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State v. Hughes

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

May 11, 2018


          Assigned on Briefs April 24, 2018

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for Hawkins County No. 14CR128 Thomas J. Wright, Judge

         The Defendant, Martin Ellison Hughes, was found guilty by a Hawkins County Criminal Court jury of two counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-102 (2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range III, persistent offender to concurrent terms of fifteen and ten years, for an effective fifteen-year sentence at 45% service. On appeal, the Defendant contends that his sentence is excessive. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

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

          Dustin P. Click, Greeneville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Martin Ellison Hughes.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Dan E. Armstrong, District Attorney General; and Ryan Blackwell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Alan E. Glenn and Timothy L. Easter, JJ., joined.



         On July 24, 2015, the Defendant was convicted of assaulting Elmer Jarnigan and Josh Strange. On July 30, 2015, trial counsel filed a motion to withdraw. On August 10, 2015, the Defendant filed a letter with the trial court requesting permission to proceed pro se and filed a motion to dismiss the indictment in an unrelated case for failure to prosecute. At an August 26, 2015 hearing, defense counsel was permitted to withdraw, and the Defendant was permitted to proceed pro se after signing a waiver of the right to appointed counsel. The sentencing hearing began immediately thereafter, until the Defendant requested a continuance in order to hire counsel for the sentencing hearing. See State v. Marty E. Hughes, No. E2015-01907-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 7428733, at *1-3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 23, 2016), no perm app. filed.

         At the September 8, 2015 sentencing hearing, the Defendant appeared without counsel and explained to the trial court that he had obtained counsel but that counsel had "deferred sentencing" because counsel did not have time to prepare and because counsel "consider[ed] whatever happens today . . . illegal anyway." Id. at *3. The court stated that the record did not reflect the Defendant had obtained counsel and that the Defendant would proceed pro se for purposes of the sentencing hearing. Id. After the sentencing hearing and the denial of his motion for a new trial, the Defendant appealed, in relevant part, on the basis that he did not knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waive his right to the assistance of counsel. Id. at *5-7. This court agreed and remanded the case to the trial court for the appointment of counsel and for a new sentencing hearing. Id. at *8. The Defendant now appeals from the sentences imposed by the trial court at the subsequent sentencing hearing.

         Although the trial transcript is not included in the appellate record, this court summarized the facts of the case in the previous appeal as follows:

The evidence at trial established that on March 2, 2014, Hughes approached Maquita Epps outside an apartment complex and said, "[Y]ou're . . . pretty. I want to get some of that p[----]." Epps immediately informed her mother, Michelle Torres, and her mother's boyfriend, Elmer Jarnigan, who were at a house nearby, of the statement Hughes made to her. Then Jarnigan, Torres, and Latasha and Josh Strange, Epps's sister and brother-in-law, found and confronted Hughes outside the apartment complex. Hughes denied any wrongdoing and ran to his truck, where he grabbed a chain and a metal pipe. Hughes then taunted Jarnigan and the others before withdrawing and walking toward an apartment unit in the complex.
A short time later, a physical altercation took place between a man and woman, who lived in this apartment unit, and Jarnigan and his group in the common area just outside the apartment. During this altercation, Jarnigan was hit in the back of the head, "blacked out, " and fell down the stairs. Jarnigan was unable to confirm that Hughes was the individual who hit him because his back was turned at the time of his injury. After regaining consciousness, Jarnigan climbed the stairs and saw Hughes hit Mr. Strange in the head with the pipe, which ...

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