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State v. Morris

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

December 13, 2017

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
MICHAEL V. MORRIS

          Assigned on Briefs November 14, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2005-B-875 Monte Watkins, Judge

         The Defendant, Michael V. Morris, appeals the trial court's denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, the Defendant alleges that he was incorrectly sentenced as a career offender. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed Pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals

          Michael V. Morris, Hartsville, Tennessee, pro se.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Katherine C. Redding, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn R. Funk, District Attorney General; and Roger D. Moore, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JOHN EVERETT WILLIAMS, JUDGE.

         In 2006, the Defendant was convicted of an aggravated robbery that occurred in August 2004 and was sentenced as a career offender to thirty years in confinement at sixty percent. This court affirmed the Defendant's conviction on direct appeal. See State v. Michael V. Morris, No. M2006-02738-CCA-R3-CD, 2008 WL 544567, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 25, 2008), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 25, 2008). The Defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied, and this court affirmed the post-conviction court's judgment on appeal. Michael V. Morris v. State, No. M2010-02069-CCA-R3-PC, 2012 WL 76905, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 6, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Apr. 20, 2012).

         The Defendant has since filed multiple habeas corpus petitions challenging his status as a career offender, all of which have been unsuccessful. See Michael V. Morris v. State, No. M2008-02113-CCA-R3-HC, 2010 WL 2075933, at *1, 4 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 25, 2010), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 26, 2010); Michael V. Morris v. James Fortner, No. M2008-01022-CCA-R3-HC, 2009 WL 690304, at *1-3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 26, 2009).

         On December 19, 2016, the Defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, in which he challenged his status as a career offender. He argued that the trial court erred in relying upon his pre-1982 convictions from Texas in finding that he was a career offender. The Defendant did not include any information as to what the pre-1982 Texas convictions were or the year in which he was convicted, his criminal history, or all of the convictions that the trial court considered in finding that he was a career offender. On May 26, 2017, the trial court entered an order summarily dismissing the Petitioner's motion. The Petitioner filed a timely notice of appeal.

         ANALYSIS

         Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 permits a defendant to seek correction of an illegal sentence. "[A]n illegal sentence is one that is not authorized by the applicable statutes or that directly contravenes an applicable statute." Tenn. R. Crim. P. 36.1(a)(2) (2016). If the defendant states a "colorable claim" in his motion, the trial court shall appoint counsel if the defendant is indigent and not represented by counsel and hold a hearing on the motion, unless the parties waive the hearing. Tenn. R. Crim. P. 36.1(b)(3). A "colorable claim" is "a claim that, if taken as true and viewed in a light most favorable to the moving party, would entitle the moving party to relief under 36.1." State v. Wooden, 478 S.W.3d 585, 593 (Tenn. 2015).

         The definition of an "illegal sentence" under Rule 36.1 "is coextensive, and not broader than, the definition of the term in the habeas corpus context." Id. at 594-95. Sentencing errors may be clerical, appealable, or fatal, and only fatal errors render a sentence illegal. Id. at 595. Clerical errors "'arise simply from a clerical mistake in filling out the uniform judgment document' and may be corrected at any time under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36." Id. at 595 (quoting Cantrell v. Easterling, 346 S.W.3d 445, 452 (Tenn. 2011)). Appealable errors are "'those errors for which the Sentencing Act specifically provides a right of direct appeal'" and "generally involve attacks on the correctness of the methodology by which a trial court imposed sentence." Id. (quoting Cantrell, 346 S.W.3d at 449). Fatal errors are "'so profound as to render the sentence illegal and void'" and include "sentences imposed pursuant to an inapplicable statutory scheme, sentences designating release eligibility dates where early release is statutorily ...


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