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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Jun 3, 2013

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys 1:

A. Russell Larson and Angela Hopson, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellant, John T. Freeland, Jr.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; James G. Woodall, District Attorney General; and Jody S. Pickens, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): WOODALL

The Defendant, John T. Freeland, Jr., appeals from his Madison County Circuit Court convictions of first degree premeditated murder, see Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202(a)(1); first degree murder committed in the perpetration of an especially aggravated kidnapping, see id. § 39-13-202(a)(2); especially aggravated kidnapping, see id. § 39-13-305; and tampering with evidence, see id. § 39-16-503(a)(1). Following a bench trial regarding both guilt and punishment, see id. § 39-13-205, the trial court sentenced Defendant to death for each first degree murder conviction based upon its findings that the defendant was previously convicted of one or more felonies whose statutory elements involve the use of violence, see id. § 39-13-204(i)(2); the murder was committed for the purpose of avoiding, interfering with, or preventing a lawful arrest or prosecution of the defendant, see id. § 39-13-204(i)(6); the murder was knowingly committed, solicited, directed, or aided by the defendant, while the defendant had a substantial role in committing or attempting to commit, an aggravated robbery, see id. § 39-13-204(i)(7); and that these aggravating circumstances outweighed any mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial court also imposed consecutive sentences of 20 years’ incarceration for the especially aggravated kidnapping conviction and five years’ incarceration for the tampering with evidence conviction. In addition to challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions of first degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping, Defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress statements and the imposition of the death penalty. Because we determine that the trial court failed to merge the first degree murder convictions at sentencing, we remand the case for correction of the judgments to effectuate proper merger. In all other respects, however, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.