Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 06/22/2018
Format: 06/22/2018
State of Tennessee v. Walter Andrew Ware
W2017-01350-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

Nearly nine years ago, Defendant, Walter Andrew Ware, committed aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect and aggravated child endangerment on his two-month-old infant daughter. He was sentenced to a sixteen year sentence, to be served at 100%. Defendant now appeals from the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/18
State of Tennessee v. Brent Garrett Lambert
W2017-01873-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Defendant, Brent Garrett Lambert, entered an open guilty plea to one count of facilitation of robbery. The trial court sentenced Defendant to a period of four years on judicial diversion. A violation of probation warrant was issued, alleging various grounds for the revocation of probation. After a hearing, Defendant was removed from judicial diversion. The trial court imposed a sentence of four years in incarceration, denying an alternative sentence. Defendant appeals to this Court, arguing that the trial court improperly ordered him to serve his sentence of four years in incarceration. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/18
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth Chandler
W2015-01945-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

A Shelby County jury convicted Kenneth Chandler, the Defendant, of aggravated robbery. He received a sentence of eleven years in the Department of Correction. After filing a notice of appeal with this court, the Defendant filed a motion requesting that the court stay his direct appeal so that he might seek coram nobis relief. This court granted the Defendant’s motion to stay his direct appeal, and the Defendant filed a petition for writ of error nobis relief in the trial court. Following a hearing, the coram nobis court found that statements from the Defendant’s fellow inmates were newly discovered evidence but that the evidence was not admissible as substantive evidence at trial and denied relief. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the evidence was insufficient for a rational juror to have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court abused its discretion by failing to properly act as the thirteenth juror; and (3) the coram nobis court erred in denying his error coram nobis petition. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/18
Antonio Crenshaw v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00940-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Antonio Crenshaw (“the Petitioner”) appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief from his conviction of robbery, for which he was sentenced to fifteen years’ incarceration. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel during trial. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/18
James Chronicles Cobb v. State of Tennessee
W2017-01828-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Petitioner, James Chronicles Cobb, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary. After a review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we determine Petitioner has failed to establish that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and Petitioner’s guilty plea was knowingly and voluntarily entered. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/12/18
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth Fleming
W2016-01017-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant, Kenneth Fleming, appeals as of right from his convictions for two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of evading arrest. The Defendant argues that the trial court erred: (1) by giving an improper jury instruction and allowing the case to be presented to the jury when there was insufficient proof to establish venue and jurisdiction; (2) by failing to give a jury instruction on lost or destroyed evidence; (3) by allowing the State to enter a silver handgun and blue toboggan into evidence; (4) by not providing a curative instruction when a witness testified as to other crimes similar to the crime in this case; (5) by allowing the State to make improper comments during closing arguments and by giving an improper curative instruction to the jury; and (6) by sentencing the Defendant partially consecutively. Following our review, the judgments are affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/12/18
State of Tennessee v. Susan Marie Taylor
M2017-01526-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The defendant, Susan Marie Taylor, appeals the order of the trial court revoking her probation and ordering her to serve her original four-year sentence in confinement. Upon review of the record, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the defendant violated the terms of her probation and the imposed sentence is proper. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/12/18
State of Tennessee v. Andre Brown
W2017-00770-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Defendant, Andre Brown, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of two counts of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, and domestic assault and was sentenced by the trial court as a Range I, standard offender to an effective term of thirty years at 100% in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and argues that the trial court erred by enhancing his sentences and ordering consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/18
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth O. Williams
W2017-01623-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Defendant, Kenneth O. Williams, entered a guilty plea to second degree murder and was sentenced to thirty years in prison. The Defendant filed a motion to correct his sentence under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, asserting that the trial court was without jurisdiction to sentence him as a Range II, multiple offender or to enhance his sentence above the minimum in the sentencing range. The trial court denied the motion for failure to state a colorable claim, and the Defendant appeals. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the Defendant has not articulated a colorable claim that his sentence is illegal, and we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/18
State of Tennessee v. Danyelle McCullough
W2016-01942-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

Defendant, Danyelle McCullough, was charged with one count of theft over $1,000 and one count of forgery over $1,000 in an indictment returned by the Shelby County Grand Jury. Following a jury trial, she was found guilty as charged. The trial court sentenced Defendant to concurrent sentences of four years for each count to be served in confinement. In this appeal, Defendant’s sole issue is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support the convictions. After a thorough review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/09/18
Vern Braswell v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00912-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Petitioner, Vern Braswell, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his conviction for second degree murder and his twenty-four-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and that the State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing to provide the defense with statements of witnesses, items recovered from the Petitioner’s home, and the contents of a sealed envelope that was discovered during the pendency of post-conviction proceedings. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/09/18
State of Tennessee v. Shane T. Usrey
M20917-01563-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gary McKenzie

Shane T. Usrey, the Defendant, pled guilty to theft of property over the value of $500 in case numbers CR6120, CR6493, and CR7510. In 2017, the Defendant was arrested for violating the terms of his probation by committing domestic assault and aggravated assault. After a hearing, the trial court fully revoked the Defendant’s probation in all three cases and imposed the original sentences. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the trial court should not have placed any probative value on the victim’s testimony because she was intoxicated at the time of the offenses; and (2) the evidence was insufficient for the trial court to have found that the Defendant violated his probation. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

White County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/09/18
Steven Tyler Nabi v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00041-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

Petitioner, Steven Tyler Nabi, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, Petitioner contends that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to adequately prepare for trial, failing to properly cross-examine the State’s witnesses at trial, and failing to pursue the issues of the State’s lack of DNA evidence and defense of a third party. Petitioner entered guilty pleas following the State’s presentation of its evidence at trial. Petitioner contends that his guilty pleas were unknowingly and involuntarily entered because he was under the influence of marijuana at the time of the plea acceptance hearing, the trial court failed to properly advise him under Rule 11 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, and Petitioner did not understand that his sentence would be served at 85 percent. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand this case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/09/18
State of Tennessee v. Dale Merritt
E2017-01200-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Defendant, Dale Merritt, was convicted by a Knox County jury of one count of delivery of less than fifteen grams of a Schedule I controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a park and one count of delivery of less than fifteen grams of a Schedule I controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a child care agency. The trial court merged the convictions and sentenced the Defendant to seventeen years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. After review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Marcellus Woods
W2016-01527-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

The Defendant, Marcellus Woods, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to eight years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in allowing testimony under Rule 404(b) of the Tennessee Rules of Evidence concerning his involvement in an attempted robbery of one business and his suspicious activities near another business. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Marcus S. Akins
W2017-01538-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore

The Defendant, Marcus S. Akins, appeals as of right from the Dyer County Circuit Court’s revocation of his probation and order of incarceration for the remainder of his three-year sentence. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering execution of his sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
Sheddrick Harris v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00904-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Petitioner, Sheddrick Harris, appeals from the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury convictions for first degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202(a)(2), - 403. In this appeal as of right, the Petitioner raises the following ineffective assistance of counsel claims: (1) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to inform the Petitioner that he had a constitutional right to a trial before a different judge than the one who signed the search warrant for the Petitioner’s automobile; (2) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to seek recusal of the trial judge because the trial judge had an ex parte communication with a head deputy that led to enhanced courtroom security procedures, evincing the trial judge’s bias against the Petitioner, and because the trial judge was the same judge who issued the search warrant; (3) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the warrantless search of the Petitioner’s vehicle, failing to challenge the search warrant by requesting a Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978) hearing, and failing to challenge the Petitioner’s illegal detention effectuated without probable cause and without an arrest warrant and solely for the purpose of gathering additional evidence against the Petitioner; and (4) that trial counsel failed to adequately impeach an attorney witness who was facing disciplinary action by the Board of Professional Responsibility at the time of the Petitioner’s trial. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Andrew Young Kim
W2017-00186-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Andrew Young Kim, pled guilty to six counts of burglary, seven counts of theft of property in varying amounts, and one count of vandalism. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of fourteen years’ incarceration. In this direct appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court improperly sentenced him to continuous confinement for a non-violent property offense and erred in setting the length of his sentences, in denying all forms of alternative sentencing, and in imposing partially consecutive sentences. Upon a thorough review of the record below and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s order as to the length of the Defendant’s sentences, the denial of any alternative sentence, and the partial consecutive sentence alignment, but reverse the trial court’s order of continuous confinement for the Defendant’s Class E felony conviction for theft of property (Count 14), an enumerated non-violent property offense in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-122(c)(11). Upon our de novo review of Count 14, we order that the Defendant’s two-year sentence on that count be served on supervised probation with the imposition of $1000 fine. Moreover, for reasons stated herein, Counts 7 through 10 are remanded for correction of clerical errors in the judgment forms. In all other respects, the judgments are affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Chastity Coleman
M2017-00264-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, Chastity Coleman, entered into a plea agreement with the State with an agreed-upon sentence. During the plea colloquy, the trial court invited and met with the Defendant outside the presence of the prosecutor and trial counsel after which the court decided to reduce the Defendant’s period of incarceration. The State appeals. We conclude that we have jurisdiction to review the trial court’s judgments under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3. We further conclude that the trial court committed three errors that each independently require reversal: (1) the trial court acted improperly by engaging in ex parte communication with the Defendant; (2) the trial court erred in failing to rule on the State’s motion to recuse while continuing to hear matters involving this case; and (3) the trial court lacked the authority to unilaterally modify the plea agreement. Because the trial judge has predetermined the sentence to be imposed, we remove the trial judge from further consideration of this case. We vacate the judgments and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. David Smith, Jr.
M2017-00902-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Appellant, David Smith, Jr., pled guilty in the Davidson County Criminal Court to robbery with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of the sentence. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that he serve four years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his request for judicial diversion or probation. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Marcus K. Williams and Corey Zimberlist Rutland, Jr.
M2017-00509-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Defendants, Marcus K. Williams and Corey Zimberlist Rutland, Jr., were indicted for aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. Defendant Williams was also indicted for aggravated burglary. After a jury trial, Defendants Williams and Rutland were convicted of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault, and Defendant Williams was convicted of aggravated burglary. At a sentencing hearing, Defendants Williams and Rutland received identical sentences of eleven years for aggravated robbery and five years for aggravated assault. Defendant Williams received a five year sentence for aggravated burglary. On appeal, Defendant Williams challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for his aggravated robbery charge. Defendant Rutland argues that the trial court improperly excluded the content of a phone call between Defendant Rutland and Defendant Williams, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions under a theory of criminal responsibility, and that his sentence is disproportionate and excessive. Finding that the only error by the trial court was harmless, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
State of Tennessee v. James Williams
W2017-01117-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter Jr.

The Defendant, James Williams, was convicted by a jury of one count of driving under the influence (DUI) per se, one count of DUI, and one count of reckless driving. The trial court merged the DUI per se conviction with the DUI conviction and imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served in the county workhouse. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress, which challenged “the legality of the traffic stop” resulting in the Defendant’s arrest. Following our review, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
State of Tennessee v. Michael Edward Roberts
W2017-00395-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey W. Parham

The Defendant, Michael Edward Roberts, was indicted on one count of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; one count of aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony; seven counts of rape, a Class B felony; and one count of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-102, -13-304, -13-503, -14-403. The State ultimately dismissed five of the rape charges. Following a bench trial, the trial court convicted the Defendant of aggravated assault and the lesser-included offenses of aggravated criminal trespass of a habitation, a Class A misdemeanor, and two counts of assault, a Class B misdemeanor. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-301(a)(3), -14-406. The trial court acquitted the Defendant of the aggravated kidnapping charge. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of three years to be served on supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions and (2) that the trial court erred in admitting fresh complaint evidence. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
Wendell Guinn v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02152-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Petitioner, Wendell Guinn, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends (1) that his constitutional rights were violated by prosecutorial misconduct during the jury voir dire and the State’s closing arguments; (2) that the trial court committed several errors in the jury instructions; and (3) that he received ineffective assistance from his trial and appellate counsel. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
State of Tennessee v. Leroy Collins
W2016-01685-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

Defendant, Leroy Collins, pled guilty to three counts of reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony, and one count of Class C felony reckless endangerment, all committed during one criminal episode. The offenses involved Defendant shooting three people and shooting into a house occupied by two other people. Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement with the State, the sentence for each conviction of reckless aggravated assault is the minimum sentence of two years, and the sentence for the reckless endangerment conviction is the minimum sentence of three years. The State further agreed that the sentences would be served concurrently with each other, for an effective sentence of three years for four felony convictions committed with a handgun involving three victims being shot. However, the State opposed Defendant’s request for judicial diversion or probation for the effective three-year sentence. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court denied both requests for alternative sentencing and ordered Defendant to serve the entire sentence by incarceration. Defendant appeals from the trial court’s ruling. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18