Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 05/23/2017
Format: 05/23/2017
L. B. Rittenberry, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00409-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Petitioner, L.B. Rittenberry, Jr., was convicted of second degree murder despite his claim of self-defense.  He appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which alleged ineffective assistance of trial counsel.  Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred by finding that he was not prejudiced by trial counsel’s failure to adequately investigate the victim’s prior history of violence.  We affirm the decision of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/17
Marcus L. Branner v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00956-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The petitioner, Marcus L. Branner, appeals the summary dismissal of his 2013 petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged his 2001 convictions of second degree murder and attempted second degree murder. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/03/17
State of Tennessee v. Janet Michelle Stanfield, Tony Alan Winsett, and Justin Bradley Stanfield
W2015-02503-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

The Defendants, Janet Michelle Stanfield, Tony Alan Winsett, and Justin Bradley Stanfield, were indicted by the Obion County Grand Jury for various drug and firearm offenses following a warrantless search of their house. The Defendants filed motions to suppress the evidence seized, and the trial court granted the motions and dismissed the case. The State appeals, asserting that the warrantless search was valid and the evidence was admissible. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/31/17
Harold Bernard Schaffer v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00115-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The Petitioner, Harold Bernard Schaffer, appeals from the Dyer County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction for first degree felony murder, for which he is serving a life sentence. The Petitioner contends that the postconviction court erred in denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/31/17
Charles E. Wagner v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00823-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Petitioner, Charles E. Wagner, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2011 convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping, aggravated assault, assault, aggravated criminal trespass, and false imprisonment and his effective nineteen-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Nicole Irizzary
M2016-00465-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

The defendant, Nicole Irizzary, pled nolo contendere to voluntary manslaughter as a lesser-included offense of second degree murder (Count 1), possession of a Schedule II Drug (Count 2), and child abuse and neglect as a lesser-included offense of aggravated child abuse (Count 3).  The trial court sentenced the defendant to concurrent, four-year sentences for Counts 1 and 2, to run consecutively to a four-year sentence for Count 3.  The trial court denied the defendant’s request for alternative sentencing and ordered the effective eight-year sentence to be served in confinement.  On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court abused its discretion by denying her request for alternative sentencing and committed plain error by improperly relying on the defendant’s silence at the sentencing hearing.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Stewart County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Julian Agnew
W2016-00908-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Julian Agnew (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a Shelby County jury of one count of aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to ten years and six months in the Department of Correction with release eligibility after service of eighty-five percent of the sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing prosecutorial misconduct in closing arguments and that the evidence at trial was insufficient for a rational juror to have found him guilty of aggravated robbery beyond a reasonable doubt. After a thorough review of the record and case law, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Paul William Purvis
W2016-00386-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The Defendant, Paul William Purvis, entered a best interest guilty plea to theft of property valued over $10,000, a Class C felony. The guilty plea was entered several years after the State had filed a notice that it intended to seek enhanced punishment. The State's notice listed twelve prior convictions and stated that it would seek to sentence the Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender. The parties did not negotiate a sentence as part of the plea agreement but left determination of the sentence up to the court. At the sentencing hearing, the State sought to have the Defendant sentenced as a Range III, persistent offender. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to ten years' imprisonment as a Range III, persistent offender, and the Defendant appeals, asserting that he is entitled to be sentenced as a Range II offender due to the State's inadequate notice. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the State's notice was ambiguous. However, because the Defendant has not shown that he investigated the ambiguity and has not shown prejudice from the ambiguous notice, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Roosevelt Pitts, III
M2016-01879-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Defendant, Roosevelt Pitts III was convicted of robbery, three counts of reckless endangerment, leaving the scene of an accident, and vandalism.  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective eighteen years in prison.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that the State discriminated against prospective jurors by excusing them for race-based reasons and that the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments.  The State contends that the Defendant has waived these issues by providing this court with an insufficient record.  Because the record provided for review is insufficient to allow us to consider the issues raised, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Van Trent
E2015-00354-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The Appellant, Van Trent, was convicted by a Sullivan County Criminal Court Jury of five counts of facilitation of dogfighting. The Appellant received concurrent sentences of eleven months and twenty-nine days for each conviction, sixty days of which was to be served in confinement and the remainder on probation. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his convictions, the trial court's instructing the jury on lesser-included offenses over the Appellant's objection, the denial of the Appellant's right to counsel, the admissibility of expert testimony regarding the causation of scarring to the dogs, the introduction of the Appellant's appearance bond as rebuttal proof, and the trial court's denial of full probation. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Jamie Paul Click
E2015-01769-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance

The Defendant, Jamie Paul Click, was convicted of one count each of selling heroin within a drug-free school zone, delivering heroin within a drug-free school zone, and casually exchanging marijuana; and two counts each of delivering heroin and selling heroin. The trial court merged the three delivery convictions with the corresponding sale convictions and imposed an effective sentence of eighty years’ incarceration. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant raises challenges to the following: (1) the trial court’s refusal to sever the offenses, contending that each drug deal should have been tried separately because his conduct was not part of a common scheme or plan and, additionally, that evidence of the drug-free school zone deal was prejudicial to the other counts; (2) the sufficiency of the convicting evidence supporting his various convictions for sale and delivery of heroin, arguing that all of the transactions were merely casual exchanges and that there was inadequate proof that the one transaction occurred within a drug-free school zone; and (3) various aspects of the trial court’s sentencing decision, including the Defendant’s range classification, the length of his sentences, the imposition of consecutive sentences, and the subsequent denial of his motion to reduce his total effective sentence. Following our review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Scott W. Grammer
E2016-00497-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole
Appellant, Scott Grammer, filed a pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence in the Hamilton County Criminal Court pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The trial court denied the motion, and Appellant appeals the ruling. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/17
State of Tennessee v. Marchello Karlando Gossett
W2015-02414-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The Defendant, Marchello Karlando Gossett, was convicted by a Tipton County jury of possession with intent to deliver 0.5 grams or more of cocaine and two counts of felony possession of a handgun and was sentenced to serve thirty years at sixty percent in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss the indictment; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for possession with intent to deliver 0.5 grams or more of cocaine; (3) the trial court erred by failing to compel the State to disclose information about the confidential informant; (4) the trial court erred in curtailing the Defendant’s cross-examination of the confidential informant; (5) the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial; (6) the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce inadmissible hearsay into evidence; (7) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct; (8) the trial court erred in admitting certain exhibits into evidence when the State failed to establish chain of custody; (9) the trial court erred by failing to charge simple possession and casual exchange as lesser-included offenses; (10) the trial court erred by allowing the State to read the indictment which contained “the name and nature of the Defendant’s prior felony conviction”; and (11) cumulative error requires reversal. Following a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/28/17
State of Tennessee v. Andrew Boykin
W2016-01055-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Appellant, Andrew Boykin, pled guilty in the Madison County Circuit Court to possession of one-half gram or more of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of one-half gram or more of cocaine with intent to deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, criminal impersonation, and evading arrest. The trial court merged the convictions for possession of cocaine, and the Appellant received an effective ten-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that his sentence is excessive and that the trial court should have ordered alternative sentencing. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Tyrone Batts
M2015-01662-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Tyrone Batts, of two counts of rape, a Class B felony; one count of attempted rape, a Class C felony; and one count of robbery, a Class C felony.  After a sentencing hearing, the Appellant received an effective thirty-six-year sentence.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his robbery conviction, that the trial court erred by allowing a nurse practitioner to testify about statements made by the victim, that the trial court erred by allowing the prosecutor to make improper comments during the State’s closing arguments, that his separate convictions for rape and attempted rape violate due process and double jeopardy, and that the trial court erred by imposing the maximum punishment in the range for each offense and consecutive sentencing.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Mitchell Blake Puckett
M2015-01938-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Wallace

A Cheatham County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Mitchell Blake Puckett, of attempted first degree premeditated murder, a Class A felony, for which he received a sixteen-year sentence.  On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction.  He concedes that the evidence established he committed attempted second degree murder but maintains that the State failed to adduce proof of premeditation to sustain a conviction of first degree murder.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/27/17
Ryan James Howard v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02186-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stacy L. Street

Petitioner, Ryan James Howard, appeals from the post-conviction court's dismissal of Petitioner's post-conviction petition following an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner asserts that he is entitled to relief because he received ineffective assistance of counsel in the proceedings leading to his convictions for one count of second degree murder and one count of voluntary manslaughter. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/17
Ronnie Lamont Harshaw v. State of Tennessee
E2015-00900-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Petitioner, Ronnie Lamont Harshaw, pled guilty to two counts of attempted first degree murder, Class A felonies; three counts of aggravated assault, Class B felonies; reckless endangerment by firing into an occupied habitation, a Class C felony; two counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, Class D felonies; and two counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, Class C felonies. He received an effective sentence of thirty-six years. The Petitioner 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. On appeal, the Petitioner also argues that the criminal gang enhancement statute, which was applied to increase his aggravated assault convictions from Class C felonies to Class B felonies, is unconstitutional. Upon review, we conclude that pursuant to State v. Bonds, 502 S.W.3d 118 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016), the criminal gang enhancement statute is unconstitutional; therefore, we must reverse the judgments for the aggravated assault convictions in counts three, four, and five in case number 100379; vacate the criminal gang enhancements in those convictions; and remand for entry of judgments reflecting that each aggravated assault conviction is a Class C felony with a sentence of fifteen years. The Petitioner's total effective sentence remains the same. The judgments of conviction are affirmed in all other respects.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/17
Ronald Cauthern v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01905-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Don R. Ash

Ronald Cauthern (“the Petitioner”) filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis in the Gibson County Circuit Court, alleging that he was entitled to a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. The coram nobis court summarily denied the petition after concluding that the petition was untimely. The Petitioner now appeals the denial of coram nobis relief. Upon review, we affirm the coram nobis court’s determination that the Petitioner’s claim regarding an unedited videotape is time-barred. However, we reverse the judgment of the coram nobis court as to the Petitioner’s claim regarding lab bench notes and remand for the coram nobis court to determine whether the Petitioner is entitled to due process tolling on this claim.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Larry Prewitt
W2016-01516-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

In September 2009, Larry Prewitt (“the Petitioner”) pled guilty to two counts of aggravated burglary and was sentenced to three years in the workhouse with release eligibility after service of thirty percent of the sentence. On May 18, 2016, the Petitioner filed a “Motion to Challenge the Criminal Court Jurisdiction,” arguing that the judgments were void, his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary, and the indictments were fatally defective, which the trial court denied. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Anthony J. Bookout, Sr.
W2016-01694-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

In April 2016, the Madison County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant, Anthony J. Bookout, Sr., on charges of driving under the influence (DUI), driving while his alcohol concentration was .08% or more (DUI per se), DUI second offense, leaving the scene of an accident, and evading arrest. Following a trial, a jury convicted the Defendant of DUI, DUI per se, DUI second offense, and leaving the scene of an accident involving injuries, for which the Defendant received an effective sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days suspended to supervised probation following the service of ninety days in jail. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/17
State of Tennessee v. James Allen Ballew
M2016-00051-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

In this second appeal of the amount of restitution ordered in a Class E felony theft case, the defendant, James Allen Ballew, appeals the $36,473.00 at the rate of $50 per month that the trial court ordered he pay to the victim lumber company, arguing that the amount is unreasonable given the evidence of the victim’s losses presented at the second restitution hearing, the two-year length of his sentence, and his financial resources and future ability to pay.  The State concedes that the trial court erred by imposing an amount of restitution that the defendant could not reasonably be expected to pay and by ordering a payment schedule that exceeds the length of the sentence.  Following our review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court with respect to restitution and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

White County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Spencer Peterson
W2016-00787-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Spencer Peterson (“the Defendant”) appeals the summary denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s summary denial of the motion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/23/17
State of Tennessee v. John Hudson
W2016-00913-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

John Hudson (“the Defendant”) appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion for reduction of sentence under Rule 35 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, asserting that he was entitled to relief because the trial court acted without jurisdiction when it revoked the Defendant’s probation. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/23/17
State of Tennessee v. Clyde Hobbs
M2016-00924-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

The Defendant, Clyde Hobbs, appeals as of right from the Grundy County Circuit Court’s revocation of his probation and order of confinement for eight years.  The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion when it determined that the Defendant had violated specialized conditions of his probation.  Additionally, the Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion in fully revoking the Defendant’s probation without considering possible alternatives.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Grundy County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/23/17