Court Opinions

Format: 05/03/2016
Format: 05/03/2016
Ameale Hudson v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01096-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The Petitioner, Ameale Hudson, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel based upon trial counsel‘s failure to include in his motion for new trial the issue of the trial court‘s denial of two of the Petitioner‘s pretrial motions, which resulted in the waiver of the issues on direct appeal. He further asserts that the cumulative effect of trial counsel‘s errors entitles him to post-conviction relief. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/03/16
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Patton Benfield
W2015-00532-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Kevin Patton Benfield, was convicted by a Henderson County jury of one count of aggravated assault and received an effective sentence of six years' confinement. On appeal, the sole issue presented for our review is whether the evidence is sufficient to support his conviction. Upon our review, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/03/16
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Harris
W2015-00500-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The Defendant, Joseph Harris, appeals as of right from his jury conviction for aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction because violence was only used after the taking of the automobile had been completed; (2) that the trial court should have declared a mistrial when an alleged violation of Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123 (1968), took place by a witness's reference to a co-defendant's statement that incriminated the Defendant; (3) that the trial court should have instructed the jury on joyriding as lesser-included offense of theft; and (4) that the trial court should have issued a special instruction on when a “taking” occurred by including additional language from State v. Swift, 308 S.W.3d 827 (Tenn. 2010). Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/03/16
Angela Michelle Newberry v. Jeremy Mack Newberry
E2015-01801-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

Father filed a petition to modify the parties’ permanent parenting plan to make him the primary residential parent. The trial court granted Father’s petition, finding that there had been a material change of circumstances and that a change of primary residential parent was in the best interest of the two younger children. Because the trial court applied an erroneous legal standard in making its determination of a material change of circumstances, we vacate and remand.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/02/16
In re Tristan B.
E2015-01993-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kurt Andrew Benson

Father appeals the trial court's determination that termination of his parental rights is in the child's best interest. The trial court found clear and convincing evidence to terminate Father's parental rights on grounds of abandonment by wanton disregard, persistent conditions, and substantial non-compliance with a permanency plan. The trial court thereafter determined that termination is in the child's best interest. Discerning no error, we affirm both the trial court's rulings regarding grounds and its determination that termination is in the child's best interest.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/02/16
Douglas Brent Walker v. G.UB.MK Constructors
E2015-00346-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge William T. Ailor

In 2003, an employee sustained injuries to his spine, pelvis, and shoulder while working for his employer. In 2007, the trial court determined that the employee was permanently and totally disabled as a result of the work-related injury and that his employer was responsible for authorized future medical treatment directly related to the work-related injury. In 2013, the employee filed a motion to compel medical benefits, asserting that his employer had refused to pay for medical treatment determined to be reasonable and necessary by his authorized treating physician. The trial court denied the motion, and the employee 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 trial court’s judgment.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/02/16
State of Tennessee v. Randy Jackson
W2015-02021-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant, Randy Jackson, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and attempt to commit aggravated robbery, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-402 (2014), 39-12-101 (2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to consecutive terms of eleven years for aggravated robbery and nine years for attempted aggravated robbery, for an effective twenty-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Justin Tyler
W2015-00161-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The defendant, Justin Tyler, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to twenty-five years and ten years, respectively, to be served consecutively in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant argues that: (1) the trial court erred in admitting the video of the victim's forensic interview, (2) the prosecutor committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument, and (3) the cumulative effect of the errors warrants reversal. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Alexander Carney - Dissenting
W2015-01265-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s conclusion that the appeal should be dismissed. However, when the issue is addressed on its merits, the convictions should be affirmed. The trial court found that Defendant was not wearing his seatbelt, which was a violation of the law, and that fact gave the trooper legal grounds to stop Defendant. By the limited issue in the certified question of law, Defendant (who presumably drafted the certified question) challenged only the stop and seizure of his vehicle on the ground that he was driving without wearing his seatbelt. The State could have insisted that the certified question include the issue relied upon by the majority in order to justify the seizure of the drug evidence, but did not. Thus, neither the State nor this court can go beyond the precise issue presented. The appellate court is “limited to consideration of the question preserved.” State v. Day, 263 S.W.3d 891, 900 (Tenn. 2008).

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Alexander Carney
W2015-01265-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The defendant, Alexander K. Carney, pled guilty in the Madison County Circuit Court to possession of less than .5 grams of cocaine with the intent to sell or deliver, a Class C felony; possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor; resisting arrest, a Class B misdemeanor; and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor, for which he received an effective sentence of five years in the Department of Correction, to be served consecutively to his sentence for a conviction in a separate case. As a condition of his guilty plea, the defendant attempted to reserve a certified question of law regarding the legality of the traffic stop that led to the discovery of the drugs. Because we agree with the State that the certified question of law is not dispositive of the case, we dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Nicholas Grace
W2015-01177-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Defendant, Nicholas Grace, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-402. The sole issue presented for our review is whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain the conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/16
State of Tennessee v. Ricky Duvil Lunsford
W2014-01926-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Nathan B. Pride

A Madison County jury convicted the Defendant, Ricky Duvil Lunsford, of attempted voluntary manslaughter and employing a deadly weapon during the commission of a dangerous felony. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it: (1) failed to properly instruct the jury; (2) excluded an email from the Defendant to the victim about the decline of their marriage; (3) prevented the Defendant from testifying about the victim's prior aggressive tendencies; and (4) excluded evidence of the victim's prior domestic assault charge. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we conclude that the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury as to self-defense. We reverse the judgments of conviction and remand for a new trial.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/16
Kevin Anthony Dickson Junior v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01443-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Richard R. Vance

Petitioner, Kevin Anthony Dickson Junior, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner's primary contention is that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because he is a sovereign citizen who is not subject to the laws of the State of Tennessee, though he also includes an allegation of ineffective assistance of counsel as well as other alleged constitutional violations. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/29/16
Jeremy Curtis Workman v. State of Tennessee
E2015-00531-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John F. Dugger, Jr.

A Greene County jury convicted the Petitioner, Jeremy Curtis Workman, of five counts of rape of a child and two counts of incest, and the trial court sentenced him to serve twenty-five years, at 100%, followed by twelve years, at 30%. This Court affirmed the Petitioner's convictions. State v. Jeremy Workman, No. E2010-02278-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 6210667 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Knoxville, Dec. 13, 2011), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 16, 2012). The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged, inter alia, that his trial counsel failed to present a defense by not presenting witnesses on the Petitioner's behalf and by failing to subpoena Dr. Chang, a doctor who examined the victim and who the Petitioner asserts gave “different conclusions.” After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the Petitioner relief. We affirm the post-conviction court's judgment.

Greene County General Sessions Courts 04/29/16
Tiffany Amos v. State of Tennessee
W2015-01727-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The petitioner, Tiffany Amos, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of relief from her theft and criminal impersonation convictions, arguing that she received ineffective assistance of counsel and that her guilty pleas were unknowingly and involuntarily entered. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/16
Lona Parker v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02233-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The petitioner, Lona Parker, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received effective assistance of trial counsel. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/16
Alonza Grace v. State of Tennessee
E2015-01392-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rebecca J. Stern

The petitioner, Alonza Grace, appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief, arguing that his guilty plea was not knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently entered because he was under the influence of prescription medication. He further contends that trial counsel was ineffective in failing to request a forensic evaluation to determine his competency and in failing to investigate alleged missing evidence. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/16
Tambra Jo Swonger v. James Henry Swonger
E2015-01130-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillan

This appeal arises from a default judgment entered in a divorce action, wherein the wife was granted, inter alia, a permanent order of protection against the husband. The husband sought to have the permanent order of protection provision contained in the parties' divorce decree set aside, asserting that the statutory scheme pertaining to orders of protection did not provide authority for entry of a permanent, open-ended order of protection. The trial court entered an order denying relief to the husband and affirming its entry of a permanent order of protection. Husband timely appealed. Determining that the trial court was without statutory authority to enter a permanent order of protection with no time limitation, we vacate that portion of the trial court's order.

Knox County Court of Appeals 04/28/16
Estate of George Lambert v. John Arnold Fitzgerald
E2015-00905-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Jeffrey Hollingsworth

George Lambert ("Lambert") sued John Arnold Fitzgerald ("Fitzgerald") in connection with money that Lambert gave to Fitzgerald to invest alleging claims for, among other things, fraud, intentional misrepresentation, violation of the Tennessee Securities Act of 1980, and unjust enrichment. After trial and a hearing on a motion to amend, the Chancery Court for Rhea County ("the Trial Court") entered its order awarding Lambert a judgment against Fitzgerald for $33,840.28 in principal, pre-judgment interest, and attorney‘s fees pursuant to a promissory note, and dismissing Lambert‘s remaining claims. Lambert appeals to this Court raising issues with regard to the dismissal of his claims for fraud, intentional misrepresentation, violation of the Tennessee Securities Act of 1980, and unjust enrichment.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 04/28/16
Paul David Childs v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00994-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

The Petitioner, Paul David Childs, appeals as of right from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief.  The Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel.  Specifically, the Petitioner alleges that trial counsel was ineffective (1) for failing to “adequately inform” the Petitioner about “his rights regarding a preliminary hearing” and failing to request a preliminary hearing; (2) for failing to impeach the victim with an alleged prior inconsistent statement; (3) for preventing the Petitioner from testifying at trial; (4) for failing to sufficiently prepare for the trial, failing to present any witnesses at trial, and pursuing a “highly questionable” trial strategy; and (5) for advising the Petitioner to waive his right to appeal his conviction.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/28/16
Sven Hadjopoulos et al. v. Alexandra Sponcia et al.
E2015-00793-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

This is a grandparent visitation case. Sven Hadjopoulos (“Grandfather”) and Mary Lou Hadjopoulos (“Grandmother”) (“Grandparents,” collectively) filed a petition seeking visitation with their minor granddaughter (“the Child”). Alexandra Sponcia (“Mother”) and Christopher Sponcia (“Father”) (“Parents,” collectively) opposed the petition and the requested visitation. After a trial, the Chancery Court for Greene County (“the Trial Court”) found that substantial harm likely would come to the Child should visitation with Grandparents cease. The Trial Court, therefore, ordered grandparent visitation. Parents filed an appeal to this Court. We hold that the Trial Court’s final judgment is insufficient in a number of ways detailed herein, including its lack of a required best interest determination. We vacate the judgment of the Trial Court and remand for the Trial Court to enter a new, clarified final judgment in this case consistent with this Opinion.

Greene County Court of Appeals 04/28/16
Anthony Hodges v. District Attorney General - 20th Judicial District
M2014-02247-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

Inmate brought petition under Tennessee Public Records Act seeking review of the District Attorney General’s handling of his request that he be furnished copies of records relating to his prosecution. The trial court held that the Attorney General did not deny the request but, rather, that the petitioner failed to advance the costs of copying the records and, accordingly, was not entitled to relief. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/27/16
Jane Elliot Watt v. William James Watt
M2014-02565-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda McClendon

In this divorce action, Husband contends the trial court erred by granting Wife a divorce on the grounds of Husband’s inappropriate marital conduct despite the fact he was found guilty of, inter alia, three counts of rape of a child while the divorce was pending. Husband also takes issue with the classification of property, the division of marital property, and the award of alimony to Wife. We affirm the trial court in all respects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/27/16
In re Ava B.
M2014-02408-COA-R10-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

We granted an extraordinary appeal to consider a trial court’s refusal to dismiss a petition to terminate parental rights. Following their divorce, the child’s father filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother. The mother moved to dismiss for lack of standing. In response, the father amended his petition to add his mother, the child’s grandmother, as an additional petitioner. The mother renewed her motion to dismiss. We reverse the trial court’s denial of the motion to dismiss because both the father and his mother lack standing. 

Lincoln County Court of Appeals 04/27/16
Lori Kay Jones Trigg v.Richard Darrell Trigg
E2016-00695-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, from the denial of a motion for recusal filed by Richard Darrell Trigg ("Former Husband") in the parties' post-dissolution proceedings. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by Former Husband, and finding no error in Trial Court's ruling, we affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 04/27/16