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Severance Of Defendants Law In Tennessee

Different standards apply to the severance of multiple offenses for a single defendant and the severance of defendants which the state seeks to try together. See generally State v. Shirley, 6 S.W.3d 243 (Tenn. 1999); State v. Moore, 6 S.W.3d 235 (Tenn. 1999); Tenn. R. Crim. P. 14; Neil P. Cohen, et al., Tennessee Law of Evidence, § 404.11.

Rules 8, 13, and 14 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure govern when defendants may be tried together. Rule 8(c) provides that "two or more defendants may be joined in the same indictment, presentment, or information . . . if, among other things, each of the defendants is charged with accountability for each offense included . . . ." Rule 13(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that courts "may order consolidation of two or more indictments . . . for trial if the offenses and all defendants could have been joined in a single indictment . . . pursuant to Rule 8."

The Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that a trial court should grant a severance of defendants if:

(i) before trial, it is deemed necessary to protect a defendant's right to a speedy trial or it is deemed appropriate to promote a fair determination of the guilt or innocence of one or more defendants; or

(ii) during trial, with consent of the defendant to be severed, it is deemed necessary to achieve a fair determination of the guilt or innocence of one or more defendants. Tenn. R. Crim. P. 14(c)(2)(i)-(ii).

Whether or not to grant a severance is a matter which rests within the sound discretion of the trial court. State v. Coleman, 619 S.W.2d 112 (Tenn. 1981).

The test is whether or not the defendant was clearly prejudiced in his defense by being jointly tried with his co-defendant. State v. Wiseman, 643 S.W.2d 354 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1982).

Similarly, the state is entitled to have the guilt determined and punishment assessed in a single trial where two or more persons are charged jointly with a single crime, unless to do so would unfairly prejudice the rights of the defendants. Brady v. State, 584 S.W.2d 245 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1979).

This court cannot interfere with the exercise of the discretion afforded the trial court absent clear abuse. Coleman, 619 S.W.2d at 116.

Disparity in the evidence against the defendants is not alone sufficient to warrant the grant of a severance. State v. Haynes, 1992 Tenn.

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