Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 05/16/2022
Format: 05/16/2022
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Nicol Cox
E2020-01388-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

Defendant, Christopher Nichol Cox, was convicted by a jury of eighty-one counts of aggravated sexual battery, one count of rape of a child, and one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child. The trial court merged the convictions for aggravated sexual battery and rape of a child into the conviction for continuous sexual abuse of a child and imposed a sixty-year sentence as a Range III offender to be served at 100%, by operation of law, in the Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant argues that: the trial court erred by denying his motion for a continuance; the trial court erred by allowing the victim to testify with the aid of a therapy dog without a hearing to determine the animal’s training or necessity to the victim’s testimony; the trial court improperly bolstered the victim’s testimony by allowing the victim’s entire forensic interview to be played to the jury; the trial court erred by failing to grant a mistrial when a witness testified that Defendant had other cases and that there were other victims; the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for rape of a child and thirty of the counts of aggravated sexual battery; the jurors did not make a unanimous decision as to which acts of sexual abuse it relied on to support his continuous sexual abuse of a child conviction; the trial court improperly enhanced his sentence by relying on an enhancement factor that is an essential element of the offense; and the cumulative effect of repeated constitutional errors denied him a fair trial. After hearing oral arguments and following our review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we conclude that the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions of aggravated sexual battery in counts sixteen through twenty-seven, counts forty-eight through fifty-four, and counts sixty-five through eighty-one and accordingly dismiss those counts and remand for entry of amended judgments. In all other respects, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Scott County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/03/22
Dennis Joshua Cooper v. State of Tennessee
W2020-01727-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Petitioner, Dennis Joshua Cooper, was indicted by the Henderson County Grand Jury in four separate cases for 15 drug-related offenses. Pursuant to two plea agreements, Petitioner pled guilty as charged in exchange for a total effective sentence of 20 years. Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief alleging that his guilty pleas were not freely or voluntarily entered and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Upon careful review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court. However, we remand the case to the post-conviction court for correction of the judgment forms to reflect the sentences as imposed by the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/02/22
Travis Seiber v. State of Tennessee
W2020-01649-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The petitioner, Travis Seiber, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his convictions of aggravated robbery, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/02/22
State of Tennessee v. Andrea Spencer
W2021-00678-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The defendant, Andrea Spencer, appeals the summary dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence imposed for his 1983 guilty-pleaded convictions of robbery with a weapon, larceny from a person, and petit larceny. Discerning no error, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/02/22
State of Tennessee v. Ahren Presley
E2020-01249-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Defendant-Appellant, Ahren Presley, was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery and theft, two counts of felony murder in the commission or perpetration of a robbery, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, two counts of felony murder in the commission or perpetration of a theft, one count of theft of property $10,000-$60,000, and one count of theft of property $1,000 or less. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-103 (conspiracy to commit theft); 39-13-202(a)(2) (felony murder in the commission or perpetration of, relevantly, a robbery or theft); 39-13-403 (especially aggravated robbery); 39-14-103 (theft of property). He received a total effective sentence of two life sentences plus twenty years. On appeal, the Defendant argues that 1) the evidence was insufficient to support all of his convictions, and 2) the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentencing. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Polk County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/02/22
James R. Wilson v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00419-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael E. Spitzer

In 1999, a Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, James R. Wilson, of first degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery.  His convictions were affirmed on appeal, as was the subsequent denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.  The Petitioner’s first habeas corpus petition was denied, and the denial was affirmed on appeal.  While this petition was still pending, the Petitioner filed a writ of error coram nobis, which the court summarily dismissed, and the dismissal was affirmed on appeal.  The Petitioner filed this, his second petition for habeas corpus relief contending that the he was entitled to relief based upon the State’s oral motion to amend the indictment to change the offense date from November 14 to November 13.  The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition.  Shortly thereafter, the Petitioner filed a “Motion for New Trial.”  Several months later, he requested a hearing on his motion.  The State opposed the motion, stating that there was no procedure by which the Petitioner could file a “Motion for New Trial” from the habeas corpus proceeding and stating the Petitioner’s claims were meritless.  The habeas corpus court agreed and denied the “Motion for New Trial.”  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the habeas corpus court erred because it improperly dismissed his habeas corpus petition.  After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we conclude that the Petitioner did not timely file his notice of appeal.  Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.  

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/02/22
Courtney R. Logan v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00071-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

The Petitioner, Cortney R. Logan, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for the writ of habeas corpus.  The Petitioner is serving an effective thirty-one-year sentence for convictions for attempted first degree murder and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.  On appeal, he contends that the habeas corpus court erred in denying his petition.  We affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/01/22
State of Tennessee v. Valrie Hart
E2020-01144-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Defendant, Valrie Hart, pleaded guilty in the Polk County Criminal Court to four counts of first degree felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, a Class A felony, conspiracy to commit robbery or theft, a Class D felony, theft of property valued at more than $10,000 but less than $60,000, a Class C felony, and theft of property valued at $1,000 or less, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202 (2018) (subsequently amended) (first degree felony murder), 39-13-403 (2018) (especially aggravated robbery), 39-13-401 (2018) (robbery), 39-12-103 (2018) (conspiracy), 39-14-103 (2018) (theft). After the appropriate merger, the trial court imposed life imprisonment for two counts of felony murder, twenty-five years for each count of especially aggravated robbery, and three years for conspiracy to commit robbery or theft. The trial court ordered partial consecutive service, for an effective sentence of two consecutive life sentences, plus twenty-five years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by applying sentence enhancement factors related to treating the victims with exceptional cruelty and to abusing a private trust. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Polk County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/22
Micah Ross Johnson v. State of Tennessee
E2021-00294-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The petitioner, Micah Ross Johnson, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2011 convictions of first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of trial counsel. Because the petitioner has established that he is entitled to post-conviction relief, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand the case for a new trial.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/28/22
State of Tennessee v. Jeremiah Warren
W2021-00236-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Johnson Mitchell

The Defendant, Jeremiah Warren, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s revocation of his fifteen-year community corrections sentence for his arson conviction. See T.C.A. § 39-14-301 (2018) (arson). On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in revoking community corrections and ordering him to serve his sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Robert Shane Cole
W2020-01675-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The Defendant, Robert Shane Cole, was convicted upon his guilty pleas to numerous offenses related to driving under the influence, driving on a revoked license, violation of the open container law, possession of drug paraphernalia and various drugs, violation of multiple driving-related offenses, and harassment. The plea agreement did not contain provisions related to the length and manner of service of the sentences. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of five years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days, to be served. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his request for probation. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Kentrel Ne'Air Siner
W2020-01719-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge C. Creed McGinley

A jury convicted the Defendant, Kentrel Ne’Air Siner, of simple possession of oxycodone, simple possession of marijuana, and possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony crime of violence, and he received an effective ten-year sentence. The convictions were the result of a search of the vehicle in which the Defendant was a passenger and the discovery of marijuana and oxycodone in the center console, a marijuana cigarette on the passenger floorboard, and a weapon under the passenger’s seat. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, arguing that there was nothing beyond proximity to tie him to the items recovered. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence is insufficient to uphold his convictions for possession of oxycodone and possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony crime of violence, and these convictions are reversed and the charges dismissed. The conviction for simple possession of marijuana is affirmed.

Hardin County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Jeremy Isaac Martin
E2020-01259-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew Mark Freiberg

A Bradley County jury convicted the Defendant, Jeremy Isaac Martin, of possession with intent to sell or deliver a Schedule II controlled substance, .5 grams. or more of methamphetamine. The trial court sentenced him as a multiple offender to fourteen years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/27/22
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Williams
W2020-01258-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Christopher Williams, of first degree premeditated murder and of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it admitted his confession into evidence and that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/26/22
Phillip Daniel Morton v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00171-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Phillip Daniel Morton, of first degree premediated murder.  The Petitioner appealed, and this court affirmed the Petitioner’s conviction.  The Petitioner timely filed a post-conviction petition, alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel.  The post-conviction court denied relief.  After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment. 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/22
Jimmy Heard v. James M. Holloway, Warden
M2021-00065-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

The Appellant, Jimmy Heard, appeals the trial court’s summary denial of his petition seeking habeas corpus relief.  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 01/25/22
Robert A. Grisham v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01545-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

A Knox County jury convicted Robert Alexander Grisham, Petitioner, of observation without consent, unlawful photography, and especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. State v. Robert Grisham, No. E2015-02446-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 1806829, at *11 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 5, 2017), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 20, 2017). On appeal, a panel of this Court modified Petitioner’s especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor conviction to attempted especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and affirmed the two misdemeanor convictions. Id. at *26. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief alleging two claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. The postconviction court denied relief and Petitioner appealed. Petitioner died while his appeal was pending. Accordingly, we conclude that this appeal should be dismissed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/22
State of Tennessee v. Justin Richard Norton
E2020-01652-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew Mark Freiberg

The Defendant, Justin Richard Norton, pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated assault, theft of property, evading arrest, resisting arrest, and violating an order of protection. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-102 (2018) (subsequently amended) (aggravated assault); -13-113 (2018) (subsequently amended) (violation of order of protection); -14-103 (2018) (theft of property); -16-602 (2018) (resisting arrest); -16-603(a) (2018) (subsequently amended) (evading arrest). The Defendant received an agreed three-year, splitconfinement sentence. The Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, arguing that the pleas were made under duress and that the State failed to disclose exculpatory evidence pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). The trial court denied his motion. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/22
State of Tennessee v. Michael Brown
E2020-01392-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle A. Hixson

The Appellant, Michael Brown, pled guilty in the Knox County Criminal Court to two counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. Pursuant to the plea agreement, he received an effective six-year sentence with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the sentence, including his request for judicial diversion. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied diversion and ordered that he serve the sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his requests for judicial diversion and full probation. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/25/22
Melvin Keith Black v. State of Tennessee
M2020-01316-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Petitioner, Melvin Keith Black, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial.  Upon our review of the record, we affirm the denial of the petition.  

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/24/22
Rashawn Jones v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00392-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

Petitioner, Rashawn Jones, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his post-conviction petition seeking relief from his convictions upon his guilty pleas to three counts of robbery and one count of felony escape. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/21/22
State of Tennessee v. Quinton Deshawn Mostella
M2020-01474-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

In 2019, the Defendant, Quinton Deshawn Mostella, pleaded guilty to facilitation of first degree murder.  The trial court imposed a twenty-two-year sentence to be served consecutively to the Defendant’s sentence in a 2009 case.  The Defendant subsequently filed a motion to correct the 2019 judgment contending that the judgment did not reflect 714 days of pretrial jail credit.  The trial court granted the motion, awarding the Defendant pretrial jail credit and amending his sentence to run concurrently to his 2009 sentence.  On appeal, the State contends that the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to amend the Defendant’s judgment and sentence.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we reverse and vacate the trial court’s amended judgment.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/21/22
State of Tennessee v. Jerome Andre McClinton
M2021-00031-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Wesley Thomas Bray

Defendant, Jerome Andre McClinton, pled guilty to one count of sale of more than 0.5 grams of methamphetamine.  Pursuant to his plea agreement, the manner of service of his ten-year sentence was to be determined by the trial court.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the sentence to be served in confinement.  On appeal, Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to serve his sentence without considering his amenability to correction or potential for rehabilitation.  Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.  

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/22
State of Tennessee v. Richard G. Williams, Kipling Colbert, Jr. and Christopher Bassett, Jr.
E2019-02236-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

A Knox County jury convicted the defendants, Richard G. Williams, Kipling Colbert, Jr., and Christopher Bassett, Jr., of multiple felonies based on the December 17, 2015 shooting death of fifteen-year-old Zaevion Dobson. On appeal, all of the defendants challenge the trial court’s admission of a YouTube video of the defendants rapping. Defendant Bassett appeals the trial court’s denial of the motion to suppress his statement to the police. Defendants Colbert and Williams challenge the sufficiency of the evidence, and Defendant Williams, solely, asserts that the trial court erred when it admitted evidence of his involvement in an April 2016 shooting and that the effect of cumulative errors during the trial warrants appellate relief. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/22
Asata Dia Lowe-El v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01355-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffery Hill Wicks

In this consolidated appeal, the Petitioner, Asata Dia Lowe-El, appeals from the Morgan County Circuit Court’s summary dismissals of his petitions for a writ of habeas corpus and for a writ of error coram nobis. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the court erred in dismissing the petitions, rather than granting relief. The appeal from the habeas corpus proceeding is dismissed, and we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/22