Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 06/29/2016
Format: 06/29/2016
State of Tennessee v. Cordricus Arnold
W2015-00702-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The defendant, Cordricus Arnold, was convicted of first degree (felony) murder. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction and that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury regarding the offense of voluntary manslaughter. Following our review of the briefs of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/26/16
State of Tennessee v. John T. Davis
W2015-00445-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

Defendant, John T. Davis, filed a motion under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 alleging that his concurrent sentences in case numbers 8050, 8452, and 9171 were illegal because he was released on parole in case numbers 8050 and 8452 at the time he committed the offenses in case number 9171. The trial court summarily dismissed the motion. After review of the record and the briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Domnick Doria
M2014-01318-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

Defendant, Domnick Doria, was indicted by the Montgomery County Grand Jury for 39 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.  Defendant was convicted as charged in counts two, three, four, and six.  Defendant was convicted of a lesser-included offense in counts one, five, and seven through thirty-nine. Defendant received an effective sentence of 13 years for all his convictions.  In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motions to suppress his statement to police and evidence collected from his home during the execution of a search warrant; that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; that the trial court improperly admitted hearsay testimony; that the trial court erred by admitting previously excluded evidence; that Defendant’s convictions violate the double jeopardy clause; and that the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentencing.  Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we conclude that the judgments of the trial court should be affirmed.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/26/16
Victor Andrea Askew v. State of Tennessee
M2014-02346-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Paul G. Summers

Victor Andrea Askew, the Petitioner, filed a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief alleging a single claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to argue that the judge ruling on the motion for new trial should apply the version of Tennessee Code Annotated section 17-1-305 that was in effect at the time of the Petitioner’s offense.  The post-conviction court denied relief.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Johnathan Dale Abernathy
M2014-02350-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

Defendant, Johnathan Dale Abernathy, was found not guilty of the charge of domestic assault.  At his arraignment, pursuant to T.C.A. §  40-14-202(e), the trial court had found that he could pay a portion of his attorney fees even though the public defender was appointed to represent him.  He had only paid a portion of the fees prior to trial.  Subsequent to the trial, Defendant filed a motion to remit some or all of the fees.  At the motion hearing, and without prior notice of contempt charges to be answered, the trial court summarily held Defendant in civil contempt with the contempt to be purged when he paid the balance owed.  Defendant appealed, and we reverse the judgment of the trial court and dismiss all contempt charges.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Stevean Wilson - dissenting
E2015-01446-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Scott Green
I dissent from the majority conclusion affirming the trial court’s imposition of confinement in this case. The trial court did not engage in any findings of fact to support its determination of confinement as required by law. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-103(1)(A)-(C) (2014) (whether confinement is necessary to protect society by restraining a defendant who has a long history of criminal conduct; whether confinement is necessary to avoid depreciating the seriousness of the offense or confinement is particularly suited to provide an effective deterrence to others likely to commit similar offenses; or measures less restrictive than confinement have frequently or recently been applied unsuccessfully to the defendant); see also Shannon Ann Maness and Daryl Wayne Maness, No. W2012-02655-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 350429, at *16-17 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 23, 2014) (noting that the trial is still required to place on the record its reasons for imposing the specific sentence and remanding for new sentencing hearing because the record did not support the trial court’s finding of confinement based on deterrence); State v. Robert Joseph Harr, No. W2011-02735-CCA-R3CD, 2013 WL 5422801, at *10 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 27, 2013) (Tipton, P.J., concurring and dissenting) (noting that he did not believe “our supreme court intended in Bise or Caudle to do away, in wholesale fashion, with Tennessee jurisprudence developed over the last thirty years upon which the Sentencing Act is based and in which the Act’s provisions are interpreted”).
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Stevean Wilson
E2015-01446-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Scott Green

The Defendant, Stevean Wilson, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, and the trial court entered the agreed sentence of six years with the manner of service of the sentence to be determined after a hearing. After the hearing, the trial court denied the Defendant an alternative sentence and ordered that he serve his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his request for an alternative sentence. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Terrell Hayes
W2015-00661-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Defendant, Terrell Hayes, was convicted of two counts of aggravated robbery after a jury trial. Defendant was sentenced to an effective sentence of ten years. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant timely sought an appeal. The following issues are presented for our review: (1) whether the trial court improperly prohibited Defendant from introducing evidence about codefendant Timothy Williams‘s prior robbery charge; and (2) whether the trial court erred in failing to grant a mistrial and/or allowing counsel to testify as a witness for the defense. After a review, we determine the trial court erred in refusing to allow Defendant to question witnesses about the prior robbery. However, we determine the error was harmless. Defendant failed to raise the issue with regard to counsel‘s testimony in the motion for new trial. This issue is waived. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Wilson - Concurring
W2015-00699-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

I concur in the majority opinion. Since the State requested that this court defer its ruling until our state supreme court issues a ruling in a separate case where the State has urged adoption of a “good faith exception” to Art. I, section 7 of the Constitution of Tennessee, I feel compelled to respectfully express my opinion on this issue. I respectfully believe that the United States Supreme Court participated in a most egregious example of judicial activism when it filed its opinion in United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 82 L.Ed.2d 677 (1984). I agree that it is well settled that the exclusionary rule as it applies to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution is not a personal constitutional right to the man or woman whose Fourth Amendment rights are violated by the government. Leon, 468 U.S. at 906. It is, instead, a judicially created remedy to protect the Fourth Amendment rights of individuals. Id. However, it is obvious that a constitutional right without an effective remedy for violation of that right is nothing more than an unenforceable objective on a piece of paper.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Wilson
W2015-00699-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Defendant, Christopher Wilson, filed a Rule 9 interlocutory appeal seeking our review of the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence against him. The Defendant filed a motion to suppress the results of his blood alcohol test based upon a violation of Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013). The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing and found that a “good faith exception” to the Defendant's forced blood draw existed and denied the Defendant's motion. The Defendant filed an application for an interlocutory appeal, which the trial court granted. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied the Defendant's motion to suppress based upon a “good faith exception” to the exclusionary rule. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude that the trial court erred when it denied the Defendant's motion to suppress. As such, we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand this case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Mark Alan Hager
W2015-00570-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Defendant, Mark Alan Hager, pled guilty to a charge of burglary of a motor vehicle and to a charge of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-14-402, -103, -105(a)(3). Pursuant to the plea agreement, the defendant received concurrent terms of one year and three years respectively, on community corrections. Subsequently, the Defendant’s community corrections sentence was revoked, and upon revocation, the trial court imposed a new total effective sentence of six years. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences, and (2) that the trial court erred in not awarding sufficient credit for time served on community corrections. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentences; however, we remand this case to correct the judgments to reflect the full measure of the Defendant’s community corrections credit.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Charles L. Hartley
E2015-01493-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant, Charles L. Hartley, pleaded guilty to nine drug-related offenses for a total effective sentence of eight years with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the sentence. After a hearing, the trial court ordered that the Defendant serve one year in confinement and the remaining seven years on probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends the trial court erred when it denied him an alternative sentence. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court's judgments.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/16
State of Tennessee v. Ike O. Nwangwa
E2015-01086-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy M. Harrington

A Blount County jury convicted the Defendant, Ike O. Nwangwa, of Count 2, operating a motor vehicle while his blood alcohol concentration was .08% or more but acquitted him of Count 1 Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days, with two days to be served in jail followed by supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by accepting the guilty verdict to Count 2 when the jury acquitted him of Count 1. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/16
State of Tennessee v. Darryl Claxton
W2015-00885-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Following a jury trial, Darryl Claxton (“the Defendant”) was convicted of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment for the death of Terry Johnson (“the victim”). The Defendant raises the following issues on this direct appeal: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction; (2) whether the trial court erred when it allowed a witness to testify about the Defendant's association with a “group of young men” in violation of Tennessee Rules of Evidence 403 and 404(b); (3) whether the trial court erred when it allowed a witness to “speculate” about the disposition of the murder weapon in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 602; and (4) whether the cumulative effect of the errors requires a new trial. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/16
State of Tennessee v. Joshua R. Starner and Caitlyn Metz
M2014-01690-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

A Montgomery County jury convicted Defendant Joshua R. Starner of aggravated child abuse, first-degree felony murder committed during the perpetration of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, first-degree felony murder committed during the perpetration of aggravated child neglect, and aggravated sexual battery.  The jury convicted Defendant Caitlyn Metz of aggravated child abuse, first-degree felony murder committed during the perpetration of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, first-degree felony murder committed during the perpetration of aggravated child neglect, and facilitation of aggravated sexual battery.  The trial court dismissed both Defendants’ sexual battery convictions and merged the felony murder convictions.  The trial court sentenced Defendant Starner to life in prison for the felony murder conviction and fifteen years for each of the remaining two convictions, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect.  The trial court ordered that Defendant Starner’s fifteen year sentences run concurrently with each other but consecutively to his life sentence.  The trial court sentenced Defendant Metz to the same sentences but ordered that all her sentences run concurrently.  On appeal, Defendant Starner contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions and that the trial court erred when it ordered partial consecutive sentencing.  Defendant Metz contends that the trial court erred when it denied her motion for severance and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain her convictions.  After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/16
State of Tennessee v. Guy Lee Powell
E2015-00741-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John F. Dugger, Jr.

After a bench trial, the Defendant, Guy Lee Powell, was convicted of manufacturing a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell or deliver, felony possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a still. The trial court imposed concurrent sentences for an effective sentence of two years' incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress evidence seized from his premises during a search. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgments.

Hancock County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Anthony T. Brandon
M2015-00654-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Defendant, Anthony T. Brandon, stands convicted of possession with intent to sell .5 grams or more of cocaine, possession with intent to sell .5 grams or more of cocaine base, and possession or casual exchange of marijuana.  The trial court imposed an effective twenty-four-year sentence.  On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions for possession with intent to sell .5 grams or more of cocaine and for possession with intent to sell.5 grams or more of cocaine base; (2) that his sentences were excessive; and (3) that the trial court should have merged Counts 1 through 4 into one conviction.  Based on the parties’ briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we merge Defendant’s convictions for possession with intent to sell .5 grams or more of cocaine and possession with intent to sell .5 grams or more of cocaine base, but we affirm the judgments of the trial court in all other respects.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Brady P. Smithson
M2015-00310-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

The appellant, State of Tennessee, appeals the Williamson County Circuit Court’s granting the motion of the appellee, Brady P. Smithson, to dismiss an indictment for two counts of vehicular assault, a Class D felony.  On appeal, the State contends that the trial court misapplied the factors in State v. Ferguson, 2 S.W.3d 912 (Tenn. 1999).  Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/18/16
Jacob Brown v. State of Tennessee
W2015-00887-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker

The petitioner, Jacob Brown, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2012 convictions of two counts of first degree murder and the accompanying sentences of life without parole. In this appeal, the petitioner contends that the trial court‘s denial of funds for an expert prior to the transfer hearing ran afoul of his due process rights, that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel, and that the consecutive sentences of life without parole, imposed when the petitioner was a juvenile, violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The petitioner‘s claims of a violation of his due process rights and deprivation of his right to the effective assistance of counsel were previously determined and cannot avail him of post-conviction relief. We conclude that the imposition of a sentence of life without parole in this case did not violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment but that consecutive alignment of the petitioner‘s sentences does not comport with the recent rulings of the United States Supreme Court. Therefore, we remand the case for the entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting concurrent alignment of the sentences.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/16
State of Tennessee v. Marc Baechtle
W2014-01737-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Marc Baechtle, of rape of a child, aggravated sexual battery, and rape. The trial court dismissed the convictions for aggravated sexual battery and rape based upon the statute of limitations and sentenced the Defendant to twenty-five years for the rape of a child conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it: (1) denied his motion to suppress his statement to police; (2) denied his motion to dismiss based upon a violation of the prompt notification requirement of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers; and (3) denied his motion for a bill of particulars. The Defendant also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/16
State of Tennessee v. Delshun Jones
W2015-00156-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Wright

The defendant, Delshun Jones, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. On appeal, he argues: (1) that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during voir dire and rebuttal closing argument; (3) the trial court erred in allowing testimony and evidence of cell phone records into evidence; and (4) the trial court erred in allowing an inmate to testify despite the inmate and the defendant's having a defacto attorney-client relationship. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/16
Michael Marks v. State of Tennessee
W2015-00468-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

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

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/16
State of Tennessee v. Rakeem Rashan Jones and Giovoanne Tremane Johnson
M2015-00515-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge John H. Gasaway, III

In a joint trial, Defendants Giovoanne Treymane Johnson and Rakeem Rashan Jones were convicted of first degree felony murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery. As to each, the trial court merged the second degree murder conviction into the felony murder conviction and imposed a sentence of life imprisonment. As to the convictions for especially aggravated robbery, each defendant was sentenced to twenty-five years, with the sentences to be served consecutively to the sentence for the felony murder conviction. On appeal, Defendant Jones argues that (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to sever the defendants for trial; (2) the evidence is insufficient to sustain the convictions; (3) the trial court erred both in the length and manner of service of the sentences; and (4) the court erred in denying his motion for mistrial. Defendant Johnson argues on appeal that the evidence is insufficient to sustain the convictions and that the trial court erred in ordering that the sentences be served consecutively. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/16
State of Tennessee v. Jessie R. Bailey
E2015-01323-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Defendant, Jessie R. Bailey, entered a guilty plea to possession of 0.5 gram or more of cocaine with the intent to sell. The Defendant was sentenced to serve eight years. In a separate case, the Defendant pleaded guilty to facilitation of second degree murder and was sentenced to serve eight years concurrently to the sentence in the cocaine possession case. Approximately sixteen years after the judgments were filed, the Defendant filed motions pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct illegal sentences. The trial court summarily denied the motions. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/16
Jeffery L. Vaughn v. State of Tennessee
W2015-00921-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

Petitioner, Jeffery L. Vaughn, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner asserts that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when trial counsel failed to convey a favorable plea offer, failed to file a motion to suppress text messages, and failed to adequately prepare Petitioner to testify. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/12/16