Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 05/11/2021
Format: 05/11/2021
State of Tennessee v. Michael Keith Clark
M2019-01613-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge:

The Defendant, Michael Keith Clark, was convicted at trial of possession of 0.5 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to sell or deliver, possession of a firearm with intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He received an effective sentence of four years in confinement followed by eight years on community corrections. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of possession of a firearm with intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, that the trial court violated his right to confront the State’s witness during cross-examination, and that the State improperly commented on his decision not to testify in its closing argument. After reviewing the record, the parties’ briefs, and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.  

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/10/21
State of Tennessee v. Rashawn Boseman-Humes
E2020-00938-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everette Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy M. Harrington

The Defendant, Rashawn Boseman-Humes, appeals the trial court’s order revoking his probation with respect to his convictions for attempted possession of a Schedule I controlled substance with the intent to sell or deliver and introduction of contraband into a penal facility. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred in finding that he violated the terms of his probation and in ordering him to serve his sentences in confinement. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/10/21
State of Tennessee v. Andrew G. Walsh
M2020-00057-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Defendant, Andrew G. Walsh, pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful photography, and he agreed to concurrent sentences of eleven months and twenty-nine days. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied alternative sentencing and judicial diversion and ordered the Defendant to register as a sex offender. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in making its sentencing decisions. We affirm the trial court’s judgments.  

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/10/21
State of Tennessee v. Mannan Mehdi
W2020-00021-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

After being indicted for one count of sexual battery, Mannan Mehdi, Defendant, entered a best interest guilty plea with no agreement as to the sentence. The trial court denied judicial diversion, ordering Defendant to a one-year sentence, suspended to probation. The trial court also ordered Defendant to serve periodic confinement of “6 weekends in jail over the course of the probation.” Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly denied judicial diversion. After a review, we determine that the trial court considered irrelevant factors in denying diversion. As a result, we reverse and remand the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
State of Tennessee v. Marterious O'Neal
W2019-02155-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Marterious O’Neal, of especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of thirty years in confinement. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. The defendant also contends the trial court erred in sentencing him as a Range II offender. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the defendant’s convictions but remand for imposition of sentences as a Range I, standard offender.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
State of Tennessee v. Ronald Curry
W2020-00865-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The petitioner, Ronald Curry, appeals from the trial court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. After a thorough review of the briefs of the parties and the applicable law, we conclude that the petitioner failed to state a colorable claim and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
State of Tennessee v. James Moore
W2020-00641-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The defendant was convicted by a Shelby County jury of attempted first-degree murder and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. As a result of his convictions, the defendant received an effective sentence of twenty-six years. On appeal, the defendant contends the evidence was insufficient to establish his identity as the shooter and insufficient to support a finding of premeditation. Upon our thorough review of the record, the applicable law, and the briefs, we affirm the jury’s verdict.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Burnside
E2019-02273-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Curtis Burnside, of thirty-three counts of theft, twelve counts of burglary, one count of criminal impersonation, and one count of simple possession of a controlled substance. The trial court imposed partial consecutive sentencing for an effective sentence of twenty-four years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his burglary convictions; (2) the State’s theory on the “aggregated counts” of the indictment was improper; and (3) the trial court sentenced him under an outdated “theft grading scheme.” After review, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions but reverse a number of his sentences. We conclude that the Defendant was sentenced on certain counts pursuant to an outdated version of the theft grading statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-105(a), and should be resentenced on these counts pursuant to the updated version effective January 1, 2017. We affirm the convictions in all counts but remand to the trial court for resentencing consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
Estate of Sedley Alley v. State of Tennessee
W2019-02046-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Appellant, the Estate of Sedley Alley (“the Estate”), appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s dismissal of its petition for post-conviction DNA analysis. The 2019 petition sought DNA testing of items from the Defendant’s trial despite the fact that the Defendant, who had received the death penalty, was executed in 2006. The Estate argued that the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act (“the DNA Act”) permitted the Estate to petition for DNA testing because the civil right of survivorship statute applied. The Estate additionally argued that United States and Tennessee Constitutions require that the Estate be allowed to petition for DNA testing under the DNA Act, citing to principles of due process and a “reputational guarantee.” Following our review of the applicable authorities, we hold that the Estate is not a “person” within the purview of the DNA Act and that neither due process nor any reputational guarantee require a remedy under these facts. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
Frankie Joe Alfred Benton v. State of Tennessee
E2020-00864-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John F. Dugger, Jr.

The Petitioner, Frankie Joe Alfred Benton, appeals from the Hawkins County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2013 convictions upon his guilty pleas to nine drug offenses, for which he received an effective nine-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his petition. We affirm the judgment of the
post-conviction court.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
State of Tennessee v. Vanassa Hurst
E2020-00980-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The Defendant, Vanassa Hurst, was convicted by a Claiborne County Criminal Court jury of first degree felony murder and second degree murder. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202(a)(2) (2019) (subsequently amended), 39-13-210(a)(1) (2014) (subsequently amended). The trial court imposed a life sentence for first degree murder, ordered a sentence of nineteen years for second degree murder, and merged the second degree murder conviction into the first degree murder conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress her pretrial statements and (2) the evidence is insufficient to support her convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
Lizandro Guevara v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00118-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

In 2011, a Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Lizandro Guevara, of eight counts of aggravated sexual battery and four counts of rape of a child, and the trial court sentenced him to sixty-nine years of incarceration. The Petitioner appealed, and our court affirmed the convictions. State v. Lizandro Guevara, No. M2015-01719-CCA-R3- CD, 2016 WL 5266552 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Sept. 21, 2016), perm. app. denied. Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing. The Petitioner appealed, and, after review, we affirm the postconviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/21
State of Tennessee v. Jamie Lee Blankenship
M2020-00730-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

The Appellant, Jamie Lee Blankenship, pled guilty in the Bedford County Circuit Court to violating a motor vehicle habitual offender (MVHO) order and driving under the influence (DUI), second offense, and received an effective sentence of one year, six months to be served at thirty percent release eligibility. The Appellant served some time in confinement and was released on probation. Subsequently, the trial court revoked the Appellant’s probation and ordered that he serve the remainder of his effective sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant acknowledges that he violated probation but contends that the trial court should have ordered a sentence of split confinement followed by reinstatement of probation. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/21
State of Tennessee v. Corey Anderson
E2020-01069-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy Harrington

The defendant, Corey Anderson, appeals the Blount County Circuit Court’s order revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the balance of the two-year sentence imposed for his conviction of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/21
State of Tennessee v. Charvaris Donte Newsom
M2020-00681-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Charvaris Donte Newsom, was convicted of felony murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the second degree murder conviction into the felony murder conviction and imposed an effective sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant challenges (1) the sufficiency of the evidence; (2) the admission of evidence of his other criminal acts; (3) the admission of hearsay evidence from a police report; (4) the prosecutor’s questioning of a detective and the Defendant regarding whether they believed witnesses were truthful; (5) the prosecutor’s questioning the Defendant regarding his invocation of his right to remain silent and his failure to produce evidence and witnesses at trial; and (6) the prosecutor’s comments during opening statements and closing arguments. The Defendant also seeks relief based upon cumulative error. Upon reviewing the record, the parties’ briefs and oral arguments, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/21
Garrick Graham v. State of Tennessee
E2020-00775-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

Garrick Graham, Petitioner, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of post-conviction relief. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/21
State of Tennessee v. Derrian Hill
E2020-00721-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

Defendant, Derrian Hill, was indicted with Co-Defendant, Miranda Barley, for aggravated kidnapping in count one and aggravated robbery in count two. Defendant then filed a Motion to Suppress the victim’s pretrial identification of Defendant, and the trial court denied the motion. Following a trial, the jury convicted Defendant as charged on both counts, and the trial court sentenced Defendant to concurrent terms of eight years’ incarceration with a one hundred percent release eligibility for count one and twelve years’ incarceration with an eighty-five percent release eligibility for count two. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his Motion to Suppress the victim’s pretrial identification of Defendant. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/03/21
Melvin Jackson v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00387-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The petitioner, Melvin Jackson, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his McNairy County Circuit Court guilty-pleaded convictions of aggravated robbery and unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, arguing that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

McNairy County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/03/21
Melvin Hopkins v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00420-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The petitioner, Melvin Hopkins, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Following our review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/30/21
State of Tennessee v. Antoine Adams
W2020-00566-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Aggrieved of his Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convictions of first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery, the defendant, Antoine Adams, appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the consecutive alignment of his sentences.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/30/21
Dontel Morgan v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00529-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paul L. Skahan

The petitioner, Dontel Morgan, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received the effective assistance of counsel prior to and during his guilty pleas and that his guilty pleas were knowingly and voluntarily entered.  Upon our review of the record, the arguments of the parties, and the pertinent authorities, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/30/21
Charles D. Johnson v. Bert Boyd, Warden
E2020-00144-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa N. Rice

The Petitioner, Charles D. Johnson, filed for habeas corpus relief from his convictions of felony murder and especially aggravated robbery and the accompanying total effective sentence of life without the possibility of parole plus twenty-five years. The Petitioner alleges that the judgments are void because he was never indicted for the offenses of which he was convicted and that the trial court, therefore, did not have jurisdiction to try him or enter any judgment in his case. The habeas corpus court denied the petition, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/30/21
State of Tennessee v. Desiree Petty
M2020-00303-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane

The Defendant, Desiree Petty, pleaded guilty to burning personal property or land, facilitation to commit felony arson, and multiple misdemeanor offenses. The trial court sentenced her to four years of incarceration, suspended in lieu of service of twelve years of probation, and $150 monthly restitution payments. In 2010, the trial court found that she had violated her probation and extended her probation for two years. In October 2019, the trial court issued a probation violation warrant based on allegations that she had failed to appear, failed a drug screen, and missed monthly restitution payments. At a hearing, the Defendant conceded that she failed the drug test. The trial court then, sua sponte, revisited the Defendant’s restitution and ordered her to pay an increased amount of monthly restitution. It also revoked her probation, required her to serve ninety days in jail, and returned her to probation, adding an additional year. The Defendant appeals. After review, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand the trial court’s judgment.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/30/21
State of Tennessee v. Tharcisse John Nkurunziza
E2020-00326-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle A. Hixson

The Appellant, Tharcisse John Nkurunziza, pled guilty in the Knox County Criminal Court to vehicular assault, a Class D felony, with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of the sentence. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to four years to be served as ten months in jail followed by supervised probation. On appeal, the Appellant claims that his sentence is excessive because the trial court misapplied enhancement factors and that the trial court erred by denying his request for full probation. The State acknowledges that the trial court misapplied two of the three enhancement factors but contends that the record justifies the sentence. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we agree with the State and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/30/21
State of Tennessee v. Lynn Frank Bristol
M2019-00531-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa Jackson

Lynn Frank Bristol, Defendant, was indicted by the Coffee County Grand Jury for “sexual battery and rape of a child” for incidents involving his step-daughter. Nearly three years later, and three days prior to trial, the State moved to amend the indictment to reflect a charge of aggravated sexual battery in Count One and to amend the dates encompassed in the indictment in both Count One and Count Two. Defendant objected to the amendment and asked for a continuance. The trial court allowed the State to amend the indictment and denied a continuance. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of aggravated sexual battery in Count One and the lesser-included offense of aggravated sexual battery in Count Two. Defendant was sentenced to ten years for each conviction and the trial court ordered the sentences to run consecutively, for a total effective sentence of twenty years to be served at 100 percent. Defendant appeals, arguing: (1) that the trial court erred in allowing the State to amend the indictment; (2) that the trial court erred by denying a continuance; (3) that the trial court improperly relied on State v. Qualls, 482 S.W.3d 1 (Tenn. 2016), for a variety of reasons, including failing to give an enhanced unanimity instruction; (4) that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; and (5) that the sentence is excessive. Because we determine that the trial court erred by failing to submit the complete written charge to the jury, in violation of Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 30(c), the judgments of the trial court are reversed and the matter is remanded for a new trial.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/21