Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 06/29/2022
Format: 06/29/2022
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Lee Potts
M2020-01623-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer L. Smith

The Defendant, Jeffrey Lee Potts, appeals his jury conviction for attempted second-degree murder, for which he received a Range I sentence of twelve years’ incarceration.  In this direct appeal, the Defendant alleges that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court erred by prohibiting the defense expert from testifying about the reasoning and science upon which he based his opinion of the Defendant’s mental condition at the time of shooting; (3) the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion for a mistrial after the trial court stated in the jury’s presence that defense counsel could “rehabilitate” and “clean up” the expert’s testimony; and (4) the trial court erred in sentencing the Defendant, both in imposing the maximum sentence, as well as in imposing a sentence of continuous confinement.  Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Mark Christopher Beasley DISSENT
W2021-00585-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

I respectfully dissent with the portion of the majority opinion concluding that the evidence was sufficient to support the Defendant’s conviction for tampering with evidence. It bears repeating at the outset that while the focus of this appeal is on the tampering with evidence conviction, Tenn. Code Ann. Section 39-16-503, a Class C felony, the Defendant was also charged with and does not dispute his conviction of tampering with evidence pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. Section 40-39-304, a Class A misdemeanor (requiring minimum of 180 service).2 In my view, the evidence adduced at trial failed to show that the Defendant had the requisite action and intent to conceal the GPS device by placing it in the trash can at a convenience store.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Mark Christopher Beasley
W2021-00585-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

Following a bench trial, the defendant, Mark Christopher Beasley, was convicted in Case Number 20CR4 of two counts of violation of the conditions of community supervision for life; two counts of failure to appear; and one count of violation of the sexual offender registry and, in Case Number 21CR4, of two counts of violation of the conditions of community supervision for life; one count of tampering with, removing, or vandalizing a tracking device; and one count of tampering with evidence. The trial court imposed effective sentences of one year and four years, respectively, to be served consecutively for a total effective sentence of five years. On appeal, the defendant asserts the proof is insufficient to sustain his conviction for tampering with evidence in Case Number 21CR4 and, in the alternative, his convictions for tampering with evidence and tampering with, removing, or vandalizing a tracking device violate principles of double jeopardy. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Nikos Burgins
E2021-00620-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Defendant, Nikos Burgins, was convicted by a jury of five counts of aggravated rape, four counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, and one count of aggravated robbery, for which he received an effective sentence of ninety-six years’ incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping, contending that the State failed to establish removal or confinement that exceeded the accompanying felonies and that the evidence only established one count of especially aggravated kidnapping per victim; (2) the trial court erred by allowing the State to impeach the Defendant with a prior aggravated assault conviction; (3) the trial court erred by allowing the two victims to be present in the courtroom prior to their testimony; and (4) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of the Defendant’s letters, averring that they were not properly authenticated. Following our review, we remand the case for the entry of corrected judgments reflecting one conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping per victim.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
Christopher Desmond Simpson v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00216-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The petitioner, Christopher Desmond Simpson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel.  After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Byron Cole Tucker
M2021-00839-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The defendant, Byron Cole Tucker, pled guilty to aggravated assault for which he received a sentence of five years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction, suspended to five years of supervised probation.  The trial court also ordered the defendant pay $39,028.49 in restitution through monthly payments of no less than $350.  On appeal, the defendant challenges the trial court’s restitution order.  After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Jamar LaQuan Branden
M2021-00764-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forrest A. Durard, Jr.

The defendant, Jamar Laquan Braden, was convicted by a Marshall County jury of theft of property and unlawful possession of a weapon by a convicted felon for which he received an effective sentence of fifteen years in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the defendant argues: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion for new trial; and (3) the trial court erred in denying his motion for change of venue.  Upon our review of the record, the applicable law, and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Rashaud Deavon Watson
M2021-01354-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Bateman

The petitioner, Rashaud Deavon Watson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel and entered a voluntary and intelligent plea.  Following our review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of the petition.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Deborah Morton
E2019-01755-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery Hill Wicks

A Loudon County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Deborah Morton, of first degree premeditated murder, and the trial court sentenced the Appellant to life imprisonment in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining her conviction. The Appellant also contends that the trial court erroneously excluded and erroneously admitted certain lay and expert testimony, that the trial court erroneously denied her request for a jury instruction concerning the State’s failure to preserve evidence, that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct, and that these cumulative errors deprived her of her right to a fair trial. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Loudon County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Capone Carroll Strange
E2021-00763-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The defendant, Capone Carroll Strange, appeals his Scott County Criminal Court jury conviction of aggravated child abuse, arguing that the jury venire was improperly influenced by the victim, that the trial court erred by failing to strike a juror for cause, that a State witness gave improper expert testimony, and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Scott County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/27/22
Jonathan Gutierrez v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00298-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Petitioner, Jonathan Gutierrez, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his post-conviction petition, seeking relief from his convictions of first degree premeditated murder and four counts of aggravated assault and resulting effective sentence of life plus sixteen years.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to file a motion to suppress statements he made in response to a custodial interrogation after he had invoked his right to remain silent and because trial counsel failed to intervene when he made incriminating statements during an interview for a television show.  After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/27/22
John Meyer v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00712-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The petitioner, John Meyer, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his conviction of theft of property valued at $1,000 or less, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel.  Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Cardell Coman, Jr.
W2020-01684-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The pro se defendant, Brandon Cardell Coman, Jr., appeals his Madison County Circuit Court jury conviction of aggravated robbery, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence, excluding certain evidence, denying a motion to suppress certain evidence, denying the defendant’s request for new counsel, denying a motion to dismiss the charges; that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; and that his trial was tainted by prosecutorial misconduct. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/24/22
State of Tennessee v. Guy A. Cobb
E2021-00903-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Defendant, Guy A. Cobb, was convicted of one count of possession with intent to sell more than one-half gram of methamphetamine, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to eight years’ probation. See T.C.A. § 39-17-434 (2018). Subsequently, the trial court found the Defendant violated conditions of his probation and ordered him to serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by ordering him to serve his sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/24/22
State of Tennessee v. Edward Earl Killgo
E2020-00996-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Appellant, Edward Earl Killgo, pled guilty in the Knox County Criminal Court to statutory rape, a Class E felony. Pursuant to the plea agreement, he received a six-year sentence as a Range III, persistent offender with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the sentence, including his request for judicial diversion, and whether he would be placed on the sex offender registry. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that the Appellant be given credit for time served in jail, that he serve the balance of his six-year sentence on supervised probation, and that he be placed on the sex offender registry. On appeal, the Appellant claims that the trial court erred by denying diversion and by ordering that he register as a sex offender. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the trial court erred. Therefore, we reverse the trial court’s denying judicial diversion and ordering that the Appellant be placed on the sex offender registry and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/24/22
Verchaunt J. Williams v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00512-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The petitioner, Verchaunt J. Williams, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his convictions of first degree murder, tampering with evidence, and abuse of a corpse, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel.  Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/22
State of Tennessee v. Vana Mustafa
M2020-01060-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Defendant, Vana Mustafa, was convicted by a jury of first-degree premeditated murder and received a life sentence.  On appeal, Defendant argues that: the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; the trial court failed to fully charge the jury as to the law concerning self-defense; the trial court erred by requiring him to provide his list of witness’s statements to the State at the close of the State’s proof; that he was denied the constitutional right to present a defense because the trial court excluded testimony by his expert witness; the trial court erred by excluding his expert witness from the courtroom during trial; the trial court erred by limiting impeachment of a State’s witness; the trial court erred in failing to grant a mistrial; he should be granted a new trial based on newly discovered evidence; his life sentence is unconstitutional; he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial; and he is entitled to a new trial because the cumulative effect of errors denied him a fair trial.  Following our review of the entire record, oral argument, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/22
Henry Russell v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00774-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The petitioner, Henry Russell, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2012 Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convictions of three counts of rape and three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, arguing that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/22
Anthony E. Barnett v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00554-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chistopher V. Sockwell

The petitioner, Anthony E. Barnett, appeals the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief as untimely.  Because the record establishes that the incarcerated petitioner did not submit his petition to the appropriate prison official for mailing within one year of the final action of the supreme court on his direct appeal, we affirm the ruling of the post-conviction court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/22
State of Tennessee v. Toby Michael Holmes
M2020-01539-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

A Grundy County grand jury indicted the Defendant, Toby Michael Holmes, for voluntary manslaughter.  A jury convicted him of the lesser-included offense of criminally negligent homicide.  The Defendant sought judicial diversion.  The trial court denied judicial diversion and sentenced the Defendant to three years of probation, with 1,768 hours of community service to be performed at a local drug recovery center.  On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) he was not properly convicted of the lesser-included offense of criminally negligent homicide; (2) the trial court improperly denied judicial diversion; and (3) the amount of community service was excessive.  After review, we conclude that the trial court erred by denying judicial diversion and grant the Defendant’s request.  The trial court’s judgment is affirmed in all other respects.

Grundy County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/22
State of Tennessee v. James Clark McKenzie
E2021-00445-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Defendant, James Clark McKenzie, was convicted by a jury of possession with the intent to sell, deliver, or manufacture more than 0.5 grams of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a drugfree zone, unlawful possession of a firearm by a person previously convicted of a felony drug offense, unlawful possession of a firearm by a person previously convicted of a violent felony, possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, and tampering with the evidence. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of fifteen years. On appeal, Defendant contends the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for possession with the intent to sell more than 0.5 grams of cocaine within a drug-free zone and that the trial court erred in sentencing him under the 2019 version of the Drug-Free School Zone Act. Following our review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we conclude that the trial court erroneously sentenced Defendant in count two, possession of a firearm by a person with a previous felony drug conviction, and remand for entry of an amended judgment as to that count only.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/22
Myron Lorenzo Johnson v. State of Tennessee
M2021-01420-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Myron L. Johnson, of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery, and the trial court sentenced him to confinement for life plus sixty years.  State v. Myron L. Johnson (“Johnson I”), No. M2008-02198-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 521028, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Feb. 12, 2010),perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 12, 2010).  The Petitioner subsequentlyfiled and adjudicated multiple post-conviction petitions and a habeas corpus petition, for all of which he was not granted relief.  In his appeal of his most recent filing, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in summarily dismissing his post-conviction petition.  He contended below that his convictions could not stand because there was no fingerprint evidence to corroborate the eyewitness testimony.  After review, we conclude the post-conviction court properly summarily dismissed the petition and affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/22
State Of Tennessee v. Michael Shepard
M2021-01346-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody Kane

The defendant, Michael Shepard, appeals the summary dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence imposed for his 2017 Wilson County Criminal Court Jury convictions of statutory rape by an authority figure. Discerning no error, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/22
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Wayne Newson
M2021-00444-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Defendant, Kevin Wayne Newson, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, attempted first degree premeditated murder, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and convicted felon in possession of a firearm.  The trial court merged the first degree murder convictions and sentenced the Defendant to an effective term of life plus sixty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, the trial court’s sentencing determinations, the trial court’s denial of the Defendant’s request that the jury be instructed on aggravated assault resulting in death as a lesser-included offense of premeditated murder, the trial court’s grant of the State’s request that language regarding the Defendant’s duty to retreat be included in the jury instruction on self-defense, and various other rulings of the trial court.  With respect to the self-defense instruction, the Defendant argues that duty to retreat language was prejudicially erroneous because the only criminal activity in which the Defendant was involved at the time of the shooting, i.e, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, had no nexus to the events that gave rise to the shooting.  Based on our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/23/22
State of Tennessee v. Otto Karl Appelt
E2020-01575-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Appellant, Otto Karl Appelt, was convicted in the Bradley County Criminal Court of vandalism of property valued more than $1,000 but less than $2,500, a Class E felony. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to two years to be served as four months in confinement followed by supervised probation and ordered that he pay $2,000 in restitution. On appeal, the Appellant contends that he was denied his right to counsel because the trial court failed to consider whether his waiver of counsel was knowing and intelligent; that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction; that the trial court erred by sentencing him to the maximum punishment in the range and by not granting his request for full probation; and that the trial court erred by setting his amount of restitution at $2,000 and by not considering his ability to pay. The State concedes error in the trial court’s restitution order. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we reverse the trial court’s order that the Appellant pay $2,000 in restitution and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed in all other respects.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/22