Indigent Defendants

Unless otherwise indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion.

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals


State v. Bryant, No. M2022-00260-CCA-R3-CD, p. 20 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. April 5, 2023).

Indigent defendants in both felony and misdemeanor cases have the right to adequate appellate review. Lester Douglas Bell v. State, No. E1997-00082-CCA-R3-CD, 1999 WL 436432, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 29, 1999) (citing Mayer v. City of Chicago, 404 U.S. 189, 195-96, 92 (1971) (citing Williams v. Oklahoma City, 395 U.S. 458, 459 (1969)). An indigent defendant “must be afforded as adequate appellate review as defendants who have money enough to buy transcripts.” Lester Douglas Bell, 1999 WL 436432, at *2 (quoting Griffin v. Illinois, 351 U.S. 12, 19 (1956)). The State must provide an indigent defendant with a “record of sufficient completeness” for proper consideration of claims for appellate review. Bell, 1999 WL 436432, at *2 (citing Draper v. Washington, 372 U.S. 487, 499, 781 (1963). In addressing what constitutes a “record of sufficient completeness,” our supreme court, stated:

A ‘record of sufficient completeness’ does not translate automatically into a complete verbatim transcript . . . a State ‘may find other means [than providing stenographic transcripts] for affording adequate and effective appellate review to indigent defendants’ . . . ‘alternative methods of reporting trial proceedings are permissible if they place before the appellate court an equivalent report of the events at trial from which the appellant’s contentions arise.’

State v. Gallagher, 738 S.W.2d 624, 625 (Tenn. 1987) (citations omitted).



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