Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 10/16/2021
Format: 10/16/2021
State of Tennessee v. Gabriel Storm Davis
M2020-00431-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

Defendant, Gabriel Storm Davis, was convicted by a jury of one count of aggravated child abuse and one count of aggravated child neglect.  The trial court imposed an effective twenty-two-year sentence, as a Range I standard offender, to be served at 100 percent, by operation of law, in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, Defendant argues: that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; that the State’s election of offenses was insufficient to ensure a unanimous verdict; and that the trial court erred by admitting the victim’s forensic interview into evidence.  Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/20/21
Jarus Smith v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00816-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin III

The Petitioner, Jarus Smith, appeals as of right from the Hickman County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his convictions for facilitation of attempted second degree murder, possession of contraband in a penal institution, and two counts of aggravated assault. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that (1) he did not knowingly and intelligently waive his constitutional right to a twelve-person jury, and (2) he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel relative to counsel’s advice about proceeding with an eleven-person jury. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/19/21
Lemaricus Davidson v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00541-CCA-R3-PD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter C. Kurtz

The Petitioner, Lemaricus Davidson, was convicted in the Knox County Criminal Court of numerous offenses against the two victims, Christopher Newsom and Channon Christian, including multiple counts of first degree felony and premeditated murder, and the jury imposed sentences of death for each murder conviction. After this court and our supreme court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions and sentences, he filed post-conviction and coram nobis petitions, seeking relief from those first degree murder convictions and death sentences. The post-conviction court found that trial counsel were deficient for not requesting a change of venue but that no prejudice resulted from trial counsel’s deficient performance and denied relief. The coram nobis court also denied relief. In this consolidated appeal, the Petitioner raises various issues, including that the post-conviction court erred by denying his request for expert services; that the post-conviction court erred by determining that a codefendant’s anticipated testimony at another codefendant’s upcoming trial was not relevant to the Petitioner’s claim for post-conviction relief; that trial counsel were ineffective because they failed to request an out-of-county jury, improperly handled voir dire, and failed to raise certain issues on direct appeal of his convictions; and that he is entitled to coram nobis relief because a codefendant’s new testimony may have led to a different verdict as to the first degree premeditated murders of the victims. Based upon our review of the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the post-conviction court erroneously determined that a codefendant’s anticipated testimony at another codefendant’s upcoming trial was not relevant to the Petitioner’s claim for post-conviction relief because the testimony would have invalidated one of the four aggravating circumstances found by the jury to impose the Petitioner’s death sentence for Mr. Newsom. However, we also conclude that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. We agree with the post-conviction court that trial counsel were deficient for not requesting a change of venue and that the Petitioner has failed to demonstrate he was prejudiced by trial counsel’s deficient performance. Therefore, we affirm the denials of post-conviction and coram nobis relief.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/19/21
Donald Jones v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00421-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Petitioner, Donald Jones, was found guilty by a jury of first degree felony murder and especially aggravated burglary, and he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment plus thirty years. After this court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions on direct appeal, he filed a petition for post-conviction relief contending that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his counsel failed to locate and interview an alibi witness and failed to request an instruction on accomplice testimony. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition. After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/21
State of Tennessee v. Elvin Portillo
M2020-01179-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Defendant, Elvin Portillo, entered into an agreement whereby he pled guilty to vehicular homicide by intoxication, leaving the scene of an accident with death and reckless endangerment.  Four remaining counts were dismissed.  In accordance with the plea agreement, the trial court held a sentencing hearing to determine the length and service manner of Defendant’s sentences.  After a sentencing hearing, Defendant received an effective sentence of 16 years.  In this appeal, Defendant asserts that the trial court erred in ordering consecutive sentencing.  Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we find no abuse of discretion and affirm the judgments of the trial court.  However, because the record does not contain judgment forms for the remaining counts, if these judgments do not exist, we remand to the trial court for entry of judgment forms to reflect dismissal of those counts. 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/21
Darryl Robinson v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00942-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

The Petitioner, Darryl Robinson, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his convictions for aggravated robbery and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-402, -17-1307(c)(1). On appeal, the Petitioner submits that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel due to (1) trial counsel’s failure to object to and preserve for appeal references by a witness identifying the Petitioner at trial by his prejudicial nickname “Trigger Man”; and (2) trial counsel’s failure to object during closing argument to the State’s use of a “pink elephant” analogy, as well as the failure to preserve the issue in the motion for new trial. In addition, the Petitioner raises a stand-alone allegation of prosecutorial misconduct based upon the State’s closing argument. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we are constrained to agree with the Petitioner that the post-conviction court failed to make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law to enable appellate review of all his claims. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand this case for proceedings consistent with this opinion

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/18/21
State of Tennessee v. James Durand Favors, III
E2020-01166-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

The Defendant-Appellant, James Durand Favors, was charged by information with four counts of aggravated domestic assault. He entered open guilty to pleas to all four counts. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to a total effect sentence of fifteen years’ incarceration to run consecutively to his sentence in two prior cases. The sole issue raised on appeal is whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying the Defendant alternative sentencing. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/17/21
State of Tennessee v. William Darnell Richardson
M2020-00286-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

The defendant, William Darnell Richardson, appeals his Lawrence County Circuit Court jury convictions of possession of 0.5 grams or more of a Schedule II controlled substance with intent to sell, simple possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and driving on a revoked or suspended license, arguing that he is entitled to plain error relief for inappropriate and prejudicial statements made by the prosecutor during closing arguments, that the trial court erred by admitting evidence contravening the rules of hearsay, and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of possession of 0.5 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to sell.  Because the trial court erred by admitting certain hearsay evidence, we reverse the defendant’s conviction for simple possession of Alprazolam and remand for a new trial on that charge.  Because the evidence was insufficient to sustain the defendant’s conviction of driving on a revoked or suspended license, we vacate that conviction and dismiss that charge.  We affirm the defendant’s conviction of possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell and find no plain error in the prosecutor’s closing argument.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/17/21
In Re Payton G. Et Al.
E2020-00992-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

The mother of two minor children appeals the termination of her parental rights. The trial court terminated the mother’s parental rights upon finding that the Department of Children’s Services established three grounds for termination: (1) abandonment prior to incarceration that exhibits wanton disregard for the welfare of the children; (2) substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan; and (3) failure to manifest an ability or willingness to assume custody, and that termination was in the best interest of the children. This appeal followed. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/16/21
State of Tennessee v. Caleb Josiah Cannon
M2019-01629-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Caleb Josiah Cannon, of premeditated firstdegree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to life in prison. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his motion in limine to exclude evidence that a human remains detection dog alerted to the presence of the scent of human remains in the Defendant’s home and car; (2) the evidence is insufficient to prove that the victim was deceased or that the Defendant caused her death; (3) the trial court erred when it admitted testimony from a witness identifying him in court because such testimony was tainted; and (4) the trial court erred when it excluded defense proof. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/16/21
State of Tennessee v. Stephen Maurice Mobley
E2020-00234-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Stephen Maurice Mobley, was convicted of two counts of first degree premeditated murder and one count each of attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court merged the attempted first degree murder and aggravated assault convictions and imposed an effective sentence of life imprisonment plus twenty-six years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; (2) the trial court improperly denied the Defendant’s challenge to the State’s striking a prospective juror as violating Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986); (3) a juror failed to disclose her prior knowledge of the Defendant during voir dire and provided extraneous information to other jurors in violation of the Defendant’s right to a fair trial; (4) the trial court erred in admitting hearsay statements under the excited utterance hearsay exception; and (5) the trial court improperly admitted evidence that the Defendant had been placed on a most wanted list by law enforcement prior to his arrest. We remand the case to the trial court for a hearing as to whether the State struck a potential juror in violation of Batson. We conclude that none of the other issues raised by the Defendant warrant relief.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/16/21
State of Tennessee v. John Gross
M2020-01143-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

The Defendant, John Gross, was convicted after a bench trial in the Davidson County Criminal Court of violation of an order of protection, a Class A misdemeanor, and aggravated stalking, a Class E felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-113 (2018) (subsequently amended) (violation of an order of protection), 39-17-315 (Supp. 2017) (subsequently amended) (aggravated stalking). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of two years, eleven months, twenty-nine days’ incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that plain error exists because the trial court admitted as evidence the recordings of the Defendant’s phone calls to the victim. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/12/21
Wesley H. Luthringer v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00503-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The petitioner, Wesley H. Luthringer, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his convictions of aggravated vehicular homicide, alleging that the trial court erred by denying his motion for new counsel and that he was deprived of the effective assistance of trial counsel.  Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/21
State of Tennessee v. Mickey Verchell Shanklin - Dissent
W2019-01460-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

I dissent from the conclusion reached by the majority that it is necessary to remand the case to the trial court for a hearing on the fines owed by the Defendant.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/21
State of Tennessee v. Mickey Verchell Shanklin
W2019-01460-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

A jury convicted the Defendant, Mickey Verchell Shanklin, of the sale of heroin, the delivery of heroin, the sale of fentanyl, and the delivery of fentanyl and assessed fines of $50,000 for the heroin convictions and $25,000 for the fentanyl convictions. The trial court merged the heroin convictions and the fentanyl convictions and ordered the Defendant to serve concurrent terms of thirty years for the heroin convictions and fifteen years for the fentanyl convictions as a Range III, persistent offender at forty-five percent. The trial court also affirmed the total fines of $75,000. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that the fines are excessive. We remand the case to the trial court for a hearing with regard to the fines. We otherwise affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/21
State of Tennessee v. Andre Terry and Nolandus Sims
E2019-01741-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

In a joint trial, a Knox County jury convicted the defendants, Andre Terry and Nolandus Sims, of two counts of felony murder, one count of second-degree murder, two counts of attempted especially aggravated robbery, two counts of carjacking, one count of employing a firearm during a dangerous felony, two counts of aggravated robbery, and two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping. For the crimes, Defendant Terry received an effective sentence of life plus fourteen years, and Defendant Sims received an effective sentence of life plus fifteen years. On appeal, the defendants separately challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting their convictions and the introduction of gang-related evidence during trial. Defendant Terry also challenges the trial court’s jurisdiction, suggesting the juvenile court failed to conduct a proper transfer hearing, and the trial court’s denial of his numerous motions to sever. Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/21
State of Tennessee v. Stephen A. Simpson
E2020-01340-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery Hill Wicks

The Loudon County Grand Jury indicted Defendant, Stephen A. Simpson, with one count of driving under the influence (“DUI”) and one count of simple possession of a Schedule II controlled substance. Following trial, a jury convicted Defendant of both counts. For the DUI count, the trial court sentenced Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days, suspended to forty-eight hours in confinement and the remainder to serve on supervised probation. For possession of a Schedule II controlled substance, the court sentenced Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served on supervised probation. The trial court ran the sentences concurrently. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence and that the evidence was insufficient to support his DUI conviction. Following a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Loudon County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/09/21
State of Tennessee v. Jeremy W. Alexander
W2020-00953-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

The Defendant, Jeremy W. Alexander, appeals as of right from the Henderson County Circuit Court’s revocation of his probation and reinstatement of his effective twenty-seven-year sentence in the Department of Correction for his three guilty-pleaded convictions for sale of 0.5 grams or more of methamphetamine. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by fully revoking his sentence and that an alternative to full incarceration should have been imposed to allow him to seek treatment for his methamphetamine addiction. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/06/21
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Anthony Santillan
M2020-00074-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Joseph Anthony Santillan, Defendant, appeals from his convictions for second degree murder, felony murder, attempted especially aggravated robbery, and attempted aggravated robbery, and effective sentence of life imprisonment plus five years for his involvement in the shooting death of a Nashville tourist in September of 2016.  After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant appeals, raising the following issues: (1) whether the trial court erred by limiting the questioning about a witness’s criminal history; (2) whether the trial court erred by prohibiting defense counsel from questioning a witness about leniency in exchange for her testimony; (3) whether the trial court erred by prohibiting evidence of Defendant’s cooperation with law enforcement; (4) whether the trial court erred by admitting gruesome crime scene photographs into evidence; and (5) whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain the convictions.  After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.  

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/05/21
State of Tennessee v. Aaron Joseph Dinguss
E2020-01459-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The Defendant-Appellant, Aaron Joseph Dinguss, pled guilty to vehicular homicide and was sentenced by the trial court as a Range I offender to nine years in the Department of Correction. The sole issue the Defendant raises on appeal is whether the trial court erred in finding enhancement factor (10) applicable without proof that anyone other than the victim was placed at actual risk by the Defendant’s conduct. We conclude that the trial court misapplied enhancement factor (10) because there was no proof of a high risk to the life of any human other than the victim, but that the nine-year sentence is nonetheless entitled to a presumption of reasonableness. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Union County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/05/21
State of Tennessee v. James D. Duncan
E2020-002827-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald R. Elledge

The Defendant-Appellant, James D. Duncan, pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine for resale and was give a suspended sentence of ten years on supervised probation. The trial court later revoked the Defendant’s probation following the issuance of a violation of probation warrant and a revocation hearing. The Defendant now argues on appeal that the trial court should have sua sponte recused itself due to comments made during the probation revocation hearing. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/04/21
Ricardo Antonio Demling v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01822-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

The petitioner, Ricardo Antonio Demling, was convicted by a jury of theft of property valued between $10,000 and $60,000, for his involvement in stealing two utility trailer vehicles (UTVs), and sentenced to fifteen years as a Range III persistent offender to be served consecutively to any unexpired sentences.1 He now appeals from the denial of postconviction relief claiming ineffective assistance of counsel based on the following grounds: (1) upon receipt of the State’s amended discovery response containing a statement by the petitioner and the name Christopher Brown, the alleged owner of a UTV, trial counsel’s failure to move to dismiss the charge, failure to suppress the statement by the petitioner, and failure to file a motion to continue the trial; (2) failure to interview and secure the testimony of Christopher Brown; (3) failure to file a motion based on Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), and State v. Ferguson, 2 S.W.3d 912, 916 (Tenn. 1999), concerning the alleged destruction of a dash cam recording of the instant traffic stop; (4) failure to file a speedy trial motion to dismiss based on the sixty-seven month delay between the date of the alleged crime and the date of the arrest; and (5) failure to file a motion to dismiss based upon the sixteen month delay between the date of the arrest and the trial.2 Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/04/21
Mainor Canales v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01040-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James L. Gass

Mainor Canales, Petitioner, was convicted of aggravated sexual battery and sentenced to twelve years’ incarceration. State v. Mainor Celin Avilez Canales, No. E2017-01222- CCA-R3-CD, 2018 WL 2084957, at *5 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 4, 2018). This court affirmed his conviction on direct appeal. Petitioner filed a pro se post-conviction petition and an amended petition through counsel, which the post-conviction court dismissed following a hearing. On appeal, Petitioner argues that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel because trial counsel (1) failed to investigate and present an expert witness; and (2) deprived him of his right to a Rule 11 application to appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/03/21
State of Tennessee v. Edward G. Jameson
M2020-00945-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Wallace

The Defendant-Appellant, Edward G. Jameson, was convicted of three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure and eight counts of incest. See §§ 39-13-532 (statutory rape by an authority figure); 39-15-302 (incest). The trial court classified the Defendant as a Range II offender and imposed a total effective sentence of fifty-four years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that 1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions in Counts One through Four; 2) the indictments for Counts One, Three, Seven, and Ten are barred by the statute of limitations; 3) the State failed to elect a specific offense in Count Ten; 4) the trial court committed plain error in sentencing him as a Range II offender; and 5) the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences. Upon our review, we affirm the convictions and sentences in Counts Five, Six, Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen, and we reverse and vacate Counts One, Two, Three, Four, Seven, and Ten and dismiss those indictments. We finally remand to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/03/21
State of Tennessee v. David Lee Richardson
E2020-01223-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tom Greenholtz

The defendant, David Lee Richardson, appeals the revocation of the sentence of probation imposed for his convictions of false imprisonment and domestic aggravated assault, arguing that the trial court erred by ordering that he serve the balance of the total effective sentence in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/03/21