Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 05/29/2017
Format: 05/29/2017
State of Tennessee v. Montez Deontay Ridley
M2016-01607-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury found the Appellant, Montez Deontay Ridley, guilty of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony.  The trial court imposed a sentence of nine years.  On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction.  Specifically, the Appellant contends that he was not at the scene of the crime, that no forensic evidence placed him at the scene, and that it was illogical that anyone would perpetrate the crime in such close proximity to the police.  The Appellant also contends that the victims were unable to identify him from a photographic lineup.  Finally, the Appellant contends that his confession was the result of lies told by the police.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/17
State of Tennessee v. David Alan Corbitt
W2015-01834-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

A Benton County jury convicted the Defendant of one count of rape of a child and one count of aggravated sexual battery as a lesser-included offense of a second count of rape of a child. The trial court sentenced him to thirty-five years, to be served at 100%, for the rape of a child conviction and to a concurrent sentence of ten years for the aggravated sexual battery conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contended that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the trial court erred when it instructed the jury that aggravated sexual battery was a lesser-included offense of rape of a child; and (3) the trial court erred when it sentenced him. After review, we concluded that aggravated sexual battery was not a lesser-included offense of rape of a child. State v. David Alan Corbitt, No. W2015-01834-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 3952017 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, July 19, 2016), Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application granted (Tenn. Oct. 20, 2016) . As such, we held that the trial court erred when it instructed the jury. We, therefore, vacated the Defendant's conviction for aggravated sexual battery but affirmed his conviction and sentence for rape of a child. On October 20, 2016, the Tennessee Supreme Court granted Defendant's application for permission to appeal and remanded the case to this court for reconsideration in light of the supreme court's recent opinion in State v. Howard, No. E2014-01510-SC-R11-CD, __ S.W.3d __, 2016 WL 5933430 (Tenn. Oct. 12, 2016). Upon reconsideration in light of Howard, we conclude that aggravated sexual battery is a lesser-included offense of rape of a child and that the trial court did not err when it so instructed the jury. Accordingly, we reinstate and affirm the Defendant's conviction and sentence for aggravated sexual battery.

Benton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/23/17
Deshawn Lamar Baker v. State of Tennessee
M2015-02152-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Petitioner, Deshawn Lamar Baker, appeals the lower court’s order denying post-conviction relief from his convictions for aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, and being a felon in possession of a handgun.  On appeal, Petitioner argues that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance and that the State withheld exculpatory evidence, violating his right to due process under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).  Upon our review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/23/17
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Taliaferro
W2015-01840-CC-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The Defendant, Brandon Taliaferro, was convicted of first degree murder in the attempt to perpetrate a robbery and attempted especially aggravated robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101; -13-202(a)(2); -13-403(a). In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred by allowing the State to enter into evidence the entire tape-recorded conversation between the Defendant and a State‘s witness, the mother of his child, and (2) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions, arguing that there was no proof that he intended to rob the victim or that he was criminally responsible for the actions of the person(s) who killed the victim. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Miller
W2016-00402-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Wright

The Defendant, Anthony Miller, was indicted for possession with intent to sell 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, a Class B felony; possession with intent to deliver 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, a Class B felony; possession with intent to sell one-half ounce or more but less than ten pounds of marijuana, a Class E felony; possession with intent to deliver one-half ounce or more but less than ten pounds of marijuana, a Class E felony; and possession of a firearm with intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class D felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-417, -1324(a). Prior to submission to the jury, the amount for the cocaine possession charges was reduced to less than 0.5 grams, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-417(c)(2)(A). Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted as charged of the marijuana and unlawful firearm possession charges and of the lesser-included offense of simple possession, a Class A misdemeanor, with respect to the cocaine possession charges. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-418. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days for the misdemeanor cocaine possession offenses, two years for the felony marijuana possession offenses, and the mandatory minimum three years for the unlawful firearm possession offense. The trial court ordered all of the sentences to be served concurrently for a total effective sentence of three years. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm; and (2) that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on the applicable mental state for the unlawful possession of a firearm offense. Following our review, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the Defendant's conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm. However, we also conclude that the trial court committed plain error in instructing the jury with respect to the unlawful firearm possession offense that the Defendant could be found guilty if he acted “either intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.” As such, we remand this case for a new trial on the unlawful possession of a firearm charge. Additionally, we hold that the trial court failed to merge the Defendant's convictions for simple possession of cocaine into one conviction and his convictions for felony possession of marijuana into one conviction. Accordingly, we remand this case to the trial court for merger of those convictions and entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting said merger.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17
State of Tennessee v. Krishon Harris
W2015-01917-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn I. Wright

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Krishon Harris, of three counts of criminally negligent homicide, one count of vehicular assault, one count of reckless aggravated assault, two counts of driving under the influence, one count of reckless driving, and one count of driving with a suspended license. The trial court merged the three homicide convictions, merged the aggravated assault conviction and the two driving while under the influence convictions into the conviction for vehicular assault, and then sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions for criminally negligent homicide and vehicular assault. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17
State of Tennessee v. Tracey McQuinn Taylor
W2015-02250-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

A Madison County jury found the Defendant, Tracey McQuinn Taylor, guilty of two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. The trial court sentenced him to concurrent sentences of twelve years for each count of aggravated robbery to be served consecutively to a four year sentence for the felon in possession of a firearm conviction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that his sentence is excessive. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Hubbard
W2016-01263-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Pro se Petitioner, Christopher Hubbard, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court's dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the trial court erred by summarily dismissing his motion. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Montrell Thompson
E2016-01565-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everette Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

The Defendant, Kevin Montrell Thompson, appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion
for correction of an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure
36.1. The Defendant’s appeal is untimely, and we conclude that the interest of justice
does not support the waiver of the untimely notice of appeal. Accordingly, we dismiss
the appeal.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17
State of Tennessee v. Lee Dewane Watts
M2015-02404-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

A Montgomery County jury convicted the Defendant, Lee Dewane Watts, of two counts of first degree felony murder and one count of especially aggravated robbery.  The trial court merged the Defendant’s first degree murder convictions and ordered him to serve a life sentence for first degree murder and a consecutive twenty-five year sentence for especially aggravated robbery.  On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court improperly sentenced him by ordering consecutive sentences and ordering the maximum sentence for the especially aggravated robbery conviction; and (3) the trial court erred when it ruled that the Defendant’s prior convictions would be admissible should he testify.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/19/17
State of Tennessee v. Jerome Wall
W2016-00169-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

The Appellant, Jerome Wall, filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence in the Shelby County Criminal Court pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The trial court denied the motion, and the Appellant appeals the ruling. Based upon our review of the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
Rochelle Bush v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02391-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Petitioner, Rochelle Bush, appeals the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief in which she challenged her concurrent sentences of ten years at thirty percent for her aggravated robbery conviction and twenty years at one hundred percent for her especially aggravated kidnapping conviction. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that she was denied her right to the effective assistance of counsel, which resulted in the trial court improperly enhancing her sentences. We affirm the post-conviction court's denial of relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Brian Lackland
W2015-02313-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Defendant, Brian Lackland, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury in two separate indictments for aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The indictments were consolidated for trial. A jury found Defendant guilty of simple assault, aggravated burglary, attempted first degree murder, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The charge for aggravated assault was dismissed. Defendant was sentenced to a total effective sentence of twenty-three years. Between the trial and the hearing on the motion for new trial, the victim signed an affidavit recanting his trial testimony. The trial court denied the motion for new trial, finding that the victim's recantation was not credible. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and the trial court's denial of the motion for new trial. Because the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for new trial, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
Eric R. Wright v. Grady Perry, Warden
W2016-00341-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker, III

The pro se petitioner, Eric R. Wright, appeals the habeas court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus alleging eleven reasons why the habeas court erred. After review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Jerry L. Faulkner
W2016-00079-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Defendant, Jerry L. Faulkner, appeals as of right from the Shelby 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 and thus was not subject to correction under Rule 36.1. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Nicholas Rico Durant
M2015-00564-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

A jury in the Montgomery County Circuit Court found the Appellant, Nicholas Rico Durant, guilty of the first degree premeditated murder of his wife, and the trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence was not sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted with premeditation and that the trial court’s jury instruction regarding premeditation was not sufficient to “satisfy state and federal constitutional rights to due process and trial by jury.”  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Byron J. Walker
W2016-00076-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Defendant, Byron J. Walker, entered guilty pleas in 1998 in case numbers 98-01078, 98-01079, and 98-01252 to two counts of possession with the intent to sell cocaine and to one count of possession of marijuana. Pursuant to the negotiated plea agreement, the Defendant received concurrent sentences of three years for each possession with the intent to sell cocaine conviction and sixty days’ confinement for the possession of marijuana conviction, for an effective three-year sentence. On January 26, 2015, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct illegal sentences. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied relief for failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred by denying relief, (2) the trial court erred in its application of the habeas corpus statute, (3) the trial court’s application of State v. Brown, 479 S.W.3d 200 (Tenn. 2015), as the basis for denying relief violated procedural due process, and (4) this court should overturn our supreme court’s holding in Brown. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
Mario Johnson v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02498-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Mario Johnson (“the Petitioner”) entered an open guilty plea to five counts of aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to an effective sentence of thirty years in the Department of Correction. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that he entered his guilty plea unknowingly and involuntarily. The post-conviction court denied relief after a hearing. On appeal, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Bryan Cannady
W2016-00494-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Bryan Cannady (“the Defendant”) pled guilty to one count of theft of property valued at $60,000 or more, three counts of burglary, and one count of vandalism in the amount of $60,000 or more in Case 13-02653 and vandalism in the amount of $1,000 or more in Case 14-06122 and received an effective sentence of ten years in the Department of Corrections. On appeal, the Defendant claims that the trial court erred in denying probation or an alternative sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Jones
W2015-01028-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The defendant, Christopher Jones, was convicted of the first degree premeditated murder of his estranged wife, Heather Palumbo-Jones, and the abuse of her corpse, for which he was sentenced, respectively, to life imprisonment and two years to be served concurrently. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by allowing statements made by his wife as an exception to the hearsay rule, by allowing evidence of his prior abuse of the victim, and by admitting into evidence photographs of his wife’s charred body. Additionally, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for first degree murder. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Barry Lamont Price
W2016-00896-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Petitioner, Barry Lamont Price, appeals the Circuit Court of Madison County's summary denial of his motion to correct illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. William Wayne Eskridge
E2014-01800-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

The Appellant, William Wayne Eskridge, was convicted in the Washington County Criminal Court of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater (DUI per se), and the trial court imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days in jail. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court violated his due process rights by summarily denying his motion to suppress without an evidentiary hearing because he was not present for the hearing. Upon review, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient but that the trial court committed reversible error by summarily denying the motion to suppress. Therefore, the Appellant‟s conviction is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Jackie Phillip Lester-Dissenting
M2016-00700-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Russell Parkes

I agree with the majority that, generally, once an inmate is in the custody of the TDOC, the proper avenue to address sentence reduction credits is through the APA.  State v. Henry, 946 S.W.2d 833, 834 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1997).  However, our court has recognized unique circumstances which authorize the trial court to entertain requests for declaration of proper sentence credits.  Id. (citing Matthew P. Finlaw v. Anderson County Jail, No. 03C01-9212-CR-0048, 1993 WL 310312, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 13, 1993); State v. Christopher Oliver, No. 03C01-9212-CR-00447, 1993 WL 152408, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 11, 1993)).  I believe that the instant case calls for similar relief.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Jackie Phillip Lester
M2016-00700-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Russell Parkes

Defendant, Jackie Phillip Lester, pled guilty to aggravated assault and possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony. He was sentenced to six years, suspended to probation.  Defendant violated probation, and the trial court ordered a partial revocation of the probationary sentence and service of eighteen months in incarceration.  Defendant was released from incarceration and violated probation for the second time shortly thereafter.  This time the trial court revoked Defendant’s probation, ordering him to serve the original six-year sentence.  The trial court awarded Defendant credit for time served during the partial revocation and prior to sentencing on the full revocation.  On appeal, Defendant complains that the trial court did not award him all his due jail credit.  Because the proper method to address post-judgment jail credit is through the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act rather than an appeal to this Court, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.  However, we remand the case for the correction of a clerical error in the revocation order.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
In re Centerstone
M2016-00308-CCA-WR-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargove

Appellant, Centerstone, seeks review of the trial court’s denial of a motion to quash a judicial subpoena issued to Centerstone for the mental health records of the victim in an underlying criminal case.  Centerstone argues that the judicial subpoena issued pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-17-123 is an invalid mechanism for discovery of mental health records made confidential by Tennessee Code Annotated section 33-3-103.  After careful consideration, we conclude that access to the confidential mental health records must come by way of the procedure set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 33-3-105 rather than through a judicial subpoena issued pursuant to section 40-17-123.  Therefore, we vacate the trial court’s order and remand the case.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17