Court Opinions

Format: 05/23/2016
Format: 05/23/2016
Jeffery Walton v. Tennessee Department of Correction, et al.
W2015-01336-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Martha Brasfield

Appellant, an inmate at a state prison operated by a private contractor, filed the underlying pro se petition for a writ of certiorari to challenge the result of a disciplinary proceeding against him. The trial court dismissed the petition against the private contractor's employees on the ground that these employees could not impose punishment on the inmate under Tennessee Code Annotated Section 41-24-110(5) and were, thus, not proper parties to the petition. As to the Appellee Tennessee Department of Correction, the trial court dismissed the petition, finding that the board had not acted illegally, arbitrarily, or fraudulently and that the inmate had not stated a claim for violation of due process. We affirm and remand.

Hardeman County Court of Appeals 05/23/16
State of Tennessee v. Micah England
W2015-01804-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Micah England, pleaded guilty in the Madison County Circuit Court pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement to carrying a weapon on school property, a Class E felony, with the length and the manner of service of the sentence to be determined by the trial court. See T.C.A. § 39-17-1309 (2014) (amended 2015). The court sentenced the Defendant to two years' probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his request for judicial diversion. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/16
State of Tennessee v. Mary Drew Gentry
E2015-01738-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

Mary Drew Gentry (“the Defendant”) appeals the Blount County Circuit Court’s order revoking her probation and imposing her three-year sentence for burglary. On appeal, the Defendant acknowledges that she violated probation but argues that the trial court should have imposed split confinement and community corrections rather than ordering her to serve her sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/16
State of Tennessee v. William Scott Deadrick
E2015-01650-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The appellant, William Scott Deadrick, pled guilty in the Sullivan County Criminal Court to multiple counts of selling and delivering less than one-half gram of a Schedule II controlled substance within a school zone. The trial court merged some of the convictions and sentenced the appellant to an effective eight-year sentence to be served at 100%. Subsequently, the appellant filed a motion for reduction of sentence, which the trial court summarily denied. On appeal, the appellant challenges the trial court’s denial of his motion. Based upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/16
State of Tennessee v. James Frederick Hegel
E2015-00953-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The appellant, James Frederick Hegel, appeals the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to suspend the costs the court ordered he pay for his 2009 convictions of rape of a child and incest. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we dismiss the appeal.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/16
Connie Arnold v. Doug Cook, Warden
E2015-02214-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

The Petitioner, Connie Arnold, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, in which he challenged the legality of his judgments of conviction for rape of a child and aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. The Petitioner asserts that his indictment and judgments of conviction are illegal and void on their face because the offense date listed in the documents is incorrect. Further, the Petitioner asserts that his judgment for rape of a child contains an illegal sentence, entitling him to habeas corpus relief. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas court.

Bledsoe County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/20/16
State of Tennessee v. Helkie Nathan Carter
M2015-00280-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Helkie Nathan Carter (“the Defendant”) was indicted for the following counts: (1) driving under the influence (“DUI”)—third offense; (2) driving with a blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) of .08 or more (“DUI per se”)—third offense; (3) violation of the habitual motor vehicle offender statute; and (4) driving on a revoked license.  The Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained during a mandatory blood draw was granted by the trial court.  The State sought and was granted permission to appeal, arguing that the Defendant gave both actual and implied consent to the blood draw and that, if the good-faith exception is adopted in Tennessee, it should apply to this case.  Upon review, we conclude that the Defendant’s actual consent was not freely and voluntarily given; Tennessee’s implied consent law does not, by itself, operate as an exception to the warrant requirement; and no exception to the warrant requirement justified the blood draw.  We decline to adopt a good-faith exception.  The judgment of the trial court suppressing the results of the warrantless blood draw is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/20/16
In re Addison P.
E2015-02102-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on grounds of abandonment by willful failure to visit and wanton disregard. Because the trial court entered an order during the proceedings that excluded wanton disregard as a ground and this ground was not tried by implied consent, we reverse the trial court's finding of wanton disregard. In addition, the trial court failed to make any finding that Mother's failure to visit the child was willful. Accordingly, we vacate this ground and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 05/20/16
Jon R. Ross v. Anna L. Rosswoods
M2015-01475-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

This appeal involves a post-divorce parental relocation. The mother notified the father that she intended to relocate outside of Tennessee with the parties’ minor son. The father filed a petition opposing the relocation on the grounds that it would not be in the child’s best interest; the petition was filed outside the 30-day filing period set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-6-108. The trial court excused the untimely filing of the father’s petition, reasoning that the mother waived the defense by failing to plead it as an affirmative defense. After a hearing, the court found that the mother’s proposed move would not be in the child’s best interest. The mother now appeals. We conclude that the mother was not required to raise the untimely filing as an affirmative defense. Because the father failed to file a written petition opposing the mother’s relocation within 30 days of receiving notice of her proposed relocation, the trial court erred in conducting any further analysis under Section 36-6-108. We therefore reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand this case for such further proceedings as may be necessary and consistent with this Opinion.
 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/19/16
Lawrence Joseph Wilkerson, III v. Charlene Monique Wilkerson
M2014-02412-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This appeal arises from post-divorce efforts to modify a permanent parenting plan. Mother filed a petition in which she requested a modification to the permanent parenting plan. Father filed a counter-petition in which he requested to be named the primary residential parent of their children. The trial court found that Father failed to prove a material change in circumstance as necessary to change the primary residential parent designation and that Mother failed to prove a material change in circumstance as necessary to modify the permanent parenting plan. After reviewing the record, we find the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that there was no material change in circumstance sufficient to modify the residential parenting schedule. Accordingly, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.
 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/19/16
In Re Charles K. Jr., Et Al.
M2015-00714-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sheila Calloway

This appeal involves the termination of a mother and father’s parental rights to their children. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of each parent’s rights on the statutory grounds of abandonment for failure to visit, abandonment based upon each parent’s conduct prior to incarceration that exhibited a wanton disregard for the children’s welfare, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, and the persistence of conditions which led to removal. The court further found that termination was in the best interest of the children. The parents appeal. We affirm the judgment of the trial court as modified in this opinion.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/19/16
Donna Faye Shipley Ex Rel. Frank Shipley v. Robin Williams
M2014-02279-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Health care liability action filed in November 2002 in which patient alleges that physician was negligent in failing to assess her condition, failing to provide proper medical care, failing to admit her to the hospital or refer her to another doctor, and failing to properly follow-up with her. The trial court granted summary judgment on all claims and, following an appeal to this court in which we reversed the grant of summary judgment on all claims, the Supreme Court reinstated summary judgment on the failure to admit claim and remanded the case for trial on the remaining claims. On remand, on the patient’s motion, the trial court set aside the summary judgment on the failure to admit claim, applying the “substantially different evidence” exception to the law of the case doctrine; following further discovery, the court reinstated summary judgment on that claim. After a trial, the jury found that the physician did not breach the standard of care and judgment was entered in her favor. Patient appeals, contending that the court erred in granting partial summary judgment on the failure to admit claim in 2006 and in reinstating the claim on remand; in restricting and excluding certain evidence at trial; in allowing evidence designed to shift blame from the physician to the patient and others; and in awarding sanctions against counsel for the patient. Finding no error or abuse of discretion, we affirm the judgment in all respects.
     

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/19/16
Clean Harbors Environmental Services, Inc. v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01136-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Robert N. Hibbett, Commissioner, TN Claims Commission

This appeal arises from a contract dispute. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (“TDEC”) contracted with a third party for the collection and disposal of certain types of waste. The contract required the waste to be disposed of within the United States. TDEC claimed the contractor allowed waste to move outside the United States and, as a result of the alleged contract violation, recouped a portion of the contract payments by “short-paying.” The contractor filed a complaint with the Tennessee Claims Commission to recover the recouped payments. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the Claims Commission granted summary judgment in favor of the contractor but denied its request for pre-judgment interest. Although for purposes of summary judgment it assumed that some waste collected by the contractor left the country, the Claims Commission found such a breach by the contractor to be immaterial. TDEC and the contractor both appeal. We affirm the grant of summary judgment to the contractor, although on different grounds; we reverse the denial of pre-judgment interest. 

Court of Appeals 05/18/16
State of Tennessee v. Robert Henry Jackson
M2014-02039-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter

The Williamson County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant-Appellant, Robert Henry Jackson, for two counts of aggravated stalking, one count of coercion of a witness, and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  During trial, the State dismissed the coercion of a witness count.  The jury acquitted the Defendant-Appellant of the aggravated stalking counts but found him guilty of the count charging him with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a Class A misdemeanor.  See T.C.A. § 37-1-156.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days, with the Defendant-Appellant to serve ninety days’ confinement before serving the remainder of his sentence on supervised probation.  On appeal, the Defendant-Appellant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction and that his sentence is excessive.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/16
Joseph Gilbert Williams, Jr. vs. State of Tennessee
M2015-02063-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Fishburn

In 2013, a Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Joseph Gilbert Williams, Jr., of violation of the sex offender registry, third offense.  The Petitioner appealed, and this Court dismissed the appeal for failure to file a brief as ordered.  State v. Joseph Gilbert Williams, Jr., No. M2014-00019-CCA-R3-CD, (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, July 10, 2014).  In 2015, the Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, contending that the State failed to disclose favorable evidence to him and that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel.  The trial court summarily dismissed the petition as untimely filed.  The Petitioner then untimely filed his notice of appeal.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred when it summarily dismissed his petition.  Finding that the post-conviction petition was not timely filed, we dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/16
Justin L. Horstead v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01070-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John H. Gasaway, III

In 2013, the Petitioner, Justin L. Horstead, entered a best interest plea to aggravated robbery.  The trial court sentenced him in accordance with the plea agreement to ten years, to be served concurrently with a previous probationary sentence of six years.  The Petitioner timely filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that, but for counsel’s errors, he would have insisted on taking his case to trial.  After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred when it denied his petition.  We affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/16
State of Tennessee v. Maurice Blocker
W2015-00053-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Maurice Blocker, as charged of one count of first degree premeditated murder and one count of theft of property valued at $1000 or more but less than $10,000. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202(a)(1); 39-14-103, -105(3) (Supp. 2011). Blocker was sentenced to consecutive sentences of life imprisonment and eight years, respectively. His sole argument on appeal is that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/16
State of Tennessee v. Jasper Clayton
W2015-00785-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The defendant, Jasper Clayton, was convicted of three counts of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and two counts of attempted aggravated robbery, a Class C felony. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/16
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth Epperson
E2015-00478-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The Defendant-Appellant, Kenneth Epperson, was charged by affidavit of complaint on November 28, 2012, for driving under the influence (DUI) second offense, violation of the open container law, violation of the implied consent law, driving on a revoked license, and improper display of a license plate. See T.C.A. §§ 55-4-110, 55-10-401, -406, -416, 55-50-504. Epperson entered guilty pleas to improper display of a license plate and violating the open container law and was convicted by a jury as to the remaining charges. On appeal, Epperson contends that the affidavit of complaint made against him was void and that the State therefore failed to initiate a prosecution against him within the statutory period. He contends that this error requires vacating his convictions. He also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his DUI conviction. Upon our review, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support Epperson's conviction for DUI. However, we agree with Epperson that the State failed to initiate a prosecution against him within the statutory period. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and vacate Epperson's convictions.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/16
Craig Abston v. State of Tennessee
W2014-02513-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Petitioner, Craig Abston, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, he raises the same lone issue that he raised in his petition and at the evidentiary hearing: that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress a statement given to police following his arrest. The State first challenges our jurisdiction to hear this appeal, and, alternatively, contends that the Petitioner has failed to prove that the post-conviction court erred in denying him relief. In reply, the Petitioner disagrees with the State’s jurisdictional argument and asks that we proceed to consider the issue on its merits. Upon careful review, we reject the State’s jurisdictional challenge. After considering the merits of the Petitioner’s claim, we conclude that he is not entitled to relief. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/17/16
State of Tennessee v. Pamela Moses
W2014-01986-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Defendant, Pamela Moses, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for theft under $500. Defendant was convicted by a jury as charged. The trial court imposed a $350 fine. Defendant appeals and raises the following issues for our review: 1) the trial court improperly allowed a witness for the State, who was an inmate, to wear “street” clothing when she testified; 2) the trial court erred by limiting cross-examination of a State's witness; and 3) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument. Having reviewed the record on appeal, we conclude that the judgment of the trial court should be affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/17/16
State of Tennessee v. Larry Michael Berkley
W2015-00831-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The Defendant-Appellant, Larry Michael Berkley, was convicted by a Lauderdale County jury of two counts of rape, four counts of aggravated statutory rape, four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, and four counts of statutory rape by an authority figure. On appeal, Berkley argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court erred in admitting cumulative and unduly prejudicial testimony; and (3) the trial court erred in allowing a witness to testify about a news report regarding Berkley in violation of Rule 404(b) of the Tennessee Rules of Evidence. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/17/16
Credential Leasing Corporation of Tennessee, Inc. v Patrick L. White
E2015-01129-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jerri S. Bryant

The defendant, a practicing attorney, prepared a deed of trust for the benefit of the plaintiff lender concerning a loan made by the lender to the defendant‘s brother. The subject property was subsequently foreclosed upon by the first mortgage holder without notice to the lender. The lender later discovered that its deed of trust contained certain defects. The lender filed the instant action against the defendant, claiming that the defendant was liable for professional negligence, breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, and a violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the lender on the professional negligence claim while granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant on the breach of contract claim.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 05/17/16
Jill St. John-Parker v. Virgil Duane Parker
E2014-01338-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence H. Puckett

In this divorce, the trial court's main challenge was to classify and divide corporate debentures worth over two million dollars. After considering the evidence, the trial court classified all of the debentures as marital property and awarded Wife a share equal to $450,000. After this Court granted Husband's motion to stay execution on distribution of the assets, the trial court awarded Wife temporary alimony. We have concluded that the trial court erred in its division of the debentures and in awarding attorney fees to Wife for her attorney's work regarding Husband's motion to stay execution. In all other respects, we affirm the trial court's decision.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/17/16
Sandra Gibson v. Young Men's Christian Association Of Middle Tennessee
M2015-01465-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

This is an appeal from an order denying summary judgment. The appellee signed a YMCA membership application and release agreement prior to tripping and falling on a sidewalk in front of the YMCA. The appellee filed suit, alleging negligence. The YMCA then filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the appellee expressly assumed the risk of her injuries. The trial court denied the YMCA’s motion for summary judgment but granted a motion for interlocutory appeal. We reverse the trial court’s order denying summary judgment and remand with instructions to enter summary judgment.      

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 05/16/16