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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Aug 6, 2013

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Phyllis Aluko, Assistant Public Defender, Memphis, Tennessee, for appellant, Andre Benson.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Kirby May, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): SMITH

Appellant, Andre Benson, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury in July of 2009 with aggravated robbery and especially aggravated kidnapping. After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of the offenses as charged in the indictment. He was sentenced as a Range II, Multiple Offender to fifteen years in incarceration for the aggravated robbery conviction and thirty-five years as a Violent Offender for the especially aggravated kidnapping conviction. The sentences were ordered to be served concurrently, for a total effective sentence of thirty-five years at 100 percent. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Appellant initiated this appeal. The following issues are presented for our review: (1) whether Appellant is entitled to relief from his kidnapping conviction as a result of the holding in State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012); (2) whether the trial court violated Appellant’s right to confront witnesses by admitting preliminary hearing testimony of the victim at trial after it was determined the victim was incompetent to testify at trial; (3) whether the trial court improperly admitted excited utterances of the victim; (4) whether the trial court erred in admitting expert witness testimony about the victim’s mental state; (5) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; (6) whether the trial court improperly sentenced Appellant; and (7) whether cumulative error affected Appellant’s constitutional due process rights. After a review of the evidence and applicable authorities, we determine: (1) the trial court properly determined that the victim was unavailable at trial such that the State could utilize her preliminary hearing testimony; (2) the trial court properly admitted excited utterances of the victim; (3) Appellant waived any issue with regard to hearsay admitted during the testimony of Jarian Henry based on the failure to object to the evidence; (5) Appellant is entitled to relief from his aggravated kidnapping conviction based on White because the issue has been fairly raised and we conclude that the error was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (6) the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction for aggravated robbery; and (7) the trial court properly sentenced Appellant. Accordingly, Appellant’s aggravated robbery conviction is affirmed, but a new trial is required on the especially aggravated kidnapping conviction. Therefore, this case is remanded for further proceedings as set out in this opinion.