Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 01/26/2020
Format: 01/26/2020
State of Tennessee v. David Mitchell Bentley
M2018-01636-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

The Appellant, David Mitchell Bentley, pled guilty in the Davidson County Criminal Court to reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony, and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, a Class A misdemeanor. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that he serve consecutive sentences of three years and eleven months, twenty-nine days, respectively, in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that we should remand this case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing. In the alternative, he contends that the trial court improperly enhanced his felony sentence and failed to apply mitigating factors, that the trial court erred by ordering consecutive sentencing, and that the trial court erred by ordering that he serve his sentences in continuous confinement. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that a new sentencing hearing is necessary because the trial court failed to place any findings on the record with regard to applicable enhancement factors, the order of consecutive sentencing, and the denial of alternative sentencing. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is reversed, and the case is remanded to the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Kyle Alex Batiz
M2017-02065-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Defendant, Kyle Alex Batiz, was convicted of aggravated child abuse and reckless homicide and was sentenced, respectively, to concurrent sentences of 21 years at 100% and 3 years at 30 percent. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the conviction for aggravated child abuse; the trial court erred by not suppressing his text messages and statement to police; the trial court erred by allowing a forensic pathologist to testify regarding matters not within her expertise; he should have been sentenced as an especially mitigated offender; and the conviction for aggravated child abuse should be reversed because of cumulative errors that occurred during the trial. We have reviewed the record in this matter and conclude that the issues raised by the Defendant are without merit. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/01/19
Christina Jones Thomas v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01374-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa Rice

The Petitioner, Christina Jones Thomas, was convicted by a jury of especially aggravated robbery and especially aggravated kidnapping, for which she received an effective sentence of eighteen years’ imprisonment. State v. Christina Jones Thomas, No. E2013- 01531-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 3440687, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App July 14, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 20, 2014). The Petitioner subsequently filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief, arguing that trial counsel was ineffective on multiple grounds, including (1) failure to secure an expert witness for trial; (2) failure to seek scientific testing of evidence presented by the State and failure to challenge such evidence; (3) failure to present a plea offer to the Petitioner; (4) failure to challenge and remove a juror whom the Petitioner knew and felt would be biased against her; (5) failure to impeach the victim about inconsistencies in his statements; (6) failure to address merger of the underlying offenses; and (7) failure to question the victim or present evidence of other injuries sustained by the victim that could have alleviated the seriousness of the Petitioner’s crimes. The trial court denied relief by written order, which the Petitioner now appeals. In addition, the Petitioner also argues that she is entitled to a second postconviction hearing because post-conviction counsel was suspended from the practice of law by the Tennessee Supreme Court shortly after the post-conviction hearing. Following our review, we affirm.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/01/19
State of Tennessee v. Ronald Turner
E2018-01642-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Appellant, Ronald Turner, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s imposing a ten-year sentence for possession of one-half gram or more of cocaine with intent to deliver in case number 105636 and a twelve-year sentence for attempted second degree murder in case number 105481. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred by not sentencing him to the minimum punishment in the range, eight years, for the offenses, Class B felonies. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the sentences but remand the case to the trial court for correction of judgments of conviction.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/01/19
State of Tennessee v. Wilbert Lamari Lottie, III
M2018-01700-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Wilbert Lamari Lottie, III, (“Defendant”) pled guilty, as a Range I standard offender, to one count each of possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine with intent to sell and possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine with intent to deliver and received a ten-year community corrections sentence. Six months into his sentence, the trial court issued a violation of community corrections warrant, which alleged that Defendant had tested positive for cocaine. Following a hearing, the trial court found that Defendant had violated the terms of his community corrections sentence. The trial court revoked Defendant’s community corrections sentence and resentenced Defendant to twelve years to serve in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant argues that his sentence is excessive and that the trial court “did not follow the established sentencing guidelines.” Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/01/19
Dearick Stokes v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01435-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The Petitioner, Dearick Stokes, was denied post-conviction relief from his convictions for felony murder and attempted especially aggravated robbery and his effective life sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to: (1) interview and subpoena four eyewitnesses who identified another individual as being present at the crime scene; (2) investigate and adequately cross-examine a police officer regarding the crime scene; (3) investigate or present rebuttal witnesses concerning admissions allegedly made by the Petitioner; (4) obtain and review the victim’s cellular phone records; (5) investigate and discuss the case with the Petitioner; and (6) properly investigate a witness for the State and request Jencks material relative to him. The petitioner additionally contends that either the State committed a Brady violation by failing to provide a witness’s supplemental statement to trial counsel or, if it was provided, counsel’s failure to use it during cross-examination was ineffective assistance of counsel. Furthermore, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel because appellate counsel should have asserted on direct appeal that the trial court (1) improperly denied his motion for a mistrial due to juror intimidation, and (2) committed plain error by allowing a witness to testify as to how he discovered the Petitioner’s real name. After a thorough review of the record, we discern no error and affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/19
State of Tennessee v. Jimmy Lee Pearce, Jr.
W2019-00341-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The pro se Defendant, Jimmy Lee Pearce, Jr., appeals the Fayette County Circuit Court’s dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Fayette County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/19
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth R. Boyd
M2019-00301-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

Defendant, Kenneth R. Boyd, appeals from the trial court’s denial of his motion requesting additional pre-trial jail credits. The State responds that the appeal should be dismissed because it was untimely filed and that the sentence is legal. Because Defendant has failed to state a colorable claim for relief, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion and the denial of additional pre-trial jail credits. However, we remand the matter to the trial court for correction of a clerical error on the corrected judgment form for Count Three.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/19
Kalpesh Patel and Pratikkumar V. Patel v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01885-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Bragg

The Petitioners, Kalpesh Patel and Pratikkumar V. Patel, appeal from the Rutherford County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of their respective petitions for post-conviction relief from their 2015 convictions for conspiracy to commit first degree murder and solicitation to commit first degree murder, for which the Petitioners each received fifteen-year sentences. The Petitioners contend that the post-conviction court erred by summarily dismissing their petitions for relief and motions to reconsider because (1) they received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel and (2) the trial court erred by denying their respective motions to suppress cell phone evidence at the trial. We affirm the judgments of the post-conviction court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/19
State of Tennessee v. Christian Aaron Needham
E2018-01982-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew Freiberg

The Defendant, Christian Aaron Needham, appeals the McMinn County Circuit Court’s order revoking his probation for his convictions for two counts of felony theft and one count of aggravated burglary and ordering him to serve the remainder of his effective six-year sentence in confinement. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering his sentence into execution. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/19
State of Tennessee v. Michael Andrew Burrows
M2019-00367-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted Defendant, Michael Andrew Burrows, on seven counts of rape of a child and eight counts of aggravated sexual battery. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pled guilty as a Range I offender to two counts of sexual battery, with an agreed out-of-range sentence of four years on each count, with sentence alignment, manner of service, and the issue of judicial diversion to be determined by the trial court. The remaining counts were dismissed. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied judicial diversion, imposed consecutive sentences, and sentenced Defendant to eight years’ probation. Defendant now appeals the denial of judicial diversion. Based on a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/31/19
Robert Andrew Hawkins v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01682-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

A Claiborne County jury convicted the Petitioner, Robert Andrew Hawkins, of one count of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated assault, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of sixteen years in confinement. The Petitioner appealed his convictions on the basis of a juror issue and sentencing. This court affirmed his convictions and sentence. State v. Robert Andrew Hawkins, No. E2015-01542-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 5210770 (Tenn. Crim. App, at Knoxville, Sept. 19, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Dec. 14, 2016). The Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that: (1) the State withheld evidence in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 93 (1965); (2) Counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate or communicate effectively with him; and (3) the cumulative effect of these errors entitles him to a new trial. The post-conviction court denied relief, and the Petitioner maintains his allegations on appeal. After review, we affirm the postconviction court’s judgment.

Claiborne County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Randall Ray Ward
W2018-01957-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

A Madison County jury convicted the Defendant, Randall Ray Ward, of possession of cocaine with the intent to sell, possession of cocaine with the intent to deliver, and possession of illegal drug paraphernalia. The trial court merged the cocaine convictions and ordered that the Defendant serve ten years in confinement as a Range II, multiple offender. The trial court imposed a consecutive sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days for the paraphernalia conviction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court erred when it admitted the Defendant’s statement to police; (3) the trial court erred when it instructed the jury regarding confessions; and (4) the trial court erred when it sentenced the Defendant. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/25/19
Malik Hardin v. State of Tennessee
E2018-00676-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Petitioner, Malik Hardin, filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective and that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered.  The post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Petitioner appeals.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/25/19
State of Tennessee v. Prentice Farrell Anderson
W2018-01475-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Defendant, Prentice Farrell Anderson, was indicted by the Madison County Grand Jury for one count each of possession of more than 0.5 ounce of marijuana with intent to sell; possession of more than 0.5 ounce of marijuana with intent to deliver; possession of 0.5 gram or more of cocaine with intent to sell; possession of 0.5 gram or more of cocaine with intent to deliver; unlawful possession of hydrocodone; possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia; driving with a canceled, suspended, or revoked license; and driving in violation of the window tint law. A jury found Defendant guilty as charged on all eight counts. The trial court merged Defendant’s convictions for possession with intent to sell and possession with intent to deliver marijuana, as well as his convictions for possession with intent to sell and possession with intent to deliver cocaine, and Defendant received a total effective sentence of ten years’ incarceration. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions because the State failed to prove possession beyond a reasonable doubt. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/24/19
State of Tennessee v. Todd Samuel Adcock
M2018-01623-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David D. Wolfe

The Defendant, Todd Samuel Adcock, pled guilty to one count of sale of heroin, a class B felony. After entering his guilty plea, the trial court found the Defendant to be a Range III, persistent offender and sentenced him to twenty-five years’ incarceration. The trial court determined that the twenty-five-year sentence was to run consecutively to the Defendant’s previous eight-year sentence from Davidson County. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred (1) by not merging his previous convictions and, thereby, sentencing the Defendant as a Range III, persistent offender and (2) by ordering the Defendant’s sentence to run consecutively to his Davidson County sentence. Following our review, we conclude that the trial court did not err and affirm the sentencing decision.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/24/19
State of Tennessee v. Dusan Simic
M2018-01995-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Defendant, Dusan Simic, was indicted for various offenses committed in the course of a series of robberies in July and August of 2017. The trial court granted the Defendant’s motion to suppress out-of-court identifications made by four victims on the basis that the photographic lineups were unduly suggestive. The trial court and subsequently this court granted interlocutory review. The State asserts that interlocutory review is proper and that the trial court erred in determining that the lineups were suggestive; the Defendant disagrees. We conclude that interlocutory appeal was improvidently granted. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/24/19
State of Tennessee v. Demetrius J. Johnson
W2018-02056-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

In November 2017, the Madison County Grand Jury indicted Defendant, Demetrius J. Johnson, for various drug and firearm offenses. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, which was denied by the trial court. Defendant then pled guilty to the offenses, attempting to reserve the following certified question of law for appeal: “Did the affidavit in support of the search warrant establish probable cause within the four corners of said affidavit?” After review, we conclude that this court does not have jurisdiction to address the certified question because the certification did not meet the requirements of State v. Preston, 759 S.W.2d 647 (Tenn. 1988). We, therefore, dismiss the appeal.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/23/19
Courtney Means v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01902-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

A Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Courtney Means, of three counts of aggravated robbery involving multiple victims, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective twenty-four-year sentence. This court affirmed his convictions and sentence. State v. Courtney Means, W2005-00682-CCA-R3-CD, 2006 WL 709206, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Mar. 21, 2006), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 5, 2006). The Petitioner unsuccessfully filed a petition for post-conviction relief and a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion for relief from an illegal sentence. The Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus alleging that his judgments are void because the court lacked authority to sentence him. After review, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/23/19
State of Tennessee v. William Blake Kobeck
W2018-02234-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The Appellant, William Blake Kobeck, pled guilty in the Fayette County Circuit Court to vehicular homicide by recklessness. Pursuant to the plea agreement, he received a four-year sentence to be served on supervised probation with the trial court to determine his request for judicial diversion. After a hearing, the trial court denied judicial diversion. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his request for judicial diversion. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Fayette County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/23/19
State of Tennessee v. Talmadge D. Murphy
E2018-00363-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The Appellant, Talmadge D. Murphy, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probationary sentence, specifically arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by considering evidence not elicited by either party during the hearing.  Upon review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for a new revocation hearing. 

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/23/19
Rodney Raymond Brewer, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01493-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Petitioner, Rodney Raymond Brewer, Jr., appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner pled guilty to Class B felony possession of a schedule II controlled substance with the intent to sell in exchange for an agreed-upon Range I sentence of eleven years. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance due to trial counsel’s (1) failure to effectively investigate and argue the motion to suppress; (2) failure to investigate the Petitioner’s range classification; (3) failure to properly advise him regarding the law of constructive possession; (4) failure to argue for enforcement of the original nine-year plea offer; and (5) failure to file an appeal. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/23/19
State of Tennessee v. Matt D. Polk
M2018-01251-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge David D. Wolfe

The Defendant, Matt D. Polk, was convicted of one count of the sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine and one count of the sale less of than 0.5 grams of cocaine. The Defendant received an effective sentence of twenty-five years. On appeal, the Defendant argues that a video recording was not properly authenticated and that the trial court erred in allowing an expert who had not been disclosed to the defense prior to the day of trial to testify. We conclude that the recording was properly authenticated and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the testimony, and we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/23/19
State of Tennessee v. Henry Nicholas Brown
E2018-02135-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery Hill Wicks

The Defendant-Appellant, Henry Nicholas Brown, entered a guilty plea in the Roane County Criminal Court to aggravated assault (count one), evading arrest (count two), and reckless endangerment (count three), with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of his sentence.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to six, four, and two years, respectively.  The trial court ordered these sentences to be served consecutively, for an effective sentence of twelve years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Roane County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/22/19
State of Tennessee v. Elizabeth Lynn Schmitz
M2018-01270-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

A Humphreys County jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Elizabeth Lynn Schmitz, of failure to have a license to operate a pawnshop in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 45-6-205, a Class A misdemeanor, for which she received a probationary sentence of eleven-months and twenty-nine days. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred by not providing her a court reporter during trial and that the evidence was insufficient to sustain her conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Humphreys County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/22/19