Court Opinions

Format: 01/19/2017
Format: 01/19/2017
State of Tennessee v. Jerome Wall
W2016-00169-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

The Appellant, Jerome Wall, filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence in the Shelby County Criminal Court pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The trial court denied the motion, and the Appellant appeals the ruling. Based upon our review of the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
Rochelle Bush v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02391-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Petitioner, Rochelle Bush, appeals the denial of her petition for post-conviction relief in which she challenged her concurrent sentences of ten years at thirty percent for her aggravated robbery conviction and twenty years at one hundred percent for her especially aggravated kidnapping conviction. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that she was denied her right to the effective assistance of counsel, which resulted in the trial court improperly enhancing her sentences. We affirm the post-conviction court's denial of relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Brian Lackland
W2015-02313-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Defendant, Brian Lackland, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury in two separate indictments for aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The indictments were consolidated for trial. A jury found Defendant guilty of simple assault, aggravated burglary, attempted first degree murder, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The charge for aggravated assault was dismissed. Defendant was sentenced to a total effective sentence of twenty-three years. Between the trial and the hearing on the motion for new trial, the victim signed an affidavit recanting his trial testimony. The trial court denied the motion for new trial, finding that the victim's recantation was not credible. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and the trial court's denial of the motion for new trial. Because the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions and the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for new trial, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
Eric R. Wright v. Grady Perry, Warden
W2016-00341-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker, III

The pro se petitioner, Eric R. Wright, appeals the habeas court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus alleging eleven reasons why the habeas court erred. After review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
Brandon Barnes v. U.S. Bank National Association
M2016-00980-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

A musician/composer borrowed money from a bank and assigned performance royalties as collateral. He later filed for bankruptcy, and his debt to the bank was discharged. The bank, however, continued to collect royalties during the pendency of the bankruptcy case. The musician/composer filed suit against the bank seeking recovery of the royalties collected by the bank after the filing of the bankruptcy petition based on theories of unjust enrichment and conversion. The musician/composer also sought damages from the bank for violation of the automatic stay of 11 U.S.C. § 362. The bank moved to dismiss the case for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The trial court granted the motion. Because it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claims, we vacate the decision of the trial court.      

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Jerry L. Faulkner
W2016-00079-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Defendant, Jerry L. Faulkner, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 to correct an illegal sentence. Defendant contends that the trial court erred by concluding that relief was not available because his illegal sentence had expired and thus was not subject to correction under Rule 36.1. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
Brittany Noel Nelson, et al v. Charles W. Myres, et al.
M2015-01857-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

A woman died in a multi-vehicle accident. Two wrongful death actions were filed, one by the woman’s daughter, the other by the woman’s husband. The daughter’s suit named the husband and others as defendants. The husband’s suit named one of the other drivers as the only defendant. The trial court dismissed the daughter’s complaint, holding that Tennessee’s wrongful death statute creates only one cause of action and that the husband, as the surviving spouse, was granted priority to prosecute the action under the statute. The daughter appeals the dismissal of her complaint. Because the husband is unable to name himself as a defendant in the suit he has filed, he is not able to prosecute the wrongful death action in a manner consistent with the right of the decedent to sue all wrongdoers whose actions are alleged to have led to her death; accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court dismissing the daughter’s complaint, reinstate the complaint, and remand the case for further proceedings.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 01/18/17
Kelly D. Bush, et al v. Commerce Union Bank D/B/A Reliant Bank
M2016-00100-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James G. Martin

Kelly D. Bush and Byron V. Bush, DDS (“the Bushes”) appeal the December 7, 2015 order of the Chancery Court for Williamson County (“the Trial Court”) dismissing their suit against Commerce Union Bank d/b/a Reliant Bank (“Reliant”). We find and hold that the doctrine of prior suit pending applies to this case, and therefore, the Trial Court correctly dismissed this suit. We affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 01/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Nicholas Rico Durant
M2015-00564-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Jones

A jury in the Montgomery County Circuit Court found the Appellant, Nicholas Rico Durant, guilty of the first degree premeditated murder of his wife, and the trial court sentenced him to life imprisonment.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence was not sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted with premeditation and that the trial court’s jury instruction regarding premeditation was not sufficient to “satisfy state and federal constitutional rights to due process and trial by jury.”  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/18/17
State of Tennessee v. Byron J. Walker
W2016-00076-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Defendant, Byron J. Walker, entered guilty pleas in 1998 in case numbers 98-01078, 98-01079, and 98-01252 to two counts of possession with the intent to sell cocaine and to one count of possession of marijuana. Pursuant to the negotiated plea agreement, the Defendant received concurrent sentences of three years for each possession with the intent to sell cocaine conviction and sixty days’ confinement for the possession of marijuana conviction, for an effective three-year sentence. On January 26, 2015, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct illegal sentences. After an evidentiary hearing, the trial court denied relief for failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred by denying relief, (2) the trial court erred in its application of the habeas corpus statute, (3) the trial court’s application of State v. Brown, 479 S.W.3d 200 (Tenn. 2015), as the basis for denying relief violated procedural due process, and (4) this court should overturn our supreme court’s holding in Brown. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
Mario Johnson v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02498-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Mario Johnson (“the Petitioner”) entered an open guilty plea to five counts of aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to an effective sentence of thirty years in the Department of Correction. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that he entered his guilty plea unknowingly and involuntarily. The post-conviction court denied relief after a hearing. On appeal, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Bryan Cannady
W2016-00494-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Bryan Cannady (“the Defendant”) pled guilty to one count of theft of property valued at $60,000 or more, three counts of burglary, and one count of vandalism in the amount of $60,000 or more in Case 13-02653 and vandalism in the amount of $1,000 or more in Case 14-06122 and received an effective sentence of ten years in the Department of Corrections. On appeal, the Defendant claims that the trial court erred in denying probation or an alternative sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Jones
W2015-01028-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The defendant, Christopher Jones, was convicted of the first degree premeditated murder of his estranged wife, Heather Palumbo-Jones, and the abuse of her corpse, for which he was sentenced, respectively, to life imprisonment and two years to be served concurrently. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by allowing statements made by his wife as an exception to the hearsay rule, by allowing evidence of his prior abuse of the victim, and by admitting into evidence photographs of his wife’s charred body. Additionally, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for first degree murder. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Barry Lamont Price
W2016-00896-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Petitioner, Barry Lamont Price, appeals the Circuit Court of Madison County's summary denial of his motion to correct illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. William Wayne Eskridge
E2014-01800-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Cupp

The Appellant, William Wayne Eskridge, was convicted in the Washington County Criminal Court of driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater (DUI per se), and the trial court imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days in jail. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that the trial court violated his due process rights by summarily denying his motion to suppress without an evidentiary hearing because he was not present for the hearing. Upon review, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient but that the trial court committed reversible error by summarily denying the motion to suppress. Therefore, the Appellant‟s conviction is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
In Re: Maddox P.
M2016-00569-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry R. Brown

This appeal arises from a dispute over a residential parenting schedule. Joshua Parker (“Father”) filed a petition against Anna Marsh (“Mother”) in the Juvenile Court for Sumner County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to modify the parenting plan regarding their minor child, Maddox (“the Child”). Mother filed a counter-petition. After a hearing, the Juvenile Court made certain modifications to the existing parenting plan but otherwise left it in place. Mother appeals to this Court, arguing in part that the Juvenile Court should have established specific days each month that Father may exercise visitation with the Child. Father, an airline pilot, has a shifting work schedule. We hold that Mother’s requested schedule would have the practical effect of unduly limiting the Child’s time with Father and that the Juvenile Court did not abuse its discretion in denying Mother’s requested modification. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court in its entirety.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 01/17/17
David W. Anderson v. Edward Poltorak, et al
M2015-02512-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

This appeal arises from a civil action in which the jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiff for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. Defendants appeal contending the trial court committed reversible error by limiting their impeachment of Plaintiff regarding three felony convictions. After applying the balancing test under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 403 to determine if the probative value of the evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, the trial court allowed Defendants “to question the plaintiff about whether he has been convicted of three felonies” but barred any questions about “the details regarding the nature of the convictions, types of convictions or the facts and circumstances surrounding the convictions.” The dispositive issue is whether a party to a civil action has an absolute right under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 609 to impeach a witness with evidence of prior felony convictions including the details regarding the nature of his convictions, the types of convictions, or the facts and circumstances surrounding the convictions. Defendants contend the evidence was admissible as a matter of right under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 609; therefore, the trial court did not have the discretion to conduct a balancing test under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 403. Having determined that the trial judge had the discretion to conduct a balancing test under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 403 and that the court did not abuse its discretion in limiting the scope of Defendants’ impeachment of Plaintiff, we affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Jackie Phillip Lester-Dissenting
M2016-00700-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Russell Parkes

I agree with the majority that, generally, once an inmate is in the custody of the TDOC, the proper avenue to address sentence reduction credits is through the APA.  State v. Henry, 946 S.W.2d 833, 834 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1997).  However, our court has recognized unique circumstances which authorize the trial court to entertain requests for declaration of proper sentence credits.  Id. (citing Matthew P. Finlaw v. Anderson County Jail, No. 03C01-9212-CR-0048, 1993 WL 310312, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 13, 1993); State v. Christopher Oliver, No. 03C01-9212-CR-00447, 1993 WL 152408, at *2 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 11, 1993)).  I believe that the instant case calls for similar relief.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Jackie Phillip Lester
M2016-00700-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Russell Parkes

Defendant, Jackie Phillip Lester, pled guilty to aggravated assault and possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony. He was sentenced to six years, suspended to probation.  Defendant violated probation, and the trial court ordered a partial revocation of the probationary sentence and service of eighteen months in incarceration.  Defendant was released from incarceration and violated probation for the second time shortly thereafter.  This time the trial court revoked Defendant’s probation, ordering him to serve the original six-year sentence.  The trial court awarded Defendant credit for time served during the partial revocation and prior to sentencing on the full revocation.  On appeal, Defendant complains that the trial court did not award him all his due jail credit.  Because the proper method to address post-judgment jail credit is through the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act rather than an appeal to this Court, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.  However, we remand the case for the correction of a clerical error in the revocation order.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
In re Centerstone
M2016-00308-CCA-WR-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargove

Appellant, Centerstone, seeks review of the trial court’s denial of a motion to quash a judicial subpoena issued to Centerstone for the mental health records of the victim in an underlying criminal case.  Centerstone argues that the judicial subpoena issued pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-17-123 is an invalid mechanism for discovery of mental health records made confidential by Tennessee Code Annotated section 33-3-103.  After careful consideration, we conclude that access to the confidential mental health records must come by way of the procedure set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 33-3-105 rather than through a judicial subpoena issued pursuant to section 40-17-123.  Therefore, we vacate the trial court’s order and remand the case.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/17
Jerry Holmes v. City of Memphis Civil Service Commission
W2016-00590-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

An employee of the Memphis Fire Department was terminated following his involvement in a physical altercation in which he struck a business associate in the face with a hammer. The City of Memphis Civil Service Commission upheld the termination, and the employee filed a petition for judicial review. The chancery court reversed the termination, holding that the Civil Service Commission erred in not allowing the employee the benefit of Tennessee’s self-defense statute, in excluding certain evidence of disparate treatment, and in entering a decision not supported by substantial and material evidence. Having reviewed the record, we reverse the judgment of the chancery court in all respects and remand the case for such further proceedings as are necessary and consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/13/17
Rogelynn Emory v. Memphis City Schools Board of Education, Now Known As Shelby County Board Of Education
W2014-01293-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

This case arises out of the termination of a tenured teacher. After a three-day hearing, the school board concluded that there was ample evidence of the teacher’s unsatisfactory job performance, so it terminated her employment. In the trial court review of the school board’s decision, the teacher argued that she should be reinstated with back pay because her school board hearing occurred well beyond the thirty-day period set forth in the Teachers’ Tenure Act. The trial court affirmed the termination and the teacher appealed. The Court of Appeals declined to reinstate the teacher based on the untimeliness of the school board hearing but it awarded her partial back pay. On appeal, we first clarify the standard of judicial review for the termination of a tenured teacher under the Tenure Act. Second, we reverse the Court of Appeals’ award of partial back pay to the teacher because the relief ordered is without basis in the Tenure Act. Finally, because the teacher failed to raise to the school board any objection as to the timeliness of her hearing, we hold that the issue is not properly before this Court. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s decision to uphold the termination of the teacher’s employment.

Shelby County Supreme Court 01/13/17
State of Tennessee v. Jeffery Gordon Layhew
M2016-00725-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda McClendon

The Defendant, Jeffrey Gordon Layhew, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and Driving Under the Influence (“DUI”), offenses which took place on different dates.  For the leaving the scene of an accident conviction, the trial court sentenced him to eleven months and twenty-nine days, to be served at 100%.  For the DUI conviction, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days, to be served at 100%.  The trial court ordered that the sentences be served consecutively for a total effective sentence of two years, at 100%.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it sentenced him to serve maximum consecutive misdemeanor sentences and when it failed to set a specific amount for his restitution.  The State agrees and asks this Court to remand the case to the trial court for resentencing.  After review, we agree with the parties that the trial court erred when it failed to make findings to support consecutive sentences and when it did not set a specific amount for restitution.  Accordingly, we vacate the Defendant’s sentences and remand the case to the trial court for resentencing.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/17
In re Cameron H.
E2016-01002-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

The Final Order of Parentage and Adoption in this case reserved the issue of attorney’s fees for further hearing. As such, it is clear that the order appealed from does not resolve all of the issues raised in the proceedings below. As a result, we lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal. 

Polk County Court of Appeals 01/13/17
State of Tennessee v. William Henry Smith, Jr.
M2016-01475-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest Durard

A Bedford County jury convicted the Defendant, William Henry Smith, Jr., of conspiracy to sell and deliver a Schedule II drug, and the trial court sentenced him to fifteen years of confinement.  On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence against him is insufficient to support his conviction.  After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.    

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/17