Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 05/19/2018
Format: 05/19/2018
Sheddrick Harris v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00904-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Petitioner, Sheddrick Harris, appeals from the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury convictions for first degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202(a)(2), - 403. In this appeal as of right, the Petitioner raises the following ineffective assistance of counsel claims: (1) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to inform the Petitioner that he had a constitutional right to a trial before a different judge than the one who signed the search warrant for the Petitioner’s automobile; (2) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to seek recusal of the trial judge because the trial judge had an ex parte communication with a head deputy that led to enhanced courtroom security procedures, evincing the trial judge’s bias against the Petitioner, and because the trial judge was the same judge who issued the search warrant; (3) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the warrantless search of the Petitioner’s vehicle, failing to challenge the search warrant by requesting a Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978) hearing, and failing to challenge the Petitioner’s illegal detention effectuated without probable cause and without an arrest warrant and solely for the purpose of gathering additional evidence against the Petitioner; and (4) that trial counsel failed to adequately impeach an attorney witness who was facing disciplinary action by the Board of Professional Responsibility at the time of the Petitioner’s trial. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Andrew Young Kim
W2017-00186-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Andrew Young Kim, pled guilty to six counts of burglary, seven counts of theft of property in varying amounts, and one count of vandalism. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of fourteen years’ incarceration. In this direct appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court improperly sentenced him to continuous confinement for a non-violent property offense and erred in setting the length of his sentences, in denying all forms of alternative sentencing, and in imposing partially consecutive sentences. Upon a thorough review of the record below and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s order as to the length of the Defendant’s sentences, the denial of any alternative sentence, and the partial consecutive sentence alignment, but reverse the trial court’s order of continuous confinement for the Defendant’s Class E felony conviction for theft of property (Count 14), an enumerated non-violent property offense in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-122(c)(11). Upon our de novo review of Count 14, we order that the Defendant’s two-year sentence on that count be served on supervised probation with the imposition of $1000 fine. Moreover, for reasons stated herein, Counts 7 through 10 are remanded for correction of clerical errors in the judgment forms. In all other respects, the judgments are affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Chastity Coleman
M2017-00264-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, Chastity Coleman, entered into a plea agreement with the State with an agreed-upon sentence. During the plea colloquy, the trial court invited and met with the Defendant outside the presence of the prosecutor and trial counsel after which the court decided to reduce the Defendant’s period of incarceration. The State appeals. We conclude that we have jurisdiction to review the trial court’s judgments under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3. We further conclude that the trial court committed three errors that each independently require reversal: (1) the trial court acted improperly by engaging in ex parte communication with the Defendant; (2) the trial court erred in failing to rule on the State’s motion to recuse while continuing to hear matters involving this case; and (3) the trial court lacked the authority to unilaterally modify the plea agreement. Because the trial judge has predetermined the sentence to be imposed, we remove the trial judge from further consideration of this case. We vacate the judgments and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. David Smith, Jr.
M2017-00902-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Appellant, David Smith, Jr., pled guilty in the Davidson County Criminal Court to robbery with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of the sentence. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that he serve four years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his request for judicial diversion or probation. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Marcus K. Williams and Corey Zimberlist Rutland, Jr.
M2017-00509-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Defendants, Marcus K. Williams and Corey Zimberlist Rutland, Jr., were indicted for aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. Defendant Williams was also indicted for aggravated burglary. After a jury trial, Defendants Williams and Rutland were convicted of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault, and Defendant Williams was convicted of aggravated burglary. At a sentencing hearing, Defendants Williams and Rutland received identical sentences of eleven years for aggravated robbery and five years for aggravated assault. Defendant Williams received a five year sentence for aggravated burglary. On appeal, Defendant Williams challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for his aggravated robbery charge. Defendant Rutland argues that the trial court improperly excluded the content of a phone call between Defendant Rutland and Defendant Williams, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions under a theory of criminal responsibility, and that his sentence is disproportionate and excessive. Finding that the only error by the trial court was harmless, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
State of Tennessee v. James Williams
W2017-01117-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter Jr.

The Defendant, James Williams, was convicted by a jury of one count of driving under the influence (DUI) per se, one count of DUI, and one count of reckless driving. The trial court merged the DUI per se conviction with the DUI conviction and imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served in the county workhouse. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress, which challenged “the legality of the traffic stop” resulting in the Defendant’s arrest. Following our review, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
State of Tennessee v. Michael Edward Roberts
W2017-00395-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey W. Parham

The Defendant, Michael Edward Roberts, was indicted on one count of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; one count of aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony; seven counts of rape, a Class B felony; and one count of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-102, -13-304, -13-503, -14-403. The State ultimately dismissed five of the rape charges. Following a bench trial, the trial court convicted the Defendant of aggravated assault and the lesser-included offenses of aggravated criminal trespass of a habitation, a Class A misdemeanor, and two counts of assault, a Class B misdemeanor. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-301(a)(3), -14-406. The trial court acquitted the Defendant of the aggravated kidnapping charge. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of three years to be served on supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions and (2) that the trial court erred in admitting fresh complaint evidence. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
Wendell Guinn v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02152-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Petitioner, Wendell Guinn, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends (1) that his constitutional rights were violated by prosecutorial misconduct during the jury voir dire and the State’s closing arguments; (2) that the trial court committed several errors in the jury instructions; and (3) that he received ineffective assistance from his trial and appellate counsel. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
State of Tennessee v. Leroy Collins
W2016-01685-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

Defendant, Leroy Collins, pled guilty to three counts of reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony, and one count of Class C felony reckless endangerment, all committed during one criminal episode. The offenses involved Defendant shooting three people and shooting into a house occupied by two other people. Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement with the State, the sentence for each conviction of reckless aggravated assault is the minimum sentence of two years, and the sentence for the reckless endangerment conviction is the minimum sentence of three years. The State further agreed that the sentences would be served concurrently with each other, for an effective sentence of three years for four felony convictions committed with a handgun involving three victims being shot. However, the State opposed Defendant’s request for judicial diversion or probation for the effective three-year sentence. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court denied both requests for alternative sentencing and ordered Defendant to serve the entire sentence by incarceration. Defendant appeals from the trial court’s ruling. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
Jay Dee Garrity v. State of Tennessee - Rehear
M2016-01463-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Petitioner, Jay Dee Garrity, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of three counts of aggravated sexual battery and resulting effective forty-eight-year sentence to be served at 100%. On appeal, he contends that he is entitled to a new trial because trial counsel was presumptively ineffective under United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648 (1984). In the alternative, he contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel under the usual Strickland standard. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the Petitioner received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel under Strickland. Therefore, the judgment of the post-conviction court is reversed, the judgments of conviction are vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/04/18
Marcus T. Johnson v. Darren Settles, Warden
E2017-01848-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

Marcus T. Johnson, the Petitioner, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (“the Petition”) claiming that he was being illegally restrained of his liberty because the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (“the Parole Board”) violated his due process rights by failing to timely serve him with a parole violation warrant and failing to conduct a preliminary hearing within fourteen days of the service of the warrant. The State moved to dismiss the Petition for failure to state a cognizable claim. The habeas corpus court granted the State’s motion and summarily dismissed the Petition. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/04/18
State of Tennessee v. Samuel Huffine
E2016-02267-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant, Samuel Huffine, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide by intoxication, reckless aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, driving under the influence of an intoxicant, driving under the influence of an intoxicant per se, driving left of center, and speeding, for an effective sentence of nine years, with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the sentence. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it denied an alternative sentence. We affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/03/18
State of Tennessee v. Lee Alan Sprague
E2017-00721-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Pemberton

The defendant, Lee Alan Sprague, appeals his Roane County Criminal Court jury convictions of reckless driving and driving on a suspended license, claiming that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a new preliminary hearing. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Roane County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/03/18
Ugenio Dejesus Ruby-Ruiz v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00843-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Following a trial, a Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Ugenio Dejesus Ruby-Ruiz, of three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor; five counts of aggravated sexual battery; nine counts of rape of a child; one count of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor; and two counts of rape, for which the trial court imposed an effective sentence of 121 years in the Department of Correction. The Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which was denied following a hearing. Upon review, we conclude that the pro se petition was filed outside the one-year statute of limitations applicable to post-conviction proceedings. However, because we are unable to determine from the record whether due process requires the tolling of the statute of limitations, we vacate the post-conviction court’s order and remand the case to the post-conviction court for a determination of whether due process tolling applies.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/03/18
Tracy Lebron Vick v. State of Tennessee
E2017-01333-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The Petitioner, Tracy Lebron Vick, pleaded guilty to second degree murder and received a forty-year sentence. Nineteen years after his sentencing, he filed a petition for postconviction DNA analysis. The post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred. We affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment. 

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/02/18
Ladarius L. Reffegee v. Blair Leibach, Warden
M2017-01153-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

Pro se Petitioner, Ladarius L. Reffegee, appeals from the Trousdale County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that his judgments of conviction and sentences are void because an arrest warrant was not issued prior to his arrest, divesting the court of jurisdiction to sentence and convict him. The State asserts that the Petitioner failed to show that his judgments were void. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/02/18
Javon Webster v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01473-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Petitioner, Javon Webster, appeals from the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of the post-conviction petition filed approximately twelve years after expiration of the one year statute of limitations for post-conviction petitions. Petitioner alleged facts in his petition which he claims justify tolling of the statute of limitations based upon due process grounds. After review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/18
State of Tennessee v. Carlos Prather
W2016-01234-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Defendant, Carlos Prather, pled guilty to two counts of vandalism over $1,000 and was sentenced to concurrent sentences of ten years as a Range III offender, to be served on supervised probation. As a condition of probation Defendant was ordered to complete the Jericho Program. On February 5, 2016, a probation violation warrant was issued alleging that Defendant violated the terms of his probation by being arrested for passing bad checks, failing to report the arrest, non-compliance with the Jericho Program, and being arrested for contempt of court on February 4, 2016. After a hearing, the trial court revoked Defendant’s probation and ordered him to serve his original ten-year sentence in the Department of Correction. Defendant now appeals, contending that the trial court erred by revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his sentence in confinement. After thoroughly reviewing the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/18
State of Tennessee v. Jason Levi Butts
W2017-00584-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The Defendant, Jason Levi Butts, fired a shot from a rifle toward a home, and the bullet penetrated the wall and hit the sleeping victim in the hip. The trial court ruled that all three statements which the Defendant made to law enforcement during the investigation of the shooting were admissible. The Defendant was convicted after a bench trial of reckless endangerment, a Class C felony, and reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony, and the trial court sentenced him to concurrent sentences of three and two years, respectively. The Defendant appeals, asserting that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statements and that the evidence is insufficient to support the verdicts. We conclude that the trial court erred in admitting the Defendant’s initial statement to police, which he made without being advised of his rights and after law enforcement twice told him he could not leave the police station. However, we conclude that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, and we affirm the convictions.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/18
State of Tennessee v. Raymond Ross
W2016-02604-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Appellant, Raymond Ross, appeals from the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. The State has filed a motion requesting that this Court affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we grant the State’s motion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/18
State of Tennessee v. Reggie Horton
W2017-00676-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The defendant, Reggie Horton, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of attempted voluntary manslaughter, aggravated kidnapping, and simple assault, claiming that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of aggravated kidnapping. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/18
State of Tennessee v. Dwight Gossett
W2016-02159-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Defendant, Dwight Gossett, was convicted in the Shelby County Criminal Court of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony, and sentenced by the trial court to twelve years at 100% in the Department of Correction. The sole issue he raises on appeal is whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain his conviction. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/18
State of Tennessee v. Joel Wayne Allen
W2016-01039-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles C. McGinley

The Defendant, Joel Wayne Allen, appeals his convictions from a jury trial, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The Defendant filed an untimely notice of appeal, and the interest of justice does not support waiver of the timely filing requirement. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

Benton County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/18
Terrance Pulliam v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01472-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

Petitioner, Terrance Pulliam, appeals from the summary dismissal of his second petition for writ of error coram nobis. He contends that the coram nobis court erred in dismissing his petition as time-barred. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/18
Misty Roberts v. Trinity Minter, Warden
W2017-01944-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

In 1994, the Petitioner, Misty Roberts, pled guilty to four counts of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated kidnapping, and she received an effective sentence of thirty-three years. On August 23, 2017, the Petitioner filed a petition for the writ of habeas corpus, alleging that she remained in custody despite the expiration of her sentences and citing alleged errors in the calculation of her release eligibility and the award of pretrial behavior credits. The trial court dismissed the petition, concluding that the sentences were not expired. On appeal, we conclude that the trial court correctly determined that the Petitioner’s sentences were not expired, and we accordingly affirm the trial court’s denial of relief.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/18