Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 04/23/2017
Format: 04/23/2017
State of Tennessee v. DeKarlos Johnson
W2015-02412-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

A Shelby County Criminal Court jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Dekarlos Johnson, of aggravated robbery, and the trial court imposed a sentence of nine years with a release eligibility of eighty-five percent. On appeal, Johnson argues: (1) the admission of his redacted statement negatively impacted the jury's verdict; (2) he was denied the opportunity to present evidence in his own defense; (3) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during its closing argument; and (4) the cumulative effect of these errors entitles him to relief. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Marcus Deangelo Lee
W2016-00107-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Pro se Petitioner, Marcus Deangelo Lee, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the trial court erred in dismissing his motion. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
Ronnie Hughes v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02131-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Petitioner, Ronnie Hughes, appeals the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief by the Shelby County Criminal Court. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was involuntary and unknowing. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Eric D. Wallace
W2016-00907-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Eric D. Wallace (“the Defendant”) filed a Motion to Correct Illegal Sentence under Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, alleging that his sentences for first degree felony murder and attempted first degree murder were illegal because the trial court constructively amended the corresponding indictments by instructing the jury on “alternative theories for felony murder.” The trial court summarily denied relief, and this appeal followed. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Dantario Burgess, Rodriguez McNary and Joseph Jones-Cage
W2015-00588-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendants, Dantario Burgess, Rodriguez McNary, and Joseph Jones-Cage, of two counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of aggravated assault, and one count of reckless endangerment. Mr. Jones-Cage and Mr. McNary also were convicted of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Mr. Burgess also was convicted of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony having been previously convicted of a felony and of possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a felony involving the use or attempted use of violence. The trial court sentenced Mr. Burgess to an effective term of fifty-five years, Mr. Jones-Cage to an effective term of fifty years, and Mr. McNary to an effective term of forty-one years. On appeal, the Defendants raise the following issues either collectively or individually: (1) the trial court erred in denying Mr. Burgess‘ motion to suppress a witness‘s identification of him in a photographic lineup and in limiting the
cross-examination of the victim during the suppression hearing; (2) the failure to name the predicate felony in the indictment for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony voids the conviction; (3) the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; (4) the trial court committed plain error in not allowing defense counsel to impeach the victim‘s testimony at trial with her statement to the police; (5) the malfunctioning of the recording equipment during the trial warranted a mistrial; (6) the sentences of Mr. Burgess and Mr. McNary are excessive; (7) the cumulative effect of the errors warrants a new trial; and (8) the trial court erred in denying Mr. Burgess‘ pro se petition for writ of error coram nobis. We conclude that the evidence is insufficient to support Mr. McNary‘s conviction for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and reverse the conviction. We remand the matter for a new trial on possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony as a lesser-included offense. We also remand the case for entry of corrected judgments reflecting that Mr. Jones-Cage was convicted of attempted first degree murder in count one and is to serve 100 percent of his sentence for the firearm conviction in count three. We otherwise affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
James Floyd Thomas v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01630-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest Durard, Jr.

The petitioner, James Floyd Thomas, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2014 Bedford County Circuit Court
guilty-pleaded convictions of the promotion of methamphetamine manufacture and initiation of the process to manufacture methamphetamine, for which he received an effective sentence of 18 years.  Because the petitioner failed to file a timely petition for post-conviction relief, the post-conviction court’s order is affirmed.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
State of Tennessee v. Corey Forest
M2016-00463-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Jones

The Defendant, Corey Forest, was indicted for possession of twenty-six grams of cocaine with the intent to sell in a drug-free school zone, possession of marijuana, and unlawful possession of a firearm.  The Defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress the warrantless search of his vehicle.  The trial court denied the Defendant’s motion, and the Defendant pleaded guilty to the lesser-included offense of possession of more than .5 grams of a Schedule II substance and to unlawful possession of a firearm, and attempted to reserve a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) about whether the stop of the Defendant’s vehicle by law enforcement was lawful.  After review, because the Defendant has failed to properly comply with Rule 37, we dismiss the Defendant’s appeal.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/17
State of Tennessee v. William M. Cole
W2015-01764-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn L. Peeples

The defendant, William M. Cole, was indicted for rape of a child and entered a best-interest guilty plea to incest on May 6, 2015. He was sentenced on September 8, 2015, to six years as a Range I, standard offender. On September 14, 2015, he filed a timely notice of appeal of his sentence. On September 28, 2015, he filed in the trial court a motion to withdraw his plea of guilty, arguing that he was not related to the victim by blood or marriage and, therefore, could not be found guilty of incest. In this direct appeal filed after his plea of guilty and sentencing, but before he sought to withdraw his guilty plea, he argues that his plea of guilty was involuntary and should be set aside and that the trial court failed to consider all relevant factors in sentencing him. The State responds that the defendant may attack the voluntariness of his plea only in a petition for post-conviction relief and not in a direct appeal. We agree with this response, as well as the State’s assertion that the defendant was properly sentenced. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/30/17
Terrell Loverson v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01381-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The petitioner, Terrell Loverson, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing the post-conviction court erred by concluding that appellate counsel rendered effective assistance. According to the petitioner, appellate counsel should have raised, as an issue on appeal, the trial court's denial of his request for a self-defense jury instruction. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Stephanie Lynn Ferguson
M2016-01123-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Defendant, Stephanie Lynn Ferguson, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault in the Criminal Court for Davidson County.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of twenty-six years in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that her effective sentence does not comport with the fundamental purposes and principles of sentencing.  Specifically, she contends that the sentence imposed was not the “least severe measure necessary,” that the trial court ignored applicable mitigating factors, and that the court improperly determined she was a dangerous offender.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Radames Antonio Rivera
M2016-00938-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The defendant, Radames Antonio Rivera, was indicted for one count of first degree murder, one count of attempted tampering with evidence, and one count of unlawful possession of a weapon.  Following trial, the jury found the defendant guilty of one count of second degree murder.  The trial court sentenced the defendant to fifteen years of incarceration.  On appeal, the defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.  After our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/30/17
State of Tennessee v. Robin Bass
W2015-02484-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Defendant, Robin Bass, was convicted of first degree murder in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate a robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202(a)(2). In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction, arguing that there was no proof that he intended to rob the victim or that the murder occurred during the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate a robbery. Additionally, the Defendant argues that the extrajudicial confessions used to convict him were uncorroborated. Following our review, the judgment is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
State of Tennessee v. David Richardson
W2016-00174-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The defendant, David Richardson, appeals the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentences upon remand for a new sentencing hearing. After review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
E. Louis Thomas v. Grady Perry, Warden
W2016-01514-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The Petitioner, E. Louis Thomas, appeals the Hardeman County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus from his 2008 conviction for first degree premeditated murder and his life sentence. He contends that (1) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, (2) the trial court violated his right to a fair trial by admitting the Petitioner’s confession, and (3) the habeas corpus court violated his due process rights by summarily dismissing his petition. We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
Gale Marleen Krizka v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02243-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Eugene Eblen

Petitioner, Gale Marleen Krizka, appeals from the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief, in which she alleged that her counsel was ineffective for failing to obtain an expert witness, failing to call witnesses, and failing to give an opening statement. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Teddy Reece Ragan
M2015-02316-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte D. Watkins

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Teddy Reece Ragan, of sexual exploitation of a minor, and the trial court sentenced him to a ten-year sentence to be served at 100% in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction, that the trial court improperly admitted the Defendant’s prior conviction for violation of the sex offender registry, and that the trial court erred by failing to charge the jury with attempted sexual exploitation of a minor.  After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
Luis Napoleon Paz v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00069-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The petitioner, Luis Napoleon Paz, 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.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
Christopher Earl Watts v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00303-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The petitioner, Christopher Earl Watts, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his convictions for aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect, for which he received an effective sentence of seventy-five years.  On appeal, the petitioner argues trial counsel provided ineffective counsel by failing to fully explain the nature and consequences of waiving his right to testify, failing to call certain witnesses, and failing to file a motion in limine to exclude evidence regarding living in the “projects” and “on the streets.”  Due to the cumulative effect of this allegedly ineffective representation, the petitioner requests a new trial.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Jonathan Wayne Utz
M2016-01244-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Defendant, Jonathan Wayne Utz, pled guilty to one count of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony.  SeeTenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-504.  The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to a term of imprisonment of nine years and six months to be served at one hundred percent.  In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends that “the sentence in this case is excessive and contrary to the law.”  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Moore County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/17
State of Tennessee v. Lisa Estelle Elliott
E2015-02263-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton
A Campbell County Grand Jury indicted the defendant, Lisa Estelle Elliott, on one count of second degree murder as the result of the shooting and death of her fiancé. Following trial, a jury convicted the defendant of the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter, for which she received a four-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court erred when denying her motion for mistrial due to a prejudicial narrative objection made by the State. The defendant further contends that due to her lack of a criminal history, strong educational background, and continuous work history, the trial court erred in denying her request for an alternative sentence. Based on our review of the record, submissions of the parties, and pertinent authorities, we disagree and affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/26/17
State of Tennessee v. Tedrik Woods
W2016-01360-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Petitioner, Tedrik Woods, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Because the Petitioner’s three-year sentence for employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony is illegal, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case to the trial court for proceedings consistent with Rule 36.1 and this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Steven Jeffrey Pike
E2015-02357-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Defendant, Steven Jeffrey Pike, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated murder. See T.C.A. § 39-13-202(a)(1) (2014). He received a life sentence. On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and (2) the trial court erred by admitting his statements to the police. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Hatcher
W2016-01389-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

The Defendant, Christopher Hatcher, appeals from the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The State has filed a motion requesting that this court affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we grant the State’s motion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
Janette Ebony Robinson v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00058-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The petitioner, Janette Ebony Robinson, appeals the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that she received ineffective assistance of counsel and that her guilty pleas were unknowing and involuntary.  Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17
Bruce D. Mendenhall v. State of Tennessee
M2015-02091-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The petitioner, Bruce D. Mendenhall, was convicted in 2007 of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.  His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal, and his application for permission to appeal was denied.  Subsequently, he filed a petition for habeas corpus relief, which the court treated as a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that trial counsel had been ineffective.  Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court concluded that the petitioner’s claims were without merit.  The record on appeal supports this determination.  Accordingly, the order of the post-conviction court denying relief is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/17