Except as indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the opinion.
Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court
Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
State of Tenn. v. Montella, No. M2020-00016-CCA-R3-CD, p. 7 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 7, 2022).
The Defendant bears the burden of establishing a prima facie case of bias or partiality. Id. (citing State v. Taylor, 669 S.W.2d 694, 700 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1983)). “When a juror willfully conceals (or fails to disclose) information on voir dire which reflects on the juror’s lack of impartiality, a presumption of prejudice arises.” Id. When asked a question reasonably calculated to produce an answer, a juror’s silence is “tantamount to a negative answer.” Id. The State may rebut the presumption of bias by establishing the “absence of actual partiality” or “actual prejudice[.]” Id. at 357. Actual prejudice may be demonstrated “by the challenged juror’s conduct during jury deliberations which give rise to the possibility that improper extraneous information was provided to the jury.” Id. To determine whether the presumption of prejudice is overcome, the trial court “must view the totality of the circumstances, not merely the juror’s selfserving claim of lack of partiality[.]” Id.
A constitutional claim that is resolved following an evidentiary hearing is reviewed by appellate courts as a mixed question of law and fact. State v. Adams, 405 S.W.3d 641, 656 (Tenn. 2013) (citing T.R.E. 606(b); Abdur’Rahman v. Bredesen, 181 S.W.3d 292, 305 (Tenn. 2005)). This court reviews a trial court’s factual findings, such as credibility and weight afforded to a witness’s testimony, under a de novo standard, accompanied by a presumption of correctness unless the evidence preponderates otherwise. Adams, 405 S.W.3d at 656 (citing T.R.A.P. 13(d); Fields v. State, 40 S.W.3d 450, 458 (Tenn. 2001)). The trial court’s conclusions of law, “such as whether a jury’s verdict was affected by extraneous prejudicial information or an improper outside influence,” are reviewed under a de novo standard, with no presumption of correctness. Id. (citing Fields, 40 S.W.3d at 458).
Adbelnabi v. State of Tennessee, No. E2020-01270-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 18, 2022).
A post-conviction court’s application of law to its factual findings are reviewed de novo with no presumption of correctness. Howard, 604 S.W.3d at 57; Holland, 610 S.W.3d at 455; Whitehead v. State, 402 S.W.3d 615, 621 (Tenn. 2013). However, the postconviction court’s findings of fact are conclusive on appeal unless the evidence preponderates against them. Howard, 604 S.W.3d at 57 (citing Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d)); see also Arroyo v. State, 434 S.W.3d 555, 559 (Tenn. 2014). The petitioner bears the burden of establishing that the evidence preponderates against the post-conviction court’s findings. Cauthern v. State, 145 S.W.3d 571, 597 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2004); Henley v. State, 960 S.W.2d 572, 579 (Tenn. 1997). The credibility of the witnesses and the weight and value to be afforded their testimony are questions to be resolved by the post-conviction court. Kendrick v. State, 454 S.W.3d 450, 457 (Tenn. 2015); Whitehead, 402 S.W.3d at 621. Therefore, this court may not re-weigh or reevaluate the evidence or substitute its inferences for those drawn by the post-conviction court. State v. Honeycutt, 54 S.W.3d 762, 766 (Tenn. 2001); Bates v. State, 973 S.W.2d 615, 631 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1997).
We defer to the post-conviction court’s findings because of the court’s unique position as the trier in fact in observing the testimonies of the three post-conviction witnesses. See Anthony M. Clark v. State, No. M2006-01176-CCA-R3-PC, 2007 WL 2295583, at *7 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 6, 2007) (“[b]ecause the trial judge is in a better position to weigh and evaluate the credibility of the witnesses who testify orally, we give great weight to the trial judge’s findings on issues involving credibility of witnesses”) (quoting Gillock v. Board of Professional Responsibility, 656 S.W.2d 365, 367 (Tenn. 1983)).