Court Opinions

Format: 12/06/2016
Format: 12/06/2016
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Earl Jones
M2015-01373-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Rodney Earl Jones, of first degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court sentenced him to life for the first degree murder conviction and to twenty years for the especially aggravated robbery conviction, ordering the sentences to be served consecutively. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his motion for severance; (2) the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury about his co-defendant’s out of court statements; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After review, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/16
Gerald Collins v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00085-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

The Petitioner, Gerald Collins, appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief by the Circuit Court for Gibson County. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was involuntary. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Michael Halliburton
W2015-02157-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Michael Halliburton, as charged of one count of attempted first degree premeditated murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of domestic assault. After imposing a sentence, the trial court granted the defendant's motion for a new trial and entered an order recusing itself from presiding over the new trial. Thereafter, the State filed an application for an extraordinary appeal pursuant to Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, which this court granted. On remand, the defendant was given a new sentencing hearing and a hearing on his motion for new trial. The successor trial court, serving as thirteenth juror, approved the jury's verdict and merged the defendant's convictions for aggravated assault and domestic assault with his attempted first degree murder conviction before imposing a sentence of twenty-one years. The successor court then denied the defendant's motion for new trial. On appeal, the defendant argues: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions because he was insane at the time he committed the offenses or, alternatively, was incapable of forming the requisite culpable mental states for the offenses; (2) the trial court abused its discretion in admitting several items of evidence; (3) the trial court abused its discretion in granting the State's motion in limine and excluding the testimony of two defense witnesses; and (4) the trial court erred in denying his motion for a mistrial on the basis that the rule of sequestration was violated. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Harold Allen Vaughn
W2016-00131-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Harold Allen Vaughn, and his co-defendants, were indicted by a Madison County Grand Jury for attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, especially aggravated kidnapping, and especially aggravated robbery. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of attempted first degree murder resulting in serious bodily injury, aggravated assault, and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the aggravated assault conviction into the attempted first degree murder conviction and sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of twenty-five years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions and that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury that his co-defendant was an accomplice as a matter of law. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court but remand for entry of a judgment form as to count two reflecting that the Defendant‟s aggravated assault conviction was merged with count one.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/16
Franklin Howard v. Tennessee Department of Correction, et al
M2016-00337-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

This appeal arises from a declaratory judgment action filed by a prisoner to challenge the Tennessee Department of Correction’s manner of applying sentence reduction credits to his consecutive sentences. The trial court granted summary judgment to the Department of Correction upon concluding that it properly calculated the petitioner’s sentences and credits. We affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/05/16
In Re Hailey S.
M2016-00387-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clara W. Byrd

This appeal arises from an adjudication of dependency and neglect against the father of a child born out of wedlock and a denial of an intervening petition for custody filed by the father’s relatives. The father and intervening petitioners appeal the circuit court’s decision. We affirm.

Macon County Court of Appeals 12/05/16
State of Tennessee v. Charles Travis Maples
E2016-00589-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

The defendant, Charles Travis Maples, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of three counts of the sale of cocaine in a drug-free school zone, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/16
State of Tennessee v. Jamichael Polk Armstrong
M2015-02083-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, Jamichael Polk Armstrong, was convicted by a Maury County jury of facilitation of sale of cocaine over 0.5 grams in a drug-free school zone and sentenced to ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction, with the first eight years to be served at one hundred percent release eligibility pursuant to the Drug-Free School Zone Act (hereinafter “the Act”).  On appeal, the Defendant claims that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court erred by applying the Act to his facilitation conviction.  Following our review, we affirm the Defendant’s conviction but remand for resentencing.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/16
State of Tennessee v. Jonathon D. Brown
M2015-02457-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John H. Gasaway, III

Jonathon D. Brown (“the Defendant”) was convicted of aggravated rape, especially aggravated kidnapping, and theft of property over the value of $1,000 by a Robertson County jury.  The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a career offender to sixty years for both the aggravated rape and especially aggravated kidnapping charges, and to twelve years for the theft charge.  The trial court ordered the sentences to be served concurrently in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that venue was improper in Robertson County and that the evidence as to identity was insufficient for a rational juror to find that the Defendant was the assailant beyond a reasonable doubt.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/02/16
In re Eddie F., et al.
E2016-00547-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark Toohey

This appeal involves the termination of a mother's parental rights to her four children by two different fathers. Mother contested the termination, but the fathers ultimately did not. The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that several grounds for termination exist and that termination is in the best interests of the Children. The mother appeals. For the following reasons, we reverse the trial court's finding that Mother abandoned her children by failing to provide a suitable home. We also reverse the trial court's finding that Mother failed to substantially comply with the requirements of her permanency plans. However, we conclude that there is clear and convincing evidence to support the other grounds for termination relied upon by the trial court and that the termination of Mother's parental rights is in the Children's best interest.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 12/02/16
Michael D. Ellington v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02295-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The petitioner, Michael D. Ellington, appeals the post-conviction court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his premeditated first degree murder conviction. On appeal, he argues that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief because the State either committed prosecutorial misconduct or he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/01/16
William Phillips, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
E2016-00103-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Scott Green

The petitioner, William Phillips, Jr., appeals the dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus/motion for Rule 36.1 correction of an illegal sentence, arguing that the trial court imposed an illegal sentence in violation of Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C) by altering the sentence in his negotiated plea agreement, which the trial court accepted prior to the sentencing hearing. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas court dismissing the petition.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/01/16
State of Tennessee v. Chad Ray Thompson
M2015-01534-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley

Chad Ray Thompson (“the Defendant”) was indicted by the Warren County Grand Jury for one count of first degree premeditated murder, one count of first degree felony murder, and one count of especially aggravated robbery in connection with the death of his cousin, Tracy Allen Martin (“the victim”).  Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and facilitation of especially aggravated robbery.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that there was insufficient evidence to show premeditation for his first degree premeditated murder conviction and that there was insufficient evidence to prove the underlying felony of especially aggravated robbery for his first degree felony murder conviction.  Upon review, we conclude that the Defendant is not entitled to relief.  Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/01/16
Larry Smith v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01899-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner William O. Shults, Commissioner

The plaintiff is an inmate who filed a claim with the Claims Commission after the Tennessee Department of Correction made the determination that inmates were prohibited from possessing small electric heating appliances known as “hotpots.” He sought compensation for the loss of his hotpot under the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Commission dismissed the plaintiff's claim because it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over takings claims involving only personal property. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 9-8-307(a)(1)(V); 12-1-202 (defining “private property” as “real property, or improvements to real property . . . .”). The plaintiff appealed, contending that the definition of “private property” was unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Horne v. Dep’t of Agric., --- U.S. ----,135 S. Ct. 2419, 192 L. Ed. 2d 388, (2015), which held that the government is required to pay just compensation under the Takings Clause when it physically takes possession of either real or personal property. We have determined that the Commission did not have authority to decide the plaintiff's facial challenge to the constitutionality of the statute. We have also determined the plaintiff would not be entitled to compensation even if his constitutional challenge to the statute was successful. Consequently, we affirm the dismissal of his claim.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 12/01/16
David Alan Hunter v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02177-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The petitioner, David Alan Hunter, appeals from the post-conviction court's denial of relief from his conviction for first-degree murder and attempted especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the petitioner argues he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to trial counsel's failure to adequately explain the benefits of accepting a plea agreement despite his assertion of innocence and failure to convey a formal plea offer made by the State. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/01/16
Sean Goble v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01824-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner William O. Shults, Commissioner

The plaintiff is an inmate who filed a claim with the Claims Commission after the Tennessee Department of Correction made the determination that inmates were prohibited from possessing small electric heating appliances known as “hotpots.” He sought compensation for the loss of his hotpot under the Takings Clauses of the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions. The Commission dismissed the plaintiff's claim because it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over takings claims involving only personal property. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 9-8-307(a)(1)(V); 12-1-202 (defining “private property” as “real property, or improvements to real property . . . .”). The plaintiff appealed, contending that the definition of “private property” was unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Horne v. Dep’t of Agric., --- U.S. ----,135 S. Ct. 2419, 192 L. Ed. 2d 388, (2015), which held that the government is required to pay just compensation under the Takings Clause when it physically takes possession of either real or personal property. We have determined that the Commission did not have authority to decide the plaintiff's facial challenge to the constitutionality of the statute. We have also determined the plaintiff would not be entitled to compensation even if his constitutional challenge to the statute was successful. Consequently, we affirm the dismissal of his claim.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 12/01/16
Ralph Thompson v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01845-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner William O. Shults, Commissioner

The plaintiff is an inmate who filed a claim with the Claims Commission after the Tennessee Department of Correction made the determination that inmates were prohibited from possessing small electric heating appliances known as “hotpots.” He sought compensation for the loss of his hotpot under the Takings Clauses of the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions. The Commission dismissed the plaintiff's claim because it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over takings claims involving only personal property. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 9-8-307(a)(1)(V); 12-1-202 (defining “private property” as “real property, or improvements to real property . . . .”). The plaintiff appealed, contending that the definition of “private property” was unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Horne v. Dep’t of Agric., --- U.S. ----,135 S. Ct. 2419, 192 L. Ed. 2d 388, (2015), which held that the government is required to pay just compensation under the Takings Clause when it physically takes possession of either real or personal property. We have determined that the Commission did not have authority to decide the plaintiff's facial challenge to the constitutionality of the statute. We have also determined the plaintiff would not be entitled to compensation even if his constitutional challenge to the statute was successful. Consequently, we affirm the dismissal of his claim.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 12/01/16
Kenneth Cradic v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01821-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner William O. Shults, Commissioner

The plaintiff is an inmate who filed a claim with the Claims Commission after the Tennessee Department of Correction made the determination that inmates were prohibited from possessing small electric heating appliances known as “hotpots.” He sought compensation for the loss of his hotpot under the Takings Clauses of the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions.. The Commission dismissed the plaintiff's claim because it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over takings claims involving only personal property. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 9-8-307(a)(1)(V); 12-1-202 (defining “private property” as “real property, or improvements to real property . . . .”). The plaintiff appealed, contending that the definition of “private property” was unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Horne v. Dep’t of Agric., --- U.S. ----,135 S. Ct. 2419, 192 L. Ed. 2d 388, (2015), which held that the government is required to pay just compensation under the Takings Clause when it physically takes possession of either real or personal property. We have determined that the Commission did not have authority to decide the plaintiff's facial challenge to the constitutionality of the statute. We have also determined the plaintiff would not be entitled to compensation even if his constitutional challenge to the statute was successful. Consequently, we affirm the dismissal of his claim.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 12/01/16
James Bates v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01819-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner William O. Shults, Commissioner

The plaintiff is an inmate who filed a claim with the Claims Commission after the Tennessee Department of Correction made the determination that inmates were prohibited from possessing small electric heating appliances known as “hotpots.” He sought compensation for the loss of his hotpot under the Takings Clauses of the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions. The Commission dismissed the plaintiff's claim because it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over takings claims involving only personal property. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 9-8-307(a)(1)(V); 12-1-202 (defining “private property” as “real property, or improvements to real property . . . .”). The plaintiff appealed, contending that the definition of “private property” was unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court‟s decision in Horne v. Dep’t of Agric., --- U.S. ----,135 S. Ct. 2419, 192 L. Ed. 2d 388, (2015), which held that the government is required to pay just compensation under the Takings Clause when it physically takes possession of either real or personal property. We have determined that the Commission did not have authority to decide the plaintiff's facial challenge to the constitutionality of the statute. We have also determined the plaintiff would not be entitled to compensation even if his constitutional challenge to the statute was successful. Consequently, we affirm the dismissal of his claim.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 12/01/16
John C. Wells, III v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01715-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner William O. Shults, Commissioner

The plaintiff is an inmate who filed a claim with the Claims Commission after the Tennessee Department of Correction made the determination that inmates were prohibited from possessing small electric heating appliances known as “hotpots.” He sought compensation for the loss of his hotpot “under the Takings Clause of the State and Federal Constitutions.” The Commission dismissed the plaintiff's claim because it did not have subject matter jurisdiction over takings claims involving only personal property. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 9-8-307(a)(1)(V); 12-1-202 (defining “private property” as “real property, or improvements to real property . . . .”). The plaintiff appealed, contending that the definition of “private property” was unconstitutional under the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Horne v. Dep’t of Agric., --- U.S. ----,135 S. Ct. 2419, 192 L. Ed. 2d 388 (2015), which held that the government is required to pay just compensation under the Takings Clause when it physically takes possession of either real or personal property. We have determined that the Commission did not have authority to decide the plaintiff's facial challenge to the constitutionality of the statute. We have also determined the plaintiff would not be entitled to compensation even if his constitutional challenge to the statute was successful. Consequently, we affirm the dismissal of his claim.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 12/01/16
United Parcel Services, Inc. v. James Wyrick, et al.
E2015-02523-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor
An employee was injured in the course and scope of his employment and became permanently and totally disabled. The employer filed a petition asking the trial court to determine the workers’ compensation benefits due the employee. The primary disputed issue was the extent of the employee’s disability that was attributable to the employer. The trial court ruled that the employer was responsible for 35 percent of the employee’s disability. After review, we hold the employer is responsible for 100 percent of the employee’s disability. We reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand for further proceedings.
 
Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 11/30/16
Donald Crockett, et al. v. Sumner County Board of Education, et al
M2015-02227-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

A thirteen year-old child slipped off bleacher seats at a middle school and injured his leg when he was using the seats as steps in July 2012.  The child and his parents sued the school for negligence, and the school asserted the defense of comparative negligence.  The trial court applied the Rule of Sevens, concluded the school rebutted the presumption of no capacity for negligence, and determined that the child was solely responsible for his injury.  The trial court also determined that the school was not liable for negligent supervision of the child.  The parents and child appeal, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 11/30/16
Joan Stephens, et al. v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., et al
M2016-00509-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

This case arises out of a workplace injury. The injured worker and her husband filed this lawsuit asserting various causes of action against numerous defendants. The trial court dismissed one of the defendants upon finding that the defendant was entitled to workers’ compensation immunity. The trial court certified its order of dismissal as final pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02. Plaintiffs appeal, claiming that the defendant waived the affirmative defense of workers’ compensation immunity, that the trial court applied the wrong standard for a motion to dismiss, and that the particular claims asserted are not barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the workers’ compensation law. We affirm.  

Williamson County Court of Appeals 11/30/16
Bill Frank Brainerd v. Alisa Rheanne Brainerd
M2015-00362-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jane W. Wheatcraft

In this appeal arising from the parties’ divorce, the husband challenges the trial court’s valuation of his interest in a limited partnership, division of the marital estate, awards of transitional alimony and alimony in solido, child support order, and adoption of the wife’s proposed permanent parenting plan. The husband also appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion for a restraining order. We conclude that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s valuation of the husband’s interest in the limited partnership. We also conclude that the trial court did not err in denying Husband’s motion for a restraining order. However, because the trial court failed to provide sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law, we are unable to effectively review the remainder of the issues raised by the husband on appeal. Therefore, we vacate the judgment of the trial court with regard to these remaining issues and remand for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 11/30/16
Deborah Lacy v. Kevin Mitchell, D.C., et al.
M2016-00677-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This appeal arises from the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint based on her failure to comply with the pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith requirements of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (“THCLA”). On appeal, the plaintiff contends that she was not obligated to comply with the THCLA’s procedural requirements because her complaint did not assert a health care liability claim. Having reviewed the complaint, we conclude that it asserts two separate and distinct claims: one health care liability claim and one non-health care liability claim. We therefore affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the health care liability claim, vacate the trial court’s dismissal of the non-health care liability claim, and remand the case for further proceedings.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/30/16