Court Opinions

Format: 11/23/2014
Format: 11/23/2014
State of Tennessee v. Renita Elaine McDonald
M2013-02666-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Defendant, Renita Elaine McDonald, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000.  As a result, the trial court sentenced her to eight years as a Range II, multiple offender, and denied all forms of alternative sentencing.  After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant appeals, challenging the trial court’s decision to exclude testimony on the basis that it constituted hearsay, the sufficiency of the evidence as to the value of the property taken, and the denial of alternative sentencing.  After our full review, we determine: (1) that the trial court did not err in allowing nontestimonial statements offered by a security officer from another officer while in pursuit of a shoplifter; (2) that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction of theft of property valued at  $1,000 or more but less than $10,000 where the testimony of the store’s loss prevention supervisor regarding identity and value was accredited by the jury; and (3) that the trial court’s denial of alternative sentencing was appropriate.  Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Markius Williams
W2013-01194-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett

The defendant was convicted, after a jury trial, of two counts of aggravated robbery, Class B felonies, and sentenced to concurrent nine-year sentences for a robbery of a couple that took place outside a laundromat. The indictment charged the defendant with having accomplished the crimes with a deadly weapon or through the display of an article used or fashioned to lead the victims to reasonably believe it was a deadly weapon. The trial court correctly instructed the jury orally regarding the elements of aggravated robbery in both counts. However, the written jury instructions for Count 2 omitted the element that the defendant used a deadly weapon and instead instructed the jury to consider whether the victim suffered serious bodily injury. The defendant appeals, challenging both the sufficiency of the evidence and the incorrect instructions under plain error. We conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the verdicts and that the error in charging the jury was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because the jury necessarily found that the defendant used a deadly weapon when it convicted the defendant in Count 1. We accordingly affirm the convictions.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/14
Michael Lee Horton v. Brenda Kay Horton
W2014-00880-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Daniel L. Smith

This divorce action follows a thirty-three year marriage. Plaintiff Husband appeals the trial court’s property division, award of alimony in futuro to Wife, and award of attorney’s fees to Wife. We affirm.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 11/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Dwight Gossett
W2013-01120-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The defendant, Dwight Gossett, was convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual battery, Class B felonies, and sentenced to two consecutive twelve-year sentences for an effective sentence of twenty-four years. On appeal, he argues that: (1) the trial court erred in admitting the forensic interviews of the victims as substantive evidence pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 24-7-123 (2010) because the statute is unconstitutional; (2) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; (3) the trial court erred in admitting testimony of the defendant’s prior bad act; (4) the trial court committed plain error when it failed to require the State to make an election of offenses and when it failed to instruct the jury as to the election of offenses; (5) the State made a prejudicially improper closing argument; (6) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence inconsistent with the principles of the Sentencing Act; and (7) the cumulative effect of these errors violated the defendant’s due process rights. After thoroughly reviewing the record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we conclude that the trial court erroneously admitted evidence of the defendant’s prior bad act and that the prosecutor delivered an improper closing argument. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Thomas Fancher Greenwood
M2013-01924-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

Appellant, Thomas Fancher Greenwood, was found guilty of felony murder during the perpetration of aggravated child neglect, reckless homicide as a lesser-included offense of felony murder during the perpetration of aggravated child abuse, aggravated child abuse, and aggravated child neglect.  The trial court merged the reckless homicide conviction with the felony murder conviction and sentenced appellant to life in prison for felony murder and two twenty-year concurrent sentences for aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect, resulting in an effective sentence of life in prison.  He now appeals his judgments and convictions on the following grounds: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; (2) whether the trial court erred by overruling appellant’s motion to suppress all information contained in his cellular telephone, which was seized by law enforcement officers; (3) whether the trial court erred in allowing hospital and autopsy photographs of the victim to be admitted into evidence; (4) whether the trial court erred in permitting Dr. Seyler to testify with regard to the cause of the victim’s injuries; (5) whether the trial court erred by allowing Dr. Seyler to view the video recording of the victim and render an expert opinion based thereon; (6) whether the trial court erred by allowing Detective Stone to testify that marks on the victim’s neck resembled fingerprints; (7) whether the trial court erred by permitting Amy Vickers to testify with regard to statements made by R.K.; and (8) whether the trial court erred in sentencing appellant.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/14
Thomas L. Keller v. Thyssenkrupp Elevator Corporation
W2013-02529-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Donald P. Harris
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Martha B. Brasfield

An employee sustained a work-related injury to his back and leg and returned to work but eventually resigned due to his continued back and leg pain. The trial court found that the employee established a compensable injury, did not have a meaningful return to work, and awarded sixty-eight percent permanent partial disability benefits. The employer appealed, alleging that the trial court erred in finding that the employee did not have a meaningful return to work and in awarding excessive benefits. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Hardeman County Workers Compensation Panel 11/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Shayne Thomas Hudson
M2013-02714-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

Appellant, Shayne Thomas Hudson, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, a Class D felony, and was sentenced to three years, suspended to supervised probation.  He appeals his conviction on two grounds: (1) whether the trial court erred in admitting evidence of his prior conviction for theft; and (2) sufficiency of the convicting evidence.  Following our careful review of the parties’ briefs, the applicable legal authority, and the record as a whole, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Robert E. Odle
M2014-00349-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jim T. Hamilton

Appellant, Robert E. Odle, was convicted of aggravated arson and sentenced to fifteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, he claims that he proved by clear and convincing evidence that he was insane at the time of the offense and that, therefore, this court should reverse his conviction.  Following our careful review of the record, the applicable law, and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/14
State of Tennessee v. David Andrew Oliver
E2013-02426-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Sword

A Knox County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, David Andrew Oliver, of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and the trial court sentenced him to twenty-five years to be served at 100%. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his confession to police and by limiting his cross-examination of the victim about her prior inconsistent statements. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
Richard Lowell Blanchard, II v. David Osborne, Warden, et al
E2014-00859-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Eugene Eblen

The Petitioner, Richard Lowell Blanchard, II, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, seeking relief from nine misdemeanor convictions spread across four separate indictments for which he received four consecutive sentences of 11 months 29 days. The habeas corpus court denied the petition, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Morgan County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
State of Tennessee v. Ladell Walker
W2014-00040-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Ladell Walker, of assault, a Class A misdemeanor, and the trial court sentenced him to nine months in confinement. On appeal, the appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
State of Tennessee v. William R. Holt
M2014-00654-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.

The Defendant, William R. Holt, was convicted of second degree murder and aggravated robbery upon his “best interest” guilty pleas.  See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-210 (2014), 39-13-402 (2014).  As part of the plea agreement, he accepted a thirty-year sentence at 100% service for second degree murder and a concurrent twelve-year sentence at 100% service for aggravated robbery.  Almost two years later, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct errors in the judgments relative to his offender classification.  The trial court summarily dismissed the motion.  On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in dismissing his motion.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
In Re Shaneeque M.
E2014-00795-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy M. Harrington

This is a parental rights termination appeal brought by the mother. The trial court found clear and convincing evidence to support the grounds for termination and clear and convincing evidence that termination was in the child’s best interest. The mother appeals. We affirm.

Blount County Court of Appeals 11/20/14
State of Tennessee v. Russell Brown
E2013-02663-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carroll L. Ross

The Defendant, Russell Brown, was convicted by a Bradley County jury of first degree premeditated murder and aggravated arson for which he received concurrent sentences of life with the possibility of parole and 20 years, respectively. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions and that the trial court erred in refusing to give a self-defense jury instruction. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
Jarvis Taylor v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00683-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

Petitioner, Jarvis Taylor, was convicted of first degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery in Shelby County. His convictions and effective life sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. See Jarvis Taylor v. State, W2005-01966-CCA-R3-CD, 2006 WL 2242096, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 4, 2006), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct 30, 2006). In January 2014, over seven years after Petitioner’s convictions were affirmed on appeal, Petitioner sought post-conviction relief. The trial court dismissed the petition as untimely. Petitioner appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. We determine that the post-conviction court properly dismissed the petition without an evidentiary hearing where there were no grounds upon which to toll the statute of limitations. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
Ronald Shipley v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00354-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker III

The petitioner, Ronald Shipley, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, claiming that illegality in his sentence for his conviction of rape of a child renders the judgment void. Discerning no error, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
State of Tennessee v. Wayne Sellers
W2013-02771-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter Jr.

Defendant, Wayne Sellers, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for one count of aggravated rape. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted as charged in the indictment. As a result, he was sentenced to twenty-three years as a Range I, standard offender and ordered to serve 100% of the sentence as an aggravated rapist. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and the admission of photographs of the victim’s genitalia at trial. After a thorough review of the record, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction and that the trial court did not err in admitting the photographs. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
State of Tennessee v. David Richardson
W2013-01763-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The Defendant-Appellant, David Richardson, was convicted as charged by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury in case number 11-07432 of first degree premeditated murder and in case number 11-02623 of twelve counts of attempted first degree murder (counts 1-12), twelve counts of aggravated assault (counts 14-25), one count of employment of a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony (count 27), and one count of reckless endangerment committed with a deadly weapon (count 30). The trial court sentenced Richardson to life imprisonment for the first degree murder conviction. It also sentenced Richardson to eighteen years at thirty percent release eligibility for each of the attempted first degree murder convictions, five years at thirty percent release eligibility for each of the aggravated assault convictions, six years at one hundred percent release eligibility for the employment of a firearm during the attempt to commit a dangerous felony conviction, and two years at thirty percent release eligibility for the felony reckless endangerment conviction. The court ordered the sentences for the attempted first degree murder convictions served consecutively to one another, consecutively to the sentence of life imprisonment, and consecutively to the sentences in counts 27 and 30 but concurrently with the sentences in counts 14 through 25, for an effective sentence of life imprisonment plus 224 years. On appeal, Richardson argues: (1) the trial court’s response to two questions from a juror during trial invaded the province of the jury and improperly commented on the evidence; (2) the trial court committed plain error by informing the jury venire that the State was not seeking the death penalty or a sentence of life imprisonment without parole; (3) the trial court committed plain error in instructing the jury that the testimony of one witness is sufficient to support a conviction; (4) the evidence is insufficient to sustain the first degree premeditated murder conviction, the attempted first degree murder convictions, and the aggravated assault convictions in counts 16, 17, 18 and 20 through 25; and (5) the trial court abused its discretion in imposing partially consecutive sentences resulting in a sentence of life imprisonment plus 224 years. Upon review, we affirm Richardson’s convictions but remand the cause to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing. This hearing is limited to consideration of the factors outlined in State v. Wilkerson, 905 S.W.2d 933 (Tenn. 1995), to determine the propriety of consecutive sentencing in this case.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
State of Tennessee v. William Eugene McGinnis, III
M2013-02515-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant, William Eugene McGinnis, II, entered guilty pleas to two counts of aggravated robbery, and the trial court sentenced the Defendant to consecutive eight-year sentences for each count.  Subsequently, the Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty pleas, which was denied by the trial court.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas because his pleas were not entered knowingly and voluntarily and because he received ineffective assistance of counsel in connection with the pleas.  Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
State of Tennessee v. Rudy Vincent Dunn
M2014-00076-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

Appellant, Rudy Vincent Dunn, entered a plea without a recommended sentence to one count of possession of not less than one-half ounce nor more than ten pounds of marijuana with intent to sell or deliver, a Class E felony.  Following a separate sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced him to serve one year and ninety days in confinement.  In this appeal, appellant challenges the trial court’s denial of his request for alternative sentencing.  Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
State of Tennessee v. Marcus Puckett
W2013-02556-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

The Defendant, Marcus Puckett, was convicted by a jury of driving under the influence (“DUI”) and DUI per se. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-10-401. The trial court merged the two charges, and the Defendant was sentenced to eleven months twenty-nine days, with all but seven days suspended, to be followed by supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant makes the following arguments: (1) that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence of his blood-alcohol level based on an illegal search and seizure; (2) that the trial court erred in concluding that the State met its burden in proving compliance with State v. Sensing, 843 S.W.2d 412 (1992), and thus, should not have allowed the testing officer to testify regarding the results of his breath-alcohol test; and (3) that his constitutional rights were violated because the trial court failed to conduct a hearing pursuant to Momon v. State, 18 S.W.3d 152 (Tenn. 1999), following his decision not to testify at trial. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion to suppress based on an illegal search and seizure. We further hold that the trial court improperly concluded that the State complied with the Sensing requirements, and we therefore reverse the Defendant’s conviction and remand to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this opinion. Finally, although we conclude that the trial court’s failure to conduct a Momon hearing was plain error, we hold that such error does not necessitate further action from the trial court at this time because we have ordered a new trial on other grounds.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Brian Darnell
M2013-02540-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

In this appeal pursuant to Rule 37 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, the defendant, Christopher Brian Darnell, appeals two certified questions of law that arose from the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress the evidence obtained via wiretapping:  (1) whether the State provided the defendant with timely and adequate notice that his cellular telephone communications had been intercepted by law enforcement officers and (2) whether the State failed to show the required necessity in its application to monitor the defendant’s telephone communications.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
Shawn Hatcher v. State of Tennessee
W2013-01767-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The petitioner, Shawn Hatcher, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that his trial counsel was ineffective for not putting on expert proof to support his defense theory of diminished capacity and that the post-conviction court erred by relying on Denton v. State and Black v. State to deny his petition on the basis that he failed to present the expert witness’ proposed trial testimony at the evidentiary hearing. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
Derrick Garrin v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00052-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The petitioner, Derrick Garrin, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis, which petition challenged his 1994 Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of two counts of felony murder and two counts of attempted second degree murder on grounds that his sentence was imposed in contravention of Blakely v. Washington, 542 U.S. 296 (2004). Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/14
C. Douglas Jones v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc.
E2013-02451-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Deborah C. Stevens
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Michael W. Moyers

The employee alleged that he sustained a compensable back injury when a stool on which he was sitting collapsed, causing him to fall to the ground. His treating physician opined that he sustained permanent impairment as a result of the incident. Two evaluating doctors opined that his symptoms were related to a prior motor vehicle accident. The employee had not informed the treating physician of the prior motor vehicle accident nor of his prior history of back pain. The trial court found that he did not suffer a compensable injury. The employee has appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment.

Knox County Workers Compensation Panel 11/20/14