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State v. Dixon

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

March 6, 2018


          Session February 20, 2018 [1]

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-000947-16 Rhynette N. Hurd, Judge.

         Former state senator convicted of bribery appeals the trial court's denial of the restoration of his voting rights based on Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-29-204. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

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

          Kyle Mothershead, David W. Garrison, and Scott P. Tift, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Roscoe Dixon.

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andreé S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; Sarah K. Campbell, Special Assistant to the Solicitor General and the Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee - Civil.

          J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Arnold B. Goldin, and Brandon O. Gibson, JJ., joined.




         In 2005, Petitioner/Appellant Roscoe Dixon ("Petitioner") was investigated and prosecuted in federal court as part of the Tennessee Waltz corruption sting.[2] On June 8, 2006, the jury returned a verdict finding Petitioner guilty of several crimes: (1) four counts of interference with commerce by threat; and (2) one count of bribery involving federal programs. An order on judgment and sentence was entered on October 13, 2006; Petitioner was sentenced to a total of sixty-three months' incarceration and three years of supervised release.

         On March 7, 2016, following the completion of his incarceration and probation, Petitioner filed a petition to restore his citizenship and voting rights under Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-29-202. Although the State of Tennessee ("the State") opposed the petition, the trial court entered an order on November 21, 2016, granting Petitioner restoration of his citizenship rights, other than his right to hold public office or possess firearms.

         On December 7, 2016, the State filed a motion to alter or amend the trial court judgment, arguing that Petitioner's voting rights could not be restored due to the operation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-29-204(3), which provides that for certain types of crimes, voting rights may not be restored. Petitioner thereafter responded in opposition. Petitioner did not deny that he had been convicted of a crime specified by section 40-29-204(3). Petitioner argued, however, that the statute could not apply because his conviction occurred prior to July 1, 2006, the effective date of the statute and the date the statute specified for its terms to apply. Instead, Petitioner asserted that his conviction occurred on June 8, 2006, the day the jury verdict was returned. The State argued, however, that Petitioner's conviction occurred on the date the judgment was entered, well after the effective date of the statute. The trial court ruled that section 40-29-204(3) was applicable to Petitioner's conviction and that he was therefore forever ineligible to vote. The trial court therefore entered an amended order granting Petitioner's petition for restoration of civil rights, excluding the right to vote, the right to possess firearms, and the right to hold public office. From this order, Petitioner now appeals.

         Issues Presented Petitioner raises three issues in this appeal, which are taken from his brief and slightly restated:

1. Whether Petitioner was convicted of his offense before or after the effective date of section 40-29-204(3).
2. Whether the ex post facto clause of the Tennessee Constitution prohibits application of section 40-29-204(3) to Petitioner, where Petitioner's offense was committed prior to the enactment of section 40-29-204(3).
3. Whether Petitioner's right to vote is permanently forfeited under section 40-29-204(3)?



         This appeal involves the interpretation of various statutes. As such, our review is de novo with no presumption of correctness. McFarland v. Pemberton, 530 S.W.3d 76, 91 (Tenn. 2017) (quoting Martin v. Powers, 505 S.W.3d 512, 518 (Tenn. 2016)). As explained by our supreme court:

When determining the meaning of statutes, our primary goal "is to carry out legislative intent without broadening or restricting the statute beyond its intended scope." Johnson v. Hopkins, 432 S.W.3d 840, 848 (Tenn. 2013) (quoting Lind v. Beaman Dodge, Inc., 356 S.W.3d 889, 895 (Tenn. 2011)). We presume that every word in a statute [or rule] has meaning and purpose and that each word's meaning should be given full effect as long as doing so does not frustrate the [drafter's] obvious intention. Id. Words "'must be given their natural and ordinary meaning in the context in which they appear and in light of the statute's general purpose.'" Id. (quoting Mills v. Fulmarque, Inc., 360 S.W.3d 362, 368 (Tenn. 2012)). When a statute's ...

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