Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville
from the Criminal Court for Knox County No. 87077 G. Scott
se Appellant, Willie Johnson, appeals as of right from the
Knox County Criminal Court's order denying his motion to
correct illegal sentence. Tenn. R. Crim. P. 36.1. The State
has filed a motion to affirm the trial court's judgment
pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of
Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we conclude that the
State's motion is well-taken and affirm the order of the
R. App. P. 3; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed
Pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals
Johnson, Mountain City, Tennessee, Pro Se.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Renee
W. Turner, Senior Counsel; and Charme P. Allen, District
Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Norma McGee Ogle, JJ.,
KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE
County Criminal Court jury convicted the Appellant of one
count of attempted second degree murder and unlawful
possession of a weapon. This court affirmed his convictions
on direct appeal, and the supreme court denied review.
State v. Willie Douglas Johnson, No.
E2008-02057-CCA-R3-CD, 2009 WL 2226171 (Tenn. Crim. App, at
Knoxville, July 27, 2009), perm. app. denied (Tenn.
Nov. 23, 2009). On June 25, 2010, the Appellant filed a pro
se petition for post-conviction relief. Following the
appointment of counsel, amendment of the petition, and an
evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief.
This court affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief, and
the supreme court denied review. Willie Douglas Johnson
v. State, No. E2013-02826-CCA-R3-PC, 2014 WL 4922639
(Tenn. Crim. App., at Knoxville, Sept. 30, 2014), perm.
app. denied (Tenn. Dec. 17, 2014).
1, 2015, the Appellant filed a motion to correct illegal
sentence, challenging his sentencing as a persistent and
career offender. Following the response of the State and
appointment of counsel, who also filed a response, the trial
court summarily denied the motion for failing to state a
colorable claim. The Appellant filed a timely notice of
appeal. The State filed a motion to affirm the trial
court's judgment by memorandum opinion. Tenn. Ct. Crim.
App. R. 20. The Appellant has not filed a response to the
time the Appellant's motion was filed, Rule 36.1 allowed
for either the defendant or the State to "seek the
correction of an illegal sentence." Tenn. R. Crim. P.
36.1(a) (2015). "Illegal sentence" was defined in
the rule as a sentence "that [was] not authorized by the
applicable statutes or that directly contravene[d] an
applicable statute." Id. The term "illegal
sentence" "is synonymous with the habeas corpus
concept of a 'void' sentence." Cox v.
State, 53 S.W.3d 287, 292 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2001),
overruled on other grounds, Moody v. State,
160 S.W.3d 512 (Tenn. 2005). "[F]ew sentencing errors
[will] render [a sentence] illegal." State v.
Wooden, 478 S.W.3d 585, 595 (Tenn. 2015).
of illegal sentences include "sentences imposed pursuant
to an inapplicable statutory scheme, sentences designating
release eligibility dates where early release is statutorily
prohibited, sentences that are ordered to be served
concurrently where statutorily required to be served
consecutively, and sentences not authorized by any statute
for the offense." Wooden, 478 S.W.3d at 595. The
Appellant's challenge to the sentence does not fall under
any of these examples.
the Appellant argues that his sentence is illegal because the
sentencing court erred in classifying him as a career
offender and a persistent offender. Generally, a trial
court's error "in offender classification" will
not "render the sentence illegal so long as the
classification falls within the purview of the Sentencing
Act." Cantrell v. Easterling, 346 S.W.3d 445,
458 (Tenn. 2011). This is because an error in the offender
classification does not create a sentence that is not
authorized by the applicable statutes or that directly
contravenes an applicable statute.
only time an error in the classification of an offender would
ever rise to the level of an illegal sentence would be if a
trial court, somehow, classified a defendant in a category
not available under the Sentencing Act. Cantrell,
346 S.W.3d at 458-59. Put another way, an offender
classification would create an illegal sentence only if the
trial court classified a defendant in a category for which it
did "not have the authority or the jurisdiction to
classify a defendant." Id. at 458. Otherwise,
"[c]orrection of an alleged error in offender
classification must be sought on direct appeal."
Id.; see also Tenn. Code Ann. §
40-35-108(d) (authorizing direct appellate review of a
defendant's classification as a career offender).
the Appellant's allegations about his offender
classification were taken as true, they would not present a
colorable claim that his sentences were illegal.
Wooden, 478 S.W.3d at 595 (stating that "a
sentence which is 'statutorily available but ordinarily
inapplicable to a given defendant' is not an illegal
sentence") (quoting Cantrell, 346 S.W.2d at
454). Accordingly, the trial court ...