Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/04/2016
Format: 12/04/2016
Ronnie Mills v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01066-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Petitioner, Ronnie Mills, appeals as of right from the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, he contends that his pleas were unknowing and involuntary due to counsel’s misinforming him regarding the specific terms of his plea agreement with the State and counsel’s subsequent failure to get those terms in writing or object when the alleged agreement was not honored. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Mark Stephen Williams
E2015-01393-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The defendant, Mark Stephen Williams, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation after a revocation hearing at which the defendant was not represented by counsel. He argues that he did not knowingly and voluntarily waive his right to counsel. Following our review, we conclude that the defendant did not execute a knowing and voluntary waiver of his right to counsel. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand this case for the appointment of counsel.

Union County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Dennis Sprawling-Concurring
W2014-02511-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett

Although I concur with the majority's conclusion that the trial court did not err in suppressing the Defendant's blood test results and agree that the trial court's judgment should be affirmed, I write separately because I cannot agree with the inclusion of two sentences in the majority opinion concerning the adoption of a good faith exception to the exclusionary rule in Tennessee. The first sentence is: “We believe that Tennesseans have adjusted well for over three decades under our State's constitution without adoption of any good faith exception….” The second sentence is: “We should not alter Tennessee Law.”

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/16
State of Tennessee v. Dennis Sprawling
W2014-02511-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

Defendant, Dennis Sprawling, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for one count of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI), one count of driving with a blood alcohol content of more that 0.20% (DUI per se), and one count of reckless driving. A separate count alleged that Defendant had previously been convicted of DUI. In this interlocutory appeal, the appellant, State of Tennessee appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court's order granting a motion to suppress filed by Defendant. The State claims that the trial court erroneously suppressed Defendant's blood test results because the “arresting officer had both actual and implied consent” to draw a sample of Defendant's blood following Defendant's arrest for DUI. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/16
Marcie Lynn Pursell v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01375-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

Petitioner, Marcie Lynn Pursell, appeals from the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that she received ineffective assistance of trial counsel for failure to have expert witness testimony excluded, failure to impeach expert witnesses with prior inconsistent statements, and for lack of experience.  The decision of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/16
State of Tennessee v. Charles William Reed
M2015-00978-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt

This direct appeal presents a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A). Defendant, Charles William Reed, properly reserved a certified question of law as part of his plea agreement in which he asks this Court whether there was sufficient probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/01/16
State of Tennessee v. Charles Henry Midgett, III
M2015-00845-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The defendant, Charles Henry Midgett, III, pled guilty to two counts of attempted aggravated child abuse, a Class B felony. As part of the agreement, the defendant pled guilty as a Range I offender but waived the release eligibility within his range, and he agreed that the trial court would determine the length of the sentences, the release eligibility, and whether the sentences would run concurrently or consecutively. The trial court sentenced him to twelve years’ imprisonment for each count, to be served at forty-five percent. The sentences were to be served concurrently. The defendant appeals, asserting that the aggregate sentence is excessive and that the trial court erred in applying certain mitigating and enhancing factors. Discerning no abuse of discretion, we affirm the sentences imposed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/01/16
State of Tennessee v. Steven William Miller
M2015-02013-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

Defendant, Steven William Miller, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to serve his original sentence in confinement. Upon our review of the record, we hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by revoking Defendant’s probation and ordering Defendant’s sentence into execution. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/16
Michael Allen Gibbs v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01808-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The petitioner, Michael Allen Gibbs, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his first degree felony murder, aggravated burglary, and attempted especially aggravated robbery convictions. He asserts that the post-conviction court erred in denying his petition because he received ineffective assistance of counsel in that counsel did not thoroughly advise him regarding a plea offer and the proof needed to convict him. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Haywood County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Steven Shell
E2015-01103-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

In this appeal as of right by the State, the State challenges the ruling of the trial court dismissing the case as barred by the misdemeanor statute of limitations. Because no document in the record qualifies as a valid arrest warrant and no other event occurred to timely commence the prosecution in this case, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Laquinton Brown
E2015-00899-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve W. Sword

A Knox County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, LaQuinton Brown, of two counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony; two counts of employing a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony, a Class C felony; and two counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter, a Class D felony. After a sentencing hearing, the appellant received an effective twenty-two-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; that the trial court erred by allowing the State to play a video showing him with a handgun because the video violated Rules 404(b) and 608(b), Tennessee Rules of Evidence; and that the trial court erred by imposing the maximum sentences in the range, by ordering consecutive sentencing, and by denying his request for alternative sentencing. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Marlin C. Goff
E2015-02201-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The defendant, Marlin C. Goff, appeals the summary dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence imposed for his 2005 convictions of rape of a child and failure to appear. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
Michael E. Stewart v. State of Tennessee
E2015-00418-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew M. Freiberg

The Petitioner, Michael E. Stewart, appeals the Polk County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2005 convictions for first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, kidnapping, and tampering with evidence and his effective sentence of life plus eight years. The Petitioner contends that (1) the post-conviction court failed to make proper findings of fact and conclusions of law relative to each ineffective assistance of counsel claim and (2) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Polk County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Felicia Jones
E2015-01101-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

The Defendant, Felicia Jones, was arrested without a warrant for driving under the influence (DUI) and possession of drug paraphernalia. The Defendant consented to a bench trial in Sullivan County General Sessions Court and was found guilty of both offenses. The Defendant then appealed to the Sullivan County Criminal Court. On appeal, the Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges against her, arguing that the affidavit of complaint filed after her arrest was void, that prosecution had never commenced in this matter, and that the applicable statute of limitations had expired. The trial court granted the Defendant's motion to dismiss, and the State now appeals. The State contends that the fact that the affidavit of complaint was sworn before a notary public rather than a qualified judicial officer was a mere technical defect that had “no impact on validity.” Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Lisa Hayes
E2015-01112-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin
The Defendant, Lisa Hayes, was arrested without a warrant for driving under the influence and simple possession of marijuana. More than one year later, the Sullivan County General Sessions Court held a preliminary hearing, and the Defendant's case was bound over to the grand jury. Following her indictment for the offenses, the Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment in the Criminal Court for Sullivan County, alleging that the prosecution was not commenced within the applicable one-year statute of limitations. The trial court agreed and granted the Defendant's motion to dismiss. In this appeal as of right, the State challenges the trial court's ruling dismissing the case. Because no document in the record qualifies as a valid arrest warrant and the State failed to establish that the Defendant's first appearance in general sessions court was within the applicable statute of limitations, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Milta Blanchard
W2015-00286-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett

Defendant, Milta Blanchard, filed a motion under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 alleging that the judgments against him were illegal because he was out on bond in one of his cases when he was arrested on the three other cases. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion and vacated three of the judgments against him. The trial court determined that the judgment for the offense for which Defendant was on bond was not illegal as it occurred first in time. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in correcting his illegal sentences on the concession of the State without first appointing counsel, holding a hearing, or providing him the opportunity to withdraw his plea. After review of the record and the briefs, we conclude that the trial court lacked authority to grant Defendant’s motion and that the judgments against Defendant should be reinstated.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
Terry Jamar Norris v. State of Tennessee
W2015-00837-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Petitioner, Terry Jamar Norris, appeals the denial and dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, specifically asserting that the post-conviction court incorrectly dismissed his premature petition with prejudice and that his underlying McLaughlin/Huddleston issue is meritorious. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court denying and dismissing the petition for post-conviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Dariun Bailey
W2015-00542-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Following a jury trial in Shelby County, Defendant, Dariun Bailey, was convicted of second degree murder, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment. He received concurrent sentences of twenty-two years for second degree murder, three years for aggravated assault, and two years for reckless endangerment. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that the State violated Brady v. Maryland by failing to notify him of the gunpowder residue kit and having the kit tested. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
Curtis Dwayne Staggs v. State of Tennessee - Dissenting
M2014-01416-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

I dissent from the majority’s conclusion affirming the trial court’s denial of relief on the petitioner’s aggravated robbery conviction, which extends his life sentence an additional twelve years. With regard to this conviction, I agree with the petitioner’s argument that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to raise the statute of limitations as a defense. Here, the petitioner’s indictment for aggravated robbery stated that the offense occurred on June 19, 1992. However, the indictment itself was not issued until July 29, 2010, eighteen years after the commission of the offense and ten years after the eight-year statute of limitations had expired. T.C.A. §§ 39-13-402(b), 40-1-101(b)(2). The indictment was untimely on its face because the prosecution commenced well after the expiration of the limitations period. Even though counsel explained that he did not raise the statute of limitation as a defense because it is “on hold” when “the defendant either lives out of state or conceals the crime[,]” our law requires the State to plead specific facts in the indictment to toll the statute of limitations. State v. Davidson, 816 S.W.2d 316, 318 (Tenn. 1991) (stating that the burden is on the State to “plead[] and prove[] that certain specific facts toll the statute of limitations”) (emphasis in original); see also State v. Tidwell, 775 S.W.2d 379, 389 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1989) (“When an indictment or presentment is brought after the expiration of the statute of limitations, it must be pleaded and proved that certain specific facts tolled the statute of limitations.”); State v. Thorpe, 614 S.W.2d 60, 65 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1980) (stating that in situations where a statute of limitations may be tolled, “the specific facts which toll the limitation period must be pleaded and proved”); State v. Comstock, 326 S.W.2d 669, 671 (Tenn. 1959) (“[W]here the indictment is brought after the period of limitations has expired, it must be pleaded and proved that certain specific facts toll the statute of limitations[.]”). The record shows that this was not done in this case.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
Curtis Dwayne Staggs v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01416-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Petitioner, Curtis Dwayne Staggs, appeals the Lawrence County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and aggravated robbery and resulting effective sentence of life plus twelve years. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to raise the statute of limitations as a defense against his aggravated robbery charge and because counsel failed to request a jury instruction cautioning the jury to evaluate the weight and credibility of a witness’s testimony in light of the witness’s agreement with the State. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Cedric Jones
M2015-00720-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Defendant, Cedric Jones, appeals his convictions for three counts of aggravated rape, one count of aggravated sexual battery, and one count of aggravated kidnapping and his total effective sentence of thirty-seven years. Defendant argues (1) that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) that the trial court erred when it revoked his bond for failure to appear; (3) that the trial court erred when it denied his motions for recusal; (4) that the trial court erred when it did not allow Defendant to represent himself at trial; (5) that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument; and (6) that the trial court erred during sentencing. Upon our thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
Trinidad Martinez Flores v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01504-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth Norman

In 2011, a Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Trinidad Martinez Flores, of multiple offenses involving the possession and sale of more than 300 pounds of marijuana. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to fifty-six years of incarceration. This Court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions and sentence on appeal. State v. Trinidad Martinez Flores, No. M2012-00285-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 3497644, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, July 11, 2011), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 13, 2013). The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that his trial counsel represented him ineffectively. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner contends his trial counsel failed to adequately represent him, noting that the Board of Professional Responsibility subsequently disbarred trial counsel for fraudulently billing the state. On appeal, we conclude that, considering the weight of the evidence, counsel’s representation did not prejudice the Petitioner. As such, the Petitioner is not entitled to relief.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
Misty Ellis v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01933-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

In 2014, the Petitioner, Misty Ellis, pleaded guilty to robbery, and the trial court imposed the sentence agreed to by the parties of six years at 100%. In 2015, the Petitioner filed a petition for habeas corpus relief, contending that her release eligibility percentage was illegal because it was in direct contravention of the release eligibility statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-501. The habeas corpus court dismissed the Petitioner’s petition for failure to comply with habeas corpus statutory filing requirements. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the habeas corpus court erred when it dismissed her petition because she complied with the filing requirements and because her agreed-to sentence is illegal. The State counters that the habeas corpus court properly dismissed her petition because the judgment form does not show any illegality in the Petitioner’s plea-bargained sentence. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s dismissal of the Petitioner’s petition for habeas corpus relief.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Sharod Winford Moore
M2015-00663-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

The Defendant, Sharod Winford Moore, appeals as of right from his jury conviction for first degree premeditated murder. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202. On appeal, the Defendant contends: (1) that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction; (2) that the trial court erred in overruling his motion for change of venue; (3) that the trial court erred in denying his request to present evidence of the victim’s propensity for violence; (4) that the trial court erred in denying his request to charge the jury with Tennessee Pattern Jury Instruction 42.09(a), designating Jason McCollum as an accomplice as a matter of law; (5) that the trial court erred in allowing an “incompetent” witness, Clifford Watkins, to testify; (6) that the trial court erred in denying a request to cross-examine Mr. Watkins regarding a previous arrest and subsequent determination by the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute that he was incompetent to stand trial; (7) that the trial court erred in denying his pre-trial motion to keep the State from eliciting testimony that the Defendant was a member of the Vice Lords gang; (8) that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct during closing argument “by misstating [the] law concerning the definition of reasonable doubt”; and (9) that the District Attorney General’s Office committed a Brady violation by providing defense counsel with “redacted ‘exculpatory’ witness statements,” foreclosing counsel’s ability to determine whether those “witness[es] could provide exculpatory testimony.” Following our review, we determine that the Defendant’s failure to timely file a motion for new trial results in waiver of all issues except for sufficiency of the evidence. Furthermore, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendant’s conviction. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Kevin O'Donnell Stone
M2015-01874-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

In 2015, the Defendant, Kevin O’Donnell Stone, pleaded guilty to violating his probation in case numbers 2011-CR-486 and 2011-CR-103 and to possession of cocaine in case number 2013-CR-528. The trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation and ordered him to serve the balance of his three-year sentence in confinement. The trial court also sentenced the Defendant to a concurrent sentence of five years of incarceration for the possession of cocaine conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it ordered him to serve his sentences in confinement instead of ordering an alternative sentence. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/16