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Posted by: Landry Butler on Apr 6, 2018

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; M. Todd Ridley, Assistant Attorney General; Brent A. Cooper, District Attorney General; and Jonathan W. Davis, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Attorneys 2:

Shara A. Flacy (on appeal), Ardmore, Tennessee, and Robert D. Massey (at hearing), Pulaski, Tennessee, for the appellee, Chastity Coleman.

Judge(s): WILLIAMS

The Defendant, Chastity Coleman, entered into a plea agreement with the State with an agreed-upon sentence. During the plea colloquy, the trial court invited and met with the Defendant outside the presence of the prosecutor and trial counsel after which the court decided to reduce the Defendant’s period of incarceration. The State appeals. We conclude that we have jurisdiction to review the trial court’s judgments under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3. We further conclude that the trial court committed three errors that each independently require reversal: (1) the trial court acted improperly by engaging in ex parte communication with the Defendant; (2) the trial court erred in failing to rule on the State’s motion to recuse while continuing to hear matters involving this case; and (3) the trial court lacked the authority to unilaterally modify the plea agreement. Because the trial judge has predetermined the sentence to be imposed, we remove the trial judge from further consideration of this case. We vacate the judgments and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.