Movie, MySpace part of recent appeals

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

NASHVILLE -- The Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld a ruling by Marshall County Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler saying a prisoner erroneously complained that his 22-year term is too long.

Meanwhile, the appeals court upheld sentences imposed by Crigler in cases involving:

* The Nicholas Cage movie "Zandalee," deemed elsewhere obscene for children's viewing. A man who showed it to children here was imprisoned; and,

* Another man who claimed his lawyer was ineffective, resulting in his 13-year term for facilitation of burglary and robbery -- crimes that prompted the victim to change the codefendant's My Space profile to say he's a homosexual.

In the 22-year-term case, Crigler used two criteria to impose 15- and seven-year terms to be served one after another instead of at the same time. Calvin Oliver, now 29, complained that Crigler misspoke from the bench over whether Oliver was on parole or probation at the time of the crime.

Appeals Court Judge John Everett Williams wrote the distinction is irrelevant since court records show it was clear during case hearings that Williams was a repeat offender who'd been given several second chances. The extent of Oliver's criminal career -- it began when he was 11 years old --was sufficient to enhance punishment with terms to be served consecutively instead of concurrently.

Oliver also challenged the consecutive terms saying the number of crimes in this case wasn't enough to warrant terms served one after another. That's an "erroneous" interpretation of the law, Williams wrote in his opinion, listing Oliver's convictions on theft, escape, burglary, criminal impersonation and drug charges. Crigler's ruling for consecutive terms was correct because of Oliver's criminal history and he was on probation when he confessed to the robbery that drew a 15-year term. The seven-year-term was a result of previous convictions.

Oliver was convicted on a robbery charge from a crime on March 18, 2002 when a woman and her boyfriend were in bed. Their door was kicked and the boyfriend was poked with a rifle. The victim's daughter and another woman were also held at gunpoint in the house. Three men were subsequently arrested. Oliver was one of them.

Other defendants appealed in recent months include the following described in appeals court rulings:

* Thomas Tucker. He and another man went to the victim's Elm Avenue house in early 2007. While they were there, money was taken from the victim's wallet. Money was returned, but the victim didn't know it wasn't all returned until Tucker and the other man left. Before the theft, the other man had the victim show him how My Space works. The account was still open when Tucker and the other man left. The victim then changed the other man's password and profile, including what appeared to be a self-description of the other man as a homosexual.

While other court hearings were conducted regarding the other man, Tucker was convicted by a Marshall County jury of facilitation of both robbery and burglary. Tucker sought relief after his conviction, lost and complained about his lawyer's work. Crigler ruled that Tucker's lawyer did his job. Tucker appealed. The appeal was denied. He remains in prison.

* Cauley McClinton Cross. "Zandalee," an early Nicholas Cage movie, has been deemed obscene in other communities. Cross played the movie's video when a neighbor's children were present. While a boy slept during the movie, Cross inappropriately moved the boy's hand to a girl's chest.

Cross was convicted on three counts of exhibition of obscene materials to minors and one of sexual battery. Sentenced as a sexual predator, he got two concurrent 10-year terms. He appealed saying: The terms were to0 long; Charges should have been merged, not separate; And, the convictions weren't based on evidence.

The appeals court said: Cross' defense was based only on his statements; His criminal record supports a longer term and other factors could have been used to support stern punishment; And, he provided no legal argument to support his claim of suffering double jeopardy. Furthermore, there were three minor victims.

* Bobby Joe Rollins. In December 2006, Rollins used a pistol to rob Discount Tobacco Outlet in Lewisburg where the store manager recognized him as having been there several times before. His image was found on security camera recordings. Rollins claimed he was drunk during the robbery. He was convicted. His appeal was denied. He sought post conviction relief. That failed, so he claimed he was denied effective counsel because there was no request that the judge declare a mistrial. The Appeals Court found no grounds for relief.