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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Dec 10, 2013

Head Comment: With Dissenting Opinion

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Comer L. Donnell, District Public Defender; and E. Marie Farley, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, Tavaria Merritt.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Clarence E. Lutz, Assistant Attorney General; Tom P. Thompson, Jr., District Attorney General; and Thomas H. Swink, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): TIPTON

The Defendant, Tavaria Merritt, pleaded guilty to nine counts of rape of a child, Class A felonies. See T.C.A. § 39-13-522 (2010). He was sentenced to nine consecutive terms of twenty-five years for an effective 225-year sentence to be served at 100%. The Defendant was seventeen years old when the offenses were committed and nineteen years old when he pleaded guilty. On appeal, the Defendant contends that his effective sentence is the equivalent of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and is cruel and unusual punishment under the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. See Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010). Although Graham does not apply to the Defendant’s effective 225-year sentence, we conclude that the sentence is excessive, reverse the judgments of the trial court, and remand for entry of judgments reflecting an effective fifty-year sentence.