Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 12/07/2022
Format: 12/07/2022
Raymond Watison v. State of Tennessee
W2022-00069-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Kyle A. Hixson
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The Petitioner, Raymond Watison, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction for first degree premeditated murder. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by denying relief on his claims alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The Petitioner argues that counsel was ineffective by (1) failing to keep out hearsay evidence at the suppression hearing regarding how the Petitioner was established as the suspect, (2) insufficiently challenging the probable cause determination in this case, (3) not calling necessary witnesses at the suppression hearing, and (4) failing to make contemporaneous objections at the trial. Additionally, the Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred by entering a written order that contained no findings of fact or conclusions of law. We reverse the post-conviction court’s judgment and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/22
State of Tennessee v. Tony Lee Light
E2022-00402-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

The Defendant, Tony Lee Light, was convicted in the Blount County Circuit Court of first degree felony murder committed during the perpetration of aggravated child abuse and second degree murder. The trial court merged the conviction of second degree murder into the conviction of first degree murder, and the jury chose to sentence him to life without parole. On appeal, the Defendant claims that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions and that the trial court committed reversible error by allowing the State to impeach his character. Based on our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/22
State of Tennessee v. Sterling White
E2022-00279-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Defendant, Sterling White, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm, a Class B felony; unlawful possession of a handgun, a Class E felony; and simple possession of cocaine, a Class A misdemeanor. After merging the unlawful possession of a handgun/firearm counts into a single conviction of unlawful possession of a firearm having been previously convicted of a crime involving violence, the trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to concurrent terms of twelve years for the firearm conviction and eleven months, twenty-nine days for the cocaine conviction, for a total effective sentence of twelve years in the Department of Correction, to be served consecutively to the Defendant’s sentence in a case for which the Defendant was on bond at the time of the instant offenses. The sole issue the Defendant raises on appeal is whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain his convictions. Based on our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/22
State of Tennessee v. Gary Wood
E2021-01536-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The defendant, Gary Wood, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court jury conviction of theft of property valued at $2,500 or more but less than $10,000, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm.

 

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/22
State of Tennessee v. Roberto Digma
E2022-00309-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle A. Hixson

The defendant, Roberto Digma, appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s order revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the balance of his eight-year sentence for possession of .5 grams or more of methamphetamine with the intent to sell or deliver in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/22
Andre Bowen v. State of Tennessee
W2022-00229-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Andre Bowen, Petitioner, claims that the trial court erred by summarily dismissing his Petition for Writ of Error Coram Nobis. Discerning no error, we affirm the dismissal.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/22
State of Tennessee v. Jacob Sarkissian
E2022-00059-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Scott Green

The Defendant, Jacob Sarkissian, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his three-year probationary sentence for aggravated assault. The trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation after determining that he materially violated his probation sentence by testing positive for marijuana, methamphetamine, and amphetamine, and by having contact with the victim. The Defendant asserts that the trial court’s revocation of his probation sentence was an abuse of discretion because the trial court improperly relied on allegations of physical abuse that were not alleged in the probation violation warrant. The record supports the trial court’s finding that the Defendant violated the terms of his probation sentence and the trial court’s decision that the Defendant must serve his sentence in prison. We conclude that no abuse of discretion occurred and affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/02/22
State of Tennessee v. Keithandre Trevon Murray
M2021-00688-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody Kane

The defendant, Keithandre Trevon Murray, appeals his Macon County Circuit Court jury convictions of first degree murder, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence, the admission of Facebook messages, the absence of African Americans in the jury pool, the admission of certain testimony, and the imposition of consecutive sentences. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Macon County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/22
Christopher Russell v. State of Tennessee
M2022-00096-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham
The Petitioner, Christopher Russell, appeals from the denial of his petition for postconviction
relief from his convictions for second degree murder and aggravated child
abuse, for which he is serving an effective twenty-five-year sentence. On appeal, he
contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his ineffective assistance
of counsel and cumulative error claims. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction
court.
Marion County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/22
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Sean Robinson
M2022-00248-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Tom Greenholtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

Following two convictions for aggravated assault, the Defendant, Gregory Sean Robinson, was sentenced to an effective term of ten years and placed on probation. Thereafter, the Defendant absconded from supervision and committed new criminal offenses. As a consequence, the trial court revoked the suspended sentences and ordered that the Defendant serve the balance of the effective sentence in custody. On appeal, the Defendant contends the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his suspended sentences in full instead of allowing him to participate in a substance-use treatment program through a furlough. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/22
State of Tennessee v. Adam O'Brian McDaniel
E2021-00565-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra N.C. Donaghy

The Defendant, Adam O’Brian McDaniel, was convicted by a Monroe County Criminal Court jury of three counts of rape of a child, a Class A felony, for which he received concurrent twenty-eight-year sentences to be served at 100%. See T.C.A. § 39-13-522 (2018) (subsequently amended). On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred in determining that he was competent to stand trial, (2) the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress his pretrial statement, (3) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions, (4) the State made an improper election of offenses, (5) the trial court erred in admitting the victim’s great-grandmother’s testimony regarding her reaction to the victim’s revelation of sexual abuse, (6) the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial, (7) the trial court erred in giving a jury instruction pursuant to State v. Ferguson, 2 S.W.3d 912 (Tenn. 1999), rather than granting his motion to dismiss based upon the State’s loss or destruction of evidence, and (8) the State engaged in improper closing argument. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/22
State of Tennessee v. Malique Nicolas Gray
E2021-01134-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The State filed a petition seeking to transfer seventeen-year-old Defendant-Appellant, Malique Nicolas Gray, for prosecution as an adult in criminal court. Prior to the transfer hearing, the Bradley County Juvenile Court Judge signed an order appointing the juvenile magistrate judge to hear the matter. The juvenile magistrate judge presided over the Defendant’s transfer hearing and found probable cause to transfer the Defendant to the Bradley County Criminal Court to be tried as an adult. At the close of the transfer hearing, the juvenile magistrate judge advised defense counsel that she was sitting as a “substitute judge.” Following a trial, the Defendant was convicted by a Bradley County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, felony theft of property, misdemeanor theft of property, and burglary of an automobile. The Defendant received a concurrent term of eleven years for the aggravated robbery and three years for the felony theft of property, which was aligned consecutively to a concurrent term of two years for burglary of an automobile and eleven months and twenty-nine days for the misdemeanor theft of property, for an effective sentence of thirteen years’ imprisonment. The Defendant’s principal complaint on appeal is that the juvenile transfer hearing was “marred by procedural defects” because (1) the order by the juvenile court judge appointing the juvenile magistrate judge was “silent regarding any necessity or good cause [for the juvenile judge] to be absent;” and (2) the transfer hearing was conducted by a judge who did not identify herself as a “substitute judge” until the end of the hearing, depriving the Defendant of an opportunity to object and appeal to the elected juvenile court judge The Defendant also argues that the trial court erred in denying alternative sentencing under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 40-35- 122, which prohibits continuous confinement for non-violent property offenses, and in imposing partial consecutive sentencing. Upon our review, we affirm.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/30/22
State of Tennessee v. Daniel J. Jamison
M2021-01302-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Defendant, Daniel J. Jamison, entered an open plea of guilty to aggravated burglary, theft of property valued at less than $1,000, aggravated criminal trespass, and public intoxication. The trial court imposed an effective six-year sentence to be served in the Department of Correction, followed by a consecutive sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days in the county jail with all but ninety days to be served on supervised probation. On appeal, Defendant argues that his sentence was excessive. Following our review of the entire record, oral arguments, and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Moore County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/22
Melvin A. Odom v. State of Tennessee
M2022-00252-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson
Petitioner, Melvin A. Odom, appeals the summary dismissal of his post-conviction petition
as time-barred. On appeal, he contends that the correct date to determine the statute of
limitations is the day the trial court filed an amended judgment on one of his convictions
and by that date, his petition was timely filed. Alternatively, he contends that due process
considerations warrant the tolling of the one-year statute of limitations and requests that
the case be remanded for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether he is entitled to
equitable tolling. Following our review of the entire record, oral arguments, and the
parties’ briefs, the dismissal is affirmed.
Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/22
Timothy L. Jefferson v. State of Tennessee
M2022-00456-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Wayne Collins

The Petitioner, Timothy L. Jefferson, appeals the Trousdale County Circuit Court’s dismissal of his pro se petition seeking habeas corpus relief from his conviction for second degree murder, for which he received an effective sentence of forty years in prison. On appeal, the Petitioner argues he is entitled to habeas corpus relief because he was illegally restrained as a result of a procedurally defective juvenile petition. After review, we affirm the judgment summarily dismissing the petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Anthony Szostak, III
M2021-00443-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Russell Parkes

Defendant, Joseph Anthony Szostak, III, claims that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his request for alternative sentencing and ordering him to serve his sentence of three years and six months in confinement. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/22
William Coley v. State of Tennessee
M2021-01243-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn
The Petitioner, William Coley, appeals the denial of his petition seeking post-conviction
relief from his convictions of first-degree felony murder, second degree murder, and
especially aggravated robbery, for which he received an effective sentence of life
imprisonment. The Petitioner argues for the first time on appeal that the post-conviction
court violated his due process rights by conducting his post-conviction hearing jointly with
the post-conviction hearing of his then co-defendant, now Petitioner Markreo Quintez
Springer. He additionally claims ineffective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s
failure to file a pretrial severance motion based on Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123,
136-137 (1968), and trial counsel’s failure to challenge the chain of custody regarding the
State’s DNA evidence.1 Upon our review, we affirm.
Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/22
State of Tennessee v. James Berg
M2022-00233-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant, James Berg, entered guilty pleas to aggravated sexual battery and two counts of rape of a child. The Defendant agreed to a concurrent term of twenty-five years for the rape of a child convictions and a term of fifteen years for the aggravated sexual battery conviction, with the alignment of these terms of imprisonment to be determined by the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the terms to be served consecutively, for an effective sentence of forty years’ imprisonment. The sole issue presented on appeal is whether the trial court abused its discretion in ordering consecutive sentencing. Upon our review, we affirm.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Jason Steven Molthan
M2021-01108-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Tom Greenholtz
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

The Defendant, Jason Steven Molthan, was convicted by a Williamson County Circuit Court jury of one count of stalking and one count of harassment. The trial court imposed consecutive sentences of eleven months and twenty-nine days at seventy-five percent service. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court should have merged his convictions and that the trial court erred by failing to file a consecutive sentencing order pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(c). Upon our review, we conclude that the Defendant has failed to provide this Court with an adequate appellate record and has not prepared a sufficient brief. Because we cannot conduct a meaningful appellate review of his issues, we conclude that the issues are waived. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/28/22
Martigous Malone v. State of Tennessee
W2022-00018-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The petitioner, Martigous Malone, 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 guilty plea. Following our review, we affirm the postconviction court’s denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/23/22
State of Tennessee v. Betty Sparks
W2021-01213-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Webber McCraw

A Hardeman County jury convicted the defendant, Betty Sparks, of first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder, attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault with serious bodily injury, and attempted especially aggravated robbery, for which she received an effective sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress. She also contends the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support her convictions. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we remand the case for corrected judgment forms in counts one and two

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/23/22
Roddarous Marcus Bond v. State of Tennessee
W2022-00221-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

The pro se petitioner, Roddarous Marcus Bond, appeals the summary denial of his petition for post-conviction relief by the Madison County Circuit Court, arguing the trial court erred in dismissing his petition because his sentence is illegal. After our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/23/22
State of Tennessee v. Courtney Watkins
W2022-00411-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The petitioner, Courtney Watkins, appeals from the summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction DNA analysis. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/23/22
State of Tennessee v. Tony Dale Crass
M2021-00528-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

The Williamson County Grand Jury indicted Tony Dale Crass, Defendant, with driving under the influence (DUI), DUI per se, and possession of a firearm while under the influence. Defendant moved to suppress the evidence, arguing that the State did not have probable cause or reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop and that video evidence of Defendant’s driving was erased and deleted as a result of a malfunctioning recording system in Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) Trooper Joey Story’s patrol car. The trial court concluded that the loss of video evidence constituted a violation of the State’s duty to preserve potentially exculpatory evidence recognized in State v. Ferguson, 2 S.W.3d 912 (Tenn. 1999), and deprived Defendant of the right to a fair trial. The trial court granted the motion to suppress and dismissed the indictment, and the State appealed. We conclude that the video was not lost or destroyed by the State, (2) that a Ferguson violation is not applicable to a suppression hearing based on reasonable suspicion or probable cause for a traffic stop, (3) that the trial court misapplied the “degree of negligence” Ferguson factor by equating perceived public policy decisions on the part of the State to negligence, and (4) that Defendant’s right to a fair trial can be protected without dismissal of the indictment. We reverse the judgment of the trial court, reinstate the indictment, and remand for further proceedings.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/22/22
Darin Woods v. State of Tennessee
W2021-01332-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Petitioner, Darin Woods, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for attempted second degree murder, attempted aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, for which he is serving an effective twenty-seven year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/22/22