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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Feb 4, 2013

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Paul Julius Walwyn, Madison, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lavonta Laver Churchwell.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General, Rob McGuire, Assistant District Attorney General; and Sarah Davis, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): WOODALL

Defendant, Lavonta Laver Churchwell, was indicted by the Davidson County Grand Jury for two counts of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of first degree felony murder, and two counts of especially aggravated robbery. Defendant was convicted by a petit jury of two counts of felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, and two counts of criminally negligent homicide. The trial court merged Defendant’s convictions for criminally negligent homicide into his felony murder convictions. He was sentenced by the trial court to an effective life sentence with all sentences running concurrently. In this direct appeal, Defendant asserts that: 1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; 2) the State failed to establish the corpus delicti because the State offered no corroborating evidence of the testimony of the jailhouse informants; 3) Defendant’s admissions to the jailhouse informants were elicited in violation of Massiah v. U.S., 377 U.S. 201, 84 S. Ct. 1199, 12 L. Ed. 2d 246 (1964); and 4) the trial court erred by allowing testimony that Defendant threatened a jailhouse informant. The State responds that Defendant has waived all issues save that of sufficiency of the evidence by failing to file a timely motion for new trial. We conclude that Defendant’s motion for new trial was timely filed and review the merits of each issue. Finding no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.