Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 03/28/2017
Format: 03/28/2017
State of Tennessee v. Stephanie Lynn Ferguson
M2016-01123-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Defendant, Stephanie Lynn Ferguson, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault in the Criminal Court for Davidson County.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of twenty-six years in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that her effective sentence does not comport with the fundamental purposes and principles of sentencing.  Specifically, she contends that the sentence imposed was not the “least severe measure necessary,” that the trial court ignored applicable mitigating factors, and that the court improperly determined she was a dangerous offender.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Radames Antonio Rivera
M2016-00938-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The defendant, Radames Antonio Rivera, was indicted for one count of first degree murder, one count of attempted tampering with evidence, and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon.  Following trial, the jury found the defendant guilty of one count of second degree murder.  The trial court sentenced the defendant to fifteen years of incarceration.  On appeal, the defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.  After our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Robin Bass
W2015-02484-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Defendant, Robin Bass, was convicted of first degree murder in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate a robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202(a)(2). In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction, arguing that there was no proof that he intended to rob the victim or that the murder occurred during the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate a robbery. Additionally, the Defendant argues that the extrajudicial confessions used to convict him were uncorroborated. Following our review, the judgment is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
State of Tennessee v. David Richardson
W2016-00174-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The defendant, David Richardson, appeals the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentences upon remand for a new sentencing hearing. After review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
E. Louis Thomas v. Grady Perry, Warden
W2016-01514-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The Petitioner, E. Louis Thomas, appeals the Hardeman County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus from his 2008 conviction for first degree premeditated murder and his life sentence. He contends that (1) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, (2) the trial court violated his right to a fair trial by admitting the Petitioner’s confession, and (3) the habeas corpus court violated his due process rights by summarily dismissing his petition. We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
Gale Marleen Krizka v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02243-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Eugene Eblen

Petitioner, Gale Marleen Krizka, appeals from the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief, in which she alleged that her counsel was ineffective for failing to obtain an expert witness, failing to call witnesses, and failing to give an opening statement. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Teddy Reece Ragan
M2015-02316-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte D. Watkins

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Teddy Reece Ragan, of sexual exploitation of a minor, and the trial court sentenced him to a ten-year sentence to be served at 100% in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction, that the trial court improperly admitted the Defendant’s prior conviction for violation of the sex offender registry, and that the trial court erred by failing to charge the jury with attempted sexual exploitation of a minor.  After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
Luis Napoleon Paz v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00069-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The petitioner, Luis Napoleon Paz, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
Christopher Earl Watts v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00303-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The petitioner, Christopher Earl Watts, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his convictions for aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect, for which he received an effective sentence of seventy-five years.  On appeal, the petitioner argues trial counsel provided ineffective counsel by failing to fully explain the nature and consequences of waiving his right to testify, failing to call certain witnesses, and failing to file a motion in limine to exclude evidence regarding living in the “projects” and “on the streets.”  Due to the cumulative effect of this allegedly ineffective representation, the petitioner requests a new trial.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Jonathan Wayne Utz
M2016-01244-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Defendant, Jonathan Wayne Utz, pled guilty to one count of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony.  SeeTenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-504.  The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to a term of imprisonment of nine years and six months to be served at one hundred percent.  In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends that “the sentence in this case is excessive and contrary to the law.”  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Moore County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Lisa Estelle Elliott
E2015-02263-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton
A Campbell County Grand Jury indicted the defendant, Lisa Estelle Elliott, on one count of second degree murder as the result of the shooting and death of her fiancé. Following trial, a jury convicted the defendant of the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter, for which she received a four-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court erred when denying her motion for mistrial due to a prejudicial narrative objection made by the State. The defendant further contends that due to her lack of a criminal history, strong educational background, and continuous work history, the trial court erred in denying her request for an alternative sentence. Based on our review of the record, submissions of the parties, and pertinent authorities, we disagree and affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/26/17
State of Tennessee v. Tedrik Woods
W2016-01360-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Petitioner, Tedrik Woods, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Because the Petitioner’s three-year sentence for employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony is illegal, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case to the trial court for proceedings consistent with Rule 36.1 and this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Steven Jeffrey Pike
E2015-02357-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Defendant, Steven Jeffrey Pike, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated murder. See T.C.A. § 39-13-202(a)(1) (2014). He received a life sentence. On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and (2) the trial court erred by admitting his statements to the police. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Hatcher
W2016-01389-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

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

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
Janette Ebony Robinson v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00058-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The petitioner, Janette Ebony Robinson, appeals the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that she received ineffective assistance of counsel and that her guilty pleas were unknowing and involuntary.  Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
Bruce D. Mendenhall v. State of Tennessee
M2015-02091-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The petitioner, Bruce D. Mendenhall, was convicted in 2007 of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.  His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal, and his application for permission to appeal was denied.  Subsequently, he filed a petition for habeas corpus relief, which the court treated as a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that trial counsel had been ineffective.  Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court concluded that the petitioner’s claims were without merit.  The record on appeal supports this determination.  Accordingly, the order of the post-conviction court denying relief is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Andrew Curtis Beard
W2016-00223-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

A Gibson County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Andrew Curtis Beard, of selling less than one-half gram of cocaine, a Class C felony, and he was sentenced as a Range II, multiple offender to eight years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/17
Eric Dates v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02230-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Petitioner, Eric Dates, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court's summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner argues, and the State concedes, that the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his petition for lack of jurisdiction because his probation had expired. Upon our review, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand this matter for an evidentiary hearing on the merits of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/17
State of Tennessee v. George Washington Matthews
W2015-02500-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The defendant, George Washington Matthews, was indicted for one count of possession of over one-half ounce of marijuana with intent to sell or deliver and two counts of attempting to introduce contraband into a penal facility. After trial, a jury found the defendant guilty on all counts. The defendant received a total effective sentence of twelve years. On appeal, the defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; the trial court erred when it allowed testimony regarding the defendant's recent incarceration; and his indictment was defective. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/17
Rickey Allen Hickman v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00489-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

 Marshall County jury convicted the Petitioner, Rickey Allen Hickman, of one count of rape of a child and three counts of aggravated sexual battery.  The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to a total effective sentence of forty-seven years of incarceration.  On appeal, this Court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions.  State v. Rickey Allan Hickman, No M2013-02390-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 4557626 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Sept. 16, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 16, 2015).  The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that his trial counsel had been ineffective.  The post-conviction court held a hearing after which it denied the petition.  On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present a defense asserting that the victim was raped by a person other than the Petitioner.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Montez Deontay Ridley
M2016-01607-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury found the Appellant, Montez Deontay Ridley, guilty of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony.  The trial court imposed a sentence of nine years.  On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction.  Specifically, the Appellant contends that he was not at the scene of the crime, that no forensic evidence placed him at the scene, and that it was illogical that anyone would perpetrate the crime in such close proximity to the police.  The Appellant also contends that the victims were unable to identify him from a photographic lineup.  Finally, the Appellant contends that his confession was the result of lies told by the police.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/17
State of Tennessee v. David Alan Corbitt
W2015-01834-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

A Benton County jury convicted the Defendant of one count of rape of a child and one count of aggravated sexual battery as a lesser-included offense of a second count of rape of a child. The trial court sentenced him to thirty-five years, to be served at 100%, for the rape of a child conviction and to a concurrent sentence of ten years for the aggravated sexual battery conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contended that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the trial court erred when it instructed the jury that aggravated sexual battery was a lesser-included offense of rape of a child; and (3) the trial court erred when it sentenced him. After review, we concluded that aggravated sexual battery was not a lesser-included offense of rape of a child. State v. David Alan Corbitt, No. W2015-01834-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 3952017 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, July 19, 2016), Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application granted (Tenn. Oct. 20, 2016) . As such, we held that the trial court erred when it instructed the jury. We, therefore, vacated the Defendant's conviction for aggravated sexual battery but affirmed his conviction and sentence for rape of a child. On October 20, 2016, the Tennessee Supreme Court granted Defendant's application for permission to appeal and remanded the case to this court for reconsideration in light of the supreme court's recent opinion in State v. Howard, No. E2014-01510-SC-R11-CD, __ S.W.3d __, 2016 WL 5933430 (Tenn. Oct. 12, 2016). Upon reconsideration in light of Howard, we conclude that aggravated sexual battery is a lesser-included offense of rape of a child and that the trial court did not err when it so instructed the jury. Accordingly, we reinstate and affirm the Defendant's conviction and sentence for aggravated sexual battery.

Benton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/23/17
Deshawn Lamar Baker v. State of Tennessee
M2015-02152-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Petitioner, Deshawn Lamar Baker, appeals the lower court’s order denying post-conviction relief from his convictions for aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, and being a felon in possession of a handgun.  On appeal, Petitioner argues that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance and that the State withheld exculpatory evidence, violating his right to due process under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).  Upon our review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/23/17
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Taliaferro
W2015-01840-CC-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The Defendant, Brandon Taliaferro, was convicted of first degree murder in the attempt to perpetrate a robbery and attempted especially aggravated robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101; -13-202(a)(2); -13-403(a). In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred by allowing the State to enter into evidence the entire tape-recorded conversation between the Defendant and a State‘s witness, the mother of his child, and (2) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions, arguing that there was no proof that he intended to rob the victim or that he was criminally responsible for the actions of the person(s) who killed the victim. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Miller
W2016-00402-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Wright

The Defendant, Anthony Miller, was indicted for possession with intent to sell 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, a Class B felony; possession with intent to deliver 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, a Class B felony; possession with intent to sell one-half ounce or more but less than ten pounds of marijuana, a Class E felony; possession with intent to deliver one-half ounce or more but less than ten pounds of marijuana, a Class E felony; and possession of a firearm with intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class D felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-417, -1324(a). Prior to submission to the jury, the amount for the cocaine possession charges was reduced to less than 0.5 grams, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-417(c)(2)(A). Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted as charged of the marijuana and unlawful firearm possession charges and of the lesser-included offense of simple possession, a Class A misdemeanor, with respect to the cocaine possession charges. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-418. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days for the misdemeanor cocaine possession offenses, two years for the felony marijuana possession offenses, and the mandatory minimum three years for the unlawful firearm possession offense. The trial court ordered all of the sentences to be served concurrently for a total effective sentence of three years. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm; and (2) that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on the applicable mental state for the unlawful possession of a firearm offense. Following our review, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the Defendant's conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm. However, we also conclude that the trial court committed plain error in instructing the jury with respect to the unlawful firearm possession offense that the Defendant could be found guilty if he acted “either intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.” As such, we remand this case for a new trial on the unlawful possession of a firearm charge. Additionally, we hold that the trial court failed to merge the Defendant's convictions for simple possession of cocaine into one conviction and his convictions for felony possession of marijuana into one conviction. Accordingly, we remand this case to the trial court for merger of those convictions and entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting said merger.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/17