Court Opinions

Format: 07/26/2016
Format: 07/26/2016
Jose Segura v. State of Tennessee
W2015-00929-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

Petitioner, Josue Segura, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that he received effective assistance of counsel. Following a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/26/16
In re S.D.D.
W2015-02300-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James R. Reid

This case involves an effort to terminate parental rights. The Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of E.D. (Mother) with respect to her child, S.D.D. (the Child). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence of four grounds supporting termination. The court also found, by the same quantum of proof, that termination is in the best interest of the Child. Mother appeals. We affirm.

Haywood County Court of Appeals 07/26/16
Theodore Elaster, Jr. et al. v. Hamilton County Department of Education et al.
E2015-02241-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

This appeal arises from an alleged assault of a student by a school employee.  April Elaster (“Mother”) filed a lawsuit against the Hamilton County Department of Education, Dean of Students Edward Rowe (“Rowe”), and part-time school administrator Carol Thomas (“Thomas”) (collectively, “Defendants”) in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”) on behalf of her minor son, Theodore Elaster, Jr. (“the Child”).  Mother alleged that Rowe assaulted the Child, and her various counts arose from that alleged assault.  After a trial, the Trial Court entered judgment in favor of Defendants, finding that any collision between Rowe and the Child was unintentional.  Mother appeals to this Court.  We find that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s finding that the alleged assault did not happen, and this finding serves to defeat all of Mother’s claims.  We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Bradley Darrin Williams
M2015-00946-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph A. Woodruff

A Williamson County grand jury indicted the Defendant, Bradley Darrin Williams, for one count of driving under the influence (“DUI”) and one count of DUI per se. The Defendant filed a pretrial motion to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of his traffic stop. The trial court denied the Defendant’s motion, and the Defendant pleaded guilty to the two counts of DUI. The trial court merged the convictions and sentenced the Defendant to eleven months and twenty-nine days, to be served on probation after the service of seven days in confinement. The Defendant reserved a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) as to whether the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress because the officer did not have reasonable suspicion justifying the stop.  After review, we conclude that the traffic stop was lawful and thus, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/26/16
Brian O'Neal Elliott v. State of Tennessee
M2015-02000-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

In 2012, the Petitioner, Brian O’Neal Elliott, pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to twenty-five years of incarceration to be served at 100%.  In 2013, the Petitioner filed a pro sepetition for post-conviction relief.  The post-conviction court appointed counsel, who filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief alleging that the Petitioner had received the ineffective assistance of counsel.  The post-conviction court held a hearing on the petition and denied relief.  We affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/26/16
State of Tennessee v. Monica Dawn Hammers
E2015-00464-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

A Hamilton County jury found the Defendant, Monica Dawn Hammers, guilty of attempted aggravated child abuse. Pursuant to an agreement between the parties, the trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I offender to serve a nine year sentence through supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the evidence presented at trial is insufficient to support her conviction; (2) the trial court erred in allowing the State to present evidence of the Defendant's prior bad acts; and (3) the trial court failed to instruct the jury on lesser-included offenses. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/26/16
George Thomas Kirby v. Mable Dean Kirby
M2015-01408-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

In this divorce action, the trial court fashioned a division of the parties’ marital property without determining values for several items of personal property and amounts of certain debt and without reference to the statutory factors. The trial court also awarded the wife alimony in futuro in the amount of $1,500 per month and attorney’s fees in the amount of $5,000. The husband has appealed. Due to the lack of factual findings regarding the basis for the trial court’s marital property distribution, we vacate that portion of the judgment and remand the issue to the trial court for entry of appropriate findings of fact and conclusions of law. Because we have vacated the trial court’s distribution of marital property, we must also vacate and remand the issues of alimony and attorney’s fees for reconsideration by the trial court once an equitable distribution of marital property has been fashioned. The wife’s claim seeking attorney’s fees incurred on appeal is denied.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/25/16
Raygan L. Presley v. Grady Perry, Warden
W2016-00182-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

In 2008, a Warren County jury convicted the Petitioner, Raygan L. Presley, of three counts of aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court sentenced the Petitioner to an effective sentence of twenty-two years, to be served at 100%. Upon review, this Court ordered that all the sentences run concurrently, for a total effective sentence of eleven years, to be served at 100%. See State v. Raygan L. Presley, No. M2007-02487-CCA-R3-CD, 2008 WL 3843849, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Aug. 18, 2008), no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application filed. In December 2015, the Petitioner filed a petition for habeas corpus relief alleging that his sentence had expired. He asserted that, in addition to the pretrial jail credits, he had earned 140 days of behavior credits and 492 days of program credits, meaning that his sentence expired on November 1, 2015. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition, finding that the face of the judgments did not show that his sentence had expired and that he must pursue relief pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the trial court erred when it dismissed his petition. After review, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s judgment.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/25/16
Danny Ray Lacy v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02345-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

In 1996, a Madison County jury convicted the Petitioner, Danny Ray Lacy, of first degree felony murder during the perpetration of aggravated child abuse, and the trial court sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The Petitioner appealed, and this Court affirmed the Petitioner's conviction and sentence. State v. Lacy, 983 S.W.2d 686 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1997). The Petitioner filed an unsuccessful petition for habeas corpus relief. Danny Ray Lacy v. Cherry Lindamon, Warden, No. M2009-00072-CCA-R3-CO, 2009 WL 3029619, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Sept. 22, 2009), no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application filed. The Petitioner then filed this petition for writ of error coram nobis, alleging that the Jackson Police Department possessed exculpatory evidence. The coram nobis court dismissed the petition, and, after review, we affirm that judgment.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/25/16
State of Tennessee v. Ardell Allen
E2015-00825-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

Based on a tip from a confidential informant, police stopped the Defendant and ultimately discovered cocaine in his pocket. He was charged with possession of more than 0.5 grams of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a daycare, a Class B felony. The Defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence, which the trial court granted. The State appeals, arguing that the confidential informant's credibility and basis of knowledge were sufficiently established, giving officers reasonable suspicion to seize the Defendant. Following our review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/25/16
In re Estate of Alys Harris Lipscomb
W2015-02277-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen D. Webster

Appellants appeal from an order that was not final pursuant to Rule 58 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Accordingly, we dismiss this appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/25/16
Edward Bruce Coleman v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01747-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte D. Watkins

The petitioner, Edward Bruce Coleman, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2010 Davidson County Criminal Court jury conviction of aggravated assault, for which he received a sentence of 12 years. In this appeal, the petitioner contends that the order denying post-conviction relief was inadequate and that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/25/16
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Wells
E2015-00561-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

A Sullivan County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Kevin Wells, of possession of a Schedule II controlled substance with intent to sell or deliver, a Class C felony; two counts of possession of a Schedule III controlled substance with intent to sell or deliver, a Class D felony; and driving on a revoked license, a Class B misdemeanor, and he received an effective thirteen-year sentence as a Range III, persistent offender. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence, by allowing the State to introduce text messages from a codefendant's cellular telephone into evidence, and by admitting his statement into evidence. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/25/16
State of Tennessee v. Freddie Ali Bell
M2015-01999-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

In conjunction with the entry of a nolo contendere plea to driving under the influence (“DUI”), Defendant, Freddie Ali Bell, reserved a certified question for appeal pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A) in which he asked this Court to determine whether the record supports the finding of probable cause or reasonable suspicion to legally permit a seizure of Defendant and his vehicle.  After a review, we determine that the evidence supports a finding of probable cause for the stop.  Consequently, the trial court’s denial of the motion to suppress is affirmed.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/25/16
Jack Helmboldt et al v. Michael R. Jugan et al.
E2015-01664-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor John F. Weaver

This appeal concerns certain declarations of covenants and restrictions (i.e., a buffer easement) on a piece of property. The purchasers of the property filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the foreclosure by the bank on its superior mortgage extinguished by operation of law any covenants and restrictions recorded after the bank’s deed of trust was recorded. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the purchasers. The holders of the buffer easement containing the covenants and restrictions appeal. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/25/16
Carla Landrum et al v. Methodist Medical Center et al.
E2015-01733-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

This is a premises liability action in which the plaintiffs, a husband and wife, filed suit against the defendant hospital for personal injuries and other damages resulting from wife’s slip and fall. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, holding that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate defendant’s actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition by failing to proffer material evidence establishing the cause, source, or duration of the dangerous condition. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 07/25/16
Christopher Denton v. Edna Taylor et al.
E2015-01726-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

This case arises out of a head-on automobile accident that resulted in the death of Howard Taylor, the driver of one of the cars, and serious injuries to Christopher Denton (plaintiff), the other driver. Plaintiff brought this negligence action against the decedent’s widow, Edna Taylor, and his estate. There were no witnesses to the accident, and plaintiff has no memory of what happened. Some fifteen months after the complaint was filed, the sole remaining defendant, Edna Taylor, moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient to establish causation. In support of the motion, defendant filed the affidavit of the officer who investigated the accident, in which he stated that he “wasn’t able to locate any roadway evidence that indicated the point of impact.” After a hearing on defendant’s motion, plaintiff filed a motion asking the trial court to grant him more time to obtain and file an accident reconstruction “report.” The court denied the motion and granted summary judgment on the ground that plaintiff provided no evidence establishing that the decedent’s negligence caused the accident. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/25/16
Denver Napier et al v. Gail Howard et al.
E2015-01222-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Telford E. Forgety, Jr.

Gail Howard purchased at auction a subdivision lot in Grainger County. The deed to Howard’s lot, as well as the deeds to the other lots in the subdivision, contains a restrictive covenant prohibiting “single wide mobile homes.” Howard converted her lot into a campground with sixteen camper trailer sites for rent. Denver Napier, Sheryl Napier, and Jeffrey Bryant (collectively the plaintiffs), each of whom had purchased a lot in the subdivision, filed a complaint against Howard seeking an injunction enjoining her from using her property as a campground. They based their complaint on the restrictive covenant against “single wide mobile homes.” The trial court held that the restrictive covenant prohibited, in the court’s words, “camping trailers and/or single wide mobile homes” in the subdivision. Accordingly, the trial court permanently enjoined Howard and all other owners of lots from having, again in the court’s words, “camping trailers/single wide mobile homes” on their property. Howard appeals. We affirm.

Grainger County Court of Appeals 07/25/16
Wilma J. White v. James Dale White, Jr.
M2015-02388-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis

This is an appeal of an order denying Husband’s motion to alter or amend the trial court’s judgment modifying Husband’s alimony obligation. Husband argues that he was not provided adequate notice that a hearing held on July 6, 2015 was the final hearing in the matter and was therefore deprived of due process. We affirm.

Clay County Court of Appeals 07/22/16
Amanda Parker Jones v. Parker Jones
W2015-01304-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor George R. Ellis

Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, we dismiss the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Tenn. R. App. P. 3(a).

Gibson County Court of Appeals 07/22/16
Micah Seamus Reynolds, et al v. Bethany Rich, et al
E2015-01245-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Seeley, Jr.

Micah Seamus Reynolds (“Plaintiff”) and Susan Reynolds sued Ted Rich (“Defendant”) and Bethany Rich for negligence after Plaintiff fell while assisting with the installation of a roof on a house. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. After a hearing, the Circuit Court for Carter County (“Trial Court”) granted the defendants summary judgment after finding and holding, inter alia, that “[t]he record fails to show any evidence of a violation of any duty to [Plaintiff] that [defendants] owed to him . . . .” Plaintiffs appeal to this Court. We find and hold that the defendants owed a duty to Plaintiff and that there are genuine disputed issues of material fact regarding whether defendants breached this duty. As such, summary judgment was granted improperly. We, therefore, reverse the grant of summary judgment and remand this case to the Trial Court for further proceedings.

Carter County Court of Appeals 07/22/16
In Re: Estate of Joan Uhl Pierce
E2016-00013-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This appeal arises from a dispute over purported wills. Joan Uhl Pierce (“Decedent”) died and was survived by five living children (“Petitioners”). Another of Decedent’s children, Brock Andrus, predeceased her, and he was survived by two adult children of his own (“Respondents”). The Administrator of Decedent’s estate filed a petition for declaratory judgment in the Chancery Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) seeking a determination as to whether Decedent died testate or intestate. Petitioners filed a verified petition seeking to admit a purported holographic will of Decedent’s to probate, under which Respondents did not inherit. Respondents asserted that the document, a completed questionnaire, was not a valid holographic will. After a hearing, the Trial Court entered an order in which it held that the questionnaire was not a holographic will, and instead entered into probate an earlier purported will and codicil of Decedent’s in which Respondents did inherit. Petitioners appeal. We hold that the questionnaire is not a valid holographic will. However, we hold also that the Trial Court erred in admitting the putative will and codicil into probate when there was no verified petition before the Trial Court seeking their admission. We vacate the admission of the putative will and codicil and remand for the Trial Court to address the lack of a verified petition. The judgment of the Trial Court is affirmed, in part, and, vacated, in part, and this cause is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/22/16
David Reed v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01441-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The petitioner seeks habeas corpus relief, alleging that he is imprisoned despite the fact that his sentence has expired. The crux of the petitioner's argument is that his two-and-one-half-year sentence for burglary was to be served prior to his two-year sentence for vandalism and that the burglary sentence therefore expired prior to the time he violated his probation. He also disputes the award of sentencing credits. Because the face of the record shows that the petitioner's sentence for burglary was to be served after his sentence for vandalism and that the probationary period had not expired at the time of revocation, we conclude that the habeas corpus court properly dismissed the petition, and we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/16
Norman C. Reece, II v. Jennifer Louise Reece
E2015-01915-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Seeley, Jr.

In this post-divorce action, Norman C. Reece, II (“Father”) appeals the June 9, 2015 order of the Circuit Court for Johnson County (“the Trial Court”) which, inter alia dismissed Father's motion for contempt against Jennifer Louise Reece (“Mother”) and adjusted visitation with, and support for, the parties' minor children. Father's brief on appeal severely fails to comply with Tenn. R. App. P. 27. We, therefore, find that Father has waived his issues on appeal. Furthermore, the record on appeal contains no transcript and Father's statement of the evidence contains nothing whatsoever to show what evidence was heard by the Trial Court. As such, the record presented to this Court precludes meaningful review of the issues on appeal. Given all this, we affirm.

Johnson County Court of Appeals 07/22/16
State of Tennessee v. Demetrius J. Pirtle and Cordarius R. Maxwell
W2014-02222-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The defendants, Demetrius J. Pirtle and Cordarius R. Maxwell, were each convicted by a jury of one count of robbery, a Class C felony; one count of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony; six counts of attempted second degree murder, a Class B felony; six counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony; one count of vandalism of property worth $1,000 or more, a Class D felony; and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony. After merging the aggravated assault convictions into the attempted second degree murder convictions, the trial court sentenced both defendants to an effective thirty-year sentence. On appeal, Mr. Pirtle challenges only the sufficiency of the evidence, asserting that his identity was insufficiently proven on all counts save the vandalism conviction and that the elements of robbery were not established. Mr. Maxwell raises the same issues as Mr. Pirtle, and he also challenges the conviction on the weapons offense as inconsistent with the other parts of the jury's verdict and contests the imposition of consecutive sentences. The appeals were consolidated. Following our review, we affirm the defendants' sentences and convictions.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/16