Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/10/2016
Format: 12/10/2016
State of Tennessee v. Cephus D. Spicer
M2015-01739-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The defendant, Cephus D. Spicer, appeals his Rutherford County Circuit Court jury convictions of aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, and unlawful possession of a firearm on a college campus, claiming that his due process rights were violated by the State’s reading of the indictment to the jury without proper instructions, that the prosecutor’s closing argument was improper, that the State failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions, and that the sentence imposed was excessive.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/01/16
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Scott Barnum
M2016-00313-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David D. Wolfe

The Defendant, Gregory Scott Barnum, was convicted of Class E felony indecent exposure and received a sentence of two years’ incarceration.  On appeal from his conviction, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erroneously found that he was a “sexual offender” based on his 1998 Kentucky convictions for indecent exposure and thus subject to enhanced punishment under Tennessee’s indecent exposure statute. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/01/16
State of Tennessee v. Michael Glenn Holt
E2015-01892-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee
The Defendant, Michael Glenn Holt, entered guilty pleas in the Knox County Criminal Court to one count of theft over $500 but less than $1,000, a Class E felony, and one count of criminal trespass, a Class C misdemeanor, with an agreed combined sentence of four years with manner of service to be determined by the trial court. After failing to appear at his initial sentencing hearing, the Defendant was also charged, and subsequently pled guilty to, one count of failure to appear, a Class E felony, with the trial court to determine the length and manner of sentence. The trial court imposed a sentence of four years for the failure to appear charge, consecutive to his previous four-year sentence, for a total effective sentence of eight years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in imposing the maximum sentence on the failure to appear charge, that the trial court improperly denied the Defendant an alternative sentence, and that the trial court failed to consider whether the Defendant’s consecutive sentences were statutorily mandated. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/16
State of Tennessee v. Antonio Clifton
W2016-00176-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Appellant, Antonio Clifton, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Appellant contends that the trial court erred in concluding that Rule 36.1 relief was not available because his illegal sentence had long ago expired. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the Appellant’s Rule 36.1 motion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/16
C.W.H. v. L.A.S.
E2015-01498-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

This is a custody case involving two children.2 C.W.H. (Father) and L.A.S. (Mother) modified, by an agreed order, an existing parenting plan for their children, P.H. and V.H. The modification continued Mother as the children's primary residential parent. Soon thereafter, Father learned that Mother worked in Nevada as a prostitute. He filed a motion seeking an emergency temporary custody order and a temporary restraining order. The juvenile court magistrate found that a material change in circumstances had occurred. It changed the identity of the children's primary residential parent from Mother to Father. Mother appealed to the trial court. After a hearing, the trial court (1) confirmed the magistrate's decision and (2) designated Father as the primary residential parent. Mother appealed to this Court. In the first appeal, we held that the trial court's order lacked a “best interest” analysis. As a result, we vacated that order and directed the trial court to (1) make a best interest analysis and thereafter (2) enter a new permanent parenting plan. On remand, the trial court (1) incorporated its past findings, (2) conducted a best interest analysis, and (3) held in Father's favor. Mother again appeals. We reverse because we hold that the evidence preponderates, in part but significantly, against the trial court's factual findings supporting its judgment.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/16
Christopher Lewis v. State of Tennessee - Concurring
M2015-01198-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

I unenthusiastically agree with the conclusion reached by the majority.  The legal soundness and logical result reached by the post-conviction court effectively delivers a wound to Petitioner by the hand of his out-of-state post-conviction attorney.  Such a wound is a mortal shot to Petitioner’s chances of post-conviction review.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/16
Christopher Lewis v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01198-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

The petitioner, Christopher Lewis, appeals the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his second degree murder conviction and resulting fifteen-year sentence.  On appeal, the petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in summarily dismissing the petition due to various deficiencies in the petition.  Following our review of the record and the applicable law, we conclude that the post-conviction court erred in summarily dismissing the petition for post-conviction relief without first providing the petitioner with the opportunity to correct the deficiencies.  Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand for further proceedings.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/16
State of Tennessee v. Bridget Bondurant Shirer
M2015-01486-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The appellant, Bridget Bondurant Shirer, pled guilty in the Moore County Circuit Court to five counts of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; seven counts of theft of property valued $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony; one count of failure to appear, a Class D felony; and one count of forgery in the amount of $500 or less, a Class E felony.  After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the appellant to an effective fourteen-year sentence to be served as eight years in confinement followed by six years on community corrections.  On appeal, the appellant contends that the length and manner of service of her effective fourteen-year sentence is excessive.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Moore County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/16
Richard Earl Madkins, Jr. v. State of Tennessee and Grady Perry, Warden
W2015-02238-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Walker

The Petitioner, Richard Earl Madkins, Jr., filed a petition in the Hardeman County Circuit Court seeking habeas corpus relief from his especially aggravated robbery conviction and resulting twenty-five-year sentence, alleging that his sentence had expired and that he was being imprisoned for a conviction that was overturned by our supreme court. The habeas corpus court denied relief without a hearing, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Jerry Brandon Phifer
M2016-00227-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

On June 17, 2011, a Davidson County grand jury indicted the defendant, Jerry Brandon Phifer, for twelve crimes against five different victims.  The defendant pled guilty to one count of aggravated burglary (Count 11) and one count of theft of property greater than $1000 (Count 12) as charged in the original twelve-count indictment.  The trial court sentenced the defendant to thirteen years for aggravated robbery and twelve years for theft of property to be served consecutively.  On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court improperly enhanced his sentence for aggravated robbery from the minimum of ten years to thirteen years.  The defendant also argues the trial court improperly ordered his sentences for Counts 11 and 12 to run consecutively.  After our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Todd Dewayne Scruggs
M2016-00558-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The defendant, Todd Dewayne Scruggs, was convicted of selling and delivering heroin and possessing drug paraphernalia, for which he received an effective sentence of twenty-six years.  The defendant appeals his convictions, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence and his sentence.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Vanessa Renee Pinegar
M2015-02403-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

The defendant, Vanessa Renee Pinegar, was convicted of one count of facilitation of delivering 0.5 or more grams of cocaine within a school zone and two counts of attempted delivery of 0.5 or more grams of cocaine within a school zone.  The trial court merged her attempted delivery convictions and imposed an effective sentence of nine years and a fine of $2000.  The defendant appeals her convictions, challenging the denial of her motion to sever the trial of the defendants, certain evidentiary rulings, the jury instructions, the sufficiency of the evidence, and her sentence.  Upon review, we affirm the convictions and sentences.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/28/16
Brian Keith Good v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01736-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.
The Petitioner, Brian Keith Good, appeals from the post-conviction court's denial of relief from his convictions for criminally negligent homicide, attempted aggravated robbery, and unlawful possession of a deadly weapon. On appeal, he argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel's (1) failure to adequately investigate and discover a witnesses' third statement in preparation for trial and (2) failure to call Anthony Branche and Mark Tolley as defense witnesses. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/28/16
State of Tennessee v. George Prince Watkins
W2016-00171-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, George Prince Watkins, pleaded guilty to burglary in 1989 and was given a probationary sentence. The Defendant violated his probation, and while on bond for his probation violation, he committed four new offenses, to all of which he subsequently pleaded guilty. The trial court ordered concurrent sentencing for all of the convictions. The Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, contending that his sentence was illegal. The trial court summarily dismissed the motion, and the Defendant appealed. This Court held that the Defendant had presented a colorable claim and remanded the case to the trial court for Rule 36.1 proceedings. State v. George Prince Watkins, No. W2014-02393-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 6145899, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Oct. 15, 2015), no perm. app. filed. The Defendant moved forward with his Rule 36.1 motion, and the trial court again summarily dismissed the Defendant’s motion finding that he failed to state a colorable claim since his sentences were expired and citing State v. Brown, 479 S.W.3d 200, 211 (Tenn. 2015), which was released in December 2015. Based upon Brown, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/16
State of Tennessee v. Julie Fuller-Cole
W2015-01346-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

In 2012, the Defendant, Julie Fuller-Cole, pleaded guilty in Shelby County to theft over $10,000. The trial court sentenced her to ten years of incarceration to run consecutively to a probation sentence from a prior Fayette County conviction. The Fayette County probation sentence was later revoked. In 2015, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, seeking to correct an illegal sentence. The Defendant asserted that the Shelby County sentence was illegal because it was aligned consecutively to the Fayette County sentence and because the Fayette County sentence was not revoked until after she was sentenced in Shelby County. After a hearing, the trial court concluded that there was nothing illegal about the alignment of the sentences. On appeal, the Defendant maintains that her sentence is illegal and that the sentences should be run concurrently. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/16
State of Tennessee v. Arterious North
E2015-00957-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Sword

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Arterious North, of four counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter and four counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to twenty-two years of confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to sever his case from the cases of his co-defendants and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After review, we reverse the trial court's judgments of conviction and dismiss the charges for the attempted voluntary manslaughter of L.P. and for employing a firearm during the commission of the attempted voluntary manslaughter of L.P. We affirm the trial court‟s judgments in all other respects.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth Kyle Fletcher
E2015-02256-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

The defendant, Kenneth Kyle Fletcher, was convicted by a Carter County jury of facilitation of initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine, a Class C felony. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced him to ten years on community corrections. In a separate case, the trial court sentenced the defendant to concurrent four-year sentences for five counts of promoting the manufacture of methamphetamine and ordered that the four-year sentence be served consecutively to the ten-year sentence in the instant case, for a total effective sentence of fourteen years on community corrections. In a timely appeal to this court, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the trial court's order of consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Carter County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/26/16
Travis Armstrong v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01244-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

Petitioner, Travis Armstrong, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Following convictions, Petitioner received an agreed sentence of 20 years for possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine with intent to deliver and 15 years for possession of a controlled substance in a penal institution, to run concurrently, in exchange for waiving his right to appeal from the convictions which he received in a jury trial. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. After appointment of counsel and filing of multiple amended petitions, this petition was denied following an evidentiary hearing. After careful review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Charles Dixon
M2016-00620-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

The defendant, Gregory Charles Dixon, appeals his Lawrence County Circuit Court jury conviction of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction and that the sentence imposed was excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Lindsey A. Ochab
M2015-02290-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

In this appeal, the State challenges the ruling of the trial court granting the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence and dismiss the two-count indictment charging the defendant with driving under the influence (“DUI”) and driving with a blood alcohol content greater than .08 percent (“DUI per se”). Because the trial court failed to consider the effect of a search warrant and because, at any rate, probable cause supported the defendant’s arrest, the trial court erred by granting the defendant’s motion to suppress. The judgment of the trial court is reversed, and the case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/26/16
Billy Debow v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00753-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The petitioner, Billy DeBow, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which petition challenged his 1999 conviction of first degree murder. Because the interest of justice does not require that we waive the timely filing of the notice of appeal in this case, the appeal is dismissed.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/26/16
State of Tennessee v. William Heath
W2015-01837-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A jury convicted the Defendant, William Heath, of especially aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a sentence of forty years for especially aggravated robbery after merging the reckless endangerment and aggravated assault convictions into the especially aggravated robbery conviction. The Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/16
Kelvin Townsel v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01641-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Petitioner, Kelvin Townsel, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his guilty plea to second degree murder and the resulting thirty-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was not entered knowingly and voluntarily. We affirm the post-conviction court's denial of relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Harold Smith
W2015-02229-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Harold Smith, of reckless aggravated assault, vandalism over $1,000, and attempted theft of property over $1,000. The Defendant received an effective sentence of twelve years as a career offender at sixty-five percent. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/16
Eddie Medlock v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02130-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

A jury convicted the Petitioner, Eddie Medlock, of two counts of aggravated rape and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping perpetrated during the brutal assault of his ex-girlfriend. On direct appeal, this court vacated one count of especially aggravated kidnapping but affirmed the other convictions and the Petitioner‘s sentence of one hundred and twenty years. The Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief on June 27, 2003, but the post-conviction court did not enter a final disposition until October 1, 2015, when it denied the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that the post-conviction court erred in denying him funding for expert analysis during the post-conviction proceeding and that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/21/16