Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2003-C-1791
Cheryl Blackburn, Judge
Appellant, Jenaline Fisher, is appealing the trial
court's denial of her motion to correct an illegal
sentence. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to
affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said
motion is hereby granted.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Order of the Trial Court
Affirmed Pursuant to Court of Criminal
Appeals Rule 20
Jenaline Fisher, pro se.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Brent
C. Cherry, Senior Counsel, for the Appellee, State of
W. Wedemeyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in
which Robert L. Holloway, Jr. and Timothy L. Easter, JJ.
W. WEDEMEYER, JUDGE
March 2004, the Appellant pleaded guilty to the lesser
included offense of second degree murder in one count of a
three-count indictment. The remaining counts were dismissed
as part of the plea agreement, as were several other charges.
The Appellant agreed to an out-of-range sentence of thirty
years to be served at 100% as a violent offender. There was
no direct appeal. The Appellant was unsuccessful with her
subsequent post-conviction attempt to challenge the
voluntariness of her plea. Jenaline N. Fisher v.
State, No. M2005-02651-CCA-R3-PC, 2006 WL 2716872 (Tenn.
Crim. App. Sep. 25, 2006), perm. app. denied (Tenn.
Dec. 18, 2006). She also failed in her pursuit of habeas
corpus relief in 2007. No appeal was taken therefrom. In
September 2017, the Appellant filed a motion to correct an
alleged illegal sentence. See Tenn. R. Crim. P.
36.1. The trial court summarily denied the motion. The
Appellant now appeals. Following the filing of the record on
appeal and the Appellant's brief, the State filed a
motion to affirm the ruling of the trial court pursuant to
Rule 20. For the reasons stated below, said motion is hereby
motion the Appellant filed in the trial court, she argued
that her guilty plea was not made knowingly, voluntarily and
intelligently. She also claimed that her sentence is illegal.
The trial court ruled that the Appellant's challenge to
the voluntariness of her plea was previously litigated and
otherwise was not a cognizable claim for relief pursuant to
Rule 36.1. As to the validity of her sentence, the court held
it was within the appropriate range for the offense class and
that the Appellant waived any irregularity as to offender
classification or release eligibility by entering into a
knowing and voluntary plea.
36.1 permits a defendant to seek correction of an unexpired
illegal sentence at any time. See State v. Brown,
479 S.W.3d 200, 211 (Tenn. 2015). "[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). Our supreme court recently interpreted
the meaning of "illegal sentence" as defined in
Rule 36.1 and concluded that the definition "is
coextensive, and not broader than, the definition of the term
in the habeas corpus context." State v. Wooden,
478 S.W.3d 585, 594-95 (Tenn. 2015). The court then reviewed
the three categories of sentencing errors: clerical errors
(those arising from a clerical mistake in the judgment
sheet), appealable errors (those for which the Sentencing Act
specifically provides a right of direct appeal) and fatal
errors (those so profound as to render a sentence illegal and
void). Id. Commenting on appealable errors, the
court stated that those "generally involve attacks on
the correctness of the methodology by which a trial court
imposed sentence." Id. In contrast, fatal
errors 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 offenses." Id. The court held that only
fatal errors render sentences illegal. Id. A trial
court may summarily dismiss a Rule 36.1 motion if it does not
state a colorable claim for relief. Tenn. R. Crim. P.
defendant and the State may negotiate offender
classifications, and even release eligibility, because they
"are non-jurisdictional and legitimate bargaining tools
in plea negotiations under the Criminal Sentencing Reform Act
of 1989." Bland v. Dukes, 97 S.W.3d 133, 134
(Tenn. Crim. App. 2002). The current case is an obvious
situation where the Appellant entered into an agreement to
reduce her exposure to the possibility of convictions for
first degree murder and especially aggravated robbery, as
well as possible convictions on two other charges of felony
vandalism and simple assault. Again, our courts have
long-recognized "the ability of the State and defendants
to use offender classification and release eligibility as
subjects of plea bargain negotiations" which "are
properly characterized as non-jurisdictional."
McConnell v. State, 12 S.W.3d 795, 798 (Tenn. 2000)
(emphasis added). Moreover, "a plea-bargained sentence
is legal so long as it does not exceed the maximum punishment
authorized by the plea offense." Hoover v.
State, 215 S.W.3d 776, 780 (Tenn. 2007). Here, the
Appellant pled guilty to second degree murder, a Class A
felony punishable up to sixty years. Tenn. Code Ann. §
40-35-111(b). As a Range II offender, the Appellant could
have been sentenced between twenty-five and forty years.
Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-112(b). As the trial court
correctly found, the Appellant's sentence of thirty years
does not exceed the maximum sentence authorized for a Class A
felony. Moreover, because she agreed to the sentence, the
trial court was not required to make any findings thereon.
State v. John T. Davis, No. W2015-00445-CCA-R3-CD,
2016 WL 1714875 at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 26, 2016).
Appellant's challenge to the voluntariness of her guilty
plea has previously been determined and does not otherwise
state a colorable claim for relief in a Rule 36.1 motion. As
this Court has emphasized, Rule 36.1 "provide[s] an
avenue for correcting allegedly illegal sentences.
The Rules does not provide an avenue for seeking the
reversal of convictions." State v. Jimmy
Wayne Wilson, No. E2013-02354-CCA-R3-CD, 2014
WL 1285622 (Tenn. Crim. App., Mar. 31, 2014), perm. app.
denied, (Tenn., Nov. 19, 2014) (emphases in original).
light of the discussion above, we conclude the
Appellant's sentence is not illegal under the terms of
Rule 36.1. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in
summarily denying relief. The ruling of the trial court is