Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 06/28/2016
Format: 06/28/2016
State of Tennessee v. Chalmers G. Brown
W2015-00782-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The defendant, Chalmers G. Brown, appeals the trial court’s order granting his motion to correct an illegal sentence and entering corrected judgments, arguing that his convictions should have been vacated not merely corrected. After review, we reverse the trial court’s correction of the judgments against the defendant and reinstate the original judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Chuncy Lesolue Hollis
W2015-00718-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn L. Peeples

The defendant, Chuncy Lesolue Hollis, whose original first degree premeditated murder conviction was reversed by this court due to an error in jury instructions, was again convicted by a Gibson County jury in a second trial of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; that the trial court erred by issuing a jury instruction on flight and by not instructing the jury on cause of death, by allowing prior statements of witnesses to be introduced as substantive evidence, by allowing photographic lineups into evidence and by summarily dismissing his motion for judgment of acquittal and/or a new trial without holding a hearing; that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct by the manner in which the prosecutor questioned witnesses and by the improper comments he made in opening statement and closing argument; and that the cumulative effect of various trial errors deprived the defendant of his constitutional right to a fair trial. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Nolan Excell Pippen - concurring and dissenting
M2015-00828-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s conclusion that the trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress.  I concur with the majority’s conclusion that the evidence was insufficient to support the defendant’s conviction for public intoxication as indicted, but I would uphold his conviction for simple possession of marijuana.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Nolan Excell Pippen
M2015-00828-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Nolan Excell Pippen, was convicted of public intoxication, a Class C misdemeanor; and simple possession of marijuana, third or subsequent offense, a Class E felony.  See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-310, -418.  The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of two years’ incarceration.  On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for public intoxication; and (2) that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the marijuana found in his pocket during a search incident to his arrest for public intoxication. Following our review, we conclude that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction for public intoxication and that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s suppression motion. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and dismiss the charges against the Defendant.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Clifford Eric Marsh
M2015-00803-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

The Defendant, Clifford Eric Marsh, pleaded guilty to fourth offense driving on a revoked license, a Class A misdemeanor.  See T.C.A. § 55-50-504 (2012).  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months, twenty-nine days’ confinement at 75% service.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying his request for alternative sentencing.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Kenny Thomason - dissent
M2014-00592-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

I respectfully dissent from the majority view that the evidence supports a verdict of first degree premeditated murder.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Kenny Thomason
M2014-00592-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

A Rutherford County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Kenny Thomason, of first degree premeditated murder, and the trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction, claiming that the State failed to prove premeditation or that he possessed the weapon that killed the victim; instead, he asserts that the victim possessed the weapon and that she was killed during a struggle.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/16
State of Tennessee v. John Burley Alberts
M2015-00248-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, John Burley Alberts, was convicted of four counts of rape of a child, see Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-522, and received an effective sentence of one hundred years to be served at one hundred percent.  On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless search of the Defendant’s car, and (2) that evidence obtained from a laptop computer recovered from his car should have been suppressed because officers did not acquire a search warrant prior to performing a forensic analysis of the computer.  Because we conclude that the search was valid under the automobile exception to the warrant requirement and that the Defendant has waived review of the second issue, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Juan E. Henderson
E2015-00886-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The Defendant, Juan E. Henderson, appeals as of right from the Sullivan County Criminal Court's revocation of probation and order that he serve the balance of his seven-year sentence in confinement. On appeal, he asserts that the trial court abused its discretion when it revoked his probation. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/16
State of Tennessee v. Jerome Sanders
W2014-00989-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Jerome Sanders, of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and the trial court sentenced him as a Range II, multiple offender to eighteen years to be served at eighty-five percent. On appeal, the appellant contends that the the trial court erred by refusing to suppress pretrial identifications of him made by the victim; that the trial court erred by failing to suppress his statement to police; that the trial court improperly questioned the victim, which commented on the evidence and bolstered the victim's credibility; that the trial court should have recused itself because the court's conduct and demeanor created judicial bias; that the trial court admitted evidence in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b); that the trial court erred by admitting the co-defendant's statement into evidence; that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments; and that cumulative error warrants a new trial. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties' briefs, we conclude that trial court committed reversible error by potentially allowing the jury to hear improper propensity evidence in violation of Rule 404(b), Tennessee Rules of Evidence. Therefore, the appellant's conviction is reversed, and the case is remanded for a new trial, at which another judge shall preside.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/16
State of Tennessee v. Richard Lee Morris
W2015-00364-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don H. Allen

The Defendant-Appellant, Richard Lee Morris, was indicted by a Madison County Grand Jury for attempted rape and misdemeanor assault. Following a jury trial, he was convicted of the lesser included offense of sexual battery and the charged offense of assault. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-505, -101(a)(1) (Supp. 2013). The trial court sentenced Morris as a Range II, multiple offender to four years for the sexual battery conviction and to eleven months and twenty-nine days for the assault conviction and ordered the sentences served consecutively. On appeal, Morris argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his assault conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/16
State of Tennessee v. Robert Spencer
W2014-02454-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Wright

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Robert Spencer, was convicted of one count of possession with intent to sell twenty-six grams or more of a substance containing cocaine and one count of possession with intent to deliver twenty-six grams or more of a substance containing cocaine, both Class B felonies. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-417(a)(4), (c)(1), (i)(5). The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of fourteen years. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) that the trial court erred by allowing an investigator to testify about statements made by a “cooperating source”; and (3) that the trial court erred by failing to merge his convictions. Following our review, we affirm the Defendant's convictions. However, we merge the Defendant's convictions and remand the case to the trial court for entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting said merger.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/16
Maria Delaluz Urbano-Uriostegui v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00349-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Fishburn

The Petitioner, Maria Delaluz Urbano-Uriostegui, filed in the Davidson County Criminal Court a petition for post-conviction relief from her conviction of aggravated child abuse, citing multiple issues, including ineffective assistance of counsel.  The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition, holding that the issues raised by the Petitioner were previously determined on direct appeal.  On appeal, the Petitioner challenges the post-conviction court’s ruling.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/26/16
State of Tennessee v. William Gary Mosley
M2014-02533-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

The appellant, William Gary Mosley, pled guilty in the Marion County Circuit Court to initiation of a process intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine, a Class B felony, and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor, and reserved a certified question of law concerning the sufficiency of the affidavit underlying the search warrant issued in this case.  Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the affidavit failed to establish probable cause for the search warrant.  Therefore, the judgment of the trial court is reversed, the appellant’s convictions are vacated, and the charges are dismissed.

Marion County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Wayne Johnson
M2015-01665-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

Defendant, Timothy Wayne Johnson, sought relief in Warren County under a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1.  The motion was summarily denied, and Defendant timely appealed the ruling.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/26/16
Steven Bernard Syndor v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00651-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Petitioner, Steven Bernard Sydnor, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his Davidson County Criminal Court convictions for second degree murder and theft of property valued over $1000.  Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in that trial counsel failed to discuss trial strategy with him and failed to present assisted suicide to the jury as a defense theory.  Upon our review of the record, we affirm the decision of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Dondrinkus T. Dickerson
M2015-00012-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

A Robertson County jury convicted the Defendant, Dondrinkus T. Dickerson, of rape, and the trial court sentenced the Defendant to ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction to be served consecutively to his prior sentences.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion when it sentenced him.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Johnson
E2015-00545-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

Appellant, Joshua Johnson, stands convicted of facilitation of attempted first degree murder, employing a firearm during the attempted commission of a dangerous felony with a prior dangerous felony conviction, unlawful possession of a weapon, and aggravated assault. He received an effective sentence of twenty-six years. On appeal, appellant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, that he should not have been convicted and sentenced under Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-1324 when he was not convicted of any of the listed dangerous felonies, and that the trial court should have granted his request for an absent material witness jury instruction. Following our careful review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/16
State of Tennessee v. Paula Shotwell
W2014-02194-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Defendant, Paula Shotwell, was convicted after a bench trial in the Criminal Court for Shelby County of theft of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1000, a Class E felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-103; 39-14-105 (2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to two years' probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support her conviction and (2) the State violated her due process rights by failing to preserve the stolen items as evidence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/21/16
Matthew B. Foley v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00311-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Petitioner, Matthew B. Foley, appeals as of right from the Rutherford County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief as untimely.  He asserts that the statute of limitations should be tolled because he did not learn until well after its expiration that the State sought to enforce the provisions of the sexual offender registration act against him contrary to the terms of his plea agreement.  Following our review, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand the case for an evidentiary hearing.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Abdujuan M. Napper
M2015-00703-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Defendant, Abdujuan M. Napper, appeals the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s order revoking his probation in case numbers 41100355 and 41100356 for his convictions for possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and misdemeanor vandalism  and ordering him to serve the remainder of his effective sentence of three years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days in confinement.  The Defendant also appeals the trial court’s sentencing determinations in related case numbers 41200773 and 41200884.  The Defendant pleaded guilty in case number 41200773 to possession with the intent to sell 0.5 ounce or more of marijuana and received a three-year sentence.  The trial court ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in confinement and imposed consecutive service to the sentences in case numbers 41100355 and 41100356.  The Defendant also pleaded guilty in case number 41200884 to unlawful possession of a firearm and to misdemeanor domestic assault.  The trial court imposed concurrent sentences of three years for the weapon-related conviction and eleven months, twenty-nine days for the assault-related conviction.  The court ordered the sentences be served consecutively to the sentence in case number 41200733, for an effective sentence of thirteen years.  The Defendant later sought to withdraw his guilty pleas, which the trial court denied.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that trial court erred by (1) failing to consider the appropriate purposes and principles of sentencing and (2) denying his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas.  We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/21/16
Grico Clark v. State of Tennessee
W2015-00894-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan

The Petitioner, Grico Clark, appeals as of right from the Madison County Circuit Court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel due to (1) trial counsel inaccurately advising him about his potential sentencing exposure causing the Petitioner to reject a favorable plea offer from the State; (2) trial counsel “failing to properly advise” the Petitioner about his right to testify at trial; (3) trial counsel “failing to properly communicate” to the Petitioner the results of a mental competency evaluation; and (4) trial counsel failing to raise on direct appeal an “issue regarding a conflict of interest.” Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/16
State of Tennessee v. James Hawkins
W2014-01987-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Defendant, James Hawkins, appeals his convictions for two counts of rape of a child. Defendant raises four issues: (1) whether there was a fatal variance between the original indictments and the offenses elected by the State; (2) whether the trial court erred by admitting the forensic interview of one of the victims; (3) whether the State failed to properly elect offenses; and (4) whether there was sufficient evidence to support his convictions beyond a reasonable doubt. Based upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/16
Andrew T. Lee v. State of Tennessee
M2014-02242-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Keith Siskin

In 2012, a Rutherford County jury found the Petitioner, Andrew T. Lee, guilty of especially aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, tampering with evidence, evading arrest, and resisting arrest.  The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to a total effective sentence of ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  The Petitioner filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing.  On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that he was denied his right to a speedy trial due to the delay between his conviction and sentencing.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Tabitha Lynn Hughes
W2014-01849-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker, III

The defendant, Tabitha Lynn Hughes, appeals her Tipton County Circuit Court jury conviction of driving under the influence, claiming that the trial court erred by denying her pretrial motion to dismiss based upon the State's failure to timely commence prosecution and by admitting certain evidence at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/15/16