Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 05/25/2018
Format: 05/25/2018
Travis Steed v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00156-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Travis Steed (“the Petitioner”) petitioned for post-conviction relief from his convictions of first degree felony murder, second degree murder, felony reckless endangerment, convicted felon in possession of a handgun, and attempted second degree murder. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner claims that he was denied effective assistance of counsel as a result of trial counsel’s failure to interview and call certain witnesses that the Petitioner contends were critical to his defense. After a thorough review of the appellate record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/19/17
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Glynn McCoy
W2016-01619-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The defendant, Jeffrey Glynn McCoy, appeals the total effective sentence of 12 years imposed for his Gibson County guilty-pleaded convictions of burglary and theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000, arguing that the trial court erred by imposing terms of 12 years and by ordering that he serve the effective sentence consecutively to a sentence previously imposed in South Carolina. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/19/17
State of Tennessee v. Guy Len Biggs
W2016-01781-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

The defendant, Guy Len Biggs, pled guilty to aggravated perjury and fabrication of evidence in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated sections 39-16-703 and 39-16-503. For his respective crimes, the trial court imposed concurrent sentences of four and five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The trial court ordered the effective five-year sentence to run consecutively to a prior, twelve-year sentence for attempted second degree murder. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court abused its discretion by ordering his present sentences to run consecutively to his prior sentence. The defendant also vaguely challenges the length and manner of service of his sentences for aggravated perjury and fabrication of evidence. Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the defendant’s four and five-year sentences to be served in confinement, consecutively to the twelve-year sentence for attempted second degree murder.

Henry County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/19/17
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Turner
W2016-02599-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

The Defendant, Kevin Turner, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to eight years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/19/17
J.W. Causey v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00470-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

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

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/19/17
State of Tennessee v. Michael Nelson Hurt
E2016-02507-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

Defendant, Michael Nelson Hurt, pled guilty to official misconduct and theft of property valued over $1000 and accepted an out-of-range sentence of six years’ probation. Defendant applied to the trial court for judicial diversion, which the trial court denied. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in failing to consider all of the common law factors in determining Defendant’s suitability for diversion, resulting in a sentence that is disproportionately punitive. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand the case for the entry of judgment forms on each charge that was disposed of by way of the plea agreement.

Hamblen County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Steven David Catalano
M2016-02272-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

The Appellant, Steven David Catalano, entered a plea of nolo contendere to driving under the influence (DUI), reserving a certified question of law challenging whether a be-on-the-lookout report (BOLO) issued by a Brentwood police officer provided sufficient probable cause or reasonable suspicion to justify a Franklin police officer’s traffic stop of the Appellant’s vehicle. The State contends that the question presented is not dispositive; therefore, this court is without jurisdiction to consider the appeal. Upon review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we agree with the State and conclude that the appeal must be dismissed.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Katherine Hart Collier
M2017-00511-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

The State of Tennessee appeals the Maury County Circuit Court’s orders suppressing evidence and dismissing the indictment, which charged the Defendant with driving under the influence (DUI), DUI per se, violating the implied consent law, failure to maintain a motor vehicle within a lane of traffic, and violating the open container law. On appeal, the State contends that the trial court erred by granting the Defendant’s motion to suppress the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) evidence and by dismissing the indictment. We conclude that the trial court did not err by suppressing the evidence but that the court erred by dismissing the indictment in its entirety. Although we affirm the dismissal of the indictment count charging DUI per se, we remand the case to the trial court for reinstatement of the remaining charges in the indictment and for further proceedings.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/15/17
State of Tennessee v. Milvern Hoss, Jr.
M2016-01927-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

Following a bench trial, the trial court found the defendant, Milvern Hoss, Jr., guilty of violating the requirements of the sexual offender registry due to his failure to report monthly, for which he received a sentence of four years of incarceration. On appeal, the defendant asserts the Tennessee Sexual Offender and Violent Sexual Offender Registration, Verification, and Tracking Act of 2004 is unconstitutional in its application to him, and the trial court lacked sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction. Following our review of the record and pertinent authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/15/17
State of Tennessee v. Jerry Dixon
M2016-01517-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Louis W. Oliver, III

The Defendant, Jerry Dixon, was convicted by a Sumner County Criminal Court jury of reckless endangerment, a Class A misdemeanor, for which he received a sentence of eleven months, twenty-nine days, with sixty days to be served in jail, 180 days to be served on house arrest, and the balance to be served on probation. See T.C.A. § 39-13-103 (2014). On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of a witness’s prior inconsistent statement. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/15/17
State of Tennessee v. Andrew Bernard Beverly
E2017-00056-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paul G. Summers

After a jury trial, the defendant, Andrew Bernard Beverly, was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder, attempted first-degree murder, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. On appeal, the defendant asserts the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for premeditated murder, felony murder, and attempted murder, arguing the State failed to prove the appropriate mens rea for the offenses. The defendant also claims the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress three statements made after his arrest claiming his Miranda waiver prior to the initial interview did not pass constitutional muster. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/14/17
State of Tennessee v. Sandra Darlene Wood
M2016-01225-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Defendant, Sandra Darlene Wood, was convicted following a jury trial in Marshall County Circuit Court of one count of cruelty to animals. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to 11 months, 29 days suspended on probation after 45 days’ incarceration and ordered Defendant to pay $4,134 in restitution to Volunteer Equine Advocates. Defendant raises three issues on appeal: (1) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain her conviction for cruelty to animals; (2) whether the sentence imposed is excessive and contrary to the law; and (3) whether the trial court properly admitted testimony regarding a prior visit by a Sheriff’s Department Detective to her farm in June, 2014. After a careful review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/14/17
State of Tennessee v. Antonio Durham
W2016-02194-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Antonio Durham, of attempted rape, a Class C felony, and sexual battery, a Class E felony. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court merged the convictions and sentenced the Appellant to ten years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions and that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on Class B misdemeanor assault as a lesser-included offense of attempted rape. The State claims that the trial court erred by merging the convictions. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the trial court committed plain error by merging the Appellant’s convictions and remand the case to the trial court for resentencing.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/14/17
State of Tennessee v. Michael Lee Hooper
E2016-02538-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

The Defendant, Michael Lee Hooper, stipulated that he violated the terms of his probation by being arrested for possession of a Schedule II substance with the intent to sell or deliver it and for maintaining a dwelling for controlled substance use or sales, for stopping payment of his court costs, and for testing positive for cocaine. The trial court found that the Defendant had violated the terms of his probation and ordered that he serve his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it sentenced him to serve his sentence because this was his first violation in thirteen years of probation. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/13/17
Michael Barnes v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00048-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa Rice

The Petitioner, Michael Barnes, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2013 Johnson County Criminal Court conviction of possession of contraband in a penal institution, for which he received a sentence of fifteen years. In this appeal, the Petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to: (1) “object with regard to the chain of custody”; (2) “object with regard to the entry of exhibits into evidence”; (3) explain to the Petitioner the maximum sentence that he faced; and (4) address the issue of “selective prosecution.” Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/13/17
State of Tennessee v. Michael V. Morris
M2017-01229-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Defendant, Michael V. Morris, appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, the Defendant alleges that he was incorrectly sentenced as a career offender. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/13/17
State of Tennessee v. Ray Armstrong
W2016-01996-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, Ray Armstrong, of four counts of possessing one-half gram or more of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver within a drug-free school zone, one count of destroying evidence, and one count of resisting arrest. The trial court merged the convictions of possessing cocaine, and the Appellant received an effective sentence of fifty and one-half years in confinement. On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions, that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence, that the trial court erred by allowing a witness to give testimony that was hearsay and violated Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b), that the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on criminal attempt as a lesser-included offense of destroying evidence, that the State improperly mentioned a missing witness during closing argument, and that his four convictions and sentences for possessing cocaine violate double jeopardy. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/17
Randy Wayne Johnson v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00075-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa N. Rice

The petitioner, Randy Wayne Johnson, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2014 Carter County Criminal Court convictions of especially aggravated kidnapping and assault, for which he received a sentence of 25 years. In this appeal, the petitioner contends only that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Carter County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/17
State of Tennessee v. Dacey Pack
E2017-00287-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery H. Wicks

In this delayed appeal, the defendant, Dacey Pack, contends that the trial court erred by denying his request for judicial diversion based on his 2008 Morgan County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded conviction of statutory rape. Because the defendant has failed to prepare an adequate record for our review, we must presume that the trial court’s ruling was correct. We therefore affirm the trial court’s denial of judicial diversion.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/17
Robert Anthony Fusco v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00825-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Petitioner, Robert Anthony Fusco, filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, alleging various instances of ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by limiting his questioning of two police officers at the hearing. He also contends that his trial counsel was ineffective in a number of ways, including by failing to file motions to suppress, to ensure that the rule of sequestration was stringently enforced, to challenge the Petitioner’s convictions on double jeopardy grounds, to contest errors at the sentencing hearing, and to challenge acts of prosecutorial misconduct. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Zachary Everett Davis - Concurring
M2016-01579-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

I concur in the results reached by the majority but write separately to express my policy concerns regarding the Defendant’s sentence. With regard to the Defendant’s sentence of imprisonment for life, Judge Holloway, in the majority opinion, concludes that the Defendant’s sentence is constitutional because the United States Supreme Court’s precedents in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012) and its progeny are not violated in that the Defendant did not receive a mandatory sentence of life without parole. I am compelled to agree that our statutory sentencing scheme for first degree murder does not violate the strict holdings of those cases. However, it is my fear that the reality of our sentencing provisions, when applied to juveniles, may run afoul the spirit of those opinions.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Zachary Everett Davis
M2016-01579-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

When he was fifteen years old, the Defendant, Zachary Everett Davis, killed his mother by hitting her in the head with a sledgehammer numerous times and attempted to kill his brother by setting the family’s residence on fire. After determining that the Defendant was competent to stand trial, the juvenile court transferred the Defendant’s case to the Sumner County Criminal Court. The Sumner County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant on charges of first degree premeditated murder, attempted first degree premeditated murder, and aggravated arson. After a competency hearing, the trial court determined that the Defendant was competent to stand trial. After a suppression hearing, the trial court concluded that the Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights prior to an interview conducted by the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office. A Sumner County jury found the Defendant guilty as charged, and the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve a life sentence for his first degree murder conviction. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve twenty years with a thirty percent release eligibility for attempted first degree murder and twenty years with a 100% release eligibility for aggravated arson; the trial court ordered the twenty-year sentences to run concurrently with each other but consecutively to the Defendant’s life sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in: (1) denying the Defendant’s motions to be declared incompetent; (2) denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress his statement to the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office; (3) denying the Defendant’s motion for mistrial after the Defendant testified on direct and cross-examination that he did not commit the offense; and (4) sentencing the Defendant to a de facto sentence of life without parole in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Daniel Nesbit
W2016-00492-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Defendant, Daniel Nesbit, was indicted for felony murder and attempted especially aggravated robbery for his role in the shooting death of the victim, Jernario Taylor. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted as charged and sentenced to an effective sentence of life imprisonment. Defendant appeals, arguing that: (1) the trial court erred in granting the State a continuance over the objection of defense counsel; (2) the State failed to disclose exculpatory evidence; (3) the trial court erred by admitting a recording of a telephone call between the co-defendant and his girlfriend; (4) the trial court erred by failing to grant a mistrial; (5) the trial court erred by allowing the State to argue inconsistent theories; (6) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of Defendant’s arrest in Alabama; (7) the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions; (8) the trial court erred by failing to disclose a note received from the jury during deliberations; and (9) cumulative error necessitates a reversal of Defendant’s convictions. Having carefully reviewed the record before us and the briefs of the parties, we find no error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/17
State of Tennessee v. Stephano Lee Weilacker
M2016-00546-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

Defendant, Stephano Lee Weilacker, was found guilty by a Montgomery County jury of especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery. He received an effective twenty-year sentence to be served consecutively to a previous sentence. In this, Defendant’s third direct appeal, he argues: that the evidence was insufficient; that the trial court permitted a reversible constructive amendment to the indictment; that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury as provided by White; that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence found in his vehicle; that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments, and that consecutive sentencing was improper. We find that all of Defendant’s issues, except for the issues concerning the amendment to the indictment and the jury instruction, have been previously addressed by this court in Defendant’s two prior appeals and cannot be reconsidered. We find that the issue concerning the indictment is waived and that the trial court was not required to instruct the jury in accordance with White. Therefore, Defendant’s convictions are affirmed.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/17
State of Tennessee v. Dale Albert Greca
E2017-00570-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

A Campbell County Criminal Court jury convicted the defendant, Dale Albert Greca, of especially aggravated kidnapping, robbery, unlawfully carrying a firearm in a public place, and driving on a suspended license – second offense. As a result of his convictions, the defendant received an effective sentence of twenty-four years in confinement. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping. He argues the confinement and removal of the victim did not substantially interfere with the victim’s liberty and the confinement was simply incidental to the robbery. He also contends that the evidence is insufficient to support a finding that the kidnapping was accomplished with a deadly weapon because the jury found him guilty of the lesser-included offense of robbery rather than the indicted offense of aggravated robbery. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/07/17