Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 01/26/2020
Format: 01/26/2020
State of Tennessee v. Donald Lee Shields, Jr.
M2019-00344-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

After a trial, a Warren County jury found Defendant, Donald Lee Shields, Jr., guilty of three counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of attempted aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced Defendant as a Range I standard offender to an effective sentence of eighteen years. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/15/19
John Simmons v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00520-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris B. Craft

The Petitioner, John Simmons, pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and alleging prosecutorial misconduct. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. The Petitioner appeals the denial, maintaining that he received ineffective representation in violation of his constitutional right to counsel. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Johnson
W2018-01222-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Brandon Johnson, was convicted of premeditated first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, for which he received an effective sentence of life plus ten years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred by failing to suppress three lineup identifications that were unduly suggestive; (2) the trial court erred by refusing to sever the unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon offense from the first-degree murder count, thereby preventing him from receiving a fair trial; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Following our review, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Todd Fawver
E2018-01062-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Appellant, Todd Fawver, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation and denial of his motion to reduce his sentence, arguing that his violation was merely “technical” and that he should have been given a second chance at alternative sentencing. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Shelby Isaac - Concur
W2018-00871-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

I concur with the majority opinion, but am writing separately in order to explain my analysis of why the evidence is sufficient beyond a reasonable doubt to sustain Defendant’s conviction for criminally negligent homicide of the unborn child of Ms. Thomas. I must admit that initially I was skeptical that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction in light of the specific facts of this case as they applied to the statutory definition of “criminal negligence” set forth in T.C.A. § 39-11-106(a)(5) (Supp. 2019).

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Shelby Isaac
W2018-00871-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Defendant, Shelby Isaac, was convicted of two counts of second degree murder, one count of reckless homicide, and one count of criminally negligent homicide after a jury found her guilty of killing three victims. The trial court sentenced Defendant to a total effective sentence of thirty years. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting her convictions, the admission of a photograph of an opened uterus, the admission of a witness’s gang affiliation, the admission of a witness’s jail phone call as a prior consistent statement, the admission of a photograph of Defendant standing next to a man making a hand gesture that Defendant claims is a gang sign, the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion for a continuance, the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion for mistrial, the propriety of the prosecutor’s rebuttal closing argument, and the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentencing. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Bobby Lewis Parks
W2018-01752-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Defendant, Bobby Lewis Parks, pled guilty to possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Defendant attempted to reserve a certified question of law regarding the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence found pursuant to a search warrant. Additionally, Defendant challenges the trial court’s imposition of a thirty-year sentence. Based upon our review of the record, we conclude that Defendant failed to properly preserve his certified question of law and dismiss that portion of his appeal. In all other respects, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/19
Randy B. Dalton v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01827-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James L. Gass

In 2016, the Petitioner, Randy B. Dalton, pleaded guilty to offenses contained in three indictments: aggravated robbery, theft of a vehicle valued at more than $1,000, escape from a penal institution, harvesting ginseng out of season, and harvesting ginseng out of season with less than three prongs. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the trial court imposed partial consecutive sentencing with a total effective sentence of eighteen years of confinement. In 2017, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Following a hearing, the postconviction court denied the petition. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Richard Earnest Williams
M2018-01361-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Defendant, Richard Earnest Williams, entered open pleas of guilty to the charges in three separate indictments. He pled guilty to three counts of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, four counts of theft over $10,000, a Class C felony, two counts of theft more than $2,500 but less than $10,000, a Class D felony, three counts of vandalism, a Class E felony, and one count of reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony. In Case No. 17-CR-145, the trial court imposed a sentence of fifteen years as a persistent offender for aggravated burglary, fifteen years as a persistent offender for each count of theft over $10,000, and twelve years as a career offender for vandalism, and twelve years as a career offender for reckless aggravated assault. In Case No. 17-CR-146, the trial court imposed a sentence of fifteen years for aggravated burglary as a persistent offender, twelve years for each count of theft more than $2,500 but less than $10,000 as a career offender, and six years for vandalism as a career offender. In Case No. 17-CR-147, the trial court imposed a sentence of fifteen years as a persistent offender for aggravated burglary, twelve years as a career offender for each count of theft more than $2,500 but less than $10,000, and six years as a career offender for vandalism. The trial court merged the two theft convictions in each case into one count because they involved alternate theories of committing the offense. The trial court ordered the counts in each case to run concurrently with each other but consecutively to the other cases for an effective forty-five-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, Defendant challenges the length of his sentences. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/19
Johnathan Robert Leonard v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01737-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

The Defendant, Johnathan Robert Leonard, was convicted of three counts of rape of a child, two counts of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor, and one count of aggravated sexual battery and was sentenced to an effective term of ninety-six years. After this court affirmed the judgments on direct appeal, the Defendant sought post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. The post-conviction court granted the Defendant a delayed appeal to allow him to challenge his sentence. In this delayed appeal, the Defendant challenges the length of his sentence for each conviction and the trial court’s imposition of partial consecutive sentences. We conclude that counsel was not ineffective in failing to challenge the Defendant’s sentence in his direct appeal and that the post-conviction court, therefore, erred in granting the delayed appeal. Accordingly, we vacate the post-conviction court’s order and remand for further proceedings.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/19
State of Tennessee v. Walter Roy Chavez, Jr.
M2018-01491-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

A Lincoln County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Walter Roy Chavez, Jr., of possession of one-half gram or more of methamphetamine with intent to resell, possession of one-half gram or more of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, simple possession of marijuana, and driving on a revoked license. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court merged the convictions of possession of methamphetamine and ordered that he serve an effective twelve years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions of possession of methamphetamine and that the trial court erred by ordering an excessive sentence and by denying his request for alternative sentencing. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/19
State of Tennessee v. Michael L. Caudle
M2018-01471-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

In this delayed appeal, the Defendant, Michael L. Caudle, appeals his convictions for two counts of the sale of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine within a drug-free school zone, two counts of the delivery of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine within a drug-free school zone, and one count of possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine within a drug-free school zone with the intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver, for which he received an effective sixty-year sentence as a career offender. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We conclude that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to grant the delayed appeal. Therefore, we dismiss the delayed appeal.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/19
Christopher Jones v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00053-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Petitioner, Christopher Stephen Jones, was convicted by a jury of first degree murder and abuse of a corpse, for which he received a life sentence. His convictions were affirmed on direct appeal by this Court. State v. Christopher Jones, No. W2015-01028-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 192146, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 17, 2017), no perm. app. filed. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief after a hearing. Petitioner appealed. After a review, we dismiss the appeal.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Quinterrio Murrell
W2019-00315-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Defendant, Quinterrio Murrell, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering that he serve his four-year sentence in confinement. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19
Shaun Royal Hill v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00240-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

Petitioner, Shaun Royal Hill, was convicted by a Tipton County jury of rape. He was sentenced to fifteen years in confinement. Petitioner filed a pro se petition for postconviction relief and was appointed counsel. The post-conviction court entered an order dismissing the petition after a hearing. On appeal, Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After conducting a full review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Brian Marquince Long
W2018-01558-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

In this consolidated appeal, Defendant, Brian Marquince Long, challenges the trial court’s revocation of Community Corrections in three separate cases. After a review, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in revoking Defendant’s Community Corrections sentence and ordering him to serve his effective seventeen-year sentence in incarceration.

Henry County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Blake O. Swann
E2018-00354-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stacy L. Street

The Defendant, Blake O. Swann, appeals the Washington County Criminal Court’s order revoking his probation for his aggravated assault conviction and ordering him to begin anew his four-year sentence on community corrections. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his probation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19
Carlos D'Juan Campbell, Jr. vs. State of Tennessee
E2018-01877-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Petitioner, Carlos D’Juan Campbell, Jr., appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his two convictions for attempted first degree murder and one conviction for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, arguing (1) he received ineffective assistance of counsel and (2) the post-conviction court erred in allowing the State to present proof and argument at the post-conviction hearing after the State failed to file a written response to his petition.  We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court. 

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Shaun Michael Vincent
M2018-01654-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don R. Ash

A jury convicted the Defendant, Shaun Michael Vincent, of aggravated robbery after he brandished a baseball bat and took property from the victim, who was attempting to pay the Defendant’s girlfriend for sexual contact. The Defendant was sentenced to serve eleven years in confinement. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and asserts that the trial court erred in limiting cross-examination of the victim, excluding evidence implicating the victim in prior sexual misconduct, and excluding a video of the victim’s interactions with police. The Defendant further argues that the court erred in denying him jury instructions regarding defense of a third person and special instructions on aggravated robbery and that he is entitled to relief pursuant to cumulative error. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Derek Wyche
M2018-01586-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Defendant-Appellant, Derek Wyche, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of felony murder and especially aggravated robbery, for which he received a mandatory life sentence plus twenty years’ imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence in support of his convictions and the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentencing. Upon our review, the convictions of the trial court are affirmed. However, we remand this matter for a new sentencing hearing.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/07/19
State of Tennessee v. Jamie Todd Birdwell
M2017-01620-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

On November 15, 2016, Defendant, Jamie Todd Birdwell, pled guilty to Class D felony theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000 in case number 74CC4-2015-CR-708 and to three counts of Class A misdemeanor theft of property in case number 74CC2-2016-CR-266. The plea agreement provided that Defendant would be sentenced to twelve years as a career offender with the manner of service to be determined following a sentencing hearing. Defendant failed to appear for his January 13, 2017 sentencing hearing, a capias was issued for his arrest, and he was subsequently indicted for felony failure to appear. Defendant’s initial counsel then withdrew. After three other attorneys were appointed and two were allowed to withdraw, trial counsel entered a notice of appearance and filed a motion to withdraw Defendant’s guilty pleas. Following a hearing on June 12, 2017, the trial court denied Defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty pleas and set a sentencing hearing. On appeal, Defendant asserts that the trial court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas because the trial court, defense counsel, and prosecutor were all under the mistaken impression at the guilty plea submission hearing that Defendant was facing a sentence of twelve years as a career offender for Class D Felony theft, rather than six years for a Class E felony theft, because the value of theft statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-105, became effective January 1, 2017, before the date of his original sentencing hearing. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion to withdraw Defendant’s guilty pleas.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/07/19
State of Tennessee v. Joseph L. Ware
M2018-01326-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The Defendant-Appellant, Joseph L. Ware, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of first degree felony murder (count 4), second degree murder (count 5), attempted especially aggravated robbery (count 6), attempted aggravated robbery (counts 3, 7), reckless endangerment (counts 8, 9), aggravated assault (count 10), and theft under $500 (counts 2, 11, 12), for which he received an effective sentence of life plus 10 years imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant raises the following issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court “committed reversible error by the failure to charge the jury in the law regarding accomplice testimony;” (2) whether the trial court erred in admitting into evidence posts from the Defendant’s Facebook page; (3) whether the prosecutors engaged in prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument by “emotional displays . . . calculated to inflame and/or play to the sympathies of the jury” thereby denying the Defendant a fair trial; (4) whether the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction of first degree felony murder; and (5) whether the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentencing. Upon our review, we reverse and remand count eight for a new trial because felony reckless endangerment is not a lesser included offense of attempted first degree murder. In all other respects, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/07/19
State of Tennessee v. Donald Lee Harris
M2018-01680-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

Aggrieved of his Davidson County Criminal Court jury convictions of one count of felony murder in the perpetration of aggravated child neglect, one count of the facilitation of felony murder in the perpetration of aggravated child abuse, three counts of aggravated child abuse, one count of aggravated child neglect, and one count of the facilitation of aggravated child abuse, the defendant, Donald Lee Harris, appeals. The defendant alleges that the trial court erred by permitting the State to introduce the victim’s medical records on rebuttal, that the State’s election of offenses was insufficient to ensure jury unanimity, that the trial court erred in its jury instructions regarding criminal responsibility for the conduct of another, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, and that the total effective sentence of life plus 75 years is excessive. The defendant’s convictions of felony murder (Count 9), facilitation of felony murder (Count 8), aggravated child abuse (Counts 2 and 3), aggravated child neglect (Count 7), and facilitation of aggravated child abuse (Count 1) are affirmed. We find no error in the sentencing decisions of the trial court. Because the State’s election of offenses was insufficient to safeguard the defendant’s right to a unanimous verdict in Count 6, the defendant’s conviction in Count 6 is reversed. Because dual convictions of aggravated child abuse in Counts 2 and 3 violate double jeopardy principles, those convictions must be merged. The case is remanded for a new trial on the offense of aggravated child abuse in Count 6 and for the entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting the merger of Counts 2 and 3.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/05/19
State of Tennessee v. Larry Sexton
M2018-00874-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

A Lawrence County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Larry Sexton, of aggravated statutory rape, a Class D felony, and the trial court sentenced him as a Range III, career offender to twelve years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by allowing the State to reopen its proof after he moved for a judgment of acquittal and by sentencing him as a career offender. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/05/19
Kalyn Marie Polochak v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01524-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Patterson

The petitioner, Kalyn Polochak, appeals the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged her 2012 Overton County Criminal Court jury convictions of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, conspiracy to commit first degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, and theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Overton County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/04/19