Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/06/2016
Format: 12/06/2016
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Earl Jones
M2015-01373-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Rodney Earl Jones, of first degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced him to life for the first degree murder conviction and to twenty years for the especially aggravated robbery conviction, ordering the sentences to be served consecutively. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his motion for severance; (2) the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury about his co-defendant’s out of court statements; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After review, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/16
Gerald Collins v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00085-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The Petitioner, Gerald Collins, appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief by the Circuit Court for Gibson County. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was involuntary. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Michael Halliburton
W2015-02157-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Michael Halliburton, as charged of one count of attempted first degree premeditated murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of domestic assault. After imposing a sentence, the trial court granted the defendant's motion for a new trial and entered an order recusing itself from presiding over the new trial. Thereafter, the State filed an application for an extraordinary appeal pursuant to Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, which this court granted. On remand, the defendant was given a new sentencing hearing and a hearing on his motion for new trial. The successor trial court, serving as thirteenth juror, approved the jury's verdict and merged the defendant's convictions for aggravated assault and domestic assault with his attempted first degree murder conviction before imposing a sentence of twenty-one years. The successor court then denied the defendant's motion for new trial. On appeal, the defendant argues: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions because he was insane at the time he committed the offenses or, alternatively, was incapable of forming the requisite culpable mental states for the offenses; (2) the trial court abused its discretion in admitting several items of evidence; (3) the trial court abused its discretion in granting the State's motion in limine and excluding the testimony of two defense witnesses; and (4) the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial on the basis that the rule of sequestration was violated. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Harold Allen Vaughn
W2016-00131-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Harold Allen Vaughn, and his co-defendants, were indicted by a Madison County Grand Jury for attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, especially aggravated kidnapping, and especially aggravated robbery. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of attempted first degree murder resulting in serious bodily injury, aggravated assault, and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the aggravated assault conviction into the attempted first degree murder conviction and sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of twenty-five years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions and that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that his co-defendant was an accomplice as a matter of law. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court but remand for entry of a judgment form as to count two reflecting that the Defendant‟s aggravated assault conviction was merged with count one.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Charles Travis Maples
E2016-00589-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The defendant, Charles Travis Maples, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of three counts of the sale of cocaine in a drug-free school zone, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/16
State of Tennessee v. Jamichael Polk Armstrong
M2015-02083-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, Jamichael Polk Armstrong, was convicted by a Maury County jury of facilitation of sale of cocaine over 0.5 grams in a drug-free school zone and sentenced to ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction, with the first eight years to be served at one hundred percent release eligibility pursuant to the Drug-Free School Zone Act (hereinafter “the Act”).  On appeal, the Defendant claims that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred by applying the Act to his facilitation conviction.  Following our review, we affirm the Defendant’s conviction but remand for resentencing.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/16
State of Tennessee v. Jonathon D. Brown
M2015-02457-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John H. Gasaway, III

Jonathon D. Brown (“the Defendant”) was convicted of aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping, and theft of property over the value of $1,000 by a Robertson County jury.  The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a career offender to sixty years for both the aggravated rape and especially aggravated kidnapping charges, and to twelve years for the theft charge.  The trial court ordered the sentences to be served concurrently in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that venue was improper in Robertson County and that the evidence as to identity was insufficient for a rational juror to find that the Defendant was the assailant beyond a reasonable doubt.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/02/16
Michael D. Ellington v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02295-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The petitioner, Michael D. Ellington, appeals the post-conviction court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his premeditated first degree murder conviction. On appeal, he argues that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief because the State either committed prosecutorial misconduct or he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/01/16
William Phillips, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00103-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Scott Green

The petitioner, William Phillips, Jr., appeals the dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus/motion for Rule 36.1 correction of an illegal sentence, arguing that the trial court imposed an illegal sentence in violation of Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) by altering the sentence in his negotiated plea agreement, which the trial court accepted prior to the sentencing hearing. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas court dismissing the petition.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/01/16
State of Tennessee v. Chad Ray Thompson
M2015-01534-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley

Chad Ray Thompson (“the Defendant”) was indicted by the Warren County Grand Jury for one count of first degree premeditated murder, one count of first degree felony murder, and one count of especially aggravated robbery in connection with the death of his cousin, Tracy Allen Martin (“the victim”).  Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and facilitation of especially aggravated robbery.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that there was insufficient evidence to show premeditation for his first degree premeditated murder conviction and that there was insufficient evidence to prove the underlying felony of especially aggravated robbery for his first degree felony murder conviction.  Upon review, we conclude that the Defendant is not entitled to relief.  Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/01/16
David Alan Hunter v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02177-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The petitioner, David Alan Hunter, appeals from the post-conviction court's denial of relief from his conviction for first-degree murder and attempted especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the petitioner argues he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to trial counsel's failure to adequately explain the benefits of accepting a plea agreement despite his assertion of innocence and failure to convey a formal plea offer made by the State. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/01/16
Christopher Cunningham v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00222-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The petitioner, Christopher Cunningham, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. He argues the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial and on direct appeal. The petitioner also asserts his convictions for aggravated robbery violate double jeopardy. Following our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Gregory L. Allen a/k/a Michael Taylor
W2016-00495-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

The defendant, Gregory L. Allen a.k.a. Michael Taylor, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The defendant contends that the trial court erred in concluding that Rule 36.1 relief was not available because the alleged illegal sentence expired prior to the filing of the motion. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s Rule 36.1 motion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/16
Lamont Johnson v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00090-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The petitioner, Lamont Johnson, 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 denial of the petition.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Mario Cruz Estrada
M2016-00056-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The defendant, Mario Cruz Estrada, was convicted of attempted second degree murder for which he received a sentence of twelve years in confinement.  The defendant appeals his conviction challenging the trial court’s denial of his request for a jury instruction on the defenses of self-defense and defense of another and the admission of certain evidence. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/16
State of Tennessee v. April Lamb
M2016-00461-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Bragg

The defendant, April Lamb, appeals her Rutherford County Circuit Court jury conviction of aggravated assault, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to sustain her conviction and that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/16
Alvin Waller, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00265-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Petitioner, Alvin “A.J.” Waller, Jr., appeals the denial of post-conviction relief for his convictions of especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault. On appeal, he argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Nicole Pamblanco
M2015-01870-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John H. Gasaway, III

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Nicole Pamblanco, was convicted of aggravated child neglect and criminally negligent homicide.  She now appeals as of right, challenging (1) the sufficiency of the evidence by claiming that the State failed to establish the requisite mental state of knowing for her aggravated child neglect conviction and (2) the trial court’s erroneous instruction to the jury during voir dire that, if she were found guilty on both counts, those counts would merge.  Following our review, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support her aggravated child neglect conviction and that the jury instruction error was harmless.  Therefore, the trial court’s judgments are affirmed.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/16
Darien B. Clay v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02107-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

The Petitioner, Darien B. Clay, appeals from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his guilty plea convictions for aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery, two counts of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000, aggravated burglary, burglary of a business, and statutory rape, for which he received an effective thirteen-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim and that the court erred in determining that the Petitioner’s guilty plea was knowingly and voluntarily entered. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/16
Roosevelt Bigbee, Jr. v. Cherry Lindamood, Warden
M2016-00440-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The Petitioner, Roosevelt Bigbee, Jr., appeals the dismissal of his habeas corpus petition in which he challenged the legality of his convictions for first degree murder and robbery and his sentences of life for the murder conviction and eleven years for the robbery conviction, to be served consecutively. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the petition was properly dismissed, and we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Willie Lee Hughes, Jr.
M2015-01207-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff and Judge Michael Binkley

The defendant, Willie Lee Hughes, Jr., appeals both his Williamson County Circuit Court jury conviction of aggravated robbery and his guilty-pleaded conviction of failure to appear, claiming that the trial court erred by failing to exclude his statements to law enforcement officers on the basis that the statements were made during the course of plea negotiations and that the trial court erred by classifying him as a persistent offender.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/16
David Chardwick Wooten v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01141-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Petitioner, David Chardwick Wooten, appeals the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.  More specifically he contends that trial counsel failed to present favorable evidence and witnesses on his behalf at trial.  After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/28/16
Bruce Mendenhall v. State of Tennessee
M2015-02043-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Petitioner, Bruce Mendenhall, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of three counts of solicitation to commit first degree premeditated murder and resulting effective thirty-year sentence.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/28/16
State of Tennessee v. Prentis Lee
W2015-01538-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Defendant, Prentis Lee, appeals his convictions for two counts of rape and his resulting ten-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statement to police officers; (2) the failure to preserve a record of the preliminary hearing mandated dismissal of the charges or a new preliminary hearing; (3) the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions; (4) the trial court erred in limiting defense counsel's cross-examination of various witnesses; (5) the trial court erred in admitting victim impact evidence; (6) the trial court erred in allowing the State to present rebuttal witnesses who remained in the courtroom during the trial; (7) the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on assault as a lesser-included offense of rape; (8) his sentence is excessive; and (9) the cumulative effect of the errors requires a new trial. Based upon our review of the record, the parties' briefs, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/23/16
State of Tennessee v. Deshun Hampton, Matthew Tyler and Devonta Hampton aka Devonta Taylor
W2015-00469-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

This case represents the consolidated appeals of Defendants Deshun Hampton, Matthew Tyler, and Devonta Hampton. The three Defendants, having entered open guilty pleas to various felonies, challenge only the trial court‘s sentencing decisions, including its decision to impose partially consecutive sentences. The trial court sentenced Mr. Tyler to an aggregate sentence of sixty-six years, Mr. Deshun Hampton to an aggregate sentence of fifty-five years, and Mr. Devonta Hampton to an aggregate sentence of thirty-two years. Mr. Deshun Hampton and Mr. Tyler, who were between fifteen and sixteen years old at the time of the crimes, assert that their sentences amount to de facto life sentences and are therefore in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. They also challenge the application of certain enhancement and mitigating factors. All three Defendants challenge the trial court‘s sentencing decisions, asserting that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing partially consecutive sentences. We conclude that the sentences at issue, while lengthy, allow for a meaningful opportunity for release and do not run afoul of the Eighth Amendment, and we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/23/16