Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/26/2016
Format: 09/26/2016
State of Tennessee v. Aaron Reinsburg
W2014-02436-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Defendant, Aaron Reinsberg, was convicted by a Shelby County Jury of two counts of rape (Counts 1 and 2), one count of assault (Count 3), and two counts of official misconduct (Counts 4 and 5). At the sentencing hearing, the trial court merged Counts 2 and 3 into Count 1, and Count 5 was merged into Count 4. The trial court imposed a sentence of eleven years for rape in Count 1 and one year for official misconduct in Count 4 to be served concurrently for an effective sentence of eleven years. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was not sufficient to support his rape convictions and that the trial court erred in sentencing him to eleven years. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Kevin E. Trent
E2015-00753-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge John McAfee

The defendant, Kevin E. Trent, appeals the trial court's denial of his request for alternative sentencing. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the defendant pled guilty to vehicular homicide by intoxication, a Class B felony. The agreement specified an eight-year sentence with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the court ordered that the sentence be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant argues that the decision was error because the trial court incorrectly concluded that confinement was necessary to avoid depreciating the seriousness of the offense. Following review of the record and the evidence before us, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion in requiring full confinement and reverse the sentence consistent with this opinion.

Claiborne County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Jason Gonzalez
E2015-01107-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

In this appeal as of right by the State, the State challenges the ruling of the trial court dismissing the case. Because no document in the record qualifies as a valid arrest warrant and no other event occurred to timely commence the prosecution in this case, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
James Thomas v. Randy Lee, Warden
E2015-02427-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stacy L. Street

The Petitioner, James Thomas, filed a petition in the Johnson County Criminal Court seeking habeas corpus relief from his aggravated assault conviction, alleging that his conviction was void because the affidavit of complaint attached to his arrest warrant was not signed. The habeas corpus court denied relief without a hearing, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
State of Tennessee v. David Leo Pipes
W2015-02073-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

The defendant, David Leo Pipes, was indicted for theft of property valued over $1000 but less than $10,000. After trial, a jury found the defendant guilty. The trial court subsequently held a sentencing hearing and imposed a six year sentence with a thirty-five percent release classification to be served as a Range II, multiple offender. After the denial of his motion for a new trial, the defendant filed this timely appeal. On appeal, the defendant argues there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction, and the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hardin County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
Curtis Stanton v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01479-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The petitioner, Curtis Stanton, 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.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Patrick Wayne Evans
M2015-00897-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

The Defendant, Patrick Wayne Evans, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide by impairment, a Class B felony, with an agreed sentence length of eight years.  After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that the Defendant serve his eight year sentence in confinement.  The Defendant appeals, asserting that the trial court: (1) erroneously relied upon enhancement factors that are not applicable to the Defendant’s offense; (2) erroneously admitted improper evidence at the sentencing hearing; (3) failed to properly consider mitigating factors; (4) erroneously found the Defendant had no potential for rehabilitation; and (5) failed to comply with the purposes and principles of sentencing when it denied a sentence of “split confinement.”  After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we reverse and remand to the trial court for re-sentencing.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Carmelo Gonzalez-Fonesca
M2015-01322-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

This is Defendant’s, Carmelo Gonzalez-Fonesca’s, direct appeal from his convictions by a jury of one count of possession of 150 grams or more of heroin with the intent to sell or distribute and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia with the intent to prepare and package a controlled substance.  As a result, he was sentenced to an effective sentence of fifteen years in incarceration as a Range I, standard offender.  Defendant appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, the expert testimony of Sergeant Gene Donegan, and the chain of custody with respect to the evidence.  After a review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/16
Brent Richardson v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01533-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

A Madison County jury convicted the Petitioner, Brent Richardson, of first degree felony murder, second degree murder, carjacking, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, and aggravated kidnapping. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to serve an effective life sentence plus forty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, this Court affirmed the judgments. State v. Brent Richardson, W2009-00778-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 2473299 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, June 17, 2010), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 10, 2010). The Petitioner filed an untimely petition seeking post-conviction relief on June 19, 2012, alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing regarding whether the Petitioner’s petition was untimely filed, the post-conviction court dismissed the petition as time-barred. We affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/16
State of Tennessee v. Preston J. Chapman
E2015-01232-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The appellant, Preston J. Chapman, pled guilty in the Sullivan County Criminal Court to felony possession of marijuana, third offense, and felony possession of a Schedule II controlled substance and received an effective two-year sentence. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking probation for his failure to pay fines and costs when the evidence shows that he had no ability to pay and for his committing domestic assault. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/16
State of Tennessee v. Ronnie Ingram
W2015-01527-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The defendant, Ronnie Ingram, appeals his sentencing by the Shelby County Criminal Court to twelve years as a career offender for attempted criminal exposure to human immunodeficiency virus (“HIV”), which was imposed upon remand after this court reduced his original conviction of criminal exposure to HIV, a Class C felony, to attempted criminal exposure to HIV, a Class D felony. The defendant argues that the trial court erred by relying on facts from the original sentencing hearing in determining that he was a career offender. Following our review, we affirm the sentencing imposed by the trial court and remand for entry of a corrected judgment to reflect the defendant's conviction offense, which was omitted.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/16
State of Tennessee v. Sharris Nicole Thompson
M2015-02014-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

The appellant, Sharris Nicole Thompson, pled guilty in the Lawrence County Circuit Court to theft of property valued $1,000 or more but less than $10,000; misappropriation of rental property valued $1,000 or more but less than $10,000; three counts of theft of property valued $500 or less; and one count of misappropriation of rental property valued $500 or less and ultimately received an effective four-year sentence to be served on probation.  Subsequently, the trial court revoked probation and ordered that the appellant serve her effective sentence in confinement.  On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by denying her request for alternative sentencing.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/16
Darrell Johnson v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02339-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn I. Wright

A Shelby County jury found the Petitioner, Darrell Johnson, guilty of three counts of facilitation of attempted aggravated robbery and two counts of facilitation of aggravated burglary. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner as a Career Offender and imposed a total effective sentence of twenty-four years of incarceration. This Court affirmed the Petitioner's convictions and sentence. State v. Darrell Johnson, No. W2012-01467-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 5522220, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Oct. 3, 2013), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Feb. 12, 2014). The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred when it denied his petition. He contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court's judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Charles Bradley Mims
W2015-02072-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

A Chester County jury convicted the Defendant of theft of property valued over $500, and the trial court sentenced him as a Career Offender to six years of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence presented at trial is insufficient to sustain his conviction and that the trial court erred when it sentenced him. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

Chester County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/16
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 contends that: (1) the evidence is 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 conclude that aggravated sexual battery is not a lesser-included offense of rape of a child. State v. John J. Ortega, Jr., No. M2014-01042-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 1870095, at *10 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Apr. 23, 2015), no perm. app. filed. As such, the trial court erred when it instructed the jury. The Defendant's conviction for aggravated sexual battery is vacated. His conviction and sentence for rape of a child is affirmed.

Benton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/16
State of Tennessee v. William Henry Albright, Jr.
W2015-02159-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant, William Henry Albright, Jr., pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and theft over $1,000, and the trial court imposed an agreed-upon sentence of ten years for the aggravated burglary conviction and eight years for the theft conviction, concurrent, to be served on supervised probation. In 2015, the trial court issued a probation violation warrant and, after a hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant's probation and ordered that the Defendant serve his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to serve his sentence in incarceration. After review, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/16
Timothy Jermaine Cox v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02329-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn L. Peeples

In 2013 the Petitioner, Timothy Jermaine Cox, entered a best interest plea to aggravated sexual battery and violation of the sex offender registry. By agreement, the trial court sentenced the Petitioner to ten years, to be served at 100%, with a concurrent sentence of two years for violating the sex offender registry, to be served at 35%. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that the post-conviction court erred when it denied his petition because he received the ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court's judgment.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/16
Samuel W. Hirsch v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02127-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John F. Dugger, Jr.

Samuel W. Hirsh (“the Petitioner”) entered a best interest plea to first degree felony murder and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. He then filed a timely pro se Petition for Post-Conviction Relief alleging numerous grounds. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief and dismissed the petition. On appeal the Petitioner claims that (1) counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress the Petitioner's statements and (2) “[the] conviction was based upon a coerced [p]lea [a]greement predicated upon an innate fear of receiving the [d]eath [p]enalty.” Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Paul Samuel Eslinger
E2015-02126-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance

Paul Samuel Eslinger, the Defendant, pleaded guilty to two counts of sale of a Schedule II controlled substance, both Class C felonies, and one count of sale of a Schedule I controlled substance, a Class B felony, and was sentenced pursuant to a plea agreement to three thirty-year concurrent sentences. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred when it did not allow him to withdraw his guilty pleas. Upon review, we conclude that the Defendant's negotiated sentences were illegal and the trial court exceeded its jurisdiction when it accepted the negotiated sentences as part of the plea agreement. Therefore, the trial court should have allowed him to withdraw his guilty pleas. The judgments of the trial court are reversed, and the case is remanded.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/16
Steven Q. Stanford v. State of Tennessee
E2015-00630-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The Petitioner, Steven Q. Stanford, appeals the Campbell County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2010 convictions for initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine and for misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and from his effective fifteen-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because (1) counsel failed to file a motion to suppress evidence obtained during a search of the Petitioner’s mother’s property and (2) counsel failed to explain two plea offers adequately. Although we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court, we remand for the entry of a corrected judgment relative to the initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine conviction.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Antonio McMiller
E2015-01597-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.

The defendant, Antonio McMiller, appeals his Sullivan County Criminal Court jury convictions of the sale and delivery of cocaine within a drug-free zone, claiming that the trial court erred by permitting him to proceed pro se, that the trial court violated his constitutional right to be present at trial, that the trial court erred by denying his right to counsel of choice, that he was deprived of the right to a fair and impartial jury, that the trial court erred by failing to give certain jury instructions, that the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to support his convictions, that the trial judge's rulings evinced judicial bias requiring recusal, and that the sentence imposed was excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/18/16
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Roy McGill
M2015-01929-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

Defendant, Christopher Roy McGill, received an eight-year sentence on community corrections and was placed into a drug court treatment program.  A violation warrant was filed alleging that Defendant brought drugs into the treatment program.  After a hearing, the trial court revoked Defendant’s community corrections sentence after finding that Defendant failed to report other residents bringing drugs into the treatment program.  On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court improperly admitted hearsay testimony, that the evidence was insufficient to support the trial court’s finding that Defendant violated the terms of his community corrections sentence, and that the trial judge should have recused himself because he was also a member of Defendant’s drug court team.  Upon our review of the record, we hold that the trial court erred by admitting hearsay testimony without a finding of good cause or reliability, that the trial court erred in revoking Defendant’s community corrections sentence on a ground of which Defendant had no notice and for which there was a lack of evidence in the record, but that the trial court did not err in failing to recuse itself.  We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the matter for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/18/16
Melvin James Branham v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00157-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance

The Petitioner, Melvin James Branham, appeals the Sevier County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2012 conviction for robbery and his fifteen-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/15/16
State of Tennessee v. Lorenzo Brown
W2015-01916-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Wright

The defendant, Lorenzo Brown, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of attempted voluntary manslaughter, possession of a firearm during the attempted commission of a dangerous felony, and aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced him to four years for the attempted voluntary manslaughter conviction, three years for the firearm conviction, and five years for the aggravated assault conviction, with the four- and three-year sentences to be served consecutively and the five-year sentence concurrently, for an effective sentence of seven years, in the county workhouse. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his attempted voluntary manslaughter and firearm convictions. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/15/16
State of Tennessee v. Danielle Rush
W2015-01980-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The defendant, Danielle Rush, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of two counts of attempted second degree murder, three counts of aggravated assault, two counts of reckless endangerment, and vandalism over $1000. The trial court merged two of the aggravated assault convictions and sentenced the defendant to an effective term of eleven years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/15/16