Court Opinions

Format: 11/26/2014
Format: 11/26/2014
Jeremy Shane Grooms v. Gerald McAlister, Warden
E2014-01249-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex Ogle

In 2009, the Petitioner, Jeremy Shane Grooms, pleaded guilty to theft of property valued over $1,000 and aggravated burglary, and he was sentenced to eight years. One year of his sentence was to be served in jail, with the remainder to be served on community corrections. In December of 2009, a warrant was issued for the Petitioner’s arrest, alleging that he had violated his community corrections sentence by driving under the influence (“DUI”) and by attempting to break into and enter a vehicle. The warrant stated that the Petitioner had been sentenced to twelve years of community corrections for his original convictions. In 2014, the Petitioner filed a petition for habeas corpus relief, contending that his sentence had expired. The trial court dismissed the Petitioner’s petition. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the trial court erred when it dismissed his petition because “it met the qualifications for relief under the statute.” The State counters that the appeal is untimely and further that the habeas corpus court properly dismissed the petition. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s dismissal of the Petitioner’s petition for habeas corpus relief.

Cocke County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/25/14
Claude R. Ellis v. Melisa Jane Godfrey Ellis
E2013-02408-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

The issue on this appeal is whether the parties’ prenuptial agreement (the agreement) is valid and enforceable. The trial court held that it was not. The court did so based upon its finding that Claude R. Ellis (Husband) failed to prove that he provided a full and fair disclosure of his assets to Melisa Jane Godfrey Ellis (Wife) before the agreement was executed. The trial court further found (1) that, given the date the draft agreement was furnished to wife, she did not have an opportunity to seek independent counsel for advice; (2) that the agreement was unfair; and (3) that Wife was under duress when the draft was presented to her. Applying the principles set forth by the Supreme Court in Randolph v. Randolph, 937 S.W.2d 815 (Tenn. 1996), and its progeny, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 11/25/14
State of Tennessee v. Justin Andrew Jones
E2014-00036-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex Henry Ogle

Appellant, Justin Andrew Jones, pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of an intoxicant and was sentenced to eleven months and twenty- ine days, suspended to probation after forty-eight hours of incarceration. As part of the plea agreement, appellant reserved a certified question of law in which he challenged the denial of his motion to suppress. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress because the arresting officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop appellant and because the officer was acting outside of his community caretaking function when he stopped appellant. Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we dismiss appellant’s appeal.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/25/14
In Re Chelsea B. et al.
E2014-00758-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daniel G. Boyd

This is a termination of parental rights case involving three minor children. In April 2012, temporary custody of the children was granted to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”), and the children were placed in foster care. DCS subsequently filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother and father on September 24, 2013. The petition alleged, as statutory grounds for termination, abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, persistent conditions, and severe child abuse. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition as to the mother upon finding that DCS had proven by clear and convincing evidence the grounds of (1) abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home and (2) persistence of the conditions leading to removal. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest. The mother has appealed.1 Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 11/25/14
In Re: Valena E.
W2014-00719-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, and we therefore have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal. Consequently, this appeal is dismissed.

McNairy County Court of Appeals 11/25/14
Ann C. Akard v. Wayne F. Akard
E2013-00818-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge John S. McLellan, III

This is a divorce case. After the trial court entered the final decree of divorce and awarded Wife/Appellee attorney’s fees associated with a motion to compel, Husband/Appellant filed this appeal. Although Husband did not formally file a motion to recuse either trial judge involved in this case, his appeal centers on alleged judicial and opposing counsel misconduct. Husband also seeks a new trial. We affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 11/25/14
State of Tennessee v. Justin William Voto
E2013-02652-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

In 2008, the Defendant, Justin William Voto, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and was granted judicial diversion for a period of ten years. In 2013, the Defendant’s supervising officer filed a warrant to revoke his judicial diversion based upon new charges. At subsequent hearings, the trial court revoked the Defendant’s judicial diversion, entered a judgment of conviction, and sentenced him to ten years of supervised probation. The Defendant filed a notice of appeal. While the appeal was pending, the Defendant’s probation officer filed a warrant to revoke his probation based upon the Defendant’s failure to follow probation requirements, and the trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation sentence and ordered him to serve his sentence in confinement. In this consolidated appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it revoked his judicial diversion and his probation sentence. The Defendant also asserts that the trial court’s imposition of a ten-year sentence was improper because  the proper range in this case is three to six years. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment revoking the Defendant’s judicial diversion, vacate the ten-year sentence imposed, and remand for a sentencing hearing.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/24/14
State of Tennessee v. Larry Lee Smith
E2013-01162-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

A Knox County Criminal Court jury found the Defendant, Larry Lee Smith, guilty of aggravated rape, a Class A felony, and two counts of  ggravated kidnapping, Class B felonies. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-502, -304. The trial court merged the two counts of aggravated kidnapping and sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of life without parole. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce evidence of his prior felony convictions; and (2) the trial court erred in the manner in which it allowed the State to present proof of his prior convictions. Finding no reversible error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/24/14
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Duff
E2013-01582-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

A Knox County Criminal Court jury found the Defendant, Gregory Duff, guilty of two counts of aggravated kidnapping, Class B felonies. See T.C.A. § 39-13-304. The trial court merged the two counts and sentenced him as a Range II, multiple offender to nineteen years’ imprisonment at 100 percent release eligibility. In this appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred in admitting 911 recordings into evidence. Upon review, we affirm the judgment 1 of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/24/14
Houston Isley v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00969-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomerry, Jr.

The petitioner, Houston Isley, appeals pro se from the summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged his 2012 convictions of aggravated sexual battery, incest, and attempted rape of a child and which was styled as requesting deoxyribonucleic acid “DNA”) analysis. Because the petitioner failed to allege any basis to support an order for DNA analysis and because his petition for post-conviction relief is otherwise procedurally barred, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/24/14
Tray D. Turner v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00666-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The petitioner, Tray D. Turner, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2010 Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of aggravated robbery and resisting arrest, claiming that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/24/14
M&T Bank v. Joycelyn A. Parks, et al.
W2013-02580-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Russell

The trial court dismissed this detainer appeal for failure to post a bond in compliance with Tennessee Code Annotated Section 28-18-130(b)(2). Because Appellant’s brief contains no argument regarding the applicability of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 28-18-130(b)(2), we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/24/14
In Re Serenity S.
W2014-00080-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Christy R. Little

This is a termination of parental rights case brought by the guardian ad litem. The trial court terminated Mother/Appellant’s parental rights on the grounds of severe child abuse pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-1-113(g)(4), and persistence of conditions under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-1-113(g)(3). The trial court also found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. Because there is clear and convincing evidence in the record to support both the grounds for termination of Mother’s parental rights and the trial court’s finding on best interest, we affirm and remand.

Madison County Court of Appeals 11/24/14
Barbara Lynn Horine v. James Alan Horine
E2013-02415-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Michael Warner

In this divorce appeal, Wife appeals the trial court’s rulings with regard to the calculation of child support, the award of alimony, the requirement that she reimburse Husband for one-half of the mortgage payments on the marital home until the home is sold, and the trial court’s refusal to order an income assignment to secure Husband’s child support obligation. We vacate the trial court’s judgment with regard to child support and alimony, and remand for the entry of an order containing appropriate findings of fact and conclusions of law. We affirm the trial court’s order requiring Wife to reimburse Husband for the mortgage payment. However, we reverse the trial court’s refusal to order an income assignment to secure the child support obligation. Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and reversed in part.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 11/24/14
State of Tennessee v. Shawn O'Neal Taliaferro
W2013-01620-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

A Haywood County jury convicted the Defendant, Shawn O’Neal Taliaferro, of second degree murder and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. The trial court sentenced the Defendant, as a Range II offender, to serve consecutive sentences of forty years for the second degree murder conviction and four years for the possession of a weapon by a convicted felon conviction, for a total effective sentence of forty-four years. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court improperly admitted hearsay evidence; and (3) the trial court erred when it sentenced the Defendant as a Range II offender and imposed consecutive sentences. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Haywood County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/24/14
Eric Dewayne Wallace v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02761-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter Jr.

Petitioner, Erice Dewayne Wallace, appeals the dismissal of his second petition for postconviction. Upon a review of the record in this case, we are persuaded that the postconviction court was correct in dismissing the petition for habeas corpus relief. We also find that this case meets the criteria for affirmance pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/24/14
Mariet L. Patrick v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00909-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore Jr.

Petitioner, Mariet L. Patrick, was convicted of evading arrest in a motor vehicle, possession of .5 ounces or more of marijuana with intent to sell or deliver, and possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver. For these crimes, he received an effective sentence of twenty years. Petitioner timely filed a petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief, finding that Petitioner failed to prove his claims by clear and convincing evidence. After a review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/24/14
Kevin Hudson v. Kroger Limited Partnership I
W2013-02181-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood
Trial Court Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin

An employee injured his head, neck, and back in a tractor-trailer accident while working for his employer. The employee was ultimately diagnosed with a nerve-entrapment condition, which the employer denied was caused by the accident. The trial court found in the employee’s favor and awarded benefits. The employer appeals asserting that the trial court erred in excluding the expert testimony of an accident reconstruction engineer on the issue of causation. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the trial court erred by excluding portions of the expert’s testimony. Despite the error, the judgment of the trial court is supported by a preponderance of the evidence and is affirmed.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 11/24/14
State of Tennessee v. Renita Elaine McDonald
M2013-02666-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Defendant, Renita Elaine McDonald, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000.  As a result, the trial court sentenced her to eight years as a Range II, multiple offender, and denied all forms of alternative sentencing.  After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant appeals, challenging the trial court’s decision to exclude testimony on the basis that it constituted hearsay, the sufficiency of the evidence as to the value of the property taken, and the denial of alternative sentencing.  After our full review, we determine: (1) that the trial court did not err in allowing nontestimonial statements offered by a security officer from another officer while in pursuit of a shoplifter; (2) that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction of theft of property valued at  $1,000 or more but less than $10,000 where the testimony of the store’s loss prevention supervisor regarding identity and value was accredited by the jury; and (3) that the trial court’s denial of alternative sentencing was appropriate.  Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Markius Williams
W2013-01194-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett

The defendant was convicted, after a jury trial, of two counts of aggravated robbery, Class B felonies, and sentenced to concurrent nine-year sentences for a robbery of a couple that took place outside a laundromat. The indictment charged the defendant with having accomplished the crimes with a deadly weapon or through the display of an article used or fashioned to lead the victims to reasonably believe it was a deadly weapon. The trial court correctly instructed the jury orally regarding the elements of aggravated robbery in both counts. However, the written jury instructions for Count 2 omitted the element that the defendant used a deadly weapon and instead instructed the jury to consider whether the victim suffered serious bodily injury. The defendant appeals, challenging both the sufficiency of the evidence and the incorrect instructions under plain error. We conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the verdicts and that the error in charging the jury was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because the jury necessarily found that the defendant used a deadly weapon when it convicted the defendant in Count 1. We accordingly affirm the convictions.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/14
Michael Lee Horton v. Brenda Kay Horton
W2014-00880-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daniel L. Smith

This divorce action follows a thirty-three year marriage. Plaintiff Husband appeals the trial court’s property division, award of alimony in futuro to Wife, and award of attorney’s fees to Wife. We affirm.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 11/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Dwight Gossett
W2013-01120-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The defendant, Dwight Gossett, was convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual battery, Class B felonies, and sentenced to two consecutive twelve-year sentences for an effective sentence of twenty-four years. On appeal, he argues that: (1) the trial court erred in admitting the forensic interviews of the victims as substantive evidence pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 24-7-123 (2010) because the statute is unconstitutional; (2) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; (3) the trial court erred in admitting testimony of the defendant’s prior bad act; (4) the trial court committed plain error when it failed to require the State to make an election of offenses and when it failed to instruct the jury as to the election of offenses; (5) the State made a prejudicially improper closing argument; (6) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence inconsistent with the principles of the Sentencing Act; and (7) the cumulative effect of these errors violated the defendant’s due process rights. After thoroughly reviewing the record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we conclude that the trial court erroneously admitted evidence of the defendant’s prior bad act and that the prosecutor delivered an improper closing argument. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Thomas Fancher Greenwood
M2013-01924-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

Appellant, Thomas Fancher Greenwood, was found guilty of felony murder during the perpetration of aggravated child neglect, reckless homicide as a lesser-included offense of felony murder during the perpetration of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated child neglect.  The trial court merged the reckless homicide conviction with the felony murder conviction and sentenced appellant to life in prison for felony murder and two twenty-year concurrent sentences for aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect, resulting in an effective sentence of life in prison.  He now appeals his judgments and convictions on the following grounds: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; (2) whether the trial court erred by overruling appellant’s motion to suppress all information contained in his cellular telephone, which was seized by law enforcement officers; (3) whether the trial court erred in allowing hospital and autopsy photographs of the victim to be admitted into evidence; (4) whether the trial court erred in permitting Dr. Seyler to testify with regard to the cause of the victim’s injuries; (5) whether the trial court erred by allowing Dr. Seyler to view the video recording of the victim and render an expert opinion based thereon; (6) whether the trial court erred by allowing Detective Stone to testify that marks on the victim’s neck resembled fingerprints; (7) whether the trial court erred by permitting Amy Vickers to testify with regard to statements made by R.K.; and (8) whether the trial court erred in sentencing appellant.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/14
Thomas L. Keller v. Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corporation
W2013-02529-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Martha B. Brasfield

An employee sustained a work-related injury to his back and leg and returned to work but eventually resigned due to his continued back and leg pain. The trial court found that the employee established a compensable injury, did not have a meaningful return to work, and awarded sixty-eight percent permanent partial disability benefits. The employer appealed, alleging that the trial court erred in finding that the employee did not have a meaningful return to work and in awarding excessive benefits. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Hardeman County Workers Compensation Panel 11/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Shayne Thomas Hudson
M2013-02714-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

Appellant, Shayne Thomas Hudson, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony, and was sentenced to three years, suspended to supervised probation.  He appeals his conviction on two grounds: (1) whether the trial court erred in admitting evidence of his prior conviction for theft; and (2) sufficiency of the convicting evidence.  Following our careful review of the parties’ briefs, the applicable legal authority, and the record as a whole, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/14