Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 09/20/2020
Format: 09/20/2020
State of Tennessee v. Randall Kenneth Reed
E2019-00771-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

This appeal arises from the second jury trial of the Defendant-Appellant, Randall Kenneth Reed, for which he was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, aggravated robbery, and theft of property, and received an effective sentence of life imprisonment. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202(a)(1), (a)(2), 39-13-402, 39-14-103. In this appeal, Reed argues: (1) the trial court erred in denying his right to self-representation; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress, which it construed as a motion for reconsideration; (3) the evidence is insufficient to establish his identity as the perpetrator of the offenses; (4) the guilty pleas he made in front of the jury should have been assessed and a new jury empaneled to ensure that he had a fair and unbiased trial; and (5) the trial court erred in admitting life and death photographs of the victim at trial. After carefully reviewing the record and the applicable law, 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.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/18/20
State of Tennessee v. Humberto Morales, Mario Garcia Flores, and Keyona Martina Newell
M2019-00435-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

The Defendants, Humberto Morales, Mario Garcia Flores, and Keyona Martina Newell, (collectively “the Defendants”) were convicted of aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated burglary, theft of property valued at $1,000 or more, and conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery. Mr. Flores also was convicted of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. After merging various convictions, the trial court ordered Mr. Morales to serve an effective sentence of forty-eight years, Mr. Flores to serve an effective sentence of thirty years, and Ms. Newell to serve an effective sentence of twenty-four years. On appeal, the Defendants, either collectively or individually, challenge: (1) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the convictions; (2) the trial court’s denial of a motion to suppress based upon the constitutionality of the stop of the vehicle in which some of the perpetrators fled the scene; (3) the trial court’s denial of a continuance based upon the State’s late disclosure of discovery materials; (4) the trial court’s decision to admit expert testimony of evidence extracted from the perpetrators’ cell phones; (5) the trial court’s denial of Mr. Morales’s motion for mistrial after Ms. Newell’s counsel questioned a witness about evidence that the trial court previously ruled to be inadmissible; (6) the trial court’s failure to issue an accomplice instruction; and (7) the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentences. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/18/20
Travis L. Lindsey v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00287-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Petitioner, Travis L. Lindsey, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his convictions for the sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, the sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, and his effective twenty-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to fully advise him of the deadline by which he could enter into a plea agreement with the State in order to avoid a trial. We conclude that the Petitioner has failed to establish that he is entitled to relief, and we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/18/20
Judith Galilea Abner v. Steven Dale Abner
E2019-01177-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Nichole Cantrell

This appeal arises from a divorce action between Judith Galilea Abner (“Wife”) and Steven Dale Abner (“Husband”). As part of the divorce, the Trial Court entered an order classifying certain property inherited by Husband during the divorce as his separate property after finding that this property had not been comingled or transmuted into marital property. Husband also was awarded as his separate property the value of a log cabin at the time of marriage. The parties had resided in the log cabin throughout the marriage and made substantial improvements to the log cabin during the marriage to which Wife had substantially contributed. The Trial Court, therefore, classified the appreciation of value of the log cabin as marital property, and Wife was awarded one-half of the increase in value of the property. The Trial Court classified as marital property an account in Wife’s sole name, upon its finding that the money in the account had been comingled such that the money could no longer be traced back to the original deposit. Additionally, the Trial Court granted an award of attorney’s fees to Husband for four of the five days of trial due to Wife changing her testimony and the “immense amount of time spent on these issues.” Wife timely appealed to this Court. We affirm the Trial Court’s findings concerning the classification of the parties’ property. However, we reverse the Trial Court’s award of attorney’s fees to Husband.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/18/20
State of Tennessee v. Djuan Manning
W2019-01625-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Defendant, Djuan Manning, was convicted of aggravated assault and tampering with evidence for his involvement with a shooting, and he received an effective four-year sentence. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, asserting that the State did not negate his theory of self-defense and that the State did not establish that he destroyed or concealed the weapon. The Defendant also maintains that the State failed to provide him adequate notice of the charges. After a thorough review of the record, we discern no error, and we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Titus Avery Brittain
W2019-01249-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The pro se Defendant, Titus Avery Brittain, appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion for pretrial jail credits. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Roger Terrell
W2019-01023-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

The Defendant-Appellant, Roger Terrell, was convicted by a Madison County jury of aggravated sexual battery, in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-504, (count one) and seven counts of rape of a child, in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-522, (counts two through five and counts eight through ten). Following a sentencing hearing, the Defendant received an effective sentence of fifty-eight-years’ imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant raises the following issues for review: (1) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain each of his convictions; (2) whether the trial court erred in admitting evidence of other crimes not charged in the indictment; (3) whether the trial court erred in restricting defense counsel from questioning the victim on cross-examination concerning the origin of a urinary tract infection after the State “opened the door” on direct examination; (4) whether the trial court erred in prohibiting the Defendant from viewing the victim’s Department of Children’s Services (DCS) records; (5) whether the trial court erred in finding the State’s comments during rebuttal closing argument were not improper; and (6) whether the trial court’s order of partial consecutive sentencing was proper. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Devonta Kevon Curry
W2019-00679-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Defendant-Appellant, seventeen-year-old Devonta Kevon Curry, was transferred from juvenile court and convicted by a Madison County jury of aggravated burglary (count one); aggravated robbery (counts two, five, and six); especially aggravated kidnapping (counts three and four); and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony (count seven). See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-14-403, -13-402, -13-305; 39-17-1324(a). Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a five-year term of imprisonment for the aggravated burglary; a concurrent ten-year term of imprisonment for each count of aggravated robbery; a concurrent twenty-year term of imprisonment for each count of especially aggravated kidnapping; and a three-year term of imprisonment for the possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, to be served consecutively to the aggravated burglary. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1324(e)(1). The concurrent ten-year term of imprisonment for the aggravated robbery convictions was ordered to be served consecutively to the concurrent twenty-year term of imprisonment for the especially aggravated kidnapping convictions, for an effective sentence of thirty years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence regarding each of his convictions arguing that (1) the State failed to establish his identity as the perpetrator of the offense; and (2) the especially aggravated kidnapping convictions were merely incidental to the aggravated robberies in violation of State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012). The Defendant also appeals the order of consecutive sentencing, arguing that the trial court failed to make sufficient findings of fact in classifying him as a dangerous offender and that the trial court failed to apply certain mitigating factors. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Jenniffer Danine Harper
M2019-01077-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

After a bench trial, the Robertson County Circuit Court convicted the Appellant, Jenniffer Danine Harper, of driving under the influence (DUI) and sentenced her to eleven months, twenty-nine days to be served as forty-eight hours in jail followed by supervised probation. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we find no reversible error and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Michael Domonic Sales
M2017-01116-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

A Lincoln County jury convicted Defendant, Michael Domonic Sales, of first degree premeditated murder, for which he received a life sentence. After filing a notice of appeal, Defendant filed a motion with this court requesting that the court stay his direct appeal so that he might seek relief through a petition for writ of error coram nobis. This court granted Defendant’s motion to stay his direct appeal, and Defendant filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis in the trial court. Following a hearing, the trial court denied relief. On appeal, Defendant argues that: (1) the trial court erred in failing to act as the thirteenth juror and grant a judgment of acquittal based on Defendant’s claim of self-defense; (2) he is entitled to a new trial based on improper prosecutorial argument, including the prosecutor’s assertion that Defendant was a Crips gang member and that Defendant’s possession of a weapon as a convicted felon prevented his claim of self-defense; and (3) the trial court erred in denying his petition for writ of error coram nobis. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/20
Timothy D. Carter v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01014-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The Petitioner, Timothy D. Carter, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. In it, he repeats the same issue he raised on direct appeal and his post-conviction petition, namely that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to issue a search warrant for his vehicle. Because the Petitioner has failed to state a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief, we affirm the denial of the habeas corpus petition.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/20
James Currie v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01132-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

The petitioner, James Currie, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his guilty-pleaded convictions of burglary of a motor vehicle (5 counts), fraudulent use of a credit card for a value more than $1,000 but less than $10,000 (2 counts), attempt to fraudulently use a credit card, and theft of property valued at more than $1,000 but less than $10,000, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Mark Ethan Felices
M2020-00047-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

The defendant, Mark Ethan Felices, appeals the revocation of his probation, arguing that the trial court erred by ordering that he serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Leonard B. Casteel
M2019-00611-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

The Defendant, Leonard B. Casteel, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault, and he received a six-year sentence on each count. The Defendant was sentenced to serve one year for each count and to complete supervised probation for the remaining time. The Defendant was released on probation, a revocation warrant was issued, and the trial court found that the Defendant had violated the terms of his probation and ordered him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant claims that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/16/20
State of Tennessee v. L. Clay Shuler, II
M2019-01231-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

Defendant, L. Clay Shuler, II, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, tampering with evidence, and setting fire to personal property or land. The trial court imposed a sentence of life for first degree murder, six years for tampering with evidence, to be served consecutively to the life sentence, and a concurrent two-year sentence for setting fire to personal property. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Kimberly Reed
E2019-01483-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The Defendant, Kimberly Reed, pled guilty to forgery, a Class E felony; identity theft, a Class D felony; theft of property valued at $2,500 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony; theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $2,500, a Class E felony; theft of property valued at less than $1,000, a Class A misdemeanor; attempted misdemeanor theft, a Class B misdemeanor; fraudulent use of a credit card, a Class A misdemeanor; criminal impersonation, a Class B misdemeanor; and criminal trespass, a Class C misdemeanor. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101, -14-103, -14-114, -14-118, - 14-150, -14-405, -16-301. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of ten years in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by denying alternative sentencing. Following our review, we affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/14/20
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. SCOTT A. BROWN
M2019-00988-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gary McKenzie

The Defendant, Scott A. Brown, pled guilty to one count of statutory rape, a Class E felony, and one count of possession of more than .5 grams of methamphetamine with intent to sell, a Class B felony, in exchange for an effective sentence of eight years in the Department of Correction. Following a hearing to determine whether the Defendant should be placed on the sex offender registry, the trial court ordered that the Defendant be placed on the registry, which decision the Defendant now appeals. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Clay County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/14/20
David Von Brown v. State of Tennessee
W2019-02181-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Petitioner, David Von Brown, appeals from the Madison County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for possession of 0.5 gram or more of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of 0.5 gram or more of cocaine with intent to deliver, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony by a person having a prior felony conviction, and being a felon in possession of a firearm, and the effective seventeen-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/11/20
William Rolandus Keel v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00612-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, William Rolandus Keel, of two counts of rape of a child, and the trial court ordered consecutive thirty-year sentences for each conviction, for an effective sentence of sixty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, this court affirmed the judgments. State v. William Rolandus Keel, No. M2016-00354-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 111312 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Jan. 11, 2017), perm. app. denied (Tenn. April 13, 2017). The Petitioner timely filed a pro se post-conviction petition and an amended petition through appointed counsel. After hearings on the petition, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that the post-conviction court failed to provide him a full and fair post-conviction hearing. He further maintains that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court on the Petitioner’s various motions, but conclude that the post-conviction court improperly limited the Petitioner’s right to testify at the third part of the post-conviction hearing. Accordingly, we remand the case for a hearing to allow the Petitioner the opportunity to provide testimony concerning the allegations in his petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/09/20
Micah Ross Johnson v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00491-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge. D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Petitioner, Micah Ross Johnson, challenges the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he attacked his jury convictions for first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Petitioner raises numerous grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel; in addition, he raises an allegation of cumulative error based upon counsel’s ineffectiveness. 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.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Lee Smith
E2019-02085-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tom Greenholtz

The defendant, Anthony Lee Smith, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s order revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the 10-year sentence imposed for his theft conviction in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Steven King
W2019-01796-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett

The Defendant, Steven King, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion because his sentence of life plus twenty-five years was illegal pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), which held that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a juvenile defendant violates the Eighth Amendment. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/04/20
Patrick Bumpus v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01082-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The Petitioner, Patrick Bumpus, appeals the denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas and his petition for post-conviction relief. He asserts various allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel, challenges the knowing and voluntary nature of his pleas, and alleges that the State “breached the contract of [his] involuntary plea[s.]” After review, we affirm the judgments of the post-conviction court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/04/20
State of Tennessee v. Nathan Lamar Swanson, Jr.
E2019-00830-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Appellant, Nathan Lamar Swanson, Jr., pled guilty to attempted possession of a firearm by a felon, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance with the intent to sell. The Appellant was given a total effective sentence of fourteen years as a Range I offender. The Appellant subsequently filed a pro se motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea. Upon being appointed counsel, the Appellant filed an amended motion seeking to withdraw his guilty plea, alleging that trial counsel failed to adequately investigate the charges and to advise the Appellant as to a viable defense, resulting in an unknowing, involuntary plea. The trial court denied relief, and the Appellant appeals. Following our review, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/04/20
State of Tennessee v. Terry William Smith
E2019-01572-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The defendant, Terry William Smith, appeals his 2019 Hamilton County Criminal Court jury convictions of speeding, failure to obey a traffic control signal, reckless endangerment, evading arrest, violating the open container law, and driving under the influence, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support some of his convictions and that the trial court erred by ordering a sentence of split confinement. We affirm the defendant’s convictions, the imposition of a two-year effective sentence, and the trial court’s decision to order split confinement. Because the confinement term of the split confinement sentence exceeds that allowed under the terms of Code section 40-35-501(a)(3), we modify the term of confinement and remand the case for the entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting the modified sentence and the proper place of confinement.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/03/20