Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 03/03/2015
Format: 03/03/2015
State of Tennessee v. Sean Blake
W2014-00856-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

Appellant, Sean Blake, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted second degree murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, two counts of attempted aggravated robbery, and robbery. Appellant subsequently filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, which the trial court summarily dismissed because appellant’s sentences had expired. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred by summarily dismissing his motion because an illegal sentence may be challenged at any time pursuant to Rule 36.1. The State concedes that this case should be reversed and remanded to the trial court. Following our review of the parties’ briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/15
State of Tennessee v. Alvin Upchurch
W2013-02448-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Defendant, Alvin Upchurch, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for one count of aggravated robbery. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted as charged. Defendant was sentenced by the trial court to serve 12 years in confinement. Defendant’s sole issue on appeal is whether the sentence imposed was excessive. Having reviewed the record before us, we conclude that Defendant’s sentence was proper. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/15
Edward Porreca v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02443-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

Petitioner, Edward Porecca, filed, through counsel, a “Petition for Relief from Conviction and Sentence” attacking his conviction for rape. He specifically alleged that the petition was instituted pursuant to T.C.A. § 40-30-[102] (for post-conviction relief) and pursuant to T.C.A. § 40-35-308 (for modification, removal, or release from a condition of probation). The twenty-four (24) page petition, plus exhibits, generally alleged that he was entitled to relief under T.C.A. § 40-30-308 because an “exile from Tennessee” condition of his probation is unconstitutional and therefore should be removed. As to grounds for postconviction relief, Petitioner asserted that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel and his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. After an evidentiary hearing the trial court denied relief and dismissed the petition. On appeal, Petitioner has abandoned his claim for post-conviction relief by not presenting that as an issue on appeal. As to the claim that Petitioner is entitled to statutory relief pursuant to T.C.A. § 40-35-308, we conclude that Petitioner is not entitled to relief. Petitioner has failed to show in this record that an “exile from Tennessee” condition exists. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/15
Kevin Daws v. State of Tennessee
W2014-01002-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan Jr.

The Appellant, Kevin Daws, filed a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The trial court summarily dismissed the Appellant’s motion, and he appealed. Following our review of the record, we conclude that the Appellant’s motion fails to present a colorable claim that his sentences were illegal. We, therefore, affirm the trial court’s summary dismissal of the motion.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/15
State of Tennessee v. William Darelle Smith
M2014-00059-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

A jury convicted the defendant, William Darelle Smith, of first degree (premeditated) murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison.  On appeal, this court affirmed the denial of the motion for a new trial.  The defendant appealed a single issue to the Tennessee Supreme Court: that his right to an impartial jury was compromised because the trial court did not hold a hearing after the discovery, during jury deliberations, that a juror was not only acquainted with one of the State’s witnesses but had sent the witness a communication through Facebook complimenting her on her testimony.  The Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that the trial court had erred in refusing to hold a hearing and remanded the case.  After a hearing during which the juror and the witness testified regarding the nature of both their relationship and the communication, the trial court again denied the defendant a new trial.  The defendant appeals.  We conclude that the State sufficiently rebutted any presumption of prejudice raised by the juror’s extrajudicial communication or by his concealment of his acquaintance with the witness, and accordingly we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/07/15
State of Tennessee v. William Edward Arnold, Jr.
M2014-00075-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley

Defendant, William Edward Arnold, Jr., was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury for three counts of aggravated sexual battery and three counts of rape of a child for acts that took place while Defendant was a mentor for the victim through Big Brothers Big Sisters.  Prior to trial, Defendant sought to introduce evidence of the victim’s prior sexual knowledge pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 412.  The trial court granted the motion in part but prohibited the introduction of any extrinsic evidence at trial.  At the conclusion of the proof at trial, the trial court granted a motion for judgment of acquittal on two counts of aggravated sexual battery, finding them “impossible” under the facts as presented to the jury.  The jury convicted Defendant of the remaining charges: one count of aggravated sexual battery and three counts of rape of a child.  The trial court denied the motion for new trial and sentenced Defendant to an effective sentence of twenty-five years.  On appeal, Defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of the motion for judgment of acquittal as to the counts for which he was found guilty, the denial of the motion for new trial, and the trial court’s ruling on the admissibility of evidence under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 412.  After a thorough review of the record, the applicable authorities, and the issues, we determine the evidence is sufficient to support the convictions, and the trial court properly denied the motion for judgment of acquittal.  Further, we determine that the trial court properly determined that specific instances of conduct of prior sexual behavior of the victim were not admissible under Rule 412(c)(4).  Additionally, we agree with the trial court’s determination that due process permitted the victim to be subject to cross-examination, limited by Tennessee Rule of Evidence 608.  Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/07/15
Grover Cowart v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00700-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz

The Petitioner, Grover D. Cowart, appeals the habeas corpus court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, or, in the alternative, motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that (1) the judgments of conviction in Case No. 50934 are void; (2) the judgment of conviction in Count 1 of Case No. 50934 is too “indefinite nd ambiguous” to run consecutively to his conviction in Case No. 49900; (3) the judgments of conviction in Counts 2 and 3 in Case No. 50934 are too “indefinite, uncertain, and ambiguous” to run consecutively to Count 4 in Case No. 49900; and (4) the sentences in Case No. 50934 are expired. Discerning no error, we affirm the summary dismissal of the Petitioner’s petition.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/05/15
State of Tennessee v. William Bryan Gatlin
M2013-02440-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

The Defendant, William Bryan Gatlin, was convicted by a Marshall County Circuit Court jury of possession of marijuana with the intent to sell and possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver, Class E felonies, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor.  See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-417(a)(4) (possession of a controlled substance) (Supp. 2012) (amended 2014), 39-17-425 (possession of drug paraphernalia) (2014).  The trial court merged the possession of marijuana convictions.  The Defendant was sentenced to serve two years for the merged possession of marijuana conviction and eleven months, twenty-nine days for possession of drug paraphernalia.  The sentences were imposed consecutively to each other and to any unexpired sentence.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained during a knock-and-talk encounter and a warrantless entry into his apartment and that the judgments should be reversed because without the illegally obtained evidence, the remaining evidence is insufficient to support his convictions.  We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/02/15
State of Tennessee v. Angel Geovanna Hurtado
M2014-00180-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Defendant, Angel Geovanna Hurtado, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of three counts of aggravated child abuse, one count of reckless aggravated assault as a lesser-included offense of aggravated child abuse, and one count of aggravated child neglect.  The trial court imposed an effective sentence of twenty-five years for her convictions.  In this direct appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court committed plain error by failing to grant a mistrial given the “significant problems that arose during trial revealing the existence of potential new witnesses and exculpatory evidence”; (2) the trial court erred by permitting the State to elicit testimony about and argue that evidence of domestic violence established the Defendant’s guilty knowledge, under a theory of criminal responsibility, of the child abuse and neglect of the victim by her live-in boyfriend; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions, including a challenge of material variance between the proof and the State’s election of offenses.  Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.  However, we must remand for entry of a corrected judgment in count two to reflect the proper conviction of reckless aggravated assault.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
Marcus Terry aka Marcus Benson aka Torian Benson v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00684-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The pro se petitioner, Marcus Terry aka Marcus Benson aka Torian Benson, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis, which petition challenged his 1997 Shelby County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded conviction of escape. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
Mike Settle v. Brenda Jones, Warden
W2014-01362-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Walker

The petitioner, Mike Settle, appeals from the denial of his sixth petition for writ of habeas corpus, which challenged his 2001 guilty-pleaded convictions of felony escape, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and two counts of aggravated assault. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
Jeffery Yates v. State of Tennessee and Sharon C. Taylor, Warden
E2014-00163-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

The petitioner, Jeffery Yates, appeals the trial court’s denial of his petition for habeas corpus relief. He contends that the court abused its discretion by dismissing his petition without conducting a hearing. He claims that he is entitled to habeas corpus relief because his current sentence is illegal because it was enhanced based upon prior illegal sentences and that the illegal sentences were improperly used to impeach him at trial. After reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
State of Tennessee v. Edward Carter
W2014-00538-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Defendant-Appellant, Edward Carter, was convicted by a Madison County jury of attempted theft of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1,000, a Class A misdemeanor. The trial court ordered the Defendant to serve 11 months and 29 days in the county jail, suspended to community corrections. The sole issue presented for our review is whether the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
State of Tennessee v. Andrew Barry Diebold
W2014-00466-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The defendant, Andrew Barry Diebold, entered pleas of guilty to possession of marijuana with the intent to manufacture, deliver, or sell and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was sentenced, respectively, to two years as a standard offender, to serve ninety days, with one year and nine months of unsupervised probation, and to ninety days at 75%. As a condition of his pleas, he reserved as a certified question if the warrantless search of his backpack by a law enforcement officer was illegal. The search was made by the defendant’s father, who was a lieutenant with the Brownsville Police Department, as the backpack was in the passenger side of the father’s truck, which the defendant had been operating. We conclude that the certified question is not dispositive of the case and, therefore, dismiss the appeal.

Haywood County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
State of Tennessee v. Albert Jackson
W2014-00050-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The defendant, Albert Jackson, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of attempted voluntary manslaughter, a Class D felony; aggravated assault, a Class C felony; employing a firearm during the commission of a felony, a Class C felony; reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, a Class E felony; and felon in possession of a handgun, a Class E felony. He was sentenced to an effective term of twenty-four years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
State of Tennessee v. Boyce Turner
E2013-02304-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stacy L. Street

The Defendant, Boyce Turner, was indicted by the Washington County Grand Jury on two counts of driving under the influence (“DUI”), two counts of DUI 4th offense, evading arrest, resisting arrest, and driving on a revoked license. The Defendant refused law enforcement’s request to submit to a blood test to determine his blood alcohol content, and his blood was taken, without a warrant and over his objections, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-406(f)(2) (2012). The trial court subsequently granted the Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence of his blood alcohol content test, concluding that the Defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated. In this appeal, the State argues that the trial court erred in granting the Defendant’s motion to suppress because the Defendant consented to the test by driving on the roads in Tennessee and exigent circumstances justified the warrantless search. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
Antonio Williams v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00419-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary B. Leibowitz

Antonio Williams (“the Petitioner”) pleaded guilty to three counts of possession with intent to sell a Schedule II controlled substance within a drug-free zone and agreed to a revocation of probation on a prior sentence. Pursuant to his plea agreement, the Petitioner received a total effective sentence of ten years to be served at 100%. In this appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in finding: (1) that his plea was intelligently and voluntarily made; and (2) that trial counsel’s performance was not deficient. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
State of Tennessee v. Lashay Nicole Scruggs
W2014-00091-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

Lashay Nicole Scruggs (“the Defendant”) appeals from the trial court’s denial of judicial diversion. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by (1) placing heavy emphasis on charges listed as “pending” in the pre-sentence report but that were actually disposed of prior to the sentencing hearing; (2) placing emphasis on the presence of marijuana in the Defendant’s system when marijuana use was not an element of vehicular manslaughter as charged in this case; and (3) placing emphasis on the need to deter others from driving irresponsibly when there was no evidence of such a need in the record. Upon review, we find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Fayette County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
Alicia Shane Lovera v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00794-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

In 1996, the Petitioner, Alicia Shayne Lovera, was found guilty by a jury of first degree premeditated murder of her husband. On the morning of the sentencing hearing in which the State was seeking a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, the Petitioner agreed to plead guilty to first degree premeditated murder in return for a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. In March 1999, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief. Following a hearing, the trial court denied relief, and the Petitioner appealed. This Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of post-conviction relief. On December 19, 2013, the Petitioner filed a writ of habeas corpus alleging the judgment of conviction was void on its face because it was entered upon her plea of guilty after she had been found guilty by a jury. The habeas corpus court dismissed the petition without an evidentiary hearing for failure to state a claim. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
Frederick O. Edwards v. State of Tennessee
W2014-01463-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge William B. Acree

The Petitioner, Frederick O. Edwards, appeals the Weakley County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The Petitioner contends that the trial court erred by treating his Rule 36.1 motion as a petition for post-conviction relief and further asserts that he has presented a colorable claim for relief. We agree that the trial court’s treatment of the Petitioner’s motion to correct an illegal sentence as a petition for post-conviction relief was error, but because we conclude that the Petitioner has not presented a colorable claim, the trial court’s order denying relief is affirmed.

Weakley County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
State of Tennessee v. Katius J. Williams
W2013-02542-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell Lee Moore, Jr.

The Defendant, Katius J. Williams, was indicted on one count each of aggravated burglary, aggravated rape, and aggravated robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-402, -13-502, -14-403. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of aggravated burglary, aggravated rape, and the lesser-included offense of theft of property valued at $500 or less. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-14-103, -105. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to an effective forty-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) that the trial court erred by making “no findings as to why maximum sentences were appropriate”; and (3) that the total effective sentence was excessive. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/14
Thaddeus Johnson v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00053-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

Petitioner, Thaddeus Johnson, was convicted of first degree murder and attempted first degree murder. For these crimes, he received a life sentence and a consecutive twenty-five year sentence. Petitioner timely filed a petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. The post-conviction court denied relief, finding that Petitioner failed to prove his claims by clear and convincing evidence. In this appeal, Petitioner challenges the dismissal of his petition and also alleges ineffective assistance at the post-conviction hearing. After reviewing the parties’ briefs, the record, and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/14
State of Tennessee v. Leslie Allen Ware, Jr.
E2013-02855-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The defendant, Leslie Allen Ware, Jr., appeals his Sullivan County Criminal Court jury convictions of conspiracy to possess 26 grams or more of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver, possession of 26 grams or more of cocaine for sale or delivery, maintaining a dwelling where controlled substances are used or sold, facilitation of theft, facilitation of conspiracy to commit robbery, and two counts of criminally negligent homicide. The defendant received an effective sentence of 36 years. He claims on appeal that the sentences imposed by the trial court were excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/14
Glyn Terrance Dale, Sr. v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00552-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Petitioner, Glyn Terrance Dale, Sr., appeals as of right from the Knox County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that his trial counsel was ineffective for introducing into evidence at trial two statements the victim made to an investigator from the Department of Children Services (DCS). Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/14
State of Tennessee v. Christian Philip Van Camp
E2013-00667-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex H. Ogle

Defendant, Christian Philip Van Camp, was indicted for driving under the influence, driving while his blood alcohol was in excess of the legal limit, and failing to maintain his proper lane of traffic. Defendant moved to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop, arguing that it was not properly supported by either probable cause or reasonable suspicion. After a hearing, the trial court denied his motion. After a bench trial, Defendant was convicted as charged. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in failing to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the unconstitutional seizure of his vehicle. Upon our review of the record, we conclude that the officer had reasonable suspicion to conduct a brief investigatory stop based on information received from a known citizen informant. Therefore, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Cocke County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/29/14