Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/30/2020
Format: 09/30/2020
State of Tennessee v. Jamarcus Miller
W2019-01701-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Defendant, Jamarcus Miller, was indicted by a Shelby County grand jury for first-degree premeditated murder (Count 1) and
first-degree felony murder for a killing in the perpetration of attempted robbery (Count 2). A jury convicted Defendant of the
lesser-included offense of second-degree murder in Count 1, and convicted Defendant as charged in Count 2. On appeal, Defendant argues the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction in Count 2. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/20
State of Tennessee v. Marvin Glenn Borden
W2019-00534-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

Defendant, Marvin Glenn Borden, was charged with one count of possession of more than 0.5 gram of methamphetamine with intent to sell or deliver and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, which was denied by the trial court. Thereafter, Defendant pled guilty to the possession of methamphetamine charge with an agreed four-year sentence as a Range I offender to be served in confinement. The State dismissed the drug paraphernalia charge. Defendant reserved a certified question of law under Rule 37(b)(2)(A) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, challenging the trial court’s denial of the motion to suppress. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Weakley County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/20
Dontayell Balfour v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01468-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

Petitioner, Dontayelle Balfour, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition. Petitioner argues that he was denied effective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel failed to adequately consult with him and failed to fully investigate witnesses that Petitioner requested prior to Petitioner’s guilty plea to second degree murder. Following a review of the briefs of the parties and the record, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/20
Adam Davis v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01017-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Petitioner, Adam Davis, sought post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel after he was convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual battery and received an effective sentence of eight years’ imprisonment. The post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that his right to counsel was violated by trial counsel’s failure to investigate and call character witnesses and failure to investigate and present medical evidence regarding his erectile dysfunction. He also urges this court to remand the case with an order for the post-conviction court to make further factual findings and credibility determinations. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the post-conviction court’s findings are adequate to permit review and that the
post-conviction court did not err in determining that the Petitioner’s right to counsel was not violated. Accordingly, the post-conviction court’s judgment is affirmed.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/20
State of Tennessee v. Michael Powell
E2019-00524-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge. J. Curtis Smith

A Rhea County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Michael Powell, of one count of aggravated statutory rape. The trial court imposed a sentence of three years and nine months in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the trial court’s denial of alternative sentencing. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rhea County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/20
Tazarius Jay Vond Leach v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00970-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Petitioner, Tazarius Jay Vond Leach, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of carjacking and his effective fifteen-year sentence. He contends that the
post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his claim that he was deprived of the effective assistance of trial counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/20
State of Tennessee v. Benjamin R. Franklin
M2018-01958-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash

The Defendant, Benjamin R. Franklin, appeals his convictions for three counts of vehicular homicide by intoxication and three counts of vehicular homicide by reckless driving. The Defendant argues that (1) the trial court erred by admitting Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) blood and urine test results; (2) the court erred by admitting photographs of the victims at the crash scene; (3) the evidence was insufficient relative to intoxication; (4) the court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion for a mistrial during the State’s rebuttal argument; and (5) the court erred in sentencing by imposing the maximum sentence, ordering consecutive sentencing, and suspending the Defendant’s driver’s license for ten years. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm.

Houston County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/20
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Lane
E2019-01293-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

Kevin Lane, Defendant, was indicted for multiple offenses stemming from incidents that occurred at the home of his mother and involved both Defendant's mother and brother. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion in limine seeking to prohibit the State from utilizing Defendant's prior convictions for impeachment. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of three counts of aggravated criminal trespass, two counts of assault, one count of theft, five counts of domestic assault, one count of robbery, and one count of carjacking. As a result of the convictions, he was sentenced to an effective sentence of twenty-three years. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant filed a timely notice of appeal. On appeal, the following issues are presented for our review: (l) whether the evidence is sufficient to support the convictions; and (2) whether the trial court erred by permitting the State to introduce evidence of prior bad acts in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b). After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/20
State of Tennessee v. Danielle Lynette Wright
E2019-01290-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

Defendant, Danielle Lynette Wright, was convicted of second-degree murder by a Knox County Jury. She received a sentence of seventeen years’ incarceration. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to sustain her conviction of seconddegree murder. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/20
State of Tennessee v. Sparkle Trenetta Jones
E2019-00804-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

A Knox County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Sparkle Trenetta Jones, of selling and delivering less than fifteen grams of heroin within a drug-free school zone, Class A felonies. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that she serve seventeen years for each conviction and merged the convictions. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; that trial court committed plain error by allowing irrelevant testimony; and that the trial court erred by applying two enhancement factors. Based upon the record and the parties’ brief, we find no reversible error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/20
Jeffery Yates v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00407-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Petitioner, Jeffery Yates, appeals from the summary dismissal of his latest petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner has repeatedly and unsuccessfully challenged his convictions and sentences. In this, his latest challenge, Petitioner filed a petition for
post-conviction relief challenging his 2003 convictions. He alleged that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that the trial court had improperly amended his judgment of conviction. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition, concluding that the grounds for relief had clearly been waived because they had not been raised in Petitioner’s prior petitions for
post-conviction relief. Following our review, we conclude that an opinion in this case would have no precedential value and affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Michael Ryan Boggs
W2019-01289-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

The Defendant, Michael Ryan Boggs, was indicted for theft of property valued at more than $10,000 and less than $60,000, a Class C felony; aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a Class E felony; and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-14-103(a), -14-105(a)(4), -14-402, -14-403(a), -17-1307(b)(1)(B), -17-1324(a). Following a jury trial, the Defendant was acquitted of the firearms offenses and convicted of the theft of property and aggravated burglary offenses. The trial court imposed a sentence of ten years on each count, to be served concurrently. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence relative to his identity as a perpetrator of the burglary, arguing that the accomplice testimony was incredible and not adequately corroborated. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Benton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Tracy Lynn Harris
W2019-00834-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

Pro-se petitioner, Tracy Lynn Harris, appeals from the Carroll County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/20
Charles L. Jones, III v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01935-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Charles L. Jones, III, Petitioner, appeals from the denial of habeas corpus relief from his sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole after he pled guilty to second-degree murder. After a review, we affirm the denial of habeas corpus relief.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/20
State of Tennessee v. James Demoss
M2019-01583-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

James Demoss, Defendant, pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the manner of service of the effective fifteen-year sentence was to be determined by the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered Defendant’s sentence to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant claims that the trial court abused its discretion by sentencing him to serve his sentence in incarceration rather than granting an alternative sentence. Because the trial court failed to articulate adequate reasons for denying an eligible defendant an alternative sentence, the abuse of discretion standard with a presumption of reasonableness does not apply on appeal, and this court can either (1) conduct a de novo review to determine whether there is an adequate basis for denying an alternative sentence; or (2) remand for the trial court to consider the requisite factors in determining whether to grant an alternative sentence. We determine that the record on appeal is sufficient for this court to undertake a de novo review, and after a de novo review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the denial of an alternative sentence.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Gary Wayne Ford
E2019-00684-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery Hill Wicks

The defendant, Gary Wayne Ford, appeals the Meigs County Criminal Court’s denial of alternative sentencing for his conviction of voluntary manslaughter, arguing that the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard, admitted improper rebuttal evidence at the sentencing hearing, and based its decision on unreliable or contradicted evidence. After careful examination of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Meigs County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Lane
E2019-01401-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The defendant, Curtis Lane, appeals his 2019 Knox County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded conviction of second degree murder, arguing that the 22-year sentence is excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Bryan Johnson
M2019-00943-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

After pleading guilty to several offenses, Defendant, Joshua Bryan Johnson, received an effective eight-year sentence to be served on probation. A violation of probation warrant was issued and the trial court fully revoked his probation after a hearing. Defendant filed a timely notice of appeal. After the notice of appeal was filed, Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Rule 35 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure asking the trial court to modify his sentence to provide for inpatient rehabilitation. The trial court held a hearing on the motion and denied relief. Defendant filed an additional notice of appeal and this Court consolidated the appeals. After a review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/20
Kendall Joy v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01437-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

Petitioner, Kendall Joy, appeals the denial of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis in which he alleged that his guilty plea was not knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently entered. After thoroughly reviewing the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the error coram nobis court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/20
State of Tennessee v. Pamela Moses
W2019-01219-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge William B. Acree

The pro se Petitioner, Pamela Moses, appeals the trial court’s denial of her “Motion for Expiration of Sentence,” which the trial court essentially treated as a motion for writ of habeas corpus. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the motion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/20
Dennis Judge v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00237-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Petitioner, Dennis Judge, pleaded guilty to sexual battery by an authority figure, and the trial court sentenced him to the agreed sentence of four years of Community Corrections. More than a year later, the Petitioner filed a motion requesting that the trial court allow him to file an untimely petition for post-conviction relief and also a petition for post-conviction relief. After a hearing, the post-conviction court found that due process did not require a tolling of the statute of limitations, and it dismissed the petition. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the postconviction court’s judgment.

Moore County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/20
State of Tennessee v. Marlon William Cotham
M2019-00929-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Defendant, Marlon William Cotham, was convicted of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and sentenced to nine years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction, and the trial court erred in imposing a sentence of nine years. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/20
State of Tennessee v. Barbara Nicole Napper
M2019-00623-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

Barbara Nicole Napper, Defendant, was indicted for two counts of selling heroin in a school zone. She pled guilty to two reduced charges of selling heroin without the school-zone enhancement. She was sentenced to ten years for each conviction, to be served consecutively to each other. The sentences were suspended to community corrections. Multiple violation warrants were filed after Defendant tested positive for drugs. Prior to the disposition of the alleged violations, Defendant was indicted for introducing heroin into a penal facility. The State filed a motion seeking resentencing on Defendant’s original sentence of twenty years. After a hearing on the violations, the trial court revoked Defendant’s community corrections sentence and increased the sentence on each underlying offense by two years, for a total effective sentence of twenty-four years. Defendant timely appeals the revocation of her community corrections sentence and the trial court’s decision to increase her underlying sentence. After a review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/20
State of Tennessee v. Dennis Lee Seale
M2019-01913-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

The Defendant, Dennis Lee Seale, filed a Rule 9 interlocutory appeal seeking our review of the trial court’s ruling that some of the prosecution’s out-of-state witnesses could testify at trial via two-way video conferencing technology. After a hearing, the trial court ruled that four of the prosecution’s witnesses could testify via teleconferencing rather than in person. The Defendant filed an application for an interlocutory appeal, which the State did not oppose, and which the trial court granted. This court determined that this application met the criteria of Rule 9, and granted the appeal. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred because its ruling violated his rights pursuant to the Confrontation Clause of both the Federal and our State constitution. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude that this case, as one of first impression in this state, provides this court the opportunity to hold that the standard as articulated in Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990), should extend to two-way video conferencing technology. As such we reverse and remand this case to the trial court for a case-specific and witness-specific determination of whether the denial of the Defendant’s right to confront witnesses is necessary to further an important public interest.

Lewis County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/20
State of Tennessee v. Jason Doty
W2018-00701-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Defendant, Jason Doty, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury in count one for aggravated child abuse and in count two for “aggravated child neglect or endangerment” based on injuries that occurred to his three-month-old son. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of the lesser offense of reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony, in count one and the indicted offense of “aggravated child neglect or endangerment,” a Class A felony, in count two. After merging the reckless aggravated assault conviction into the aggravated child neglect or endangerment conviction, the trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to twenty-five years at 85 percent in the Department of Correction. The Defendant raises the following five issues on appeal: (1) Whether the trial court issued incomplete and misleading jury instructions that violated his constitutional right to a unanimous jury verdict; (2) Whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain his conviction; (3) Whether the trial court erred by not allowing the Defendant to cross-examine the State’s child abuse medical expert about a prior dependency and neglect case involving the victim in which a juvenile court magistrate had found the expert’s opinion less credible than the opinion of the opposing expert witness; (4) Whether the jury’s verdicts finding the Defendant guilty of both reckless aggravated assault and aggravated child neglect are mutually exclusive; and (5) Whether the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. Following our review, we conclude that the conviction in count two must be reversed and remanded for a new trial because the Defendant’s right to a unanimous verdict was violated. The Defendant’s conviction for reckless aggravated assault is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/17/20