Court Opinions

Format: 04/17/2014
Format: 04/17/2014
State of Tennessee v. Travei Pryor - dissenting in part, concurring in part
E2012-02638-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

After reviewing the records and law as it currently stands, I must respectfully dissent from the majority’s reasoned opinion with regard to its State v. White determinations. I would affirm the convictions as they were entered, although merging those counts which were alternatively charged. In all other regards, I join in the majority’s opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/14
State of Tennessee v. Travei Pryor
E2012-02638-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood

A Knox County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Travei Pryor, of eleven counts of aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony; four counts of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony; four counts of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and one count of possessing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, Class C felonies; and one count of criminal impersonation, a Class B misdemeanor. After a sentencing hearing, he received an effective twelve-year sentence. On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions for employing/possessing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and that the trial court committed reversible error by failing to instruct the jury as provided by State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012). Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the trial court’s failure to instruct the jury pursuant to White constitutes reversible error. Therefore, the appellant’s eleven convictions for aggravated kidnapping must be reversed and the case remanded to the trial court for a new trial as to those offenses. The appellant’s remaining convictions are affirmed. However, upon remand, the trial court is to merge the appellant’s aggravated robbery convictions in counts 7 and 8 and counts 9 and 10 and enter single judgments of conviction for those offenses.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/14
State of Tennessee v. Joseph H. Adkins a/k/a Joseph H. Morrison
E2012-02415-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Joseph H. Adkins a/k/a Joseph H. Morrison, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder; first degree felony murder; aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; and three counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-102, -13-202, -14-403. The trial court merged the felony murder conviction into the premeditated murder conviction and imposed a sentence of life with the possibility of parole. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to six years for each of the remaining convictions and ordered all of the sentences to be served consecutively for an effective sentence of life plus twenty-four years. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s pro se motion to remove appointed trial counsel; (2) that the trial court erred by not allowing the Defendant to cross-examine a witness about a prior instance where the witness allegedly lied under oath; (3) that the trial court improperly allowed the admission of hearsay evidence at trial; (4) that the trial court erred by instructing the jury on flight; (5) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction for first degree premeditated murder; (6) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s convictions for two of the aggravated assault charges; (7) that the trial court erred by correcting a “typographical error” on the jury’s verdict form; and (8) that the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentences. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/14
In Re: Josephine E.M.C.
E2013-02040-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey D. Rader

This appeal involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her young daughter. The trial court terminated the mother’s parental rights based upon four separate grounds: substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan; abandonment by willful failure to visit; abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home; and persistent conditions. We find that DCS failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that it made reasonable efforts to reunify the mother and her child, and we reverse the trial court’s finding that grounds for termination were proven by clear and convincing evidence. This matter is remanded for such further proceedings as may be necessary.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 04/17/14
State of Tennessee v. Cordell Remont Vaughn
M2012-01153-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

A Perry County Grand Jury returned an indictment against Defendant, Cordell Remont Vaughn, charging him with first degree murder. After Defendant’s first trial, this court reversed a jury’s verdict that found Defendant guilty of first degree murder. State v. Vaughn, 279 S.W.3d 584, 586-87 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2008). Pursuant to a second jury trial, Defendant was again found guilty of first degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The trial court granted Defendant’s motion for new trial. The State filed a Rule 10 application for an extraordinary appeal with this court, which was granted. On appeal, this court reversed the trial court’s granting of a new trial. State v. Vaughn, No. M2011-00067-CCA-R10-CD, 2012 WL 1484191 (Tenn. Crim. App. April 25, 2012) perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 16, 2012). On May 31, 2013, the trial court entered judgment and sentenced Defendant again to life in prison without the possibility of parole. On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) the evidence was not sufficient to support his first degree murder conviction; (2) that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the toxicology report; and (3) whether his right to be free from double jeopardy was violated. After a review of the record, we affirm Defendant’s conviction of first degree murder; we reverse the sentence of life without possibility of parole and remand this case to the trial court for entry of a judgment of conviction of first degree murder with a sentence of life imprisonment.

Perry County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/14
Duckworth Pathology Group, Inc., a Professional Association v. The Regional Medical Center at Memphis (The Med)
W2012-02607-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Alan E. Highers
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

A surgical pathology group filed this action in chancery court, claiming that the Med violated its own rules and acted arbitrarily and capriciously by failing to award the petitioner with a contract after a lengthy request for proposals process. The petition stated that the chancery court had subject matter jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to the statutes governing petitions for certiorari. The trial court granted the Med’s motion to dismiss for numerous reasons, including lack of jurisdiction. We find that the petition was not subject to dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and we reverse the trial court’s finding to the contrary. However, due to the petitioner’s failure to appeal the trial court’s alternative grounds for dismissal, we find it unnecessary to consider the issues raised on appeal, and we otherwise affirm the order of dismissal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/17/14
Aso Hassan Nejad v. State of Tennessee
M2013-00165-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Jude Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Petitioner, Aso Hassan Nejad, was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to commit first degree murder and sentenced by the trial court to 25 years’ incarceration. This court affirmed Petitioner’s conviction and sentence on appeal. State v. Aso Hassan Nejad a.k.a. Diako Nejad and Ako Hassan Nejad, No. M2009-00481-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 3562015 (Tenn. Crim. App., Sept. 14, 2010), perm. app. denied (Tenn., Feb. 17, 2011). Petitioner now appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief following an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner asserts that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/14
Susan E. Rich et al v. The City of Chattanooga et al.
E2013-00190-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Frank Brown, III

This case presents the issue of whether citizens who reside on real property that is proposed for deannexation by a municipal ordinance may, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 6-51-201 (2011), properly bring a quo warranto or declaratory judgment action against the municipality to challenge adoption of the deannexation ordinance. The trial court dismissed these claims against the municipality, and the plaintiffs have appealed. The plaintiffs have also taken issue with the propriety of the trial court’s determination regarding who would be qualified to vote in the referendum election, as well as other procedural and evidentiary issues. Discerning no error, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 04/17/14
The Bank of New York Mellon f/k/a The Bank of New York, et al. v. William Barry Goodman, et al.
M2013-01372-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Ben H. Cantrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter

Bank made a loan to an individual who owned real property and obtained a deed of trust on the property securing the loan. Bank recorded the deed of trust in the wrong county. A few years later Second Bank obtained two judgment liens and properly registered them in the correct county. Bank later realized its error and registered its deed of trust in the correct county but was by that time in the junior creditor position. Bank filed a complaint seeking equitable subrogation in an effort to obtain the prioritycreditor position and get placed ahead of Second Bank, which had no security interest in the property at issue, but which had filed its liens first. The trial court denied Bank this relief after balancing the equities of the parties. We affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 04/16/14
State of Tennessee on Relation of the Commissioner of the Department of Transportation v. Richardson Lumber Company, et al.
M2012-02092-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

This is a condemnation case in which the State of Tennessee Department of Transportation acquired 20.93 acres of a 46.813 parcel of land by eminent domain for the purpose of constructing a highway. The jury awarded the landowner money for the value of the land acquired, the improvements on the land (including interior roadsand culverts), and incidental damages to the remainder of the property not acquired by the State. The trial court suggested an additur and also awarded the landowner discretionary costs. The State appeals the trial court’s award of an additur and discretionary costs. We have determined that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s suggestion of additur on the issues of incidental damages and interior roads; however, we find the evidence preponderates against the court’s additur with respect to culverts. We also find the trial court erred in assessing discretionary costs against the State.

Humphreys County Court of Appeals 04/16/14
Joseph E. Rich, M.D. v. Dan Warlick
M2013-01150-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Patricia J. Cottrell
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ben H. Cantrell

A doctor who became the subject of disciplinary proceedings by the Tennessee Medical Examiners Board filed a complaint for legal malpractice against the attorney who had represented him in those proceedings. The doctor asserted that the Board suspended his medical license for one year as a result of numerous acts of professional negligence by the attorney. The attorney filed a motion for summary judgment, denying that he was guilty of any professional negligence and contending that in any case, the doctor’s complaint was barred by the one-year statute of limitations for legal malpractice. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the attorney on the basis of the statute of limitations. The court ruled that the doctor suffered a legally cognizable injury when the attorney failed to disclose a list of proposed witnesses to the Administrative Law Judge assigned to conduct the evidentiary hearing, which was more than one year earlier than the doctor’s filing of his legal malpractice complaint. The court accordingly held that the attorney could not be held liable for his failure to disclose the witnesses, or for anyother acts that occurred more than one year prior to the filing of the malpractice complaint. The court certified its judgment as final for purposes of appeal under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/16/14
Richard Price v. State of Tennessee
W2012-02192-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Otis Higgs Jr.

The Petitioner, Richard Price, appeals as of right from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that his trial counsel was ineffective (1) for failing to communicate a plea offer from the State; and (2) for failing to request a curative jury instruction after a police officer testified that he “attempted to talk to” the Petitioner about the offense. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/14
Kristi Kimbro v. Brenda Jones, Warden
W2013-02323-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Wright

The petitioner, Kristi Kimbro, pled guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to thirty-seven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. Subsequently, she filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, alleging that her sentence was void. The habeas corpus court denied the petition, and the petitioner now appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/16/14