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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on May 29, 2012

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Larry M. Warner, Crossville, Tennessee, and Leif E. Jeffers, Assistant Public Defender, Huntsville, Tennessee (at trial); William P. Redick, Jr., Whites Creek, Tennessee, and Peter D. Heil, Nashville, Tennessee (amended motion for new trial); James A. Simmons, Hendersonville, Tennessee, and Richard L. Gaines, Knoxville, Tennessee (final amended motion for new trial and on appeal), for the appellant, Hubert Glenn Sexton.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; Gordon W. Smith, Associate Solicitor General; Mark E. Davidson and James E. Gaylord, Assistant Attorneys General; William Paul Phillips, District Attorney General; and John W. Galloway, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): WADE

The defendant, tried and convicted of two counts of first degree murder, was sentenced to death for each offense. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. In our review, we have found that the trial court erred by admitting detailed evidence of a prior claim of child sex abuse and by allowing references to the defendant’s refusal to submit to a polygraph examination. Further, the record demonstrates several instances of prosecutorial misconduct during the opening statement and during the final arguments of both the guilt and penalty phases of the trial. Because, however, the defendant admitted to at least three witnesses that he committed the murders and the evidence of guilt was otherwise overwhelming, the errors had no effect on the verdicts rendered at the conclusion of the guilt phase of the trial. Each of the convictions is, therefore, affirmed. Nevertheless, because certain of the inadmissible evidence was particularly inflammatory and the prosecution made several inappropriate comments, the sentences of death must be set aside. The Court of Criminal Appeals is, in consequence, affirmed in part and reversed in part. The cause is remanded to the trial court for new sentencing hearings.