Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/02/2016
Format: 12/02/2016
State of Tennessee v. Rhonda Sowell
W2015-01093-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The defendant, Rhonda Sowell, pled guilty in the Circuit Court for Madison County to driving under the influence (“DUI”) (Count 1), driving under the influence with a with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more (“DUI per se”) (Count 2), second offense DUI (Count 3), and violation of the light law pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-9-402 (Count 4). Prior to pleading guilty, the defendant filed two suppression motions challenging the basis for the initial stop and the evidence collected subsequent to the stop. After the trial court denied both motions, the defendant pled guilty to all charges reserving two certified questions of law concerning the constitutionality of the traffic stop and the evidence obtained as a result. Upon review of the record, we hold that the traffic stop of the defendant was constitutional, supported by both reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's denial of the defendant's suppression motions. However, we remand the case to the trial court for entry of separate judgment forms for each conviction, including those that were merged, in light of our Supreme Court's order in State v. Marquize Berry, No. W2014-00785-SC-R11-CD, slip op. at 5 (Tenn. Nov. 16, 2015) (order granting Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application for appeal).

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/16
Kenneth Lewis v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01249-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The petitioner, Kenneth Lewis, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The petitioner is currently serving a thirty-five-year sentence for second degree murder. On appeal, the petitioner contends that he should have been granted relief because: (1) he was denied his rights to the effective assistance of counsel; (2) the trial court erred in failing to grant his request for a transcript of the jury selection or to allow introduction of notes detailing reasons certain jurors were struck from the panel; and (3) that the law should be changed to allow funding for expert witnesses in non-capital post-conviction cases. Following review of the record, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Antwion Dowdy
W2015-02342-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

The Defendant, Antwion Dowdy, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated murder and four counts of aggravated assault, Class C felonies. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202 (2014), 39-13-102 (2014) (amended 2015). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to concurrent sentences of life imprisonment for first degree murder and five years for each aggravated assault. On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Robert C. Clanton
M2015-02438-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Defendant, Robert Carlyle Clanton, was convicted by a Bedford County jury of ten drug-related offenses for the sale of methamphetamine to a confidential informant.  The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of twenty-three years and six months.  On appeal, Defendant’s sole issue is that the trial court imposed an excessively lengthy sentence.  Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Lizandro Guevara
M2015-01719-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Defendant, Lizandro Guevara, appeals his eight convictions for aggravated sexual battery and four convictions for rape of a child.  He argues that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions.  Because the evidence within the record is sufficient for a rational jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant committed the offenses for which he was convicted, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Devontavious Bryant
E2015-01187-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The Defendant, Devontavious Bryant, along with co-defendant Deacon Williams, was indicted with one count of aggravated rape, one count of aggravated robbery, and one count of aggravated assault. Prior to trial, the State amended the aggravated robbery charge to robbery and dismissed the aggravated assault charge. The Defendant was tried separately from Mr. Williams and convicted of aggravated rape and robbery. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the evidence collected from a warrantless search of his bedroom should have been suppressed; (2) the video recording of the victim's statement given minutes after the offense should have been suppressed under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 403; and (3) there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for aggravated rape because his DNA was not found at the scene. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/16
Lavonta Laver Churchwell v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01567-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth Norman

The Petitioner, Lavonta Laver Churchwell, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of two counts of first degree felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, and two counts of criminally negligent homicide and resulting effective sentence of life in confinement.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Connie Khonsabanh Vongphakdy
M2015-01296-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Appellant, Connie Kohnsabanh Vongphakdy, pled guilty in the Rutherford County Circuit Court to one count of theft $60,000 or more but less than $250,000; four counts of theft of $10,000 or more but less than $60,000; and two counts of theft of $1,000 or more but less than $10,000.  Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Appellant received a total effective sentence of eight years.  After a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied alternative sentencing and ordered the Appellant to pay restitution in the amount of $178,300.  On appeal, the Appellant challenges the trial court’s denial of alternative sentencing.  The State concedes that the trial court did not consider the specific factors in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-103 but contends that the trial court implicitly found that confinement was necessary to avoid depreciating the seriousness of the offense and to serve as a deterrent.  Upon review, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and and remand for resentencing.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Shiema Moniqueke Reid
M2015-00434-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Shiema Moniqueke Reid, of perjury, a Class A misdemeanor, and the trial court sentenced her to eleven months, twenty-nine days to be served on supervised probation.  On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Zakkawanda Zawumba Moss a/k/a Face
M2014-00746-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

A Lincoln County Circuit Court Jury convicted the appellant, Zakkawanda Zawumba Moss, of six counts of first degree premeditated murder, and he received consecutive sentences of life in confinement.  On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions, that the trial court’s refusing to allow the jury to view a child witness’s video-recorded interview denied him of his right to due process, that the trial court improperly admitted the testimony of four witnesses into evidence, that the trial court should have granted his requests for a mistrial, that the trial court improperly admitted photographs into evidence that were overly prejudicial and cumulative, and that the trial court improperly instructed the jury.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we find no reversible error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/16
State of Tennessee v. Kris Theotis Young
E2015-01908-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green
The Defendant, Kris Theotis Young, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of especially aggravated kidnapping, a Class A felony; aggravated robbery, a Class B felony; and aggravated burglary, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-305 (2014) (especially aggravated kidnapping), 39-13-402 (2014) (aggravated robbery), 39-14-403 (2014) (aggravated burglary). In a previous appeal, the supreme court affirmed the aggravated robbery conviction but remanded the case for sentencing on the especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary convictions that the trial court had dismissed. Thereafter, the trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to twenty-two years' confinement for especially aggravated kidnapping and six years' confinement for aggravated burglary, to be served concurrently with each other and with the twelve-year sentence imposed previously for the aggravated robbery conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in sentencing him to twenty-two years for especially aggravated kidnapping. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/16
State of Tennessee v. Ricky Lee Webb
W2016-00088-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The petitioner, Ricky Lee Webb, appeals from the Gibson County Circuit Court's summary dismissal of his petition for writ of certiorari in which he sought relief from his 1983 jury convictions of first degree murder and rape on the basis of alleged erroneous evidentiary rulings. Because no appeal as of right lies from the trial court's ruling in this case, the appeal is dismissed.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/16
State of Tennessee v. Unjolee Tremone Moore
E2015-00942-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

A jury convicted the defendant, Unjolee Tremone Moore, of first degree felony murder; attempted especially aggravated robbery, a Class B felony; attempted second degree murder, a Class B felony; and the employment of a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous offense, a Class C felony. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, the trial court's refusal to dismiss based on the failure of police to collect a co-defendant's telephone, and the trial court's decision to admit the defendant's statement to police into evidence. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the defendant is not entitled to relief, and we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/16
State of Tennessee v. John Armstrong
W2016-00082-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

The petitioner, John Armstrong, appeals the denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. He contends that his effective eighteen-year sentence for attempted first degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony is illegal because the use or employment of a firearm was an essential element of his conviction for attempted first degree murder. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/16
State of Tennessee v. Ericka Alicia Smith
M2016-00286-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Defendant, Ericka Alicia Smith, received a twelve-year sentence to be served on Community Corrections after pleading guilty to attempted aggravated child neglect.  After holding a hearing, the trial court determined that Defendant violated the conditions of her alternative sentence and ordered her to serve the remainder of her sentence in confinement.  On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to impose another alternative sentence.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/16
Antwan M. Cartwright v. State of Tennessee
M2015-02138-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Antwan M. Cartwright (“the Petitioner”) appeals from the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.  The Petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel based upon trial counsel’s failure to timely deliver discovery to the Petitioner and because the Petitioner only met with trial counsel four times during counsel’s two-year representation.  The Petitioner further argues that, but for trial counsel’s inadequate performance, he would not have accepted the State’s plea offer to serve a twenty-five year sentence at 100%.  After a thorough review of the appellate record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Robert Andrew Hawkins
E2015-01542-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The Defendant, Robert Andrew Hawkins, was convicted by a Claiborne County jury of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of aggravated assault. For these offenses, he received an effective sentence of sixteen years' in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial and abused its discretion by imposing consecutive sentences. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Claiborne County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Timothy John McKnight, Jr.
M2015-02306-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Defendant, Timothy John McKnight, Jr., appeals from his conviction of aggravated robbery, arguing that the evidence is insufficient and that the trial court abused its discretion by improperly limiting cross-examination of two witnesses.  After carefully reviewing the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Shenekia M. Parks
M2015-01888-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The defendant, Shenekia M. Parks, was sentenced by the trial court to ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction after pleading guilty to attempted aggravated child neglect. On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court improperly enhanced her sentence for attempted aggravated child neglect, a Class B felony, from the minimum of eight years to ten years. The defendant argues the trial court failed to properly apply the applicable enhancement and mitigating factors to her sentence. The defendant also contends that the trial court erroneously denied her request for alternative sentencing. Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the defendant’s ten-year sentence.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Donald Peden
M2015-01252-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

This case arises from the attempted murder of Latoya Pipkins in September of 2012.  For this offense, the Defendant-Appellant, Donald Peden, was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury for attempted first degree murder in count one, especially aggravated robbery in count two, and theft of property valued at more than five hundred dollars, but less than one thousand dollars, in count three.  Prior to trial, Peden filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence recovered from a vehicle that he and the victim jointly owned.  He also asked the court to exclude photographs of his hands as well as clothing that was taken by investigating officers while he was incarcerated.  Following a trial, the State withdrew count three, and the jury convicted Peden of attempted first degree murder in count one and the lesser-included offense of theft of property in count two.  The trial court sentenced Peden to eleven months and twenty nine days’ incarceration on count two, and after a separate sentencing hearing, sentenced Peden as a Range III career offender to sixty years’ incarceration on count one.  On appeal, Peden argues that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his attempted first degree murder conviction; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motions to suppress evidence seized in violation of his Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights; and (3) improperly sentenced him as a Range III, career offender.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Robert L. Lyle
M2015-00480-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The defendant, Robert L. Lyle, appeals the revocation of his community corrections sentence, claiming that the trial court erred by ordering that he serve a portion of his total effective sentence in confinement.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Cannon County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/16
Timothy W. Sparrow v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00050-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley

The petitioner, Timothy W. Sparrow, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2011 Williamson County Circuit Court jury convictions of second degree murder, attempted first degree murder, and attempted aggravated robbery.  In this appeal, he claims that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel at trial.  Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/16
State of Tennessee v. Xavier Tull-Morales
M2015-01368-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

The Davidson County Grand Jury returned an indictment against the Defendant-Appellant, Xavier Tull-Morales, and his two codefendants, Alberto Conde-Valentino and Rodney Earl Jones, charging them with one count of first degree felony murder and one count of especially aggravated robbery.  Conde-Valentino filed a motion to sever the defendants’ cases, which Tull-Morales joined, and the trial court denied the motion.  Following a jury trial, Tull-Morales, along with his codefendants, were found guilty of the charged offenses of felony murder and especially aggravated robbery, and he received concurrent sentences of life imprisonment and fifteen years, respectively.  On appeal, Tull-Morales argues:  (1) the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to sever his case from that of his codefendants; (2) the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that accomplice testimony and/or co-conspirator testimony must be corroborated; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/16
John Gray v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01921-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The petitioner entered pleas of nolo contendere to aggravated robbery, robbery, and fraudulent use of a credit card for which he received an effective sentence of twelve years. He filed the instant post-conviction petition, and following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the petitioner contends his guilty plea was not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered due to ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/16
State of Tennessee v. Michael Frazier
W2015-01537-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The defendant, Michael Frazier, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of especially aggravated kidnapping, a Class A felony; aggravated robbery, a Class B felony; and carrying a weapon with the intent to go armed, a Class A misdemeanor. He was sentenced by the trial court to an effective term of thirty-seven years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days in the Department of Correction. The sole issue he raises on appeal is whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain his especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery convictions. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/16