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Consecutive Sentencing

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Case:  State of Tennessee v. James Allen Pollard

Facts: Defendant was convicted of first degree murder, felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery, and received life in prison and eighteen years.  The court ordered these sentences to be served consecutively upon making an affirmative finding in the following sentencing factor: “The defendant is a dangerous offender whose behavior indicates little or no regard for human life, and no hesitation about committing a crime in which the risk to human life is high.”  T.C.A. 40-35-115(b)(4).  The court made only a conclusory finding that the factor applied and noted that the defendant “has no remorse.”  The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that the trial court failed to take three required actions:  (1) conclude that an extended sentence is necessary to protect the public, (2) conclude that consecutive sentencing is reasonably related to the severity of the offenses, and (3) make specific findings of fact in support.  State v. Wilkerson, 905 S.W.2d 933 (Tenn. 1995).  The State appealed.

Issue:  Did the trial court err by imposing consecutive sentences?

Review Granted:  February 13, 2013

Prediction:  It appears from the intermediate court’s opinion that the trial court indeed provided an inadequate record pursuant to Wilkerson, but Ben is reluctant to offer a prediction in the absence of the full record.  Moreover, the State appears to have a stronger position here than in a typical case because first-degree murder may inherently satisfy the factor, and one of the sentences is a life sentence (making the consecutive/concurrent distinction.