Articles Posted in Tennessee Supreme Court

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Tennessee’s theft statute, Tenn. Code Ann. 39-14-103, encompasses theft of real property. Defendant physically entered and occupied for one week a vacant house valued at more than two million dollars and filed documents with the county register of deeds office purporting to reflect her ownership of the property. Defendant was convicted of theft of property valued at over $250,000 and aggravated burglary. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the theft statute applies to theft of real property by occupation, seizure, and the filing of a deed to the property; (2) the evidence was sufficient to support Defendant’s convictions; and (3) the trial court did not err in limiting Defendant’s cross-examination of a prosecution witness and her closing argument. The court remanded the case to the trial court for resentencing. View "State v. Gentry" on Justia Law

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Deficiencies in the State’s timely filed notice of intent to sentence Defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole as a repeat violent offender did not entitle Defendant to relief via the plain error doctrine. The court of criminal appeals set aside Defendant’s sentence of life without parole and remanded to the trial court for resentencing due to the deficiencies in the State's notice, holding that the document filed by the State did not qualify as notice pursuant to the repeat violent offender statute. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the judgment of the trial court, holding (1) although the notice was imperfect, it fairly informed Defendant of the State’s intent to seek enhanced sentencing and triggered Defendant’s duty to inquire into the errors and omissions; and (2) Defendant failed to establish that the deficiencies in the notice adversely affected a substantial right - one of the necessary criterion to obtain relief via the plain error doctrine. View "State v. Patterson" on Justia Law

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The legislature intended the phrase “not engaged in unlawful activity” in the self-defense statute, Tenn. Code Ann. 39-11-611, to be a condition of the statutory privilege not to retreat when confronted with unlawful force, and the trial court should make the threshold determination of whether the defendant was engaged in unlawful activity when he used force in an alleged self-defense situation. Defendant was convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter as a lesser-included offense of attempted second degree murder and related offenses. The court of criminal appeals affirmed the convictions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s conduct of being a felon in possession of a firearm was unlawful activity for purposes of the self-defense statute, but the trial court’s jury instructions were harmless error; and (2) Defendant’s remaining arguments on appeal were without merit. View "State v. Perrier" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions and sentences, as merged by the Court of Criminal Appeals. Defendant was convicted of three counts of first degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder, and other related offenses. The jury sentenced Defendant to death for each of the first degree murders. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of death plus six years. The Supreme Court held (1) there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding that Defendant acted with the requisite premeditation to support his first degree murder convictions; (2) Defendant waived his Fourth Amendment challenge to the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress statements he made to the police; (3) the death sentence imposed in this case was not excessive or disproportionate when compared to the penalty imposed in similar cases; and (4) as to the remaining issues raised by Defendant, the court agreed with the conclusions of the Court of Criminal Appeals. View "State v. Clayton" on Justia Law

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In this appeal challenging Defendant’s sentence, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of criminal appeals, vacated the sentencing determination of the trial court, and remanded the matter to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing. Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of vehicular homicide by intoxication. Defendant was sentenced to eight years with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. The trial court ordered Defendant to serve his sentence in confinement. The court of criminal appeals reversed and ordered Defendant to be placed on full probation. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court failed to make sufficient findings for the appellate courts to review the sentence with a presumption of reasonableness; (2) the record was inadequate to conduct an independent review of the sentence imposed by the trial court; and (3) consequently, the record was not sufficient to support the court of criminal appeals’ modification of Defendant’s sentence to order full probation. View "State v. Trent" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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