Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 10/16/2021
Format: 10/16/2021
Myron Lorenzo Johnson v. State of Tennessee
M2020-01734-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Petitioner, Myron Lorenzo Johnson, was convicted in the Davidson County Criminal Court of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery.  The trial court merged the murder convictions and sentenced the Petitioner to life plus sixty years.  Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a petition requesting DNA analysis of evidence pursuant to the
Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001.  The post-conviction court summarily denied the petition, and the Petitioner appeals.  Based upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/21
Mario Bowles v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00070-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The pro se Petitioner, Mario Bowles, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel, that the post-conviction court judge was prejudiced against him, that the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct, and that the trial and post-conviction courts lacked jurisdiction over the case. Based upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/21
State of Tennessee v. Earlesa McClellan
W2020-00742-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

This is an Appeal by the State in which we are ask to conclude that a dismissal by a general sessions court for lack of probable cause is subject to de novo review by a circuit court, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 27-5-108. After the Madison County General Sessions Court dismissed the charge against Defendant, Earlesa McClellan, the district attorney general forwent a grand jury indictment and instead appealed to the Madison County Circuit Court. Finding that an appeal of a general sessions court’s probable cause determination to the circuit court is not proper procedure, the circuit court dismissed the appeal. The State now appeals to this Court. After a thorough review of the record, we dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/21
State of Tennessee v. Shaughn Walker - Dissent
W2019-00751-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

I respectfully disagree with the majority’s conclusion that the trial court did not err in refusing to grant a continuance and additional funding for an eyewitness identification expert. This case rested almost entirely on the victim’s identification of the Defendant as the perpetrator. Upon being notified by defense counsel the first day of trial that Dr. David Ross would not testify unless additional funds were provided, the trial court was understandably frustrated and concerned about further delay in this case. However, for the reasons that follow, I do not believe the trial court’s concerns about delay and expense warranted the severity of the sanction imposed on the Defendant. Because this case hinged on the victim’s identification and because the Defendant had already demonstrated a “particularized need” for state-funded expert assistance in the field of eyewitness identification, I believe the trial court erred in not granting a continuance and additional funds for a new expert. At the very least, I believe the trial court erred in not allowing testimony in some form from Dr. Jeffrey Neuschatz, who was available if the trial court had simply granted a one-day continuance. Because these errors were not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, I would reverse the Defendant’s conviction and remand for a new trial.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/01/21
State of Tennessee v. Shaughn Walker
W2019-00751-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter

A jury convicted the Defendant, Shaughn Walker, of robbery, and he was sentenced to serve ten years in the Community Corrections program. The Defendant appeals, asserting the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the victim’s identification from a photographic lineup; that the trial court erred in refusing to allow the Defendant to sit at the table with counsel during trial; that the trial court erred in denying a continuance, additional funding, or other relief after eyewitness identification expert Dr. David Ross used the allocated funding prior to trial and refused to testify absent additional payment; and that he is entitled to cumulative error relief. After a thorough review of the record, we discern no error and affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/01/21
State of Tennessee v. LaVonte Lamar Douglas
W2020-01012-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The Defendant, LaVonte Lamar Douglas, appeals as of right from his convictions for first degree felony murder and attempted aggravated robbery, for which the trial court imposed an effective sentence of life imprisonment. The Defendant argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions because his involvement was based upon uncorroborated accomplice testimony and no direct evidence linked him to the offenses; (2) his right to confront a witness was violated when a police witness referenced a nontestifying co-defendant’s statement; and (3) his mandatory life sentence is unconstitutional in light of his status as a juvenile at the time of the offenses. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/21
Brian Adams v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00958-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

The Petitioner, Brian Adams, filed a petition for post-conviction relief challenging his convictions for rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery and the resulting ninety-year sentence. The post-conviction court denied relief, and the Petitioner appeals. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to adequately cross-examine the victim and failed to object to hearsay evidence from hospital personnel. After our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court denying the Petitioner relief.

Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/21
State of Tennessee v. Universal Fire and Casualty Insurance Company Et Al.
M2020-00564-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff
Universal Fire and Casualty Insurance Company, acting as the Surety in the criminal cases of Shalisha Monique Settles (“defendant”), appeals from the judgment of the Williamson County Circuit Court ordering final forfeiture of her bond in the amount of $40,000. On appeal, the Surety argues it is entitled to relief based on its belief that the defendant was incarcerated under an alias in another state, making it “impossible” to fulfill its bond obligation. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/21
State of Tennessee v. Zachary Smith
M2020-01056-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael E. Spitzer

Aggrieved of his Hickman County Circuit Court jury conviction of attempted domestic assault, the defendant, Zachary Smith, appeals, arguing that the trial court should have dismissed Count 1 of the indictment as duplicitous.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/21
Samuel O. McAlister v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00045-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Petitioner, Samuel O. McAlister, appeals the Madison County Circuit Court’s denial of his post-conviction petition, seeking relief from his pleas to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, driving on a revoked license, violating the financial responsibility law, and failing to illuminate his license plate and resulting effective five-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, which resulted in his pleas being unknowing and involuntary. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/29/21
State of Tennessee v. Briston J. Smith, Jr.
E2020-00823-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

Following a trial, a jury convicted Briston J. Smith, Jr., (“Defendant”) of first degree felony murder and attempted especially aggravated robbery, for which he received an effective life sentence. On appeal, Defendant contends: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statements to law enforcement; (3) the trial court abused its discretion in admitting autopsy and life photographs of the victim; and (4) he is entitled to a new trial based on improper prosecutorial argument. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/29/21
State of Tennessee v. Kevin McDougle
W2020-00376-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Appellant, Kevin McDougle, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary denial of his pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, the Appellant contends that we should remand the case for the appointment of counsel and an evidentiary hearing because his motion states a colorable claim. Based upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/29/21
State of Tennessee v. Venessa Baston
E2021-00187-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael S. Pemberton

The petitioner, Venessa Baston, through counsel, appeals from the Morgan Criminal Court’s judgment summarily dismissing her petition for a writ of error coram nobis. The State has filed a motion to affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Following our review, we conclude that the State’s position is well-taken and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/28/21
State of Tennessee v. Terry Lee Gilbreath
E2020-00971-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew Mark Freiberg

A Monroe County jury convicted the Defendant of rape of a child, and the trial court sentenced him to forty years of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it did not suppress electronic evidence against him; (2) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; (3) the prosecutor’s closing argument was improper; and (4) the trial court erred when it denied his motion for a new trial. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/28/21
State of Tennessee v. William C. Austin, Jr.
W2020-01428-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Defendant, William C. Austin, Jr., appeals from his guilty plea and resulting conviction for driving as a motor vehicle habitual offender (“MVHO”), for which he received a sentence of four years and six months. Defendant does not challenge the other convictions or sentences he received as a result of his guilty plea. On appeal, Defendant argues that after his arrest, but before his guilty plea and sentencing, the Tennessee Legislature amended the Motor Vehicle Habitual Offenders Act and that as a result of the amendment he was entitled to the lesser penalty under the criminal savings statute of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-112 with respect to his conviction for driving as a MVHO. After a review, we agree with Defendant. As a result, we reverse and remand the judgment of the trial court with respect to Defendant’s conviction for driving as a MVHO. We remand the matter for entry of sentences in Counts 2 and 3. The remaining convictions and sentences are affirmed.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/24/21
Kelvin DeWayne Golden v. State of Tennessee
W2020-01617-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

After being convicted of aggravated sexual battery, Kelvin Dewayne Golden, Petitioner, appealed his conviction and sentence. State v. Kelvin Dewayne Golden, No. W2018- 01477-CCA-R3-CD, 2019 WL 3412527, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 20, 2019), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 14, 2019). They were affirmed on appeal. Id. He subsequently sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. The postconviction court denied relief after a hearing. Petitioner appeals. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/24/21
State of Tennessee v. Ariana Elizabeth Major
M2020-01142-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The State of Tennessee appeals the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s order granting the Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence recovered during the search of her car.  On appeal, the State contends that the trial court erred because the police dog performed a reliable “free air sniff,” which resulted in probable cause to search the Defendant’s car.  We dismiss the appeal because the State is not entitled to an appeal as of right pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(c) because the record fails to reflect that the trial court dismissed the relevant indictment counts. 

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/24/21
State of Tennessee v. Homer Alson Maddin, III
M2020-00795-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

A jury convicted the Defendant, Homer Alson Maddin, III, of four counts of aggravated rape in 2004, and the trial court sentenced him to concurrent terms of twenty-five years in confinement. After discovering in 2020 that it mistakenly marked the Defendant as a violent offender rather than a multiple rapist on the judgment forms in counts two through four, the trial court entered an order amending the judgment forms under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court failed to provide proper notice under Rule 36 and that his classification as a violent offender was not a clerical error. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/23/21
James Dominic Stevenson v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00134-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

The Petitioner, James Dominic Stevenson, was convicted by a jury of attempted first degree murder, three counts of aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon after he shot his ex-girlfriend in her car in the presence of her child. His aggravated assault convictions were merged into the attempted first degree murder conviction, and he received an effective twenty-seven-year sentence. The Petitioner filed for post-conviction relief, asserting that he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel, and his petition was denied after a hearing. On appeal, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.  

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/23/21
Jeffrey Wayne Hughes v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00531-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell Parkes

The Petitioner, Jeffrey Wayne Hughes, entered open guilty pleas to one count of theft of $250,000 or more, one count of theft of $10,000 or more but less than $60,000, and six counts of money laundering, and he received an effective twenty-seven-year sentence. He filed a petition for post-conviction relief, asserting that his pleas were involuntary because the aggregation of the theft offenses violated the prohibition on ex post facto laws and asserting that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief, and he appeals. We conclude that the Petitioner’s pleas were not involuntary because there was no ex post facto violation and that he has not established that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Accordingly, we affirm the denial of relief.  

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/23/21
State of Tennessee v. Rodger Dale Prince and Amanda Beaty
E2019-02058-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery Hill Wicks

A Morgan County jury convicted Defendant Rodger Dale Prince (“Defendant Prince”) and Defendant Amanda Beaty (“Defendant Beaty”) of first degree felony murder in the perpetration of aggravated child abuse and first degree felony murder in the perpetration of aggravated child neglect. Additionally, the jury convicted Defendant Beaty of aggravated child endangerment. The trial court imposed an effective life sentence with the possibility of parole for Defendant Prince’s convictions and an effective life sentence with the possibility of parole plus fifteen years for Defendant Beaty’s convictions. On appeal, the defendants assert that: (1) the trial court erred when it allowed the State to amend the indictment; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support their felony murder convictions; and (4) the trial court erred when it failed to grant a mistrial based upon improper testimony. Defendant Beaty also asserts that the trial court erred when it admitted into evidence instances of prior abuse. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments and remand for correction of the judgments consistent with this opinion.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/23/21
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Deshun McAlister
W2020-00651-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

Aggrieved of his Madison County Circuit Court jury convictions of aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a firearm, the defendant, Brandon Deshun McAlister, appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/22/21
Angela Montgomery v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00427-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Petitioner, Angela Montgomery, was convicted in the Rutherford County Circuit Court of six counts of rape of a child and received an effective sentence of forty years in confinement to be served at one hundred percent. After this court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions, she filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that she received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The post-conviction court held an evidentiary hearing and granted relief. In this appeal by the State, the State contends for the first time that the post-conviction court lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition on its merits because the petition was untimely and that the post-conviction court incorrectly determined that the Petitioner received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the case should be remanded to the post-conviction court to afford the Petitioner an opportunity to show whether the limitations period for filing the petition should be tolled based on due process concerns. Accordingly, the case is remanded to the post-conviction court for an evidentiary hearing on that issue.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/22/21
State of Tennessee v. Jalean Robert Williams and Markeil Linskey Williams
M2019-02307-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

After a jury trial and subsequent retrial on two of the charges, the defendants, Jalean Robert Williams and Markeil Linskey Williams, were convicted of first-degree premeditated murder, felony murder, possession of marijuana with intent to sell or deliver, possession of Alprazolam with intent to sell or deliver, and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of life imprisonment plus fourteen years on each defendant. On appeal, both defendants assert the evidence is insufficient to sustain their convictions. In addition, Defendant Markeil argues the trial court erred in allowing the State to ask leading questions, and the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentences violates the prohibition against double jeopardy. Upon our review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/22/21
Carl Prince v. Warden, Trousdale Turner Correctional Center
E2021-00180-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa Rice

The Petitioner, Carl Prince, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. After review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/22/21