Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 10/16/2021
Format: 10/16/2021
Tabitha Gentry v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00637-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

A Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Tabitha Gentry, of theft of property valued over $250,000 and aggravated burglary. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of twenty years. On appeal, this court affirmed the judgments. See State v. Tabitha Gentry, No. W2015-01745-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 4264266, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Aug. 12, 2016), perm. app. granted (Tenn. Dec. 14, 2016). On appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the supreme court affirmed. State v. Gentry, 538 S.W.3d 413 (Tenn. 2017). The Petitioner timely filed a post-conviction petition, alleging that she received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After multiple hearings, the post-conviction court denied relief, concluding that the Petitioner had not proven that Counsel was deficient or that the Petitioner was prejudiced by Counsel’s representation. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that she received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/21
State of Tennessee v. Cindy B. Hinton
M2020-00812-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash

The Defendant, Cindy B. Hinton, appeals her convictions for vehicular homicide by intoxication and vehicular homicide by reckless driving. The Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient relative to the Defendant’s intoxication and that the court erred by imposing a sentence of eleven years in confinement. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/21
Marcus Thomas v. State of Tennessee
E2020-00751-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Petitioner, Marcus Thomas, appeals from the Knox County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief from his guilty pleaded conviction to attempted first degree murder. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by dismissing his petition and denying relief on his claims alleging that his guilty plea was involuntary and unknowing and that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. We affirm in part and reverse in part the post-conviction court’s judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/21
State of Tennessee v. Bret A. Wines
E2020-00957-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The Defendant previously entered guilty pleas to various drug related offenses and received an effective sentence of fourteen years’ probation. Four affidavits and arrest warrants alleging violations of his probation subsequently issued, and following a hearing conducted via Zoom video conferencing technology (“Zoom”), the trial court revoked his probation and ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in confinement. In this appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) it was plain error for the trial court to conduct the revocation hearing via Zoom because it “failed to make a specific finding, utilizing the law as articulated in Maryland v. Craig [497 U.S. 838 (1990)],” in violation of his right of confrontation under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution; and (2) the sentence imposed by the trial court was excessive. Upon our review, we affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/21
State of Tennessee v. Annon Sara Aloqili
W2020-01219-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Defendant, Annon Sara Aloqili, pled guilty to aggravated burglary, theft up to $1,000, and misdemeanor evading arrest and was sentenced as a Range I offender to an effective sentence of six years on supervised probation. Following a hearing on a violation of probation warrant, the trial court found Defendant in violation of her suspended sentence, revoked the probation, and ordered her to serve the balance of the sentence in confinement. On appeal, Defendant claims the trial court abused its discretion in revoking her probation and ordering her to serve the original sentence in confinement. After hearing oral arguments and following a review of the entire record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/21
State of Tennessee v. Marterius O'Neal
W2019-02157-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula Skahan

The defendant, Marterius O’Neal, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convictions of first degree murder, attempted especially aggravated robbery, and attempted aggravated robbery, arguing that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the pretrial statement he provided to the police, by severing his trial from that of his co-defendant, and by limiting his cross-examination of a State witness. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/21
State of Tennessee v. William Thomas Kelly
W2020-00733-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker

The defendant, William Thomas Kelly, appeals his Tipton County Circuit Court Jury convictions of evading arrest, violating the open container law, violating the financial responsibility law, and driving on a revoked, cancelled, or suspended license, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. Because we discern possible clerical error in the judgment form for Count 2, we remand the case for the entry of any appropriate corrected judgment form for that count.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/21
Alphonzo Chalmers v. State of Tennessee
W2020-01210-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Petitioner, Alphonzo Chalmers, appeals the denial of his fourth petition for writ of error coram nobis in which he challenges his 1999 conviction for first degree premeditated murder. On appeal, Petitioner claims: that two pages of a “gunshot wound path report” detailing the victim’s injuries constituted newly discovered exculpatory evidence which was suppressed by the State contrary to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); that he is actually innocent of murder because the State relied on the “knowingly false” testimony of eyewitness Alan King and Detective Miguel Aguila; that the gunshot wound path report would have refuted the testimony of Mr. King who allegedly testified that the victim had been shot in the stomach; and that the coram nobis court abused its discretion in denying his petition for the writ. Following review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court in accordance with Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/21
State of Tennessee v. Michael Lynch
E2020-00930-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

After a Knox County jury convicted Defendant, Michael Lynch, of all six counts of the indictment, the trial court merged each alternative count, convicting Defendant of one count of theft of property valued at $10,000 or more, one count of theft of property valued at $2500 or more, and one count of attempted theft of property valued at $2500 or more. The trial court sentenced Defendant to a total effective sentence of fifteen years. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by: (1) denying a motion to suppress, (2) refusing to sever offenses; and (3) determining several of Defendant’s prior convictions were admissible. Defendant also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. After a thorough review of the issues and record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/21
Waynard Quartez Winbush v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01557-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stacy L. Street

Waynard Quartez Winbush, Petitioner, appeals from the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus challenging his 2016 conviction for conspiracy to sell a Schedule I controlled substance within a thousand feet of a school. We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/21
Harold Holloway, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01361-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tom Greenholtz

The petitioner, Harold Holloway, Jr., appeals the summary dismissal of his petition, styled in the alternative as both a petition for writ of habeas corpus and a motion to correct an illegal sentence. Because the petitioner failed to present colorable claims for relief via either procedural vehicle, the trial court did not err by summarily dismissing the pleading.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/21
State of Tennessee v. Roy Evans
E2020-01297-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex H. Ogle

Roy Evans, Defendant, admitted to violating the conditions of probation and submitted the sentencing determination to the trial court. Following a hearing on the sentence, the trial court revoked probation and suspension of the sentence and ordered Defendant to commence the execution of the judgment as originally entered. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/21
State of Tennessee v. David Thomas Tidwell
W2020-00199-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

The Defendant was indicted by an Obion County Grand Jury of aggravated assault in that he “feloniously and intentionally caused serious bodily injury to Ashley Tidwell in violation of T.C.A. §39-13-102(a)(1)(A), a class C felony[.]” A jury convicted the Defendant of the lesser included offense of misdemeanor reckless endangerment. T.C.A. §39-13-103. The trial court imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days, suspended to supervised probation following the service of 180 days in confinement. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction and that the trial court erred in imposing the sentence. Upon our review, we affirm.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/21
State of Tennessee v. Donald Schoenthal and Tara Neutzler
W2019-01529-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

Following the execution of a search warrant on their property, the Defendants, Donald Schoenthal and Tara Neutzler, were separately indicted by a Carroll County Grand Jury in 156-count indictments, which charged each of them with 2 counts of aggravated child neglect or endangerment, 2 counts of attempted aggravated child neglect or endangerment, 34 counts of aggravated animal cruelty, and 118 counts of animal cruelty. The State later dismissed over 120 of these counts. Thereafter, the Defendants separately filed a motion to dismiss the indictment and a motion to suppress evidence. After the trial court denied these motions, Defendant Schoenthal and Defendant Neutzler each entered “best interest” pleas to one count of aggravated animal cruelty (Count 63) and three counts of animal cruelty (Counts 37, 99, and 103). The Defendants’ plea agreements, which were accepted by the trial court, stated in part that each Defendant received a sentence of two years for the aggravated animal cruelty count and eleven months and twenty-nine days for each of the three animal cruelty counts, that these sentences would be served consecutively to one another, that the remaining counts of their respective indictments were dismissed, and that the trial court would determine the manner of service of these sentences. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered Defendant Schoenthal to serve a total of 120 days in confinement and Defendant Neutzler to serve a total of 75 days in confinement before serving the remainder of their sentences on supervised probation. Thereafter, the Defendants appealed their cases, arguing that the trial court erred in denying their motions to suppress, and this court later consolidated these cases into a single appeal. After review, we conclude that this court lacks jurisdiction to consider the suppression issue because no appeal of right lies for the Defendants pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(b) and Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 37(b)(2). Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/16/21
Ray Armstrong v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00419-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Petitioner, Ray Armstrong, was convicted after a jury trial of two counts of sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine in a drug-free school zone, two counts of delivery of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine in a drug-free school zone, tampering with evidence, and resisting arrest. The drug charges were merged, and the Petitioner was sentenced to serve an effective sentence of fifty and one-half years in prison. He filed a timely post-conviction petition, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court held a hearing and denied relief, and the Petitioner appeals, asserting that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to inform the Petitioner of his sentencing exposure, failing to review relevant discovery with him, failing to call a witness, and waiving on appeal the trial court’s refusal to instruct on a lesser included offense. We conclude that with respect to each claim, the Petitioner has either failed to establish deficiency or has failed to establish prejudice, and we affirm the denial of relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/16/21
State of Tennessee v. Abraham Julien Augustin
E2020-00965-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew Mark Freiberg

The Defendant pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted second degree murder, a Class B felony; three counts of reckless endangerment committed with a deadly weapon, a Class E felony; attempted aggravated robbery, a Class C felony; criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, a Class D felony; escape, a Class E felony; theft of property valued at $2500 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony; and theft of property valued at $1000 or less, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 30-13-210 (second degree murder) (2018), 39-12- 101 (2018) (criminal attempt), 39-13-402 (2018) (aggravated robbery), 39-12-103 (criminal conspiracy), 39-13-103(a), (b)(2) (reckless endangerment committed with a deadly weapon), 39-16-605 (2018) (escape), 39-14-103 (2018) (theft of property), 39-14- 105 (2018) (subsequently amended) (grading of theft). The trial court imposed an effective twenty-five-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in sentencing. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/15/21
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Cox
E2020-00018-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

The Defendant, Joseph Cox, was convicted of assault, a Class A misdemeanor, by a Knox County Criminal Court jury. See T.C.A. § 39-13-101(a)(1) (Supp. 2016) (subsequently amended). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months, twenty-nine days, with sixty days to be served in jail and the balance to be served on probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the presentment because the State failed to comply with a procedural step in charging him by presentment and because the child abuse statute is unconstitutional,1 (2) the trial court erred in its jury instructions, and (3) the court erred in imposing split confinement. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/15/21
State of Tennessee v. Ivin Lee Robinson
W2020-00246-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The Gibson County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant, Ivin Lee Robinson, for first degree premeditated murder in Count 1, first degree felony murder in Count 2, and especially aggravated robbery in Count 3. Immediately prior to trial, the Defendant entered an “open” guilty plea to the especially aggravated robbery charge in Count 3, with the trial court to determine the appropriate sentence for this conviction at a later sentencing hearing. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-403. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of the lesser included offense of second degree murder in both Count 1 and Count 2. See id. § 39-13-210(a)(1). Thereafter, the trial court merged the two second degree murder convictions, imposed a forty-year sentence in Count 1, imposed a forty-year sentence for the especially aggravated robbery conviction in Count 3, and ordered these sentences served consecutively for an effective sentence of eighty years at one hundred percent release eligibility. On appeal, the Defendant argues: (1) the evidence is insufficient to establish causation for his second degree murder convictions; (2) the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on reckless homicide and criminally negligent homicide as lesser included offenses of the felony murder charge; and (3) the trial court abused its discretion in imposing consecutive sentencing. After review, we remand the case for entry of corrected judgment forms in Counts 1 and 2 as specified in this opinion. In all other respects, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/15/21
State of Tennessee v. Lloyd Crawford
W2019-02056-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant-Appellant, Lloyd Crawford, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of first-degree felony murder, attempted first-degree murder, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, attempted especially aggravated robbery, and tampering with evidence. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202 (first-degree murder), 39-12-101 (criminal attempt), 39-17-1324 (employing a firearm), 39-13-403 (especially aggravated robbery), 39-16-503 (tampering with evidence). The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of life plus seventeen years. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/15/21
Elizabeth Harrison v. State of Tennessee
W2019-02117-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee Moore

Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Petitioner, Elizabeth Harrison, pled guilty to theft over $1,000 and burglary of a motor vehicle, and the trial court sentenced the Petitioner to eighteen months in Community Corrections for each count. See Tenn. Code Ann.
§§ 39-14-103, -402. Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a motion to withdraw her guilty pleas and petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that she received ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied both the motion and the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that she received ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with the pleas. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/15/21
State of Tennessee v. Alonzo Hoskins
E2020-00052-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Alonzo Hoskins, of six counts of felony murder of the victim, based upon six underlying felonies, and one count of especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the Defendant’s convictions for felony murder and imposed a life sentence plus twenty years for especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) all counts of the presentment failed to allege an offense; (2) the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress the cell phone records; (3) the trial court erred by preventing defense counsel from making an inquiry or proper record into the competency of a juror; (4) the prosecutor’s closing argument was improper; and (5) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/15/21
State of Tennessee v. Philip Michael Martinez
W2019-02033-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

A Gibson County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant, Phillip Michael Martinez, for attempted aggravated sexual battery in Count 1 and solicitation of a minor in Count 2. Prior to trial, the State entered a nolle prosequi for the solicitation of a minor charge. At the conclusion of trial, the jury found the Defendant guilty as charged of the attempted aggravated sexual battery count. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101; 39-13-504(a)(4). Thereafter, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to three years’ incarceration at thirty percent release eligibility, sentenced him to community supervision for life, and ordered him to register as a sexual offender for life. On appeal, the Defendant argues: (1) the trial court erred in allowing the forensic interviewer to testify as an expert; (2) the trial court erred in admitting the victim’s forensic interview as substantive evidence; (3) the trial court erred in instructing the jury on flight; (4) the State made two improper comments during its closing argument; and (5) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction because the proof failed to show that he acted for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/14/21
Winford Paul Wilhoite v. State of Tennessee
M2019-02198-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

In 2017, the Petitioner, Winford Paul Wilhoite, pleaded guilty as charged in case number 25743 to possession with intent to sell 0.5 grams or more of methamphetamine, simple possession of Lortab, possession of drug paraphernalia, criminal impersonation, and driving on a revoked license (second offense). See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-434, 3917-418, 39-17-425, 39-16-301, 55-50-504. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of ten years. Thereafter, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging, in part, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Counsel for the Petitioner was appointed, and an amended petition was filed. The postconviction court denied relief, and the Petitioner appeals. After review, we affirm the postconviction court’s judgment.  

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/13/21
State of Tennessee v. Madaryl Dewayne Hampton
W2019-01551-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant-Appellant, Madaryl Hampton, was indicted by the Madison County Grand Jury with multiple counts of drug and weapon related offenses, all stemming from a single encounter with the Jackson Police Department (JPD). These counts were severed into two trials, one dealing with the drug related offenses and the other the weapon related offenses. In the first trial, the Defendant was convicted of two counts of simple possession of marijuana. In his second trial, the Defendant was convicted of four counts of being a felon in possession of a weapon. The trial court merged each of these counts and sentenced the Defendant as a Range II offender to twenty years’ imprisonment for the weapon offenses to be served consecutively to eleven months and twenty-nine days’ imprisonment for the possession of marijuana convictions. While the issues presented in this appeal as of right involve facts from the Defendant’s first trial, the Defendant challenges only the felon in possession of a weapon convictions in arguing that: (1) the trial court committed plain error in allowing the State to admit evidence that the Defendant was in possession of marijuana, digital scales, and cash; (2) the trial court committed plain error in allowing the State to comment on the credibility of the Defendant and the witnesses during closing arguments; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s convictions. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/12/21
State of Tennessee v. Calvin M. Courter
M2020-00470-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camilla R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

The Defendant-Appellant, Calvin M. Courter, pleaded guilty to reckless aggravated assault, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-102, for which he received a three-year probationary sentence, with an additional 30 days to be served on weekends. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his request for judicial diversion. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.  

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/12/21