Chris Craft, Judge

Biography

Reports of Cases Reviewed by Appellate Courts – Beginning Jan. 1, 2022

Text is the appellate court’s summary of the opinion. 

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Driskell v. State of Tennessee, No. W2023-00273-CCA-R3-PC  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 9, 2024). The Petitioner, Jimmiko Driskell, appeals the denial of her petition for post-convictionrelief from her second degree murder conviction, arguing that she received ineffective assistance of trial counsel and was denied due process of law because she lacked the knowledge to enter a knowing, intelligent and voluntary guilty plea. Based on our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

Edwards v. State of Tennessee, No. W2023-00653-CCA-R3-PC  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Jan. 29, 2024).  The Petitioner, Mickey Edwards, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief for his jury trial convictions for four counts of aggravated burglary, four counts of theft of property, identity theft, and fraudulent use of a credit card, for which he is servingan effective sixty-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim related to trial counsel’s lack of objections to instances of alleged prosecutorial misconduct. He also alleges a free-standing claim that he was denied a fair trial due to the alleged prosecutorial misconduct. We affirm.

 

State of Tennessee v. Bledsoe, No. W2023-00730-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Jan. 29, 2024). The Defendant, Eric Bledsoe, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury ofaggravated rape, aggravated burglary, and felony theft, for which he is serving an effective sixty-five-year sentence. He filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, which the trial court summarily dismissed for the failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in denying relief. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

Bledsoe v. State of Tennessee, No. W2023-00361-CCA-R3-PC  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Jan. 11, 2024).  Petitioner, Tavaris D. Bledsoe, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in concluding that he received the effective assistance of counsel. Upon our review, we conclude that Petitioner has failed to prepare a sufficient brief in compliance with Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 27(a)(7) and Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 10(b). Accordingly, his issues are waived, and the appeal is dismissed.

 

State of Tennessee v. Jennings, No. W2022-01533-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Dec. 28, 2023). The Appellant, Giorgio Jennings, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of six counts of aggravated rape, five counts of aggravated robbery, three counts of aggravated assault, three counts of facilitation of aggravated assault, three counts of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court sentenced the Appellant to an effective sentence of one hundred and thirty-two years in confinement. In this appeal, he challenges: (1) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions; and (2) the trial court’s imposition of partial consecutive sentences. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

 

Thomas v. State of Tennessee, No. W2022-00887-CCA-R3-PC  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Nov. 16, 2023). A Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Martrice Thomas, of first degree premeditated murder. The Petitioner appealed her conviction, and this court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. State v. Thomas, No. W2017-02489-CCA-R3-CD, 2018 WL 6266277, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., Nov. 29, 2018), perm. app. denied (Tenn. March 28, 2019). On April 6, 2020, more than a year after the final judgment, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that her trial counsel was ineffective, and the post-conviction court denied relief, finding that the Petitioner had received the effective assistance of counsel. The Petitioner appealed, and we remanded the case for consideration of the one-year post-conviction statute of limitations. After a hearing, the post-conviction court determined that due process required the tolling of the statute of limitations. ThePetitioner subsequently filed a notice of review, requesting this court complete review of the appeal. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of post-conviction relief.

 

Allen v. State of Tennessee, No. W2023-00592-CCA-R3-PC  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Nov. 7, 2023).  The petitioner, Morrieo Allen, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

 

Heath v. State of Tennessee, No. W2022-01549-CCA-R3-PC  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Oct. 10, 2023).  The Petitioner, William Heath, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for especially aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment, for which he is serving an effective forty-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that the post-conviction court erred in “failing to view the cumulative effect of [his] claims as a constructive denial of the right to counsel.” We affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment. [Footnote omitted.]

 

State of Tennessee v. Singh, No. W2022-01560-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Sept. 21, 2023). A Shelby County jury found the Defendant, Mr. Raghu Singh, guilty of two counts of driving under the influence and one count of reckless driving. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of eleven months, twenty-nine days, after service of ten days in confinement. In this appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence is legally insufficient to sustain his convictions for driving under the influence. He also asserts that the trial court erred (1) in finding that the State had established a proper chain of custody for his blood sample; and (2) by denying a motion to suppress statements he made at the scene. Upon our review, we respectfully affirm the judgments of the trial court. 

 

Bobo v. State of Tennessee, No. W2022-01554-CCA-R3-ECN  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Sept. 9, 2023). Petitioner, McArthur Bobo, appeals the summary dismissal of his pro se petition for postconviction relief. Discerning no error, we affirm. 

 

State of Tennessee v. Benson a/k/a Mukes, No. W2022-01811-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Aug. 24, 2023). The pro se Defendant, Marquette Benson, aka Marquette Mukes, appeals the summary denial of his September 6, 2022 Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to  correct an illegal sentence. Because it is clear that the Defendant’s September 6, 2022 filing is merely a request for the trial court to reconsider its denial of the Defendant’s first Rule 36.1 motion, which was summarily denied on October 4, 2021 for failure to state a colorable claim, we dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

 

State of Tennessee v. Jones, No. W2023-00141-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Aug. 1, 2023).  Pro-se petitioner, Chris M. Jones, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his “Rule 36 Plain Error Motion for New Trial.” Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

In re Kathy Delores Horton (Prospectively D/B/A A-Team Bail Bond Company, LLC), No. W2022-01355-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 25, 2023). The appellant, Kathy Delores Horton (prospectively D/B/A A-Team Bail Bond Company, LLC), appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of her petition to operate a new bail bond company.  The appellant asserts that the trial court erred in denying her petition because she had the requisite two years of experience working as a qualified agent.  The appellant also raises a challenge regarding the en banc panel, the denial of a claim concerning ex parte communications, and an equal protection claim.  Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the appellant’s petition, as well as her other claims.

 

Thomas v. State of Tennessee, No. W2022-00887-CCA-R3-ECN  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 7, 2023).  A Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Martrice Thomas, of first degree premeditated murder.  The Petitioner appealed her conviction, and this court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.  State v. Martrice Thomas, No. W2017-02489-CCA-R3-CD, 2018 WL 6266277, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., Nov. 29, 2018), perm app. denied (Tenn. March 28, 2019).  On April 6, 2020, more than a year after the expiration of the statute of limitations, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that her trial counsel was ineffective.  After a hearing, the trial court denied relief, finding that the Petitioner had received the effective assistance of counsel.  The Petitioner appeals, maintaining that her trial counsel was ineffective for failing to introduce evidence of Battered Woman Syndrome at trial.  Because the post-conviction court treated the petition as timely from the outset of the hearing, thereby preempting any proof the Petitioner may have presented to show that due process considerations required tolling of the statute of limitations, we remand the case for a hearing on the sole issue of the statute of limitations.  

 

State of Tennessee v. Bobo, No. W2022-01567-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 13, 2023).  The defendant appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion seeking resentencing pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-432(h). Upon our review of the applicable law and the briefs of the parties, we conclude the defendant does not have an appeal as of right and the instant appeal should be dismissed.

 

State of Tennessee v. Davis, No. W2022-01404-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 9, 2023).  The Defendant, Russell Davis, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Specifically, the Defendant argues that his sentence is illegal because the State failed to file timely and proper notices of enhanced punishment and because he was improperly classified as a Range II offender. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Marshall, No. W2022-01068-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 11, 2023).  After pleading guilty on September 18, 2018, to three counts of aggravated rape in three separate cases, Patrick Marshall, Defendant, was sentenced to a total effective sentence of 25 years at 100%.  Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 in which he argued that his sentences were imposed in contravention of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-523(e)(3), ordering “aggravated rapists” to serve the entire sentence “if the offense occurs on or after July 1, 2012.”  It is undisputed that Defendant’s offense dates were before July 1, 2012.  The trial court denied the motion, finding that the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”) should allow Defendant to earn sentence reduction credits and entering an order directing the TDOC to allow Defendant to earn sentence reduction credits.  Defendant appealed.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court but remand for entry of corrected judgment forms that reflect Defendant is entitled to earn up to 15% sentence reduction credits.

 

State of Tennessee v. Brooks, No. W2022-00465-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 5, 2023).  This case involves the denial of a claim for pandemic unemployment assistance and the subsequent administrative proceedings before the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The applicant failed to appear for his appeals hearing despite being notified of the hearing and the procedures required to participate in the hearing. The applicant’s request to reopen his case was denied because he failed to show good cause for his failure to attend. The applicant petitioned for judicial review in the chancery court. After finding substantial and material evidence to support the denial of benefits, the chancery court affirmed the decision of the Commissioner’s Designee. We affirm the chancery court’s decision.

 

State of Tennessee v. Taylor, No. W2022-00465-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 5, 2023).  The Defendant, Willie Taylor, was convicted of rape, assault, and promoting prostitution.The Defendant appeals, contending that the trial court erred by not suppressing his statement to the police and that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for rape and assault. We affirm the trial court’s judgments.

 

Morris v. State of Tennessee, No. W2022-00208-CCA-R3-ECN  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 31, 2023). Petitioner, Curtis Morris, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his Shelby County convictions for first degree murder during the perpetration of aggravated child abuse, first degree murder during the perpetration of aggravated child neglect, aggravated child abuse of a child eight years of age or less, and aggravated child neglect of a child eight years of age or less, for which he received a sentence of life imprisonment. Petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel based upon counsel’s: (1) failure to call an expert witness to rebut the State’s experts and bolster Petitioner’s testimony that the victim’s death was accidental; (2) making “material misstatements” regarding the evidence in counsel’s opening statement; (3) failure to adequately prepare to cross-examine one of the State’s experts and failure to request a McDaniel hearing to challenge the expert’s testimony; (4) failure to file any pretrial motions; (5) failure to object, during the prosecutor’s cross-examination of Petitioner, to the prosecutor’s repeated use of the word “stomping” to characterize Petitioner’s direct examination testimony; (6) failure to request proper jury instructions regarding the mens rea required for a conviction for aggravated child abuse; and (7) failure to present evidence of child custody proceedings in which Petitioner sought and won custody of his children. Petitioner also contends that he is entitled to post-conviction relief based on cumulative error. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Lee, No. W2022-00626-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 13, 2023).  Following a trial, the jury convicted Wendolyn Lee, Defendant, of rape, statutory rape by an authority figure, and incest. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to twelve years with 100% service for rape and five years as a Range I standard offender for both statutory rape by an authority figure and incest. The court ordered the sentences to be served consecutively, for a total effective sentence of twenty-two years, and ordered Defendant to be on community supervision for life for the rape and incest convictions. The court also sentenced Defendant to a consecutive term of 210 days for multiple counts of direct criminal contempt of court. On appeal, Defendant claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, that Tennessee courts lack territorial jurisdiction to try the indicted offenses, that the rape charge was untimely because “adult rapes must be reported within three years,” that he did not receive a speedy trial, that the jury was prejudiced because Defendant’s other stepdaughter testified in rebuttal that she was raped by Defendant, and that the court erred by not allowing Defendant to represent himself. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. 

 

Trammell v. State of Tennessee, No. W2022-00042-CCA-R3-ECN  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 8, 2023).  The petitioner, Keith Trammell, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing he received the ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal. Following our review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of the petition.

 

State of Tennessee v. Head, No. W2021-01500-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Jan. 12, 2023).  A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Cadarius Head, of first degree premeditated murder and attempted first degree murder, and the trial court imposed an effective life sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Specifically, the Defendant contends that the State’s primary witness was not credible and that his convictions were otherwise based on circumstantial evidence. He further contends that the State failed to convincingly prove the element of premeditation as to his first degree murder conviction. Finally, he argues that the evidence supporting his conviction for attempted first degree murder was insufficient because the victim did not testify at trial. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Beadle, No. W2022-00171-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Dec. 9, 2022).  The Defendant, Joshua Beadle, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated rape. The trial court sentenced him to serve twenty-five years and to community supervision for life. On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Bobo, W2021-00811-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Sept. 30, 2022). Defendant, Daryl Bobo, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of a motion filed pursuant to Rule 36 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure in which Defendant challenged the legality of his effective 60-year sentence as a Range III, persistent offender resulting from multiple drug-related convictions. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Person-Gibson, W2021-01094-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Sept. 19, 2022). Charles Person-Gibson, Defendant, was indicted in a five-count indictment for first degree murder, felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. During trial, Defendant sought a mistrial on the basis that the State elicited improper testimony about Defendant’s criminal record. The trial court denied the motion. The jury found Defendant guilty of first degree murder, felony murder, attempted especially aggravated robbery, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Defendant was found not guilty of attempted aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the felony murder conviction with the first degree murder conviction. Defendant was sentenced to an effective sentence of life in prison plus twenty years. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant appeals. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and the trial court’s refusal to grant a mistrial. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand the matter to the trial court for amendment of the judgment forms to reflect the sentence as announced by the trial court at the sentencing hearing.

 

State of Tennessee v. Moore, W2021-01352-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Sept. 19, 2022). A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Zaciaro Moore, of especially aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, and theft of property valued at more than $1,000. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of eighteen years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for especially aggravated robbery based upon the State’s failure to prove the element of serious bodily injury. Following our review, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict, and we affirm the Defendant’s convictions. However, we must remand for a clerical error in the judgment form for theft of property in Count 3.

 

Bowles a/k/a Merriweather v. State of Tennessee,  W2021-00808-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 27, 2022).  Petitioner, Tondreon Bowles, also known as Tondreon Merriweather, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief. Petitioner argues that his guilty plea to being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, a Class C felony, was not knowingly and voluntarily entered and that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Petitioner claims that he believed he was pleading guilty to being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun, a Class E felony, and therefore, his sentence is illegal. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court; however, we remand the case to the trial court for entry of judgment forms in counts two and four.

 

Bailey v. State of Tennessee,  W2021-01535-CCA-R3-ECN  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 21, 2022).  The pro se Petitioner, Raymond-Bernard Bailey, appeals the dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis, arguing that the error coram court erred in dismissing his petition without a hearing because he has newly discovered evidence to show his innocence of the crimes. Based on our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition.

 

State of Tennessee v. Anthony, W2021-00668-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 20, 2022). The Defendant, Andre Anthony, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his pro se Motion to Correct Judgment Order. After review, we conclude that the appeal should be dismissed.

 

Thomas v. State of Tennessee,  W2021-00851-CCA-R3-ECN (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 20, 2022).  The Petitioner, Joseph Thomas, appeals the dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis, arguing that the coram nobis court erred in concluding that he was not entitled to error coram nobis relief from his Alford guilty pleas. Based on our review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

 

Claxton v. State of Tennessee, W2021-01240-CCA-R3-PC  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 14, 2022).  The petitioner, Darryl Claxton, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2015 Shelby County Criminal Court Jury conviction of first degree murder, arguing that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

 

State of Tennessee v. Ray, No. W2021-01060-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. May 19, 2022). Norris Ray, Defendant, appeals after the summary dismissal of a motion filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 in which Defendant argued that his life sentence was illegal for several different reasons. After a review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

Corinio Pruitt v. State of Tennessee, No. W2019-00973-CCA-R3-PD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. May 6, 2022). Petitioner, Corinio Pruitt, was convicted in 2008 of first degree felony murder and was sentenced to death. After Petitioner’s conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Tennessee Supreme Court on direct appeal, Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition. After an extensive evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. In this appeal, Petitioner raises the following claims for relief: 1) the post-conviction judge erred by failing to recuse himself; 2) Petitioner is ineligible for the death penalty due to his intellectual disability, and trial counsel were ineffective in their handling of Petitioner’s intellectual disability claim at trial1; 3) trial counsel were ineffective for failing to investigate and present additional mitigating evidence regarding Petitioner’s traumatic social history, mental health, and cognitive impairments; 4) the prosecutors abused their discretion by seeking the death penalty in this case, operated under a conflict of interest, and committed misconduct by exercising peremptory strikes against African-American jurors and making inappropriate statements and arguments, and trial counsel were ineffective for failing to raise appropriate objections to these issues; 5) trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance during the course of voir dire, trial, closing argument, and jury instructions during the guilt phase; 6) the death penalty is unconstitutional and is a disproportionate sentence in this case; and 7) the cumulative effect of these errors rendered Petitioner’s trial fundamentally unfair. After a thorough examination of the briefs of the parties and amici curiae, the records of the post-conviction hearing and direct appeal, and the applicable law, this court affirms the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

Dendy v. State of TennesseeNo. W2020-01364-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. May 5, 2022).  The Petitioner, Corey Dendy, filed a petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of aggravated robbery, alleging that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to contact a witness prior to the Petitioner’s guilty plea and that the Petitioner’s guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. The post-conviction court denied relief, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

Nelson v. State of Tennessee, No. W2021-00896-CCA-R3-ECN (Tenn. Ct. Crim App. Apr. 18, 2022).  After being convicted of two counts of first degree murder, Tarence Nelson, Petitioner, sought a direct appeal and post-conviction relief. See State v. Tarence Nelson, No. W2011- 02222-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 12185279, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 24, 2013), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 16, 2013); Tarence Nelson v. State, No. W2017-02063-CCA-R3- PC, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 12, 2019), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 15, 2020). Petitioner was not successful in either appeal. Petitioner sought relief via the writ of error coram nobis while the post-conviction petition was pending. That petition was ultimately dismissed. Petitioner filed another petition for writ of error coram nobis. It was summarily dismissed on the basis that it was untimely. After a review, we affirm the judgment of the criminal court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Stanley Allen, W2021-00673-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. March 22, 2022). The Shelby County Grand Jury issued an indictment charging Defendant, Stanley Allen, with aggravated statutory rape, solicitation of a minor, and sexual battery. Following a trial, a jury found Defendant guilty of solicitation of a minor and sexual battery. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the charge of aggravated statutory rape. Defendant later entered a no contest plea to a lesser-included offense of assault by offensive touching on this charge. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective one-year sentence suspended to three years of supervised probation, and the court denied Defendant’s request for judicial diversion. On appeal, Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for sexual battery and that the trial court abused its discretion in denying judicial diversion. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court

 

State of Tennessee v. McArthur Bobo, No. W2021-00650-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. March 17, 2022). The Defendant-Appellant, McArthur Bobo, was convicted by a Shelby County criminal court jury of second-degree murder in 2009. Following a remand from our supreme court, the trial court held a new hearing on the Defendant’s motion for new trial on May 12, 2021, which the trial court denied. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred 1) in denying the motion for new trial because it was unable to act as thirteenth juror in determining the sufficiency of the evidence; 2) in failing to grant a mistrial or striking the testimony of a witness whose written statement was allegedly not provided to the Defendant; 3) in denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress; 4) in admitting jailhouse calls into evidence; 5) in allowing testimony that children were present near the shooting scene; and 6) in failing to grant a mistrial based on a totality of all errors. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Joseph Smith, No. W2021-00290-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. March 3, 2022). Pro-se petitioner, Joseph Smith, filed an untimely notice of appeal from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we conclude that the interest of justice does not warrant a waiver of the notice requirement because Petitioner failed to state a colorable claim for relief. Therefore, we dismiss this appeal as untimely.

 

Lacey Jones v. State of Tennessee, No. W2021-00355-CCA-R3-HC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 11, 2022). 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.

 

State of Tennessee v. Vincent Williams, No. W2020-01500-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Jan. 12, 2022). The Defendant, Vincent Williams, was convicted by a jury of attempted first-degree murder, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and aggravated assault, for which he received an effective forty-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court committed plain error when it prevented him from introducing evidence of the victim’s bias and that the evidence was insufficient to establish his identity as the perpetrator. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

 

Understanding the Limitations and Use of the Information Found in This Book

Tennessee’s trial judges resolve hundreds of thousands of legal and factual issues in tens of thousands of cases every single year.  No appeal is filed in the vast percentage of those cases, indicating that while the “losing” party may not like a ruling on a particular issue, that party understands there was an appropriate reason for the judge’s decision or, at a minimum, the judge was acting within his or her discretion.

 

Of course, a small number of decisions of trial judges do result in an appeal. Experienced trial lawyers know that the number of cases appealed out of a particular trial judge’s court does not, in and of itself, reveal much about the trial judge. For example, some judges hear more complex cases than others, and those cases are more likely to be appealed. Convictions in child sex abuse cases are frequently appealed, as are many criminal cases resulting in long sentences. There are a large number of parental rights termination cases that find their way to the appellate courts.  Judges who routinely try those types of cases will, other things being equal, see more of their cases reviewed by appellate courts than judges who do not see such cases.

 

Second, certain litigants (and certain lawyers) are more likely to appeal a case than others.  Thus, judges who have those litigants or lawyers regularly appear in their courtrooms will find more cases reviewed by the appellate courts.

 

For these and other reasons, the reader is cautioned not to read too much into the number of cases appealed from a court.  Stated differently, there is no reason to believe that a judge who has ten cases reviewed by an appellate court in a single year is a “worse” judge than one who has one case appealed, or that a judge who has three cases appealed is a “better” judge than one who has nine cases appealed.

 

Next, the number of times a judge’s ruling is reversed by an appellate court is not necessarily indicative of the quality of his or her work. For example, experienced lawyers know that there are “holes in the law,” i.e., cases where there is no law directly on point and the judge is forced to predict what an appellate court would rule on the issue. The fact that a judge decided an open legal issue one way and an appellate court decided it another way does not mean that the trial judge was “wrong” or does not understand the law. It simply means that the trial judge had a different view of what the law should be than the appellate court that decided the issue. A trial judge is not blessed with a crystal ball that can with 100 percent accuracy forecast how an appellate court will rule on an undecided legal issue.

 

In addition, the trial court is sometimes not provided with the same in-depth legal arguments and law that is supplied to the appellate court by the parties, or which is provided by law clerks at the appellate level (many trial courts do not have law clerks). The trial judge may have reached the same conclusion as the appellate court if he or she had been supplied with additional law or argument.

 

Finally, the law changes constantly, and the trial judge may rule on a case based on today’s law, which may evolve between the time of that ruling and the issuance of an opinion of the appellate court. In such cases, the reversal of the case by the appellate court is a question of timing of the original court decision as compared to changes in the law, not one of error by the trial court.

 

So, what is the value of this book?  How can the trial lawyer use it to help his or her clients given the limitations expressed above? Permit me to digress slightly.

 

You have seen the coffee cups or t-shirts that proclaim, “A good lawyer knows the law, but a great lawyer knows the judge.”

 

Some read this phrase as suggesting that the “great lawyer” is one who has an improper relationship with the judge – that he or she can use a personal relationship to improperly influence the judge.  But most lawyers know better.  Most lawyers understand that “knowing the judge” means knowing the judge’s background, preferences concerning the presentation of evidence (including exhibits), arguments of motions, drafting of proposed orders, and given that experience, how he or she is likely to rule on a particular issue.  “Knowing the judge” also means knowing the local rules, local forms, local customs, and what things irritate the judge (and every judge is irritated by at least one thing that lawyers or litigants may do).

 

Many lawyers, particularly those in more rural areas of the state or who limit their practice to one area of law, understand the personality and preferences of the judges they see on a regular basis. Many of these lawyers may have a fair advantage appearing before that judge. (The advantage is “fair” because it results from experience and knowledge.)  That advantage – knowing how the judge thinks and his or her preferences – is not outcome-determinative, but it still may be an advantage, similar to a sports team playing on their home field.

 

Why did I say it “may” be an advantage, given what I said earlier about the benefits of “knowing the judge?”  Because simply knowing the judge’s thought processes and preferences is not enough. You still need to have the law and the facts on your client’s side.  And you need to be prepared to be able to give the judge what he or she needs to know to make a ruling.

 

So, the purpose of “The Book” is to give Tennessee lawyers case-related information to help them understand the trial judge who will rule on their client’s case or preside over a jury trial. By looking at past appellate court rulings arising from cases decided by the trial judge, anyone unfamiliar with a judge can get a “feel” for the judge. The case data contained herein does not compare with daily or weekly appearances in front of the judge on issues like a given case, but it is readily available information that give you an idea of how the judge has ruled in the past on a variety of matters.

 

The cases included are those originally decided by the trial judge that were in appellate court opinions released on or after January 1, 2022.  Note that there are a substantial number of judges who first took office in 2022 and thus it is reasonable to assume that there will be no appellate decisions for such judges until late 2023 or 2024.

 

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"The Book" - Information on Tennessee Trial Judges Copyright © 2023 by BirdDog Law, LLC. All Rights Reserved.