Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 11/12/2019
Format: 11/12/2019
State of Tennessee v. James R. Wilson
M2019-00369-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

James R. Wilson, Defendant, pled guilty to two counts of sale of more than five grams of a Schedule II controlled substance in case number 97-D-2596. Defendant received concurrent sentences of ten years with release eligibility after service of thirty percent of the sentence; Defendant was to serve one year in confinement and the remainder on community corrections. Defendant filed a Rule 36.1 motion and alleged that his sentences were illegal because he did not receive a Momon colloquy or sentencing hearing. The trial court found that the sentences had expired and summarily dismissed the motion for failure to state a colorable claim. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/13/19
Frederick Leon Tucker v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01196-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

Petitioner, Fredrick Leon Tucker, appeals the denial of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis based upon newly discovered evidence. We find that the error coram nobis court, in violation of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, failed to rule on Petitioner’s motion to recuse before entering an order denying the petition. Therefore, we vacate the order denying the petition for a writ of error coram nobis and remand for consideration of the petition. Furthermore, in order to avoid even the possibility of an appearance of impropriety, the original error coram nobis judge is recused from further proceedings in this case.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/12/19
Antonio D. Idellfonso-Diaz v. Russell Washburn, Warden
M2018-02233-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The Petitioner, Antonio D. Idellfonso-Diaz, appeals the denial of his petition for habeas corpus relief. Following our review, we affirm the habeas corpus court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/12/19
Tarence Nelson v. State of Tennessee
W2017-02063-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The petitioner, Tarence Nelson, 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. The petitioner argues trial counsel was ineffective for failing to turn over certain firearms to law enforcement for testing, failing to request funds to hire a ballistics expert, and failing to request oral argument on direct appeal. Separately, the petitioner alleges numerous, additional errors of trial counsel amounted to ineffective assistance under the cumulative error doctrine. The petitioner also contends postconviction counsel was ineffective. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/12/19
State of Tennessee v. Thorne Peters
W2018-01328-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Defendant, Thorne Peters, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony drug offense, a Class D felony; possession of marijuana with intent to sell, a Class E felony; and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, a Class E felony. The trial court merged the drug convictions and imposed an effective sentence of four years. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence convicting him of possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony drug offense. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Dustin Michael Cathey
W2018-00615-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The Defendant, Dustin Michael Cathey, was convicted by a Crockett County Circuit Court jury of first degree felony murder and second degree murder. The second degree murder conviction merged into the conviction for felony murder, and the trial court imposed a life sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in including language regarding criminal responsibility for the conduct of another in its jury charge, and he also argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Crockett County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Kendrick Rivers
W2018-00861-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

Defendant, Kendrick Rivers, was found guilty of aggravated assault in concert with two or more other persons after an incident at Northwest Correctional Complex (“Northwest”) in Tiptonville, Tennessee, during which a correctional officer was attacked by several inmates. As a result of the conviction, Defendant was sentenced to fifteen years in incarceration. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction, that the trial court erred in refusing to allow Defendant to introduce another inmate’s conviction for the same offense, and that the trial court erred in sentencing Defendant. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Tyrone Dotson
M2018-00657-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Defendant-Appellant, Gregory Tyrone Dotson, appeals from his conviction of voluntary manslaughter by a Davidson County jury. In this appeal as of right, the sole issues presented for our review are whether the evidence is sufficient to support his conviction and whether the trial court properly imposed his sentence. Upon our review, we affirm the conviction of the trial court. However, we reverse and vacate the Defendant’s sentence and remand for a new sentencing hearing.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Martha Ann McClancy
E2018-00295-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew M. Freiberg

The defendant, Martha Ann McClancy, appeals her Monroe County Criminal Court jury convictions of attempted first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder, arguing that the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress photographs of the scene taken by her co-conspirator Charles Kaczmarczyk, her motion in limine to exclude evidence of acts committed following the death of the victim, and her motion for a mistrial; that the trial court erred by admitting photographs of the victim taken during the autopsy; that the trial court’s making negative comments to and about her in front of the jury deprived her of the right to a fair trial; that the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions; and that the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentences. The State concedes, and we agree, that the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentences in this case. Instead, because Code section 39-12-106 prohibits the imposition of dual convictions for two inchoate offenses designed to achieve the same objective, the trial court should have merged the defendant’s convictions. Thus, we affirm the jury verdicts, reverse the imposition of consecutive sentences, and remand the case for the entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting that the convictions are merged.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Brian Williams
M2018-01901-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Defendant, Brian Williams, was indicted for aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; and theft of property valued at $1000 or less, a Class A misdemeanor. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-14-103, -105, -403. The Defendant pled guilty to the theft charge and was convicted by a jury of the aggravated burglary charge. The trial court later imposed a total effective sentence of four years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction for aggravated burglary. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Robert Vandenburg
M2017-01882-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

A Davidson County jury convicted Brandon Robert Vandenburg, Defendant, of five counts of aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated sexual battery, and one count of unlawful photography. On appeal, Defendant argues the following: (1) the trial court’s denial of his motion to dismiss the superseding indictment violated his right to due process and protection from double jeopardy and violated Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 8; (2) prosecution on the superseding indictment created a realistic likelihood of vindictive prosecution; (3) the trial court erred in excluding the testimony of Dr. J. Sidney Alexander; (4) the trial court erred by denying Defendant’s request to question potential jurors about recent rape cases in national news and by failing to timely admonish prospective jurors; (5) the trial court erred in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress the June 27, 2013 interrogation and evidence obtained based on that interrogation; (6) the trial court erred in excluding Defendant’s voicemail on Joseph Quinzio’s cell phone; (7) the trial court erred by instructing the jury on the requisite culpability for criminal responsibility and on “presence and companionship” as it relates to criminal responsibility; (8) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments; (9) the evidence was insufficient for a rational juror to have found Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (10) Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-605 is void for vagueness; (11) the trial court erred in ordering Defendant to serve an excessive sentence; (12) the trial court erred in denying Defendant’s motion to recuse; (13) the trial court erred by excluding evidence of the co-defendants’ prior bad acts; (14) the trial court erred by denying Defendant’s Tennessee Rule of Evidence 412 motion; and (15) the cumulative errors in Defendant’s trial warrant a new trial. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments in counts one through four and six through eight. Although not raised by either party, we determine that Defendant’s conviction of aggravated rape in count five must be vacated. We modify the conviction in count five to attempted aggravated rape and remand to the trial court for sentencing in count five.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/08/19
Travis Capshaw v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01371-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Petitioner, Travis Capshaw, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition. Petitioner argues that he was denied effective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel (1) failed to adequately utilize mental health issues as a mitigating factor in Petitioner’s first degree murder charge and (2) such failure caused trial counsel to erroneously advise Petitioner to plead guilty. Following a review of the briefs of the parties and the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/07/19
State of Tennessee v. Demarcus Lamont Gonner
M2018-01969-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Pro se Petitioner, Demarcus L. Gonner, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s summary denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/07/19
Joshua Terron Johnson v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01785-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The Petitioner, Joshua Terron Johnson, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2014 convictions for facilitation of attempted first degree murder, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, unlawful possession of a weapon, and aggravated assault and his effective sentence of twenty-six years. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/06/19
Darrell Dean Hochhalter v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00243-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

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

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/06/19
Henry Epps v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01772-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

Henry Epps, Petitioner, entered a best interest plea to six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor; the remaining nine counts of sexual exploitation of a minor were dismissed per the negotiated plea agreement. Petitioner received an effective sentence of eight years with release eligibility after service of 100% of the sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. Petitioner filed an original and an amended petition for post-conviction relief. After an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Petitioner filed a timely notice of appeal. This court reversed and remanded for a new post-conviction hearing and for entry of an order that contained specific findings of fact and conclusions of law relating to all issues raised. At the second post-conviction hearing, the post-conviction court admitted numerous affidavits and reports from Petitioner’s forensic expert and the State’s forensic expert. The post-conviction court then denied relief in an order. On appeal, Petitioner alleges that trial counsel’s performance was deficient because he “failed to consult with or inform [Petitioner] as to whether [Petitioner]’s expert would be used at trial” and “unilaterally discarded [Petitioner]’s defense, allowing him no say as to whether the case would proceed to a trial that would have presumably consisted of a jury hearing testimony from each side’s competing experts.” Petitioner asserts that he would have proceeded to trial absent trial counsel’s deficient performance. He also contends that he did not knowingly and voluntarily plead guilty because he “did not have a meaningful opportunity to confer with trial counsel about alternatives[,]” that “trial counsel . . . unilaterally deprived [Petitioner] of the option to choose trial[,]” and that Petitioner “had no prior experience with criminal proceedings, which would have weighed in favor of a finding that [Petitioner]’s plea was not voluntary, intelligent, or knowing.” After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/02/19
Timothy Dunn, Sr. v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01614-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Petitioner, Timothy Dunn, Sr., appeals from the Robertson County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to explain to the Petitioner the possible sentence he could receive if convicted at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post conviction court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/01/19
Cyrus Deville Wilson v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01109-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

Cyrus DeVille Wilson, Petitioner, filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis. He argued that two key witnesses for the State, Marquise Harris and Phedrek Davis, had recanted their testimony. Petitioner argued that this recanted testimony was newly-discovered evidence that may have affected the outcome of his trial if it had been admitted. The coram nobis court denied relief. On appeal, Petitioner asserts that the coram nobis court abused its discretion by denying his petition. He argues that the coram nobis court illogically credited Mr. Harris’ and Mr. Davis’ trial testimony as juveniles over their recanted testimony as adults. He also contends that Detective Bill Pridemore’s testimony that Mr. Harris only spoke with police after being assured that he would receive a Crime Stopper reward was newly-discovered evidence that may have had an impact on the outcome of his trial. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/01/19
State of Tennessee v. Shalonda Renee Pettus
M2018-01851-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The defendant, Shalonda Renee Pettus, entered an open plea to aggravated child neglect, and the trial court sentenced her to fifteen years’ incarceration in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court improperly weighed enhancement factor (1). After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/31/19
State of Tennessee v. Jordan Clayton, Carlos Stokes, and Branden Brookins
W2018-00386-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Defendants, Jordan Clayton, Carlos Stokes, and Branden Brookins, were convicted of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit first degree murder, attempt to commit first degree murder, two counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and reckless endangerment after a jury found them guilty of the murder of a seven-year-old female child. Defendant Clayton was also convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. On appeal, Defendants challenge the trial court’s refusal to sever the cases for trial, the admissibility of a recording of a preliminary hearing and a written statement of a witness with memory loss, and the sufficiency of the evidence. We determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying a motion to sever or by admitting the preliminary hearing recording and written statement into evidence. Additionally, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions. Consequently, we affirm the judgments of the trial court with respect to the convictions for first degree murder, attempted first degree murder, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and reckless endangerment. However, we reverse the judgments of the trial court with respect to the conspiracy to commit first degree murder convictions because the trial court improperly merged the conspiracy convictions with the first degree murder convictions. On remand, the trial court should reinstate the judgments for conspiracy to commit first degree murder.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/31/19
State of Tennessee v. Austin Andrew Morse
M2018-00430-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Defendant, Austin Andrew Morse, was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury for six counts of aggravated child abuse, four counts of aggravated child neglect, and four counts of aggravated child endangerment. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated child neglect. The remaining counts were dismissed. It was agreed that Defendant’s sentences would be served concurrently with a 70 percent release eligibility date. The trial court would determine the length of the sentences. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed sentences of 19 and 21 years for Defendant’s convictions. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing the length of his sentences. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of both parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/31/19
Antonio Terrell Pewitte v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01704-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The Petitioner, Antonio Terrell Pewitte, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2015 conviction for aggravated child neglect and his twenty-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/31/19
Bernie Ray McGill v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01872-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

The Petitioner, Bernie Ray McGill, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of aggravated assault and tenyear sentence. On appeal, he contends that the post-conviction court erred by finding that his petition was barred by the statute of limitations because due process required that the statute of limitations be tolled. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Kelvin Dewayne Golden
W2018-01477-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

A Madison County jury convicted the defendant, Kelvin Dewayne Golden, of aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court imposed a sentence of ten years’ confinement. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction and argues the sentence imposed by the trial court was excessive. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Bobby Lewis Parks
W2018-01761-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The defendant, Bobby Lewis Parks, entered an open plea to two counts of sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, two counts of delivery of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, one count of sale of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine, and one count of delivery of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine. The trial court sentenced the defendant to an effective sentence of thirty years’ incarceration in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant argues the sentence imposed by the trial court was excessive. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/29/19