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State v. Taylor

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

February 5, 2018

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
TRAVIS EUGENE TAYLOR

          Assigned on Briefs December 13, 2017

         Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2009-C-2139 Mark J. Fishburn, Judge

         Defendant, Travis Eugene Taylor, pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. In exchange for his guilty pleas, he received consecutive sentences of fifteen years for voluntary manslaughter and six years for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Many years later, Defendant sought to set aside the trial court's judgment, arguing that his convictions violated the principles of double jeopardy. Defendant appeals the denial of his motion. Because Defendant's motion fails regardless of how it is construed, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Travis Eugene Taylor, Wartburg, Tennessee, Pro Se.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Glenn Funk, District Attorney General; and Janice Norman, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Timothy L. Easter, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Camille R. McMullen, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          TIMOTHY L. EASTER, JUDGE.

         Nearly ten years ago, Defendant killed Timothy Eugene Morton. Defendant was indicted for one count of first degree murder, three counts of attempted first degree murder, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. On August 14, 2009, Defendant pled guilty to the reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. In exchange for the pleas, Defendant received consecutive sentences of fifteen years for voluntary manslaughter and six years for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.

         The sparse appellate record contains little information about the facts underlying Defendant's guilty pleas. The only factual background for the pleas in the record comes from a police report attached as an exhibit to Defendant's motion to set aside the trial court's judgment. From this document, it appears that two children witnessed Defendant chase a moving vehicle on foot and fire multiple shots at the vehicle, which was occupied by multiple people. Mr. Morton, one of the occupants of the vehicle, suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the back of the head.

         Over seven years after he entered his pleas, Defendant filed a motion to withdraw or correct the plea agreement, arguing that his dual convictions violated double jeopardy principles. The trial court denied this motion on September 28, 2016, stating that Defendant was mistaken in his argument that he could not be convicted of both voluntary manslaughter and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The trial court further noted that Defendant did not allege that his pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered and that the statute of limitations for Defendant to withdraw his pleas had run.

         At some point, Defendant also filed a document titled "Motion to Set Aside Judgment, "[1] making essentially the same argument that he made in his motion to withdraw or correct his plea agreement. He added the additional arguments that his pleas were unknowingly and unintelligently entered and that the trial court imposed an unlawful sentence. Defendant also claimed to have been paroled on all of his sentences except his six-year sentence for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Defendant never stated when he was granted parole or when his sentence for the offense of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony began. On January 17, 2017, the trial court denied this motion for the same reasons mentioned above. On February 10, 2017, Defendant filed a timely notice of appeal from the denial of this second motion.

         Analysis

         The Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure do not expressly provide for a "motion to set aside judgment" as a procedural mechanism to challenge a conviction or sentence, and no appeal as of right exists for such a motion under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3. However, we construe the filings of pro se appellants liberally. See State v. Shelton Hall, No. M2012-01622-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 1200266, at *4 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 26, 2013), no perm. app. filed. Considering the options available to Defendant over which this Court has jurisdiction to hear the appeal, this motion could be construed as a motion to withdraw a guilty plea under Tennessee Rule of ...


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