process tolling. The Petitioner now appeals the post-conviction court’s order. However, because the Petitioner filed an untimely notice of appeal with this court and the interest of justice does not favor a waiver of the timely filing requirement in this case, the Petitioner’s appeal is dismissed.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Nathaniel Morton Champion
M2016-01648-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa Jackson

A Coffee County jury convicted the Defendant, Nathaniel Morton Champion, of possession of contraband in a penal institution, a Class C felony, for which the trial court imposed an eight-year sentence to run consecutively to the Defendant’s prior sentences. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss the indictment based on the State’s failure to preserve evidence pursuant to State v. Ferguson, 2 S.W.3d 912 (Tenn. 1999); (2) the evidence introduced at trial was insufficient to support his conviction; (3) the trial court abused its discretion by denying the Defendant’s request for a continuance based on the failure of a defense witness to appear to testify at trial; (4) the Defendant’s waiver of the right to counsel was not knowing and intelligent; and (5) the trial court abused its discretion by enhancing the Defendant’s sentence to eight years and ordering consecutive sentencing. Following a thorough review, we affirm the Defendant’s judgment of conviction.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/18