Unless otherwise indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion.
Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court
State of Tennessee v. Reynolds, E2018-01732-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. Nov. 29, 2021)
“All errors are not the same, nor do they have the same effect on the judicial process in general or on a particular trial.” Rodriguez, 254 S.W.3d at 371. “[T]his Court has recognized three categories of error—structural constitutional error, non-structural constitutional error, and non-constitutional error.” Id. Errors in the admission of evidence ordinarily do not take on constitutional dimensions. Id. at 375. Thus, when a trial court abuses its discretion and admits evidence in violation of the Tennessee Rules of Evidence, we ordinarily address this non-constitutional error using the harmless error analysis of Rule 36(b) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. Clark, 452 S.W.3d at 287. Under Rule 36(b), the defendant bears the burden of showing that the erroneously admitted evidence more probably than not affected the verdict or resulted in prejudice to the judicial process.29 Tenn. R. App. P. 36(b); Clark, 452 S.W.3d at 287; Rodriguez, 254 S.W.3d at 375.
Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
State v. Potts, No. M2020-01623-CCA-R3-CD, p. 31 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 29, 2022).
Nonetheless, the question then becomes whether the trial court’s failure to allow the Defendant to ask about the statements more in depth was harmless error. See Jordan, 2009 WL 1607902, at *24. The Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure provide for harmless error review. See Tenn. R. App. P. 36(b). However, “[a]ll errors are not the same, nor do they have the same effect on the judicial process in general or on a particular trial.” State v. Rodriguez, 254 S.W.3d 361, 371 (Tenn. 2008). Tennessee law places the burden on the defendant who is seeking to invalidate his or her conviction to demonstrate that the error “more probably than not affected the judgment or would result in prejudice to the judicial process.” Tenn. R. App. P. 36(b). This analysis “does not turn upon the existence of sufficient evidence to affirm a conviction or even a belief that the jury’s verdict is correct. To the contrary, the crucial consideration is what impact the error may reasonably be taken to have had on the jury’s decision-making.” Rodriguez, 254 S.W.3d at 372 (citations omitted).