Angelita Blackshear Dalton, 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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Summers v. State of Tennessee, No. M2023-00103-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Jan. 10, 2024 ). Bobby V. Summers, Petitioner, appeals the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of his petition as time-barred. Upon review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Jenkins,  M2022-00693-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Sept. 8, 2023).  A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Antonio Donte Jenkins, a.k.a. Antonio Donte Gordon Jenkins, of second degree murder and felony reckless endangerment. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to serve an effective sentence of twenty-seven years. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for second degree murder. He also asserts that the trial court erred by (1) instructing the jury on criminal responsibility; (2) failing to declare a mistrial after a State’s witness testified that the Defendant had an outstanding warrant; (3) allowing portions of a witness’s testimony from the juvenile transfer hearing to be read into evidence; (4) allowing evidence that had not been presented during trial into the jury room during deliberations; and (5) imposing an excessive sentence. We respectfully conclude that the jury should not have been instructed on criminal responsibility and that the error was not harmless. For this reason, we vacate the Defendant’s conviction for second degree murder and remand for a new trial. Finally, although we also affirm the Defendant’s conviction and sentence for reckless endangerment, we remand for entry of an amended judgment reflecting that this sentence is not currently aligned consecutively to any other sentence.

 

Jones v. State of Tennessee, No. M2022-01315-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Sept. 8, 2023).  The petitioner, Rodney Earl Jones, 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

 

State of Tennessee v. Beasley,  M2022-00842-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Aug. 8, 2023).  The Defendant-Appellant, Eula Beasley, entered a guilty plea in the Davidson County Criminal Court to aggravated robbery (count one) and possession of a firearm with a prior conviction for a crime of violence (count two), for which he received an eight-year sentence for each count with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered these sentences to be served consecutively, for an effective sentence of sixteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Williams,  M2022-01123-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 26, 2023). Defendant, Deshawn Eugene Williams, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his previously ordered probationary sentence of ten years in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues the trial court abused its discretion by failing to give him credit for time successfully served while on probation. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

Keel v. State of Tennessee, No. M2022-00089-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 7, 2023). The Petitioner, William Rolandus Keel, appeals the denial of his petition for postconviction relief from his convictions for two counts of rape of a child, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in not admitting relevant evidence consisting of a recorded phone call (“Phone Call Recording” or “recording”) between the victim and her mother, in limiting the Petitioner’s testimony at the remand evidentiary hearing, in finding that the Petitioner received the effective assistance of counsel, and in denying post-conviction relief when the Petitioner is “one hundred percent innocent and [was] wrongfully convicted.” Based on our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Garrity,  M2022-00725-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 18, 2023).  Jay Dee Garrity, Defendant, was convicted of three counts of aggravated sexual battery and sentenced to consecutive sentences of 17 years for each conviction. In this appeal as of right, Defendant asserts that: 1) the trial court erred by allowing evidence of Defendant’s prior bad acts; 2) it was plain error for the trial court to admit portions of the victim’s recorded interview; 3) the trial court abused its discretion in running Defendant’s sentences consecutively and his sentence is presumptively vindictive; 4) the trial court improperly restricted Defendant’s cross-examination of the victim; 5) the trial court erred in allowing the State to call a witness at trial without giving sufficient notice to Defendant; 6) the trial court erred by granting the State’s request for a special jury instruction; and 7) the evidence was insufficient to support Defendant’s convictions. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Nichols,  M2022-00802-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 10, 2023).  The Defendant, Charles Larry Nichols, III, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence or clerical error, arguing that he was entitled to “street time” credit for the time he served on community corrections but was being supervised by state probation. Upon review, we conclude that the trial court properly determined that the Defendant was not entitled to the street time credit because he was on supervised probation, not community corrections. However, we remand the case to the trial court for correction of a separate clerical error in the amended judgment of conviction.

 

Hall v. State of Tennessee, No. M2021-01555-CCA-R3-ECN (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 31, 2023). Following his conviction for first degree murder, the Petitioner, Jose Lemanuel Hall, filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied the petition after an evidentiary hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that trial counsel failed to meet with him adequately and failed to object to the State’s opening statement. He also argues that the requirement to show actual prejudice in post-conviction proceedings is overly burdensome and conflicts with constitutional protections. We respectfully affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Mosley,  M2022-00441-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 28, 2023). Michael Mosley, Defendant, claims the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of attempted aggravated assault, that the trial court erred by not requiring the State to make an election as to the precise definition of serious bodily injury for which a conviction was being sought, and that the trial court erred by denying Defendant’s request for two special jury instructions. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

Hall v. State of Tennessee, No. M2021-01556-CCA-R3-ECN (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 2, 2023).  The petitioner, Jose Lemanuel Hall, 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 and on appeal. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

 

Steed v. State of Tennessee, No. M2022-00879-CCA-R3-ECN (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Jan. 11, 2023) (memorandum opinion).  Petitioner, Reginold C. Steed, appeals the error coram nobis court’s summary dismissal of his petition for error coram nobis relief. Following review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court in accordance with Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

 

State of Tennessee v. Brummell, M2022-00382-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Dec. 27, 2022).  A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Mustafah Brummell, of two counts of aggravated robbery, for which he received an effective sentence of twenty-eight years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the sole issue presented for our review is whether the evidence is sufficient to support his convictions. We affirm.

Perkins v. State of Tennessee, No. M2022-00268-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Oct. 11, 2022). Pro se petitioner, Julius Q. Perkins, filed a motion seeking relief from his felony murder conviction pursuant to the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001 and the Post-Conviction Fingerprint Analysis Act of 2021. Said motion was summarily dismissed by the trial court. Because the instant notice of appeal was not timely filed, and the petitioner has failed to provide any basis to excuse the untimely filing, we dismiss the appeal.

 

State of Tennessee v. Dixon, M2021-01326-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Oct. 6, 2022). Defendant, Carlos Darnell Dixon, was convicted after a jury trial of second degree murder, a Class A felony, and two counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony, and sentenced to an effective thirty years in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for second degree murder; that the State infringed upon his Second Amendment right to bear arms by cross-examining him about his experience with guns and gun ownership; and that his sentence for second degree murder is excessive. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

 

Price v. State of Tennessee, No. M2021-00895-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 25, 2022).  In 2009, a Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Dustin Shawn Price, of first degree felony murder, first degree premeditated murder, two counts of reckless endangerment, and three counts of attempted first degree murder.  The trial court sentenced him to life plus forty years of incarceration.  The Petitioner appealed his convictions to this court, and we affirmed the judgments.  State v. Dustin Shawn Price, No. M2012-00117-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 4539034, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Aug. 26, 2013), no perm. app. filed.  Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing.  After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

 

State of Tennessee v. Perkins, M2021-01112-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 20, 2022).  On May 24, 2021, the Defendant, Milton Keith Perkins, filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 36.1 seeking to correct an illegal sentence. He alleged that his negotiated Tennessee sentence was illegal because the judgment indicated it should be served “consecutively to any present sentence including Texas parole,” but his Texas sentence was adjudicated after the Tennessee conviction. The trial court summarily denied the Defendant’s motion for failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

 

State of Tennessee v. Thomas, M2021-00817-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 13, 2022).  The Defendant, Ida Veronica Thomas, pleaded guilty to theft of property valued at $60,000 or more, but less than $250,000 and, pursuant to a plea agreement, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve twelve years on community corrections.  At a subsequent restitution hearing, the trial court imposed a restitution amount of $151,385, to be paid at a rate of $75 per month.  The Defendant appealed, and this court affirmed the case in part, but remanded the case for the trial court to order a presentence report and determine the restitution amount, distinct from the pecuniary loss, by considering the Defendant’s financial resources and ability to pay.  State v. Ida Veronica Thomas, No. M2019-02137-CCA-R3-CD, 2021 WL 286736, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Jan. 28, 2021).  On remand, the trial court ordered a restitution amount of $92,225 to be paid monthly according to a graduated payment schedule.  The Defendant now appeals from the trial court’s order of restitution.  Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Palmer, No. M2021-00480-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. May 13, 2022).  Defendant, Frank Barnett Palmer, entered a guilty plea as a Range II multiple offender, pursuant to Hicks v. State, 945 S.W.2d 706 (Tenn. 1997), to one count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and one count of evading arrest in a motor vehicle, both Class E felonies. As a part of the plea agreement, the State agreed to a sentence of two to four years on each count, to be determined by the trial court, with a forty-five percent release eligibility. Following a hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to four years with a forty-five percent release eligibility on each count, with six months to serve in count one and the remainder of the sentences suspended to supervised probation, and ran the sentences consecutively. On appeal, Defendant argues that his sentences are excessive and that the trial court erred in imposing split confinement. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. [Footnote omitted.]

 

Meneese v. State of Tennessee, No. M2021-01137-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 27, 2022). The petitioner, Damonta M. Meneese, 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.

Oscar Smith v. State of Tennessee, No. M2022-00455-CCA-R3-PD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 14, 2022). Petitioner, Oscar Smith, a death row inmate, appeals the trial court’s order denying his “Motion to Reopen Post-Conviction Proceedings and/or for Review under Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001.”  The trial court denied Petitioner’s motion to reopen and his DNA petition in the same order.  Petitioner has filed a notice of appeal (Docket No. M2022-00455-CCA-R3-PD) and an application for permission to appeal (Docket No. M2022-00460-CCA-R28-PD).  The Court hereby consolidates these two appeals under Docket No. M2022-00455-CCA-R3-PD.  The record has been filed and Petitioner, in addition to having filed an application for permission to appeal, has already filed his appellate brief.  Upon our review, we affirm the rulings of the trial court pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20.

 

Benjamin Lee Pearson, Jr. v. State of Tennessee, No. M2020-01267-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. March 24, 2022). The Petitioner, Benjamin Lee Pearson, Jr., pled guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual battery and received a total effective sentence of sixteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  Thereafter, the Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition, alleging that his counsel was ineffective and that his 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.

 

Oscar Smith v. State of Tennessee, No. M2021-01339-CCA-R3-PD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. March 23, 2022). Petitioner, Oscar Smith, a death row inmate, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition requesting analysis of evidence pursuant to the Post-Conviction Fingerprint Analysis Act of 2021.  Based upon our review of the record, oral arguments, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction 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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