STATE OF TENNESSEE v. WILLIE DUNCAN - Articles

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Posted by: Landry Butler on Oct 14, 2016

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General, Andre´e Blumstein, Solicitor General; and Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General, Betsey Wiseman, Assistant District Attorney General, Meghan Fowler, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Attorneys 2:

Lance R. Chism, Memphis, Tennessee (on appeal), and Arthur Horne and Kendra Tidwell, Memphis, Tennessee (at trial), for the appellee, Willie Duncan.

Judge(s): KIRBY

In this appeal, we consider the sufficiency of an indictment. The five-count indictment charged the defendant with several felonies and also with employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.  The count for the firearm charge recited the statute listing the offenses that can constitute a “dangerous felony” but did not designate one of the accompanying charges as the predicate dangerous felony. After a trial, a jury found the defendant guilty on all five counts. On appeal, the defendant argues that the indictment for the firearm charge must be dismissed because, by not designating the predicate felony for the firearm charge, it violated his constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him. We hold that, considering the entire five-count indictment, the count of the indictment charging the defendant with employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony sufficiently apprised the defendant of the nature and cause of the accusation against him and enabled him to adequately prepare a defense to the charge, and therefore is sufficient to meet the constitutional requirement. Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals on that issue. However, because the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on the charge of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, we remand for a new trial on that charge.

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