Court Opinions

Format: 10/30/2014
Format: 10/30/2014
JIm Ferguson v. Middle Tennessee State University
M2012-00890-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten

A jury found that an employer retaliated against an employee in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”) and awarded the employee compensatory damages. The Court of Appeals reversed the award, holding that the employee had failed to prove that his supervisor had knowledge of his protected activity when she took adverse action against him. We hold that the jury’s verdict is supported by material evidence from which the jury could infer that the supervisor knew that the employee had filed a lawsuit for discrimination when she engaged in retaliatory conduct. We reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals, reinstate the jury verdict, and remand to the Court of Appeals for a review of the award of damages.

Rutherford County Supreme Court 10/29/14
Jim Ferguson v. Middle Tennessee State University
M2012-00890-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

A jury found that an employer retaliated against an employee in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”) and awarded the employee compensatory damages. The Court of Appeals reversed the award, holding that the employee had failed to prove that his supervisor had knowledge of his protected activity when she took adverse action against him. We hold that the jury’s verdict is supported by material evidence from which the jury could infer that the supervisor knew that the employee had filed a lawsuit for discrimination when she engaged in retaliatory conduct. We reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals, reinstate the jury verdict, and remand to the Court of Appeals for a review of the award of damages.

Supreme Court 10/29/14
State of Tennessee v. Jamayl Stoudemire
E2013-02054-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

Defendant, Jamayl Stoudemire, was charged by indictment with three counts of attempted first degree premeditated murder (Counts One through Three), three counts of aggravated assault (Counts Four through Six), and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony (Count Seven). Defendant entered a best interest plea of guilty to three counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony, as charged in Counts Four, Five, and Six. The remaining counts of the indictment were dismissed. The parties agreed that the three counts would run concurrently with the trial court to determine length and manner of service. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to five years for each conviction of aggravated assault to be served concurrently in the Department of Correction as a Range I offender. The trial court also denied Defendant’s request to be placed on judicial diversion. Defendant raises two issues on appeal. He argues that his five-year sentence is excessive and that the trial court should have ordered judicial diversion. After a thorough review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/29/14
State of Tennessee v. Adrian R. Brown
E2014-00673-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carroll L. Ross

The appellant, Adrian R. Brown, was convicted in 1995 of three counts of the sale of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine, a Class C felony, and one count of the sale of more than 0.5 grams of cocaine, a Class B felony. The appellant was given concurrent sentences of eight years’ imprisonment for the Class B felony and six years’ imprisonment for each Class C felony. The appellant entered the community corrections program, and he was recommended for a transfer to probation one year later. In October 2003, shortly before his eight-year sentence was set to expire, a violation of probation affidavit was completed. However, the petition for revocation of the appellant’s probation was dismissed in 2005. The appellant now challenges his sentences as illegal, asserting that he did not receive the pretrial jail credits to which he was entitled. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the issue is moot, and accordingly, the trial court properly dismissed the appellant’s motion to correct his sentence.

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/29/14
State of Tennessee v. Quinisha Renee Brabson
E2013-02335-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rebecca J. Stern

The defendant, Quinisha Renee Brabson, was convicted after a jury trial of second degree murder, a Class A felony. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence, asserting that the defendant should either have been acquitted as acting in selfdefense or convicted only of the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict, and we accordingly affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/29/14
State of Tennessee v. Eric Parker
E2013-02339-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.

The defendant, Eric Parker, was convicted after a jury trial of aggravated domestic assault by reckless conduct, a Class D felony, and he was sentenced by the trial court to four years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the defendant asserts that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict; (2) the proof at trial constituted a variance from or constructive amendment to the indictment; (3) the trial court erred in denying his motions related to a continuance to allow for expert testimony; (4) the trial court erred in not giving a corrective instruction regarding improper prosecutorial argument; (5) the trial court erred in admitting certain evidence at sentencing; and (6) the trial court misapplied enhancement and mitigating factors and improperly refused alternative sentencing. After a thorough review of the record, we discern no error and affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/29/14
State of Tennessee v. Randy Ray Ramsey
E2013-01951-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ben W. Hooper, II

A Cocke County Jury convicted Defendant, Randy Ray Ramsey, of second-degree murder. He received a sentence of twenty-five years to be served concurrently with a federal sentence for drug-related convictions. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for second degree murder and that the trial court improperly sentenced him. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Cocke County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/29/14
Michael J. Shipp v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00065-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

Petitioner, Michael J. Shipp, stands convicted of first degree premeditated murder and aggravated robbery and is serving an effective life sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  In his post-conviction petition, petitioner claimed that he did not receive effective assistance of counsel at trial because his attorney failed to seek suppression of his statement to the police.  The post-conviction court denied relief.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/29/14
Nelson V. Plana v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00359-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Paul Summers

The petitioner, Nelson V. Plana, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged the petitioner’s 2004 Montgomery County Circuit Court jury convictions of two counts of first degree murder.  In this appeal, the petitioner claims entitlement to post-conviction relief based upon the allegedly ineffective assistance of his trial counsel.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/29/14
State of Tennessee v. Robert A. Bass
M2013-02717-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, Robert A. Bass, was convicted by a Maury County Circuit Court jury of assault, a Class A misdemeanor.  See T.C.A. § 39-13-101(a)(2) (2014).  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months, twenty-nine days on probation.   On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury regarding self-defense.  We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for a new trial.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/29/14
State of Tennessee v. Dana Keith Woods
W2010-02409-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Petitioner, Dana Keith Woods, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of relief from his convictions for first degree premeditated murder, felony murder, aggravated burglary, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, and attempted first degree murder. The trial court merged the convictions for first degree premeditated murder and felony murder and also merged the convictions for attempted first degree murder and aggravated assault. For his convictions, the Petitioner received an effective sentence of life without the possibility of parole plus fifty years. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/28/14
State of Tennessee v. Dannaer Beard
W2013-00502-CCA-MR3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

A Shelby County jury found Appellant Dannaer Beard guilty of criminal attempt: second degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced him to an effective term of twelve years' imprisonment. Appellant now challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his conviction for criminal attempt: second degree murder. Appellant also argues that the trial judge erred in not merging the two aggravated assault convictions. Because a jury could find that Appellant’s stabbing of the victim was a substantial step in a knowing attempt to kill Mr. Moore, we affirm the criminal attempt conviction. Additionally, we find that the two aggravated assault charges arose from a single incident, and we remand the case for entry of a single judgment noting merger of the two offenses in counts 2 and 3.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/28/14
Rebecca A. Dixon Tatum v. Don Baron Tatum
E2013-02462-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence H. Puckett

This appeal arises from a divorce action. Following a hearing, the trial court awarded a divorce to both parties on the ground of inappropriate marital conduct. The court also awarded transitional alimony to Wife. Wife appeals the court’s finding that she engaged in inappropriate marital conduct, while Husband appeals the court’s award of alimony to Wife. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 10/28/14
State of Tennessee v. Racris Thomas
W2013-00851-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Racris Thomas, of two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated robbery, one count of attempted aggravated robbery, and one count of being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of seventy years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is not sufficient to sustain his convictions and that the trial court erred by refusing to declare a mistrial after the jury instructions revealed that the felony underlying the charge for being a felon in possession of a handgun was a prior aggravated robbery. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/14
Michael Bo Heath v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00590-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The Petitioner, Michael Bo Heath, appeals the Sullivan County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for second degree murder and three counts of tampering with or fabricating evidence and his effective twenty-seven-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/14
Romelio R. Ruiz v. Sheila Lea Ruiz
E2013-02142-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: JudgeW. Neil Thomas, III

In this divorce case, the appellant Sheila Lea Ruiz (Wife) argues (1) that the trial court erred in its calculation of the net marital estate, and (2) that the award of alimony to her should have been in futuro rather than for a fixed five-year period. We hold that, although the trial court unintentionally charged Husband twice with an indebtedness arising out of a loan he took out against his 401(k) retirement account, the overall division of the net marital estate is equitable when the true total value of the net marital estate is considered. Regarding alimony, we hold that, considering the relevant statutory factors, particularly the some 30- year duration of the marriage, the state of Wife’s health, the huge disparity in the parties’ earning capacities, Wife’s need for support, and Romelio R. Ruiz’s (Husband) ability to pay, the alimony award should be modified to make it an award in futuro. Accordingly, we modify the alimony award by changing it from $1,300 per month for five years to $1,000 per month in futuro until Wife dies or remarries. We remand this case to the trial court for a determination of Wife’s reasonable attorney’s fees at trial and on appeal, said awards to be in the nature of alimony in solido.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 10/27/14
State of Tennessee v. Lee Ann Lynch
E2014-00246-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

The Defendant, Lee Ann Lynch, appeals the Blount County Circuit Court’s order revoking her community corrections sentence for her conviction for promotion of methamphetamine manufacture and ordering her four-year sentence into execution. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking her community corrections sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/14
Chris Tavino v. Victoria Ashley Spear Tavino
E2013-02587-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Michael W. Moyers

This case involves a post-divorce petition to modify the parties’ permanent parenting plan as to their minor child and to terminate the child support obligation owed by the father. The parties were divorced in 2002. The original permanent parenting plan designated the mother as the primary residential parent, awarded co-parenting time to the father, and set the father’s child support obligation in the amount of $1,158.00 monthly. In April 2011, the father petitioned for a modification of the parenting plan and child support, averring that the oldest child had reached the age of majority and that the youngest child had been residing exclusively with the father since October 2009. In February 2012, the trial court entered an agreed permanent parenting plan designating the father as the primary residential parent and an agreed order terminating the father’s wage assignment but reserving the issue of child support. In July 2012, following a settlement conference and a subsequent hearing, the trial court entered another agreed order providing, inter alia, that the mother begin paying the father $409.00 monthly in child support. Additionally, the mother was ordered to pay $500.00 monthly toward a total award of $20,057.00 owed to the father, including a child support arrearage of $6,135.00, reimbursement for child support overpayments in the amount of $10,422.00, and $3,500.00 toward the father’s attorney’s fees. The mother’s counsel withdrew representation pursuant to the agreed order. Acting without benefit of counsel, the mother subsequently filed a petition in October 2012, averring that her income had been
misrepresented for purposes of calculating her child support obligation. Following a bench hearing, the trial court entered an order in March 2013, finding that the mother had failed to allege a change in circumstances warranting a modification of her ongoing child support obligation. Approximately four months later, the mother, acting through her current counsel, filed a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02 motion to alter or amend the judgment. In addition to requesting that the trial court set aside the July 2012 agreed order, the mother averred that the father was not parenting the minor child properly.

Knox County Court of Appeals 10/27/14
State of Tennessee v. Broderick Devonte Fayne
W2012-01488-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Gary R. Wade
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The defendant and an accomplice were indicted for aggravated burglary and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. At the trial of the defendant, the court denied a request by the defense for a special jury instruction on the definition of actual and constructive possession as an element of employment of a firearm.  The jury convicted the defendant on both charges, and the trial court imposed an effective nine-year sentence. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by denying his request for the special jury instruction and by failing to instruct the jury on the crime of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felonyas a lesser included offense. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court. We hold that possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony qualifies as a lesser included offense of employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. In this instance, however, the defendant waived the issue, and he is not entitled to relief under the plain error doctrine. We further hold that the trial court did not err by refusing the defendant’s request for a special instruction on the definition of possession. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals is affirmed.
 

Tipton County Supreme Court 10/27/14
State of Tennessee v. Corey M. Willis
M2014-00252-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

The defendant, Corey M. Willis, was charged with various driving under the influence (DUI) offenses.  He filed a motion to suppress, alleging that the police lacked reasonable suspicion to perform the traffic stop.  The trial court granted the motion, and the State appeals.  Upon review, we affirm the trial court’s ruling.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/14
John J. Kratochvil v. James M. Holloway, Warden
M2014-00600-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

The petitioner, John J. Kratochvil, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, seeking relief from his conviction of second degree murder.  The habeas corpus court denied the petition, and the petitioner appeals.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/27/14
Patricia Hawkins v. Maury County Board of Education, et al.
M2013-01083-WC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Special Judge E. Riley Anderson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.

The employee filed a workers compensation action alleging that she suffered a lower back injury in the course of her employment as a school counselor. Her employer denied the claim. The trial court found that the employee failed to prove that the injury had occurred in the course and scope of her employment and dismissed the case. Judgment was entered accordingly, and the employee appealed. The appeal was referred to the Special Workers Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Workers Compensation Panel 10/23/14
State of Tennessee v. Omar Robinson
E2014-00393-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carroll L. Ross

Appellant, Omar Robinson, pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of cocaine with intent to sell and two counts of simple possession of marijuana. Appellant later filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, which the trial court summarily dismissed, holding that appellant’s sentence had expired. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred by summarily dismissing his motion because an illegal sentence may be challenged at any time pursuant to Rule 36.1. The State concedes that this case should be remanded to the trial court. Following our review of the parties’ briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Loudon County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/22/14
State of Tennessee v. Caleb Lawrence Mullins
W2013-02691-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Caleb Lawrence Mullins, pleaded guilty to second degree murder, theft of property, and tampering with evidence. The trial court sentenced him to serve an effective sentence of thirty-seven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court misapplied one enhancement factor and two consecutive sentencing factors. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/22/14
Gary Guseinov v. Synergy Ventures, Inc, et al
M2014-00213-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Timothy L. Easter

This case involves the enrollment of a foreign judgment in Tennessee. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiff, effectively enrolling the foreign judgment pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution and Tennessee’s Uniform Foreign Judgment Enforcement Act. On appeal, the defendant argues that the grant of summary judgment was improper because he allegedly satisfied the foreign judgment.  He further argues that the trial court denied him due process when it declined to conduct an evidentiary hearing. We hold that satisfaction is not a defense to the enrollment of a foreign judgment pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution or Tennessee’s Uniform Foreign Judgment Enforcement Act. Further, we discern no due process violation from the trial court’s decision not to conduct an evidentiary hearing. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 10/21/14