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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Sep 26, 2014

Head Comment: CORRECTION: On page two of the opinion, correction has been made to the authoring justice section to state that there was a separate opinion filed by Justices Koch and Lee.

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 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.