Steve R. Dozier, Judge

Biography

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.

 

Barnes v. State of Tennessee, No. M2023-01088-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 30, 2024). In 1990, a Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Rhynuia L. Barnes, of premeditated first-degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of life in prison. The Petitioner unsuccessfully appealed his conviction. He then unsuccessfully filed a petition for post-conviction relief and three petitions for writ of error coram nobis, as well as a motion to exhume his father’s body and for fingerprint analysis. In 2023, the Petitioner filed his second post-conviction fingerprint analysis petition asking: (1) that the TBI enter the latent prints found on the murder weapon into an online fingerprint database; and (2) that the court order testing of his deceased father’s palm prints against the known palm print on the murder weapon. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition, and the Petitioner appeals. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

 

State of Tennessee v. Hall, No. M2022-01176-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 21, 2024). The Defendant, Kesean Dewayne Hall, appeals his jury convictions for second degree murder, attempted second degree murder, employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony, and criminal trespass. For these convictions, he received an effective thirty-five-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant challenges (1) the denial of his motion to sever the separate shooting episodes; (2) the sufficiency of the convicting evidence; (3) the admission of video footage showing the Defendant trespassing on the housing development’s property; and (4) the admission of “video evidence related to Crime Scene 3.” He also raises a claim of cumulative error and a challenge to his sentence. Following our review, we conclude that due to inadequacies in the Defendant’s appellate brief, all of his issues are waived save sufficiency of the evidence. First, relative to the sufficiency of the evidence, we conclude that the evidence was insufficient to support the Defendant’s criminal trespass conviction, and that conviction must be reversed and dismissed. Next, the evidence’s being sufficient to support the Defendant’s remaining convictions for second degree murder, attempted second degree murder, and employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony, those convictions are affirmed. The case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

 

State of Tennessee v. Bell,  No. M2023-00534-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Jan. 19, 2024). Defendant, Charles Felix Bell, Jr., appeals the trial court’s order revoking his probationary sentence for possession of cocaine with intent to sell. Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we find no abuse of discretion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Goodner,  No. M2022-01361-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 19, 2023).  The defendant, Lemonderius Antwan Goodner, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of premeditated first-degree murder, felony murder, and attempted especially aggravated robbery, for which he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment plus ten years. On appeal, the defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Woods, Jr.,  No. M2022-01168-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 18, 2023).  Michael Lee Woods, Jr., Defendant, was convicted by a jury of two counts of first degree murder, one count of felony murder, one count of attempted first degree murder, one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and one count of possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony drug offense. The convictions stemmed from an incident that left two people dead and one person paralyzed. Defendant was sentenced to an effective sentence of two consecutive life sentences plus 10 years. Following the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant appealed, challenging: (1) the trial court’s decision to permit the State to introduce evidence of Defendant’s involvement in two unrelated shootings in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b); (2) the trial court’s decision to permit the State to introduce a video clip in which Defendant is seen brandishing a gun; (3) the sufficiency of the evidence with respect to the convictions for first degree murder, felony murder and attempted first degree murder; and (4) his sentence. Defendant also alleges that cumulative errors during the trial entitle him to reversal of the convictions. Because trial counsel failed to object to the introduction of evidence about the two unrelated shootings as well as the video clip of Defendant brandishing a gun and Defendant failed to establish all five factors necessary for plain error review, he is not entitled to relief on those issues. Moreover, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant. Consequently, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed. However, we remand the matter to the trial court for correction of the judgment form in Count 5 to reflect that the sentence runs consecutively to Counts 1, 2, and 4.

 

Patton v. State of Tennessee, M2023-00207-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 19, 2023). The Petitioner, Quintavious Montez Patton, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received effective assistance of trial counsel. Based on our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court denying the petition.

 

State of Tennessee v. Marshall, alias DePriest, No. M2022-01579-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 17, 2023).  The defendant, Cedric D. Marshall, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s order revoking his community corrections sentence and resentencing him to an effective sentence of seven years’ incarceration for his guilty-pleaded convictions of evading arrest, burglary, and theft of property. Because the defendant’s notice of appeal is untimely, we dismiss the appeal.

 

Nunez v. State of Tennessee, M2022-01748-CCA-R3-ECN (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 5, 2023).  A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Andy F. Nunez, of first degree premeditated murder, felony murder, attempted especially aggravated robbery, and attempted especially aggravated robbery, and the trial court sentenced the Petitioner to life plus five years. The Petitioner appealed, challenging the trial court’s decision to quash subpoenas for information on plea agreements, and this court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions. State v. Nunez, No. M2019-00473-CCA-R3-CD, 2020 WL 4734916, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 14, 2020), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 13, 2021). The Petitioner timely filed a post-conviction petition, alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

 

Cartwright v. State of Tennessee, M2022-00754-CCA-R3-ECN (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 3, 2023).  The Petitioner, Anthony Tremayne Cartwright, appeals from the denial of his petition seeking post-conviction relief from his convictions of aggravated assault and domestic assault, for which he received consecutive sentences of fourteen years and eleven months, twenty-nine days, respectively. He alleges that trial counsel’s failure to investigate and present witnesses deprived him of his right to the effective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

Thorne v. State of Tennessee, M2023-00294-CCA-R3-ECN (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 24, 2023). The petitioner, Glenard Cortez Thorne, appeals the denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis by the Davidson County Criminal Court, arguing the trial court erred in dismissing the petition because newly discovered evidence exists in his case. After our review, we conclude the petition is untimely and does not present a cognizable claim for coram nobis relief. Accordingly, we affirm the denial of the petition.

 

State of Tennessee v. Griffin, No. M2022-01443-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. May 25, 2023).  Steven Craig Griffin, Petitioner, claims the trial court erred by summarily dismissing his petition for writ of habeas corpus and/or Rule 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence.Discerning no error we affirm.

 

Barrett v. State of Tennessee, M2021-01149-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 8 , 2023).  Petitioner, Jerome Barrett, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief,
seeking relief from his first degree murder conviction. On appeal, Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by not recusing itself and that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

Ruby-Ruiz v. State of Tennessee, M2021-01093-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 20, 2023).  The Petitioner, Ugenio Dejesus Ruby-Ruiz, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2013 convictions for nine counts of rape of a child, two counts of rape, five counts of aggravated sexual battery, and three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and his 121-year sentence at 100% service. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

Dodson v. State of Tennessee, No. M2021-01257-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 17, 2023). The Petitioner-Appellant, Aaron Dodson, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his convictions of first-degree felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, and aggravated kidnapping. The Petitioner asserts that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that the post-conviction court erred in limiting proof at the post-conviction hearing to only alleged errors of trial counsel.1 After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

Carter v. State of Tennessee, M2021-01093-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 9, 2022).  The Petitioner, Sterling Carter, pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court imposed a twenty-two year sentence to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  The Petitioner filed a post-conviction relief petition, alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was involuntary.  After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief, finding that the Petitioner had not proven his allegations by clear and convincing evidence. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains his arguments.  After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

 

State of Tennessee v. Roby, Jr. and Allen, No. M2020-00301-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. May 23, 2022). A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellants, Glenn Roby, Jr., and Kevyn Deshawn Allen, of first degree premediated murder, and the trial court sentenced them to life in confinement. On appeal, Roby contends that the trial court erred by allowing proof of a robbery and shooting that occurred just hours prior to the events in this case, that the trial court erred by allowing the State to play portions of a witness’s recorded interview for the jury as a prior inconsistent statement, that the trial court erred by denying his petition for a writ of error coram nobis, and that he was denied his right to subpoena witnesses. Allen contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred by denying his severance motion. In addition, both Appellants contend that the trial court erred by allowing inflammatory crime scene and autopsy photographs into evidence. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we find no reversible error and affirm the judgments of the trial court. [Footnote omitted.]

 

State of Tennessee v. Perry, No. M2020-01407-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 22, 2022).  Marcus Roshone Perry, Defendant, appeals his convictions for two counts of premeditated first degree murder, one count of first degree felony murder, and one count of felon in possession of a firearm, claiming that the trial court erred (1) in admitting hearsay evidence, (2) in admitting discoverable evidence that was not provided to Defendant, and (3) by empaneling a jury which was not representative of Defendant’s peers. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

 

State of Tenn. v. Crawford, No. M2021-00271-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 7, 2022). The Defendant, Gerald N. Crawford, pleaded guilty to delivery of heroin, a Class B felony, and possession with the intent to sell heroin, a Class B felony. See T.C.A. § 39-17- 417(a)(2), (4) (2018) (subsequently amended). Pursuant to the plea agreement, the Defendant received concurrent twelve-year, Range I sentences, and after a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve the sentences in the Department of Correction. The Defendant filed a motion to modify the manner of service of the sentences, which the court denied. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion. We affirm.

 

State of Tennessee v. Gary Wayne Garrett, No. M2021-00272-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. March 8, 2022). Gary Wayne Garrett filed a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36 motion seeking correction of clerical errors in his judgments of conviction.  Mr. Garrett claimed that he was entitled to pretrial jail credit on various counts, several of which were ordered to be served consecutively.  The trial court issued a comprehensive written order finding that the judgments correctly awarded pretrial jail credit and dismissed the motion.  We determine that this appeal is frivolous and affirm the dismissal of the motion.

 

State of Tennessee v. Andrea Gonzalez Martinez, No. M2020-01648-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. March 7, 2022). The defendant, Andrea Gonzalez Martinez, pleaded guilty to felon in possession of a handgun, and the trial court imposed a sentence of sixteen years’ incarceration in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court erred in denying his request for alternative sentencing.  After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

Melvin Keith Black v. State of Tennessee, No. M2020-01316-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 24, 2022). The Petitioner, Melvin Keith Black, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial.  Upon our review of the record, we affirm the denial of the petition.

 

State of Tennessee v. Noreeldeen I. Abdulkarim, No. M2020-00502-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 13, 2022). The Defendant, Noreeldeen I. Abdulkarim, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea to attempted aggravated rape, for which he is serving a twelve-year sentence as a Range II offender. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea because (1) the plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered and (2) he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Both claims relate to his allegation that he was not advised that being listed on the sex offender registry and being subject to community supervision for life would be a consequence of the guilty plea. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to withdraw the guilty plea, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Jim George Conaser, No. M2020-01354-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 12, 2022). The Defendant, Jim George Conaser, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a Class C felony, for which he is serving a twelve-year sentence as a Range III, persistent offender. See T.C.A. § 39-13- 102(a)(1)(A)(iii) (Supp. 2017) (subsequently amended). On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred in admitting hearsay evidence. We affirm the judgment 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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