Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 01/17/2018
Format: 01/17/2018
State of Tennessee v. Clarence Eric Norris
M2016-02111-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn
The Defendant, Clarence Eric Norris, appeals the trial court’s ordering him to serve the remainder of his eight-year sentence in confinement after finding that he violated the terms of his community corrections sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/28/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher King Knight
W2016-00673-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

A Hardin County jury convicted the Defendant, Christopher Knight, of second degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to twenty-two years in confinement. In this appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court failed to excuse a juror for cause when the juror had extrajudicial information about the Defendant; (2) the trial court failed to perform its role as the thirteenth juror; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Hardin County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/28/17
Curtis Wren v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00500-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Petitioner, Curtis Wren, filed a petition for post-conviction relief and a motion to correct an illegal sentence. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the pleading, finding that the petition for post-conviction relief was untimely, that the petition failed to allege a sufficient factual basis for a motion to reopen prior post-conviction proceedings, and that the petition failed to state a colorable claim of an illegal sentence. On appeal, Petitioner only challenges the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. Upon our review of the record, we determine that this is Petitioner’s second such petition and that dismissal was proper on that ground. Thus, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/28/17
In Re Billy T.W. et al.
E2016-02298-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Henry E. Sledge

In this parental termination action, we conclude that the trial court properly found clear and convincing evidence to terminate the rights of the mother and father on the grounds of failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan, and persistence of conditions. We conclude that the trial court erred in terminating the father’s rights on the ground of willful failure to visit. Clear and convincing evidence supports the trial court’s determination that termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the children.

Loudon County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/27/17
Claudale Renaldo Armstrong v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02539-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin Lee Russell
The Petitioner, Claudale Renaldo Armstrong, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his conviction for the sale of 0.5 grams or more of a Schedule II Controlled Substance, his conviction for the sale of less than 0.5 grams of a Schedule II Controlled Substance, and his effective sentence of twenty-six years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to file a motion seeking recusal of the trial judge after the Petitioner filed a federal lawsuit and complaints with the Board of Professional Responsibility and the Board of Judicial Conduct against the judge. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.
 
Franklin County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/27/17
Ronald Christopher Hayes v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01094-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane
In 2010, the Petitioner entered a “best interest” plea to second degree murder and was sentenced to a term of twenty-five years. On April 5, 2016, the Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, alleging that newly discovered evidence exists. On May 5, 2016, the trial court issued an order denying the petition as time-barred. The Petitioner appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by failing to toll the statute of limitations. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.
 
Jackson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Christian Devon McDuffie
M2017-00103-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers and Judge John H. Gasaway, III
The Defendant, Christian Devon McDuffie, was found guilty by a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury of three counts of aggravated child abuse, a Class A felony. See T.C.A. §39-15-402 (2014) (amended 2016). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to concurrent terms of fifteen years for each conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 
Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/17
State of Tennessee v. Michael Donald Spray
M2016-00879-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.
Following a bench trial, the Defendant, Michael Donald Spray, a former dispatcher for the Bedford County Sheriff’s Department, was convicted in the Bedford County Circuit Court of eight counts of sexual exploitation of a minor involving over 100 images, a Class B felony, and two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor involving over 50 images, a Class C felony, and was sentenced to an effective term of sixteen years in the Department of Correction. The sole issue the Defendant raises on appeal is whether the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the images on the basis they were discovered as a result of an illegal, warrantless search by a fellow employee of the sheriff’s department. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 
Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/17
State of Tennessee v. William "Bill" Douglas Farr, Sr.
M2016-01216-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, William “Bill” Douglas Farr, Sr., was convicted by a Lawrence County Circuit Court jury of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and was sentenced to forty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument by vouching for the credibility of a witness and repeatedly referring to the Defendant as a “monster”; (2) the trial court erred in failing to give specific unanimity and election of offenses jury instructions; (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; and (4) the trial court applied the incorrect law in determining his sentence. After review, we affirm the Defendant’s conviction but modify his sentence to twenty-five years and remand for entry of an amended judgment.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/17
Billy Dean Sizemore v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02531-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson
The Petitioner, Billy Dean Sizemore, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The State concedes that the post-conviction court erred in summarily dismissing the petition. Following our review, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand for an evidentiary hearing.
 
Lewis County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/17
State of Tennessee v. Barry Wayne Gossage
M2016-02264-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley
The Defendant, Barry Wayne Gossage, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation and reinstatement of his original sentence in confinement. On appeal, he argues that he should have been sentenced to a new term of community corrections or probation. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/17
State of Tennessee v. Charlotte Lynn Frazier and Andrea Parks
M2016-02134-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Burch

The Defendants, Charlotte Lynn Frazier and Andrea Parks, along with ninety-five other co-defendants, were charged through a presentment with conspiracy to manufacture, sell, or deliver 300 grams or more of methamphetamine with at least one defendant having committed an overt act within 1,000 feet of a school, park, library, recreation center, or child care facility.  The Defendants each filed a motion to suppress evidence seized during the execution of search warrants at their homes.  The Defendants alleged that the magistrate, a circuit court judge, lacked the authority to issue the search warrants because the Defendants’ homes were located outside the magistrate’s judicial district.  The trial court granted the Defendants’ motions.  The State sought and was granted permission to appeal in both cases pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 9, and this court consolidated the appeals.  We hold that the magistrate did not have the authority to issue search warrants for property located outside his judicial district and that, as a result, the searches of the Defendants’ homes were unconstitutional.  Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s orders granting the Defendants’ motions to suppress and remand the cause to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.  

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Sharon Daugherty
M2016-02552-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody Kane

The Appellant, Sharon Daugherty, appeals the Macon County Criminal Court’s order denying her motion to recover firearms confiscated during a search of her home.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that she is entitled to the return of the property because the State dismissed the criminal charges against her.  Because the Appellant has no appeal as of right from the denial of a motion to recover confiscated property, we dismiss the appeal.  

Macon County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Glenn Black
M2016-02584-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

A Montgomery County jury convicted the Defendant, Joshua Glenn Black, of first degree premeditated murder, felony murder, and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping.  The trial court imposed an effective sentence of life imprisonment.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in allowing a trial exhibit, the front door from the victim’s apartment, to remain in the courtroom for a period of time during the trial and (2) the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments.  Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.  

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/25/17
Dominique Dantwan Simons v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00165-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R.Goodman III
Dominique Dantwan Simons (“the Petitioner”) appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief arguing that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in advising him concerning his guilty plea and therefore the plea was not knowing and voluntary. Discerning no error, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.
Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/25/17
Michael Lynn Poston v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01693-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wooten, Jr.
The Petitioner, Michael Lynn Poston, appeals from the White County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction for aggravated sexual battery, for which he is serving an eleven-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying his ineffective assistance of counsel claim, that the court applied an erroneous legal standard to the ineffective assistance of counsel claim, and that the trial judge engaged in improper ex parte communication with the jury during its deliberations. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
 
White County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/22/17
State of Tennessee v. David Hopkins
E2016-02192-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: E2016-02192-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Appellant, David Hopkins, appeals his conviction for first degree felony murder, arguing that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction and that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering consecutive sentencing. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/22/17
State of Tennessee v. David Black
W2016-02478-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula Skahan

The defendant, David Black, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of attempted rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery, claiming that the trial court erred by improperly admitting certain evidence and that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/17
State of Tennessee v. John David Altenhoff
M2017-00052-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

John David Altenhoff, the Defendant, pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and agreed to an eight-year sentence with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court.  After finding that the Defendant had an extensive history of criminal behavior, that society needed to be protected from the Defendant, and that measures less than incarceration had unsuccessfully been applied to the Defendant, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying an alternative sentence.  After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

Sequatchie County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/17
Gabriel C. Torres v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02361-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R.Goodman III

The State appeals after the post-conviction court granted Petitioner, Gabriel C. Torres, post-conviction relief in the form of a new trial.  Because the proper remedy was the grant of a delayed appeal, we reverse and remand the judgment of the post-conviction court.  

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/17
State of Tennessee v. Savannah Humphrey
M2016-02183-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R.Goodman III

Defendant, Savannah Humphrey, was convicted of one count of aggravated child abuse and one count of aggravated child neglect for injuries sustained by the three-month-old victim while in Defendant’s care.  On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and argues that the trial court erred in denying her motion for judgment of acquittal.  Based upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/17
State of Tennessee v. Mario Patterson
W2016-02080-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Mario Patterson, of first degree felony murder, and the trial court imposed a mandatory life sentence. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the State failed to prove that he intended to commit a robbery and, therefore, he was improperly convicted of first degree felony murder. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/18/17
John Moffitt v. State of Tennessee
W2017-02487-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

A jury convicted the Petitioner, John Moffitt, of reckless aggravated assault, and the trial court sentenced him to four years of incarceration. The Petitioner appealed, and this court affirmed his conviction and sentence. State v. John Moffitt, No. W2014-02388-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 369379, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Jan. 29, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. June 24, 2016). The Petitioner filed a petition for postconviction relief, alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition. On appeal, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Henry Lee Jones
W2015-02210-CCA-R3-DD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

Defendant, Henry Lee Jones, was convicted of two counts of premeditated first degree murder and two counts of felony murder for his role in the 2003 murders of two Shelby County citizens. The jury sentenced Defendant to death for each murder. Defendant now appeals from these convictions and sentences. Defendant argues that the trial court erred by allowing Defendant to represent himself and committed other errors with regard to the provision of elbow counsel; the trial court erred by declaring a witness unavailable and allowing testimony from that witness regarding a prior bad act; the trial court erred by admitting photographs of the victims’ bodies and wounds; the State utilized improper closing argument; the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions; the trial court erred in denying Defendant a mitigation expert or investigator in preparation for sentencing; and the death sentence is arbitrary and disproportionate. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm Defendant’s convictions and sentences of death.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth Darrin Fisher
E2016-01333-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

The Defendant, Kenneth Darrin Fisher, was convicted by an Anderson County Circuit Court jury of attempted first degree murder, a Class A felony, for which he is serving an eighteen-year sentence as a Range I, standard offender. See T.C.A. §§ 39-12-101 (2014) (criminal attempt), 39-13-202 (2014) (first degree murder). On appeal, he contends that (1) the indictment is deficient, (2) the evidence is insufficient because the State failed to prove the offense occurred before the return of the indictment, (3) the trial court erred in failing to require the State to provide an election of the offense, and (4) the trial court erred in admitting testimony of a law enforcement officer regarding what the officer thought the Defendant would have done if the Defendant had not been stopped by the police. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/15/17