Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/04/2015
Format: 07/04/2015
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Lewayne Morton
M2014-02029-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The defendant, Timothy Lewayne Morton, appeals the revocation of the probationary sentence imposed for his Sumner County Criminal Court convictions of disorderly conduct, public intoxication, repetitive telephone harrassment, and solicitation to bribe a witness.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/15
Robert W. Roddy v. State of Tennessee
E2014-01436-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

The petitioner, Robert W. Roddy, was convicted of two counts of first degree (premeditated) murder and one count of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. He received a sentence of two life terms and an additional four years, all to be served consecutively. In his post-conviction petition, the petitioner argues that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the testimony regarding his behavior after he was transported from the scene of the crime. The post-conviction court found that trial counsel did not perform deficiently. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Rhea County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/15
State of Tennessee v. James Robert Christensen, Jr. - Concurring In Part, Dissenting In Part
W2014-00931-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker, III

I agree that in this case, there are three separate state actions to consider when determining whether the evidence seized, as a result of the warrantless search of the defendant's residence, should have been suppressed. First, the investigators entered the defendant's property to conduct a “follow-up investigation,” without a search warrant, despite the defendant's “no trespassing” signs. Second, after smelling methamphetamine, Investigator Chunn forcibly entered the defendant's residence and conducted a brief sweep, during which he saw the firearms and some of the components for making methamphetamine, but did not see the active nor inactive labs. Third, after the defendant told officers that the lab was in the freezer, the investigators re-entered the defendant's residence and collected the active lab from the refrigerator and the inactive lab from the deep freezer. I believe the majority has correctly analyzed actions two and three. My disagreement with the majority only relates to the State's first action. My review of the record leads me to conclude that this defendant had clearly revoked any implied consent for the officers to come upon his property without a search warrant. Without lawfully being upon the premises, the second and third actions are void and the fruit of the poisonous tree.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/15
State of Tennessee v. James Robert Christensen, Jr.
W2014-00931-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker, III

Appellant, James Robert Christensen, Jr., stands convicted of resisting arrest, a Class B misdemeanor; promotion of methamphetamine manufacture, a Class D felony; initiation of methamphetamine manufacture, a Class B felony; and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, Class D felonies. He received an effective sentence of three years‟ incarceration followed by eight years suspended to supervised probation. On appeal, appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence and that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions for two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Following our careful review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Travis Lamonte Steed
W2014-00146-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The defendant, Travis Lamonte Steed, was convicted by a Madison County Criminal Court jury of first degree felony murder; second degree murder, a Class A felony; felony reckless endangerment, a Class E felony; convicted felon in possession of a handgun, a Class E felony; and attempted second degree murder, a Class B felony. The court sentenced the defendant as a Range I, violent offender to concurrent sentences of life for the felony murder conviction and twenty-five years for the second degree murder conviction. The court sentenced the defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to twenty years for the attempted second degree murder conviction and four years each for the felon in possession of a handgun and felony reckless endangerment convictions. The court ordered that the defendant serve the four-year sentences for felony reckless endangerment and felon in possession of a handgun concurrently to each other but consecutively to the twenty-year sentence for attempted second degree murder. The court also ordered that the defendant serve the twenty-year sentence for attempted second degree murder consecutively to the life sentence, for a total effective sentence of life plus twenty-four years in the Department of Correction. The defendant raises three issues on appeal: (1) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain his murder and attempted murder convictions; (2) whether the jury's verdicts finding him guilty of first degree felony murder and attempted second degree murder are mutually exclusive; and (3) whether the trial court erred in ordering consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand for entry of corrected judgments to reflect that the defendant's second degree murder conviction is merged into his felony murder conviction.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/15
Undray Luellen v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00508-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn I. Wright

The petitioner, Undray Luellen, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Jeremiah Thomas Sullivan
M2014-00568-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The defendant, Jeremiah Thomas Sullivan, pled guilty in the Bedford County Circuit Court to one count of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor involving one to twenty-four images, a Class C felony; eight counts of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor involving twenty-five or more images, a Class B felony; one count of sexual exploitation of a minor involving 100 or more images, a Class B felony; and two counts of solicitation of a minor, a Class B felony.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court used a combination of concurrent and consecutive sentencing to sentence him to an effective term of twenty-eight years in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred by not merging the multiple convictions for aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor involving twenty-five or more images into a single offense and by imposing an excessive sentence.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Termel Dowdy
M2014-02147-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

The defendant, Termel Dowdy, pled guilty to introduction of contraband into a penal institution, a Class C felony, and DUI, a Class A misdemeanor, in exchange for a ten-year sentence with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court.  After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that the defendant serve his sentence in confinement, which he now appeals.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

White County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Williams
W2014-00251-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The defendant, Rodney Williams, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to twelve years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) the trial court erred in allowing recordings of his jailhouse phone calls into evidence; (3) the trial court erred in admonishing him in the presence of the jury; and (4) the trial court erred in imposing the maximum sentence. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
Marcus Deangelo Lee v. State of Tennessee-Dissenting
W2014-00994-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James Lammey Jr.

Something rather odd appears to be happening in this case and others similar to it. It appears that this defendant pled guilty to three offenses and received an agreed-to effective sentence of three years in December 1995. His sentences should have expired in December 1998. Yet this court has either denied or dismissed this defendant’s challenges to his convictions in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. And now in 2015, almost 20 years later, we feel obligated to set this defendant’s convictions aside as illegal and allow him to withdraw his 1995 guilty pleas because he did not receive twice as much time in jail as he should have in 1995. What makes this case stranger is that it is not the State who is asking for relief; rather, the defendant complains that he did not get consecutive sentencing when he should have in 1995. It is a rare case indeed when a defendant complains about not getting more time in jail. If the defendant was seeking the remedy of serving additional jail time because the law required it at the time he pled guilty, I would be happy to oblige him. But he is not. He is attempting to have his conviction set aside and presumably to have a trial, whereupon if he is found guilty, he will have to do additional time to that ordered in 1995. What, if anything, has changed to allow such a seemingly absurd result to take place?

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
Marcus Deangelo Lee v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00994-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James Lammey, Jr.

The defendant, Marcus Deangelo Lee, argues that the trial court erred in denying him relief under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 after finding that his sentences were illegal and the illegality was a material component of the plea agreement. The State agrees with the defendant’s assertion. After review, we conclude that the trial court should have allowed the defendant the remedies available to him under Rule 36.1, and we, therefore, reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
Dimitrie Colbert v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02768-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The petitioner, Dimitrie Colbert, murdered his girlfriend and was subsequently charged with one count of first degree (felony) murder, one count of first degree (premeditated) murder, one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated rape, one count of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of evading arrest in a motor vehicle. The State sought the death penalty. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the petitioner pled guilty to one count of first degree (felony) murder and one count of evading arrest in a motor vehicle, a Class D felony. He received an agreed-upon life sentence for the murder conviction and a consecutive four-year sentence for the evading arrest conviction. The petitioner filed a timely post-conviction petition, alleging that trial counsel performed deficiently in investigating his mental health and in advising him to accept the plea offer. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the petitioner has not established that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, and we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Charles Derrick Belk
W2014-00887-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge William B. Acree, Jr.


The defendant, Charles Derrick Belk, was convicted by an Obion County Circuit Court jury of simple possession, a Class A misdemeanor; possession of marijuana with intent to sell or deliver, a Class E felony; Class C felony unlawful possession of a weapon; Class D felony unlawful possession of a weapon; and bringing a controlled substance into a penal institution, a Class C felony. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective twelve-year sentence as a persistent offender. On appeal, the defendant argues that: (1) evidence obtained pursuant to the search warrant should have been suppressed; and (2) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for bringing a controlled substance into a penal institution. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
In Re: Hill's Bonding Company
E2014-02355-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Eugene Eblen
The Appellant, Hill’s Bonding Company, filed a petition for permission to issue bail bonds in the Ninth Judicial District. The trial court denied the Appellant’s petition, stating that it was not considering any such petitions at the present time. The Appellant appeals the trial court’s denial. The State concedes that the trial court did not have the authority to deny the Appellant’s petition. After review, we reverse the trial court’s judgment.
Roane County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Willy J. Hall
E2014-01156-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.

Willy J. Hall (“the Defendant”) appeals the trial court’s revocation of his community corrections sentences and order of incarceration. Although acknowledging that he violated the terms of his community corrections sentences, the Defendant nonetheless contends that it was improper for the trial court to revoke his sentences and order him to serve an effective seven-year sentence in the Department of Correction. Upon review, we affirm the trial court’s revocation of the Defendant’s community corrections sentences.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
Jerry Rommell Gray v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00849-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword


Petitioner, Jerry Rommell Gray, was convicted in Knox County of felony murder, attempted especially aggravated robbery, and attempted aggravated robbery. Trial counsel filed a premature notice of appeal and an untimely motion for new trial. On direct appeal, this Court reviewed Petitioner’s issues, other than sufficiency of the evidence, for plain error. State v. Jerry Rommell Gray, No. E2010-00637-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 2870264, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 13, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 20, 2012). Petitioner’s convictions were affirmed. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief in which he sought a delayed appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel, specifically alleging that trial counsel’s failure to file a timely motion for new trial was presumptively prejudicial. The post-conviction court determined Petitioner was entitled to a delayed appeal but instructed Petitioner that he was not permitted to file an additional motion for new trial. Petitioner appealed to this Court, and we determined that the petition was untimely, reversed the decision of the post-conviction court, and remanded the matter for a hearing on whether due process should toll the statute of limitations. See Jerry Rommell Gray v. State, No. E2014-00849-CCA-R3-PC, 2014 WL 6876184, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 5, 2014), perm. app. granted (Tenn. Apr. 13, 2015). Petitioner filed an application for permission to appeal pursuant to Rule 11. The supreme court granted the application in light of the timeliness of the petition for post-conviction relief and remanded the case to this Court to consider whether the post-conviction court should have allowed Petitioner to file a second motion for a new trial when it granted him a delayed appeal. We determine the trial court improperly prohibited Petitioner from filing a motion for new trial upon grant of the delayed appeal. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is reversed and remanded. On remand, Petitioner is entitled to file a motion for new trial, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-30-113(a)(3).

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Clinton Austin
W2014-01211-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Wright

The Defendant, Clinton Austin, was found guilty by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-504 (2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to ten years’ confinement at 100% service as a violent offender. On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and (2) the trial court erred by admitting the video recording of the victim’s forensic interview. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/15
State of Tennessee v. Ugenio Ruby-Ruiz
M2013-01999-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Defendant, Ugenio Ruby-Ruiz, was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury in a 25-count indictment charging him with five counts of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor; six counts of aggravated sexual battery; ten counts of rape of a child; one count of especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor; two counts of rape; and one count of solicitation of a minor. At the request of the State, the trial court dismissed one count of rape of a child; the solicitation of a minor count; and two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. Defendant was convicted by a jury of the remaining offenses. Following a sentencing hearing, Defendant received a total effective sentence of 121 years. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that: 1) the trial court erred in ordering consecutive sentencing; 2) that Defendant’s sentence is unjustly deserved in relation to the seriousness of the offenses; and 3) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Having reviewed the briefs of the parties and the entire record, we conclude that Defendant has waived review of his convictions for sufficiency of the evidence. We further conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering consecutive sentences. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/15
State of Tennessee v. Julius Wiel Walton
M2014-01337-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

The Defendant-Appellant, Julius Wiel Walton, was convicted by a Robertson County jury of sexual battery for an incident involving his granddaughter.  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to two years to be served on probation.  On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/15
State of Tennessee v. James Cauley
M2014-00973-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

In 2005 Defendant, James Cauley, pled guilty to felony possession of less than 0.5 gram of cocaine, felony evading arrest, possession of contraband in a penal institution, and felony failure to appear.  Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, Defendant received an effective sentence of nine years to be served on probation, and other pending charges were dismissed.  In November 2012, a violation of probation warrant was issued.  Additional amendments to the warrant were issued in January 2013, April 2013, and September 2013.  At a hearing in October 2013, Defendant admitted that he had violated probation as alleged in the warrants.  Defendant asserted he was entitled to jail credit for time he served in a federal prison while he was on state probation.  The matter was continued to allow Defendant the opportunity to file a brief in support of his argument.  Another hearing was held in February 2014, and the trial court ordered the effective sentence to be served by incarceration.  Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by ordering him to serve the entire nine-year sentence at a time when he had less than one year remaining on probation and without giving him credit for the time he spent in federal custody.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/15
State of Tennessee v. Jimmie Lee Reeder
M2013-02538-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Wallace

A Cheatham County Circuit Court Jury convicted the appellant, Jimmy Lee Reeder, of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony.  After a sentencing hearing, he received an effective thirty-five-year sentence to be served at 100%. On appeal, the appellant contends that he was denied his right to an impartial jury, that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct during the State’s case-in-chief and closing arguments, and that the trial court’s decision to exclude any evidence regarding prior allegations of sexual abuse of the victim deprived him of his right to present a defense.  Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/15
State of Tennessee v. Harold Francis Butler
E2014-00631-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole
The defendant, Harold Francis Butler, appeals his Hamilton County 1 Criminal Court jury convictions of felony murder, attempted especially aggravated robbery, attempted first degree murder, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, challenging the trial court’s denial of his pretrial motion to dismiss based upon the failure to collect certain evidence. In addition, the defendant claims the trial court erred by denying the defendant’s request to call certain witnesses, by permitting the State to impeach its witness and to introduce evidence through a prior recorded statement, and by limiting the defendant’s ability to cross examine a witness at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.
 
Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/15
State of Tennessee v. Robert Guerrero
M2014-01669-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, Robert Guerrero, was convicted by a Maury County Circuit Court jury of two counts of first degree murder and nine counts of attempted first degree murder. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-201 (2014), 39-13-202 (2014), 39-12-101 (2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to two consecutive life sentences and to nine consecutive fifteen-year sentences to be served consecutively to the life sentences, for an effective sentence of two life terms plus 135 years. Almost six years later, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct an illegal sentence because his life sentences requiring 100% service of sixty years’ confinement less sentencing credits up to 15% were tantamount to life sentences without the eligibility or possibility of parole. The trial court summarily dismissed the motion for failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in dismissing his motion. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/15
State of Tennessee v. Reese L. Smith
M2014-01196-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Fishburn

Appellant, Reese L. Smith, was convicted of aggravated perjury, and the trial court sentenced him to six years and one month, suspended to eight years of supervised probation.  On appeal, appellant challenges his conviction.  Following our review of the parties’ briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/15
State of Tennessee v. Dusty Ross Binkley
M2014-01173-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Appellant, Dusty Ross Binkley, pleaded guilty to manufacture of methamphetamine and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and received an effective eight-year sentence to be served in community corrections.  His sentence was revoked after he received new charges, and the trial court aligned the original sentence consecutively to the sentences for the new offenses.  Appellant later filed a Motion to Correct Illegal Sentences pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, which the trial court denied after a hearing.  On appeal, he argues that trial court incorrectly aligned his original sentences consecutively to his sentences for his new offenses. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/15