Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 05/06/2016
Format: 05/06/2016
Cody Holland v. State of Tennessee
E2015-00265-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

The petitioner, Cody Holland, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2012 Rhea County Circuit Court guilty-pleaded conviction of rape, for which he received a sentence of 10 years. In this appeal, the petitioner contends that his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered and that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Rhea County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/16
State of Tennessee v. Michael Lebron Branham
E2014-02071-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Michael Lebron Branham, was convicted of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony; aggravated assault, a Class C felony; coercion of a witness, a Class D felony; aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-102(a)(1)(A)(iii), -13-402(a)(1), -14-403, -16-507, -17-1324(b)(1). The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of twenty-nine years. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that this case should be remanded for a new trial because one of the prosecutors had previously represented the Defendant in an unrelated matter; (2) that the indictments for aggravated burglary and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony should be dismissed due to alleged vindictive prosecution; (3) that the trial court erred in not severing the coercion of a witness charge from the other offenses; (4) that the Defendant's convictions for aggravated burglary and aggravated assault violate the constitutional protection against double jeopardy as those offenses “were incidental to the aggravated robbery”; (5) that the State failed to make a proper election of offenses with respect to the coercion of a witness charge; (6) that the trial court erred in setting the length of the Defendant's sentences; and (7) that the trial court erred in imposing partial consecutive sentences. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/16
Jeffrey S. Whitaker v. State of Tennessee
E2014-02240-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Eugene Eblen

The Petitioner, Jeffrey S. Whitaker, appeals the Roane County Criminal Court's dismissal of his second petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the one-year statute of limitations should be tolled based on the later-arising claims doctrine and the discovery rule of contract law, that his plea agreement was breached when his judgments were corrected to show a release eligibility of 100% and when the trial court imposed partially consecutive sentences, and that the post-conviction court erred in failing to apply the doctrine of judicial estoppel against the State. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Roane County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/07/16
State of Tennessee v. Jacob R. Mowery
M2015-00250-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

The defendant, Jacob R. Mowery, appeals the revocation of his probation, asserting that there was insufficient evidence to support the revocation.  After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court revoking the defendant’s probation and ordering him to serve his original sentence in confinement.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/07/16
State of Tennessee v. James Dickerson
M2014-02238-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

The defendant, James Dickerson, appeals his Montgomery County Circuit Court jury convictions of aggravated sexual battery and rape of a child, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence at trial.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/07/16
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Stephens - dissenting
E2014-02514-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

I respectfully dissent with the conclusions of the majority that a rational trier of fact could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant possessed the culpable mental state of knowingly violating an order of protection. On direct examination, Defendant acknowledged that he was served “with something” when he left the jail. On cross-examination, Defendant admitted that he knew that there was an order telling him not to have contact with his wife when he left the jail. He acknowledged that somebody had given him a copy of the order and he showed it to the officer who stopped him a few minutes later. Finally, he agreed with the State that he was not “trying to tell the folks of the jury that [he] didn’t know that [he was] not allowed to have contact with [Ms. Stephens]” and he knew that there was an order of protection

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Stephens
E2014-02514-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The Defendant, Rodney Stephens, was convicted by a Campbell County Criminal Court jury of aggravated stalking. T.C.A. § 39-17-315(c)(1)(E) (2010) (amended 2012). The court sentenced the Defendant to three years, with sixty day' confinement and the remainder to be served on probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in allowing the trial to proceed despite the absence of a police officer and (2) the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction. We modify the judgment of conviction for aggravated stalking to one for misdemeanor stalking, and we remand the case for sentencing and entry of a judgment of conviction for misdemeanor stalking.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/06/16
State of Tennessee v. June Curtis Loudermilk
W2015-00222-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

Defendant, June Curtis Loudermilk, appeals his sentence for driving under the influence (“DUI”), third offense, a Class A misdemeanor, which was imposed upon remand after this Court modified his original conviction for DUI, fourth offense, a Class E felony. He argues that the sentence is illegal because, during his first direct appeal, he completed a probationary period which exceeded the statutory maximum punishment for a Class A misdemeanor. We conclude that Defendant’s sentence is not illegal because he was not on probation pending the resolution of his direct appeal. Therefore, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Billy S. Watson
E2015-00525-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The defendant, Billy S. Watson, appeals his McMinn County Criminal Court jury convictions of aggravated burglary, attempted theft, and vandalism, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Discerning no error, we affirm.

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/05/16
State of Tennessee v. Thomas George Headla
E2015-00560-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex H. Ogle

The Defendant, Thomas George Headla, pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court for Sevier County to driving under the influence (DUI), a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. § 55-10-401 (2012) (amended 2013, 2015). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months, twenty-nine days suspended to probation after forty-eight hours in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant presents a certified question of law regarding the legality of the traffic stop. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/15
State of Tennessee v. Cumecus R. Cates
E2015-00035-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

Cumecus R. Cates (“the Defendant”) entered a global plea agreement to two Class B felony drug offenses and two Class C felony drug offenses and was sentenced to eight years for each Class B felony drug offense and three years for each Class C felony drug offense. Pursuant to the agreement, the three-year sentence in case number 68311 was aligned concurrently with the eight-year sentence in case number 68366, the three-year sentence in case number 68367 was aligned concurrently with the eight-year sentence in case number 68827, and the two eight-year sentences were aligned consecutively for an effective sentence of sixteen years. Thereafter, the Defendant filed a Rule 36.1 motion claiming that the concurrent alignment of one of his three-year sentences with one of his eight-year sentences was illegal because he was released on bail for the other felonies when he committed the second Class B felony. At the motion hearing, the State conceded a mandatory consecutive sentence was illegally aligned concurrently and that the Defendant was sentenced pursuant to a plea agreement. On motion of the State, the trial court vacated the judgments for the two Class C felonies. The trial court then determined that the illegal provisions of the now-vacated judgments were not material components of the plea because the Defendant's effective sentence of sixteen years remained after the convictions for the illegal sentences were vacated. Upon review, we reverse the trial court's order vacating the Defendant's judgments of conviction and remand the case for reinstatement of the judgments of conviction and for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/15
Brian Le Hurst v. State of Tennessee
M2014-02083-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

In 2010, Brian Le Hurst (“the Petitioner”) was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder in the death of Eddie Dean Evans and sentenced to life.  The Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the Davidson County Criminal Court denied following a hearing.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct.  Specifically, he asserts that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to:  (1) complete ballistics testing on the bullet recovered from the victim; (2) object to the prosecutor’s closing argument; (3) object to the admission into evidence of a phone call from the victim on the basis of the Confrontation Clause; (4) object to the admission of allegedly irrelevant information from the Petitioner’s computer; and (5) object to the testimony of two of the State’s witnesses.  Regarding his claim of prosecutorial misconduct, the Petitioner contends that the prosecutor made multiple arguments during closing argument that were not supported by the evidence.  Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/15
Jason Curtis Johnson v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00258-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

Jason Curtis Johnson (“the Petitioner”) was convicted of one count of first degree premeditated murder and one count of second degree murder for the shooting death of Christy Waller and her unborn child.  He was sentenced to life plus twenty-five years.  In this post-conviction proceeding, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel for the following reasons: (1) trial counsel’s “inadequate trial preparation and performance”; (2) trial counsel’s “errors concerning [the] Petitioner’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair and impartial jury”; (3) trial counsel’s failure to have evidence tested; (4) “trial errors”; (5) trial counsel’s failure to object to a State’s witness commenting on the Petitioner’s right to testify; (6) trial counsel’s failure to object to “prosecutorial misconduct”; (7) trial counsel’s failure to present proof as to the viability of the fetus and appellate counsel’s failure to present the issue on appeal; (8) appellate counsel’s failure to “fully raise the issue of sufficiency of the evidence”; and (9) trial counsel’s failure to put on any evidence of mitigating factors during the sentencing hearing.  Additionally, the Petitioner claims that (1) his Fifth Amendment rights were violated because his Miranda waivers and confessions were not voluntary; (2) his Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated because that right had attached before the police questioned the Petitioner; and (3) his “Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial was violated by the use of Tennessee’s unconstitutional sentencing scheme.”  Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief.  Upon review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/15
Jared S. Aguilar v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00430-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

Jared S. Aguilar (“the Petitioner”) filed a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel.  After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief.  On appeal, the Petitioner argues that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel when she (1) decided not to obtain the services of an expert witness for the defense without consulting the Petitioner and (2) ignored the Petitioner’s specific request that she cross-examine the State’s experts “on areas such as the contradicting of computer expert reports vs. the expert’s in-court testimony and whether [the Petitioner’s] estranged wife had ‘set him up.’”  Upon review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/15
Lorenza Zackery v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00890-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

Lorenza Zackery (“the Petitioner”) pleaded guilty to two counts of rape of a child.  Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Error Coram Nobis (“the Petition”) alleging “newly discovered evidence” in the form of an affidavit from the Petitioner stating that the victim testified in a 2009 juvenile court hearing that she had no sexual contact with the Petitioner until she was fifteen years old.  The coram nobis court denied relief.  On appeal, the Petitioner argues that (1) due process requires that the statute of limitations be tolled; (2) the coram nobis court should have held an evidentiary hearing because the newly discovered evidence shows that the Petitioner was “factually innocent” of the crime of rape of a child; and (3) the State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) when it failed to provide the Petitioner with a record of the juvenile hearing.[1]  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/15
Chancy Jones v. State of Tennessee
W2014-02516-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The petitioner, Chancy Jones, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his second degree murder conviction, arguing that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court denying the petition for post-conviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/15
State of Tennessee v. Alfonzo Rounsaville
E2015-00033-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The defendant, Alfonzo Rounsaville, appeals from his Hamilton County Criminal Court jury conviction of aggravated robbery, claiming that the trial court erred by denying his pretrial motion to suppress an out-of-court identification, that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial, that the trial court erred by providing a jury instruction on the offense of aggravated robbery in light of the evidence adduced at trial, and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/15
Brian J. Dodson v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00693-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Petitioner, Brian J. Dodson, was convicted of first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and aggravated assault, and he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment.  Thereafter, he filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective and that the trial court violated his due process rights by refusing to delay the trial until a hospital records custodian arrived at the courthouse to authenticate the medical records of a witness.  The post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Petitioner appeals.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/15
Zacheriah L. Holden v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00433-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley

The petitioner, Zacheriah L. Holden, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.  He contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that his right to due process was violated.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/15
Bo W. Prendergast v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02869-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter

This case represents the consolidated appeals from the dismissal of the petitioner’s coram nobis petition and post-conviction petition, both of which sought to overturn his 2011 conviction for theft of property valued at over $10,000 but less than $60,000.  The procedural history of these cases is complicated by the fact that both attorneys, one in the coram nobis court and one in the post-conviction court, filed “motions to reconsider” purporting to delay the trial court’s final disposition of each action.  We reiterate that motions to reconsider are not authorized by the Rules of Criminal Procedure.  Waiving the timely notice of appeal in the coram nobis action, we discern no error in the dismissal of the petition.  We reach the merits of the petitioner’s post-conviction case and affirm the denial of relief.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/15
State of Tennessee v. Ryan D. Buford
M2014-01265-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The defendant, Ryan D. Buford, appeals his jury convictions for first degree (felony) murder, especially aggravated robbery, a Class A felony, and tampering with evidence, a Class C felony.  The defendant asserts that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statement to police.  He also urges us to conclude that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions because the testimony of a co-defendant was insufficiently corroborated. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the trial court did not err in denying the motion to suppress and that the evidence is sufficient to support the convictions, and we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/15
Randall K. Madison v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01942-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The petitioner, Randall K. Madison, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.  Following merger of alternative offenses, the petitioner stands convicted of twelve counts of rape and one count of forgery.  For these convictions he received an effective sentence of thirty-five years in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, he contends that it was error to deny his petition for relief because he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel.  Following a thorough review of the record before us, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/15
State of Tennessee v. Jarquese Antonio Askew
M2014-01400-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

Defendant, Jarquese Antonio Askew, was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury in a three-count indictment with first degree premeditated murder, felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery.  Prior to trial, Defendant filed a “Motion to Recuse Prosecuting Attorney.”  Following a hearing, the trial court denied Defendant’s motion.  A jury convicted Defendant of the lesser-included offenses of facilitation of voluntary manslaughter in Count 1 and criminally negligent homicide in Count 2, and Defendant was convicted as charged in Count 3 of especially aggravated robbery.  The trial court merged Count 2 into Count 1 and sentenced Defendant to three years in Count 1 and 17 years in Count 3, to be served concurrently.  In this appeal as of right, Defendant asserts that the trial court erred by denying his motion to disqualify the prosecutor, and Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence.  Having carefully reviewed the record before us and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/15
State of Tennessee v. Margaret Laverne Riddle
E2014-01037-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

A Blount County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Margaret Laverne Riddle, of one count of vehicular homicide. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the trial court's denial of her motions to suppress the results of a blood alcohol test, arguing that (1) the State did not have valid consent to obtain the sample and (2) her due process rights were violated by the destruction of the blood sample before she was indicted and could have the sample tested. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/15
Michael V. Morris v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01113-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte D. Watkins

The pro se petitioner, Michael V. Morris, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis, arguing that due process requires that the statute of limitations for filing his petition be tolled because Sutton v. Carpenter, 745 F. 3d 787 (6th Cir. 2014), which he interprets as establishing that he has the right to effective assistance of post-conviction counsel, was not released until after the time limit for filing the petition had expired.  Following our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition as time-barred pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/15