Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 04/24/2014
Format: 04/24/2014
State of Tennessee v. Justin Shelton
M2013-01812-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Appellant, Justin Shelton, was indicted by the Lincoln County Grand Jury on two counts of reckless endangerment and two counts of vandalism. Appellant pled guilty and was sentenced to two years on each count for a total effective sentence of eight years. The trial court suspended the sentences and ordered Appellant to probation. Subsequently, a probation violation warrant was filed which alleged that Appellant had not reported to his probation officer; failed to pay fines; and failed to provide proof of employment. Petitioner also pled guilty to another offense. At a hearing, Petitioner pled guilty to the probation violation. The trial court ordered Appellant to serve the balance of his sentence in incarceration. Appellant appeals. After a review of the record and authorities, we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in revoking Appellant’s probation as there was evidence to support the conclusion of the trial court that a violation of the conditions of probation occurred. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/14
State of Tennessee v. Steve Duclair
E2012-02580-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

Appellant, Steve Duclair, was named in a presentment by the Sullivan County Grand Jury in September of 2008 for two counts of the sale of one-half a gram or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school and two counts of the delivery of one-half a gram or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school. The grand jury later named Appellant in a second presentment charging Appellant for one count of selling one-half gram or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school and one count of delivering one-half gram or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school. After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of two counts of selling one-half gram or more of cocaine, two counts of delivering one-half gram or more of cocaine, one count of selling one-half gram or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, and one count of delivering one-half gram or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school. The trial court merged the convictions for the sale of cocaine with the convictions for the delivery of cocaine. Appellant was sentenced to an effective sentence of fifteen years at 100 percent. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Appellant presents the following issues for our review on appeal: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; (2) whether the trial court committed error while dismissing the alternate juror at the conclusion of the trial; (3) whether the trial court committed error by asking Appellant where he was from during voir dire; (4) whether the trial court properly instructed the jury; (5) whether Appellant’s sentences constitute cruel and unusual punishment; (6) whether the assistant district attorney committed prosecutorial misconduct; and (7) whether the Drug-Free School Zone Act is unconstitutional. After a review of the record and the applicable authorities, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; the trial court properly instructed the jury; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Appellant; the Drug-Free School Zone Act is not unconstitutional; the trial court did not violate Appellant’s right from self-incrimination during voir dire; the trial court did not err in dismissing the alternate juror; and the prosecutor did not commit misconduct during closing argument. Consequently, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
Johnny Coffey v. State of Tennessee
E2013-01659-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carroll L. Ross

The Petitioner, Johnny Coffey, appeals the Bradley County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief. The Petitioner was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment. On appeal, he argues that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to properly petition the trial court for a State-funded psychiatric expert to assist the defense. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
Jarrod Phillips v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02026-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

Petitioner, Jarrod Phillips, was charged with first degree murder in Davidson County. He pled guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to thirty-two years as a Range II, violent offender. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in Hickman County. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s dismissal of the petition.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Leon Knowles
M2013-01653-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Joseph M. Tipton
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella Hargrove

The Defendant, Joseph Leon Knowles, pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to attempt to commit aggravated child abuse of a child under six years old, a Class B felony, with the sentence to be determined by the trial court. See T.C.A. § 39-15-402 (2010). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to twelve years’ confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred during sentencing by failing to apply certain mitigating factors relative to remorse, assisting the police, and his not having a substantial intent to violate the law and by denying him alternative sentencing. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
Kristopher Smith v. State of Tennessee
W2013-01135-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

The petitioner, Kristopher Smith, appeals the denial of his bid for post-conviction relief from his 2009 Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of aggravated kidnapping and rape, claiming that the ruling in State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012), requires dismissal of his aggravated kidnapping conviction and that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
Steven Aaron Page v. State of Tennessee
M2013-01267-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jerry L. Smith
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

Petitioner, Steven Aaron Page, pled guilty in Davidson County to one count of aggravated child abuse. Pursuant to the plea, Petitioner was sentenced to fifteen years to be served at 100 percent. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he was afforded ineffective assistance of counsel and that he entered his guilty plea unknowingly and involuntarily. The post-conviction court denied the petition. Petitioner appealed. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the post-conviction court did not err in denying the petition. Therefore, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
George Scott Mason v. State of Tennessee
M2013-01170-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert G. Crigler

The Petitioner, George Scott Mason, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of relief for his conviction of possession of a Schedule II substance for resale. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred in failing to make specific findings of fact and conclusions of law and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
State of Tennessee v. Howard Brackson Carrier
E2013-00247-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

A Sullivan County jury convicted appellant, Howard Brackson Carrier, of first degree premeditated murder, felony murder committed during the perpetration of a burglary, attempted first degree murder, and aggravated burglary, for which he received a sentence of life for the merged murder convictions, fifteen years, and three years, respectively. After the trial but before the hearing on the motion for a new trial, defense counsel discovered new evidence indicating that one of the State’s witnesses had falsely testified that a knife sharpener found at the murder scene belonged to appellant. At the motion for a new trial hearing, appellant argued that the testimony was crucial because it formed the basis for premeditation and intent. The trial court denied the motion, and this appeal follows. Herein, appellant raises one issue for our review: whether the witness’s false testimony necessitates a new trial. Following our review, we affirm the judgments for attempted first degree murder and aggravated burglary. We affirm the convictions for first degree premeditated murder and felony murder but vacate the judgments and remand the case to the trial court for entry of a single judgment for first degree murder noting merger of the two convictions.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
State of Tennessee v. William G. Barnett, Jr.
M2013-01176-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Keith Siskin

The petitioner, William G. Barnett, Jr., pled guilty to four counts of aggravated statutory rape, Class D felonies, and one count of attempted solicitation of sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class A misdemeanor. Based upon the imposition of consecutive sentencing, the petitioner was sentenced to serve three years in the Department of Correction, followed by three years of probation. At the guilty plea hearing, the State noted that the petitioner asked to be allowed to reserve a certified question of law to appeal. The State read the petitioner’s question on the record, and the handwritten and signed statement was included in the record. It stated, “I would like to reserve my right to appeal the decision on the motion to dismiss.” The petitioner filed notice of direct appeal. Thereafter, the petitioner filed a petition for the writ of habeas corpus, which the trial court summarily dismissed based upon the pending direct appeal. The petitioner appealed that dismissal. This court has now consolidated those two issues into a single case. Thus, the issues presently before us are: (1) whether the defendant’s direct appeal of his certified question is properly before this court; and (2) whether the trial court properly dismissed the petition for the writ of habeas corpus. Upon review, we conclude that the certified question is not properly before this court and dismiss that portion of the appeal. However, with regard to habeas corpus relief, the petitioner has established what may be an illegal sentence. Remand to the trial court is necessary for further factual findings and actions taken in accordance with this opinion.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
Ramsey Harris v. State of Tennessee
E2013-01770-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carroll L. Ross

Petitioner, Ramsey Harris, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, false reporting to a law enforcement officer, and two counts of felony theft of property. He received an effective sentence of twenty years as a Range III offender. As part of the plea agreement, several other charges were dismissed. In his post-conviction proceedings, petitioner asserts that numerous errors with respect to trial counsel’s advice to him regarding the guilty plea to false reporting amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel. Following our review, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
State of Tennessee v. Jessica Root
E2013-01690-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex Henry Ogle

The Defendant, Jessica Root, appeals the trial court’s nine-year sentence to her open plea of guilt to vehicular homicide by intoxication, contending (1) that the trial court failed to consider applicable mitigating factors and a sentencing practices report; (2) that she should have received the minimum sentence; and (3) that the trial court improperly denied all forms of alternative sentencing. Upon consideration of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/14
State of Tennessee v. Danny Adams
E2013-01236-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carroll L. Ross

The Defendant, Danny Adams, was convicted by a jury of simple assault. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for that conviction, including an argument therein of inconsistent verdicts. We have thoroughly reviewed the record on appeal, and although the evidence is sufficient, we must reverse the Defendant’s conviction because an incorrect mental state was included in the jury charge. Moreover, we cannot deem the error harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/14