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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Apr 27, 2012

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General; Kim R. Helper, District Attorney General; and Stacey B. Edmonson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Attorneys 2:

Douglas Thompson Bates, III, Centerville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Cordell Remont Vaughn.

Judge(s): WILLIAMS

In this extraordinary appeal, the State of Tennessee appeals the trial court’s decision to order a new trial for the defendant, Cordell Remont Vaughn, after a jury returned a guilty verdict of first degree (premeditated) murder and sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The trial court, after a hearing, granted the defendant’s motion for a new trial on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. The State contends that the trial court abused its discretion because the court: (1) erroneously concluded that a State’s witness committed perjury at a suppression hearing based solely on the defendant’s submission of an affidavit that conflicted with that witnesses’ testimony at that hearing, and (2) erroneously concluded that the outcome of the defendant’s trial would have been different had this alleged perjury not occurred and had the defendant’s motion to suppress been granted. The defendant responds that the trial court properly considered the affidavit and reached the proper conclusion concerning whether the State’s witness committed perjury. Furthermore, the defendant contends that because the perjury at issue related to a constitutional right, the State was required to establish that the effect of the perjury was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, and it failed to meet that burden. After careful review of the record, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering a new trial on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct because it failed to make any finding that the prosecution had, in fact, engaged in any misconduct. Moreover, the defendant has failed to show any prejudice resulting from the alleged perjury. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court granting a new trial is reversed.