E. Shayne Sexton, Judge (Service Ended August 31, 2022)


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

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

Scroll down for important information.


Brock v. State of Tennessee, E2022-00082-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Aug. 23, 2022).  The pro se petitioner, Jamie Brock, appeals from the dismissal of his petition filed pursuant to the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act of 2001 (“the Act”), which petition sought the appointment of counsel to assist him in seeking DNA testing of evidence related to his first degree murder conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm.


State of Tennessee v. Lovin, E2021-00705-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 29, 2022).  A jury convicted the Defendant, Bobby Lovin, of two counts of rape of a child, and he received an effective sixty-four-year sentence. The Defendant appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence on one count of rape of a child and the trial court’s admission of the victim’s recorded forensic interview. We conclude that the evidence is sufficient and that there was no error in the admission of the video, and we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


State of Tennessee v. Bullock, E2021-00661-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 29, 2022).  The Defendant, Marvin Dewayne Bullock, appeals his convictions for four counts of rape of a child, five counts of rape, nine counts of incest, three counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, one count of solicitation of sexual exploitation of a minor, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, and one count of aggravated sexual battery, for which he received an effective sentence of 178 years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; that due to a hearing impairment, he was unable to hear the witnesses’ testimony at trial; that the prosecutor improperly coached jurors during voir dire in how to avoid jury service; that his sentences are excessive; and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. We conclude that the Defendant’s notice of appeal was untimely and that the untimely filing should not be waived in the interest of justice. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal, and we remand the case to the trial court for entry of corrected judgments as set forth in the opinion.


State of Tennessee v. Clayborn,  M2021-00656-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 19, 2022).  Defendant, Ronnie Lee Clayborn, was convicted by a Fentress County jury of rape of a child and incest, for which he received a sentence of twenty-seven years’ incarceration.  On appeal, Defendant contends that: (1) the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support his convictions beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court committed plain error by the admission of prior uncharged sex crimes to bolster the victim’s testimony; (3) rebuttal testimony from the lead detective infringed upon Defendant’s right to remain silent; (4) the trial court erred when it excluded testimony from Defendant’s father about text messages sent from Defendant to the victim’s mother on the night of the offense; (5) the prosecutor engaged in improper prosecutorial argument; (6) the trial court committed plain error by allowing the use of a facility dog during the testimony of two minor witnesses; (7) he is entitled to plain error relief based on the prosecutors’ and the lead detective’s repeated use of the term “victim” to refer to the complaining witness; and (8) cumulative error necessitates a new trial.  Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of conviction.


State of Tennessee v. Clairborne, No. E2021-00974-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 30, 2022).  Defendant, Mischa Knight Claiborne, was indicted by the Scott County Grand Jury for four counts of aggravated battery, one count of solicitation of a minor to commit aggravated sexual battery, nine counts of sexual battery, one count of rape, and one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child. Defendant pleaded guilty to four counts of attempted aggravated sexual battery, one count of solicitation of a minor, nine counts of sexual battery, one count of rape, and the continuous sexual abuse of a child charge was dismissed. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied alternative sentencing and ordered Defendant to serve an effective 15 years’ incarceration. Defendant appeals his sentences as excessive. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. Strange, No. E2021-00763-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 27, 2022).    The defendant, Capone Carroll Strange, appeals his Scott County Criminal Court jury conviction of aggravated child abuse, arguing that the jury venire was improperly influenced by the victim, that the trial court erred by failing to strike a juror for cause, that a State witness gave improper expert testimony, and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm.


Weldon v. State of Tennessee,  No. E2021-00772-CCA-R3-P  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 3, 2022).  The Petitioner, Gary Ray Welden, appeals from the Campbell County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction for solicitation of a minor to engage in aggravated statutory rape and his one-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


State of Tennessee v. Ford, No. E2021-00780-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. May 19, 2022). Roy Michael Ford, Defendant, was indicted for several offenses in relation to the death of Scotty Brogan, the victim. Defendant sought severance of the second degree murder charge from the remaining offenses. The trial court granted the request and Defendant proceeded to trial on the second degree murder charge. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of second degree murder and sentenced to 17 years in incarceration. Defendant appeals, arguing that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support the second degree murder conviction; (2) the trial court erred in admitting a photograph of the deceased victim; (3) the trial court improperly permitted a witness to testify about what she would have done had she been in Defendant’s position; and (4) his sentence is excessive. After a review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.  [Footnote omitted.]


State of Tennessee v. Gibson,  No. E2021-00769-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 27, 2022).  A Campbell County jury convicted the Defendant, Robbie Gibson, of aggravated stalking, aggravated assault, and possession of a prohibited weapon. The trial court sen- tenced him to an effective sentence of thirteen years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction for possession of a prohibited weapon and that the trial court erred when it limited the length of his closing argument. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


State of Tennessee v. Christopher Nicol Cox, No. E2020-01388-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 3, 2022). 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.


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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