Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/01/2022
Format: 07/01/2022
State of Tennessee v. Robert Daniel Owens, Jr.
E2021-00814-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

The Defendant, Robert Daniel Owens, Jr., pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated burglary, domestic assault, assault, and aggravated stalking, and he received an effective sentence of four years on supervised probation after service of eleven months, twenty-nine days in confinement, followed by a consecutive sentence of two years on unsupervised probation. A revocation warrant was issued, and following a hearing, the trial court found that the Defendant violated the conditions of his probation, revoked his probation, and ordered him to serve his sentences in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to serve his sentences in confinement. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/01/22
State of Tennessee v. Patricia Kaye Wilkey
E2021-00549-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

The Defendant, Patricia Kaye Wilkey, appeals her conviction of first degree premeditated murder, for which she received a sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support her conviction; (2) the trial court improperly limited defense counsel’s cross-examination of the State’s witnesses; (3) the trial court erred in admitting hearsay statements; (4) the State made improper comments during closing arguments; and (5) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. Upon reviewing the record, the parties’ briefs and oral arguments, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rhea County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/01/22
State of Tennessee v. Jerry Louis Fitzgerald, Jr.
W2021-00195-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The Defendant, Jerry Louis Fitzgerald, Jr., was convicted at trial of sexual battery and possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to sell or deliver, and he received an effective sentence of fourteen years in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of sexual battery and that although he possessed the cocaine, the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that he intended to sell or deliver it. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/01/22
State of Tennessee v. Daljit Singh
E2021-01040-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex Pearson

Defendant, Daljit Singh, appeals the criminal court’s dismissal of his general sessions appeal from payment of a traffic citation after he filed a motion to withdraw payment of the citation. Following our review of the entire record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Greene County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/22
State of Tennessee v. Mischa Knight Claiborne
E2021-00974-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

Defendant, Mischa Knight Claiborne, was indicted by the Scott County Grand Jury for four counts of aggravated battery, one count of solicitation of a minor to commit aggravated sexual battery, nine counts of sexual battery, one count of rape, and one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child. Defendant pleaded guilty to four counts of attempted aggravated sexual battery, one count of solicitation of a minor, nine counts of sexual battery, one count of rape, and the continuous sexual abuse of a child charge was dismissed. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied alternative sentencing and ordered Defendant to serve an effective 15 years’ incarceration. Defendant appeals his sentences as excessive. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Scott County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/22
State of Tennessee v. Desean Allen Blackman
W2020-01696-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Appellant, Desean Allen Blackman, was convicted in the Madison County Circuit Court of two counts of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony, and received concurrent nine-year sentences to be served at one hundred percent. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions and that the trial court erred by allowing a law enforcement officer to testify that the Appellant invoked his right not to speak with the officer. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the convictions. We also conclude that the trial court erred but that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Lesa Annette White McCulloch
E2021-00404-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra N.C. Donaghy

The Defendant, Lesa Annette White McCulloch, appeals her convictions for one count of initiating the manufacture of methamphetamine, three counts of simple possession of a controlled substance, one count of possession of marijuana with the intent to sell, and one count of possession of unlawful drug paraphernalia, and her resulting sixteen-year sentence. The Defendant argues that (1) the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence seized as a result of the search of the Defendant’s home; (2) the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion to dismiss for the State’s failure to preserve material evidence and by declining to issue a special jury instruction; (3) the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of facilitation of possession of marijuana with the intent to sell; (4) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of the Defendant’s prior bad acts; (5) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments by commenting on the Defendant’s intelligence; (6) the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions; and (7) the trial court erred in determining her sentencing range and by ordering partial consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm; however, we remand the case for entry of a corrected judgment in Count 1 due to a clerical error.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Neal Scott Daniels
E2021-00561-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle A. Hixson

During a time when the Tennessee judicial system was grappling with the lingering effects of COVID-19, a Knox County jury convicted Defendant, Neal Scott Daniels, of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”); driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of 0.08 percent (“DUI per se”); simple possession of marijuana; driving on a revoked license; failing to provide evidence of financial responsibility; DUI per se fourth offense; and DUI by impairment fourth offense. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of two years to be suspended to four years on supervised probation after serving 150 days in jail. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that: 1) the trial court erred by denying his motion to continue on the grounds that courtroom procedures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with his right to a fair trial; 2) his right to confrontation was denied when he was made to wear a face mask during trial; 3) his right to the effective assistance of counsel was denied by requiring trial counsel and jurors to wear masks; 4) the trial court erred by admitting the results of his blood alcohol test because a valid chain of custody was not established; 5) the judgments of conviction in counts 6 and 7 are invalid because the indictment failed to include the dates of Defendant’s prior convictions; and 6) there was insufficient evidence to support Defendant’s conviction for simple possession of marijuana. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/22
Sedrick Darion Mitchell v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00783-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forrest A. Durard, Jr.

The pro se petitioner, Sedrick Darion Mitchell, 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 and on appeal.  Following our review, we affirm the
post-conviction court’s denial of the petition.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Lee Potts
M2020-01623-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer L. Smith

The Defendant, Jeffrey Lee Potts, appeals his jury conviction for attempted second-degree murder, for which he received a Range I sentence of twelve years’ incarceration.  In this direct appeal, the Defendant alleges that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court erred by prohibiting the defense expert from testifying about the reasoning and science upon which he based his opinion of the Defendant’s mental condition at the time of shooting; (3) the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion for a mistrial after the trial court stated in the jury’s presence that defense counsel could “rehabilitate” and “clean up” the expert’s testimony; and (4) the trial court erred in sentencing the Defendant, both in imposing the maximum sentence, as well as in imposing a sentence of continuous confinement.  Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Mark Christopher Beasley DISSENT
W2021-00585-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

I respectfully dissent with the portion of the majority opinion concluding that the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendant’s conviction for tampering with evidence. It bears repeating at the outset that while the focus of this appeal is on the tampering with evidence conviction, Tenn. Code Ann. Section 39-16-503, a Class C felony, the Defendant was also charged with and does not dispute his conviction of tampering with evidence pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. Section 40-39-304, a Class A misdemeanor (requiring minimum of 180 service).2 In my view, the evidence adduced at trial failed to show that the Defendant had the requisite action and intent to conceal the GPS device by placing it in the trash can at a convenience store.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Mark Christopher Beasley
W2021-00585-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

Following a bench trial, the defendant, Mark Christopher Beasley, was convicted in Case Number 20CR4 of two counts of violation of the conditions of community supervision for life; two counts of failure to appear; and one count of violation of the sexual offender registry and, in Case Number 21CR4, of two counts of violation of the conditions of community supervision for life; one count of tampering with, removing, or vandalizing a tracking device; and one count of tampering with evidence. The trial court imposed effective sentences of one year and four years, respectively, to be served consecutively for a total effective sentence of five years. On appeal, the defendant asserts the proof is insufficient to sustain his conviction for tampering with evidence in Case Number 21CR4 and, in the alternative, his convictions for tampering with evidence and tampering with, removing, or vandalizing a tracking device violate principles of double jeopardy. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Nikos Burgins
E2021-00620-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Defendant, Nikos Burgins, was convicted by a jury of five counts of aggravated rape, four counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, and one count of aggravated robbery, for which he received an effective sentence of ninety-six years’ incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping, contending that the State failed to establish removal or confinement that exceeded the accompanying felonies and that the evidence only established one count of especially aggravated kidnapping per victim; (2) the trial court erred by allowing the State to impeach the Defendant with a prior aggravated assault conviction; (3) the trial court erred by allowing the two victims to be present in the courtroom prior to their testimony; and (4) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of the Defendant’s letters, averring that they were not properly authenticated. Following our review, we remand the case for the entry of corrected judgments reflecting one conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping per victim.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
Christopher Desmond Simpson v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00216-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The petitioner, Christopher Desmond Simpson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel.  After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Byron Cole Tucker
M2021-00839-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The defendant, Byron Cole Tucker, pled guilty to aggravated assault for which he received a sentence of five years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction, suspended to five years of supervised probation.  The trial court also ordered the defendant pay $39,028.49 in restitution through monthly payments of no less than $350.  On appeal, the defendant challenges the trial court’s restitution order.  After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Jamar LaQuan Branden
M2021-00764-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forrest A. Durard, Jr.

The defendant, Jamar Laquan Braden, was convicted by a Marshall County jury of theft of property and unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon for which he received an effective sentence of fifteen years in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the defendant argues: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion for new trial; and (3) the trial court erred in denying his motion for change of venue.  Upon our review of the record, the applicable law, and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Rashaud Deavon Watson
M2021-01354-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Bateman

The petitioner, Rashaud Deavon Watson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel and entered a voluntary and intelligent plea.  Following our review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of the petition.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Deborah Morton
E2019-01755-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery Hill Wicks

A Loudon County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Deborah Morton, of first degree premeditated murder, and the trial court sentenced the Appellant to life imprisonment in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining her conviction. The Appellant also contends that the trial court erroneously excluded and erroneously admitted certain lay and expert testimony, that the trial court erroneously denied her request for a jury instruction concerning the State’s failure to preserve evidence, that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct, and that these cumulative errors deprived her of her right to a fair trial. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Loudon County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Capone Carroll Strange
E2021-00763-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The defendant, Capone Carroll Strange, appeals his Scott County Criminal Court jury conviction of aggravated child abuse, arguing that the jury venire was improperly influenced by the victim, that the trial court erred by failing to strike a juror for cause, that a State witness gave improper expert testimony, and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Scott County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/27/22
Jonathan Gutierrez v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00298-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Petitioner, Jonathan Gutierrez, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his post-conviction petition, seeking relief from his convictions of first degree premeditated murder and four counts of aggravated assault and resulting effective sentence of life plus sixteen years.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to file a motion to suppress statements he made in response to a custodial interrogation after he had invoked his right to remain silent and because trial counsel failed to intervene when he made incriminating statements during an interview for a television show.  After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/27/22
John Meyer v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00712-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The petitioner, John Meyer, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his conviction of theft of property valued at $1,000 or less, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel.  Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Cardell Coman, Jr.
W2020-01684-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The pro se defendant, Brandon Cardell Coman, Jr., appeals his Madison County Circuit Court jury conviction of aggravated robbery, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence, excluding certain evidence, denying a motion to suppress certain evidence, denying the defendant’s request for new counsel, denying a motion to dismiss the charges; that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; and that his trial was tainted by prosecutorial misconduct. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/24/22
State of Tennessee v. Guy A. Cobb
E2021-00903-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Defendant, Guy A. Cobb, was convicted of one count of possession with intent to sell more than one-half gram of methamphetamine, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to eight years’ probation. See T.C.A. § 39-17-434 (2018). Subsequently, the trial court found the Defendant violated conditions of his probation and ordered him to serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by ordering him to serve his sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/24/22
State of Tennessee v. Edward Earl Killgo
E2020-00996-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Appellant, Edward Earl Killgo, pled guilty in the Knox County Criminal Court to statutory rape, a Class E felony. Pursuant to the plea agreement, he received a six-year sentence as a Range III, persistent offender with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the sentence, including his request for judicial diversion, and whether he would be placed on the sex offender registry. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that the Appellant be given credit for time served in jail, that he serve the balance of his six-year sentence on supervised probation, and that he be placed on the sex offender registry. On appeal, the Appellant claims that the trial court erred by denying diversion and by ordering that he register as a sex offender. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the trial court erred. Therefore, we reverse the trial court’s denying judicial diversion and ordering that the Appellant be placed on the sex offender registry and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/24/22
Verchaunt J. Williams v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00512-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The petitioner, Verchaunt J. Williams, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his convictions of first degree murder, tampering with evidence, and abuse of a corpse, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel.  Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/22