Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 05/30/2020
Format: 05/30/2020
State of Tennessee v. George Ronald Perez
M2018-01854-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

Defendant, George Ronald Perez, was indicted by the Montgomery County Grand Jury for possession with intent to sell or deliver 0.5 ounce or more of marijuana, simple possession of cocaine, simple possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Defendant entered open guilty pleas to felony possession with intent to sell or deliver 0.5 ounce or more of marijuana, simple possession of cocaine, simple possession of methamphetamine, and possession of drug paraphernalia. A bench trial was conducted on the charge of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and Defendant was found guilty. The trial court sentenced Defendant to consecutive sentences of one year for possession with intent to sell 0.5 ounce or more of marijuana and three years for possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court sentenced Defendant to 11 months and 29 days for each of his remaining convictions and ordered those sentences to run concurrently with his three-year sentence. Defendant’s sole issue on appeal is whether the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction for possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Having reviewed the entire record, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/05/20
James Burgess v. Darren Settles, Warden
E2019-01189-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

The petitioner, James Burgess, appeals the Bledsoe County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief, which petition alleged that his judgments for first degree felony murder are illegal. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Bledsoe County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/03/20
State of Tennessee v. Sedrick D. Williams
E2019-00829-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The petitioner, Sedrick D. Williams, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/02/20
State of Tennessee v. David Darrell Fletcher
M2018-01293-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

A Bedford County jury convicted the defendant, David Darrell Fletcher, of aggravated burglary (count 1), first degree premeditated murder (count 2), and first degree felony murder (count 3), and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of life plus 10 years. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his first degree murder conviction and several of the trial court’s rulings. The defendant argues the trial court erred in admitting testimony regarding a statement he made to Amber Fletcher during a recorded phone call, in failing to designate three witnesses as accomplices as a matter of law and in failing to charge the jury accordingly, and in denying the defendant’s motions for a change of venue and for a mistrial. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we note, in merging the defendant’s convictions in counts 2 and 3, the trial court failed to impose a sentence for the merged conviction of count 3. Because the conviction of count 3 carries a mandatory life sentence, a new sentencing hearing is not required, but we remand the case to the trial court for the entry of a completed judgment form as to count 3.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/02/20
William Antwain Burns v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00486-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The pro se Petitioner, William Antwain Burns, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction DNA analysis. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court summarily dismissing the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/02/20
State of Tennessee v. Alfred R. Mason
E2019-00916-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James L. Gass

Alfred R. Mason, Defendant, pled guilty to various drug offenses and received a sentence to be served on community corrections. After a violation warrant was filed and Defendant admitted to the violation, the trial court revoked community corrections and ordered Defendant to serve his sentence. Defendant appeals from the revocation of his community corrections sentence arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by (1) ordering Defendant to serve the balance of his sentence instead of resentencing him and (2) failing to award Defendant credit for time served on community corrections. After our review, we affirm the revocation of Defendant’s community corrections sentence and remand to the trial court. On remand, the trial court should enter amended judgment forms to reflect credit for time successfully served on community corrections prior to the issuance of revocation warrants.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/28/20
State of Tennessee v. Edward Jerome Harbison
E2019-01146-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

The Defendant, Edward Jerome Harbison, appeals from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s denial of his “Motion for Second Chance,” which the trial court considered as a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 35 motion. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the court erred in denying relief. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/28/20
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Fisher
W2018-02173-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Defendant, Joshua Fisher, appeals his conviction for first degree premeditated murder for which he received a sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the Defendant’s prior threats and acts of violence against the victim pursuant to Rule 404(b) of the Tennessee Rules of Evidence. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/28/20
State of Tennessee v. LaCurtis Odom
W2018-01448-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

The Defendant, LaCurtis Odom, was indicted on one count of premeditated first degree murder, a Class A felony; one count of first degree felony murder, a Class A felony; one count of theft of property valued at more than $1,000, a Class D felony; one count of criminal attempt to commit especially aggravated robbery, a Class B felony; and one count of unlawful possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, a Class E felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101, -13-202, -14-103, -17-1307. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted as charged. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of life plus eighteen years, twelve years of which were to run consecutively to the Defendant’s sentence in a previous case. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions for premeditated first degree murder, felony murder, and attempted especially aggravated robbery; (2) that relative to the murder charges, the trial court failed to instruct the jury on the lesserincluded offense of reckless homicide; and (3) that the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/28/20
State of Tennessee v. Jeannette Jives-Nealy
W2018-01921-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Defendant, Jeannette Jives-Nealy, was convicted by a jury of theft over $60,000 and money laundering. The trial court sentenced Defendant to a total effective sentence of twenty-four years’ incarceration. On appeal, Defendant asserts that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions; (2) the trial court erred when it failed to sever the two counts of the indictment; (3) the trial court erred in allowing the jury to hear evidence of prior bad acts under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b); (4) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence; and (5) the trial court erred by ordering Defendant to pay restitution to a victim, who had been paid in a previous civil court settlement. Following a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court and remand for entry of an amended judgment for money laundering.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/28/20
State of Tennessee v. Brian Sherrill
W2019-00150-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The State appeals the trial court’s order granting the Defendant’s, Brian Sherrill, motion to suppress evidence seized as a result of a warrantless search of his vehicle. The Defendant argued that the arresting officer lacked probable cause or reasonable suspicion to believe that his truck’s brake light was malfunctioning. The State replied that the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion to stop the Defendant for either the brake light offense or an alleged seatbelt violation. The trial court addressed the brake light offense and concluded that the “totality of the circumstances” did not support the stop. After the trial court granted the Defendant’s suppression motion and dismissed the indictment, the State appealed. Following our review, we conclude that the trial court erred by not considering the State’s alternative theory attempting to establish that the stop was supported by reasonable suspicion of a seatbelt violation. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for further proceedings.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/27/20
State of Tennessee v. Nicholaus Jones
W2018-01421-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant of possession of heroin with intent to sell, a Class B felony; possession of heroin with intent to deliver, a Class B felony; two counts of possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony, Class D felonies; and two counts of simple possession of Alprazolam, Class A misdemeanors. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court merged the possession of heroin convictions, merged the possession of a firearm convictions, and merged the simple possession convictions and sentenced the Appellant to an effective sentence of nineteen years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence and that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the evidence is insufficient to show that the Appellant actually or constructively possessed the drugs or gun. Accordingly, the Appellant’s convictions are reversed, and the charges against him are dismissed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/27/20
State of Tennessee v. Randall Ray Ward
W2019-00345-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

A Madison County jury convicted the defendant, Randall Ray Ward, of two counts of promoting prostitution and one count of trafficking a person for a commercial sex act. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of twenty years in confinement. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. He also argues the trial court erred in failing to merge the convictions regarding S.C. and in failing to give the jury an instruction on accomplice testimony. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the defendant’s convictions but remand for merger of Counts three and four.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/27/20
Tamir Clark v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00657-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The pro se Petitioner, Tamir Clark, appeals the circuit court’s dismissal of his motion to withdraw his 2012 guilty pleas. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court summarily dismissing the motion.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/27/20
Matthew B. Foley v. State of Tennessee - Concurring
M2018-01963-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

I concur fully with the majority opinion. Although I realize that the issue in this appeal concerns the denial of post-conviction relief, I write separately to express my opinion that, in light of the numerous amendments to the Tennessee Sexual Offender and Violent Sexual Offender Registration, Verification and Tracking Act of 2004 (the TSORA) and specifically the numerous amendments to the residential and work restrictions in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-39-211, it is an appropriate time for the supreme court to revisit its holding in Ward “that the registration requirements imposed [by the TSORA] are nonpunitive and that they are therefore a collateral consequence of a guilty plea[.]” Ward v. State, 315 S.W.3d 461, 469 (Tenn. 2010). As the Ward court stated, “Obviously, nothing in this opinion precludes the possibility that an amendment to the registration act imposing further restrictions may be subject to review on the grounds that the additional requirements render the effect of the act punitive.” Id. at 472.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/27/20
Matthew B. Foley v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01963-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

This is the third occasion Petitioner, Matthew B. Foley, appeals from a denial of his petition for post-conviction relief raising the same primary lament – he does not belong on the Tennessee Sexual Offender Registry. He is seeking relief from his 2002 guilty-pleaded conviction for facilitation of especially aggravated kidnapping, an offense which, at the time of his plea agreement, was not listed as an offense requiring sexual offender registration. Petitioner, who was a sixteen year-old minor at the time of his guilty plea, continues to allege that the statute of limitations for post-conviction relief should be tolled on due process grounds and that the State breached a material element of his plea agreement by requiring him to register as a sex offender. The post-conviction court summarily denied relief based on the expiration of the statute of limitations. In the first appeal, this Court concluded that the statute of limitations should be tolled based on due process grounds, and we remanded the case for an evidentiary hearing. Matthew B. Foley v. State, No. M2015-00311-CCA-R3-PC, 2016 WL 245857, at *8 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 20, 2016), no perm. app. filed (“Foley I”). On remand, the post-conviction court held a hearing and found the statute of limitations should not be tolled. In the second appeal, this Court found that the statute of limitations issue had been conclusively decided in Foley I and remanded the case to the post-conviction court for an evidentiary hearing on the merits. Matthew B. Foley v. State, No. M2016-02456-CCA-R3-PC, 2017 WL 5054571, at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 1, 2017) no perm. app. filed (“Foley II”). On remand for the second time, the post-conviction court denied the petition, finding that Petitioner failed to diligently pursue his rights and, therefore, that the statute of limitations should not be tolled. The post-conviction court also found that Petitioner failed to show the State violated a material element of his plea agreement and failed to show the State violated his due process rights. For the following reasons, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court, grant post-conviction relief and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/27/20
Charles Travis Maples v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00475-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The petitioner, Charles Travis Maples, appeals the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, which petition challenged his 2013 Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of three counts of the sale of cocaine in a drug-free school zone. In this appeal, the petitioner claims, as he did below, that he is entitled to post-conviction relief because he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/20
State of Tennessee v. Ronald Taylor - Concurring
W2019-00502-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

I respectfully concur in results with Judge Wedemeyer’s majority opinion. I am unable to join with that portion of the opinion addressing Defendant’s Gerstein v. Pugh, 420 U.S. 103 (1975) “unlawful detention” issue. I agree the issue is waived as a result of the failure of Defendant’s trial counsel to raise a pre-trial Gerstein challenge to suppress evidence obtained after his warrantless arrest. The State on appeal asserts the issue is waived. If this court concludes in this particular case that the issue is waived, we should stop our analysis there.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/20
State of Tennessee v. Ronald Taylor
W2019-00502-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Ronald Taylor, of first-degree premeditated murder, and the trial court imposed the statutorily required life imprisonment sentence. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the: (1) denial  of his motion to suppress; (2) sufficiency of the evidence; (3) omission of a jury instruction; and (4) admission of an officer’s testimony regarding a video prior to admission of the video into evidence. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/20
State of Tennessee v. Ronnie Wharton
M2019-01260-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The petitioner, Ronnie Wharton, appeals the Sumner County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he has deemed an illegal sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/20
Juan Vargas v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00620-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway Jr
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County jury convicted Petitioner, Juan Vargas, of first degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to life in prison. Petitioner appealed, and this court affirmed his conviction on direct appeal. Petitioner filed a pro se Post-Conviction Petition, and after a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, Petitioner argues that ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct require a new trial. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/20
Cortney R. Logan v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01786-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

Petitioner, Cortney R. Logan, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of attempted first degree murder and employing a firearm during the flight or escape from the attempt to commit a dangerous felony. Petitioner received consecutive sentences of 25 years and 6 years for a total effective sentence of 31 years. Petitioner’s convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective. Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied post-conviction relief. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/20
State of Tennessee v. Pamela Kidd Hafer
E2018-02076-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

In this interlocutory appeal, the State challenges the ruling of the trial court suppressing the results of toxicology testing conducted on the blood sample that the defendant, Pamela Kidd Hafer, provided to the police. The State asserts that the trial court erred because the defendant voluntarily consented to the warrantless drawing of her blood. In the alternative, the State contends that the trial court should have concluded that the good faith exception to the warrant requirement obviated the need to suppress the challenged evidence. Because the evidence establishes that, under the totality of the circumstances, the defendant twice voluntarily consented to the drawing of her blood, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Because we have concluded that the defendant voluntarily consented to the warrantless blood draw and because the good faith issue was not fully litigated below, we do not consider the State’s claim that the evidence was admissible via the good faith exception.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/20
Matthew Whitehair v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00517-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

Matthew Whitehair, Petitioner, was convicted of one count of simple assault, two counts of aggravated sexual battery, two counts of sexual battery, five counts of attempted incest, one count of incest, one count of statutory rape by an authority figure, and one count of sexual battery by an authority figure. Petitioner was found not guilty of two counts of incest and two counts of statutory rape by an authority figure. His convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Matthew Whitehair, No. M2014-00883-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 880021, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 8, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 20, 2016). Subsequently, Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged various instances of ineffective assistance of trial counsel and appellate counsel, among other things. After a lengthy, multi-day hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Petitioner appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief. After our review, we determine that Petitioner has failed to present clear and convincing evidence that he is entitled to relief. Consequently, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/20
Ed Loyde v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01740-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Petitioner, Ed Loyde, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery and resulting effective sentence of thirty-five years in confinement. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by denying his petition because he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/20