Court Opinions

Format: 10/01/2016
Format: 10/01/2016
State of Tennessee v. Cuben Lagrone
E2014-02402-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Cuben T. Lagrone, of attempted second degree murder, employing a firearm during the commission of attempted second degree murder, attempted first degree premeditated murder, employing a firearm during the commission of attempted first degree premeditated murder, and reckless endangerment. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range II multiple offender to a total effective sentence of sixty-five years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress evidence from a cell phone seized during a traffic stop and weapons seized during a traffic accident investigation; (2) the trial court erred when it allowed the State to play a video recording during its opening statement; (3) the trial court erred when it instructed two witnesses, without first appointing counsel, to testify against the Defendant after the witnesses invoked their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and when it allowed the State to make an inappropriate comment in front of the jury on this matter; (4) the trial court improperly admitted into evidence the first victim’s 911 call, images of the Defendant near or displaying firearms, and the Defendant’s jail call, and improperly declined to admit into evidence the second victim’s letter to the first victim; (5) the evidence is insufficient to sustain any of his convictions; (6) the trial court erred when it failed to grant a new trial based on a witness’s recantation; (7) the trial court erred when it instructed the jury regarding the truthfulness of witnesses and regarding criminal responsibility; (8) the trial court erred when it denied the Defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal; (9) the trial court erred when it sentenced the Defendant; and (10) due process requires a reversal of the Defendant’s convictions because of the effect of cumulative error. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial courts judgments of convictions in all respects. We vacate the sentences for the two counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a felony and remand for resentencing on those two counts.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/16
In Re Jaquan B.
E2015-02365-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John B. Bennett

This is a dependency and neglect action involving the respondent mother’s two minor children, ages five and six at the time the incident giving rise to this action occurred. After it was discovered that the older child suffered, inter alia, a liver laceration as a result of physical abuse, the Hamilton County Juvenile Court determined that both children were dependent and neglected in the care of their mother. The juvenile court also determined that the older child was a victim of severe child abuse. The mother perfected a de novo appeal to the Circuit Court for Hamilton County. The circuit court likewise found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the children were dependent and neglected and that the mother committed severe child abuse against the older child. The mother appeals the circuit court’s finding of severe child abuse. We have determined that the evidence clearly and convincingly supports the circuit court’s findings that the children are dependent and neglected, and that the mother severely abused the older child. Thus, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
In Re Damian M.
E2015-02353-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John B. Bennett

This is a dependency and neglect action involving the respondent mother’s two minor children, ages five and six at the time the incident giving rise to this action occurred. After it was discovered that the older child suffered, inter alia, a liver laceration as a result of physical abuse, the Hamilton County Juvenile Court determined that both children were dependent and neglected in the care of their mother. The juvenile court also determined that the older child was a victim of severe child abuse. The mother perfected a de novo appeal to the Circuit Court for Hamilton County. The circuit court likewise found, by clear and convincing evidence, that the children were dependent and neglected and that the mother committed severe child abuse against the older child. The mother appeals the circuit court’s finding of severe child abuse. We have determined that the evidence clearly and convincingly supports the circuit court’s findings that the children are dependent and neglected, and that the mother severely abused the older child. Thus, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
James A. Long, et al v. Charles D. Ledford, et al.
E2016-00451-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: James E. Lauderback

In this bench trial following a de novo appeal from the general sessions court, the trial court awarded Appellees a judgment of $2,308.28 representing the principal and interest due on a promissory note. Appellants raise several issues concerning the general sessions court proceeding as errors on appeal. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Unicoi County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
In re Makenzie P., et al.
W2016-00400-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James R. Newsom

This appeal arises from the termination of a mother's parental rights to her two children. The Department of Children's Services (“DCS”) removed the children from the mother's home due to drug exposure. After finding the children dependent and neglected, a juvenile court awarded custody of the children to mother's parents. The mother's parents then contracted with a nonprofit organization to place the children with a host family while the mother sought treatment for her drug use. Time passed, and the children ultimately spent time with several host families, including, finally, potential adoptive parents. When the health of mother's parents precluded them from retaining custody, mother, mother's parents, and the potential adoptive parents requested that the juvenile court award custody to the potential adoptive parents. The juvenile court granted the request, and several months later the potential adoptive parents filed a petition in chancery court to terminate mother's parental rights and to adopt. Following a trial, the chancery court found clear and convincing evidence of one ground for termination of parental rights and that termination was in the children's best interest. On appeal, Mother asserts a violation of due process because she was unrepresented in the dependency and neglect proceedings after her parents were awarded custody of the children. We affirm the termination of parental rights.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Terrance Stepheny
W2015-01787-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The defendant, Terrance Stepheny, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced by the trial court as a Range II, multiple offender to seventeen years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and argues that the trial court imposed an excessive sentence by not sentencing him at the lower end of his range. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court but remand for entry of a corrected judgment to reflect the defendant’s conviction offense as aggravated robbery, which was omitted.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/16
Clarence Tyrone Pruitt v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02133-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The petitioner, Clarence Tyrone Pruitt, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and entered an unknowing and involuntary guilty plea. After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court denying the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Darrell Thomas Gooch
W2016-00117-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The Defendant, Darrell Thomas Gooch, appeals as of right from the Dyer County Circuit Court's revocation of his probation and reinstatement of his effective ten-year sentence.The Defendant contends (1) that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his probation because it relied on an additional probation violation introduced at the hearing that was not included in the violation warrant; (2) that the trial court ignored factors that mitigated his presence at the rape victim's apartment complex; and (3) that the four curfew violations, alone, were insufficient to revoke probation. Following our review, we affirm the trial court's revocation of the Defendant's probationary sentence and order of confinement.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/16
Cameron Brown v. State of Tennessee
M205-01434-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

The petitioner, Cameron Brown, appeals from the Sumner County Criminal Court order granting in part and denying in part his petition for writ of error coram nobis, which petition attacked his 2008 guilty-pleaded convictions of four counts of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000; one count of forgery; passing a worthless check in an amount more than $500; and failure to appear as well as his 2011 guilty-pleaded conviction of escape.  Because the writ of error coram nobis is not available to collaterally attack guilty-pleaded convictions, the judgment of the coram nobis court granting the petition for writ of error coram nobis and vacating the petitioner’s conviction of forgery is reversed, and the case is remanded for reinstatement of that conviction and the accompanying four-year sentence.  The judgment of the coram nobis court denying the remaining claims for coram nobis relief is affirmed.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/16
State of Tennessee v. Paul Brent Baxter
M2016-00049-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

Defendant, Paul Brent Baxter, was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault and received concurrent sentences of fifteen years.  On appeal, he argues that his sentences are excessive.  We affirm the judgments, but we conclude, as a matter of plain error, that the judgments must be merged into a single conviction.  Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are remanded.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/16
In re Scott H.
W2016-00070-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge David S. Walker

This is a termination of parental rights case involving a ten-year-old child, Scott H. (“the Child”). On August 8, 2011, the Shelby County Juvenile Court (“trial court”) granted temporary legal custody of the Child to the Tennessee Department of Children's Services (“DCS”). The Child was immediately placed in foster care, where he has remained since that date. DCS subsequently filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the Child's mother, Jill H. (“Mother”), and his father, William H. (“Father”), on April 17, 2015.1 Following a bench trial, the trial court terminated Mother's parental rights to the Child after determining by clear and convincing evidence that (1) Mother failed to substantially comply with the requirements of the permanency plans, (2) the conditions that led to the removal of the Child from Mother's custody still persisted, and (3) Mother was mentally incompetent to adequately care for the Child. The trial court further found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother's parental rights was in the best interest of the Child. Mother has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
James A. Long, et al. v. Charles D. Ledford, et al
E2015-02440-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jean A. Stanley

James A. Long and Patricia Long (“Plaintiffs”) sued Charles D. Ledford and Vivian Ledford (“Defendants”) with regard to a promissory note. After a trial, the Circuit Court for Unicoi County (“the Trial Court”) entered a Final Order granting Plaintiffs a judgment against Defendants for $21,296.01. Defendants appeal to this Court. The record on appeal contains no transcript and no statement of the evidence. We must assume that the record had it been preserved would contain sufficient evidence to support the Trial Court‟s factual findings. We, therefore, affirm

Unicoi County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
In re Quadayvon H., et al.
E2016-00445-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This appeal involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to two of his children. The children’s mother’s rights were previously terminated. In 2010, the older child was adjudicated dependent and neglected due to his mother’s drug use; the father was incarcerated at the time. In 2012, both children were adjudicated dependent and neglected and removed from their mother’s home after an altercation involving the father and another child resulted in father’s arrest and mother’s arrest for drug use. In 2015, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed a petition seeking to terminate the father’s parental rights on the statutory grounds of persistence of conditions and mental incompetence. The juvenile court found that both grounds were proved by clear and convincing evidence and also found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of the father’s rights was in the children’s best interests. The father appeals. We reverse.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/30/16
In Re Adrianna S.
M2015-02514-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy R. Brock

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights. In 2011, Father was sentenced to serve concurrent fifteen-year and four-year prison sentences. Thereafter, the Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate Father’s parental rights under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(6), which provides grounds for termination when the parent is imprisoned under a sentence of ten or more years and “the child is under eight (8) years of age at the time the sentence is entered by the court.” Father argued that this statute does not provide grounds for termination in this case because the child was not born at the time of Father’s sentencing; therefore, the statutory requirement that there be a “child” under the age of eight at the time of the parent’s sentencing has not been met. The juvenile court determined that the statutory language includes a child in utero at the time of the parent’s sentencing and the evidence clearly and convincingly established grounds for terminating Father’s parental rights. The juvenile court also determined that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the best interests of the child. After review, we affirm the holding of the juvenile court.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 09/29/16
George Campbell, Jr. v. Tennessee Department of Correction, et al.
M2015-01674-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carol L. McCoy

This is a prisoner complaint filed under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act (TGTLA) against the Tennessee Department of Correction, the Commissioner of Correction, Corrections Corporation of America, the correctional facility where the prisoner was housed, and several prison employees, seeking arrearages for unpaid wages, as well as punitive and compensatory damages.  The complaint was filed in the Chancery Court of Davidson County. The trial court dismissed the prisoner’s complaint because it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case.  The prisoner now appeals.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Larenzo Jerome Morgan, Jr.
W2016-00114-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The State appeals the Dyer County Circuit Court’s order granting Larenzo Jerom Morgan, Jr.’s, request for jail credit toward his Dyer County sentence for time he spent serving a sentence in the Missouri Department of Corrections on Missouri convictions. Because we conclude that the trial court was without authority to award jail credit on the Dyer County sentence for time served on the unrelated Missouri convictions, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/29/16
Ms. Bowen Ex Rel. John Doe, "N" v. William E. Arnold, Jr. Et Al.
M2015-00762-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden, Jr.

The determinative question in this appeal is whether the trial court erred in ruling that a person convicted of rape and aggravated sexual battery is collaterally estopped in a subsequent civil lawsuit filed by the victim of the criminal offenses from relitigating the issue of whether he raped and sexually battered the victim. The trial court applied collateral estoppel, explaining that, although the victim was not a party to the criminal prosecution, the victim was in privity with the State, which satisfied the party mutuality requirement necessary for collateral estoppel to apply. The trial court therefore granted the plaintiffs partial summary judgment but permitted the defendant to seek an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 9. After the Court of Appeals declined to accept the interlocutory appeal, the defendant filed an application for permission to appeal in this Court, which we granted. We hereby abolish the strict party mutuality requirement for offensive and defensive collateral estoppel and adopt sections 29 and 85 of the Restatement (Second) of Judgments as the guidelines for courts to follow when determining whether nonmutual collateral estoppel applies. Having applied these guidelines to the undisputed facts in this appeal, we affirm the trial court’s decision granting partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs and remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

Davidson County Supreme Court 09/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Michael A. Alderson
M2015-01395-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The defendant, Michael A. Alderson, was convicted by a jury of introducing drugs into a penal institution, a Class C felony, after he was arrested for an unrelated offense and disburdened himself of a small amount of marijuana in the “trap” room leading to the Maury County jail.  The trial court sentenced the defendant as a Range II offender to ten years’ imprisonment.  On appeal, the defendant asserts that he was denied his right to self-representation.  The defendant also argues that the marijuana should have been suppressed because his initial arrest was unlawful, and he asserts error in sentencing.  Because we conclude that the trial court erred in denying the defendant his right to self-representation, we reverse the judgment and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Rosa Emma Honeycutt
E2015-00790-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

A Sullivan County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Rosa Emma Honeycutt, of failing to report suspected child sexual abuse, a Class A misdemeanor, and the trial court sentenced her to eleven months, twenty-nine days to be served on unsupervised probation. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying her request for judicial diversion. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and grant judicial diversion.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/29/16
Michael Fields v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01850-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

The Petitioner, Michael Fields, appeals the Sullivan County Criminal Court's denial of post-conviction relief from his convictions for reckless homicide, felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated burglary and especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at both the trial and appellate level, and that, in light of these errors, his effective sentence of life plus forty years in incarceration is illegal. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/29/16
Dallas K. Hurley, Jr. v. Ryan B. Pickens, M.D., et al
E2015-02089-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

Dallas K. Hurley, Jr. (“Plaintiff”) sued Ryan B. Pickens, M.D. and University Urology, P.C. (“Defendants”) alleging claims for health care liability. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. While the motion to dismiss was pending, Plaintiff filed a notice of and motion for voluntary dismissal pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 41. The Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) granted Plaintiff a voluntary dismissal without prejudice. Defendants appeal to this Court raising issues regarding whether Plaintiff had the right to take a voluntary dismissal without prejudice when a motion to dismiss was pending and whether Plaintiff failed to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-122 requiring dismissal of Plaintiff’s suit with prejudice. We find and hold that Plaintiff had the right to take a voluntary dismissal even while a motion to dismiss was pending. Our resolution of this issue renders Defendants’ second issue moot. We, therefore, affirm the Trial Court’s order granting Plaintiff a voluntary dismissal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 09/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Richard Fredrickson
M2015-01206-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

The defendant, Joseph Richard Fredrickson, was convicted of one count of the sale of marijuana, a Class E felony, one count of delivery of marijuana, a Class E felony, and one count of conspiracy to sell or deliver marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor.  The trial court merged felony convictions and sentenced the defendant as a Range II offender to four years; the defendant received a sentence of  eleven months and twenty-nine days for the misdemeanor conviction.  The trial court ordered the defendant to serve his sentences concurrently for an effective sentence of four years.  On appeal, the defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his felony convictions, that the trial court erred in denying his motion for independent scientific testing of the marijuana, and that the trial court erred in imposing four-year sentences for his felony convictions.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Marcus Williams
W2015-01918-CA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The defendant, Marcus Williams, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of identity theft, theft of property, and forgery, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court erred by instructing the jury on criminal responsibility and by admitting certain evidence at trial. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/29/16
William S. Mitchell v. Michael Parris, Warden
W2015-01790-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The petitioner, William S. Mitchell, attempts to convert an appeal of the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus into a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 claim regarding the illegality of his plea agreement sentence for aggravated sexual battery. We respectfully decline the petitioner’s request that we consider his timely appeal of the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus as an untimely appeal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/29/16
Terry Arnold v. Courtyard Management Corporation
W2015-02266-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Walter L. Evans

Terry Arnold (“Employee”) filed suit against Courtyard Management Corporation (“Employer”), alleging that she sustained a compensable injury to her neck on August 18, 2012. Employer provided medical and temporary partial disability benefits for a period of time. The last payment for medical treatment was issued on April 29, 2013. Employee requested additional medical treatment on May 5, 2014. Employer denied the claim based on the one-year statute of limitations. Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-203(b) , (c). Employee filed a request for assistance with the Department of Labor (“Department”) on May 7, 2014, and a request for benefit review conference (“BRC”) on May 13, 2014. The Department issued a “Benefit Review Report” on May 30, 2014. This action was filed on November 19, 2014. Employer filed a motion for summary judgment asserting that the claim was barred by the applicable statutes of limitation. The trial court denied Employer’s motion but granted Employer’s subsequent request for an interlocutory appeal. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted Employers’ application and referred the appeal to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We reverse the judgment.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 09/28/16