Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 01/19/2019
Format: 01/19/2019
William Franklin Robinette v.State of Tennessee
E2017-02105-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

The petitioner, William Franklin Robinette, appeals the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, which petition challenged his 2012 Greene County Criminal Court jury convictions of solicitation to commit first degree murder, claiming that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of postconviction relief.

Greene County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/09/18
State of Tennessee v. Rubin P. Pena
M2017-01663-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Defendant, Rubin P. Pena, was convicted by a Rutherford County Circuit Court jury of vehicular homicide by reckless conduct, a Class C felony, three counts of reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony, and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a death, a Class E felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-213 (2014) (amended 2015) (vehicular homicide by reckless conduct), 39-13-102 (reckless aggravated assault) (2014) (amended 2015), 55-10-101 (leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a death) (2014). The Defendant was sentenced as a Range I, standard offender and received a six-year sentence for vehicular homicide by reckless conduct and concurrent four-year sentences for each reckless aggravated assault conviction. The Defendant also received a two-year consecutive sentence for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a death, for an effective sentence of eight years’ incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his vehicular homicide by reckless conduct and reckless aggravated assault convictions and (2) the trial court erred during sentencing by applying certain enhancement factors. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/18
State of Tennessee v. Patricia Ann Bingham, a.k.a. Patricia Ann Starnes
M2017-02059-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte D. Watkins

The Defendant, Patricia Ann Bingham, a.k.a. Patricia Ann Starnes, appeals her jury conviction for aggravated robbery, for which she received a sentence of ten years’ incarceration. In this direct appeal, the Defendant alleges the following errors: (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support her conviction, arguing that the State failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that she personally assaulted the victim or directed her co-defendant during the robbery and that the State failed to prove that either she or her co-defendant used a deadly weapon to accomplish the robbery; and (2) that trial court failed to properly supervise the jury’s viewing of the surveillance video footage and that admission of the entire surveillance video was error because all of the angles contained on the recording were not properly authenticated. Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/18
State of Tennessee v. Martrell Holloway
W2017-01816-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Pro se Petitioner, Martrell Holloway, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his “Ex Parte Injunction and/or Show Cause Order” and “Motion to Alter and Amend Judgment Dated August 16, 2017 Denying ‘Ex Parte Injunction and/or Show Cause Order.’” On appeal, he argues that his original convictions are invalid because the trial court clerk failed to file-stamp his judgments of conviction in accordance with Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(e) and Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 58. The State contends that the Petitioner’s appeal is not properly before this court, and despite the lack of jurisdiction, the Petitioner is not entitled to relief on the merits of his claim. Upon review, we agree with the State and dismiss this appeal pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/05/18
State of Tennessee v. Jamaal Austin
W2017-01632-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Defendant, Jamaal Austin, was convicted by a jury of one count of first degree felony murder; one count of first degree premeditated murder; one count of especially aggravated robbery, a Class A felony; two counts of attempted aggravated robbery, a Class C felony; one count of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; and one count of employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101, -13-202, -13-402, -13-403, -14-403, -17-1324(b). The trial court then merged the first degree premeditated murder conviction into the first degree felony murder conviction. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of life imprisonment plus twenty-four years. On appeal, the defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) that the trial court erred in denying his severance motion; (3) that his convictions violate the constitutional prohibition against double jeopardy; (4) that the trial court failed to fulfill its duty as the thirteenth juror; and (5) that the trial court abused its discretion by imposing partial consecutive sentences. Following our review, we conclude that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction for especially aggravated robbery. We vacate that conviction and modify it to aggravated robbery. The case is remanded to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing on the modified conviction, entry of an amended judgment form reflecting the modification, and entry of corrected judgment form in Count 1 reflecting the trial court’s merger of the first degree premediated murder conviction into the first degree felony murder conviction. We affirm the judgments of the trial court in all other respects.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/05/18
Christopher M. Hooten v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00122-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

Petitioner, Christopher M. Hooten, appeals the denial of his petition for post conviction relief from his convictions of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, aggravated robbery, and tampering with evidence. On appeal he contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Petitioner also appeals the denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis based upon newly discovered evidence. After thoroughly reviewing the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/05/18
State of Tennessee v. David Merrell Maness
W2017-02335-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Appellant, David Merrell Maness, appeals the Henderson County Circuit Court’s order revoking his community corrections sentence and ordering him to serve his sentence in confinement. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/18
State of Tennessee v. Jack Austin
W2017-02042-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

On July 19, 2017, the Defendant, Jack Austin, was convicted of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony. The trial court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to eight years and six months at 85% in the Department of Correction. The Defendant argues on appeal that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. He additionally argues that the trial court imposed an excessive sentence by misapplying an enhancement factor. After thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/18
Stephen B. Wlodarz v. Shawn Phillips, Warden
E2017-02252-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery H. Wicks

Petitioner, Stephen B. Wlodarz, appeals from the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus from his 2001 convictions for first degree premeditated murder, attempted first degree premeditated murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of manufacturing a Schedule VI controlled substance. Petitioner entered “best interest” pleas under North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S. Ct. 160, 27 L. Ed. 2d 162 (1970), and was sentenced to a total effective sentence of life imprisonment “without parole.” Following our review, we conclude that Petitioner has failed to state a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief. Therefore, we affirm the summary dismissal of his petition.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/18
Victor Clark v. Cherry Lindamood, Warden
M2018-00134-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

Pro se Petitioner, Victor Clark, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus by the Wayne County Circuit Court. The sole issue presented in this appeal is whether the Petitioner’s judgment of conviction for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, see T.C.A. § 39-17-1324(b), is void because he was acquitted of the predicate dangerous felony of attempted second degree murder as charged in the indictment. After review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/18
State of Tennessee v. Charles Phillip Maxwell
M2017-00865-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Defendant, Charles Phillip Maxwell, was convicted of driving on a suspended license (second offense) following a bench trial. The trial court imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days, to be served at sixty percent release eligibility and a fine of $2,500.00. On appeal, Defendant raises twenty-seven issues. A number of these issues we have deemed are waived. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we find no error and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/18
State of Tennessee v. John Palladin Gibson - concurring in part and dissenting in part
E2017-01567-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

I agree with the majority’s conclusion to affirm Defendant’s conviction for driving on a cancelled, suspended, or revoked license. Additionally, I agree with the majority’s conclusion on the ineffective assistance of counsel claim. However, I respectfully disagree with the majority’s conclusion to reverse both DUI convictions. I am of the opinion that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the blood-sample evidence because there was sufficient authentication to establish a chain of custody. Therefore, I would affirm the decision of the trial court regarding both DUI convictions. Further, even if the trial court erred in admitting the blood-sample evidence, it was harmless error with regard to the DUI by impairment conviction. A rational jury could have grounded its verdict on both Deputy Sulewski’s testimony and the dashboard video showing Defendant’s speech and performance on three field-sobriety tests. Therefore, I would affirm the conviction for DUI by impairment on that basis as well.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/18
State of Tennessee v. John Palladin Gibson
E2017-01567-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Defendant, John Palladin Gibson, was convicted of two counts of driving under the influence (DUI), Class A misdemeanors; two counts of fourth-offense DUI, Class E felonies; and one count of second or subsequent offense driving on a cancelled, suspended, or revoked license, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 55-10-401 (2013) (amended 2015) (DUI), 55-10-402(a)(4) (2013) (amended 2014, 2015, 2016) (fourthoffense DUI), 55-50-504 (2013) (amended 2016) (driving while privilege cancelled, suspended, or revoked). The trial court merged the DUI convictions and sentenced the Defendant, a career offender, to six years for DUI and eleven months, twenty-nine days for driving on a revoked license. The sentences were imposed concurrently. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in (1) admitting blood tests results without sufficient proof of the chain of custody and (2) denying his ineffective assistance of counsel claim related to his trial counsel’s alleged failure to review evidence with him, causing him to reject a plea offer that he would have accepted if he had been aware of the evidence. We reverse the DUI convictions and remand for a new trial, and we affirm the driving on a revoked license conviction.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/18
Jerome Perkins v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00801-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The petitioner, Jerome Perkins, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/02/18
Shawn Simmons v. Randy Lee, Warden
M2018-00150-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Petitioner, Shawn Simmons, appeals the Lincoln County Circuit Court’s denial of his request for a delayed appeal. Having construed the Petitioner’s pleading as a motion to reopen his first post-conviction petition, we dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction because the Petitioner failed to comply with the statutory requirements governing an appeal from the denial of a motion to reopen.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/02/18
Mohammed Bassim Al-Khafajy, aka Mohammed Bassim Al-Khafiy v. State of Tennessee
M2017-02392-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Petitioner, Mohammed Bassim Al-Khafajy, aka Mohammed Bassim Al-Khafiy, was indicted on multiple counts of drug and weapons charges after a police surveillance operation. He eventually pled guilty to one count of possession with intent to sell or deliver more than one half an ounce of marijuana and one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony in exchange for a two-year sentence on the drug conviction and a mandatorily consecutive three-year sentence to be served at 100 percent on the firearm conviction. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel and the unknowing and involuntary nature of his plea. The post-conviction court denied relief and Petitioner appealed. After a review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/02/18
State of Tennessee v. Gordon Scot Katz
E2017-02516-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

An Anderson County grand jury indicted the defendant, Gordon Scot Katz, with reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon. Following trial, a jury found the defendant guilty of the same, and the trial court imposed a sentence of two years. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction and alleges the trial court erred when denying the defendant’s request to cross-examine a witness regarding pending criminal charges and that the State presented alternate theories of liability, thereby calling the unanimity of the jury’s verdict into question. After hearing the arguments of the parties, reviewing the record, and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/01/18
Walter George Glenn v. State of Tennessee
E2017-02019-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

Petitioner, Walter George Glenn, appeals the denial of his petition for post-convictionrelief from his conviction for second degree murder. On appeal, Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After thorough review, we determine that Petitioner received effective assistance of counsel and affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/01/18
Steven Anderson v. Esco Jarnigan, Sheriff, and State of Tennessee - concurring in part and dissenting in part
E2017-02534-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

I agree with the majority opinion affirming the habeas corpus court’s dismissal of the Petitioner’s habeas corpus petition on the basis that the petition fails to state a colorable claim. However, I disagree that the evidence is insufficient to support the trial court’s finding of direct criminal contempt.

Hamblen County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/01/18
Steven Anderson v. Esco Jarnigan, Sheriff, and State of Tennessee
E2017-02534-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex Pearson

The Petitioner, Steve Anderson, appeals from the Hamblen County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus from his 1985 convictions for receiving and concealing stolen property, possession of engines and transmissions with altered numbers, arson of an automobile, and escape and his forty-two-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that the habeas corpus court erred by dismissing his petition and by finding him in contempt of court, which resulted in a ten-day sentence in confinement. Although the habeas corpus court erred by dismissing the petition pursuant to the mootness doctrine, we conclude that the petition fails to state a colorable claim for habeas corpus relief. Furthermore, we reverse the judgment of the habeas court relative to the contempt determination and dismiss the charge.

Hamblen County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/01/18
Jason Lyles v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01786-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The petitioner, Jason Lyles, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/01/18
State of Tennessee v. Shawn Nelson Smoot
E2017-00367-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery H. Wicks

A Roane County grand jury indicted the defendant, Shawn Nelson Smoot, with the first degree murder of the victim, Brooke Morris, and later convicted him of the same, for which he received an enhanced sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The defendant raises the following issues on appeal: (1) the trial court erred when allowing the introduction of evidence seized during the warrantless search of his home under the theory of inevitable discovery; (2) the trial court erred when allowing expert ballistics and firearms identification testimony; (3) the trial court erred when allowing the introduction of evidence related to the victim’s order of protection against the defendant; (4) the trial court erred when denying the defendant’s motion to rehear all pretrial motions; (5) the trial court erred when allowing the victim’s landlord to render hearsay testimony regarding an incident between the victim and the defendant; (6) the trial court erred when allowing several witnesses to offer improper character evidence under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b); (7) the trial court erred when denying the defendant’s request for a trial continuance so he could obtain a mitigation expert; (8) the trial court erred when allowing the State to amend the indictment to include an additional witness twelve days before trial; (9) the trial court erred when denying two motions for mistrial; (10) the trial court erred when admitting the autopsy report as evidence; (11) the trial court erred when admitting the prior consistent statement of the defendant’s roommate into evidence; (12) the trial court erred when excluding the victim’s text messages to her friends from evidence; (13) the trial court erred when instructing the jury on flight; (14) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct when making improper comments to the jury regarding evidence; (15) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct when commenting during closing arguments on the defendant’s failure to testify; (16) the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s guilty verdict; (17) the State made an improper “golden rule” argument during the sentencing phase of trial; (18) the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s imposition of a life sentence without the possibility of parole; and (19) the cumulative effect of these errors warrant a reversal of the verdict. Based on the arguments of the parties, our review of the record, and the pertinent law, we conclude the trial court erred when admitting the evidence seized during the search of the defendant’s residence, when admitting certain hearsay statements contained in the order of protection documents, and when admitting the prior consistent statement of the defendant’s roommate. These errors were harmless, and their cumulative effect did not change the outcome of either phase of trial. Discerning no further errors, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Roane County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/01/18
State of Tennessee v. Larry W. Hopkins
M2017-01962-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

The Defendant, Larry W. Hopkins, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of two counts of aggravated rape, Class A felonies. See T.C.A. § 39-13-502 (2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to concurrent terms of twenty-five years’ incarceration at 100% service. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred by limiting his cross-examination of the victim and (2) the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/01/18
Gary Allen McKennie v. State of Tennessee
W2017-01561-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

The Petitioner, Gary Allen McKennie, sought coram nobis relief from his convictions, alleging that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered; therefore, the convictions were void. The coram nobis court denied the petition, finding that it was not timely and that coram nobis relief was unavailable to a Petitioner who had entered a guilty plea. The Petitioner appeals the coram nobis court’s ruling. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/28/18
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Carson Forbes
E2017-02093-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Rodney Carson Forbes, Defendant, filed a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion seeking pretrial jail credits. The trial court summarily dismissed the motion for failure to state a colorable claim. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/28/18