Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 02/10/2016
Format: 02/10/2016
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
State of Tennessee v. Robin Dale Arthur
E2015-00348-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The Defendant, Robin Dale Arthur, pled guilty to aggravated assault in exchange for a five-year and six-month sentence as Range I, standard offender. Thereafter, the trial court denied any form of alternative sentencing based upon the Defendant’s history of criminal convictions and criminal behavior. The Defendant appeals, arguing that he is a suitable candidate for alternative sentencing pursuant to the statutory considerations outlined in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-103(1)(A)-(C). Following our review, we discern no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s alternative sentencing decision. Accordingly, the judgment is affirmed.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/15/16
Travis Kinte Echols v. State of Tennessee
E2015-00601-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

Petitioner, Travis Kinte Echols, was convicted of felony murder perpetrated during the commission of a robbery and was sentenced to life in prison. Following an unsuccessful direct appeal, he petitioned for post-conviction relief from his conviction. The post-conviction court denied relief, and this appeal follows. Petitioner seeks review of four issues: (1) whether trial counsel was ineffective for failure to contemporaneously object to the introduction of character evidence pertaining to the victim; (2) whether the State violated the tenets of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by withholding a witness statement; (3) whether the trial court erred by precluding trial counsel from questioning the primary investigator with regard to the polygraph results of a witness; and (4) whether the trial court erred by sequestering petitioner's private investigator. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/15/16
Michael Davis v. State of Tennessee
W2015-00227-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The Petitioner, Michael Davis, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court's denial of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis regarding his 2013 conviction for second degree murder and his resulting sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The coram nobis court denied relief on the grounds that the purported evidence was not newly discovered and that it was cumulative to evidence presented at the trial. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the court erred by denying relief. We affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/16
State of Tennessee v. Patrick Gaia
W2015-00535-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The defendant, Patrick Gaia, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court's order declaring him a motor vehicle habitual offender (“MVHO”), arguing that the trial court erred by entering a default judgment where the State failed to comply with the terms of the MVHO statute and Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure for service of process. Because the record reflects that neither the State nor the trial court complied with the necessary procedural requirements, we vacate the judgment declaring the defendant an MVHO.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/16
Ernest Willard Dodd v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00111-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley

The Petitioner, Ernest Willard Dodd, appeals as of right from the Warren County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his convictions for initiating a process intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine and attempt to promote the manufacture of methamphetamine.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel based on counsel’s failure (1) to adequately advise him regarding the admissibility of his prior convictions if he chose to testify and (2) to call a “material” witness for the defense.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/16
State of Tennessee v. Joe Clark Mitchell
M2015-01539-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The Defendant, Joe Clark Mitchell, was convicted in 1986 of two counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated rape, two counts of armed robbery, two counts of aggravated assault, arson, and first degree burglary and received an effective sentence of three consecutive life sentences plus thirteen years.  In 2015, the Defendant filed a motion for correction of the sentences pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 contending that his life without the possibly of parole sentences were illegal because such sentences did not exist at the time of the offenses.  The trial court summarily dismissed the motion upon finding that the Defendant received life imprisonment sentences, not life without the possibility of parole, and that his sentences were not illegal.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by dismissing the motion and by imposing the costs against him.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/16
State of Tennessee v. Lloyd Arlan Jones
M2015-00657-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

The Defendant, Lloyd Arlan Jones, appeals as of right from his jury conviction for domestic assault.  The Defendant contends that the trial court erred by admitting several hearsay statements into evidence and by declining to charge domestic assault by extremely offensive or provocative physical contact as a lesser-included offense of domestic assault by causing bodily injury.  Furthermore, he submits that the cumulative result of these errors entitles him to a new trial.  Following our review, we discern no error and affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/16
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth Greene
E2015-01068-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

Appellant was convicted of burglary other than a habitation and was sentenced to four years, suspended to probation, on January 30, 2013. A probation violation report was filed alleging that appellant had violated the terms of his probation by testing positive for marijuana, by being in possession of an adulterated urine specimen, and by failing to pay court costs. Following a probation revocation hearing, the trial court revoked appellant’s probation and ordered his sentence into execution. On appeal, appellant argues that because of his admission to his probation officer about his drug problem and his voluntarily seeking drug treatment for the same, he should have been allowed to complete his inpatient drug treatment program rather than have his probation revoked in full. Upon our review of appellant’s revocation, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Polk County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/16
Mario Hawkins v. Michael Parris, Warden
W2015-00775-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

Petitioner, Mario Hawkins, was convicted of first degree murder in 1996. On December 31, 2014, he filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, alleging that his judgment was void because he was not granted pretrial jail credits. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition based on petitioner's failure to follow the documentary requirements of the habeas corpus statutes. Following our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/12/16
State of Tennessee v. David Burrows
W2014-01785-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Campbell

Aggrieved of his Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping, the defendant, David Burrows, appeals, claiming that the trial court erred by refusing to remove a juror for cause, by admitting autopsy photographs of the victim, and by admitting evidence of the defendant's 2008 domestic assault of the victim and that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/12/16