Articles Posted in Tennessee Supreme Court

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals affirming Defendant’s conviction for especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, Defendant argued that the serious bodily injury to the victim occurred after the robbery was complete, and therefore, he could have committed only an aggravated robbery. Relying on different reasoning than that employed by the intermediate appellate court, the Supreme Court held that the evidence supported Defendant’s conviction of especially aggravated robbery because the victim’s serious bodily injury was inflicted before Defendant had completed robbing the victim with a deadly weapon. View "State v. Henderson" on Justia Law

by
In this case, the Supreme Court expressly overruled its decision in State v. Barney, 986 S.W.2d 545 (Tenn. 1999), and held that double jeopardy principles apply when determining whether multiple convictions of sexual offenses arise from a single act of sexual assault. Defendant was convicted of one count of attempt to commit aggravated sexual battery, four counts of aggravated sexual battery, and three counts of rape of a child. Defendant was sentenced to an effective term of forty years. The court of criminal appeals affirmed the convictions but merged the conviction of attempt to commit aggravated sexual battery with one of the child rape convictions. The court also modified Defendant’s sentence to an effective term of twenty-five years. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the Court of Criminal Appeals did not err in merging two of Defendant’s multiple convictions. View "State v. Itzol-Deleon" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court accepted certification of questions of law from a federal district court and answered (1) for split confinement sentences, Tennessee trial judges are authorized to fix a percentage the defendant must serve in actual confinement before becoming eligible to earn work credits, and (2) Tennessee law imposes no duty on a sheriff to challenge an inmate’s sentence as improper or potentially improper. The certified questions of law arose from a lawsuit Plaintiff brought in federal district court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging that his civil rights were violated when his sentence was not reduced by the work credits he earned as a trusty while confined in Madison County jail on his split confinement sentence. View "Ray v. Madison County" on Justia Law

by
After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of aggravated stalking. The Court of Criminal Appeals reduced Defendant’s conviction from aggravated stalking to misdemeanor stalking on the basis of insufficient evidence. Specifically, the court concluded that the State had not adduced sufficient evidence to establish that Defendant knowingly violated an order of protection. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment of conviction, holding (1) the Court of criminal Appeals misapplied the standard of review and so committed reversible error; and (2) the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s determination that Defendant had actual knowledge of the order of protection issued against him, and therefore, the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction of aggravated stalking. View "State v. Stephens" on Justia Law

by
A defendant has no appeal as of right under Tenn. R. App. P. 3(b) from the denial of a Tenn. R. Crim. P. 41(g) motion for return of property when the defendant did not file a pretrial motion to suppress and pleaded guilty. Defendant here was indicted on charges of aggravated assault by use or display of a deadly weapon. After law enforcement officers seized guns and related items from Defendant’s home Defendant guilty guilty to reduced charges of reckless endangerment. Three years later, Defendant filed a Rule 41(g) motion for the return of property. The trial court dismissed the motion. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that when a defendant does not file a motion to suppress and waives any non-jurisdictional defects in the proceedings by entry of a guilty plea, rule 3(b) does not afford the defendant with an appeal as of right from the trial court’s denial of a rule 41(g) motion. View "State v. Rowland" on Justia Law

by
A jury found Defendant guilty of the premeditated first degree murder of his girlfriend,of initiating a false report concerning her disappearance, and of abuse of her corpse. The jury imposed the death sentence on the first degree murder conviction. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the lower courts, holding (1) the sentence of death was not imposed in an arbitrary fashion; (2) the sentence of death was proportionate and appropriate; (3) the trial court did not commit prejudicial error in its evidentiary rulings challenged on appeal; (4) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to allow Defendant to enter guilty pleas to the noncapital offenses; and (5) any error in the prosecutorial rebuttal argument was not prejudicial. View "State v. Hawkins" on Justia Law

by
In this case, the Supreme Court overruled State v. Jacumin, in which the Court rejected a totality-of-the circumstances analysis for determining whether an affidavit establishes probable cause and instead adopted another test derived from two earlier United States Supreme Court decisions. Defendant here was charged with multiple offenses in connection with a drug trafficking conspiracy. Defendant moved to suppress evidence seized during a search, arguing that the affidavit supporting the search warrant failed to establish probable cause. The trial court denied the motion. Defendant was then found guilty of six offenses. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling on Defendant’s motion to suppress. The Supreme Court reversed the intermediate appellate court’s decision holding that the search warrant was invalid, holding (1) henceforth, a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis applies for determining whether an affidavit establishes probable cause for issuance of a warrant, and applying this standard, the search warrant in this case sufficiently established probable cause; (2) the Court of Criminal Appeals erred in concluding that the evidence was insufficient to support two of Defendant’s convictions; and (3) the Court of Criminal Appeals did not err in upholding that trial court’s judgment ordering forfeiture of the $1,098,050 cash seized when the search warrant was executed. View "State v. Tuttle" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs Stephen Michael West and Derrick D. Schofield were each convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death. Plaintiffs bought a declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that the written protocol by which the Tennessee Department of Correction carries out an execution by lethal injection violates the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. The trial court denied relief to Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in (1) concluding that Plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of demonstrating that the protocol, on its face, violates the constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment; and (2) dismissing Plaintiffs’ claims that the protocol requires violations of federal drug laws. View "West v. Schofield" on Justia Law

by
In 2009, Appellant pleaded guilty to attempted rape of a child. That same year, Appellant began serving his sentence. On March 26, 2013, a Tennessee Board of Parole hearing officer conducted a parole hearing for Appellant based on a release eligibility date of June 14, 2013. The hearing offer recommended that parole be denied. The Board concurred and deferred the next parole hearing until 2013. Appellant filed a petition of certiorari, asserting that the Board’s decision was illegal, contrary to established law, and arbitrary and capricious. The trial court dismissed the petition. Appellant appealed. The Court of Appeals did not consider the issues raised by Appellant but, instead, determined that Appellant’s release eligibility date was April 3, 2015. The Court of Appeals then remanded the case to the trial court with instructions for the Board to conduct an immediate parole hearing for Appellant. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the trial court’s decision, holding that the Court of Appeals lacked the authority to calculate the date Appellant could be considered for parole and did so incorrectly. View "Brennan v. Tennessee Board of Parole" on Justia Law

by
Defendant was indicted for, inter alia, two counts of first degree premeditated murder. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized from his residence, ruling that the Exclusionary Rule Reform Act applied to the case despite ex post facto concerns. The jury then convicted Defendant as charged. The jury sentenced Defendant to life sentences without the possibility of parole for the murders. The court of criminal appeals upheld Defendant’s convictions and sentences. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the Court should modify the Tennessee ex post facto analysis found in Miller v. State in light of Collins v. Youngblood. The Supreme Court affirmed on separate grounds, holding (1) Miller v. State is overruled; (2) the ex post facto clause of the Tennessee Constitution has the same definition and scope as the federal ex post facto clause; (3) the application of the Exclusionary Rule Reform Act to this case was not an ex post facto violation; (4) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a search warrant; and (5) Defendant was not entitled to relief on his remaining issues. View "State v. Pruitt" on Justia Law