Court Opinions

Format: 01/24/2015
Format: 01/24/2015
State of Tennessee v. James Henry Allen
E2014-00529-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

Defendant, James Henry Allen, was indicted by the Washington County Grand Jury for premeditated first degree murder, unlawful possession of a deadly weapon with the intent to employ it in the commission of a first degree murder, and a violation of an order of protection in connection with the murder of his ex-wife’s cohabiting boyfriend. During trial, the trial court dismissed the charge related to a violation of an order of protection. Defendant was convicted by a jury of first degree murder and unlawful possession of a deadly weapon with the intent to employ it in the commission of a first degree murder. As a result, he was sentenced to an effective life sentence with the possibility of parole. He appeals, challenging the admission into evidence of his statement to the police, the 911 tape, and the damaged trailer door, as well as the sufficiency of the evidence. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we determine: (1) the trial court properly admitted Defendant’s statement into evidence where there was no requirement that it be recorded; (2) the trial court properly admitted the 911 tape into evidence as an excited utterance and to rebut Defendant’s assertion that shots were fired from inside the trailer; (3) the trial court properly admitted the trailer door into evidence where there was ample secondary evidence to support the conclusion that the shots were fired from outside the trailer; and (4) the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction for first degree murder. As a result, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.
 

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Michael J. Inman
E2013-01227-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge David A. Patterson
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

The defendant, Michael Jerome Inman a/k/a Michael Jerome Bivens, entered guilty pleas to six offenses: five counts of theft, which were three Class D felonies, a Class E felony, and a Class A misdemeanor, as well as one count of criminal impersonation, a Class B misdemeanor. He eceived an effective fourteen-year sentence to be served on community corrections. A warrant was issued for violation of the terms of his community corrections sentence. After a hearing, the trial court found that the defendant had violated the terms of his community corrections sentence and ordered him to serve his sentence in the penitentiary. The defendant now appeals, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the defendant to serve his sentence in confinement; and, whether the defendant had a right to be present in court when his letter to the clerk requesting jail credit was discussed. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/23/15
State of Tennessee v. James Henry Allen
E2014-00529-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

Defendant, James Henry Allen, was indicted by the Washington County Grand Jury for premeditated first degree murder, unlawful possession of a deadly weapon with the intent to employ it in the commission of a first degree murder, and a violation of an order of protection in connection with the murder of his ex-wife’s cohabiting boyfriend. During trial, the trial court dismissed the charge related to a violation of an order of protection. Defendant was convicted by a jury of first degree murder and unlawful possession of a deadly weapon with the intent to employ it in the commission of a first degree murder. As a result, he was sentenced to an effective life sentence with the possibility of parole. He appeals, challenging the admission into evidence of his statement to the police, the 911 tape, and the damaged trailer door, as well as the sufficiency of the evidence. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we determine: (1) the trial court properly admitted Defendant’s statement into evidence where there was no requirement that it be recorded; (2) the trial court properly admitted the 911 tape into evidence as an excited utterance and to rebut Defendant’s assertion that shots were fired from inside the trailer; (3) the trial court properly admitted the trailer door into evidence where there was ample secondary evidence to support the conclusion that the shots were fired from outside the trailer; and (4) the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction for first degree murder. As a result, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Tianna M. Amyx
E2014-00820-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The defendant, Tianna M. Amyx, pled guilty to aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, and theft over $500, a Class E felony, and was sentenced as a Range I, standard offender to concurrent terms of four years and two years, respectively, with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. On appeal, she argues that the trial court erred in denying alternative sentencing. After review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/23/15
State of Tennessee v. Shanice L. Dycus
M2012-02297-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge John H. Gasaway, III

We granted review in this case to determine whether the mandatory minimum service requirement of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-432(c) (2010) (the “Drug-Free School Zone Act”) renders offenses under that act ineligible for judicial diversion. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we hold that the mandatory minimum service requirement of the Drug-Free School Zone Act does not render offenses under that act ineligible for judicial diversion. Although the trial court failed to adequately address the appropriate factors on the record, based on our own de novo review, we hold that the record demonstrates that the trial court properly denied the Defendant’s request to be placed on judicial diversion. Accordingly, we reinstate the trial court’s judgments.

Montgomery County Supreme Court 01/23/15
Brenda Benz-Elliott v. Barrett Enterprises, LP et al
M2013-00270-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

We granted permission to appeal to clarify the analysis that should be used to determine the applicable statute of limitations when a complaint alleges more than one claim. We hold that a court must identify the gravamen of each claim alleged to determine the applicable statute of limitations. Identifying the gravamen of a claim requires a court to consider both the legal basis of the claim and the injuryfor which damages are sought. Here, the plaintiff contracted to sell the defendants real property in Rutherford County. The contract provided that the plaintiff would retain ownership of a sixty-foot wide strip of property along Interstate 24 to provide access to her remaining property. The contract also provided that its covenants would survive the closing. The warranty deed failed to include the sixty-foot reservation required by the contract. The plaintiff sued the defendants, alleging claims of breach of contract, intentional misrepresentation, and negligent misrepresentation. The defendants raised several defenses, including the statute of limitations. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s intentionaland negligent misrepresentation claims butruled forthe plaintiff on the breach of contract claim and awarded her $650,000 in damages for the diminution in value of her remaining property due to the lack of the contractually guaranteed access route.  The defendants appealed, raising six issues, including an assertion that the plaintiff’s claim is barred by the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals, focusing almost exclusively on the type of damages awarded, concluded that the gravamen of the plaintiff’s prevailing claim is injury to real property, and as a result, held that the claim is barred by the three-year statute of limitations applicable to “[a]ctions for injuries to personal or real property.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-105(1) (2000 & Supp. 2014). We disagree with the Court of Appeals’ conclusions and hold that the gravamen of the plaintiff’s prevailing claim is breach of contract, to which the six-year statute of limitations for “[a]ctions on contracts not otherwise expressly provided for” applies. Id. § 28-3-109(a)(3) (2000). Because the plaintiff’s claim is not barred by the statute of limitations, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand this matter to the intermediate appellate court for resolution of the other issues the defendants raised on appeal.

Rutherford County Supreme Court 01/23/15
Leslie A. Muse v. Robert L. Jolley, Jr.
E2014-02462-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Telford E. Forgety

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, from the trial court’s denial of a motion to recuse in a divorce proceeding. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by the Wife, Leslie A. Muse (“Wife”), pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court, along with the motion to dismiss this appeal filed by Husband, Robert L. Jolley, Jr. (“Husband”), we conclude that the petition was not timely filed. Accordingly, we grant the motion, and dismiss this appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/23/15
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Bradley County v. #'s Inc. et al.
E2014-00121-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

This appeal stems from an action filed by the State of Tennessee ex rel. Bradley County regarding delinquent real property taxes. The property at issue was sold during a tax sale in 2006. The owners of the property at the time of the tax sale subsequently filed an action to set aside the tax sale, alleging that they were not afforded due process and were never notified of the delinquent tax action. The trial court granted summary judgment to the owners and voided the tax sale due to lack of proper notice. The party who purchased the subject property at the tax sale has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 01/23/15
In Re: Kaliyah S. et al.
E2013-01352-SC-R11-PT
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daniel Ray Swafford

In this petition to terminate the parental rights of a biological parent, we granted permission to appeal to address whether the State is required to prove that it made reasonable efforts to reunify the parent with the child as a precondition to termination.  We hold that it is not. An action to terminate the parental rights of a biological parent is governed by Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-1-113. The language of Section 36-1-113 makes the State’s efforts to assist the respondent parent one of the factors to be considered in determining whether termination of the parent’s rights is in the child’s best interest. After reviewing the language of Section 36-1-113, other pertinent statutes, the legislative history, and caselaw interpreting Section 36-1-113, we hold that, in a termination proceeding, the extent of the efforts made by the State is weighed in the court’s best-interest analysis, but the State need not prove that it made reasonable efforts as an essential component of its petition to terminate parental rights. In so doing, we overrule In re C.M.M., No. M2003-01122-COA-R3-PT, 2004 WL 438326 (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 9, 2004), and its progeny to the extent that those cases required the State to prove reasonable efforts as an essential component of the termination petition. Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and reinstate the judgment of the juvenile court terminating the parental rights of the respondent father.

Bradley County Supreme Court 01/22/15
State of Tennessee v. Patrick Leighton Ryan, Jr.
W2014-00327-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The defendant, Patrick Leighton Ryan, Jr., was convicted of misdemeanor theft under $500 and sentenced to eleven months and twenty-nine days of supervised probation, with credit for time served. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred both by not requiring the State to make an election of offenses or giving a special jury instruction as to unanimity, in excluding a police property inventory from 2005, and in not taking judicial notice of the Grand Junction Police Manual and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/22/15
State of Tennessee v. Carmel Borum aka Carnel Borum
W2014-00179-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The defendant, Carmel Borum, also known as Carnel Borum, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of two felonies – theft and evading arrest. He received an effective sentence of 18 years as a persistent offender. On appeal, he claims that the trial court erroneously admitted testimony about the value of the property in question and that the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions. Based upon our review of the record, the briefs, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/22/15
State of Tennessee v. Artterraces Buchanan
W2014-00058-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant-Appellant, Artterraces Buchanan, pleaded guilty to one count of reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-102. The trial court denied the Defendant’s request for judicial diversion and imposed a two-year sentence involving split confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his application for judicial diversion. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/22/15
Kenneth Eugene Black v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00872-CCA-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The petitioner, Kenneth Eugene Black, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. He pled guilty to two counts of sale of a schedule I controlled substance within a school zone, Class B felonies. As part of the agreement, he received concurrent eight-year Range I sentences to be served at 100%, which is the drug-free school zone release eligibility. The petitioner now contends that he is entitled to post-conviction relief because his guilty plea was not entered knowingly and voluntarily because he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel. Specifically, he contends that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to provide the petitioner with all discovery materials prior to his accepting the plea. Following review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.
 

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/22/15
Edward Faria v. Wilson & Associates, PLLC, et al
M2013-02396-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This appeal arises from a suit by a borrower against a servicing agent and law firm to enjoin a foreclosure sale and to set aside the assignment of the deed of trust. The action was ultimately dismissed on summary judgment. The trial court found that the borrower lacked standing to enjoin the sale because he no longer had an interest in the real property subject to the foreclosure sale. The trial court also found that, to the extent the borrower’s claims sounded in fraud, they were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/21/15
Andrea Janoyan v. Jano Janoyan
E2013-01669-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Daryl R. Fansler

This appeal concerns entitlement to attorneys’ fees under a marital dissolution agreement after one party’s notice of rescission. Wife attempted to rescind her acceptance of the Marital Dissolution Agreement, claiming she was under duress when she entered into the contract. The trial court found that Wife was not under duress and that her attempted rescission was a breach of contract. The trial court also awarded Husband his attorney’s fees. On appeal, Wife maintains that her attempted rescission did not constitute a breach of contract and that, in any event, the amount of attorney’s fees awarded to Husband was unreasonable. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/21/15
Gregory D. Valentine v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00977-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The Petitioner, Gregory D. Valentine, appeals the Sumner County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his pro se petition for post-conviction relief as waived or previously determined.  The State responds that the post-conviction court properly dismissed the Petitioner’s claims without a hearing.   Upon review, we reverse and remand for further proceedings with regard to the Petitioner’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/21/15
In Re Cloey R. et al.
E2014-00924-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge James W. McKenzie

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Cloey R. and Andrea H., the minor children (“Children”) of Leonard H. (“Father”) and Laura R. (“Mother”). The Children were taken into protective custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) on July 26, 2012, upon investigation of environmental neglect and the Children’s exposure to controlled substances. On May 16, 2013, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Father and Mother. Following a bench trial conducted on November 7, 2013, the trial court granted the petition upon its finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that (1) both parents failed to substantially comply with the reasonable responsibilities and requirements set forth in the permanency plan, (2) Father failed to legitimate Cloey R., and (3) Mother abandoned the Children by willfully failing to visit them for at least four months preceding the filing of the termination petition. The court further found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of both Father’s and Mother’s parental rights was in the Children’s best interest. Father has appealed. Upon careful review 1 of the record, we reverse the trial court’s termination of Father’s parental rights for two reasons: (1) no permanency plan was admitted into evidence upon which the trial court’s finding that Father failed to substantially comply with the plan could be based and (2) Father’s standing as a putative biological father precluded the application of the statutory ground of failure to legitimate a child.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 01/21/15
State of Tennessee v. Alexa Williams aka Elizabeth Williams EL
W2014-01457-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Parish

The defendant, Alexa Williams, also known as Elizabeth Williams El, timely appeals pro se her Carroll County Circuit Court jury convictions of one count each of driving a motor vehicle while the privilege to drive was suspended, driving an unregistered automobile, and operating a motor vehicle without evidence of financial responsibility. The defendant claims on appeal (1) that “the trial court erred by issuing an in personam judgment without personal jurisdiction over the blood and flesh woman” and (2) that “the trial court erred in procuring a trial without evidence of a motor vehicle or traffic on the highway.” Upon our review of the record and the briefs in this case, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/15
Maston G. Lyons, III et al. v. Fielding H. Atchley, Jr.
E2013-02342-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence H. Puckett

Maston G. Lyons, III and Linda C. Lyons (“Plaintiffs”) sued attorney Fielding H. Atchley, Jr. (“Defendant”) alleging, in part, that Defendant had breached a duty that “cost the Plaintiffs their fair and complete hearing in Lyons v. Leffew et al.,” and that the alleged breach had “costs [sic] the Plaintiffs their fiduciary interest in said case.” Both sides filed motions for summary judgment. After a hearing on the parties’ motions, the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”) granted Defendant summary judgment. Plaintiffs appeal the grant of summary judgment and the award to Defendant of attorney’s fees for defending against Plaintiffs’ Rule 11 motion for sanctions. We find and hold that Plaintiffs sustained no damage as a result of the alleged action or inaction of Defendant and, therefore, the Trial Court did not err in granting Defendant summary judgment as a matter of law. We further find and hold that the Trial Court did not abuse its discretion in awarding reasonable attorney’s fees to Defendant for opposing Plaintiffs’ Rule 11 motion for sanctions. We affirm the Trial Court’s judgment.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 01/20/15
State of Tennessee v. Andrew Joseph Aborizk
M2013-02835-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County Grand Jury returned an indictment against Defendant, Andrew Joseph Aborizk, charging him with theft of property valued at more than $1,000 but less than $10,000.  Following a jury trial , Defendant was convicted of theft of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1,000.  The trial court imposed a sentence of two years as a Range One standard offender  to be served on supervised probation.  On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his theft conviction because the State failed to prove identity of the perpetrator beyond a reasonable doubt. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm Defendant’s conviction for theft of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1,000.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/15
Alethea Dean-Hayslett, as surviving widow of Jerry Hayslett v. Methodist Healthcare, et al. - Concurring Opinion
W2014-00625-COA-R10-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

I concur in the result reached by the majority Opinion that the trial court erred in imposing additional restrictions on Defendants’ counsel with regard to the requested ex parte interviews in this particular case.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/20/15
Althea Dean-Hayslett, as Surviving Widow of Jerry Hayslett v. Methodist Healthcare, et al.
W2014-00625-COA-R10-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Childers

This is a healthcare liability action. The trial court granted Defendants’ joint motion for a qualified protective order pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(f)(1), but added several conditions not specifically provided in the statute. The trial court denied Defendants’ joint motion for permission to seek an interlocutory appeal, and we granted Defendants’ motion for an extraordinary appeal to this Court under Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. We reverse in part, affirm in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/20/15
Monroe Dodson, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00073-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Petitioner, Monroe Dodson, Jr., pled guilty to one count of aggravated rape, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated burglary, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.  After a sentencing hearing, Petitioner received an effective sentence of eighty-two years.  He now appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his guilty plea was the result of ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.  After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the post-conviction court’s finding that Petitioner has failed to prove his ineffectiveness claim.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/20/15
State of Tennessee v. Ryan T. Brandon
E2014-00591-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Eugene Eblen, Jr.

Defendant, Ryan T. Brandon, was convicted of public intoxication and evading arrest. He received sentences of eleven months, twenty-nine days of supervised probation for evading arrest and thirty days of supervised probation for public intoxication. The sentences were ordered to be served concurrently. On appeal, Defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of his motion for judgment of acquittal on the evading arrest charge, limitation of his crossexamination of the arresting officer, and failure to instruct the jury as to the defense of necessity. We hold that Defendant waived any claim of error with regard to the motion for judgment of acquittal by continuing to participate in the trial after the close of the State’s proof by calling his own witness. However, we review the issue for sufficiency of the evidence. Based upon our review of the record, we hold that the evidence is insufficient to support the charge of evading arrest. The trial court’s judgment as to that conviction is hereby reversed and dismissed. We hold that the evidence is sufficient to support Defendant’s conviction for public intoxication. We also hold that the trial court’s exclusion of impeachment evidence, though in error, was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Finally, we hold that Defendant’s claim as to the jury instructions has been waived for failure to include the jury instructions in the record. The trial court’s judgment as to the public intoxication conviction is hereby affirmed.

Roane County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/15
State of Tennessee v. Jeffery Horskins
W2013-00888-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

A Shelby County Grand Jury returned an indictment against Defendant, Jeffrey Horskins, charging him with attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated burglary, and theft of property valued at more than one-thousand dollars. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, two counts of aggravated burglary, and theft of property valued between $500 and $1,000. The trial court merged the two convictions for aggravated burglary and imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days for reckless endangerment, nine years for aggravated assault, nine years for aggravated burglary, and three years for theft of property. The trial court further found Defendant to be an offender whose record of criminal activity was extensive and ordered Defendant’s sentences for aggravated assault, aggravated burglary, and theft to be served consecutively for an effective twenty-one-year sentence as a Range Two offender. The misdemeanor sentence for reckless endangerment was ordered to be served concurrently to the other sentences. On appeal, Defendant argues that the length of his sentences are excessive and that the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentencing. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/15