Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/17/2019
Format: 07/17/2019
State of Tennessee v. Keith Lamont Brown aka "Kee Kee"
W2018-00731-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The Defendant, Keith Lamont Brown, appeals his conviction for the delivery of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine for which he received a sentence of twenty-five years as a persistent offender. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/19
Christopher Danta Logan v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01176-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The Petitioner, Christopher Danta Logan, appeals the Tipton County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his pro se petition for
post-conviction relief. The Petitioner argues that he timely filed his petition alleging he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. The State agrees that the Petitioner timely filed his petition. After a review of the record and applicable law, we conclude that the
post-conviction court committed reversible error; therefore, we reverse the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of the petition and remand for a hearing regarding the timeliness of the Petitioner’s post-conviction petition.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Ronnie Joe Edwards, Jr.
W2018-00805-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The defendant, Ronnie Joe Edwards, Jr., appeals the order of the trial court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his original five-year sentence 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 his probation and the imposed sentence is proper. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/19
State of Tennessee v. John Steven Hernandez
M2016-02511-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

In 2013, a Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, John Steven Hernandez, of first degree premeditated murder for a killing that occurred in 1993, for which the trial court imposed a sentence of life in prison. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it: (1) did not dismiss the charge against him based on pre-indictment delay; (2) did not dismiss the charge against him based on post-indictment delay; (3) denied his motion to suppress evidence; (4) made several erroneous evidentiary rulings; and that (5) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; and that (6) the Defendant is entitled to a new trial based upon the cumulative effect of the errors. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/19
Sara Elizabeth Arnold v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00809-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

In 2017, the Petitioner, Sara Elizabeth Arnold, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in exchange for an agreed eight-year sentence and the dismissal of an attempted first degree murder charge she also faced. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that her guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered because she was mentally incompetent and her trial counsel was ineffective for failing to have her mental condition evaluated. The post-conviction court denied the petition, finding that she had undergone two mental evaluations that concluded she was competent prior to entering her plea. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the mental evaluations conducted on her were not proper assessments of her mental state and asks this court to obtain a copy of her institutional record. After review, we reverse the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/19
Brice Cook v. State of Tennessee - Dissenting
W2018-00237-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

I respectfully disagree with the majority’s conclusion that the Petitioner is not entitled to relief based upon his claim of bias by the post-conviction judge. Rather, I conclude that the post-conviction judge’s comments at the conclusion of the hearing were so egregious that the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned and, thus, warranted recusal. See Tenn. Sup. Ct. R. 10, R.J.C. 2.11(A) (“A judge shall disqualify himself or herself in any proceeding in which the judge’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned….”). Because the judge presided over the proceedings when disqualified from doing so, I would reverse the post-conviction court’s order denying the Petitioner post-conviction relief and remand for a new hearing with a different judge.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/19
Brice Cook v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00237-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

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

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/19
Dexter Sappington v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01516-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The petitioner, Dexter Sappington, Jr., appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel prior to and during his guilty plea hearing. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Jonathan Alexander
W2018-00442-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles C. McGinley

A Hardin County jury convicted the defendant of two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm (counts 1 and 2), possession of a Schedule II controlled substance with intent to sell or deliver (count 3), possession of unlawful drug paraphernalia (count 4), and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony (count 5). On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions in counts 3 and 5 and asserts the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the inference of casual exchange pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-419. Upon our review of the record, we conclude sufficient evidence exists to support the defendant’s convictions and the defendant failed to preserve the jury instruction issue for appeal. In reviewing the sentencing determinations of the trial court, however, we note several errors in the completion of the judgment forms for counts 1, 2, 3, and 4. Specifically, there are clerical errors in the felony classifications as marked in counts 1, 2, and 3 (in count 1, the trial court incorrectly classified the conviction as a Class C felony rather than a Class B felony; in count 2, the trial court incorrectly classified the conviction as a Class E felony rather than a Class C felony; and in count 3, the trial court incorrectly classified the conviction as a Class C felony rather than a Class B felony). Additionally, in merging the defendant’s convictions in counts 1 and 2, the trial court failed to impose a sentence for the merged conviction of count 2. Finally, in count 4, the trial court incorrectly sentenced the defendant for a misdemeanor conviction rather than the felony for which he was found guilty, warranting a new sentencing hearing on the same. Consequently, we remand the case to the trial court for sentencing as to counts 2 and 4 and the entry of corrected and completed judgment forms as to counts 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Hardin County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Thomas Bethel Hendrix
M2017-00386-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

A Williamson County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Thomas Bethel Hendrix, of two counts of aggravated child abuse and one count of child abuse, and the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of twenty-five years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by admitting certain statements he made to law enforcement and that the trial court erred by failing to merge his convictions into a single conviction of aggravated child abuse. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but conclude that the Appellant’s convictions must be merged. Accordingly, the case is remanded to the trial court for merger of the convictions into a single conviction of aggravated child abuse. We note that merger of the convictions does not affect the Appellant’s twenty-five-year sentence because the trial court ordered that he serve the sentences concurrently.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/19
Reginald Tyrone Donnell v. Russell Washburn, Warden
M2018-00706-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The Petitioner, Reginald Tyrone Donnell, filed a petition for habeas corpus relief from his two convictions of second degree murder, contending that the indictment charging him was void and that a fatal variance existed between the indictment and the proof adduced at trial. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition for failure to comply with the procedural requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-21-107, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s summary dismissal of the petition.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Torey Martez Underwood
E2018-00811-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Scott Green

The defendant, Torey Martez Underwood, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of alternative sentencing for his guilty-pleaded conviction of attempted second degree murder. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/10/19
State of Tennessee v. Rocky G. Tanner
M2018-00639-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

After a bench trial in July 2017, the defendant, Rocky G. Tanner, was found guilty of driving on a revoked or suspended license in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-50-504. At trial and in his motion for new trial, the defendant challenged the State’s ability to require drivers to maintain a valid license as unconstitutional. The defendant now challenges, for the first time, the constitutionality of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-24-105(b) “claiming having his license suspended due to failure to pay court costs . . . is not legal under the United States Constitution.” However, because the defendant did not present this challenge to the trial court, he has waived consideration of his claim. Thus, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Stewart County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/19
Derrick Richardson v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01352-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

The Appellant, Derrick Richardson, appeals as of right from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s judgment summarily denying his petition for a writ of error coram nobis. The State has filed a motion to dismiss this appeal due to an untimely notice of appeal. Following our review, we conclude that the interest of justice requires a waiver of the timely filing of the notice of appeal and deny the State’s motion to dismiss. We further conclude, however, that an opinion in this case would have no precedential value and affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Jared Worthington
W2018-01040-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Defendant, Jared Worthington, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of DUI per se, a Class A misdemeanor, and reckless driving, a Class B misdemeanor, after the State dismissed his DUI by impairment charge. He was sentenced by the trial court to concurrent terms of one day for the reckless driving conviction and 11 months, 29 days for the DUI conviction, suspended to probation after service of ten days in the county jail. On appeal, the Defendant raises the following issues: (1) Whether the trial court erred in its rulings regarding the admission and publication of the dashboard camera video of the Defendant’s arrest; (2) Whether the trial court violated the Tennessee constitution by disparaging the evidence, which took the form of instructing the jury that much of the video was irrelevant; (3) Whether the trial court erred by not allowing defense counsel to question officers about the potential bias created by the fact that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (“TBI”) blood alcohol or drug concentration test fee (“BADT”) was collected only in those cases in which a defendant is convicted; and (4) Whether the trial court “shifted the burden of proof,” thereby violating the Defendant’s constitutional due process rights, by asking defense counsel in the presence of the jury whether the Defendant intended to put on any proof. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/19
Lashun Gray v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01262-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Petitioner, Lashun Gray, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief from his convictions for attempted first degree murder and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, for which he received an effective sentence of thirty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel based on: (1) trial counsel’s advice on whether Petitioner should testify at trial; (2) trial and appellate counsels’ failure to object to and appeal the jury instructions pertaining to criminal responsibility for the acts of another; and (3) trial counsel’s failure to properly advise Petitioner regarding the State’s plea offer of twenty-five years with a thirty-percent release eligibility. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/19
Jakeil Malik Waller v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01235-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Petitioner, Jakeil Malik Waller, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner was convicted of second degree murder and reckless endangerment and received an effective sentence of twenty-seven years. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Jennifer Murray Jewell
M2017-01931-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

The Appellant, Jennifer Murray Jewell, entered a best interest guilty plea to theft of property valued over $60,000, a Class B felony. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Appellant received a sentence of ten years to be served on supervised probation. After a hearing, the trial court ordered the Appellant to pay $100,000 in restitution by monthly payments of $861.80 during her sentence. On direct appeal, this court held that the State failed to adduce sufficient proof of the victim’s loss; therefore, the case was remanded to the trial court to determine the amount of the victim’s loss and restitution. On remand, the Appellant represented herself at the second restitution hearing. The trial court determined that the victim suffered a total loss of $341,122.65 and ordered restitution of $47,000, to be paid in monthly installments of $500 for the remaining ninety-four months of her probationary sentence. On appeal, the Appellant contends that she was denied her right to counsel at the second restitution hearing and that the trial court failed to consider her ability to pay in determining the amount of restitution. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/19
Dennis R. Bolze v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01231-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Petitioner, Dennis R. Bolze, appeals the dismissal of his motion to vacate his state convictions, which the trial court treated as a petition for post-conviction relief and determined to be time-barred. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/19
State of Tennessee v. Jacob Smith
W2018-01630-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The Defendant, Jacob Smith, was convicted of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”) and leaving the scene of an accident. He received an effective sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days suspended after five days of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his DUI conviction. Upon review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/19
Marcus Rhodes v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01220-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Petitioner, Marcus Rhodes, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged the validity of his guilty pleas to attempted second degree murder, reckless endangerment, three counts of aggravated assault, and two counts of attempted aggravated robbery, for which he received an effective ten-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that his trial counsel was ineffective and that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered. Specifically, he contends that trial counsel and the trial court misinformed him regarding his potential sentencing exposure if convicted at trial. We conclude that the Petitioner has waived this issue, and we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/19
State of Tennessee v. Chad Edward Massengale
E2018-00387-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The defendant, Chad Edward Massengale, appeals his Hamilton County Criminal Court jury conviction of first degree murder, claiming that the trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress his statement to the police and by refusing to instruct the jury that a certain State’s witness was an accomplice as a matter of law and arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/02/19
Adam Nicholas Wallace v. State of Tennessee
E2017-02481-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

Petitioner, Adam Nicholas Wallace, appeals the Scott County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2016 conviction for aggravated sexual battery, for which Defendant was sentenced to imprisonment for ten years. The postconviction court dismissed Petitioner’s post-conviction petition as time-barred because it was filed outside the one-year limitations period. On appeal, Petitioner contends that due process requires tolling of the statute of limitations. We disagree. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the post-conviction court’s dismissal of Petitioner’s petition.

Scott County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/02/19
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Bronson, Jr.
M2018-01172-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

A Montgomery County grand jury indicted the Defendant, Gregory Bronson, Jr., for two counts of felonious possession of marijuana and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm. The Defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress the evidence resulting from the search of his residence. The trial court denied the Defendant’s motion, and, after his request for interlocutory appeal to this court was denied, the Defendant pleaded guilty to the indicted charges and reserved a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) as to whether the search of the Defendant’s residence by law enforcement was lawful. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/02/19
State of Tennessee v. Geremy Paul Mathis
M2018-01139-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

A Coffee County jury convicted the Defendant, Geremy Paul Mathis, of felony failure to appear, and the trial court sentenced him to three and a half years in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the trial court improperly admitted his prior convictions; (2) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction; and (3) the trial court abused its discretion when sentencing him to serve three and a half years in confinement. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/02/19