Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Assigned on Briefs August 8, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Bedford County No. 14427 Forest A.
Durard, Jr., Judge
Appellant, James Mario Starnes, appeals as of right from the
Bedford County Circuit Court's denial of his Tennessee
Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal
sentence. The Appellant contends that the trial court erred
because his motion stated a colorable claim for relief.
Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Nicholas E. R. Simons, Shelbyville, Tennessee, for the
appellant, James Mario Starnes.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent
C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Robert James Carter, District
Attorney General; and Michael David Randles, Assistant
District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of
Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Robert W. Wedemeyer and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.
KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE
1999, the Appellant pled guilty to one count each of
attempted second degree murder and especially aggravated
robbery and received a total effective sentence of
twenty-five years. See State v. James Mario Starnes,
No. M2002-01450-CCA-R3-CD, 2003 WL 1094071, at *1 (Tenn.
Crim. App. Mar. 13, 2003), perm. app. denied (Tenn.
June 30, 2003). On May 18, 2016, the Appellant filed the
instant Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to
correct an illegal sentence. The motion alleged that the
trial court improperly enhanced his sentences without
"find[ing] enhancement factors on the record to
justify" increasing the length of his sentences.
trial court appointed counsel to represent the Appellant. At
the motion hearing, Appellant's counsel argued that the
Appellant's sentences were improperly enhanced by the
trial court's use of enhancement factors not found beyond
a reasonable doubt by a jury in violation of Blakely v.
Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004). On October 14, 2016,
the trial court issued a written order denying the motion.
The trial court concluded that the record belied the
Appellant's claim that his sentences had been enhanced
without the finding of any applicable enhancement factors and
that an alleged Blakely violation was not a
cognizable claim for Rule 36.1 relief.
appeal, the Appellant's sole contention is that the trial
court enhanced his sentences in violation of
Blakely. Rule 36.1 provides that either the
defendant or the State "may seek to correct an illegal
sentence." Tenn. R. Crim. P. 36.1(a)(1). "Illegal
sentence" is defined in the rule as a sentence
"that is not authorized by the applicable statutes or
that directly contravenes an applicable statute." Tenn.
R. Crim. P. 36.1(a)(2). 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
sentencing errors [will] render [a sentence] illegal."
State v. Wooden, 478 S.W.3d 585, 595 (Tenn. 2015).
Examples 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." Id. Conversely, "attacks
on the correctness of the methodology by which a trial court
imposed [a] sentence" will not rise to the level of an
illegal sentence. Id.
court has previously held that a Blakely violation
would not rise to the level of an illegal sentence for Rule
36.1 purposes. See State v. Rafael Antonio Bush, No.
M2014-01193-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 7204637, at *4 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Dec. 18, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar.
12, 2015). That holding is consistent with this court's
holdings in habeas corpus cases that a Blakely
violation would render a sentence merely voidable, not void.
See Jackie F. Curry v. Howard Carlton, Warden, No.
E2011-00607-CCA-R3-HC, 2011 WL 4600621, at *5 (Tenn. Crim.
App. Oct. 6, 2011); Gene Shelton Rucker v. State,
No. E2010-00440-CCA-R3-HC, 2010 WL 4324320, at *2 (Tenn.
Crim. App. Nov. 1, 2010); Billy Merle Meeks v. Ricky J.
Bell, Warden, No. M2005-00626-CCA-R3-HC, 2007 WL
4116486, at *7 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 13, 2007). Accordingly,
we conclude that the Appellant's Rule 36.1 motion failed
to state a colorable claim for relief and affirm the trial
court's denial of the motion.
consideration of the foregoing and the record as a whole, the