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Appeals Court rules against defendants

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The state Court of Criminal Appeals has dismissed a Lewisburg man's appeal in a sex case, and upheld two Marshall County Circuit Court judgments in a drug case and a habitual offender's case.

The decisions are as follows.

* Jeffery D. Lemay, 46, made a "best interest" plea of guilty in February 2010 to one count of rape of a child, and the state agreed not to prosecute the remaining 19 counts of his indictment. Lemay was sentenced to serve 15 years at 100 percent. In evidentiary hearings preceding the plea, Lemay's attorney, Melissa Thomas of Fayetteville, sought to prove that her client was incompetent to stand trial, due to mental retardation.

After hearing testimony from experts who said Lemay was incapable of understanding a trial or assisting in his own defense, and from people who knew him - testifying he held a job for 20 years and could read, write and do arithmetic - Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler found Lemay competent to stand trial.

The appeal was on a legal technicality, concerning the propriety of the trial court's finding him competent to stand trial, but the justices found that certification requirements had not been met, and that they were without jurisdiction to review the issue.

"The appeal is dismissed," wrote Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.

* The appeal court also reviewed the trial and sentencing of Huedell Sparkman, 50, of Columbia, who was found guilty by a jury in August 2009. Sparkman was arrested after a traffic stop on I-65 in September 2005, when 22.9 grams of crack cocaine was found in his possession. Tim Lane, director of the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force, testified that this quantity of crack could be broken into up to about 115 "user amounts," and thus had a street value over $2,300. According to testimony at the trial, Sparkman confessed to task force agents at the traffic stop that he intended to sell the crack in Fayetteville.

Sparkman's appeal was denied both as to the sufficiency of the evidence at his trial and the length of his 25-year sentence. The appeals court panel ruled that Crigler correctly applied sentencing guidelines when finding that Sparkman was a persistent offender who must serve 45 percent of his sentence before being eligible for parole. Sparkman was out on parole at the time of his arrest, so he has the rest of that sentence (20 years for drug offenses from Maury County in 1999) to serve, as well as his locally imposed sentence.

* Ricky McKnight, 49, of Columbia, pleaded guilty in April 2010 to driving after being declared an habitual motor vehicle offender and driving on a revoked license. McKnight appealed against the length of his sentence; three years and six months at 35 percent. The appeal court upheld Crigler's decision to deny alternative sentencing. Crigler based that decision on the fact that previous sentences that combined jail time and supervised probation had not acted as a deterrent to McKnight, who had seven driving-on-revoked convictions and one driving under the influence since being declared an habitual motor vehicle offender, and also a felony conviction for driving after having been declared HMVO.