Tommie Phillips v. State of Tennessee

Tommie Phillips v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01927-SC-R11-PC

In this post-conviction matter, we clarify the appropriate burden of proof and legal standard to be applied when a criminal defendant claims ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to move to suppress evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds.  The Petitioner, Tommie Phillips (“Petitioner”) was convicted of several offenses, including felony murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping, and especially aggravated burglary.  The Court of Criminal Appeals modified the especially aggravated burglary conviction to aggravated burglary.  The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, asserting, among other things, that his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective by failing to seek suppression of various statements he made to police on Fourth Amendment grounds.  The post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the decision of the post-conviction court.  We granted the Petitioner’s application for permission to appeal and directed the parties to discuss the applicable standard of review in this case.  Specifically, the Court sought to clarify the petitioner’s burden to establish prejudice when he or she alleges counsel was constitutionally ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress on Fourth Amendment grounds.  Upon our review of the record and applicable law, we conclude that to establish prejudice with this type of claim, the petitioner must prove that “his Fourth Amendment claim is meritorious and that there is a reasonable probability that the verdict would have been different absent the excludable evidence.”  Kimmelman v. Morrison, 477 U.S. 365, 375 (1986).  In applying this standard to the case before us, we conclude that the Court of Criminal Appeals properly affirmed the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.  Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Authoring Judge: 
Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Originating Judge: 
Judge W. Mark Ward
Date Filed: 
Friday, June 10, 2022