Stacy L. Street, Judge


Reports 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.


Franklin v. Eller, No. E2023-01018-CCA-R3-HC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. May 7, 2024). The pro se petitioner, Bobby L. Franklin, appeals from the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus by the Criminal Court for Johnson County, arguing the habeas court erred in summarily dismissing his petition. The petitioner asserts he is entitled to habeas corpus relief because a “new judgment” was entered, lengthening his sentence. Following our review, we conclude that the petitioner’s notice of appeal was untimely and that the interest of justice does not mandate waiver of this requirement. Thus, the instant appeal should be dismissed.


State of Tennessee v. Banner, No. E2023-01433-CCA-R9-CO (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. May 2, 2024). The Defendant, Claude Harvey Banner, was convicted by a Carter County Criminal Court jury of attempted second degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm. The trial court initially approved the verdicts as thirteenth juror but later granted the Defendant’s untimely motion for a new trial. We granted the State’s application for an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 9 to consider whether the trial court lacked jurisdiction to grant a new trial in its capacity at thirteenth juror after the judgments were final. We reverse the trial court’s order granting a new trial and reinstate the judgments of conviction.


Bolton v. State of Tennessee, E2022-00836-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 29, 2023). The Petitioner, Tyler D. Bolton, appeals the Washington County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his guilty-pleaded convictions for possession of twenty-six grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to sell, unlawful possession of a firearm, and two counts of aggravated burglary.  On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred by denying his motion in limine to exclude jail call recordings from the post-conviction hearing.  The Petitioner also argues that the post-conviction court erred by denying relief on his claims alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel by trial counsel’s failing to adequately investigate the Petitioner’s mental health history and request a mental health evaluation prior to advising him to accept a plea offer.  We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


Blevins v. State of Tennessee, E2021-01312-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Aug. 10, 2022).  The Petitioner, Bryan Shawn Blevins, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance, which rendered his guilty pleas unknowing and involuntary. The State argues that the post-conviction court erred in denying the State’s motion to summarily dismiss the petition as time-barred. Based on our review, we conclude that the Petitioner failed to show that the one-year statute of limitations should be tolled on due process grounds. Thus, the Petitioner’s post-conviction claims are barred by the statute of limitations. We, therefore, reverse the post-conviction court’s denial of the State’s motion to dismiss the petition as untimely.


Purcell v. State of Tennessee, No. E2021-00996-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 13, 2022).  Petitioner, John A. Purcell, appeals the dismissal of his post-conviction petition for being untimely filed. On appeal, he asserts that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel before entering his guilty plea and that the post-conviction court erred by not conducting a complete evidentiary hearing before dismissing his petition as untimely. Having reviewed the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


State of Tennessee v. Perez, No. E2021-00475-CCA-R3-CD  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 21, 2022).  A Washington County Criminal Court convicted the Appellant, Javier C. Perez, of possessing .5 grams or more of methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance, with the intent to sell, a Class B felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-434. The trial court sentenced the Appellant to eight years of incarceration in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Appellant raises the following issues for review: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) whether the trial court erred by instructing the jury pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-419 that they could infer the intent to sell based upon the amount of drugs possessed; (3) whether the trial court erred in denying the Appellant’s motion for mistrial after Officer Curtis testified regarding “drug mules”; (4) whether the trial court committed plain error by allowing theState to “vouch against the Appellant’s credibility in its closing arguments”; and (5) whether the trial court erred in denying the Appellant’s motion for new trial based on newly discovered evidence. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Jackson v. State of Tennessee, No. E2021-00642-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 1, 2022).  The Petitioner, Jamarcus Jackson, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for second degree murder, misdemeanor assault, and misdemeanor reckless endangerment, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to counsel’s failure to subpoena critical defense witnesses. After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


State of Tennessee v. Atwell, Jr., No. E2021-00067-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 1, 2022).  Defendant, Robert M. Atwell, Jr., was convicted by a jury of one count of violating the sex offender registry. The trial court imposed a sentence of one year, with ninety days incarceration, and the remainder to be served on probation. On appeal, Defendant argues that: the trial court erred by admitting specific evidence of his prior sexual offenses after he offered to stipulate his status as a sex offender; his conviction for violation of the sex offender registry violates the Ex Post Facto Clause of both the United States and Tennessee Constitutions; there was a fatal variance between the indictment and the proof presented at trial; and there was cumulative error. Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, 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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