Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 06/03/2020
Format: 06/03/2020
State of Tennessee v. Raymond Lee Pryor
E2019-00599-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge.G. Scott Green

The Defendant, Raymond Lee Pryor, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s order revoking his probation for his conviction for attempt to commit second degree murder and ordering him to serve the remainder of his ten-year sentence in confinement. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering his sentence into execution. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/11/20
State of Tennessee v. Karlus Montrezz Branch
M2018-01913-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

A Davidson County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant-Appellant, Karlus Montrezz Branch, with first-degree premeditated murder, and he was later convicted of the lesser included offense of second-degree murder. The Defendant received an effective sentence of twenty-nine years imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant raises the following issues for our review: (1) whether the evidence is sufficient as a matter of law to support the Defendant’s conviction for second degree murder, and (2) whether the Defendant is entitled to plain error review of the trial court’s admissions of statements made by Tierra Braden as excited utterances, and whether these admissions violated the Confrontation Clause. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/11/20
Curtis Taylor v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00807-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn I. Wright

A Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Curtis Taylor, of voluntary manslaughter, attempted first degree murder, possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony, and use of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court imposed an effective thirty-five-year sentence. The Petitioner appealed, and this court affirmed the convictions and sentence. See State v. Curtis Taylor, No. W2013-01820-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 4244024 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Aug. 7, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Dec. 18, 2014). The Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition, claiming he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the postconviction court denied relief. The Petitioner appeals the denial, maintaining that his counsel was ineffective. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/10/20
State of Tennessee v. Richard Gleason
W2018-01389-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Defendant, Richard Gleason, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual battery. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to concurrent sentences of 12 years’ imprisonment. Defendant raises ten issues in this appeal as of right. Defendant asserts that: 1) the trial court erred by not requiring the State to provide him a bill of particulars; 2) the trial court erred by not excluding the narrative portion of a medical report admitted as an exhibit; 3) the trial court erred by allowing the victim’s mother to testify about a prior consistent statement of the victim; 4) the trial court erred by not permitting evidence of domestic violence between the victim’s mother and the victim’s mother’s boyfriend; 5) the State made improper statements during closing argument; 6) Defendant’s due process rights were violated by a pre-indictment delay; 7) the State’s election of offenses was overly vague and insufficient; 8) the trial court erred by considering non-statutory factors in sentencing Defendant; 9) the evidence at trial was insufficient to support Defendant’s convictions; and 10) Defendant is entitled to relief for cumulative error. Having reviewed the entire record, we conclude that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence statements made by the victim to her mother. The two times hearsay evidence was admitted were through a medical report and also during the mother’s testimony during trial. The statements should have been excluded as hearsay, and it was error for the trial court to allow the statements. We conclude, however, that both errors were harmless and did not affect the outcome of the trial. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/10/20
State of Tennessee v. John Anthony Meyer, III
M2019-00190-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant, John Anthony Meyer, III, pleaded guilty to theft of property valued at $1,000 or less, in exchange for the dismissal of his remaining indicted counts and an agreed sentence of eleven months twenty-nine days of incarceration. Then Defendant subsequently filed a pro se motion to “modify/vacate sentence,” specifically asking the trial court to “vacate the part of his sentence ordering the forfieture [sic] of $8,000.00 because it was not part of his plea agreement.” The trial court correctly ruled that it was without jurisdiction to hear the motion because the motion was filed more than 30 days after the judgment of conviction became final and, in the interim, the Defendant had filed a notice of appeal with this court. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we choose to treat the Defendant’s motion as a timely petition for post-conviction relief, and we remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with the Tennessee Post-Conviction Procedure Act. T. C. A. § 40-30-101, et seq.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/10/20
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Cook
E2019-00257-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy M. Harrington

The defendant, Gregory Cook, appeals the order of the trial court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his original
four-year sentence in confinement. Upon review of the record, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the defendant violated the terms of his probation, and the imposed sentence is proper. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/07/20
State of Tennessee v. Javon Jolarry Spivey
M2018-00263-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Javon Jolarry Spivey, of first degree premeditated murder, felony murder, attempted first degree murder, especially aggravated burglary, employment of a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony, and robbery. After merging the first degree premeditated murder and felony murder convictions, the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of life plus thirty-seven years. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce a video and still photograph of him the police found on YouTube without proper authentication. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/07/20
Henry Darnell Talley v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01756-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

In 2016, the Petitioner, Henry Darnell Talley, pleaded guilty to attempted first degree murder, reckless aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, being a convicted felon in possession of a weapon, employing a weapon during the commission of a dangerous felony, and violation of a protective order. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of thirty-three years. The Petitioner appealed his sentence as excessive, and this court affirmed. State v. Henry Darnell Talley, No. M2016-01632-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 1830100, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, May 5, 2017), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 16, 2017). In 2017, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/06/20
State of Tennessee v. Chad Jeremy Kilgore
E2019-00981-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy M. Harrington

The Defendant, Chad Jeremy Kilgore, appeals the trial court’s order imposing confinement after finding a violation of his probation. In December 2016, the Defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery of over $1,000 in exchange for an effective threeyear sentence, suspended, and the trial court placed him on probation for two years and eleven months. In February 2019, a probation violation warrant, the Defendant’s third, was issued alleging multiple violations, including a new arrest. After a hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation, ordering him to serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court abused its discretion when it revoked his probation and when it ordered him to confinement. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/06/20
State of Tennessee v. Whitney S. Phillips
W2019-00553-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

In 2018, the Defendant-Appellant, Whitney S. Phillips, entered a guilty plea to several drug related offenses and received an effective sentence of ten years under the supervision of the Community Corrections Program, after service of eleven months and twenty-nine days imprisonment. In 2019, following a hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant’s community corrections sentence and imposed the original ten-year term of confinement. In this appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion. Upon review, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/05/20
Elijah Paul Williams v. Carroll County Sheriff
W2019-00821-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

The Petitioner’s father, Paul Williams, appeals on behalf of the Petitioner, Elijah Paul Williams, from the Carroll County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that the habeas corpus court erred in dismissing his petition without the benefit of an evidentiary hearing. Upon review, we affirm.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/05/20
State of Tennessee Tommy Lynn Rutherford
E2019-00063-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The Defendant, Tommy Lynn Rutherford, appeals his convictions for second degree murder and tampering with evidence, for which he received an effective thirty-seven-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for second degree murder and that he is entitled to a new trial due to the short amount of time during which the jury deliberated before returning the guilty verdicts. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Union County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/05/20
William Edward Arnold, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00710-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

The Petitioner, William Edward Arnold, Jr., appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction and error coram nobis relief from his convictions for one count of aggravated sexual battery and three counts of rape of a child, for which he received an effective sentence of twenty-five years. After a careful and laborious review of the entire record, we are compelled to reverse the denial of post-conviction relief. Accordingly, the Petitioner’s convictions and sentences are reversed and vacated, and this case is remanded to the trial court for a new trial and for any necessary pre-trial motions.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/05/20
State of Tennessee v. Edward Spencer III
M2018-02181-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The defendant, Edward Spencer III, was indicted for one count of aggravated burglary and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Following a bench trial, the defendant was convicted of both offenses as charged. The trial court sentenced the defendant as a Range II offender and imposed an eight-year split confinement sentence, with the defendant to serve one year in jail followed by seven years of community corrections. On appeal, the defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. The defendant also contends the sentence of eight years was excessive. After our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/05/20
State of Tennessee v. William K. Lawrence, Jr.
M2018-01308-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Defendant, William K. Lawrence, Jr., was convicted of first-degree murder during the attempt to perpetrate a robbery. The trial court imposed a sentence of life imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends: 1) that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; 2) that the trial court erred by excluding the testimony of Timothy Harlan; and 3) that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on all lesser-included offenses. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/05/20
Robert Aaron White v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01861-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

A Montgomery County Grand jury indicted the Petitioner, Robert Aaron White, for multiple offenses including first-degree, premeditated murder. A petit jury convicted the Petitioner of the lesser included offense of second-degree murder, and he received a sentence of twenty-three years imprisonment. State v. Robert Aaron White, No. M2011-01985-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 2432372, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 4, 2013). Following denial of his appeal, the Petitioner filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief, alleging, inter alia, that trial counsel was ineffective based on the following grounds: (1) failure to investigate the victim’s criminal history and to introduce at trial evidence of the victim’s prior bad acts, (2) failure to investigate and introduce evidence of the prior bad acts of one of the State’s witnesses, and (3) failure to properly move the trial court for an order allowing the Petitioner to cover his tattoos at trial. The post-conviction court denied relief by written order, and the Petitioner appealed. Following our review, we affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/03/20
Taboris Ramon Jones v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00711-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The Petitioner, Taboris Ramon Jones, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury conviction for possession with intent to sell 0.5 grams or more of cocaine in a drug-free school zone. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance, that his sentence is unconstitutional, and that he was deprived of a fair trial on the basis of cumulative error. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the post-conviction court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/03/20
Johnny Peterson v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00390-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The Petitioner, Johnny Peterson, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/03/20
State of Tennessee v. Ziberia Carero
E2018000684-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

A Knox County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Ziberia Carero, of possession of one-half gram or more of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of one-half gram or more of cocaine with intent to deliver, possession of one-half ounce or more of marijuana with intent to sell, and possession of one-half ounce or more of marijuana with intent to deliver. The trial court merged the possession of cocaine convictions and merged the possession of marijuana convictions and sentenced the Appellant as a Range II, multiple offender to concurrent terms of twelve years and two years, respectively. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions, that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence found during his traffic stop, and that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting rebuttal evidence of his subsequent drug-selling activities. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand the case to the trial court for correction of the judgments of conviction.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/03/20
Tommy Lee Houser v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00210-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The petitioner, Tommy Lee Houser, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his conviction of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more 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.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/03/20
State of Tennessee v. Derrick Jerome Miller
M2019-00214-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gary McKenzie

The defendant, Derrick Jerome Miller, appeals his Putnam County Criminal Court jury conviction of reckless endangerment, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence a certain document, that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, and that the trial court erred by denying him probation. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/03/20
Nicholas Todd Sutton v. State of Tennessee
E2018-00877-CCA-R3-PD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery Hill Wicks

In 1986, the Petitioner, Nicholas Todd Sutton, was convicted of the January 15, 1985 first degree murder of Carl Estep, which occurred while both were inmates at the Morgan County Regional Correctional Facility. At sentencing, the jury imposed the death penalty based upon the weight of three aggravating circumstances. The Petitioner’s conviction and death sentence were affirmed on appeal. State v. Sutton, 761 S.W.2d 763 (Tenn. 1988), cert. denied, 497 U.S. 1031 (1990). The Petitioner unsuccessfully pursued post-conviction relief, the denial of which was affirmed by this court. Nicholas Todd Sutton v. State, No. 03C01-9702-CR-00067, 1999 WL 423005 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 25, 1999), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Dec. 20, 1999), cert. denied, 530 U.S. 1216 (2000). The Petitioner then unsuccessfully pursued federal habeas corpus relief, the denial of which was affirmed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Sutton v. Bell, 645 F.3d 752 (6th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 566 U.S. 933 (2012).

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/20
State of Tennessee v. Quinton Wilkins
W2019-00354-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant, Quinton Wilkins, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of attempt to commit second degree murder, a Class B felony; employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony; two counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony; and reckless endangerment, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 39-12-101 (2018) (criminal attempt), 39-13-210 (2018) (second degree murder), 39-17-1324 (2014) (subsequently amended) (firearms possession), 39-13-102 (2018) (aggravated assault), 39-13-103 (2018) (reckless endangerment). After the appropriate merger, the trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to fifteen years for attempted second degree murder, seven years for the firearm conviction, and seven years for aggravated assault. The court ordered consecutive service, for an effective twenty-nine-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions, (2) the trial court erred by limiting his cross-examination of a State’s witness, and (3) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of the Defendant’s demeanor. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/20
State of Tennessee v. Roy Brandon
W2018-01608-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant, Roy Brandon, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of possession with intent to sell heroin, a Class B felony; possession with intent to deliver heroin, a Class B felony; two counts of simple possession of Alprazolam, Class A misdemeanors; and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, Class D felonies, and was sentenced to an effective term of twenty-two years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence and 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 01/31/20
State of Tennessee v. Jessica Lauren Smith
W2019-00853-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

A Chester County jury convicted the defendant, Jessica Lauren Smith, of felony child neglect, and the trial court imposed a sentence of twenty months in confinement. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support her conviction and argues the trial court erred in denying her motion for judgment of acquittal. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we conclude there was insufficient evidence to sustain the defendant’s conviction. However, as there was sufficient evidence to sustain a conviction of attempted felony child neglect, we reverse the judgment for felony child neglect, modify the conviction to attempted felony child neglect, and remand for a new sentencing hearing and entry of an amended judgment.

Chester County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/31/20