Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/03/2020
Format: 07/03/2020
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Tremayne Cartwright
M2019-00519-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Anthony Tremayne, Cartwright, of aggravated assault, a Class C felony, and domestic assault, a Class A misdemeanor, and the trial court sentenced him to consecutive sentences of fourteen years and eleven months, twenty-nine days, respectively. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions because the victim’s testimony was unreliable and actually shows he was acting in self-defense. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/02/20
State of Tennessee v. Ferderic Lamont Byrd
E2019-00850-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Following the denial of a suppression motion, the defendant, Ferderic Lamont Byrd, pled guilty to attempted possession of less than 15 grams of a Schedule I controlled substance with intent to sell. As a condition of his plea agreement, the defendant reserved the right to appeal a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A), challenging the evidence obtained as a result of the warrantless traffic stop of the vehicle he was driving. Upon our review, we find no error in the denial of the motion and affirm the judgement of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/02/20
State of Tennessee v. Jonathan Montgomery
M2019-00757-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Defendant-Appellant, Jonathan Montgomery, was convicted by a Rutherford County jury of initiating a false report in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-16-502, a Class D felony. As a Range I standard offender, the Defendant received a sentence of three years imprisonment to be served at thirty (30) percent release eligibility. In this appeal as of right, the sole issues presented for our review are (1) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction, and (2) whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying the Defendant’s request for an alternative sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/01/20
Charles Blackstock v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01446-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

The pro se Petitioner, Charles Blackstock, appeals as of right from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s order summarily denying his petition for a writ of error coram nobis or, alternatively, petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The State has filed a motion to affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we conclude that the State’s motion is well-taken and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/01/20
James Jaylen Simmons v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00823-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Fishburn

The Petitioner, James Jaylen Simmons, pleaded guilty to second degree murder with an agreed sentence of forty years. The Petitioner timely filed a post-conviction petition, alleging that his attorney was ineffective, rendering his guilty plea unknowing and involuntary. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/01/20
Jermaine Davis v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00743-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Johnson Mitchell

Petitioner, Jermaine Davis, claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied his petition for post-conviction relief, finding that Petitioner failed to prove deficient performance and prejudice. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/29/20
Rodolfo Guerra-Rosales v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01375-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Petitioner, Rodolfo Guerra-Rosales, pleaded guilty in General Sessions Court to misdemeanor drug possession, and the court imposed a probation sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days. The Petitioner timely filed a post-conviction petition in circuit court, alleging that his guilty plea in general sessions court was involuntary based upon the ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition, concluding that the claim was not cognizable and that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts, and the State concedes, that the post-conviction court had jurisdiction to consider the petition and that his petition stated a colorable claim. After review, we reverse the post-conviction court’s dismissal and remand for an evidentiary hearing on the Petitioner’s claim.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/29/20
State of Tennessee v. Daniel T. Ginther
M2019-00112-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley

The Defendant, Daniel L. Ginther, appeals as of right from the Williamson County Circuit Court’s revocation of his probation and reinstatement of the remainder of his eight-year sentence for passing worthless checks in the amount of $1,000 or more but less than $10,000. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering the Defendant to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement in spite of the Defendant’s “serious medical issues.” Following our review, we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/29/20
Jonquarius Cunningham v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01292-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

Petitioner, Jonquarius Cunningham, appeals the Madison County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. In 2015, Petitioner was convicted of one count of attempted second degree murder, one count of reckless endangerment, two counts of employing a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony, and two counts of aggravated assault, for which he received an effective sentence of twenty-three years’ incarceration. This court affirmed the judgments of conviction on direct appeal. State v. Jonquarius Cunningham, No. W2016-00065-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 3616667, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 23, 2017), no perm. app. filed. Thereafter, Petitioner instituted a collateral proceeding seeking post-conviction relief. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, Petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to introduce at trial the deposition transcript of one of the victims. He further contends that his judgment of conviction in count five is void based on inconsistent verdicts. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/28/20
State of Tennessee v. Calvin Cole
W2019-00465-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The Defendant, Calvin Cole, appeals the denial of his Rule 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court summarily denying the petition.

Crockett County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/28/20
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Woodruff
W2018-02083-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

We granted this interlocutory appeal to review the trial court’s suppression of an incriminating statement the Defendant, Joseph Woodruff, made to police. The Defendant was arrested in May 2015 related to an aggravated robbery and an attorney was appointed to represent him. The Defendant later asked to speak with police and, following a waiver of his Miranda rights and without his attorney present, confessed to the robbery. Following his indictment, the Defendant sought to suppress his statement to police and, after a hearing, the trial court granted the motion to suppress. The State filed a motion for an interlocutory appeal challenging the suppression of the statement, which the trial court granted, and this court granted the State’s application for a Rule 9 appeal. After review, we reverse the trial court’s judgment.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/28/20
Anthony Todd Ghormley v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01233-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

In 2009, a Blount County jury convicted the Petitioner, Anthony Todd Ghormley, of two counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of especially aggravated burglary, and three counts of aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to an effective sentence of 105 years. See State v. Anthony Todd Ghormley, No. E2010-00634-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 171940, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Knoxville, Jan. 20, 2012), no perm. app. filed. On March 13, 2019, the Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, alleging that his indictment was void because it failed to include the requisite level of mens rea for the charged offenses and that the affidavit of complaint had been improperly amended. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition because the Petitioner failed to state a colorable claim. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains his claims and argues that the trial court improperly dismissed his petition. After review, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s judgment.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/28/20
State of Tennessee v. Carlos Williamson
M2019-00898-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Defendant, Carlos Williamson, pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, and evading arrest and agreed to allow the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of his sentence. The trial court subsequently ordered the Defendant to serve concurrent twelve-year, three-year, and four-year sentences, respectively, in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it applied two enhancement factors to his sentence. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/28/20
Luis Jorge Diaz v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01000-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The Petitioner, Luis Jorge Diaz, was convicted of six counts of aggravated sexual battery and subsequently sentenced to twenty years in confinement. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-504. Following an unsuccessful direct appeal, the Petitioner filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief, alleging, among other things, that trial counsel was ineffective because of his failure to communicate multiple plea offers from the State to the Petitioner. The post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Petitioner filed a timely appeal. Following our review, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/28/20
State of Tennessee v. Beth Anne Manis
E2018-02098-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John F. Duggar

The Defendant, Beth Anne Manis, was convicted by a jury of one count of voluntary manslaughter, a Class C Felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-211(a). Thereafter, the trial court denied the Defendant’s request for judicial diversion and ordered the Defendant to serve five years, six months in confinement as a Range I, standard offender. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence was insufficient to negate her claim of self-defense; (2) the trial court erred by declining to give a special jury instruction on self-defense; (3) the Defendant’s constitutional rights were violated by the absence of a jury verdict form regarding self-defense; and (4) the trial court erred by denying judicial diversion. Upon a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/27/20
State of Tennessee v. Buddy Wayne Mooney
W2019-01309-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Buddy Wayne Mooney, was convicted by a Henderson County Circuit Court jury of possession with intent to sell 0.5 gram or more of methamphetamine, a Class B felony; possession with intent to deliver 0.5 gram or more of methamphetamine, a Class B felony; possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor; and unlawful possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-417(a) (2018) (subsequently amended) (possession of methamphetamine), 39-17-1324 (2018) (subsequently amended) (possession of a firearm), 39-17-425 (2018) (possession of drug paraphernalia). The trial court merged the two possession of methamphetamine convictions and imposed a ten-year probationary sentence, and it imposed sentences of eleven months and twenty-nine days in jail for the possession of drug paraphernalia conviction and three years in the Department of Correction for the weapon possession conviction. The court ordered the sentence for possession of methamphetamine to be served consecutively to the sentence for possession of drug paraphernalia. The court imposed the sentence for firearm possession consecutively to the sentence for methamphetamine possession but concurrently to the sentence for possession of drug paraphernalia. The effective sentence was thirteen years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his felony convictions and (2) that the trial court erred in admitting evidence that the gun found inside the Defendant’s car had been stolen. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/27/20
State of Tennessee v. James Robert Black, Jr.
M2019-00880-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

Defendant, James Robert Black, Jr., was charged in a seven-count indictment returned by the Lawrence County Grand Jury with DUI second offense, DUI per se second offense, reckless driving, violation of the open container law, violation of the child restraint law, driving his vehicle left of the center of the road, and violation of the implied consent law. All the charges were the result of one traffic stop of Defendant by a trooper of the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Defendant filed a motion to suppress all evidence seized on the basis that the trooper made an unconstitutional stop of Defendant’s vehicle without probable cause or reasonable suspicion supported by specific and articulable facts that a crime had been, or was about to be, committed. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court granted the motion. As a result, the charges were dismissed upon motion of the State and the State filed an appeal as of right. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/27/20
Christopher S. Mayberry v. State of Tennessee
M2018-02109-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne M. Lockert-Mash

Following a bench trial, the trial court found the Petitioner, Christopher S. Mayberry, guilty of two counts of the sale of methamphetamine. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to concurrent sentences of ten years for each count, to run consecutively to a prior sentence. The Petitioner timely filed a post-conviction petition, alleging the ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that his attorney was ineffective and also asserts that the post-conviction court erred by “delaying the [post-conviction] hearing.” After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Humphreys County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/26/20
Kamonie Ector v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01414-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The petitioner, Kamonie Ector, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel prior to and during his guilty plea hearing. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Jason Bradley Walters
W2019-00420-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

The State appeals as of right from the trial court’s order granting the motion to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of an unconstitutional stop of the vehicle driven by Defendant, Jason Bradley Walters. The basis of the stop was the arresting deputy’s observation that Defendant violated Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-9-407, which requires a driver to dim headlights within 500 feet of an approaching vehicle. In its order, the trial court granted the motion solely based upon its determination that a violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-9-407 is not a crime. On appeal the State argues it is a Class C misdemeanor pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-301(a), and that the trial court’s judgment should be reversed. On this point, we agree with the State. However, we remand for the trial court to make specific findings of fact based upon the trial court’s credibility determinations of the witnesses, and any other evidence, direct or circumstantial, viewed in light of the trial court’s credibility of the testimony. The trial court must then issue a new order either granting the motion to suppress or denying the motion.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/22/20
Courtney Knowles v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00739-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Petitioner, Courtney Knowles, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged his 2012 conviction for rape of a child. In this appeal, Petitioner asserts that his trial counsel was ineffective and that he was denied a full and fair hearing on his post-conviction petition. After a review of the entire record, we conclude that Petitioner was not afforded a full and fair hearing on his petition. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand this matter for a new evidentiary hearing. Furthermore, the interests of justice require that under the circumstances of this case, and to insure the public perception of a fair and impartial hearing, the post-conviction proceedings be heard by a different judge than the judge who previously heard the proceedings. In light of our conclusion and disposition in this case, we need not address Petitioner’s claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel at this time.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/22/20
Dan E. Durell v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01393-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The pro se petitioner, Dan E. Durell, appeals for the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus by the Criminal Court for Knox County, arguing the habeas court erred in summarily dismissing his petition. The petitioner asserts he is entitled to habeas corpus relief because the State withheld evidence favorable to the petitioner’s sentencing, his convictions violated double jeopardy protections, and the trial court relied on “improper, inaccurate, and mistaken information” in sentencing him. However, as noted by the State in its brief, the petitioner’s appeal is untimely, and our review of the record and the petitioner’s claims does not support a finding that the interest of justice supports the waiver of the petitioner’s untimely notice of appeal. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Benjamin Keith Franklin
E2019-01047-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

The Defendant, Benjamin Keith Franklin, was convicted by the Rhea County Circuit Court jury of sexual battery by an authority figure, a Class C felony, and was sentenced to four years and six months in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that his conviction violates principles of double jeopardy and the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rhea County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Wayne Wethington
E2018-02140-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James L. Gass

The defendant, Joseph Wayne Wethington, appeals his Grainger County Circuit Court jury convictions of attempted rape of a child, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, that the trial court admitted certain testimony in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b), and that his sentence was excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/20
Michael John Stitts v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00867-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Petitioner was convicted by a Madison County jury of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated burglary, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, for which he received an effective sentence of sixty-one years’ imprisonment. State v. Michael John Stitts, No. W2017-00209-CCA-R3-CD, 2018 WL 2065043, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 27, 2018), appeal denied (Aug. 8, 2018). After his convictions were affirmed by this Court, the Petitioner filed a petition for postconviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel based on various grounds, which was denied following a hearing. In this appeal, the Petitioner raises the same issues and contends that trial counsel was ineffective in (1) failing to conduct a proper investigation into the facts of the case; (2) failing to object to improper witness testimony; (3) failing to adequately cross-examine witnesses; (4) failing to file certain pre-trial motions; and (5) failing to ensure juror impartiality. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/20/20