Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/14/2018
Format: 12/14/2018
State of Tennessee v. Ariana Tarience Harris
W2017-02302-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Defendant, Ariana Tarience Harris, appeals the trial court’s revocation of her probation, arguing that the court should have imposed an alternative sentence rather than ordering her to serve the balance of her original sentence incarcerated, and therefore abused its discretion. After thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Timerell Nelson
W2017-02279-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

On August 25 and 26, 2017, the Defendant, Timerell Nelson, was convicted of especially aggravated robbery, attempted second degree murder, and employment of a firearm during the commission of criminal attempt second degree murder. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of 16 years and the Defendant now argues on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his especially aggravated robbery conviction because the victim did not suffer serious bodily injury. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-401(a). After thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Ronald Ellis
W2017-01035-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

On January 12, 2017, the Defendant, Ronald Ellis, was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder. The trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment in the Department of Correction. The Defendant argues on appeal that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction because he was mentally incapable of premeditation at the time of the murder. He further argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his confession and statement, asserting that both were obtained in violation of his Miranda rights, and that the aggregate effect of trial errors entitles him to a new trial. After thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Marquette Benson aka Marquette Mukes
W2017-01276-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant, Marquette Benson, aka Marquette Mukes, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of two counts of convicted felon in possession of a firearm, a Class C felony, based on two different prior felonies. The trial court merged the counts into a single conviction and sentenced the Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to ten years in the Department of Correction. As best as we can understand the pro se Defendant’s brief and numerous supplemental motions he has filed with this court, he argues that the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct by: redacting a chronology of a 911 call, improperly commenting on the evidence, and presenting false testimony; the trial court prevented him from presenting his defense by barring the admission of a police report; and the trial court exhibited bias by its various evidentiary rulings that favored the prosecution. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Dalvin Smith - Concurring
W2017-01915-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

I concur in affirming the sentences in this case, but I would rule that the record is inadequate for a ruling on the merits, resulting in a determination that we must presume the propriety of the trial court’s sentencing decisions. Most often, when only a sentencing issue is raised on appeal, the appellant has pleaded guilty. In this case, the defendant was tried and convicted by a jury. The record on appeal, however, does not include a transcript of the trial evidence.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Dalvin Smith
W2017-01915-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

After a jury trial, Defendant, Dalvin Smith, was convicted of two counts of reckless homicide, facilitation of especially aggravated robbery, two counts of attempted aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Defendant received a total effective sentence of thirty-seven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering an excessive sentence. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
Nicholas Keith Phillips v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00058-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

In this State appeal, the State challenges the post-conviction court’s grant of relief to the petitioner in the form of a new trial for his 2013 Rutherford County Circuit Court jury convictions of two counts of rape of a child and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. The State asserts that the post-conviction court erred by concluding that the petitioner was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel at trial and that, but for counsel’s deficient performance, the results of the petitioner’s trial would have been different. Because the evidence preponderates against the findings of the post-conviction court, we reverse the ruling of that court and vacate the order granting post-conviction relief.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
Quinton Cage v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00568-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Petitioner, Quinton Cage, appeals the habeas corpus court’s dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief. After a review, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
Xavier Todd v. Cherry Lindamood, Warden
M2018-00099-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The Appellant, Xavier Todd, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Mario M. Washington, Jr.
M2017-01601-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash

The Defendant, Mario M. Washington, Jr., pleaded guilty in the Dickson County Circuit Court to unlawful possession of a firearm, a Class D felony, possession of a Schedule II drug, a Class A misdemeanor, and possession of a Schedule IV drug, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-1307(b)(1)(B) (2014) (unlawful possession of a firearm), 39-17-418 (possession of a controlled substance) (2014) (amended 2016). Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Defendant received a five-year sentence and reserved a certified question of law regarding the search of his residence, which he presents on appeal. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/21/18
Quinton Bonner v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00925-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James Lammey

In 2014, the Petitioner, Quinton Bonner, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, and the trial court imposed a sentence of ten years. The Petitioner then sought to withdraw his guilty plea on the basis that it was not knowingly and voluntarily entered and that his trial counsel ineffectively advised him concerning his plea. The trial court denied his motion, and this court affirmed its judgment. State v. Bonner, No. W2015-00812-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 1403308, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, April 7, 2016) no perm. app. filed. In 2016, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his guilty plea was entered involuntarily and that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed his petition on the grounds that the claims had been previously determined. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the trial court erred when it summarily dismissed his petition. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/18
Christopher Young v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01106-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

In 2008, the Petitioner, Christopher Young, pleaded guilty to possession of a Schedule II controlled substance with a six-year sentence to be served on Community Corrections. In 2017, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court summarily dismissed as untimely filed. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that this matter should be remanded to the lower court to allow him to file an amended petition in light of recent case law. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Yasin Solomon Hawkins
M2017-02439-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

A Davidson County grand jury indicted the Defendant, Yasin Solomon Hawkins, for aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. The Defendant filed a motion to suppress his statement to the police, which the trial court denied. The Defendant asserts that he was intoxicated when he made the statement to the police, and was thus unable to knowingly and voluntarily waive his Fifth Amendment rights. Following a bench trial, the Defendant was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced as a career offender to thirty years in the Department of Correction. The Defendant’s sole issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. We conclude that the trial court properly denied the motion to suppress and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Matthew Marshall
E2017-01933-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Buddy D. Perry

A Bledsoe County jury convicted the Defendant, Matthew Marshall, of attempted rape and attempted aggravated statutory rape. The trial court imposed consecutive ten-year and four-year sentences, respectively, for a total effective sentence of fourteen years. At his motion for new trial, the trial court amended the judgments to run the sentences concurrently, for an effective ten-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court made numerous evidentiary errors when it admitted certain statements or testimony as evidence and when it allowed several witnesses to testify. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Bledsoe County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/20/18
Brian Allen Osborne v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00521-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane

The Petitioner, Brian Allen Osborne, appeals the post-conviction court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.

Macon County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Demetric Johnson
M2017-01527-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

The Defendant, Demetric Johnson, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation, arguing that the court should have imposed an alternative sentence rather than ordering him to serve the balance of his original sentence incarcerated, and therefore abused its discretion. After thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Marion County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Richard Shawn O'Rourke
M2017-00375-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

The Defendant, Richard Shawn O’Rourke, was convicted by a Lawrence County Circuit Court jury of rape, a Class B felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-503 (2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to ten years, six months’ incarceration at 100% service. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and (2) the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct. Because the State engaged in multiple instances of prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Jacob Bergum
M2016-02399-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The defendant, Jacob Bergum, was sentenced to ten years in confinement by the trial court for his Class B felony conviction of aggravated sexual battery. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court improperly enhanced his sentence as a Range I offender from the minimum of eight years to ten years in violation of the purposes and principles of the Tennessee Criminal Sentencing Reform Act. Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/18/18
Marlon Yarbro v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00125-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles C. McGinley

This is a State appeal of the Hardin County Circuit Court’s grant of post-conviction relief. The Petitioner was convicted by a jury of various drug related offenses including sale of .5 grams or more of a Schedule II controlled substance within 1000 feet of a school zone, see Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-417(c)(1), 39-17-432(b)-(c), for which he received an effective sentence of 25 years with no parole. State v. Marlon Yarbro, No. W2015-00475-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 5813383, at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 5, 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Feb. 18, 2016). After his conviction was affirmed by this court, the Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief which did not include as grounds for relief that trial counsel was ineffective in advising the Petitioner of his sentence range or a due process claim based on the Petitioner’s rejection of a more favorable settlement offer from the State. Post-conviction counsel was appointed, and no amendments were filed. An evidentiary hearing was held, and the post-conviction court granted the Petitioner relief based on the evidence adduced at the post-conviction hearing. The State now appeals, raising the following issues: (1) whether the postconviction court may, on its own initiative, constructively amend a post-conviction petition; (2) if the constructive amendment were proper and if the basis for relief was that the petitioner’s rejection of the State’s plea offer was unknowing, whether that basis is a cognizable ground for post-conviction relief where there is no constitutional right to a knowing and voluntary rejection of a plea offer; and (3) if the constructive amendment were proper and if the basis for relief was ineffective assistance of counsel, whether the post-conviction court erred in granting relief where the court did not conduct the Strickland two-pronged analysis. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Hardin County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/18
William M. Phillips v. State of Tennessee - concurring in part and dissenting in part
M2017-00118-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

I agree with the conclusion reached by the majority pertaining to the Petitioner’s recusal claim. I respectfully part ways with the lead opinion; however, because it fails to address the issue squarely before the court, which is whether the Petitioner was entitled to counsel during his post-sentencing motion to withdraw his guilty plea. This issue, as noted in Judge Easter’s dissent, requires us to determine whether a post-sentencing motion to withdraw a guilty plea is a critical stage of the proceedings. Because a defendant’s substantial rights are affected, I would have concluded that a post-sentence motion to withdraw a guilty plea is a critical stage in judicial proceedings. Accordingly, I would have reversed the judgment of the post-conviction court and vacated its order denying relief. I also would have reversed and vacated the trial court’s denial of the Petitioner’s post-sentencing motion to withdraw his guilty plea and remanded for a new evidentiary hearing on the motion to withdraw following the appointment of counsel or valid waiver thereof.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/18
William M. Phillips v. State of Tennessee - concurring
M2017-00118-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

I concur with the conclusion reached by Judge Ogle that the post-conviction court properly denied the petition for post-conviction relief. I further agree with Judge Ogle’s conclusion that any claims regarding judicial bias and recusal are waived. I write separately to address the Petitioner’s claim that he was disadvantaged by not having appointed counsel to represent him at the hearing on his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. I do not believe a post-sentencing motion to withdraw a guilty plea pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(f) is a critical stage of the prosecution to which the right to counsel attaches.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/18
William M. Phillips v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00118-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The Petitioner, William M. Phillips, pled guilty in the Giles County Circuit Court to possession of one-half gram or more of cocaine with intent to sell and was sentenced as a Range II, multiple offender to twenty years in confinement. Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a pro se motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which the trial court denied, and a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he is entitled to post-conviction relief because he was prejudiced by “a derogatory, racially based remark” made by the trial court during a hearing and because he was prejudiced by the trial court’s denial of his pro se motion to withdraw his guilty plea without the appointment of counsel. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, the denial of the petition for post-conviction relief is affirmed.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/18
State of Tennessee v. Maurice Gray
W2017-01897-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A Shelby County jury convicted Defendant, Maurice Gray, of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, convicted felon in possession of a firearm, convicted felon in possession of a handgun, and evading arrest. Defendant received a total effective sentence of twenty-nine years. On appeal, Defendant argues the following: (1) the evidence was insufficient for a rational juror to have found Defendant guilty on all charges beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court erred in ordering partially consecutive sentence alignment; and (3) the trial court erred in failing to merge counts three, four, and five. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm Defendant’s judgments of conviction but remand for merger of counts four and five.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/14/18
State of Tennessee v. Tyson Reed King
M2017-01594-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, Tyson Reed King, was found guilty by a Maury County Circuit Court jury of destroying, tampering with, or fabricating evidence and of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. See T.C.A. §§ 39-16-503 (2014) (destruction, tampering, or fabrication of evidence), 39-17-425 (2014) (unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia). The trial court sentenced the Defendant, a Range II offender, to serve nine years at 35% for destroying, tampering with, or fabricating evidence and to eleven months, twenty-nine days for unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia. The sentences were imposed to run concurrently. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/14/18
State of Tennessee v. Jamal P. Hicks
M2017-01628-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

Defendant, Jamal P. Hicks, was convicted of sexual battery in 2004. As a result of that conviction, Defendant was declared a registered sex offender and required to comply with the Tennessee Sexual Offender and Violent Sexual Offender Registration, Verification and Tracking Act of 2004. T.C.A. § 40-39-201. et seq. In 2016, Defendant was convicted by a jury of falsifying a registration form, failing to report a change in circumstance on a registration form, and perjury. As a result, he received an effective sentence of three years. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court improperly admitted three exhibits at trial and that the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions. After a thorough review, we conclude that the trial court improperly admitted several exhibits at trial and, as a result, the evidence is insufficient to support the judgments. Consequently, Defendant’s convictions are reversed and vacated.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/13/18