Court Opinions

Format: 07/21/2018
Format: 07/21/2018
Brent Christopher Dishon v. Lisa Renee Dishon
M2017-01378-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

This appeal arose from a divorce action filed by the husband. The parties entered into a mediation agreement in December 2014, wherein the parties agreed, inter alia, that the husband would pay to the wife $1,200 per month in alimony, that the husband’s alimony obligation would cease if the wife were cohabitating with a person of the opposite sex, and that the wife would be designated as the primary residential parent for the parties’ minor child. Following execution of the mediation agreement, the husband’s employment hours were decreased by his employer. The wife subsequently filed a “Motion to Restore Payment Agreement,” in which she alleged that the husband had failed to adhere to his financial responsibilities pursuant to the mediation agreement. The husband thereafter filed a response to the wife’s motion, alleging that a material change in circumstance had occurred subsequent to the mediation agreement. The trial court entered a judgment on February 25, 2016, enforcing the mediation agreement but determining, due to the husband’s decrease in income, that a material change in circumstance had occurred since the mediation agreement was entered into by the parties. The trial court further found that the wife had been cohabitating with a person of the opposite sex. Nonetheless, the trial court determined that the wife remained the economically disadvantaged spouse following the divorce and reduced the husband’s alimony responsibility to $500 per month. The trial court further determined that it was in the best interest of the child for the wife to be the primary residential parent of the child. The husband subsequently filed a motion to alter or amend the trial court’s judgment and a motion to terminate his alimony obligation, both of which were denied by the trial court. Husband timely appealed. Having determined that the trial court erred by failing to cease Husband’s alimony responsibility, in compliance with the enforced mediation agreement, upon its finding that the wife was cohabitating with a person of the opposite sex, we reverse the alimony award. We affirm the remaining aspects of the trial court’s judgment. Because the husband’s payment history regarding alimony is unclear from the record, we hereby remand for a determination by the trial court regarding whether Husband owes Wife alimony incurred prior to February 25, 2016, or whether Husband is owed reimbursement of alimony paid past February 25, 2016.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 07/20/18
Brent Ray, Et Al. v. Thomas Neff, Et Al.
M2016-02217-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Plaintiffs/Appellants sued Defendants/Appellees for nuisance and trespass claims over a dispute in the change of water flow onto Appellants’ property due to modifications, namely the installation of a pipe, on Appellees’ property. Appellants voluntarily non-suited the case twice, and ultimately filed the instant complaint almost five years after the filing of their original complaint. Appellees moved for summary judgment on both claims. In a three-part ruling spanning thirteen months, the trial court granted summary judgment and determined (1) that the pipe was a permanent nuisance and, therefore, any nuisance claim was time-barred; (2) that the trespass was a permanent trespass and, again, time-barred; and (3) that Appellants could not establish causation as to the trespass claim. We affirm the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Angela Faye Daniel
M2015-01073-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

We granted permission to appeal in this case in order to determine whether the exclusionary rule should be applied to a blood sample drawn from an individual pursuant to a search warrant because the arresting officer failed to leave a copy of the warrant with the individual. The Defendant, Angela Faye Daniel, was arrested for driving under the influence. The arresting officer obtained a search warrant and transported the Defendant to a medical facility for a blood draw. The officer failed to give the Defendant a copy of the search warrant. The trial court granted the Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained pursuant to the warrant on the basis of the exclusionary rule set forth in Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 41. The State sought and was granted an interlocutory appeal, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. We hold that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, a good-faith exception should be applied to Rule 41’s exclusionary rule. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment below and remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings.  

Williamson County Supreme Court 07/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Lindsey Brooke Lowe
M2014-00472-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

A jury convicted the Defendant, Lindsey Brooke Lowe, of two counts of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of first degree felony murder, and two counts of aggravated child abuse, all arising from the Defendant’s smothering to death her newborn infant twins. The trial court merged the alternative counts of first degree murder as to each victim and sentenced the Defendant to two terms of life imprisonment for the murders and two terms of twenty-five years for the aggravated child abuse convictions, all to be served concurrently. On direct appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the Defendant’s convictions and sentences. We granted the Defendant’s application for permission to appeal in order to address the following issues raised by the Defendant: (1) whether the Exclusionary Rule Reform Act, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-6-108 (“the ERRA”), violates the Tennessee Constitution’s Separation of Powers Clause; (2) whether the trial court erred by relying on the ERRA to deny the Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence gathered at her house pursuant to a search warrant that did not conform with the technical requirements of Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 41; (3) whether the trial court erred by ruling inadmissible certain expert testimony proffered by the defense during the hearing on the Defendant’s motion to suppress her statement to Detective Malach; (4) whether the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress her statement; and (5) whether the trial court erred by prohibiting the Defendant’s expert witness from testifying at trial about the reliability of her responses to Detective Malach’s questions. We also directed the parties to address the additional issue of whether the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule adopted by this Court in State v. Davidson, 509 S.W.3d 156, 185-86 (Tenn. 2016), should be expanded to include clerical errors made by the issuing magistrate when the search in question is otherwise constitutional. We hold that the ERRA represents an impermissible encroachment by the legislature upon this Court’s authority and responsibility to adopt exceptions to the exclusionary rule and, therefore, violates the Tennessee Constitution’s Separation of Powers Clause; that the exclusionary rule should not be applied to suppress evidence gathered pursuant to a search warrant that is technically defective under Rule 41 due to the magistrate’s simple and good-faith clerical error of incorrectly indicating on one of three copies of the warrant that it was issued at 11:35 “PM” while correctly indicating on the other two copies that it was issued at 11:35 “AM”; that the trial court did not err in ruling inadmissible the defense expert’s testimony at the hearing on the Defendant’s motion to suppress her statement, although the trial court should have allowed defense counsel to proffer the testimony in a question and answer format; that the trial court did not err in ruling that the Defendant was not in custody at the time she made her statement to Detective Malach, rendering moot any claimed defects in the administration of Miranda warnings prior to her statement being made; and that the trial court did not commit reversible error in ruling inadmissible at trial certain proffered expert testimony by a defense witness. In sum, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions and sentences. 

Sumner County Supreme Court 07/20/18
John R. Jackson v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00787-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

A Montgomery County jury convicted the Petitioner, John R. Jackson, of two counts of facilitation of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of facilitation of theft of property valued over $500, and one count of aggravated sexual battery. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of twenty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, this court affirmed the judgments and sentence. See State v. John R. Jackson, No. M2013-00696-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 2039761 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, May 16, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 22, 2014). The Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition, and the post-conviction court denied relief following a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, his convictions are based on illegal evidence presented at trial, and the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during opening and closing statements. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Michael Lee Hogan
M2017-01115-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Wolfe

A Dickson County jury convicted the Defendant, Michael Lee Hogan, of two counts of the sale of cocaine, one count of the sale of less than .5 grams of cocaine and one count of the sale of more than .5 grams of cocaine. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Career Offender to an effective sentence of forty-five years of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends: (1) the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of casual exchange; and (2) the trial court erred when it sentenced him. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/18
In Re Blake A., Et Al.
M2016-01621-COA-R10-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy K. Barnes

The parents of two children adopted a parenting plan in which Mother was designated the primary residential parent and parenting time was split equally; a special provision in the parenting plan prevented either parent from relocating with the children without the other parent’s permission. Mother subsequently informed Father of her intent to relocate to another state with the children. In response, Father filed a petition in opposition to removal and to modify the parenting plan. The court denied Mother’s relocation, holding that the provision in the parenting plan superseded the application of the parental relocation statute; the court further determined that the parties were spending substantially equal time with the children and that relocation was not in the children’s best interest. Mother appeals. We conclude that the court erred in holding that the provision in the parenting plan prevented Mother from relocating; that the court did not make sufficient findings of fact to support its holding that the parents were spending substantially equal time with the children; and that the finding that relocation is not in the best interest of the children is supported by the evidence. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment in part, affirm in part, and remand the case for further proceedings.   

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/19/18
Kenneth Cage v. Harris E. Dowlen
M2018-01119-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

This is an appeal from a final judgment entered on March 12, 2018. Because the defendant did not file his notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the final judgment as required by Tenn. R. App. P. 4(a), we dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/19/18
Greg Hearn v. American Wash Co., Inc., Et Al.
M2017-00722-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This is an appeal by the prevailing party of an award of damages in a breach of contract action arising out of a commercial lease agreement. Upon our review, we find no reversible error and accordingly affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Lashun Wren
W2017-01978-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Defendant, Curtis Lashun Wren, appeals from the denial of relief from his “Ex Parte Injunction and/or Show Cause Order,” which the trial court treated as a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Because the pleading, even if treated as a petition for writ of habeas corpus, does not meet the procedural requirements set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-21-105, -106, and/or -107, we affirm the judgment of the trial court, albeit for different reasons.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Samantha Gadzo
M2017-00646-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, Samantha Gadzo, was indicted for driving under the influence of an intoxicant, driving under the influence per se, reckless driving, violation of the Due Care law, and failure to maintain her lane of travel. See T.C.A. §§ 55-10-401,-401(a)(2),-205; 55-8-136, -123. She filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized during the traffic stop, arguing that it was not supported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause.1 Following a hearing, the trial court granted the Defendant’s motion, which is the subject of this State appeal. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Phillip Daniel Morton
M2017-01083-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Defendant-Appellant, Phillip Daniel Morton, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of first degree murder, for which he received a life sentence. See T.C.A. § 39-13- 202. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his (1) petition for writ of error coram nobis and (2) request for a jury charge of voluntary intoxication. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/18
Tommy Nunley v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01487-SC-R11-ECN
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

This appeal arises out of the appellant prisoner’s petition for a writ of error coram nobis. The petitioner, convicted of aggravated rape in 1998, asserted in his petition that the State violated his constitutional right to due process of law by withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense in his trial, in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). Without asking the State for a response to the coram nobis petition and without an evidentiary hearing, the trial court dismissed the petition in part because it was filed long after expiration of the one-year statute of limitations and demonstrated no reason for equitable tolling of the statute of limitations. The Court of Criminal Appeals declined to consider the statute of limitations because the State had not pled it as an affirmative defense, but affirmed the dismissal because the petition did not present newly discovered evidence warranting coram nobis relief. On appeal, we initially clarify that an error coram nobis proceeding is not the appropriate procedural vehicle for obtaining relief on the ground that the petitioner suffered a constitutional due process violation under Brady. As to the petition, we hold that (1) coram nobis petitions with insufficient allegations are susceptible to summary dismissal on the face of the petition, without discovery or an evidentiary hearing; (2) Tenn. R. Civ. P 8.03 does not apply to a petition for writ of error coram nobis; (3) timeliness under the statute of limitations is an “essential element” of a coram nobis claim that must be demonstrated on the face of the petition; and (4) if the petitioner seeks equitable tolling of the statute of limitations, the facts supporting the tolling request must likewise appear on the face of the petition. Applying this standard, we find no error in the trial court’s decision to dismiss the coram nobis petition and affirm.

Shelby County Supreme Court 07/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Patrick Cosby, AKA Patrick A. Britton, AKA Patrick T. Britton
M2017-00379-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

Defendant, Patrick Cosby, plead guilty to attempted aggravated robbery with an agreed sentence of six years with the trial court to determine the manner of service. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered Defendant to serve his six-year sentence in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred by denying alternative sentencing. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Tre Desean Bell
M2017-00843-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Defendant-Appellant, Tre Desean Bell, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of voluntary manslaughter, see T.C.A. § 39-13-211, for which he received a sentence of six years in continuous confinement. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in (1) denying his request for judicial diversion; (2) imposing the maximum sentence permissible; and (3) imposing a sentence of continuous confinement. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/18
Joseph H. Johnston v. Mark Goins
M2017-00809-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

Action brought by write-in candidate for tax assessor seeking declaratory judgment relative to the duties of the State Coordinator of Elections in the administration of Tennessee Code Annotated section 2-7-133(i). Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the chancellor.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/18/18
State of Tennessee vs. Michael Anthony Skettini
E2017-02468-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy M. Harrington

The Defendant-Appellant, Michael Anthony Skettini, appeals from the revocation of supervised probation by the Blount County Circuit Court. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in ordering him to serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. Upon review, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/18/18
Juan A. Hill v. Randy Lee, Warden
E2018-00749-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everette Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stacy L. Street

In 1997, the Petitioner was convicted of rape of a child and was sentenced to thirty-five years to be served consecutively to his sentence for a prior conviction. This court affirmed the Petitioner’s conviction and sentence on direct appeal. See State v. Juan Alfonso Hill, No. 03C01-9710-CR-00441, 1999 WL 222370, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 8, 1999), perm app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 20, 1999). The Petitioner subsequently sought post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied. This court affirmed the denial of relief on appeal. See Juan Alfonzo Hill v. State, No. E2004-02915-CCA-R3-PC, 2005 WL 2276422, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 19, 2005).

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Patrick Tyler Harris
M2017-01670-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

The Defendant, Patrick Tyler Harris, pled guilty to driving under the influence (DUI) per se. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-401(2). Pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A), the Defendant reserved a certified question of law challenging whether there existed sufficient reasonable suspicion to justify a traffic stop of the Defendant’s vehicle. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sequatchie County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/18/18
In Re Ky'Auri M.
E2017-00501-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

Relying on due process grounds, the mother of the parties’ child contends the juvenile court erred by modifying the parenting plan and designating the father as the primary residential parent. The only petition before the court was the father’s petition for contempt. The juvenile court magistrate who presided over the initial hearing informed the mother “that the issue before the Court was whether the mother was in contempt of this Court and upon the Court’s own motion, if she should remain custodian of the child.” At the conclusion of the hearing, the magistrate found “that because of the mother’s lack of compliance and cooperation, she was in Contempt of Court and that custody of the child would be granted to the father. . . .” The mother filed a request for rehearing in the juvenile court, and the juvenile court judge affirmed the magistrate’s order. This appeal followed. Because neither party petitioned the court to modify the existing permanent parenting plan or the designation of the primary residential parent and due process requires, at a minimum, “notice reasonably calculated . . . to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections,” Keisling v. Keisling, 92 S.W.3d 374, 377 (Tenn. 2002) (quoting State v. Pearson, 858 S.W.2d 879, 884 (Tenn. 1993)), it was error for the juvenile court to modify the permanent parenting plan and change the primary residential parent. As a result, we vacate the juvenile court’s order modifying the permanent parenting plan and designating the father as the primary residential parent and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Gavino Torres, Jr.
E2017-01690-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Defendant, Gavino Torres, Jr., pled guilty to attempted possession of a Schedule I drug with intent to sell or deliver, a Class C felony; possession of a Schedule II drug with intent to sell or deliver, a Class C felony; and two counts of possession of a Schedule IV drug with intent to sell or deliver, Class D felonies, in exchange for an effective sentence of ten years with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a sentence of confinement, which the Defendant now challenges. After review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Ziberia Marico Carero, Alias
E2017-01095-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Defendant, Ziberia Marico Carero, Alias, was indicted for possession of more than .5 grams of cocaine with intent to sell, possession of more than .5 grams of cocaine with intent to deliver, and a criminal gang offense enhancement pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-121. A Knox County Criminal Court jury convicted him of simple possession, a Class A misdemeanor, and possession of more than .5 grams of cocaine with intent to deliver, a Class B felony. The trial court merged the conviction for simple possession into the conviction for possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. After a bifurcated hearing, the Defendant’s conviction offense was enhanced to a Class A felony pursuant to the criminal gang offense enhancement statute. The trial court imposed a sentence of fifteen years as a Range I offender with 30% release eligibility for the Class A felony conviction, to be served consecutively to a twenty-three-year sentence the Defendant was already serving. The Defendant was later granted a new sentencing hearing when the criminal gang offense enhancement statute was deemed unconstitutional. In this appeal, the Defendant challenges the trial court’s imposition of a fifteen year sentence as a Range II offender with 35% release eligibility for his now Class B felony conviction, as well as the court’s order that it be served consecutively to the twenty-three-year sentence he was already serving. After review, we affirm the sentence imposed by the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/18/18
Morris Rucker v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01964-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The pro se Defendant, Morris Rucker, appeals the trial court’s denial of his Tenn. Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 60.02 motion to set aside his judgments and/or for injunctive relief, arguing that the judgments are invalid because they do not bear the required file-date stamps. Following our review, we dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/17/18
Timothy P. Guilfoy v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01454-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte D. Watkins

The Petitioner, Timothy P. Guilfoy, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis. The Petitioner contends that the coram nobis court erred in denying his petition because he presented newly discovered evidence in the form of an affidavit from the jury foreperson stating that the jury viewed videotaped forensic interviews of the victims during its deliberations. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/17/18
Kerry V. Covington v. State of Tennessee
M2017-02175-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

The Petitioner, Kerry V. Covington, appeals from the Cheatham County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that his nolo contendere pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered because he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel due to trial counsel’s having a conflict of interest. However, the Petitioner failed to timely file his notice of appeal. Because we conclude that the interest of justice does not require waiver of this requirement, we dismiss the appeal.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/17/18