Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 11/24/2017
Format: 11/24/2017
Derek Cunningham v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01974-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Petitioner, Derek Cunningham, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Pursuant to a guilty plea, the Petitioner was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to thirty years of incarceration. The Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, asserting that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that he entered his plea unknowingly and involuntarily. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. After review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the postconviction court’s denial of relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/12/17
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Dewayne Theus
W2016-01626-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

A Madison County jury convicted the Defendant, Brandon Dewayne Theus, of unlawful possession of a firearm after previously having been convicted of a felony involving the attempted use of force, violence, or a deadly weapon. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to nine years in the Tennessee Department of Correction as a Range II, multiple offender. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence discovered as a result a vehicle stop, the sufficiency of the evidence, and his sentence. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. However, we remand the case to the trial court for correction of the judgment to reflect that the Defendant was convicted pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-1307(b)(1)(A) rather than section 39-17-1307(c).

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/12/17
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Scott Long
E2015-01287-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

Defendant, Jeffrey Scott Long, was indicted by the Blount County Grand Jury for first degree murder, felony murder during the perpetration of a burglary, aggravated burglary, and aggravated assault. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted as charged, and the trial court merged the two murder convictions. The trial court imposed a life sentence for the murder conviction and concurrent six-year sentences for the remaining two convictions. In this appeal as of right, Defendant raises the following issues for our review: 1) Defendant's statement to police should have been suppressed because he made an unequivocal request for counsel, and he did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his Miranda rights; 2) the trial court erred by admitting into evidence an order of protection granted to the victim against Defendant; 3) the trial court erred by admitting into evidence autopsy photos; 4) the trial court should have suppressed evidence seized as a result of a warrantless search of Defendant's apartment; 5) the trial court erred by allowing expert testimony outside the scope of the forensic pathologist's expertise; 6) the trial court erred by denying Defendant's request for a special jury instruction; 7) the trial court erred by allowing evidence that was not properly authenticated; 8) Defendant was denied a fair trial because a portion of trial testimony was not transcribed; 9) the evidence was insufficient to sustain Defendant's convictions; 10) the State exceeded the scope of its closing argument on rebuttal; and 11) the cumulative effect of the errors requires reversal of Defendant's convictions. Having carefully reviewed the entire record and briefs of the parties, we conclude that there is no error. Accordingly, we affirm Defendant's convictions.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Devon Alvon Wilson
M2017-00248-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

Devon Alvon Wilson (“the Defendant”) appeals the Maury County Circuit Court’s order revoking his probation and imposing his sixteen-year sentence for three counts of possession of more than 0.5 grams of cocaine with intent to sell, three counts of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, possession of a Schedule III substance with intent to sell, and evading arrest. On appeal, the Defendant acknowledges that he violated probation but argues that the trial court should have ordered only a partial revocation. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Tedarrius Lebron Myles
E2016-01478-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

A jury convicted the Defendant, Tedarrius Lebron Myles, of attempted second degree murder, a Class B felony, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony. The Defendant appeals, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdicts, that hearsay evidence regarding the Defendant’s identity was admitted in error, and that the State failed to qualify an expert witness to testify. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient and that the Defendant cannot demonstrate plain error in the admission of evidence, and we accordingly affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Xavier Sanchez Skaggs
E2016-01861-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

In 2008, the Defendant, Xavier Sanchez Skaggs, pleaded guilty to possession of contraband in a penal institution, and the trial court sentenced him to a suspended sentence of eight years, as a Range II offender. The trial court ordered this sentence to be served consecutively to other sentences being served by the Defendant. In 2016, the Defendant’s probation officer filed an affidavit alleging that the Defendant had failed to regularly attend relapse prevention classes and that he also failed two drug screens. The Defendant pleaded guilty to violating his probation, and the trial court revoked his probation and ordered him to serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it ordered him to serve his sentence in confinement because the trial court failed to address the Defendant’s underlying problem of persistent drug use. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/10/17
Corey Cortez Abernathy v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01258-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

In 2012, the Petitioner, Corey Cortez Abernathy, pleaded guilty to burglary of an automobile and theft of property and agreed to a sentence of two years of incarceration. In 2013, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief based upon ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court held a hearing on the petition and denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel because his counsel failed to file a motion to suppress illegally obtained evidence. We affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/10/17
State of Tennessee v. John Brichetto
E2016-01675-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paul G. Summers

In 2012, a Morgan County jury found the Defendant, John Brichetto, guilty of theft of property valued at more than $60,000. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to ten years of incarceration and ordered him to pay $142,215 in restitution to the victim. In 2016, the Defendant filed one of several motions pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, seeking to correct an illegal sentence. The trial court summarily denied Rule 36.1 relief. On review, having determined that the Petitioner has failed to state a colorable claim for Rule 36.1 relief, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/10/17
Charles D. Sprunger v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01096-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

The Petitioner, Charles D. Sprunger, appeals the Cumberland County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2010 conviction for sexual exploitation of a minor and his eight-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that (1) he was denied his right to trial counsel of his choice because his “untainted” real property was seized before the trial pursuant to the civil asset forfeiture statutes and (2) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Cumberland County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/10/17
State of Tennessee v. Virgil Lucas Baker
M2016-00974-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte D. Watkins

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Virgil Lucas Baker, of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; vandalism of property valued more than $500 but less than $1,000, a Class E felony; and assault, a Class A misdemeanor. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced him to concurrent sentences of fifteen years; six years; and eleven months, twenty-nine days, respectively. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the victim’s identifications of him and that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/10/17
Randall Turner v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01969-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams,
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The Petitioner, Randall Turner, filed a motion to reopen his post-conviction petition in which he challenged his guilty pleas to first degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, and two counts of aggravated robbery and his effective sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The post-conviction court denied the motion, and the Petitioner subsequently filed two motions to rehear, both of which the post-conviction court denied. The Petitioner filed a notice of appeal pursuant to Rule 3 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we dismiss the appeal.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Elijah Ogle
E2016-02468-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex Henry Ogle

The Defendant, Elijah Ogle, pled guilty to aggravated burglary, robbery, aggravated assault, three counts of aggravated domestic assault, three counts of illegal possession of a firearm, domestic assault, possession of a weapon with the intent to go armed, possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He received an effective ten-year sentence which was to be served on probation. A violation of probation warrant was issued against the Defendant, charging him with having been arrested for aggravated domestic assault, failing to report the arrest to his probation officer, failing to refrain from contact with the victim, and continuing to engage in assaultive behavior. Following a hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation and ordered him to serve his sentence in prison. The Defendant appeals. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/17
Clyde Green v. State of Tennessee
E2016--01847-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The Petitioner, Clyde Green, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner pled guilty to two counts of facilitation of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of facilitation of felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, criminal conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, criminal conspiracy to possess more than twenty-six grams of cocaine with the intent to sell or deliver, possession of more than twenty-six grams of cocaine with the intent to sell or deliver, and maintaining a dwelling where controlled substances were used or sold. He received an effective twenty-two-year sentence. The Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, asserting that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, which rendered his pleas unknowing and involuntary. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. After review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Daniel Edrick Lutrell
W2016-01947-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Daniel Edrick Lutrell, pled guilty to vehicular homicide by reckless conduct, reckless aggravated assault, and passing in a no-passing zone. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of six years as a Range I standard offender. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred by denying probation, by ordering the Defendant to serve his sentence in confinement, and by ordering the Defendant to serve the maximum sentence for a Range I standard offender. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/17
Tonnie Jelks v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02078-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Tonnie Jelks, the Petitioner, claims that the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner claims that his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered because trial counsel incorrectly advised him concerning his offender classification, failed to adequately investigate his case, failed to inform him of the elements of the charged offense, and failed to challenge a show-up identification procedure and because the State failed to file the notice of enhanced punishment mandated by Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-202(a). After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/17
Shanterrica Madden v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01396-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Petitioner, Shanterrica Madden, appeals the post-conviction court’s dismissal of her petition for post-conviction relief as untimely. The Petitioner contends that due process concerns should toll the one-year statute of limitations to allow review of her underlying claims. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/17
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Waymond Henderson
M2016-02122-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Defendant, Timothy Waymond Henderson, pled guilty to sale of less than .5 grams of cocaine and to delivery of less than .5 grams of cocaine, Class C felonies, with the sentencing to be left to the trial court’s later determination. The trial court merged the convictions and sentenced the Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to ten years in the Department of Correction, to be served consecutively to any unexpired sentences. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court imposed an excessive sentence and erred in denying alternative sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the sentencing determinations of the trial court.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/17
State of Tennessee v. Yangreek Tut Wal
M2016-01672-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

The defendant, Yangreek Tut Wal, appeals his Davidson County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of especially aggravated kidnapping and especially aggravated robbery, claiming that his 40-year effective sentence is excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/17
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Scott Donaldson - concurring in part, concurring in results only in part
E2016-00262-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

I concur in all parts of the lead opinion, except section II.B., “State of Passion” and Sequential Jury Instructions. As to that particular section, I concur in the result that Defendant is not entitled to relief on his challenge to the use of acquittal-first instructions pursuant to State v. Davis, 266 S.W.3d 896 (Tenn. 2008) and that he is not entitled to relief on the issue challenging the jury instruction that passion and provocation are elements of voluntary manslaughter.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/17
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Scott Donaldson
E2016-00262-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The defendant, Brandon Scott Donaldson, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of second degree murder, attempted second degree murder, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, claiming that the trial court erred by excluding certain evidence and by giving certain jury instructions, that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions of second degree murder and attempted second degree murder, that the sentence imposed was excessive, and that the cumulative effect of these errors prevented a fair trial. In addition, the defendant raises a number of challenges to the statute regarding the death of a fetus. Because the trial court committed prejudicial error by excluding as hearsay certain witness testimony, because this exclusion violated the defendant’s constitutional right to present a defense, we reverse the defendant’s convictions and remand for a new trial.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/17
State of Tennessee v. Kerry Granderson
W2016-01687-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

The Defendant, Kerry Granderson, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to eleven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the trial court erred in admitting a witness’s prior statement to police as substantive evidence; (2) the trial court erred in admitting jailhouse phone calls made by him; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/17
State of Tennessee v. Frederic Jermaine Armstrong
W2016-01944-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

Defendant, Frederic Jermaine Armstrong, was convicted of aggravated assault for the beating of a correctional officer. Defendant’s conviction was also subject to a criminal gang enhancement pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-121(b), which was later vacated because of this Court’s ruling in State v. Bonds, 502 S.W.3d 118 (Tenn.Crim. App. 2016). On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and whether he was properly sentenced to the maximum within the applicable range. Upon review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/17
State of Tennessee v. Matthew Allen Thompson
E2016-01562-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

Defendant, Matthew Allen Thompson, filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36. The trial court denied the motion, and Defendant appeals. Although Defendant filed his motion pursuant to Rule 36 and quoted Rule 36 in his motion, the trial court treated the motion as a Rule 36.1 motion. We conclude under either Rule 36 or 36.1 that Defendant is not entitled to relief. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/17
Brian Dunkley v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00961-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Petitioner, Brian Dunkley, was convicted after a jury trial of conspiracy to commit first degree murder for his involvement in a plot to murder his wife. The Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel failed to provide advice during plea bargaining, failed to challenge the State’s loss or destruction of evidence, failed to suppress evidence on the basis of an invalid warrant, failed to suppress evidence on the basis of an invalid subpoena, and failed to introduce evidence regarding his location at the time of a co-defendant’s arrest. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. We conclude that the Petitioner has failed to show that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, and we accordingly affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/17
James L. Dowell, III v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01364-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Petitioner, James L. Dowell III, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury conviction for first-degree felony murder. In this direct appeal as of right, the Petitioner raises the following ineffective assistance of counsel claims: (1) whether trial counsel failed to adequately meet with the Petitioner and effectively communicate regarding the details of his case and defense strategy; (2) whether trial counsel failed to call a witness to establish a duress defense, thus, leading to no defense being presented at all; and (3) whether trial counsel failed to convey a plea offer made by the State. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/17