Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 11/12/2019
Format: 11/12/2019
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Logan Lawson
E2018-01566-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Defendant, Curtis Logan Lawson, appeals from his Knox County convictions for burglary, theft of merchandise, and criminal trespass. Defendant argues that his burglary conviction should be dismissed because the burglary statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-402(a)(3), does not apply to buildings that are open to the public. Defendant also argues that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on principles of statutory construction and on the defense of ignorance or mistake of fact, that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for burglary, and that the trial court erred in denying his request for a community corrections sentence. Based upon our review of the record, briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/19
Antonio L. Fuller v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00340-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The petitioner, Antonio L. Fuller, appeals the dismissal of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in dismissing the petition as time-barred. Following our review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s dismissal of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Howard Melton
E2018-01281-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby McGee

Defendant, Howard Melton, was convicted of assault by offensive touching and sexual battery by an authority figure. As a result of the convictions, the trial court sentenced Defendant to serve four years in incarceration, consecutively to the sentence Defendant received in a separate case. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly admitted a videotape into evidence. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/07/19
State of Tennessee v. Dennis Rasheed Gaye
E2018-02236-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby McGee

Defendant, Dennis Rasheed Gaye, appeals from the dismissal of a motion to reduce his sentence, a motion to correct an illegal sentence, and a motion to correct a clerical error. For the following reasons, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/07/19
Santeriaus D. Lavender v. State of Tennessee
M2018-02204-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Petitioner, Santeriaus D. Lavender, pled guilty to second degree murder in exchange for a sentence of thirty years to be served at 100 percent. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary. The post-conviction court denied relief, and upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Brandon E. Banks - Concur in Part / Dissent in Part
M2018-00264-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

I join the majority in affirming the defendant’s convictions of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery. But I write separately to dissent from the majority’s conclusions that Detective Gish was qualified to describe and give his opinion regarding what the videos and images appeared to show and that the defendant waived his claim regarding Detective Mayo’s “editorial commentary.”

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Brandon E. Banks
M2018-00264-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

A Davidson County grand jury indicted the defendant, Brandon E. Banks, for five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. After trial, a jury convicted the defendant of one count of each offense. On appeal, the defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless search of his cell phone, the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for aggravated rape, and several of the trial court’s evidentiary rulings. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Ronnie Thomas Baker
M2018-02221-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

Defendant, Ronnie T. Baker, was convicted by a jury of aggravated assault, domestic assault, and interference with a 911 call. The trial court sentenced Defendant to a total effective sentence of ten years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days. On appeal, Defendant argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction of aggravated assault; (2) the trial court erred in admitting the victim’s prior consistent statements; (3) the trial court erred in admitting testimony and photos concerning the interior of the victim’s residence that showed destruction of the property by the Defendant; (4) the trial court erred by failing to merge the convictions for aggravated assault and domestic assault; and (5) the trial court erred in imposing the maximum sentence and by imposing partial consecutive sentencing. After conducting a full review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Jenny Frye
E2018-01825-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The defendant, Jenny Frye, appeals the order of the trial court revoking her community corrections sentence and ordering her to serve an increased sentence of eight years in confinement. Upon review of the record, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the defendant violated the terms of her community corrections sentence. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed in part. However, because the trial court failed to conduct a sentencing hearing prior to increasing the defendant’s sentence, we remand the matter for a new sentencing hearing.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/19
Troy Love v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00111-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

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

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/19
State of Tennessee v. Diontae Smartt
E2018-02013-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

A Hamilton County jury found Defendant, Diontae Smartt, guilty of aggravated sexual battery, for which he received a sentence of eight years’ incarceration. On appeal, Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to admit the video recording of his statement to police in its entirety, pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 106, after the State questioned Defendant about inconsistencies between the statement and Defendant’s trial testimony. Defendant further contends that the trial court erred by denying his request to instruct the jury on self-defense as the defense was fairly raised by the proof at trial. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/19
Ugenio Ruby-Ruiz v. State of Tennessee - Dissenting Opinion
M2019-00062-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s opinion granting the delayed appeal because I conclude that the Tennessee Supreme Court, in denying the Petitioner’s request to late-file his appeal pursuant to Rule 11 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure (“Rule 11 application”), has already reviewed the substantive underlying issues of the appeal in determining not to accept the late-filed appeal in the interest of justice.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/02/19
Ugenio Dejesus Ruby-Ruiz v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00062-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

The Petitioner, Ugenio Dejesus Ruby-Ruiz, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2013 convictions for nine counts of rape of a child, two counts of rape, five counts of aggravated sexual battery, and three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and his 121-year sentence at 100% service. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. We reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand the case for the entry of an order granting the Petitioner a delayed appeal for the limited purpose of filing an application for permission to appeal to our supreme court. The Petitioner’s remaining allegations shall be held in abeyance in the post-conviction court until the resolution of the delayed appeal.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/02/19
State of Tennessee v. Trenell Lamar Copeland
M2017-02427-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Defendant, Trenell Lamar Copeland, appeals from his convictions of four counts of aggravated sexual battery of a child. Defendant was found guilty following a jury trial in 2010. On appeal, Defendant argues that (1) the evidence at trial was insufficient to support the convictions, (2) the trial court erred in its instructions to the jury, and (3) the trial court erred by allowing the victim’s prior consistent statements to be admitted into evidence. After review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/01/19
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Randall South - Concurring Opinion
M2018-01360-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

I agree with the majority’s conclusion that the defendant’s convictions must be reversed and the case remanded for a new trial due to the prosecutor’s improper remarks during closing argument. I write separately to express my concern about the trial judge’s ex parte discussion with the jury during deliberations.

Fentress County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Randall South
M2018-01360-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

Following a jury trial, the defendant, Gregory Randall South, was convicted of two counts of selling morphine, a Schedule II controlled substance. On appeal, the defendant contends the prosecutor improperly commented on his right not to testify and used an improper hypothetical during closing argument. Having thoroughly reviewed the record, we conclude the prosecutor’s comments on the defendant’s right not to testify constitute reversible non-structural constitutional error. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the matter for a new trial.

Fentress County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Terry D. Winters
M2017-01155-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

The defendant, Terry D. Winters, was indicted for and convicted of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and domestic assault for which he received an effective twenty-year sentence. He now appeals the denial of his motion for new trial wherein he alleged he received ineffective assistance of counsel and challenged a statement made during the State’s closing argument. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the motion.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/19
Kelvin Brown v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00054-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Kelvin Brown, Petitioner, filed a pro se Petition for Post-Conviction Relief (“the Second Petition”). The post-conviction court summarily denied the Second Petition, finding that Petitioner had previously filed a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief (“the First Petition”); that counsel had been appointed for Petitioner; and that Petitioner appeared at an evidentiary hearing with counsel and withdrew the First Petition after specifically being warned by the court that “any dismissal would be with prejudice.” Petitioner appealed, claiming the post-conviction court erred in summarily dismissing the Second Petition. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/27/19
State of Tennessee v. Rontavious S. Ferguson and Tramon T. Key
W2018-01908-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge William B. Acree

The State appeals from the trial court’s dismissal with prejudice of a two-count indictment against the Defendants, Rontavious S. Ferguson and Tramon T. Key, for attempted second-degree murder and attempted aggravated robbery. The State contends that it had discretion to nolle prosequi the charges and that dismissal without prejudice would not have placed the public interest at stake. After review, we affirm the dismissal of the indictment against the Defendants but remand to the Dyer County Circuit Court for entry of an amended order dismissing the case without prejudice.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Tony F. Boyle
W2019-00128-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Following a trial, a Madison County jury convicted Defendant, Tony F. Boyle, of driving under the influence (DUI). The trial court imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days, which was suspended to community corrections supervision following the service of thirty days in jail. On appeal, Defendant contends that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his conviction. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Whitcliffe McLeod
W2018-01646-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The defendant, Whitcliffe McLeod, appeals his sentences for second degree murder and attempted second degree murder. The defendant argues the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the defendant to serve his sentences consecutively. Following our review, we affirm the judgments and sentence of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/19
State of Tennessee v. John C. Murray
M2018-01150-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody Kane

The Defendant was convicted upon his guilty plea to theft of property valued at more than $1,000 but less than $10,000, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. § 39-14-103(a) (2018) (theft), 39-14-105 (Supp. 2015) (amended 2016) (grading of theft). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to serve eight years as a Range II, multiple offender. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in sentencing. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Ricky Jan Stevison - dissenting opinion
E2018-01832-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

I respectfully dissent from the conclusion reached by the majority affirming the trial court’s denial of the Defendant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Based on my review of the record, the Defendant’s guilty pleas were not knowingly, voluntarily, and understandingly entered as to their effect and consequences. Accordingly, I would have concluded that the trial court erred by denying his motion to withdraw the guilty plea.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Ricky Jan Stevison
E2018-01832-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

Defendant, Ricky Jan Stevison, pled guilty to theft of property and was sentenced to two years on supervised probation with the trial court to determine the issue of restitution at a hearing. Defendant subsequently filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The trial court denied the motion after a hearing. Because we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. However, because the judgment form does not include the amount of restitution or the terms of the repayment, we remand to the trial court for entry of an amended judgment form.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Roshaun Colbert
E2018-02062-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby McGee

On February 8, 2018, a Knox County jury convicted Roshaun Colbert, Defendant, on one count each of reckless endangerment, evading arrest, reckless driving, attempted tampering with evidence, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The trial court sentenced Defendant to a total effective sentence of twelve years. On November 14, 2018, the trial court vacated Defendant’s conviction for reckless endangerment because reckless endangerment was not properly charged in the indictment as a lesser-included offense of aggravated assault. On appeal, Defendant argues that there was insufficient evidence to convict Defendant of attempted tampering with evidence and that the trial court erred in instructing the jury on flight. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/24/19