Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 08/19/2022
Format: 08/19/2022
State of Tennessee v. Larry Donnell Higgins, Jr.
W2021-00316-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Aggrieved of his Madison County Circuit Court Jury convictions of simple possession of marijuana, possession with intent to deliver not less than one-half ounce of marijuana, possession of a firearm with intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, and possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony crime of violence, the defendant, Larry Donnell Higgins, Jr., appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the denial of his motion for a mistrial. Because the trial court abused its discretion by denying the motion for mistrial, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/02/22
State of Tennessee v. Felipe Gonzalez-Martinez
E2021-00322-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

The defendant, Felipe Gonzalez-Martinez, appeals his Jefferson County Circuit Court Jury convictions of rape of a child, arguing that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his pretrial statement to the police, by admitting into evidence a video recording of the interview that produced his statement, by admitting into evidence handwritten notes exchanged by the defendant and the victim, and by imposing consecutive sentences. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Jefferson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/02/22
Billy James Matthews v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00898-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

As the result of a guilty plea to rape and robbery entered over 18 years ago, Billy James Matthews, Petitioner, was sentenced to an effective sentence of ten years. See Billy James Matthews v. State, No. W2005-02939-CCA-R3-PC, 2006 WL 2843291 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 5, 2006), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 22, 2007). After the denial of habeas corpus relief, see Billy James Matthews v. Warden Glenn Turner, No. W2004-01547-CCA-R3- HC, 2005 WL 957112, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 26, 2005), and post-conviction relief, Billy James Matthews v. State, 2006 WL 2843291, at *1, Petitioner sought relief via the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001. The post-conviction court dismissed the petition without a hearing. Petitioner filed an untimely notice of appeal. Because the interests of justice do not mandate waiver of the timely filing of the notice of appeal, the appeal is dismissed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Demario Quintez Driver
M2021-00538-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David D. Wolfe

A Cheatham County jury convicted the Defendant, Demario Quintez Driver, of rape and coercion of a witness, and the trial court sentenced him to sixteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for rape and that the State’s closing argument amounted to prosecutorial misconduct.  After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Patti Elizabeth Smith
E2021-00394-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry Steelman

The defendant, Patti Elizabeth Smith, appeals the denial of her Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 35 motion to reduce the sentence imposed for her 2018 guilty-pleaded conviction of reckless endangerment. Because the defendant has served the entirety of her sentence and been released from custody, we dismiss the appeal as moot.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Jacady Dwight Terry
E2021-00406-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Defendant, Jacady Dwight Terry, was convicted by a jury of violating the motor vehicle habitual offender (“MVHO”) law, for which he received a five-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred (1) by admitting the MVHO order into evidence because it was void; (2) by concluding that the MVHO violation was a strict liability offense and declining to give a mens rea instruction; and (3) by refusing to apply the “lesser penalty” provision of the criminal savings statute to the Defendant’s sentence.1 Following our review, we affirm.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Arthur M. Stewart
M2021-00595-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane

The defendant, Arthur M. Stewart, appeals the order of the trial court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his original four-year sentence in confinement.  Upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the revocation of the defendant’s probation but reverse the trial court’s imposition of the original sentence and remand for the trial court to make findings concerning the consequence imposed for the revocation in accordance with State v. Craig Dagnan, --- S.W.3d ---, 2022 WL 627247 (Tenn. Mar. 4, 2022). 

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/22
Damonta M. Meneese v. State of Tennessee
M2021-01137-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The petitioner, Damonta M. Meneese, appeals the post-conviction court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding his petition untimely.  Upon our review of the record, the applicable law, and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the dismissal.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/22
Eric Todd Jackson v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00302-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Petitioner, Eric Todd Jackson, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief and the denial of his Rule 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence, arguing that his guilty pleas to forgery and theft of property were unknowing and involuntary due to the ineffective assistance of counsel and that his sentence was illegal because he was innocent of the offenses.  After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.  

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Robbie Gibson
E2021-00769-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

A Campbell County jury convicted the Defendant, Robbie Gibson, of aggravated stalking, aggravated assault, and possession of a prohibited weapon. The trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of thirteen years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction for possession of a prohibited weapon and that the trial court erred when it limited the length of his closing argument. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Alain Benitez
M2021-00073-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane

Defendant, Alain Benitez, appeals his convictions for two counts of first degree felony murder and two counts of robbery, for which he received an effective sentence of two consecutive life sentences.  Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence presented at trial is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court erred by admitting into evidence messages sent between Defendant and his girlfriend through Facebook Messenger; (3) the trial court erred in admitting “forensic evidence”; and (4) the trial court abused its discretion by imposing consecutive sentences.  Upon review, we affirm Defendant’s convictions but reverse the imposition of consecutive sentencing and remand to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing.  The new sentencing hearing is limited to consideration of the factors outlined in State v. Wilkerson, 905 S.W.2d 933 (Tenn. 1995), to determine the propriety of consecutive sentencing. 

Smith County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Jackie Dean Miller
M2020-01393-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The Defendant, Jackie Dean Miller, was convicted by a Marshall County Circuit Court jury of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, and two counts of theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000, a Class C felony.  See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-403 (2018) (subsequently repealed, replaced by § 39-14-1003 (Supp. 2021)) (aggravated burglary), 39-14-103 (2018) (theft), 39-14-105 (2018) (subsequently amended) (grading of theft).  The trial court merged the theft convictions and imposed an effective ten-year sentence to be served in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that:  (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions, (2) he was denied a fair trial because jurors may have seen the Defendant in a sheriff’s car, and (3) the trial court abused its discretion in imposing consecutive sentences.  We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/22
Antywan Eugene Savely v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00746-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

Petitioner, Antywan Eugene Savely, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial.  More specifically, Petitioner asserts that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present any proof on his behalf.  Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/22
State of Tennessee v. Noah Cassidy Higgins
M2021-00281-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

Defendant, Noah Cassidy Higgins, pled guilty as a Range I standard offender to vehicular homicide by recklessness with the sentence to be determined by the trial court.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied judicial diversion and probation and sentenced Defendant to five years’ incarceration with a thirty percent release eligibility.  Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court: (1) improperly denied judicial diversion; (2) improperly denied probation; (3) considered facts outside the record; and (4) erred in applying and balancing certain enhancement and mitigating factors.  Following our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/22
William Cole Nicholson v. State of Tennessee
M2020-01128-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

William Cole Nicholson, Petitioner, was convicted of one count of aggravated sexual battery, and this court affirmed his conviction on direct appeal.  State v. William Cole Nicholson, No. M2017-01761-CCA-R3-CD, 2018 WL 4203549, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 4, 2018), no perm. app. filed.  Petitioner filed a pro se post-conviction petition and an amended petition through counsel, arguing that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel.  The post-conviction court denied the petition, and Petitioner now appeals.  Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/22
State of Tennessee v. Marcus Roshone Perry
M2020-01407-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Marcus Roshone Perry, Defendant, appeals his convictions for two counts of premeditated first degree murder, one count of first degree felony murder, and one count of felon in possession of a firearm, claiming that the trial court erred (1) in admitting hearsay evidence, (2) in admitting discoverable evidence that was not provided to Defendant, and (3) by empaneling a jury which was not representative of Defendant’s peers.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/22
State of Tennessee v. Quincy Lamont Collins
W2020-01566-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Defendant, Quincy Lamont Collins, was indicted by the Madison County Grand Jury for one count each of attempted first degree premeditated murder, aggravated assault, especially aggravated robbery, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony having been previously convicted of a dangerous felony. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted as charged, and he received an effective sentence of 31 years. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his statement to police; that the trial court should have suppressed the gun located as a result of information obtained during Defendant’s interrogation; that the trial court erred by instructing the jury on flight; and that his convictions for attempted first degree premeditated murder and aggravated assault violate double jeopardy. Following our careful review of the record, the arguments of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/22
State of Tennessee v. Sean Matthew Houser
E2020-01389-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

I concur with the majority’s conclusion to dismiss the Defendant’s appeal. However, I would dismiss the appeal on the basis that the certified questions are not dispositive because even if the results of the Defendant’s warrantless blood draw were suppressed, other sufficient evidence exists upon which the Defendant could be convicted of DUI.

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/22
State of Tennessee v. Sean Matthew Houser
E2020-01389-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

The Appellant, Sean Matthew Houser, pled guilty in the Grainger County Circuit Court to driving under the influence (DUI) per se, a Class A misdemeanor. As a condition of his plea, he reserved two certified questions of law regarding the admissibility of his warrantless blood alcohol test. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the certified questions do not comply with Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A) because they are too broad. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/22
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Scott Donaldson
E2020-01561-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

Aggrieved of his Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of second degree murder, the defendant, Brandon Scott Donaldson, appeals. He alleges error in the composition of the jury, arguing that the venire did not represent a fair cross-section of the community and that the State improperly used a peremptory challenge to strike an African American. He claims error in both the admission and exclusion of evidence, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence a sonogram photograph and by excluding text messages sent by the victim, certain of the victim’s medical records, and prior consistent statements of a defense witness. He also asserts that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial after a State’s witness offered improper testimony. He asserts that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct during closing argument. He claims error in the jury instructions provided by the trial court, arguing that the trial court incorrectly defined the offense of voluntary manslaughter and that the sequential jury instruction essentially barred the jury from adequately considering voluntary manslaughter as a lesser included offense of second degree murder. The defendant also challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the propriety of the total effective sentence. Finally, he asserts that the cumulative effect of the alleged errors prevented him from receiving a fair trial. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/22
Antonio Bonds v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00589-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

The Petitioner, Antonio Bonds, was convicted by a jury of first degree premeditated murder, and he received a sentence of life imprisonment. The Petitioner filed this fourth petition for post-conviction relief over twenty years after his conviction, and the postconviction court summarily dismissed his petition on the ground that the statute of limitations barred its consideration of his claims. The Petitioner appeals. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/22
State of Tennessee v. Marcus Willingham
M2020-01740-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

A Rutherford County jury convicted the Defendant, Marcus Willingham, of ten counts of rape of a child and two counts of solicitation of sexual exploitation of a child, for which the trial court imposed an effective sentence of thirty years’ incarceration.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it admitted pornographic material found on his electronic devices and that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions.  After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.  

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/22
State of Tennessee v. Daniel H. Jones
E2021-00701-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The pro se Appellant, Daniel H. Jones, appeals the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s orders summarily dismissing his motions to recuse the trial judge and motion for relief from final judgment. See Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02. The State has filed a motion to affirm the trial court’s judgments pursuant to Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Following our review, we conclude that the State’s motion is well-taken and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/22
State of Tennessee v. Casey Bryan Gibbs
M2021-00933-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash
Defendant, Casey Bryan Gibbs, entered a nolo contendere plea to possession of methamphetamine over 0.5 grams and felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to ten years in the Department of Correction to serve 180 days with the balance suspended to the Community Corrections program. Following a hearing on a community corrections violation warrant based on Defendant’s failure to report, the trial court revoked Defendant’s community corrections sentence and ordered him to serve the remainder of his ten-year sentence in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues the trial court abused its discretion in fully revoking his community corrections sentence and ordering him to serve the sentence in confinement. Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/22
State of Tennessee v. Quentin Dean Bird
M2021-00372-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Defendant, Quentin Dean Bird, was convicted by a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury of two counts of first degree premeditated murder.  See T.C.A. § 39-13-202(a)(1) (2014) (subsequently amended).  The jury imposed sentences of life without the possibility of parole, which the trial court ordered to be served consecutively to each other.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) he was deprived of his right to equal protection under the law when the State exercised a peremptory challenge against a black prospective juror without articulating a valid race-neutral reason, (2) the trial court erred in admitting graphic autopsy photographs, (3) the sentence of life without parole for the murder of one of the victims was excessive and constituted double jeopardy because the facts used to establish the enhancement factor were also used to enhance the sentence for the murder of the second victim, and (4) the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences based upon its finding that the Defendant was a dangerous offender.  We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/22