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Consecutive Sentencing

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Case:  State of Tennessee v. Walter H. Webb

Issue: How should sentencing courts apply the “dangerous offender” sentencing factor?

Facts:  Defendant’s sentences were ordered to run consecutively, in part because the trial court found Defendant a “dangerous offender” pursuant to T.C.A. § 40-35-115(b)(4).

Appellate Decision:  The trial court affirmed the sentence. The court noted that State v. Wilkerson, 905 S.W.2d 933 (Tenn. 1995), requires “a trial court’s ‘dangerous offender’ finding be supported by proof that ‘the terms imposed are reasonably related to the severity of the offenses committed and are necessary in order to protect the public from further criminal acts by the offender.‘ ” Since the trial court made no such findings of fact, the intermediate court conducted a de novo review and reached the same result.

Review Granted: April 13, 2016.

Prediction: The Supreme Court’s order granting review expressed interest in considering whether Wilkerson’s requirements regarding the “dangerous offender” factor survived the Court’s adaptation of the abuse of discretion standard for sentencing review, and whether the Wilkerson requirements should be revisited since they do not appear in the statutory language. Ben thinks the Court will extend abuse of discretion review to the “dangerous offender” factor, and specify that the Wilkerson requirements should be demoted to nonbinding considerations.