Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 01/18/2017
Format: 01/18/2017
State of Tennessee v. Nicholas Rico Durant
M2015-00564-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

A jury in the Montgomery County Circuit Court found the Appellant, Nicholas Rico Durant, guilty of the first degree premeditated murder of his wife, and the trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence was not sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted with premeditation and that the trial court’s jury instruction regarding premeditation was not sufficient to “satisfy state and federal constitutional rights to due process and trial by jury.”  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Byron J. Walker
W2016-00076-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Defendant, Byron J. Walker, entered guilty pleas in 1998 in case numbers 98-01078, 98-01079, and 98-01252 to two counts of possession with the intent to sell cocaine and to one count of possession of marijuana. Pursuant to the negotiated plea agreement, the Defendant received concurrent sentences of three years for each possession with the intent to sell cocaine conviction and sixty days’ confinement for the possession of marijuana conviction, for an effective three-year sentence. On January 26, 2015, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct illegal sentences. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied relief for failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred by denying relief, (2) the trial court erred in its application of the habeas corpus statute, (3) the trial court’s application of State v. Brown, 479 S.W.3d 200 (Tenn. 2015), as the basis for denying relief violated procedural due process, and (4) this court should overturn our supreme court’s holding in Brown. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
Mario Johnson v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02498-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Mario Johnson (“the Petitioner”) entered an open guilty plea to five counts of aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to an effective sentence of thirty years in the Department of Correction. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that he entered his guilty plea unknowingly and involuntarily. The post-conviction court denied relief after a hearing. On appeal, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Bryan Cannady
W2016-00494-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Bryan Cannady (“the Defendant”) pled guilty to one count of theft of property valued at $60,000 or more, three counts of burglary, and one count of vandalism in the amount of $60,000 or more in Case 13-02653 and vandalism in the amount of $1,000 or more in Case 14-06122 and received an effective sentence of ten years in the Department of Corrections. On appeal, the Defendant claims that the trial court erred in denying probation or an alternative sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Jones
W2015-01028-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The defendant, Christopher Jones, was convicted of the first degree premeditated murder of his estranged wife, Heather Palumbo-Jones, and the abuse of her corpse, for which he was sentenced, respectively, to life imprisonment and two years to be served concurrently. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by allowing statements made by his wife as an exception to the hearsay rule, by allowing evidence of his prior abuse of the victim, and by admitting into evidence photographs of his wife’s charred body. Additionally, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for first degree murder. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Barry Lamont Price
W2016-00896-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Petitioner, Barry Lamont Price, appeals the Circuit Court of Madison County's summary denial of his motion to correct illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. William Wayne Eskridge
E2014-01800-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

The Appellant, William Wayne Eskridge, was convicted in the Washington County Criminal Court of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater (DUI per se), and the trial court imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days in jail. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court violated his due process rights by summarily denying his motion to suppress without an evidentiary hearing because he was not present for the hearing. Upon review, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient but that the trial court committed reversible error by summarily denying the motion to suppress. Therefore, the Appellant‟s conviction is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Jackie Phillip Lester-Dissenting
M2016-00700-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Russell Parkes

I agree with the majority that, generally, once an inmate is in the custody of the TDOC, the proper avenue to address sentence reduction credits is through the APA.  State v. Henry, 946 S.W.2d 833, 834 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1997).  However, our court has recognized unique circumstances which authorize the trial court to entertain requests for declaration of proper sentence credits.  Id. (citing Matthew P. Finlaw v. Anderson County Jail, No. 03C01-9212-CR-0048, 1993 WL 310312, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 13, 1993); State v. Christopher Oliver, No. 03C01-9212-CR-00447, 1993 WL 152408, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 11, 1993)).  I believe that the instant case calls for similar relief.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Jackie Phillip Lester
M2016-00700-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Russell Parkes

Defendant, Jackie Phillip Lester, pled guilty to aggravated assault and possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony. He was sentenced to six years, suspended to probation.  Defendant violated probation, and the trial court ordered a partial revocation of the probationary sentence and service of eighteen months in incarceration.  Defendant was released from incarceration and violated probation for the second time shortly thereafter.  This time the trial court revoked Defendant’s probation, ordering him to serve the original six-year sentence.  The trial court awarded Defendant credit for time served during the partial revocation and prior to sentencing on the full revocation.  On appeal, Defendant complains that the trial court did not award him all his due jail credit.  Because the proper method to address post-judgment jail credit is through the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act rather than an appeal to this Court, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.  However, we remand the case for the correction of a clerical error in the revocation order.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
In re Centerstone
M2016-00308-CCA-WR-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargove

Appellant, Centerstone, seeks review of the trial court’s denial of a motion to quash a judicial subpoena issued to Centerstone for the mental health records of the victim in an underlying criminal case.  Centerstone argues that the judicial subpoena issued pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-17-123 is an invalid mechanism for discovery of mental health records made confidential by Tennessee Code Annotated section 33-3-103.  After careful consideration, we conclude that access to the confidential mental health records must come by way of the procedure set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 33-3-105 rather than through a judicial subpoena issued pursuant to section 40-17-123.  Therefore, we vacate the trial court’s order and remand the case.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Jeffery Gordon Layhew
M2016-00725-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda McClendon

The Defendant, Jeffrey Gordon Layhew, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”), offenses which took place on different dates.  For the leaving the scene of an accident conviction, the trial court sentenced him to eleven months and twenty-nine days, to be served at 100%.  For the DUI conviction, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days, to be served at 100%.  The trial court ordered that the sentences be served consecutively for a total effective sentence of two years, at 100%.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it sentenced him to serve maximum consecutive misdemeanor sentences and when it failed to set a specific amount for his restitution.  The State agrees and asks this Court to remand the case to the trial court for resentencing.  After review, we agree with the parties that the trial court erred when it failed to make findings to support consecutive sentences and when it did not set a specific amount for restitution.  Accordingly, we vacate the Defendant’s sentences and remand the case to the trial court for resentencing.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/17
State of Tennessee v. William Henry Smith, Jr.
M2016-01475-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest Durard

A Bedford County jury convicted the Defendant, William Henry Smith, Jr., of conspiracy to sell and deliver a Schedule II drug, and the trial court sentenced him to fifteen years of confinement.  On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence against him is insufficient to support his conviction.  After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.    

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/17
State of Tennessee v. Adolphus L. Hollingsworth
E2015-01463-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rebecca J. Stern

The Defendant, Adolphus L. Hollingsworth, was convicted by a Hamilton County jury of second degree murder and was sentenced to twenty-two years' incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant argues: (1) the trial court erred in allowing the State to amend the indictment; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss based on the State's failure to preserve evidence; (3) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence discovered during the search of his property; (4) the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to exclude evidence from forensic testing; (5) the trial court erred in admitting Rule 404(b) testimony; (6) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; (7) the trial court erred in failing to provide a female bailiff to supervise the sequestered jury; and (8) the trial court erred in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal or, in the alternative, motion for new trial. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Gary Allen Taylor
E2016-00977-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin
The Defendant, Gary Allen Taylor, entered a guilty plea to aggravated assault, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and failure to appear in court, with sentencing to be determined by the trial court. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court found that the Defendant was a Range I standard offender and imposed a three-year prison sentence. The Defendant appeals the trial court’s denial of alternative sentencing. We conclude that the trial court did not err in sentencing the Defendant to a term of imprisonment. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/17
State of Tennessee v. William Rolandus Keel - Concurring
M2016-00354-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

Although I concur with lead opinion’s conclusion that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing the Defendant, I write separately to express my opinion that the imposition of consecutive, 30-year sentences to be served at 100% pushes the limit of the presumption of reasonableness under State v. Pollard, 432 S.W.3d 851 (Tenn. 2013) and State v. Bise, 380 S.W.3d 682 (Tenn. 2012).  Without intending to diminish the reprehensibility of the offense of rape of a child, I would note that the effective 60-year sentence in this case is the same length as a life sentence for first degree murder, but with a life sentence, a defendant may be awarded up to 15% sentence reduction credits and be released after serving 51 years, whereas the Defendant’s 60-year sentence is to be served pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-523 “undiminished by any sentence reduction credits.”

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/17
State of Tennessee v. William Rolandus Keel
M2016-00354-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

The defendant, Williams Rolandus Keel, appeals his Davidson County Criminal Court jury convictions of rape of a child, claiming that the trial court erred by denying his motion to compel production of certain documents, that the trial court erred by excluding the testimony of his expert witness, and that the sentence imposed was excessive.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/17
State of Tennessee v. James E. Ferrell
M2016-01157-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

The Defendant, James E. Ferrell, was issued a citation for operating a vehicle while unrestrained by a safety belt, a Class C misdemeanor.  He was found guilty and assessed a fine for the violation in General Sessions Court, and he appealed to the Circuit Court, which imposed a judgment of conviction and a fine.  The Defendant alleges in this appeal that the Circuit Court did not have jurisdiction over the offense because there was no warrant issued in the case.  We conclude that the Circuit Court had jurisdiction based upon the issued citation and affirm the conviction.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Jimmy Heard
M2016-00622-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Appellant, Jimmy Heard, is appealing the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence filed pursuant to Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1  The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20.  Said motion is hereby granted.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Robert G. Thornton, Jr. - Dissenting
M2015-01555-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s conclusion that the police had probable cause to search the Defendant’s vehicle.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/10/17
State of Tennessee v. Robert G. Thornton, Jr.
M2015-01555-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

The Defendant entered a plea of nolo contendere to eleven counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class D felony, with an agreed-upon sentence of two years for each count, all to be served concurrently. The Defendant reserved a certified question of law challenging the search of his vehicle and its contents, including a laptop computer which was the source of the images which serve as the basis of the convictions.  After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that there was probable cause to search the Defendant’s vehicle, and we accordingly affirm the convictions.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/10/17
Randall Coleman v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01174-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

The Petitioner, Randall Coleman, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of one count of rape of a child and five counts of aggravated sexual battery and resulting effective sentence of fifty-five years. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/10/17
State of Tennessee v. Heather Young
E2016-02240-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Eugene Eblen
The Defendant, Heather Young, was convicted by a Morgan County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated murder. See T.C.A. § 39-13-202(a)(1) (2014). The Defendant received a life sentence. On appeal, she contends that the evidence is insufficient to support her conviction. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/09/17
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Stanley Mitchell
E2016-00601-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Scott Green
The defendant, Jeffrey Stanley Mitchell, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court jury
convictions of one count of facilitation of the possession with intent to sell more than 26
grams of cocaine within a drug-free school zone, one count of third offense simple
possession of marijuana, two counts of the facilitation of the sale of .5 grams or more of
cocaine within a drug-free school zone, and two counts of the sale of .5 grams or more
of cocaine within a drug free school zone, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to
support his convictions. Because our supreme court has determined that the provisions
of the Drug-Free School Zone Act do not apply to convictions of facilitation, the
sentences imposed for the defendant’s convictions of facilitation must be reversed and
the case remanded for resentencing on those counts. The judgments of the trial court
are affirmed in all other respects.
 
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/09/17
Rivera L. Peoples v. State of Tennessee
M2014-02139-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Petitioner, Rivera L. Peoples, filed in the Davidson County Criminal Court a petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of first degree murder, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective.  The Petitioner also filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, alleging that newly discovered evidence in the form of recanted testimony entitled him to relief.  The trial court denied both petitions.  On appeal, the Petitioner challenges the rulings of the trial court.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/06/17
State of Tennessee v. Jennifer Murray Jewell
M2015-02141-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

The Defendant, Jennifer Murray Jewell, entered a “best interest” guilty plea to one count of theft of property valued at over $60,000 in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-103, a Class B felony.  Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Defendant was sentenced to ten years of supervised probation, and the parties agreed that restitution would be set by the trial court at a subsequent hearing.  After considering the proof presented at the hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to pay more than $800 per month as restitution.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court failed to follow correct procedure or consider her ability to pay in calculating the amount of monthly restitution she would owe.  She also argues that the restitution award should be overturned because the State failed to prove the amount of the loss.  Because we conclude that the State introduced inadequate proof regarding the valuation of the loss, we reverse and remand for a new hearing on the issue of restitution.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/06/17