Court of Criminal Appeals Opinions

Format: 07/03/2020
Format: 07/03/2020
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Allen Smith
E2019-01345-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

Defendant, Christopher Allen Smith, filed a Rule 35 Motion for Modification of Sentence. The trial court held a bifurcated hearing where it denied Defendant's Rule 35 motion and revoked Defendant's probation, ordering his two eight-year consecutive sentences into execution. Defendant now appeals the trial court's denial of his Rule 35 Motion for Modification of Sentence. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law and discerning no error, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Rhasean Lowry - Concur
E2019-00113-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

I join the majority in all issues except the issue regarding the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s request for the trial court to charge facilitation as a lesser included offense of felony murder. As to that issue, I concur in results only.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Rhasean Lowry
E2019-00113-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

Aggrieved of his Hamilton County Criminal Court jury convictions of felony murder in the perpetration of aggravated child abuse and aggravated child abuse, the defendant, Rhasean Lowry, appeals. The defendant alleges that the trial court erred by denying his motion to disqualify the Hamilton County District Attorney General’s Office, by admitting into evidence photographs taken during the victim’s autopsy, by refusing to provide a jury instruction on facilitation as a lesser included offense of felony murder and aggravated child abuse, and by denying his motion for new trial based upon the admission of certain testimony. He also contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth Lloyd Hill
M2019-00032-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The Appellant, Kenneth Lloyd Hill, was convicted in the Davidson County Criminal Court of possessing a firearm while having a prior conviction for a felony involving the use or attempted use of force, violence, or a deadly weapon, a Class C felony, and the trial court sentenced him as a Range III, persistent offender to fifteen years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by refusing to sever the offense from the remaining offenses for which he was on trial and that the trial court committed various sentencing errors. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Tremaine Wilbourn
W2019-00305-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Defendant, Tremaine Wilbourn, appeals his convictions for first degree premeditated murder, carjacking, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and possession of a firearm while having a prior felony conviction involving the use or attempted use of violence, for which he received an effective sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole plus thirty-eight years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for first degree premeditated murder; (2) the trial court erred in prohibiting defense counsel from referencing a prior shooting during opening statements; (3) the trial court erred in excluding evidence of the Defendant’s reason for turning himself in to the United States Marshals Service; and (4) the prosecutor improperly utilized a gun as a demonstrative aid and made improper comments during closing arguments. Upon reviewing the appellate record, the parties’ briefs, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/20
Ziberia Marico Carero v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01123-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams, P.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

A jury convicted the Petitioner, Ziberia Marico Carero, of possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine in a school zone with intent to sell, possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine in a school zone with intent to deliver, sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, and delivery of over 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, and on appeal, his convictions were merged into a single conviction for possession of 0.5 grams or more cocaine in a school zone with intent to sell.  This court affirmed the convictions and sentence of twenty-three years in confinement.  The Petitioner filed a timely post-conviction petition asserting that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to: (1) move for a mistrial based upon the State’s presentation of “surprise” witnesses; (2) object to hearsay testimony; (3) object to a multiplicitous indictment; (4) adequately investigate; and (5) request a facilitation instruction.  Under a heading of “cumulative error,” the Petitioner also asserts that trial counsel failed to: (6) secure sequestration of the witnesses; (7) present witness testimony; and (8) protect the Petitioner’s right to testify.  The Petitioner also raises various trial errors and contends he is entitled to relief pursuant to cumulative error.  After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the Petitioner’s claims fail to establish ineffective assistance of counsel or have been previously determined or waived, and we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/14/20
William Floyd Cartwright v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01544-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The Petitioner, William Floyd Cartwright, challenges the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief attacking his jury conviction for first degree premeditated murder. On appeal, the Petitioner first raises a free-standing claim that the jury instruction requiring the jury to “accept the law as given by the [trial] court” was violative of the Tennessee Constitution and warrants post-conviction relief. The Petitioner then alleges that he received ineffective assistance at trial due to trial counsel’s (1) failure to move for a new preliminary hearing due to an incomplete recording of the first; (2) failure to fulfill a promise made during opening statement that the victim was on house arrest with supporting proof at trial; (3) failure to adequately cross-examine the medical examiner about the victim’s cause of death; (4) failure to seek to have the proof re-opened in order to call the co-defendant to the stand after the co-defendant had accepted a plea; and (5) failure to object to the aforementioned jury instruction. He also submits that the cumulative effect of trial counsel’s errors deprived him of a fair trial. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/14/20
Doyan Anderson v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00871-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The petitioner, Doyan Anderson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/14/20
State of Tennessee v. Robert Michael Wolfenbarker
E2019-01386-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa N. Rice

The Defendant, Robert Michael Wolfenbarker, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of property valued at more than $60,000 but less than $250,000, two counts of theft of property valued at more than $2,500 but less than $10,000, one count of theft of property valued at $1,000 or less, one count of attempted auto burglary, and one count of vandalism. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to nine years of confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it sentenced him. After review, we affirm the Defendant’s sentences.

Carter County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/14/20
State of Tennessee v. William J. Wagner aka William Justin Wagner
W2019-00745-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Appellant, William J. Wagner, pled guilty in the Shelby County Criminal Court to driving under the influence (DUI), third offense, and reserved a certified question of law concerning whether the State had jurisdiction to prosecute him for the offense because the offense was committed on federal property. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the certified question is not dispositive of the case. Therefore, this court is without jurisdiction to consider the appeal, and the appeal is dismissed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/20
State of Tennessee v. Trendell Brady
E2019-00947-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Knox County Grand Jury indicted Defendant, Trendell Brady, on four counts rape of a child.  Following a trial, the jury acquitted Defendant of counts one and two and convicted Defendant as charged in counts three and four.  The trial court sentenced Defendant as a Range I standard offender to forty years on each count and ran the sentences consecutively.  Defendant filed a motion for a new trial, and, after a hearing, the trial court amended the judgments of conviction to reflect twenty-five-year sentences on each count, running consecutively.  On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict and that the trial court improperly sentenced Defendant to consecutive twenty-five-year sentences.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/20
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Ryan Steele
M2019-00333-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Appellant, Joshua Ryan Steele, was convicted of domestic assault and was sentenced to eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served on probation. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the trial court’s denial of his motion for a judgment of acquittal made at the close of the State’s proof and the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/20
Jorrel Brown v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01405-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

The Petitioner, Jorrel Brown, appeals the Franklin County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his three convictions of passing a forged check, Class E felonies, and resulting effective three-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel and, therefore, that his guilty pleas were not knowing and voluntary. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Franklin County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/20
Jonathan Alajemba v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01470-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Petitioner, Jonathan Alajemba, filed a petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of facilitation of conspiracy to commit especially aggravated robbery, attempted especially aggravated robbery, attempted voluntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, reckless aggravated assault, and aggravated burglary. The Petitioner alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective by persuading the Petitioner not to testify and failing to present proof of an insanity defense. He further alleged that newly discovered evidence in the form of recanted testimony established he did not intend to commit robbery. The post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/13/20
State of Tennessee v. Gary Strange
E2019-00016-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

Defendant, Gary Strange, was convicted of three counts of rape of a child and one count of incest following a jury trial. The trial court sentenced Defendant to thirty years for each count of rape of a child and eight years for incest. The trial court ordered two of the thirty-year sentences to run consecutively with each other and concurrently to the remaining sentences for an effective sixty-year sentence as a Range II offender. On appeal, Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred by admitting the victim’s forensic interview; (2) the trial court erred by failing to require the State to make an election of offenses; (3) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (4) there was a fatal variance between the indictment and the evidence; and (5) his sentence is excessive. After a thorough review of the briefs and the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/09/20
State of Tennessee v. Barenton Barnett
E2018-01735-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Andrew M. Freiberg

Defendant, Barenton Barnett, was indicted by the Polk County Grand Jury for theft of property valued at $60,000 or more, a Class B felony. Defendant pleaded no contest to vandalism of more than $2,500, a Class D felony, in exchange for a sentence of three years to be suspended on probation, and Defendant was ordered to pay $8,207 in restitution. Defendant sought to withdraw his plea. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied Defendant’s motion. Defendant appeals. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Polk County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/09/20
William Langston v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01354-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

William Langston, Petitioner, was initially indicted for voluntary manslaughter. The State obtained a superseding indictment charging Petitioner with first degree murder. Following a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of second degree murder. This court affirmed his conviction on direct appeal, and the Tennessee Supreme Court denied further review. State v. William Langston, No. W2015-02359-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 1968827, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 12, 2017), perm app denied (Tenn. Sept. 22, 2017). Petitioner filed for post-conviction relief claiming that he was denied the effective assistance of his first retained counsel (“trial counsel”). Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, Petitioner asserts that trial counsel failed to convey to him a four-year settlement offer before the State obtained the superseding indictment. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/08/20
State of Tennessee v. John David Hudson
W2019-00337-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

A Madison County jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, John D. Hudson, of evading arrest (motor vehicle flight) (count one), criminal impersonation (count two), driving with a revoked license (count three), a first offense seat-belt infraction (count four), and failure to obey a traffic control device (count five). Following a hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range II multiple offender to four years for evading arrest, six months for criminal impersonation, six months for driving on a revoked license, thirty days for the seat belt infraction, and thirty days for the failure to obey a traffic control device. The trial court ordered counts one, two, and three to be served consecutively, and a concurrent term of thirty days for the remaining counts, for an effective sentence of five years imprisonment. The sole issue presented on appeal is whether the trial court abused its discretion in imposing partial consecutive sentencing. Upon review, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Wallace
W2019-01175-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Anthony Wallace (“Defendant”), pro se, appeals the summary dismissal of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36 motion to correct what he claims were errors in his judgments of conviction. Defendant filed an untimely notice of appeal. Because we can find no errors in the judgments of conviction, the interest of justice does not warrant waiver of timely filing. The appeal is dismissed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Tyshon Booker
E2018-01439-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

During a botched robbery, sixteen-year-old Tyshon Booker, the Defendant-Appellant, shot and killed the victim, G’Metrick Caldwell. Following extensive hearings in juvenile court, the Defendant was transferred to criminal court to be tried as an adult.  At trial, the Defendant admitted that he shot the victim several times in the back while seated in the backseat of the victim’s car; however, he claimed self-defense. A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant of two counts of first-degree felony murder and two counts of especially 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 process of transferring a juvenile to criminal court after a finding of three statutory factors by the juvenile court judge violates the Defendant’s rights under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000); (2) whether the State’s suppression of alleged eyewitness identifications prior to the juvenile transfer hearing constitutes a Brady violation, requiring remand for a new juvenile transfer hearing; (3) whether the juvenile court erred in transferring the Defendant to criminal court given defense expert testimony that the Defendant suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was amenable to treatment; (4) whether the trial court erred in finding that the Defendant was engaged in unlawful activity at the time of the offense and in instructing the jury that the Defendant had a duty to retreat before engaging in self-defense; (5) whether an improper argument by the State in closing arguments constitutes prosecutorial misconduct requiring a new trial; (6) whether evidence of juror misconduct warrants a new trial and whether the trial court erred in refusing to subpoena an additional juror; and  (7) whether a sentence of life imprisonment for a Tennessee juvenile violates the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/08/20
State of Tennessee v. Shonique Nechelle Smith
E2019-01400-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

Shonique Nechelle Smith, Defendant, appeals from the trial court’s judgment revoking community corrections and requiring her to serve the balance of her sentence in incarceration. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/07/20
State of Tennessee v. Stephen Damian Ledet
E2019-00909-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

Stephen Damian Ledet, Defendant, was convicted by a jury of possession of a Schedule II controlled substance for resale and tampering with evidence. On appeal, Defendant claims the evidence was insufficient to sustain the convictions. After review of the record and briefs, we affirm the convictions.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/07/20
Jason Matthew Wyatt v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00250-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The Petitioner, Jason Matthew Wyatt, appeals the Sumner County Criminal Court’s order summarily denying relief pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 and summarily dismissing post-conviction relief. The Petitioner argues the trial court erred in (1) holding that the Criminal Savings Statute in Code section 39-11-112 did not apply to the amendments to the theft grading statute in Code section 39-14-105 and (2) dismissing his Rule 36.1 motion/post-conviction petition without appointing counsel. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/20
Leonard Edward Smith v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00596-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

In 1985, a Hamblen County jury convicted the Petitioner, Leonard Edward Smith, of the first degree felony murder of victim Pierce and the first degree premeditated murder of victim Webb. Multiple appeals and remands ensued, following which the Petitioner was ultimately sentenced to two consecutive life terms. In 2017, the Petitioner filed a motion to reopen post-conviction proceedings and a petition for a writ of error coram nobis. The trial court held a hearing and denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that his motion to reopen should have been granted based on newly discovered evidence, which deprived him of a fair trial, and that he is entitled to coram nobis relief based upon the newly discovered evidence. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Hamblen County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/20
State of Tennessee v. Benjamin Scott Brewer
E2019-00355-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

Benjamin Scott Brewer, Defendant, was convicted after a jury trial of six counts of vehicular homicide by intoxication, four counts of reckless aggravated assault, driving under the influence, violation of motor carrier regulations, and speeding. As a result, Defendant was sentenced to an effective sentence of 55 years in incarceration. Defendant appeals his convictions and sentences, arguing on appeal that the State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963); that the trial court improperly certified a witness as a drug recognition expert; that the evidence was insufficient to show intoxication; and that the trial court improperly sentenced Defendant to consecutive sentences. Following our review, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/20