Clay County Defendant’s Sentence Upheld

Yesterday, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals upheld Judge David Patterson’s denial of alternative sentencing for a Clay County, Tennessee defendant.  Previously, the defendant had pled nolo contendere to attempted aggravated child neglect, a Class B felony.  As part of her plea agreement, she agreed to serve an eight-year term in the manner imposed by the trial court.

The trial court sentenced the defendant to serve eight-years at thirty percent, noting: (1) The defendant had failed to submit to a drug screen prior to the sentencing hearing; (2) The victim was particularly vulnerable because of his infancy; (3) The victim was “almost dead” and the defendant failed to recognize the problem; (4) The indictment originally charged a Class A felony.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred because (1) The defendant did not have a long criminal history; (2) She successfully completed a previous sentence on probation; (3) She complied with the terms of her bail for the instant charge; (4) The trial court failed to properly consider mitigating factors; (5) There was no evidence to suggest that she intentionally or knowingly neglected the victim; (6) She brought the victim to the hospital after being told to do so; (7) There was no evidence of neglect to any of her other five children; (8) She gave birth to two children while on bail prior to her guilty plea, and those children will not be able to raised by their mother; and (9) Her confinement will not act as a deterrence and will not act to prevent the depreciation of the seriousness of the offense.

Despite the above arguments, the court of criminal appeals upheld the trial court’s decision, stating that a trial court’s sentencing decision is reviewed for abuse of discretion, with a presumption of reasonableness granted to within-range sentences reflecting a proper application of the purposes and principles of the Sentencing Act.  In this case, the trial court properly took into account the sentencing considerations in T.C.A. § 40-35-103 and whether any enhancement and mitigating factors existed.  See generally T.C.A. §§ 40-35-113, -114.  The trial court also “look[ed] behind the plea bargain” to see that the defendant was originally charged with aggravated child neglect, a Class A Felony that is ineligible for alternative sentencing.  Taking all of this into account, the court of criminal appeals determined that the trial court did not abuse its discretion and upheld the sentence of confinement.

State v. McLerran, No. M2016-02005-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 8, 2017)

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