Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/08/2019
Format: 12/08/2019
State of Tennessee v. Johnny Morgan Dye
M2018-01191-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

A jury convicted the Defendant, Johnny Morgan Dye, of vehicular homicide through intoxication and vehicular homicide through reckless conduct, and the Defendant received an effective sentence of twelve years in confinement after the offenses were merged. The Defendant appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence with respect to the vehicular homicide through intoxication conviction, arguing that the trial court erred in allowing certain expert testimony, and asserting that the trial court committed reversible error in the admission of evidence. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient and that the trial court did not err in its evidentiary decisions. The judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Dexter Dewayne Alcorn
M2018-01618-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Defendant, Dexter Dewayne Alcorn, appeals from the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s denial of his motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in denying relief on the basis that his dual convictions for aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery violate his right to due process and double jeopardy protection. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/15/19
Quincy Howze v. State of Tennessee
W2018-02046-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

A Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Quincy Howze, of aggravated robbery, and the trial court sentenced him as a Range II offender to serve twenty years at 100%. The Petitioner appealed his convictions and sentence to this court, and we affirmed the judgments. State v. Quincy Howze, No. W2014-02449-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 9173701 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Dec. 15, 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 6, 2016). The Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Christopher A. Kemp
E2018-00536-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge William K. Rogers

The Appellant, Christopher A. Kemp, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation, contending that his counsel was ineffective at the probation revocation hearing. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/11/19
State of Tennessee v. Jonathan Addair
E2018-00799-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

Following a bench trial, the trial court convicted the Defendant, Jonathan Addair, of child abuse and domestic assault. The trial court merged the domestic assault conviction into the child abuse conviction and sentenced the Defendant to serve three years and six months in confinement. On appeal the Defendant asserts the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for child abuse, and the trial court’s sentence is excessive. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/11/19
State of Tennessee v. James Floyd Brewer, Jr.
M2018-00566-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, James Floyd Brewer, Jr., was convicted of two counts of possession of 0.5 grams or more of a Schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine) with intent to sell or deliver and one count of misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. The trial court merged the methamphetamine convictions and sentenced the Defendant to an effective twelve years’ incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless search of the Defendant’s car. Because we conclude that the search was valid as a search incident to an arrest and an inventory search, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/11/19
State of Tennessee v. Leonard Singer
M2018-01936-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

A Rutherford County Circuit Court jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Leonard Singer, of tampering with evidence, simple possession of cocaine, and possession of drug paraphernalia. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-16-503, 39-17-418, 39-17-425. On appeal, Singer argues: (1) he received ineffective assistance of counsel from his preliminary hearing through trial; (2) his confession to ingesting a marijuana joint was coerced; (3) his arrest was not supported by probable cause and the police did not have authority to search his person or his truck; (4) the State withheld exculpatory evidence; (5) his indictment was defective; (6) the police, his attorneys, the prosecutors, and the trial judge conspired against him by making materially false statements and representations and by concealing and fabricating government documents; and (7) the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole violated Code section 40-35-207 and violated his due process rights. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/11/19
State of Tennessee v. Teros Anderson Sweeney, Alias
E2018-00685-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge:

The Defendant, Teros Anderson Sweeney, alias, was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of assault, two counts of resisting arrest, and one count of criminal impersonation. The trial court merged various convictions and imposed an effective sentence of ten years’ imprisonment to be served consecutively to the Defendant’s sentence stemming from a prior federal conviction. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence related to his aggravated assault convictions, the length of his sentence, and the trial court’s imposition of partial consecutive sentences. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/11/19
Dontell Sawyer v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00187-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Jeffery Hill Wicks

On July 7, 2017, the Petitioner entered a guilty plea, pursuant to Hicks v. State, 945 S.W.2d 706 (Tenn. 1997), to possession with intent to sell a Schedule I controlled substance. In exchange for his plea, the Petitioner received a 10-year sentence to be served as a multiple offender in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The judgment of conviction shows that this 10-year sentence is to be served consecutively to one case from 2012 and two cases from 2013. Handwritten in the pre-trial jail credit section is, “NO J/C.” On October 9, 2018, the Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he did not receive 406 days of pre-trial jail credit. Based on the Petitioner’s failure to comply with the procedural requirements for habeas corpus relief and his failure to state a cognizable claim for relief, the State moved to dismiss the petition, and the habeas corpus court agreed. In this appeal, the Petitioner contends that the habeas corpus court erred in dismissing his petition for writ of habeas corpus. Following our review, we affirm.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/10/19
Harold Wayne Nichols v. State of Tennessee
E2018-00626-CCA-R3-PD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don R. Ash

Petitioner, Harold Wayne Nichols, pled guilty to first degree murder in 1990. A jury imposed the death penalty. In June of 2016, Petitioner moved to reopen his postconviction petition on the basis that the Supreme Court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, __ U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 2551 (2015), announced a new rule of constitutional law requiring retroactive application. The post-conviction court granted the motion to reopen, but after Petitioner amended his petition and asserted additional claims, the postconviction court denied relief without a hearing. On appeal, Petitioner argues (1) that the sole aggravating circumstance supporting his death sentence is unconstitutionally vague under Johnson; (2) that a judge, rather than a jury, determined facts in imposing the death penalty in violation of Hurst v. Florida, __ U.S. __, 136 S. Ct. 616 (2016), a new rule of constitutional law requiring retroactive application; (3) that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct at Petitioner’s sentencing hearing, along with a related ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim; (4) that the post-conviction court erred in canceling the scheduled evidentiary hearing without notice and a fair opportunity to be heard; (5) that the post-conviction court erred in denying the parties’ proposed settlement agreement to vacate the death sentence and enter a judgment of life imprisonment; and (6) that Petitioner’s death sentence is invalid due to the cumulative effect of the asserted errors. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/10/19
Stephen Richard Mayes v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01459-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The Petitioner, acting pro se, appeals from the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus relief. Upon our review, we affirm.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/10/19
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Marquis Jeffries
M2018-00625-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

A jury convicted the Defendant, Joseph Marquis Jeffries, of two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of reckless endangerment, domestic assault, interference with emergency communications, trafficking for a commercial sex act, and promotion of prostitution. The trial court merged various offenses and imposed an aggregate sentence of twenty-five years. The Defendant asserts that the trial court erred in not severing the sexual offenses from the assaultive offenses and that the trial court erred in allowing evidence of prior bad acts. We conclude that the offenses were properly joined and that there was no error in the admission of evidence, and we accordingly affirm the judgments.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/10/19
State of Tennessee v. Frank Deangelo Taylor
W2019-00328-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Defendant, Frank D. Taylor, appeals from the dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Because Defendant has failed to state a colorable claim for relief, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the motion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/09/19
Gabriel C. Torres v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01629-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Petitioner, Gabriel C. Torres, appeals from the Robertson County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his rape of a child conviction, for which he is serving a twenty-five-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that the
post-conviction court erred in denying his claim that trial counsel provided ineffective relative to the communication of guilty plea offers. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Yodelkis Contreras
M2017-02210-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

The defendant, Yodelkis Contreras, appeals from the revocation of the probationary sentence imposed for his 2005 Circuit Court guilty-pleaded conviction of aggravated robbery, claiming that, because the original sentence of probation was illegal, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to revoke his probation and that the delay between the issuance of the original probation violation warrant and the probation revocation hearing violated his constitutional right to a speedy disposition of the violation. We conclude that although the originally-imposed sentence of 10 years’ probation was illegal, see T.C.A. § 40-35-303(a), the defendant’s current sentence of 10 years’ confinement is not. Thus, regardless OF whether the trial court possessed jurisdiction to revoke the defendant’s probation due to the sentencing illegality, the trial court retained jurisdiction to correct the illegal sentence and impose a sentence of 10 years’ confinement. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Logan Lawson - concurring in part, dissenting in part
E2018-01566-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge:

For the reasons stated in State v. Welch, No. E2018-00240-CCA-R3-CD, 2019 WL 323826, at *5 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 23, 2019)(J. McMullen, dissenting), appeal granted (May 17, 2019), I dissent from Part I of the majority conclusion in this case. In all other respects, I concur.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Logan Lawson
E2018-01566-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Defendant, Curtis Logan Lawson, appeals from his Knox County convictions for burglary, theft of merchandise, and criminal trespass. Defendant argues that his burglary conviction should be dismissed because the burglary statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-402(a)(3), does not apply to buildings that are open to the public. Defendant also argues that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on principles of statutory construction and on the defense of ignorance or mistake of fact, that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for burglary, and that the trial court erred in denying his request for a community corrections sentence. Based upon our review of the record, briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/19
Antonio L. Fuller v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00340-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The petitioner, Antonio L. Fuller, appeals the dismissal of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in dismissing the petition as time-barred. Following our review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s dismissal of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Howard Melton
E2018-01281-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby McGee

Defendant, Howard Melton, was convicted of assault by offensive touching and sexual battery by an authority figure. As a result of the convictions, the trial court sentenced Defendant to serve four years in incarceration, consecutively to the sentence Defendant received in a separate case. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly admitted a videotape into evidence. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/07/19
State of Tennessee v. Dennis Rasheed Gaye
E2018-02236-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby McGee

Defendant, Dennis Rasheed Gaye, appeals from the dismissal of a motion to reduce his sentence, a motion to correct an illegal sentence, and a motion to correct a clerical error. For the following reasons, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/07/19
Santeriaus D. Lavender v. State of Tennessee
M2018-02204-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Petitioner, Santeriaus D. Lavender, pled guilty to second degree murder in exchange for a sentence of thirty years to be served at 100 percent. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary. The post-conviction court denied relief, and upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Brandon E. Banks - Concur in Part / Dissent in Part
M2018-00264-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

I join the majority in affirming the defendant’s convictions of aggravated rape and aggravated sexual battery. But I write separately to dissent from the majority’s conclusions that Detective Gish was qualified to describe and give his opinion regarding what the videos and images appeared to show and that the defendant waived his claim regarding Detective Mayo’s “editorial commentary.”

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Brandon E. Banks
M2018-00264-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

A Davidson County grand jury indicted the defendant, Brandon E. Banks, for five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. After trial, a jury convicted the defendant of one count of each offense. On appeal, the defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained from a warrantless search of his cell phone, the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for aggravated rape, and several of the trial court’s evidentiary rulings. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Ronnie Thomas Baker
M2018-02221-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

Defendant, Ronnie T. Baker, was convicted by a jury of aggravated assault, domestic assault, and interference with a 911 call. The trial court sentenced Defendant to a total effective sentence of ten years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days. On appeal, Defendant argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction of aggravated assault; (2) the trial court erred in admitting the victim’s prior consistent statements; (3) the trial court erred in admitting testimony and photos concerning the interior of the victim’s residence that showed destruction of the property by the Defendant; (4) the trial court erred by failing to merge the convictions for aggravated assault and domestic assault; and (5) the trial court erred in imposing the maximum sentence and by imposing partial consecutive sentencing. After conducting a full review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Jenny Frye
E2018-01825-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The defendant, Jenny Frye, appeals the order of the trial court revoking her community corrections sentence and ordering her to serve an increased sentence of eight years 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 her community corrections sentence. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed in part. However, because the trial court failed to conduct a sentencing hearing prior to increasing the defendant’s sentence, we remand the matter for a new sentencing hearing.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/19