Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 02/07/2016
Format: 02/07/2016
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Farrow
W2014-02310-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee Coffee

The Petitioner, Christopher Farrow, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that the trial court erred by summarily dismissing his motion. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/28/15
State of Tennessee v. Travis Boyd and Rodriccus Funzie
W2014-00676-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Appellants, Travis Boyd and Rodriccus Funzie, were jointly indicted and tried for first degree murder. Upon verdicts of guilty as to each appellant, the trial court imposed a mandatory sentence of life in prison. Appealing their convictions, both appellants challenge the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the trial court's admission of recorded jail conversations. Appellant Boyd challenges the trial court's ruling allowing testimony concerning an altercation between Boyd and the victim that occurred on the Saturday night prior to the murder; the admission of evidence gathered during the course of Boyd's allegedly illegal forty-eight-hour hold; the trial court's ruling allowing identifications of Boyd by five witnesses; and the State's failure to provide complete discovery. Appellant Funzie challenges the trial court's admission of two witnesses' statements as substantive evidence. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Jerome Sanders
W2014-01513-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Defendant, Jerome Sanders, was indicted for first degree murder, first degree felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery for his role in the robbery and shooting death of Martin Webster in Memphis in 2010. A jury found Defendant guilty as charged. The trial court merged the first degree murder conviction with the felony murder conviction and sentenced Defendant to life in prison for the felony murder conviction and to twenty-five years for the especially aggravated robbery conviction. The sentences were ordered to be served consecutively. In this direct appeal, Defendant raises twelve issues for review: (1) whether the trial court erred by denying a motion to dismiss the indictment based on the State's failure to preserve potentially exculpatory evidence; (2) whether the trial court erred by denying the motion to suppress Defendant's statement; (3) whether the trial court erred in denying a motion to recuse; (4) whether the trial court improperly admitted evidence of admissions made by Defendant; (5) whether the trial court improperly prevented a psychological expert from testifying at trial; (6) whether the trial court improperly admitted evidence of Defendant's prior bad acts in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b); (7) whether the trial court erred by allowing the State to admit evidence of an alleged oral statement of Defendant that was not provided to Defendant in discovery; (8) whether the trial court's actions resulted in a violation of Defendant's right to confrontation; (9) whether the State committed prosecutorial misconduct in its closing argument; (10) whether the trial court erred by refusing to grant a new trial when there was a juror asleep during trial; (11) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; and (12) whether cumulative error requires the reversal of his convictions. After a review of the evidence and authorities, we determine Defendant is not entitled to relief. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/23/15
Deangelo White v. State of Tennessee
W2015-00926-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Petitioner, Deangelo White, was convicted of two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of evading arrest, and one count of simple possession. He received an effective sentence of forty years. The convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. After a review, we determine that Petitioner has failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that he is entitled to post-conviction relief. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Kendall McKenzie Kin Eayrs - concurring in results
E2014-02072-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance
TIMOTHY L. EASTER, J., concur.
 
Because of the manner in which the trial court terminated the presentation of evidence at the suppression hearing, I am hemmed in and must reluctantly agree with the majority.
 
Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/15
State of Tennessee v. Kendall McKenzie Kin Eayrs
E2014-02072-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance

Following the denial of her motion to suppress, the Defendant-Appellant, Kendall McKenzie Kin Eayrs, entered a guilty plea to driving under the influence, reserving three certified questions of law challenging the legality of her stop. Because the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress after holding that the officer had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to stop Eayrs's vehicle for being illegally parked in a turn lane, we reverse the judgment of the trial court, vacate Eayrs's guilty plea, and dismiss the indictment.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/15
State of Tennessee v. Ziberia Marico Carero
E2015-00140-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword
Defendant, Ziberia Marico Carero, was charged in a presentment by the Knox County Grand Jury in Count One with possession of cocaine in a school zone with intent to sell; in Count Two with possession of cocaine in a school zone with intent to deliver; in Count Three with sale of cocaine; and in Count Four with delivery of cocaine for his role in a sale of cocaine to a confidential informant. Defendant was also charged in Count Five with a criminal gang offense enhancement pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-121. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of the charges in Counts One through Four. In a bifurcated trial, the jury found Defendant not guilty of the criminal gang offense enhancement. The trial court merged Count Two into Count One and merged Count Four into Count Three. The trial court sentenced Defendant to concurrent sentences of twenty-three years and eighteen years. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and his sentences. Defendant also argues that the trial court improperly refused to merge all four of the convictions into a single conviction. After a review of the record, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions. However, we conclude that the multiple convictions violate double jeopardy principles and, therefore, should have been merged into one conviction for possession of cocaine in a school zone with the intent to sell. As a result, we merge all four convictions into Count One and remand the matter for entry of separate, corrected judgment forms for Counts One through Four in light of the supreme court‟s recent order in State v. Marquize Berry, No. W2014-00785-SC-R11-CD, 2015 WL _____ (Tenn. Nov. 16, 2015) (per curiam order).
 
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/15
State of Tennessee v. Elvis Strickland
W2015-00153-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The defendant, Elvis Strickland, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated arson, a Class A felony, and was sentenced to forty years in the 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 12/22/15
State of Tennessee v. Antwon Thomas
W2014-00788-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Antwon Thomas, of assault by bodily injury and domestic assault, Class A misdemeanors. The trial court sentenced the appellant to eleven months, twenty-nine days for each conviction to be served as two years on probation and merged the convictions. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court committed plain error by failing to admit the entire recording of the victim's 911 call into evidence, that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions, that the trial court committed plain error by making improper comments on the evidence, that the trial court committed plain error by refusing to allow him to sit at counsel's table, and that the trial court committed various sentencing errors, including rendering him infamous. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand the case to correct a clerical error in the judgment for count three rendering the appellant infamous.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/15
Michael Webster v. State of Tennessee
M2014-02019-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Petitioner, Michael Webster, appeals as of right from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that his trial counsel was ineffective in the following ways: (1) she failed to inform him of his preliminary hearing and waived his right to appear without his permission; (2) she did not adequately communicate with him; (3) she did not consult with him to develop a “reasonable” trial strategy; (4) she did not fully investigate or present witnesses; (5) she did not request a mistrial following “possible jury panel contamination”; and (6) she failed to make appropriate objections during his cross-examination.  Following our review, we conclude that the Petitioner is not entitled to relief, and the judgment of the post-conviction court is therefore affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/15
State of Tennessee v. Carla R. Richter
M2014-01913-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

A Maury County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Carla R. Richter, of driving under the influence (DUI), fourth offense; driving on a revoked license; and speeding. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of four years.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress, arguing that she did not knowingly and voluntarily consent to a blood test.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/22/15
State of Tennessee v. Travei Pryor - concurring and dissenting
E2012-02638-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

I must respectfully dissent from the majority’s reasoned opinion with regard to its conclusion that the absence of the White instructions constituted reversible error. I would affirm the convictions as they were entered, although merging those counts which were alternatively charged. In all other regards, I join in the majority's opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/18/15
State of Tennessee v. Patrick Wilson
W2015-00225-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Defendant, Patrick Wilson, appeals the trial court's denial of an alternative sentence after the entry of a guilty plea to aggravated statutory rape. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying an alternative sentence, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/18/15
State of Tennessee v. James Brandon Stewart
W2015-00167-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The defendant, James Brandon Stewart, appeals the summary denial of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence. Because the challenged sentence has expired, we affirm the summary dismissal of the defendant's motion.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/18/15
State of Tennessee v. Travei Pryor
E2012-02638-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
A Knox County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Travei Pryor, of eleven counts of aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony; four counts of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony; four counts of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony; one count of possessing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony; and one count of criminal impersonation, a Class B misdemeanor. After a sentencing hearing, he received an effective twelve-year sentence. On appeal, the appellant claimed that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions of employing and possessing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and that the trial court committed reversible error by failing to instruct the jury as provided by State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012). This court concluded that the trial court’s failure to instruct the jury pursuant to White constituted reversible error, reversed his eleven convictions of aggravated kidnapping, remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial as to those offenses, and affirmed the appellant’s remaining convictions. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the State’s application for permission to appeal and remanded the case to this court for reconsideration in light of the supreme court’s recent opinions in State v. Teats, 468 S.W.3d 495 (Tenn. 2015), and State v. Williams, 468 S.W.3d 510 (Tenn. 2015). After revisiting the issue pertaining to the White instruction, we conclude that the appellant’s convictions of aggravated kidnapping in counts 13 and 14 and counts 20 and 21 must be reversed and the case remanded to the trial court for a new trial as to those offenses. The appellant’s remaining convictions are affirmed. However, upon remand, the trial court is to merge the appellant’s convictions in counts 7 and 8, counts 9 and 10, counts 11 and 12, counts 15 and 16, and counts 17 and 18.
 
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/18/15
State of Tennessee v. Raphael Cortez Ferguson
E2015-00984-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

Appellant, Raphael Cortez Ferguson, pleaded guilty to facilitation of possession of a Schedule I controlled substance with intent to resell, a Class C felony, and received the agreed-upon sentence of three years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The department of correction placed appellant in its special alternative incarceration unit and, approximately six months later, released him from custody subject to supervised probation. A probation violation warrant was subsequently issued, alleging the following infractions: (1) committing new criminal offenses for theft of property valued at more than $1,000 but less than $10,000, criminal simulation, and identity theft; (2) testing positive on two drug screens; and (3) failing to complete community service as ordered. Following a hearing, the trial court revoked appellant’s probation and ordered his sentence into execution. On appeal, appellant argues that there was insufficient evidence supporting his new criminal offenses and that the remainder of the evidence warranted a lesser consequence than complete confinement. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
Jordan Curry v. State of Tennessee
W2015-00709-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Petitioner, Jordan Curry, appeals the Madison County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and evading arrest and his effective forty-four-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Porrazzo
E2014-02335-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven R. Sword

The defendant, Anthony Porrazzo, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of aggravated robbery and misdemeanor theft, contending that the trial court erred by refusing to suppress the statements he made to law enforcement officers, that the trial court abused its discretion by excluding certain witness testimony and by denying the defendant's motion for a mistrial, and that the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to support his convictions. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
Shelley Denise Blair v. State of Tennessee
M2014-02506-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley

The petitioner, Shelley Denise Blair, appeals the summary dismissal of her petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred by relying solely on her pro se petition, and not considering the allegations of fact in the amended petition prepared by post-conviction counsel, in concluding that she failed to make out a prima facie case of mental incompetence to toll the statute of limitations.  Following our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition as time-barred.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
Timothy Shane Hixson v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00065-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

The Petitioner, Timothy Shane Hixson, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of aggravated robbery and resulting twenty-four-year sentence.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Demontise Martez Drumwright a.k.a Demontise J. Drumwright
M2015-00098-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Demontise Martez Drumwright a.k.a. Demontise J. Drumwright (“the Defendant”) pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated burglary and robbery.  The trial court denied alternative sentencing, ordering the Defendant to serve his effective four-year sentence in confinement.  On this appeal, the Defendant claims that the trial court erred when it (1) considered the Defendant’s pending case in Knox County as a basis for denial of alternative sentencing and (2) ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in confinement.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Michael Dean Hodges
M2014-01544-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Davidson County Grand Jury indicted the appellant, Michael Dean Hodges, for aggravated child abuse in counts one through three and aggravated child neglect in count four.  After a jury trial, the appellant was acquitted of count one but convicted as charged in counts two and three and convicted of aggravated assault as a lesser-included offense of aggravated child neglect in count four.  The trial court merged the aggravated assault conviction into the aggravated child abuse convictions and sentenced the appellant to an effective twenty-five-years in confinement to be served at 100%.  On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by failing to sever the charge of aggravated child abuse in count one from the remaining two counts of aggravated child abuse; that the trial court erred by allowing the jury to hear a portion of his statement in which he admitted to prior bad acts; that the trial court erred by giving the jury a supplemental instruction on “knowingly” that failed to include language about non-accidental conduct; and that cumulative error warrants a new trial.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the trial court erred by allowing the jury to hear that the appellant had been “in trouble” previously.  However, we conclude that the error was harmless. Nevertheless, we conclude that the appellant’s conviction of aggravated assault must be reversed because aggravated assault is not a lesser-included offense of aggravated child neglect.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Tanya Nicole Slimick
M2014-00747-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley

A jury convicted the defendant, Tanya Nicole Slimick, of first degree (premeditated) murder for shooting her boyfriend.  The defendant received a life sentence.  On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, asserting that the State failed to show premeditation or to negate self-defense.  She also raises numerous challenges to the jury instructions, including that the trial court instructed the jury that the defendant had the burden of raising the issue of self-defense; that the self-defense instruction was confusing to the jury; that the jury instructions improperly failed to list the negation of self-defense in the litany of items which the State is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt; and that the instructions failed to list lesser included offenses whenever the “charged offense” was referenced.  The defendant also asserts that there was reversible error in the use of a demonstrative aid in the prosecution’s closing argument.  After a thorough review of the law and the facts, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/17/15
Mark Brooks v. State of Tennessee
W2015-00155-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The petitioner, Mark Brooks, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2013 Shelby County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of possession of cocaine with intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver, possession of marijuana with intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver, possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, for which he received an effective sentence of 12 years. In this appeal, the petitioner contends that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered and that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Tom Moore
W2015-00838-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Campbell

The defendant, Tom Moore, appeals the summary dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to set aside his 1991 convictions of aggravated rape. Because the defendant has failed to present a cognizable claim for relief under Rule 36.1, we affirm the order of summary dismissal.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/16/15