Court Opinions

Format: 05/26/2017
Format: 05/26/2017
In Re March 9, 2012 Order
W2016-02015-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

This appeal involves an attempt to set aside an allegedly void order pursuant to Rule 60.02(3) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The trial court dismissed the petition for multiple reasons, including res judicata. We affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/26/17
Kristie Linley Sibley v. Corey D. Sibley
M2015-01795-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge John H. Gasaway, III

This is a divorce case. Wife was granted a divorce due to Husband’s inappropriate marital conduct. The trial court then made a division of the parties’ marital property and debt, which included an award to Wife of the marital residence and the equity therein. The court further awarded Wife $1,100 per month for 36 months in rehabilitative alimony and $3,000 in attorney’s fees as alimony in solido. Husband appeals the trial court’s awards of the marital residence and alimony to Wife. Wife seeks attorney’s fees for defending this appeal. For the following reasons, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings. Specifically, we affirm the trial court’s award of the marital residence to Wife, and we vacate and remand for additional findings on the issues of alimony and attorney’s fees. We deny Wife’s request for attorney’s fees on appeal.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Nathan Bernard Lalone
E2016-00439-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rebecca J. Stern

Defendant, Nathan Bernard Lalone, was convicted of one count of first degree murder and one count of attempted first degree murder. He raises the following issues on appeal: (1) the trial court erred in denying a motion to suppress his statement to police because he had invoked his right to remain silent; (2) the trial court erred in denying a motion for leave to file an interlocutory appeal of the suppression issue; (3) the trial court erred in denying a motion for judgment of acquittal and motion for new trial because the accomplice testimony was not sufficiently corroborated; (4) the trial court erred in allowing the State to play a videotaped interview of a witness as a prior inconsistent statement; and (5) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. Upon our review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude that the trial court erred in denying Defendant’s motion to suppress and that the error was not harmless. Furthermore, we conclude that the trial court committed plain error in admitting a witness’s recorded statement into evidence without following the Rules of Evidence with regard to prior inconsistent statements. For these two reasons, we reverse Defendant’s convictions and remand the case for a new trial.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/25/17
Tamala Teague, et al. v. Garnette Kidd, et al.
E2016-01995-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri S. Bryant

In this fraudulent conveyance action, a trial by jury resulted in judgment for decedent’s estate against defendants. Defendants filed a motion for a new trial asserting that: (1) the trial court erred in failing to grant a mistrial after counsel for decedent’s estate made a comment about one of the defendant’s credibility from “past cases” purportedly in the presence of the jury; and (2) no evidence supports the jury verdict. The trial court denied the post-trial motion and affirmed the jury verdict. Defendants appealed. We affirm.

Polk County Court of Appeals 05/25/17
In Re: Jayson M.
E2016-02286-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by willful failure to visit, contending that he was not properly notified of the hearing to terminate his rights and was denied his right to counsel. Upon review of the record, we vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/25/17
Katrina Parrish v. Michael Griggs
W2015-02504-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James Y. Ross

This appeal involves a petition to establish paternity, which was filed when the child was a teenager. DNA testing established the father as the biological father of the child. In the father’s counter-petition for custody, he claimed that, shortly after the child’s birth, the mother informed him that he was not the child’s father. After a two-day trial, the juvenile court entered an order establishing the father’s parentage, naming the mother primary residential parent, and changing the child’s surname to the father’s surname. The court also ordered the father to pay child support retroactive to the date of the child’s birth. On appeal, the father challenges the court’s decision regarding retroactive child support and the court’s exclusion of certain documents from the appellate record. After reviewing the record, we conclude that the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in denying the father’s request for a deviation from the child support guidelines. We also conclude that the court’s error in excluding documents from the appellate record was harmless in this instance. However, we conclude that the court erred in ordering the child’s surname to be changed from Mother’s to Father’s. Therefore, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 05/25/17
State of Tennessee v. Eric Dwayne Wilson
M2016-00822-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

Defendant, Eric Dwayne Wilson, in a jury trial, was convicted of third offense driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI), and of violating the implied consent law following a bench trial. Defendant pleaded nolo contendere to failure to stop at a stop sign and failure to have each required lamp and stoplight in operating condition. Defendant received a sentence of eleven months, twenty-nine days, with three hundred days of confinement in the county jail and the remainder of the sentence on supervised probation. He was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine, and his license was revoked for six years. Concerning the implied consent violation, the judgment form indicates that Defendant’s driver’s license was revoked for one year “consecutive to any revocation or suspension currently in effect.” Defendant was also sentenced to thirty days each for failure to stop at a stop sign and failure to have each required lamp and stoplight in operating condition to be served concurrently with the DUI charge. On appeal, Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for DUI and that there was no proof relating to the implied consent form and the search warrant. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/25/17
Stephen Wayne Shreve v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01743-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance

The Petitioner, Stephen Wayne Shreve, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his guilty pleas to two counts of aggravated burglary, one count of attempted aggravated burglary, and two counts of theft and his effective ten-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he was given an illegal sentence and that he entered his guilty pleas involuntarily and unknowingly. We affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Gregory T. Phelps
E2016-00918-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Defendant, Gregory T. Phelps, appeals from the Knox County Criminal Court’s revocation of his probation for his convictions for felony drug possession and unlawful possession of a firearm and order that he serve his effective four-year sentence in confinement. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his probation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/17
Jason Baine v. Brenda Woods
W2016-00583-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ricky L. Wood

A father appeals the denial of his petition to modify a permanent parenting plan. The juvenile court found no material change in circumstance had occurred sufficient to modify the primary residential parent designation. The court also denied the father’s subsequent motion to alter or amend the judgment. Because the father failed to file a transcript or a statement of the evidence, we presume that the evidence presented at trial supported the court’s determination that no material change in circumstance occurred. Therefore, we affirm both the judgment of the juvenile court and the denial of the father’s motion to alter or amend the judgment to conform to the evidence presented at trial. We also find that this appeal is frivolous.

Court of Appeals 05/24/17
In Re Martese P.
W2016-01922-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Christy R. Little

This appeal arises from the termination of Mother’s parental rights. The child was removed from Mother’s custody in November 2013, when the child was twelve months old, after Mother and the child tested positive for drugs. On the petition of the Department of Children’s Services, the juvenile court adjudicated the child dependent and neglected based on the finding that Mother committed severe child abuse as defined in Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102. In September 2014, DCS placed the child in the custody of Petitioners. One year later, Petitioners filed a petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights. The juvenile court terminated Mother’s parental rights on the ground of severe child abuse and the finding that termination of her rights was in the child’s best interest. Mother appealed. We affirm.

Madison County Court of Appeals 05/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Wilson-Concurring
W2015-00699-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

My general disdain for the so-called “good faith exception” is fully set forth in my concurring opinion the first time that this case was before this panel. State v. Christopher Wilson, W2015-00699-CCA-R9-CD, 2016 WL 1627145, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, April 21, 2016) (Woodall, P.J., concurring opinion). In light of our supreme court’s embracing of the “good faith exception” in State v. Reynolds, 504 S.W.3d 283 (Tenn. 2016), there is no need to repeat my firm belief that the “good faith exception” should never be recognized in Tennessee. As a judge of an intermediate court, I am required to follow specific precedent of a higher court, in this case, the Tennessee Supreme Court. State v. Irick, 906 S.W.2d 440, 443 (Tenn. 1995). I fully accept the principle of law that requires me to follow controlling legal authority even when I do not agree. With all due respect, I concur in results only.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Wilson
W2015-00699-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Defendant, Christopher Wilson, filed a Rule 9 interlocutory appeal seeking our review of the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence. The Defendant filed a motion to suppress the results of his blood alcohol test based upon a violation of Missouri v. McNeely, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013). The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing and found that a “good faith exception” to the Defendant’s forced blood draw existed and denied the Defendant’s motion. The Defendant filed an application for an interlocutory appeal, which the trial court granted. On appeal, the Defendant contended that the trial court erred when it denied the Defendant’s motion to suppress based upon a “good faith exception” to the exclusionary rule. After review, we concluded that the trial court erred when it denied the Defendant’s motion to suppress because, at that time, there was not a good faith exception to the exclusionary rule. State v. Christopher Wilson, W2015-00699-CCA-R9-CD, 2016 WL 1627145, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, April 21, 2016). On November 22, 2016, the Tennessee Supreme Court granted Defendant’s application for permission to appeal and remanded the case to this court for reconsideration in light of the supreme court’s recent opinion in State v. Reynolds, 504 S.W.3d 283 (Tenn. 2016). Upon reconsideration in light of Reynolds, we conclude that the officer acted with reasonable good-faith reliance on binding precedent in effect at the time. Accordingly, we reinstate and affirm the trial court’s denial of the Defendant’s motion to suppress.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Carl Adkins
W2015-01810-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan

Defendant, Carl Adkins, was found guilty by a jury of the offense of rape of a child and was sentenced to serve twenty-five years in the Department of Correction. In this appeal, Defendant challenges the legal sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction, specifically asserting that (1) his identity as the perpetrator was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt because the victim could not identify him in court, and (2) the victim gave contradictory testimony at trial under oath. Following a careful review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Doyan Anderson
W2015-02405-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Defendant, Doyan Anderson, was indicted for aggravated assault involving the use or display of a deadly weapon, a Class C felony; aggravated assault based on violation of a court order, a Class C felony; domestic assault, a Class A misdemeanor; and unlawful possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony involving the use or attempted use of violence, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-102(a)(1)(A)(iii), -13-102(c), -13-111, -17-1307. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of domestic assault and both counts of aggravated assault. The jury acquitted the Defendant of the unlawful possession of a firearm charge. The trial court merged the domestic assault conviction into the aggravated assault conviction based on violation of a court order. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a career offender and imposed a total effective sentence of thirty years’ incarceration. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction for aggravated assault involving the use or display of a deadly weapon and (2) that the trial court committed plain error by failing to require the State to make an election of the distinct conduct it was relying upon regarding the charge of aggravated assault based on violation of a court order. After the initial filing of this opinion, we granted the State’s Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 39 petition to rehear to allow for supplemental briefing on the issue of whether the Defendant’s aggravated assault convictions should be merged. Following our review, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions. However, we merge the Defendant’s two convictions for aggravated assault and remand the case to the trial court for entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting said merger and the resulting sentence of fifteen years’ incarceration.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/17
Jimmy D. Ogle v. Julie D. Duff
E2016-01295-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex A. Dale

Husband and Wife were married for approximately five and one-half years when Husband filed a complaint for divorce. Wife filed a counter-complaint for a divorce. The trial court granted the parties a divorce based on stipulated grounds, classified the parties’ assets as separate or marital, and divided the marital estate. Husband appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in (1) divesting a revocable trust of all assets and refusing to enforce a valid postnuptial agreement associated with the revocable trust; (2) classifying the increase in value of the marital residence as marital property; (3) classifying the increase in value of Husband’s premarital IRA as marital property; and (4) dividing the marital estate equally between the parties given the short duration of the marriage. We affirm as modified and deny Wife’s request for an award of attorney fees on appeal.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 05/24/17
In Re: Colby L.
E2016-01785-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Pamela A. Fleenor

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by willful failure to visit and support, contending that her failure to visit and support was not willful. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/24/17
Peter M. Napolitano v. Board of Professional Responsibility
M2016-00869-SC-R3-BP
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Ben H. Cantrell

This matter initially originated from a fee dispute between attorney Peter M. Napolitano (“Attorney”) and his client Gayle Connelly (“Client”). Client filed a complaint with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility (“the Board”) regarding the fee dispute in 2008. The Board dismissed this complaint in 2010 without imposing any sanctions. Client sued Attorney over the fee dispute and, after Attorney was deposed in conjunction with the lawsuit, Client filed a second complaint with the Board in 2012. This second complaint alleged that Attorney had mishandled funds in his trust account and lied under oath. The Board prosecuted this second complaint, resulting in a hearing before a hearing panel (“the Panel”). The Panel determined that Attorney had committed ethical violations related to his trust account and by lying under oath. Accordingly, the Panel imposed sanctions against Attorney, including a five-year suspension of Attorney’s law license, with one year of active suspension. Attorney and the Board both sought review in circuit court. The circuit court modified the Panel’s sanctions in part but affirmed the five-year suspension. Both Attorney and the Board sought review by this Court, with Attorney seeking a lesser punishment and the Board seeking disbarment. Additionally, both parties disagree with the Panel’s order of $7,500 in restitution to Client. We hold that the five-year suspension is appropriate and that the Panel did not err in ordering $7,500 in restitution. Accordingly, we affirm the circuit court’s judgment but modify it by adding the requirement of a practice monitor during Attorney’s probationary period.

Montgomery County Supreme Court 05/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Rudy Vincent Dunn
M2016-01935-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forrest A. Durard

The Defendant, Rudy Vincent Dunn, appeals from the Marshall County Circuit Court’s revocation of his probation for his conviction for felony drug possession and order that he serve the remainder of his one-year, three-month sentence in confinement. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to serve his sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/17
State of Tennessee v. Jonathan Gutierrez
M2015-01235-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Appellant, Jonathan Gutierrez, was convicted in the Davidson County Criminal Court of one count of first degree premeditated murder and four counts of aggravated assault and received an effective sentence of life plus sixteen years in confinement. On appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his murder conviction and two of his aggravated assault convictions, that the trial court committed plain error by failing to declare a mistrial when the State did not produce a codefendant’s statement before trial, that the State committed plain error by giving improper closing argument, that the trial court erred by ordering consecutive sentencing, and that his life sentence is unconstitutional. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/17
William Dale Alsup v. David C. Alsup
W2016-00925-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carma Dennis McGee

This is a declaratory judgment case. Decedent, mother to the parties, died testate, leaving a holographic will that divided her real property between her two sons, David Alsup/Appellant and William Alsup/Appellee. The probate court admitted the will to probate. Following completion of the probate proceeding, William obtained a survey dividing the property as provided for in Decedent’s will. David refused to accept the survey procured by William, and William then filed this action to quiet title and for ejectment. David filed an answer but did not file a counterclaim or a countervailing survey. William moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Henry County Court of Appeals 05/23/17
Elizabeth Eberbach v. Christopher Eberbach
M2014-01811-SC-R11
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

We granted this appeal to determine whether the Court of Appeals may exercise discretion and decline to award appellate attorney’s fees when the marital dissolution agreement at issue contains a provision entitling the prevailing party to an award of such fees. In this case, Husband and Wife were parties to a marital dissolution agreement that was incorporated into their final divorce decree (“the Parties’ MDA”). The Parties’ MDA contained a provision for the award of attorney’s fees to the prevailing party in any subsequent legal proceedings. Following a post-divorce proceeding that resulted in the trial court granting relief and awarding attorney’s fees to Wife, Husband appealed. Wife also prevailed on appeal and sought an award of appellate attorney’s fees from the Court of Appeals under a statutory provision and under the Parties’ MDA. Exercising its discretion, the Court of Appeals declined to award the requested fees under the statute. The Court of Appeals erroneously failed to separately consider an award of the requested fees under the Parties’ MDA. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeals’ judgment and remand this matter for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

Williamson County Supreme Court 05/23/17
State of Tennessee v. Michael C. Bolden
E2016-01266-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Eugene Eblen

The defendant, Michael C. Bolden, appeals his Morgan County Criminal Court jury conviction of aggravated rape of a child, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on rape of a child as a lesser included offense. We affirm the conviction and sentence but remand for correction of a clerical error in the judgment.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/17
State of Tennessee v. Joshua D. Ketchum
M2016-00685-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

In February 2015, a Maury County jury convicted Joshua D. Ketchum (“the Defendant”) of attempted robbery, for which he received a sentence of seven years’ incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) his sentence is excessive; and (3) the trial court committed plain error by questioning the Defendant during his allocution. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/17
State of Tennessee v. Dewayne D. Fleming
M2015-01774-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

Defendant, Dewayne D. Fleming, was indicted for one count of aggravated burglary, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated rape, and two counts of aggravated robbery. Defendant was convicted by a jury as charged. The trial court sentenced Defendant to six years for the aggravated burglary conviction; 12 years for each aggravated robbery conviction; 25 years for the aggravated rape conviction; and 25 years for each of the two especially aggravated kidnapping convictions. The trial court found Defendant to be a dangerous offender and imposed partial consecutive sentencing. The court ordered Defendant’s aggravated robbery sentences to run concurrently with each other and his especially aggravated kidnapping sentences to run concurrently with each other. However, the court ordered that Defendant’s sentences for aggravated robbery, especially aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated rape run consecutively, for an effective sentence of 62 years. In this appeal as of right, Defendant asserts that: 1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions because the accomplice testimony was uncorroborated; 2) the trial court erred by instructing the jury on theories of criminal liability that were not included in the indictment; 3) Defendant’s convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping violate due process because the State failed to establish that the confinement was greater than necessary to commit the other felonies; and 4) the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentencing. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/17