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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Sep 17, 2014

Head Comment: With concurring opinion.

Court: TN Supreme Court

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; William E. Young, Solicitor General; Leslie E. Price, Assistant Attorney General; Jerry Woodall, District Attorney General; and Jody S. Pickens, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): HOLDER

Following a bench trial, the defendant was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, and tampering with evidence. The trial court imposed a sentence of death based on three aggravating circumstances: (1) the defendant had previously been convicted of one or more felonies involving the use of violence; (2) the murder was committed for the purpose of avoiding, interfering with, or preventing a lawful arrest or prosecution of the defendant; and (3) the murder was knowingly committed while the defendant had a substantial role in committing a robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-204(i)(2), (6), (7) (2010 & Supp. 2013). The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the defendant’s conviction and sentence. On automatic appeal to this Court, we designated the following issues for oral argument: (1) whether the Court of Criminal Appeals committed error by affirming the trial court’s determination that the defendant’s confessions were freely and voluntarily made; and (2) whether under our mandatory review required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-206(c)(1), the sentence of death is disproportionate or invalid. Having carefully considered the issues raised by the 2 defendant and the mandatory review provisions, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals. We remand the case to the trial court, however, for the entry of a corrected judgment reflecting the trial court’s merger of the defendant’s convictions for first degree murder into a single conviction.