Court Opinions

Format: 04/20/2015
Format: 04/20/2015
Anthony Washington v. James Holloway, Warden
W2014-02080-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The petitioner, Anthony Washington, appeals the Circuit Court for Lauderdale County’s denial of his pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus. The State has filed a motion requesting that this court affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we grant the State’s motion and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/15
State of Tennessee v. Mikel C. Hamrick
W2014-02307-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The Defendant, Mikel C. Hamrick, pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary, especially aggravated stalking, domestic assault, and theft and received an effective four-year sentence to be served consecutively to the sentences he received in two unrelated cases. Less than four years later, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct an illegal sentence on the ground that he pleaded guilty to the aggravated burglary of his own home, a legal impossibility. The trial court summarily dismissed the motion for failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in dismissing his motion. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/15
State of Tennessee v. Damien Clark
W2014-01729-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

The Defendant, Damien Clark, was convicted of second degree murder in 2006 and received a twenty-year sentence at 100% service. Seven years later, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct an illegal sentence because his sentence was in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-120(g) (2014). The trial court summarily denied relief for failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in denying him relief. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/15
State of Tennessee v. Talmadge Hurt
W2014-00513-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Defendant, Talmadge Hurt, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury in September of 2009 for aggravated robbery and attempted aggravated robbery. He was tried with co-defendant Adrian Chaney for events that occurred at La Playita Mexican Restaurant in Memphis in April of 2007. The jury convicted Defendant of facilitation of aggravated robbery and facilitation of attempted aggravated robbery. After a sentencing hearing, Defendant was sentenced to consecutive sentences of ten years for facilitation of aggravated robbery and eight years for facilitation of attempted aggravated robbery. Defendant did not file a motion for new trial or seek a direct appeal. He filed a petition for post-conviction relief in October of 2011, in which he alleged, among other things, that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when trial counsel failed to file a motion for new trial. The post-conviction court granted leave for Defendant to file a delayed appeal pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-30-113(a)(3) and Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 28, Section 9. Defendant filed a motion for new trial. The motion was denied by the trial court and this appeal followed. Defendant presents the following issues for our review on appeal: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; and (2) whether the trial court erred by refusing to allow a defense witness to testify whether he could identify Defendant from a still photograph taken from surveillance video of the incident. After a review, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions for aggravated robbery and attempted aggravated robbery. Additionally, we determine that the trial court did not err by excluding the opinion testimony of a lay witness that was not helpful to a determination of a fact in issue.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/15
Amelia Jane Langlo v. Roger Eldar Langlo
E2014-00548-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence H. Puckett
This appeal arises from the parties’ post-divorce issues. The mother filed a petition for contempt for failure to remit alimony. The father responded with a petition to reduce his alimony obligation. He later orally requested to modify his child support obligation. Following a hearing, the trial court denied the mother’s petition for contempt, the father’s petition to reduce his alimony obligation, and the father’s request to reduce his child support obligation. The father appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.
 
Bradley County Court of Appeals 04/20/15
State of Tennessee v. Brian Lee Johnson
M2013-02503-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

A Wilson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Brian Lee Johnson, of driving under the influence (DUI). Subsequently, the trial court convicted him of DUI, fifth offense; violating a habitual traffic offender order; and driving on a revoked license, fourth offense. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced him to an effective four-year sentence to be served as 315 days in confinement and the remainder on supervised probation. On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/15
State of Tennessee v. Justin Allen Stratton - concurring
E2014-00816-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

I write separately because I respectfully disagree with that portion of the majority’s opinion which concludes that the facts relevant to the issue whether the three co-defendants were accomplices are subject to only one interpretation. In my mind, the following facts at least raise the inference that Ms. Holtsclaw was an accomplice.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Justin Allen Stratton
E2014-00816-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

The Defendant, Justin Allen Stratton, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder by a Washington County Criminal Court jury. See T.C.A. § 39-13-202 (2014). He was sentenced to life in prison. On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that plain error exists because the jury was not instructed regarding corroboration of accomplice testimony. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/15
Lydranna Lewis, et al. v. Shelby County, Tennessee
W2014-00408-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert S. Weiss

Plaintiffs worked as counselors in a correctional facility that houses male inmates in a dorm-like setting in Shelby County. In September 2010, they were attacked and beaten by an inmate. Plaintiffs filed an action for negligence against Shelby County under the Governmental Tort Liability Act, alleging the County was liable for damages caused by the negligent acts and/or omissions of County employees. Plaintiffs alleged that the supervising counselor/shift supervisor negligently failed to respond to their “code red” calls for help; that he negligently failed to provide adequate staffing and equipment; and that he negligently failed to implement the facility directives. The trial court determined that the County was entitled to summary judgment under the discretionary function exception contained in Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-20-205. We reverse and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Robert Walden, Jr.
M2014-01692-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

The defendant, Robert Walden, Jr., appeals the revocation of the probationary sentence imposed for his Marion County Circuit Court conviction of theft of property valued at $500 or more but less than $1,000. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Marion County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/15
State of Tennessee v. Larry Douglas Clemons
M2014-00131-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

Defendant, Larry Douglas Clemons, pled guilty in Case No. 12-CR-213 to four counts of trafficking for sexual servitude (Counts 1-4), one count of attempt to commit trafficking for sexual servitude (Count 5), especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor (Count 6), thirteen counts of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor (Counts 7-19), and six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor (Counts 20-25). In Case No. 12-CR-236 Defendant pled guilty to one count of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, and in Case No. 12-CR-302 Defendant pled guilty to two counts of trafficking for sexual servitude (Counts 1-2) and five counts of statutory rape (Counts 3-7). The trial court ordered a portion of the sentences to be served consecutively for an effective one-hundred seventy-six-year sentence. In his sole issue on appeal, Defendant asserts that the trial court erred by ordering partial consecutive sentencing. After a thorough review of the record and the briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we remand for a corrected judgment in Count 20 of Case No. 2012-CR-213.

Smith County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/15
In re Estate of Mary Pauline Stumpe Schorn
E2013-02245-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William Everett Lantrip
This is an estate case before this court a second time. The decedent’s eldest son was named the personal representative of his mother’s estate. Two siblings, citing accounting irregularities and other issues, eventually sought their brother’s removal from the personal representative position. The trial court agreed with the siblings and named a substitute personal representative. The initial personal representative appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm.
 
Anderson County Court of Appeals 04/17/15
William Timothy Hayes, et al. v. Coopertown Mastersweep, Inc.
W2014-00783-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen R. Williams

This is an appeal from the grant of two motions for directed verdict. Appellants contracted with Appellee chimneysweep company to redesign and reconstruct portions of their fireplace and chimney to address a problem with smoke escaping into the den, upper floors, and attic. More than a year after the construction was completed, Appellants’ home was damaged by a fire, which started when wood flooring joists in close proximity to the firebox ignited. Appellants brought claims for negligence and breach of contract against Appellee. The case was tried before a jury. At the close of Appellants’ proof, the trial court granted the Appellee’s motions for directed verdict on the ground that the Appellants had failed to establish that the Appellee owed them a duty of care to conduct a destructive investigation of the safety of the Appellants’ fireplace and also on the ground that the suit was barred by the applicable statute of repose. We affirm and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/17/15
Thomas Wenzler, Sr. v. Shelby County, Tennessee, et al.
W2014-01097-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Arnold B. Goldin

This case involves judicial review of a decision of the Shelby County Civil Service Merit Board. The appellee was terminated from his employment with the Shelby County government due to an alleged violation of a conflict of interest policy. After a two-day hearing, the Civil Service Merit Board upheld the employee‟s termination. The employee sought judicial review in chancery court. After reviewing the record, the chancellor found no substantial and material evidence to support the termination of the employee and ordered him reinstated with backpay and benefits. The County appeals. Discerning no error, we affirm the decision of the chancery court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Antonio J. Beasley, Sr.
E2014-01845-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman & Judge Rebecca Stern
The Defendant, Antonio J. Beasley, Sr., was convicted of various offenses during 1989 and 1990. In 1989, the Defendant pleaded guilty to larceny and received six years’ probation. In 1990, the Defendant pleaded guilty to attempt to commit arson and to possession of cocaine and was sentenced to concurrent terms of four years’ confinement for attempted arson and eleven months, twenty-nine days for possession of cocaine. Twenty-four years later, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct an illegal sentence relative to the attempted arson and drug possession convictions because the court erroneously imposed concurrent sentences because the Defendant was “out on the grand larceny.” The trial court summarily dismissed the motion for failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred by dismissing his motion. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. 
 
Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Richard Thomas Kelley
M2014-00740-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge John H. Gasaway, III

The defendant, Richard Thomas Kelley, was convicted after a jury trial of four counts of rape of a child, a Class A felony; three counts of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony; and one count of assault, a Class B misdemeanor. He was sentenced to thirty years’ imprisonment for each of the convictions for rape of a child, ten years’ imprisonment for each of the convictions for aggravated sexual battery, and six months’ imprisonment for the assault conviction, all to be served concurrently at 100%. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the verdicts, and we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Tommy Kaye Thompson
M2014-00596-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Lee Holloway, Jr.

During the search of a recreational vehicle (“RV”) belonging to the defendant, Tommy Kaye Thompson, police uncovered approximately eight ounces of marijuana, two sets of scales, plastic baggies, and numerous firearms. The defendant challenged the search on the grounds that the search warrant, which was targeted at recovering security equipment allegedly stolen by the defendant’s grandson, was issued for a search of the house on the defendant’s property but did not extend to the RV, which was parked on a neighboring lot and tethered to the defendant’s property through an electrical cord. The trial court denied the motion to suppress, and a jury convicted the defendant of the possession of not less than one-half ounce or more than ten pounds of marijuana with the intention to sell, a Class E felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor. He was acquitted of a firearms offense. On appeal, the defendant asserts that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress because the RV was outside the scope of the search warrant. We conclude that the search warrant authorized the search of the RV, and we accordingly affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/15
Terry Pritchett v. Comas Montgomery Realty & Auction Company, Inc. et al
M2014-00583-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Corlew,III

Plaintiff purchased a commercial building at auction. After determining that the building was smaller than represented in the auction advertisements, Plaintiff filed suit asserting a claim against the auction company for negligently misrepresenting the square footage of the building. Defendant admits the advertisement incorrectly stated the square footage but insists it is not liable because, prior to the auction, Plaintiff signed a “Terms of Sale” agreement stating that Plaintiff “shall rely entirely on [his] own inspection and information,” and that “[e]verything will be sold ‘AS IS, WHERE IS’, with no guarantee of any kind, regardless of statement or condition made from the auctioneer,” and the same terms were restated immediately prior to the commencement of bidding. Defendant further relies on the contract of sale, which included the “as is” clause and did not contain a representation concerning the square footage of the building. After engaging in discovery, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff could not have justifiably relied on the representations in light of the “as is” disclaimers he signed and heard, and that Plaintiff failed to establish the applicable standard of care. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, which Plaintiff contends was error. We have determined that Plaintiff’s agreement to rely entirely on his own inspection and information and to purchase the property on an “as is” basis negates any reliance on Defendant’s representation, which is an essential element of a claim for negligent misrepresentation. Therefore, we affirm the grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 04/15/15
Terry Pritchett v. Comas Montgomery Realty & Auction Company, Inc. et al
M2014-00583-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Corlew,III

Plaintiff purchased a commercial building at auction. After determining that the building was smaller than represented in the auction advertisements, Plaintiff filed suit asserting a claim against the auction company for negligently misrepresenting the square footage of the building. Defendant admits the advertisement incorrectly stated the square footage but insists it is not liable because, prior to the auction, Plaintiff signed a “Terms of Sale” agreement stating that Plaintiff “shall rely entirely on [his] own inspection and information,” and that “[e]verything will be sold ‘AS IS, WHERE IS’, with no guarantee of any kind, regardless of statement or condition made from the auctioneer,” and the same terms were restated immediately prior to the commencement of bidding. Defendant further relies on the contract of sale, which included the “as is” clause and did not contain a representation concerning the square footage of the building. After engaging in discovery, Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff could not have justifiably relied on the representations in light of the “as is” disclaimers he signed and heard, and that Plaintiff failed to establish the applicable standard of care. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant, which Plaintiff contends was error. We have determined that Plaintiff’s agreement to rely entirely on his own inspection and information and to purchase the property on an “as is” basis negates any reliance on Defendant’s representation, which is an essential element of a claim for negligent misrepresentation. Therefore, we affirm the grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 04/15/15
Jarod Marges Phillips v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01374-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

Jarod Marges Phillips (“the Petitioner”) filed a petition for post-conviction relief claiming that his guilty plea was involuntary and unknowing and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/15
Terry Earl Jackson v. State of Tennessee
E2014-01511-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole
Petitioner, Terry Earl Jackson, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of his motion filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. He alleges that his sentences are illegal because his concurrent sentences had to run consecutively because he was on probation at the time of the offenses. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/14/15
Christy L. Griffith v. Glen H. Griffith
E2014-00892-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

This divorce case involves issues of property classification, valuation, and division. The parties were married for fifteen years, with one child born of the marriage. At the time the parties married, the husband owned an interest in his family's motorcycle dealership. The husband inherited remaining interests in that dealership from his parents during the marriage. At trial, the court found that the dealership was a separately owned asset that became marital property by reason of transmutation. The trial court also made determinations regarding the value of the dealership and the real property upon which it operates. Following these determinations, the trial court rendered what it considered to be an equitable division of the parties' marital assets. Husband has appealed. Because we determine the trial court's classification and valuation of the dealership to be in error, as well as the valuation of the business-related real property, we further determine the overall distribution of marital assets to be in error. We vacate the trial court's judgment with regard to those issues and remand for further proceedings. The balance of the trial court's judgment is affirmed.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 04/14/15
In re Alexis B.
E2014-00943-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Michael Warner

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Alexis B., the minor child (“the Child”) of Katie R. (“Mother”) and Johnny R.B. (“Father”). On August 26, 2013, the Child's paternal grandparents, Johnny B. and Deborah B. (“Grandparents”), filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of both parents and adopt the Child. Father subsequently agreed to surrender his parental rights to the Child, and he is not a party to this appeal. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that grounds existed to terminate the parental rights of Mother upon its finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that Mother had abandoned the Child by willfully failing to provide financial support and willfully failing to visit the Child in the four months preceding the filing of the petition. The court further found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the Child's best interest. Mother has appealed. Having concluded that the evidence preponderates against a finding that Mother had the ability to financially support the Child during the determinative period, we reverse the trial court's finding that Mother abandoned the Child by willfully failing to provide support. We affirm the trial court's judgment in all other respects, including the termination of Mother's parental rights.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 04/14/15
Colette Suzanne Turman v. Fred Turman
W2014-01297-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carma Dennis McGee

The trial court referred this divorce case to a Special Master, indicating that the issues to be decided by the Special Master would be determined by the parties. The Special Master limited her consideration to the valuation of the parties’ property. The trial court subsequently entered an order purporting to resolve all the remaining issues in the case. However, the trial court failed to make specific findings of fact and conclusions of law in its written order. Accordingly, we vacate and remand for further proceedings.

Henry County Court of Appeals 04/14/15
Derek Williamson v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00183-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The Petitioner, Derek Williamson, appeals the Sumner County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction for first degree murder and his life sentence. He contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/14/15