Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/03/2020
Format: 07/03/2020
State of Tennessee v. Clarence William Groves
M2019-00536-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Davidson County Grand Jury indicted the defendant, Clarence William Groves, for aggravated child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury (Count 1), aggravated child abuse by use of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrumentality (Count 2), aggravated child neglect (Count 3), and criminal impersonation (Count 4). On the first day of trial, the defendant entered a guilty plea to the misdemeanor criminal impersonation charge in Count 4. Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted as charged in Counts 1 and 2 and was convicted of the lesser included offense of child neglect in Count 3. Thereafter, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of twenty-one years for all four counts. On appeal, the defendant argues: (1) the State violated his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent; (2) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during its closing arguments; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court in Counts 1, 2, and 3; however, because the record shows that the defendant entered a guilty plea to the criminal impersonation charge in Count 4, we dismiss for lack of jurisdiction the portion of the defendant’s appeal challenging the sufficiency of the evidence supporting that conviction.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/20
Merle Aaron Degroat v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01490-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gary McKenzie

Petitioner, Merle Aaron Degroat, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition. Petitioner argues that he was denied effective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel failed to adequately consult with him prior to his guilty pleas to initiation of a process intended to result in the manufacture of methamphetamine and burglary of a motor vehicle. Following a review of the briefs of the parties and the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/20
Freddie Lewis Osborne v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00284-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill B. Ayers

A jury convicted the Petitioner, Freddie Lewis Osborne, of sale of a controlled substance within 1000 feet of a Drug-Free School Zone (“DFSZ”), and the trial court sentenced him as a Range II, multiple offender to thirty-two and a half years of incarceration. The Petitioner contested his conviction by direct appeal, post-conviction petition, and by petition for habeas corpus relief. Subsequently, he filed a “Petition for Sentencing Relief,” which the trial court denied by written order. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the trial court erred because the Petitioner had: (1) sufficiently stated a claim for re-opening his petition for post-conviction relief; (2) stated a claim that the application of the DFSZ Act violated his right to equal protection; and (3) sufficiently stated a claim for the correction of an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/20
Robert Simmons v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00580-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Petitioner, Robert Simmons, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his pro se petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner maintains that he timely filed his petition and is entitled to a hearing. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Chad Everette Henry
W2018-02084-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles C. McGinley

The Defendant, Chad Everette Henry, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and driving under the influence (“DUI”). Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed consecutive sentences of twelve years for the voluntary manslaughter conviction and eleven months and twenty-nine days with forty-five days’ confinement for the conviction of DUI, second offense. The Defendant argues on appeal that the trial court imposed an improper sentence and that his plea to DUI was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Decatur County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/20
Torrance Johnson v. State of Tennessee
W2018-02260-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Petitioner, Torrance Johnson, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis in which he challenged his 1997 conviction for first-degree felony murder in the perpetration of a robbery. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Deangelo Love
W2018-02095-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant-Appellant, Deangelo Love, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of first degree felony murder and criminal attempt aggravated robbery, for which he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant raises the following issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s challenge under Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986); (2) whether the trial court erred in allowing the State to bolster a witness’s testimony with a prior consistent statement; (3) whether the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s request for an alibi instruction; and (4) whether the Defendant is entitled to relief under the cumulative error doctrine. After a thorough review of the relevant facts and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Jamarian Cortez Jordan
W2019-01230-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Madison County Grand Jury indicted Defendant, Jamarian Cortez Jordan, for aggravated robbery, and a jury convicted Defendant as charged. The trial court sentenced Defendant to ten years’ incarceration with an eighty-five percent release eligibility. On appeal, Defendant argues (1) that the trial court erred by failing to suppress Defendant’s confession, (2) that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, (3) that Defendant did not have a fair and impartial jury, (4) that the trial court erred in refusing to allow Defendant’s mother to testify at trial as to Defendant’s disability, (5) that Defendant should have received the minimum sentence, and (6) that the trial court erred in denying Defendant’s motion for new trial. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Richard L. Jerger, Jr.
E2019-00429-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

Defendant, Richard L. Jerger, Jr., appeals the order of the Bradley County Criminal Court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the remainder of his six-year sentence in confinement. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/20
State of Tennessee v. Marty Lynn Ray
E2019-00362-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The Defendant, Marty Lynn Ray, was convicted of four counts of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and sentenced to an effective ninety years in confinement. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-522. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by (1) denying his motion for a mistrial after the victim testified about a number of instances of sexual abuse exceeding the nine counts of the indictment; and (2) declining to dismiss a prospective juror for cause based upon her level of English proficiency. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/20
Mario Hernandez Castillo v. State of Tennessee
E2018-00748-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

Petitioner, Mario Hernandez Castillo, appeals the denial of his petition for postconviction relief in which he challenged his convictions for first degree premeditated murder, felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, and theft of property valued at less than $500, for which he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, Petitioner contends that he is entitled to a new post-conviction hearing based upon the unconstitutional delay in the post-conviction proceedings and the inadequacy of interpreter services. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/20
State of Tennessee v. Juan Dewayne Hall
E2019-00024-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

On December 3, 2018, the Defendant, Juan Dewayne Hall, entered an Alford plea to the offense of possession with intent to deliver over 26 grams of cocaine, a Schedule II controlled substance. As a condition of his plea, the Defendant expressly preserved two certified questions of law pursuant to Rule 37(b)(2)(A) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, stemming from his denied motion to suppress. After thorough review, we conclude that the certified questions do not meet the requirements of Rule 37(b)(2)(A) and State v. Preston, 759 S.W.2d 647 (Tenn. 1988), and, as a result, this court is without jurisdiction to consider the appeal. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/20
State of Tennessee v. Alfred Maron Williams, Eric Martel Abrams and Jamie Paul Click
E2018-00670-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

A Knox County jury convicted the defendants, Alfred Maron Williams, Eric Martel Abrams, and Jamie Paul Click, of twelve counts of conspiracy to possess with the intent to sell heroin within 1000 feet of a drug-free school zone. The trial court merged these twelve convictions into one conviction for each defendant. The jury additionally convicted Defendant Williams of multiple other drug and firearms-related offenses. The trial court sentenced Defendant Williams and Defendant Click to effective sentences of twenty-five years of incarceration each, and it sentenced Defendant Abrams to twentyone years of incarceration. All three defendants appeal. Defendants Williams and Click contend that the trial court erred when it failed to hold a pretrial hearing to determine whether a conspiracy existed. All three defendants contend that the evidence is insufficient to sustain their convictions for conspiracy. Defendant Click additionally contends that the trial court erred when it allowed him to be convicted of the common law crime of conspiracy. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/20
Anton Carlton v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00711-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Appellant, Anton Carlton, is appealing the trial court’s summary dismissal of his third post-conviction petition. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/01/20
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Caldwell
M2019-01250-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

On April 21, 2016, the Defendant, Christopher Caldwell, was convicted of three felony offenses in Davidson County and sentenced to fifteen years in Community Corrections. On October 20, 2016, he was convicted in Sumner County of two felony offenses and sentenced to twelve years in Community Corrections, consecutive to the Davidson County sentences. The Defendant violated the terms of his Davidson County sentence and was ordered to serve one year and then return to Community Corrections. More than eight months later, after learning that the Defendant had also violated the terms of his Sumner County sentence and had been ordered to serve that sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction, the Davidson County trial court ordered the Defendant to serve his Davidson County sentences in the Tennessee Department of Correction. Because the Davidson County trial court’s original disposition of the Community Corrections violation was final, and no additional warrant alleging a new violation of Community Corrections had been filed, the Davidson County trial court lacked jurisdiction to order the service of the Davidson County sentences in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The State concedes this point. Accordingly, we reverse and vacate the Davidson County trial court’s June 21, 2019 order requiring service of the Defendant’s Davidson County sentences in the Tennessee Department of Correction.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/01/20
State of Tennessee v. Jawara Jones
M2017-01666-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge David L. Allen

A jury convicted the Appellant, Jawara Jones, of possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana, driving on a revoked license, and tampering with evidence. He received a total effective sentence of fifteen years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days. On appeal, he contends (1) that the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce proof of a prior unindicted sale of cocaine, (2) that the trial court erred by allowing a police officer to testify as an expert witness, and (3) that the trial court erred in sentencing the Appellant. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/30/20
State of Tennessee v. Jemel Johnson
M2018-01346-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The Defendant, Jemel Johnson, was convicted by a Sumner County Criminal Court jury of two counts of attempted sexual battery by an authority figure, a Class D felony, two counts of aggravated rape, a Class A felony, and assault by extremely offensive or provocative conduct, a Class B misdemeanor, for acts involving two foster children. See T.C.A. §§ 39-12-101 (2018) (attempt); -13-101(A)(3) (2010) (subsequently amended) (assault); -13-502 (2018) (aggravated rape); -13-527 (2018) (attempted sexual battery by an authority figure). He received a sentence of twenty-five years’ confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court violated his constitutional right to due process by failing to produce a trial transcript sufficient to provide appellate review; (2) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for aggravated rape; (3) the trial court erred by admitting the victims’ hearsay statements; (4) the trial court erred by allowing the State to cross-examination the Defendant’s wife about her blaming the victims; (5) the trial court erred by not allowing the victims’ school principal to testify about specific instances of conduct by one of the victims; (6) the trial court erred by questioning the Defendant’s wife in an argumentative manner, resulting in prejudice to the Defendant; and (7) the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on sexual battery by an authority figure as a lesser included offense of aggravated rape. We affirm the judgments of the trial court and remand for entry of corrected judgments in Counts One and Two.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/30/20
Larry E. Rathbone v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00447-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The State appeals from the post-conviction court’s order granting post-conviction relief to the Petitioner, Larry E. Rathbone, from his convictions for two counts of rape of a child, one count of attempted rape of a child, and one count of aggravated sexual battery, for which he is serving an effective fifty-six-year sentence. On appeal, the State contends that the post-conviction court erred in granting relief on the Petitioner’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim related to his trial attorney’s dual representation of him and the codefendant at their joint trial and related to counsel’s failure to obtain a severance. In cross-appeal issues, the Petitioner contends that the court erred in failing to grant relief on his claim that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel did not challenge the competency of the child victim who testified at the trial and that he is entitled to plain error relief based upon ineffective assistance of counsel due to counsel’s lack of objection to the introduction of evidence of uncharged criminal conduct. We conclude that the post-conviction court erred in granting relief and reverse its judgment.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/30/20
State of Tennessee v. Quintavious Hill
W2019-01041-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Quintavious Hill, as charged of attempted second degree murder, aggravated assault, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and the trial court imposed an effective eleven-year sentence. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101, 39-13-210, 39-13-102(a)(1)(A)(iii), 39-17-1324(b). On appeal, the defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/30/20
State of Tennessee v. Lavonta Laver Churchwell
M2019-01673-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

The Appellant, Lavonta Laver Churchwell, is appealing the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/20
State of Tennessee v. Cortez Bennett
M2019-01034-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

The Appellant, Cortez Bennett, is appealing the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/20
Abraham A. Augustin v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01739-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew M. Freiberg

The Petitioner, Abraham A. Augustin appeals the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of his pro se petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner maintains that the statute of limitations should be tolled based on newly discovered evidence. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of the petition.

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/20
State of Tennessee v. Dennis Freeny
E2019-00207-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

Dennis Freeny, Defendant, claims that the trial court abused its discretion in revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the balance of his sentences in the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/20
Charlie Clark v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01212-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

In 2013, a Henderson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Charlie Clark, of rape. The Petitioner was sentenced to serve twenty-five years as a Range III, persistent offender in the Tennessee Department of Correction. See State v. Charles Anderson Clark, Jr., No. 2014-00445-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 7204525, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Dec. 17, 2014) no perm. app. filed. In November 2018, the Petitioner filed, pro se, a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he was improperly sentenced as a Range III offender without proper notice in contravention of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-202(a). The habeas corpus court denied the petition because the Petitioner’s claim, even if true, would make the judgment voidable and not void. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that he was not provided with proper notice of the State’s intent to seek enhanced punishment before sentencing. After review, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s judgment.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/20
State of Tennessee v. David Eric Lambert
E2018-02296-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

Defendant, David Eric Lambert, appeals his conviction for attempted unlawful photography in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-605. Following his conviction, the trial court sentenced Defendant to serve six months in confinement. In this appeal as of right, Defendant asserts that: 1) the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss because the unlawful photography statute is unconstitutionally vague and his conduct did not constitute a crime; 2) the admission of his statement violated Rule 404(b) of the Tennessee Rules of Evidence; 3) the trial court erred by denying Defendant’s requests for special jury instructions; 4) the trial court erred by instructing the jury on attempt as a lesser-included offense; and 5) the evidence was insufficient to support Defendant’s conviction. We conclude that the trial court erred by admitting Defendant’s statement to police, and the erroneous admission of the statement would entitle Defendant to a new trial. Because, however, the evidence adduced at trial was insufficient to support Defendant’s conviction, the conviction is reversed and the case is dismissed with prejudice.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/20