Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 08/09/2022
Format: 08/09/2022
Emmanuel Deshawn Bowley v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00390-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Petitioner, Emmanuel Deshawn Bowley, appeals from the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for
post-conviction relief from drug- and weapon-related convictions, for which he is serving an effective sixteen-year sentence.  On appeal, he contends that (1) the post-conviction court erred in denying relief based upon his ineffective assistance of counsel claims related to trial counsel’s performance in the appeal of the convictions and (2) he is entitled to post-conviction relief due to the existence of multiple instances of ineffective assistance of counsel in the appeal of the convictions.  We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/22
State of Tennessee v. Eric Tyre Patton
M2020-00062-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Appellant, Eric Tyre Patton, was convicted in the Rutherford County Circuit Court of conspiracy to sell 150 grams or more of heroin and 300 grams or more of cocaine with at least one overt act occurring within a drug-free school zone (DFSZ) and possession of 300 grams or more of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver within a DFSZ.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained from GPS tracking devices and wiretaps; that the trial court erred by not requiring the State to identify four confidential informants (CIs); that the trial court erred by admitting testimony about a prior bad act and by denying his motion for a mistrial; that the trial court improperly instructed the jury on witness credibility; that the State improperly withheld exculpatory information in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); and that he is entitled to relief under cumulative error.  Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we find no reversible error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.  

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/22
State of Tennessee v. David Ian Lemons
W2020-01613-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Appellant, David Ian Lemons, was convicted in the Madison County Circuit Court of eleven drug and weapons offenses, ranging from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class B felony. After a sentencing hearing, he received an effective twenty-three-year sentence as a Range II, multiple offender. On appeal, the Appellant contends that his effective sentence is excessive because the trial court improperly applied an enhancement factor and improperly ordered consecutive sentencing. The State acknowledges that while the trial court may have partially misapplied an enhancement factor, the Appellant’s twenty-three-year sentence is not excessive. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we agree with the State and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/22
Corey Dendy v. State of Tennessee
W2020-01364-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Petitioner, Corey Dendy, filed a petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of aggravated robbery, alleging that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to contact a witness prior to the Petitioner’s guilty plea and that the Petitioner’s guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. The post-conviction court denied relief, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/22
Cedric Evans v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00379-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

Cedric Evans, Petitioner, sought post-conviction relief from his guilty-pleaded convictions for second degree murder and felon in possession of a firearm, claiming that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court dismissed the petition. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/22
State of Tennessee v. Corey Taylor
M2021-00954-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

Defendant, Corey Taylor, entered a guilty plea to aggravated assault and was sentenced to four years, suspended to supervised probation.  Following a hearing on a warrant alleging a violation of probation based on new arrests and failure to report, the trial court found defendant in violation, revoked his probation, and ordered him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement.  On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in declining to dismiss the probation violation warrant on speedy trial grounds.  Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/22
Alejandro Avila-Salazar v. State of Tennessee
M2020-01605-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Petitioner, Alejandro Avila-Salazar, appeals the post-conviction court’s refusal to vacate his guilty plea to second-degree murder after the vacating his guilty plea to attempted aggravated rape based on trial counsel’s failure to inform Petitioner that he would be subject to mandatory lifetime community supervision for the attempted aggravated rape conviction.  The State argues that the post-conviction court erred by vacating the attempted aggravated rape conviction.  Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand the case for reinstatement of the original judgment of conviction and sentence previously imposed for attempted aggravated rape. 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/22
State of Tennessee v. Darick A. Hinerman
M2021-00251-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Defendant, Darick A. Hinerman, was convicted by a Robertson County Circuit Court jury of first degree premeditated murder.  See T.C.A. § 39-13-202 (2018) (subsequently amended).  The trial court imposed a sentence of life imprisonment.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction, (2) the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence recovered during a warrantless search, and (3) the trial court erred during jury instructions.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/22
Randy Oscar Blakeney v. State of Tennessee
E2021-00508-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle A. Hixson

The Petitioner, Randy Oscar Blakeney, pled guilty in the Knox County Criminal Court to first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery and received a sentence of life plus forty years in confinement. Subsequently, he filed a petition requesting DNA analysis of evidence pursuant to the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001. The post-conviction court summarily denied the petition, and the Petitioner appeals. Based upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/03/22
State of Tennessee v. Larry Donnell Higgins, Jr. - Concur in Part/Dissent in Part
W2021-00316-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

I agree with the majority’s conclusion that the evidence sufficiently supports the jury’s verdict. However, I respectfully dissent from the majority’s holding that the trial court abused its discretion by denying Defendant’s motion for a mistrial. As noted by the majority, the decision to enter a mistrial rests within the trial court’s discretion. State v. Bell, 512 S.W.3d 167, 187 (Tenn. 2015); State v. Reid, 91 S.W.3d 247, 279 (Tenn. 2002). “This court will not interfere with the trial court’s decision absent an abuse of discretion.” State v. Jones, 568 S.W.3d 101, 126 (Tenn. 2019) (quoting Bell, 512 S.W.3d at 187). A mistrial should only be declared if there is manifest necessity. State v. Saylor, 117 S.W.3d 239, 250 (Tenn. 2003). Manifest necessity arises “when a trial cannot continue, or a miscarriage of justice would result if it did.” State v. Land, 34 S.W.3d 516, 527 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2000). “The purpose for declaring a mistrial is to correct damage done to the judicial process when some event has occurred which precludes an impartial verdict.” State v. Williams, 929 S.W.2d 385, 388 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1996). The party seeking a mistrial has the burden of establishing its necessity. State v. Banks, 271 S.W.3d 90, 137 (Tenn. 2008).

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/02/22
State of Tennessee v. Larry Donnell Higgins, Jr.
W2021-00316-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Aggrieved of his Madison County Circuit Court Jury convictions of simple possession of marijuana, possession with intent to deliver not less than one-half ounce of marijuana, possession of a firearm with intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, and possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony crime of violence, the defendant, Larry Donnell Higgins, Jr., appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the denial of his motion for a mistrial. Because the trial court abused its discretion by denying the motion for mistrial, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/02/22
State of Tennessee v. Felipe Gonzalez-Martinez
E2021-00322-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

The defendant, Felipe Gonzalez-Martinez, appeals his Jefferson County Circuit Court Jury convictions of rape of a child, arguing that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his pretrial statement to the police, by admitting into evidence a video recording of the interview that produced his statement, by admitting into evidence handwritten notes exchanged by the defendant and the victim, and by imposing consecutive sentences. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Jefferson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/02/22
Billy James Matthews v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00898-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

As the result of a guilty plea to rape and robbery entered over 18 years ago, Billy James Matthews, Petitioner, was sentenced to an effective sentence of ten years. See Billy James Matthews v. State, No. W2005-02939-CCA-R3-PC, 2006 WL 2843291 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 5, 2006), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 22, 2007). After the denial of habeas corpus relief, see Billy James Matthews v. Warden Glenn Turner, No. W2004-01547-CCA-R3- HC, 2005 WL 957112, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 26, 2005), and post-conviction relief, Billy James Matthews v. State, 2006 WL 2843291, at *1, Petitioner sought relief via the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition without a hearing. Petitioner filed an untimely notice of appeal. Because the interests of justice do not mandate waiver of the timely filing of the notice of appeal, the appeal is dismissed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Demario Quintez Driver
M2021-00538-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David D. Wolfe

A Cheatham County jury convicted the Defendant, Demario Quintez Driver, of rape and coercion of a witness, and the trial court sentenced him to sixteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for rape and that the State’s closing argument amounted to prosecutorial misconduct.  After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Patti Elizabeth Smith
E2021-00394-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry Steelman

The defendant, Patti Elizabeth Smith, appeals the denial of her Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 35 motion to reduce the sentence imposed for her 2018 guilty-pleaded conviction of reckless endangerment. Because the defendant has served the entirety of her sentence and been released from custody, we dismiss the appeal as moot.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Jacady Dwight Terry
E2021-00406-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Defendant, Jacady Dwight Terry, was convicted by a jury of violating the motor vehicle habitual offender (“MVHO”) law, for which he received a five-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred (1) by admitting the MVHO order into evidence because it was void; (2) by concluding that the MVHO violation was a strict liability offense and declining to give a mens rea instruction; and (3) by refusing to apply the “lesser penalty” provision of the criminal savings statute to the Defendant’s sentence.1 Following our review, we affirm.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Arthur M. Stewart
M2021-00595-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane

The defendant, Arthur M. Stewart, appeals the order of the trial court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his original four-year sentence in confinement.  Upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the revocation of the defendant’s probation but reverse the trial court’s imposition of the original sentence and remand for the trial court to make findings concerning the consequence imposed for the revocation in accordance with State v. Craig Dagnan, --- S.W.3d ---, 2022 WL 627247 (Tenn. Mar. 4, 2022). 

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/22
Damonta M. Meneese v. State of Tennessee
M2021-01137-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The petitioner, Damonta M. Meneese, appeals the post-conviction court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding his petition untimely.  Upon our review of the record, the applicable law, and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the dismissal.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/22
Eric Todd Jackson v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00302-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Petitioner, Eric Todd Jackson, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief and the denial of his Rule 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence, arguing that his guilty pleas to forgery and theft of property were unknowing and involuntary due to the ineffective assistance of counsel and that his sentence was illegal because he was innocent of the offenses.  After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.  

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Robbie Gibson
E2021-00769-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

A Campbell County jury convicted the Defendant, Robbie Gibson, of aggravated stalking, aggravated assault, and possession of a prohibited weapon. The trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of thirteen years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction for possession of a prohibited weapon and that the trial court erred when it limited the length of his closing argument. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Alain Benitez
M2021-00073-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane

Defendant, Alain Benitez, appeals his convictions for two counts of first degree felony murder and two counts of robbery, for which he received an effective sentence of two consecutive life sentences.  Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence presented at trial is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court erred by admitting into evidence messages sent between Defendant and his girlfriend through Facebook Messenger; (3) the trial court erred in admitting “forensic evidence”; and (4) the trial court abused its discretion by imposing consecutive sentences.  Upon review, we affirm Defendant’s convictions but reverse the imposition of consecutive sentencing and remand to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing.  The new sentencing hearing is limited to consideration of the factors outlined in State v. Wilkerson, 905 S.W.2d 933 (Tenn. 1995), to determine the propriety of consecutive sentencing. 

Smith County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Jackie Dean Miller
M2020-01393-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Defendant, Jackie Dean Miller, was convicted by a Marshall County Circuit Court jury of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, and two counts of theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000, a Class C felony.  See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-403 (2018) (subsequently repealed, replaced by § 39-14-1003 (Supp. 2021)) (aggravated burglary), 39-14-103 (2018) (theft), 39-14-105 (2018) (subsequently amended) (grading of theft).  The trial court merged the theft convictions and imposed an effective ten-year sentence to be served in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that:  (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions, (2) he was denied a fair trial because jurors may have seen the Defendant in a sheriff’s car, and (3) the trial court abused its discretion in imposing consecutive sentences.  We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/22
Antywan Eugene Savely v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00746-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

Petitioner, Antywan Eugene Savely, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial.  More specifically, Petitioner asserts that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present any proof on his behalf.  Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/22
State of Tennessee v. Noah Cassidy Higgins
M2021-00281-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

Defendant, Noah Cassidy Higgins, pled guilty as a Range I standard offender to vehicular homicide by recklessness with the sentence to be determined by the trial court.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied judicial diversion and probation and sentenced Defendant to five years’ incarceration with a thirty percent release eligibility.  Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court: (1) improperly denied judicial diversion; (2) improperly denied probation; (3) considered facts outside the record; and (4) erred in applying and balancing certain enhancement and mitigating factors.  Following our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/22
William Cole Nicholson v. State of Tennessee
M2020-01128-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

William Cole Nicholson, Petitioner, was convicted of one count of aggravated sexual battery, and this court affirmed his conviction on direct appeal.  State v. William Cole Nicholson, No. M2017-01761-CCA-R3-CD, 2018 WL 4203549, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 4, 2018), no perm. app. filed.  Petitioner filed a pro se post-conviction petition and an amended petition through counsel, arguing that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel.  The post-conviction court denied the petition, and Petitioner now appeals.  Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/22