Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 05/16/2022
Format: 05/16/2022
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Wayne Watson
W2021-00371-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker, III

The defendant, Brandon Wayne Watson, appeals his Tipton County Circuit Court jury convictions of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. On cross-appeal, the State argues that the trial court erred by merging the defendant’s conviction for aggravated sexual battery into his conviction for rape of a child. Because the evidence sufficiently supports the verdicts, we affirm the defendant’s convictions. Because the defendant’s dual convictions do not violate the principles of double jeopardy, we reverse the trial court’s merger of the offenses and remand the case for a new sentencing hearing.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/23/22
State of Tennessee v. Sherman Lee Harris
W2021-00229-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

Defendant, Sherman Lee Harris, pleaded guilty to delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance and received a suspended sentence of twelve years on supervised probation in 2011. In 2013, Defendant pleaded guilty to facilitation of delivery of a Schedule II controlled substance and received a suspended sentence of 10 years on supervised probation, to be served consecutively to his 12-year sentence. On January 29, 2021, after only hearing from Defendant’s probation officer regarding new charges in Shelby County, the trial court revoked Defendant’s probation in both cases and ordered he serve the balance of his sentences. Defendant appeals, contending that the trial court erroneously admitted hearsay evidence without determining that it was reliable or that there was good cause to admit the evidence. After our review, we reverse and remand the judgments of the trial court because the State only produced unreliable hearsay evidence and thus failed to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant had violated the law. On remand, the trial court should hold another hearing to determine if Defendant violated his probation.

Fayette County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/22/22
Athanasios D. Edmonston v. State of Tennessee
M2020-01110-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G, Martin III

The Petitioner, Athanasios D. Edmonston, appeals from the Williamson County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief from his especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, and misdemeanor assault convictions and his effective twenty-four-year sentence.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by determining that his petition was untimely and that due process did not require tolling the statute of limitations period.  We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/22/22
Matthew Reynolds v. State of Tennessee
M2020-01587-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Petitioner, Matthew Reynolds, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his convictions for first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and especially aggravated kidnapping, arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective for not properly investigating the case and not requesting a sequestered jury, a change of venue, and a severance from his co-defendants. Based on our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court denying relief. 

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/22/22
Nehad Sobhi Abdelnabi v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01270-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

Petitioner, Nehad Sobhi Abdelnabi, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in denying his claim that he was denied a trial by an impartial jury and in dismissing his second amended petition claiming that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to convey a plea offer. After hearing oral arguments and following a review of the entire record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/18/22
State of Tennessee v. Terrance Reece
E2020-01589-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Defendant, Terrance Reece, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of unlawful possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, a Class E felony; unlawful possession of a firearm by a felony drug offender, a Class D felony; unlawful possession of a firearm having been convicted of a felony involving the use of force or violence, a Class C felony; unlawful possession of a firearm having been convicted of a felony involving the use of force, violence, or a deadly weapon, a Class C felony; vandalism of property valued at $1,000 or less, a Class A misdemeanor; and three counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. After merging the firearms counts, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective term of twenty-two years in the Department of Correction, with the first twelve years to be served at 60% as a career offender and the last ten years at 45% as a persistent offender. The Defendant raises the following issues on appeal: 1) whether the trial court erred by its sua sponte mid-trial hearing to address an allegation that the Defendant threatened a witness during a break in the trial, by revoking the Defendant’s bond as a result of the alleged threat, and by allowing evidence of the alleged threat to be introduced at trial; 2) whether the trial court admitted prejudicial and irrelevant evidence in the form of testimony about a bullet found in the Defendant’s pocket at the time of his arrest that was discarded by the police, unredacted 911 calls by one of the alleged victims, and copies of the Defendant’s prior Michigan judgments; and 3) whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain the felony convictions. Based on our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/17/22
Jamarces J. Watson v. State of Tennessee
M2020-01693-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Bragg

The Petitioner, Jamarces J. Watson, pleaded guilty to two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping and eight counts of aggravated robbery, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of forty years of incarceration.  The Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court summarily dismissed.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred because: (1) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to inform him of the required jury instruction pursuant to State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012) and because he failed to investigate the case; (2) the trial court improperly ruled that he forfeited his right to counsel; (3) he was denied his right to a speedy trial; and (4) the cumulative effect of the errors entitled him to relief.  After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.   

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/17/22
State of Tennessee v. Darrell Love
W2021-00233-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Aggrieved of his Madison County Circuit Court jury convictions of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment, the defendant, Darrell Love, appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence, the trial court’s exclusion of certain evidence, and the trial court’s failure to instruct the jury on self-defense. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/16/22
John A. Boatfield v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01427-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

In 2000, a Hamilton County jury convicted the Petitioner of the first degree murder of his wife and of the abuse of her corpse, and the trial court sentenced him to life plus two years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. This court affirmed the judgments on appeal. State v. Boatfield, No. E2000-01500-CCA-R3-CD, 2001 WL 1635447, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Knoxville, Dec. 20, 2001), perm. app. denied (Tenn. June 3, 2002). The Petitioner unsuccessfully sought post-conviction relief, Boatfield v. State, No. E2005-01949-CCAR3- PC, 2006 WL 2135449 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Knoxville, July 31, 2006), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 13, 2005), and federal habeas corpus relief. The Petitioner then filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, alleging as newly discovered evidence a June 20, 2018 deposition in which the deponent stated that deponent’s brother, who was originally a suspect in this murder, admitted committing the murder. The Petitioner also alleged that a jewelry box taken at the time of the murder was found in the home of a suspect in the original investigation. After a hearing, the coram nobis court denied the Petitioner relief, and he now appeals. After review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/14/22
State of Tennessee v. Bruce Antoine Cole
W2021-00175-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

A Madison County jury convicted the defendant, Bruce Antione Cole, of aggravated assault and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of forty-five years in confinement and ordered the defendant pay $25,474.16 in restitution. On appeal, the defendant challenges the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentencing and its restitution order. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the defendant’s convictions and sentence but remand for a hearing on the matter of restitution.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/11/22
Michael McVay v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00324-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

The petitioner, Michael McVay, appeals the
post-conviction court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding his petition untimely. Upon our review of the record, the applicable law, and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the dismissal of the petition as barred by the one-year statute of limitations.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/11/22
State of Tennessee v. David Ware
E2021-00101-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

A Knox County grand jury indicted the defendant, David Ware, for unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and simple possession of marijuana. A jury subsequently convicted the defendant as charged, and the trial court imposed an effective six-year sentence suspended to supervised probation after six months of service in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm and argues the trial court erred by granting one of the State’s peremptory challenges during jury selection. Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/11/22
State of Tennessee v. Quincy D. Scott
E2020-01186-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

Petitioner, Quincy D. Scott, was convicted of aggravated robbery and was sentenced to seventeen years as a Range II, multiple offender at eighty-five percent to be served consecutively to sentences in two other counties. After this court affirmed the judgment and the supreme court denied permission to appeal, Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. The post-conviction court granted Petitioner a delayed appeal to allow him to raise multiple evidentiary issues. In this delayed appeal, Petitioner challenges the admission of the same pieces of evidence and the testimony of three of the State’s witnesses. He also challenges the omission of evidence regarding the professional misconduct of a detective. The State contends Petitioner is entitled to no relief. The State also contends Petitioner was erroneously granted a delayed appeal because the record does not demonstrate prejudice. We are precluded from reviewing this issue based on the post-conviction court’s failure to make findings of fact and conclusions of law, as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-30-111(b). Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court granting a delayed appeal and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. 

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/11/22
Lacey Jones v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00355-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Petitioner, Lacey Jones, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his pro se petition for habeas corpus relief from his convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that his convictions are void and his sentence is illegal due to various errors made at trial and sentencing, including violations under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), evidentiary errors, improper sentencing, and ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon review, we affirm the judgment summarily dismissing the petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/11/22
State of Tennessee v. Eric Dewayne Wallace
W2021-00540-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

A jury convicted the Defendant, Eric Dewayne Wallace, of first degree felony murder and attempted first degree murder for offenses committed in 1992, and he was sentenced to consecutive terms of life imprisonment and fifteen years. After discovering in 2021 that the Defendant was mistakenly assigned 1,174 days of pretrial jail credit and 312 days of behavior credit to both convictions, the trial court entered an order and corrected judgment for the conviction for attempted first degree murder, removing the credits to correct a clerical error under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the trial court’s order on the basis that it abused its discretion, violated his due process rights and the prohibitions against double jeopardy, and failed to comply with Rule 17 of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court and Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-209. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/11/22
State of Tennessee v. Jacob Evan Coyne
E2020-01655-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

The Defendant-Appellant, Jacob Evan Coyne, was convicted by a Hamilton County jury of first degree premeditated murder, felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202 (first degree murder); 39-13-403 (especially aggravated robbery). He received a total effective sentence of life plus 15 years. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions because the State failed to show (1) evidence of premeditation, (2) evidence that the victim was robbed or that the Defendant intended to rob the victim, and because (3) evidence that was favorable to the Defendant was not given appropriate weight at trial. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/11/22
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Whitaker
E2021-00456-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

Defendant, Timothy Whitaker, was convicted following a jury trial of attempted second-degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault by use of a deadly weapon, two counts of aggravated assault with serious bodily injury, and misdemeanor reckless endangerment. The trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective sentence of fourteen years. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for attempted second-degree murder and that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering partially consecutive sentences. Following our review of the entire record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/10/22
State of Tennessee v. Steve Leslie Smith
M2020-01263-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Binkley

A Williamson County jury convicted the Defendant, Steve Leslie Smith, of public intoxication.  The trial court imposed a thirty-day sentence in the county workhouse to be suspended to supervised probation after five days of service.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction, that the trial court erred when it admitted evidence about a substance abuse and psychiatric facility near where the Defendant was arrested, and that the trial court committed plain error when it rejected his challenge for cause of three prospective jurors.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.  

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/10/22
State of Tennessee v. DeAngelo LeQuinte Berry
M2020-00250-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Appellant, DeAngelo LeQuinte Berry, was convicted in the Montgomery County Circuit Court of first degree felony murder and aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and received a sentence of life plus nine years.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions, that the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce evidence from a cellular telephone and a Facebook account because the evidence was not admissible pursuant to Tennessee Rules of Evidence 403 and 901, that the trial court’s failure to grant a mistrial after a witness referred to an assault rifle constitutes plain error, and that the trial court erred by ordering consecutive sentencing.  Based upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we find no reversible error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/10/22
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Tuvarey Gilmore
M2020-01620-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Defendant, Kevin Tuvarey Gilmore, pleaded guilty in the Montgomery County Circuit Court to evading arrest creating a risk of death, a Class D felony.  See T.C.A. § 39-16-603 (2018).  Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Defendant received a six-year sentence as a Range II offender, and the trial court would determine the manner of service.  After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in confinement.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying his request for probation.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.  

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/10/22
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth George Arnold
E2020-00383-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

The defendant, Kenneth George Arnold, challenges his Hamilton County Criminal Court jury convictions of rape, aggravated sexual battery, and sexual battery by an authority figure, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the imposition of consecutive sentences. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/09/22
State of Tennessee v. Johnny Jackson, Jr.
W2021-00208-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

A Madison County grand jury indicted the defendant, Johnny Jackson, Jr., for aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault by strangulation, and domestic assault. After a trial, a jury convicted the defendant of aggravated assault by strangulation and domestic assault and acquitted the defendant on the charge of aggravated kidnapping. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed concurrent terms of fifteen years for aggravated assault and eleven months and twenty-nine days for domestic assault to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The trial court also affirmed the total effective fine of $2500 imposed by the jury. On appeal, the defendant contends the trial court erroneously relied on an inapplicable enhancement factor and failed to find any mitigation, and therefore, erred in sentencing the defendant to the maximum term of fifteen years. Additionally, the defendant claims the trial court erred in affirming the fine imposed by the jury without conducting the proper analysis and review. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we conclude the trial abused its discretion in applying one enhancement factor, failing to find any mitigation despite proof of the same in the record, and failing to conduct the proper analysis of the fine imposed by the jury. Therefore, we modify the defendant’s sentence for aggravated assault to thirteen years and remand the matter to the trial court for the limited purpose of properly reviewing the jury imposed fine.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/08/22
Brian C. Frelix v. State of Tennessee
M2020-01653-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff
The Petitioner, Brian C. Frelix, appeals from the Williamson County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for four counts of aggravated robbery, four counts of aggravated assault, aggravated burglary, and theft of property valued at $1000 or more but less than $10,000, for which he is serving an effective thirtyeight- year sentence. On appeal, he contends that (1) the post-conviction court erred in not continuing the hearing until the Petitioner could appear in person following the Petitioner’s positive COVID-19 test and (2) the court erred in denying his post-conviction claim for ineffective assistance of counsel. We reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand for a hearing at which the Petitioner is present.
 
Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/08/22
State of Tennessee v. Kejuan King
W2020-01628-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Kejuan King, of second degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to
twenty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the trial court erred by excluding evidence of the victim’s “prior threats, violent provocations, and other prior bad acts toward the defendant and others,” (2) the State failed to properly manage evidence, and (3) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction because he acted in selfdefense. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/08/22
State of Tennessee v. Rico Cook
E2020-01494-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

A Knox County Criminal Court jury convicted the Defendant, Rico Cook, of two counts of felony murder, two counts of second degree murder, one count of attempted second degree murder, three counts of especially aggravated robbery, and one count of employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of life imprisonment plus eighteen years. On appeal, the Defendant argues the trial court erred (1) in denying the motion to suppress his statement to law enforcement, which he gave as a juvenile; and (2) in denying the motion to suppress the eyewitness identification evidence. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/07/22