Court Opinions

Format: 05/27/2016
Format: 05/27/2016
State of Tennessee v. Dinnie Merel Robertson
M2015-01137-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, Dinnie Merel Robertson, was indicted for one count of attempted first degree murder, a Class A felony; one count of felony reckless endangerment, a Class E felony; three counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, a Class E felony; two counts of vandalism valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony; and one count of carrying a firearm with the intent to go armed, a Class C misdemeanor. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101, -13-103, -13-202, -14-105, -14-212, -14-408, -17-1307. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of one count of misdemeanor reckless endangerment, a Class A misdemeanor; three counts of cruelty to animals, a Class A misdemeanor; one count of vandalism valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000; one count of vandalism valued at more than $500 but less than $1,000, a Class E felony; and one count of carrying a firearm with the intent to go armed. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-103, -14-105, -14-202, -14-408. The jury acquitted the Defendant of the felony reckless endangerment charge. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of four years. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred by instructing the jury on cruelty to animals as a “lesser-included” offense of aggravated cruelty to animals; (2) that the trial court committed plain error by taking his motion for judgment of acquittal “under advisement”; and (3) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions for misdemeanor reckless endangerment and both of the vandalism charges. The State concedes that the indictments charging aggravated cruelty to animals failed to charge an offense; therefore, the trial court lacked the authority to instruct the jury on cruelty to animals. Following our review, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions for misdemeanor reckless endangerment, both vandalism charges, and carrying a firearm with the intent to go armed. However, the Defendant’s convictions for cruelty to animals are reversed and dismissed.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/27/16
In re Jenkins Bonding Company
M2015-00868-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Appellant, Jenkins Bonding Company, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s judgment of final forfeiture of bail bonds. The Appellant argues that its obligation to secure the appearance of a defendant had been released; therefore, the trial court erred in issuing a judgment of final forfeiture. Upon review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/27/16
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Tolbert III a/k/a Micah Joshua Ford
E2015-00770-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Defendant, Joseph I. Tolbert III, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of three counts of first degree felony murder, first degree premeditated murder, attempt to commit first degree murder, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, and two counts of especially aggravated burglary. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202 (2014) (first degree murder), 39-13-403 (2014) (especially aggravated robbery), 39-14-404 (2014) (especially aggravated burglary), 39-12-101 (2014) (criminal attempt). The convictions for felony murder and premeditated first degree murder were merged and the Defendant received an effective sentence of life plus twenty-two years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions, (2) his convictions for especially aggravated burglary are statutorily barred, and (3) his convictions for especially aggravated burglary violate double jeopardy principles. We affirm the judgments of the trial court relative to first degree felony murder, attempted first degree murder, and one of the especially aggravated robbery convictions. We merge the convictions for especially aggravated burglary to reflect one conviction for aggravated burglary and reduce the second conviction for especially aggravated robbery to aggravated assault and remand for resentencing relative to these counts.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/27/16
State of Tennessee v. Kenderick Michael Tucker
M2015-01155-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

Defendant, Kenderick Michael Tucker, appeals from the trial court’s revocation of probation. Defendant contends that the trial court denied him due process by relying upon evidence that was not alleged in the probation violation warrant. Defendant also contends that he was denied due process because the warrant provided insufficient notice and because the trial court made insufficient findings of fact. The State argues that Defendant admitted his probation violation, and therefore, the evidence supports the trial court’s order of revocation. After a careful review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/27/16
State of Tennessee v. Brian E. Dodson
E2016-00037-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The defendant, Brian E. Dodson, appeals the denial of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence. Because the defendant has failed to state a colorable claim for relief under Rule 36.1, the interests of justice do not require that we waive the timely filing of the notice of appeal in this case. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Blount
W2015-00747-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula Skahan

Defendant, Brandon Blount, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated burglary acting in concert with two or more other persons, a Class B felony, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class D felony. He was sentenced by the trial court as a Range I offender to consecutive terms of eight years at 30% for the aggravated burglary conviction and three years at 100% for the firearms conviction. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; that the trial court erred by denying Defendant's motion to suppress his statement to police; by failing to instruct the jury that unlawful possession of a weapon is a lesser included offense of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony; and that the trial court committed plain error by not declaring a mistrial because of the prosecutor's improper comments during closing argument. After a thorough review of the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/26/16
State of Tennesse v. Antonio Howard
W2014-02488-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Defendant, Antonio Howard, along with four co-defendants, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for six counts of aggravated rape, one count of especially aggravated robbery, two counts of aggravated robbery, and three counts of aggravated assault. Following a jury trial, he was convicted as charged following a jury trial. The trial court merged counts 4-6 of aggravated rape with counts 1-3 of aggravated rape and sentenced Defendant to consecutive sentences of 25 years on each count. The trial court merged Defendant's convictions for aggravated assault with his convictions for especially aggravated robbery and aggravated robbery and sentenced Defendant to consecutive sentences of 25 years for especially aggravated robbery and 12 years for each count of aggravated robbery. The total effective sentence imposed was 124 years. In this appeal as of right, Defendant raises the following issues for our review: 1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, and the trial court erred by denying Defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal; 2) the trial court erred by imposing the maximum sentence within the applicable range and imposing consecutive sentencing; and 3) the trial court erred by allowing a co-defendant to testify wearing “street clothing,” by allowing a victim to testify to “prejudicial, irrelevant and inflammatory information,” and by not permitting Defendant to cross-examine a State's witness about the substance of her report. Following a careful review of the record, we conclude that Defendant is not entitled to relief. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/26/16
Russell Dean Long v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01903-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lisa D. Rice

The Petitioner, Russell Dean Long, appeals as of right from the Washington County Criminal Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel (1) because a recording of a 911 call was not entered into evidence during the trial; and (2) because lead counsel told the jury during the opening statement that they would hear the recording. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Austin Drummond
W2014-02553-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Defendant, Austin Drummond, was indicted by the Madison County Grand Jury with one count of aggravated robbery. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of the offense. The trial court sentenced Defendant to serve ten years in the Department of Correction. In this appeal as of right, Defendant asserts that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and that his sentence is excessive. Having carefully reviewed the record before us and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/25/16
Stacy Ramsey v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01019-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Charles C. McGinley

Petitioner, Stacy Ramsey, appeals from the Carroll County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his second petition for post-conviction relief, which the trial court treated as a motion to reopen his post-conviction proceeding. We dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction because the Petitioner failed to comply with the statutory requirements governing an appeal from the denial of a motion to reopen post-conviction proceedings. If treated as a second post-conviction petition as styled by Petitioner, through counsel, then it was subject to summary dismissal because only one petition for post-conviction relief is permitted, T.C.A. § 40-30-102(c), and because the petition was barred by the applicable one-year statute of limitations, T.C.A. § 40-30-102(a).

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/25/16
Brandon Sutton v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01729-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

The petitioner, Brandon Sutton, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2010 Jefferson County Criminal Court jury conviction of first degree murder, for which he received a sentence of life without parole. In this appeal, the petitioner contends only that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Jefferson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/25/16
Rafia Nafees Khan v. Regions Bank et al.
E2015-01891-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

The trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss on the basis of prior suit pending and dismissed the plaintiff's lawsuit. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/25/16
State of Tennessee v. Kavonda Renee Waters
M2015-00324-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

Defendant, Kavonda Renee Waters, pleaded guilty to a Class A misdemeanor failure to appear in case number II-CR017036 and a Class E felony failure to appear offense in case number II-CR058059. The trial court imposed sentences of eleven months, twenty-nine days for failure to appear in case number II-CR017036 and two years for felony failure to appear in case number II-CR058059. On appeal, Defendant argues that her sentence is excessive and that the trial court erred by ordering her to serve her sentence in confinement. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/25/16
Crescent Sock Company v. Robert H. Yoe, III et al.
E2015-00948-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael J. Sharp

Crescent Sock Company filed this action against its Chief Executive Officer, Robert H. Yoe, III, the day before Crescent terminated his employment. It sought a declaratory judgment that Yoe’s employment contract and an agreement between Crescent and Yoe Enterprises, Inc., a company wholly owned by Yoe, were invalid and unenforceable. After a seven-day bench trial, the court found the two agreements to be valid. It enforced them and found in favor of Yoe and Yoe Enterprises on some of the causes of action in their counterclaim. The trial court awarded Yoe and Yoe Enterprises attorney’s fees of $765,880.77. Yoe’s employment contract, however, does not include Yoe Enterprises among those entitled to seek "prevailing party" fees and expenses.

McMinn County Court of Appeals 05/25/16
Gretchen Michele Benedict v. Donald Lester Benedict, Jr.
E2015-01427-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Pamela A. Fleenor

This is the second time this matter has been before us on appeal. The issue is again the correct amount of Donald Lester Benedict, Jr.’s (Father) income upon which child support is to be based. Gretchen Michele Benedict (Mother) argues that the trial court erred when it set Father’s child support based upon an incorrect income figure. We have determined that the trial court misinterpreted our previous opinion in Benedict v. Benedict, No. E2013-00978-COA-R3-CV, 2014 WL 2187779 (Tenn. Ct. App., filed May 27, 2014) (Benedict I). The trial court incorrectly held that Father’s income was $75,000 per year for the purpose of setting child support for the period February 2007 to May 2014. The trial court used the $75,000 annual figure even though the evidence showed that Father’s actual income during the period of 2010-2014 ranged from a low of $60,444 to a high of $199,530. We vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand for a recalculation of the amount of child support.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/25/16
In re J.M.M.
E2015-01116-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Janice Hope Snider

This is a termination of parental rights case. The Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of W.J.N. (Father) with respect to J.M.M. (the Child). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of five grounds warranting termination. The court found the same quantum of evidence reflecting that termination is in the best interest of the Child. Father appeals. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 05/25/16
Judy Lance d/b/a J & B Discount v. Owner's Insurance Company
E2015-00274-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

This is a breach of insurance contract action for failure to remit payment pursuant to a business-owners policy after the subject property was destroyed by fire. The case proceeded to jury trial. After denying the insurance company's motion for a directed verdict, the court submitted the case to the jury. The jury found that the plaintiff was entitled to recover under the policy and awarded compensatory and punitive damages and prejudgment interest. The jury also imposed a bad faith penalty and damages pursuant to the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The insurance company appeals. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

Polk County Court of Appeals 05/25/16
Ted Cope et al. v. Hawkins County, Tennessee
E2015-01615-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

Several property owners brought suit against the county for inverse condemnation when the county commission's road committee rescinded its recommendation to accept a road as a county road. The county sought dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The trial court dismissed the suit. The property owners appeal. We affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 05/25/16
In Re Brody., et al
M2015-01586-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

This appeal concerns the propriety of a writ of certiorari granted by the Williamson County Chancery Court to review a protective custody order entered by the Williamson County Juvenile Court. The chancery court held that the protective custody order from the juvenile court was void and enjoined the Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) from interfering with the paternal grandmother’s physical and legal custody of the minor children at issue. Because we are of the opinion that the chancery court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to review the juvenile court’s order, we vacate the judgment of the Chancery Court and remand.
 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/24/16
Megan E. Smith v. Justin L. Smith
M2015-01038-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

This is an appeal of an order modifying a party’s child support obligation. The trial court granted Appellee’s petition to downwardly modify her child support obligation based on a decrease in Appellee’s income. Appellant objected, arguing that Appellee was voluntarily underemployed. The trial court found that Appellee was not underemployed and determined Appellee’s income for the purpose of child support obligation by averaging the income she earned in each of her previous five positions. We affirm in part and vacate in part.      

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 05/24/16
Matthew Lee Wheeler v. Alethia Danielle Wheeler
M2015-00377-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa Jackson

This appeal involves a mother’s post-divorce petition to modify a parenting plan. The court below determined that while a material change of circumstances had occurred, modification of the plan was not in the child’s best interest. The mother appeals. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the Chancery Court.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 05/24/16
Raines Brothers, Inc. v. H. Michael Chitwood, et al.
E2015-01430-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Jeffrey Hollingsworth

This is the second appeal in this contract action, which stems from the failure of the defendant, H. Michael Chitwood, to pay for construction work performed by the plaintiff, Raines Brothers, Inc. (“Raines”). The work was performed on a home occupied by Mr. Chitwood but owned by a trustee, James Dreaden, who was also named as a defendant in the original action. Following a bench trial, the trial court awarded Raines a judgment against Mr. Chitwood and Mr. Dreaden (collectively, “Defendants”) in the amount of $66,762.71. The trial court also awarded prejudgment interest at the rate of eighteen percent per annum, beginning August 14, 2007. The trial court denied Raines's claim for attorney's fees. Following a timely appeal by Defendants, this Court determined that Raines adequately proved its entitlement to the trial court's judgment of $66,762.71 against Mr. Chitwood but reversed the trial court's judgment against Mr. Dreaden. This Court modified the trial court's award of the rate of interest from eighteen percent per annum to ten percent in accordance with relevant statutory and case law.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/24/16
State of Tennessee v. Jose Reyes
M2015-00504-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

The defendant, Jose Reyes, was convicted of one count of rape of a child and sentenced to thirty-two years at 100%. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain the verdict and that the trial court erred in several of its rulings. Specifically, he asserts that the trial court erred in: denying his motion in limine to prevent the Child Advocacy Center facility dog from being present with the victim as he was testifying; denying his motion to suppress his written statement and his motion in limine that the statement be excluded at trial; denying his motion to dismiss the superseding indictment; denying his motion for a continuance to locate a witness; denying his motion in limine to exclude testimony regarding his having sexual relations or watching pornography in the presence of the victim; denying his motion for judgment of acquittal; imposing an excessive sentence; and considering the victim impact statement, which included references to HIV, herpes, and gonorrhea. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

DeKalb County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/16
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Wayne Moore
M2015-01229-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The Defendant-Appellant, Jeffrey Wayne Moore, entered a guilty plea to driving under the influence (DUI) in exchange for a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served on probation after the service of forty-eight hours in jail. As a condition of his plea, Moore reserved a certified question of law challenging the denial of his motion to suppress, which was based upon an alleged unconstitutional seizure. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/24/16
In re Malaya B. et al.
E2015-01880-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W.Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This appeal arises from the termination of Mother’s parental rights. Mother’s two children were removed from Mother on an emergency basis. A court later adjudicated the children dependent and neglected based on the stipulation of Mother. After the children had been in State custody for nearly eight months, the Department of Children’s Services petitioned to terminate Mother’s parental rights. Following a trial, the juvenile court found that two statutory grounds existed to terminate Mother’s rights—substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan and persistent conditions. The court also concluded that the termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest. Mother appeals, arguing that the evidence was not clear and convincing that there were statutory grounds for termination or that termination was in the children’s best interest. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/24/16