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State v. Brazzell

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

November 17, 2016

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
TERRY L. BRAZZELL

          Session September 13, 2016

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Dickson County No. 22CC-2013-CR-749 David Wolfe, Judge

         In this appeal, the defendant, Terry L. Brazzell, challenges the denial of his pre-sentencing motion to withdraw his guilty plea to one count of vehicular homicide and challenges his Range II, 20-year sentence imposed for that conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Olin J. Baker and William Walker Wade, Charlotte, Tennessee (on appeal and motion to withdraw plea); and Jake Lockert, District Public Defender, for the appellant, Terry L. Brazzell.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Dan M. Alsobrooks, District Attorney General; and Jack Arnold, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Robert L. Holloway, Jr., and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          JAMES CURWOOD WITT, JR., JUDGE.

         The Dickson County Grand Jury charged the defendant via presentment with one count of vehicular homicide; second offense driving under the influence ("DUI"); felony reckless endangerment; simple possession of marijuana; simple possession of Clonazepam, a Schedule IV controlled substance; simple possession of Carisoprodol, a Schedule IV controlled substance; simple possession of Diazepam, a Schedule IV controlled substance; simple possession of morphine, a Schedule II controlled substance; sixth offense driving while his license was revoked; failure to obey a traffic control device; and failure to comply with the financial responsibility law arising out of a car accident caused by the defendant on December 5, 2013. In exchange for the State's agreement to dismiss the remaining charges, the defendant entered a plea of guilty as a Range II offender to vehicular homicide with the sentence to be determined by the trial court. At the November 16, 2015 guilty plea submission hearing, the prosecutor submitted the following factual basis for the defendant's guilty plea:

Your Honor, on or about December 5, 2013, the [d]efendant was driving here in Dickson County. Due to a large number of primarily prescription medications in the [d]efendant's system, he nodded off, ran through a stop sign and hit the vehicle of Freddie Patterson, killing her.

         At the conclusion of the hearing, the court, with the agreement of the parties, scheduled the sentencing hearing for December 21, 2015.

         On December 9, 2015, the defendant's original counsel filed a motion to withdraw, citing as grounds that a witness to be called by the State at the sentencing hearing was "a longtime client of the Public Defender's Office." At some point, the trial court appointed substitute counsel and, following a request from substitute counsel, reset the sentencing hearing for March 4, 2016. On March 3, 2016, the defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(f)(1) to withdraw his guilty plea. As grounds for his motion, the defendant asserted his "possible mental health issues and lack of understanding of his plea."

         In its answer to the defendant's motion to withdraw his plea, the State observed that the defendant had waited until the day before the sentencing hearing to file his motion and that he had failed to establish a valid reason for failing to file sooner. The State also observed that the defendant had not asserted or maintained his innocence, that the trial court had thoroughly explained the terms of the plea to the defendant during the plea colloquy, that the transcript of the colloquy indicated that the defendant understood the terms of the plea and its ramifications, and that the defendant's lengthy criminal history evidenced his familiarity with the criminal justice system.

         The trial court denied the defendant's motion to withdraw his plea after a hearing on March 4, 2016. On that same date, the trial court, after conducting a sentencing hearing, imposed a Range II sentence of 20 years for the defendant's conviction of vehicular homicide.

         The defendant filed a timely notice of appeal, challenging both the trial court's denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty plea and the imposition of a 20-year sentence.

         I. Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea

         The defendant first asserts that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The State contends ...


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