Court Opinions

Format: 02/25/2017
Format: 02/25/2017
In Re Estate of Gertrude Bible Link
M2015-02280-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey F. Stewart

This is an appeal from a jury trial in a will contest. The jury returned a verdict finding that the contested will was valid. The contestants have appealed, raising numerous issues and arguing that the evidence presented does not support the jury’s verdict. We affirm.    

Marion County Court of Appeals 02/22/17
Donel Autin, et al. v. William Goetz
W2016-00099-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gina C. Higgins

The trial court entered a protective order under Rule 26.03 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure while the case was ongoing. After the plaintiffs filed a notice of voluntary dismissal, the trial court entered an order confirming the dismissal and extending the protective order ―in perpetuity. The defendant did not appeal the final order, but years later filed a motion to modify the protective order. The trial court denied the motion as barred by the doctrine of res judicata. On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to extend the protective order after plaintiffs nonsuited their case. As an issue of first impression, we conclude that the trial court retained jurisdiction to extend and modify its previously entered protective order notwithstanding the voluntary dismissal of the underlying action. We further hold that modification of existing protective orders is authorized by the holding in Ballard v. Herzke, 924 S.W.2d 652, 658 (Tenn. 1996); accordingly, we vacate the trial court‘s denial of defendant‘s motion to modify and remand for reconsideration in light of our supreme court‘s established precedent.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/22/17
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Coleman
E2016-00678-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The petitioner, Curtis Coleman, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The petitioner has failed to state a colorable claim for relief under Rule 36.1; therefore, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petitioner’s motion pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/21/17
State of Tennessee v. Juan Diego Vargas
M2015-02458-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Defendant, Juan Diego Vargas, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. After a review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. However, it appears that the trial court failed to enter a judgment form dismissing Count Three of the indictment. Accordingly, we remand for entry of a judgment form dismissing Count Three of the indictment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/21/17
Willie Gatewood v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02480-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Petitioner, Willie Gatewood, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. He argues that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance (1) by not filing a motion to suppress the results of a photographic identification by the victim, (2) by not filing a motion to suppress the results of a warrantless search of Petitioner's cellphone, and (3) by various failures during trial preparation. Because Petitioner has failed to prove his claims by clear and convincing evidence, the decision of the post-conviction court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Doyan Anderson
W2015-02405-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Defendant, Doyan Anderson, was indicted for aggravated assault involving the use or display of a deadly weapon, a Class C felony; aggravated assault based on violation of a court order, a Class C felony; domestic assault, a Class A misdemeanor; and unlawful possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony involving the use or attempted use of violence, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-102(a)(1)(A)(iii), -13-102(c), -13-111, -17-1307. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was convicted of domestic assault and both counts of aggravated assault. The jury acquitted the Defendant of the unlawful possession of a firearm charge. The trial court merged the domestic assault conviction into the aggravated assault conviction based on violation of a court order. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a career offender and imposed a total effective sentence of thirty years' incarceration. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction for aggravated assault involving the use or display of a deadly weapon and (2) that the trial court committed plain error by failing to require the State to make an election of the distinct conduct it was relying upon regarding the charge of aggravated assault based on violation of a court order. Following our review, we affirm the Defendant's convictions. However, we merge the Defendant's two convictions for aggravated assault and remand the case to the trial court for entry of corrected judgment forms reflecting said merger and the resulting sentence of fifteen years' incarceration.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/17/17
Jermaine Burdette v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02400-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

In 2011, the Petitioner, Jermaine Burdette, entered a best interest plea to three counts of especially aggravated kidnapping and three counts of aggravated robbery, and the trial court sentenced him to 111 years of incarceration. This Court affirmed his conviction and sentences on direct appeal. State v. Jermaine Burdette, No. W2011-01938-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 6726525, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Dec. 26, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 9, 2013). In 2014, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel, that his plea was unknowingly and involuntarily entered, and that the State had violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), by failing disclose exculpatory evidence until the day before trial. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. We affirm the post-conviction court's judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/17/17
Linda Jane Parimore v. Gerald David Parimore
W2016-01188-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Martha Brasfield

Husband appeals: (1) the denial of his Rule 60.02 motion on the basis of fraud; and (2) the grant of attorney’s fees to Wife. We affirm the trial court’s denial of Husband’s Rule 60.02 motion but reverse the grant of attorney’s fees to Wife. We also decline the award of damages to Wife on appeal. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Tipton County Court of Appeals 02/17/17
Pavement Restorations, Inc. v. Thomas E. Ralls, et al.
W2016-01179-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor George R. Ellis

Employee’s employment was terminated for smoking in a company truck in violation of the employer’s rule. Employee’s initial request for unemployment benefits was denied. The Appeals Tribunal affirmed the denial of benefits, but the Commissioner’s Designee later reversed, finding that employee’s conduct was exempt from the definition of misconduct and concluding that the employee was, therefore, not terminated for workrelated misconduct as defined in the unemployment compensation statutes. On appeal to the chancery court, the trial court concluded that evidence in the record supported the Commissioner’s Designee’s decision. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Court of Appeals 02/17/17
Quinzell Lawon Grasty v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02075-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

Petitioner, Quinzell Lawon Grasty, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, he contends that trial counsel was ineffective for: (1) failing to challenge his first statement to police on the basis that he had requested counsel; (2) failing to file a pretrial motion in limine to exclude references to gang activity; (3) failing to object to the State‟s use of demonstrative evidence; (4) failing to object to the chain of custody of a backpack; (5) failing to request the trial court to question jurors about a newspaper found in the jury box; and (6) failing to disclose that he had a conflict of interest with Petitioner's stepfather. Petitioner also argues that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to include a copy of the suppression hearing transcript in the record on appeal and failing to raise sufficiency of the evidence as an issue on appeal. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Robert L. Lumpkin
M016-00878-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge David D. Wolfe

The defendant, Robert L. Lumpkin, appeals the Dickson County Circuit Court’s denial of his motion to withdraw his guilty pleas to aggravated sexual battery and sexual exploitation of a minor, arguing that he did not understand the lifetime supervision aspect of the sex offender registry at the time he entered his pleas.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court denying the motion.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/17/17
City of Church Hill v. Roger Elliott
E2016-01915-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

Because defendant was charged and found guilty of violating a state statute, rather than a municipal ordinance, we conclude that we are without subject matter jurisdiction to consider this appeal. Therefore, we must transfer this case to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in accordance with Rule 17 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure for further adjudication.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 02/17/17
Brandon Thompson v. United Parcel Service, Inc., et al
M2015-02526-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Paul G. Summers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

Brandon Thompson (“Employee”) worked as a delivery driver for United Parcel Service (“Employer”). He sustained a compensable injury to his lower back on January 18, 2012. He did not return to work for Employer. After the Benefit Review process was exhausted, he filed this action, seeking permanent total disability benefits. The trial court concluded that Employee was not totally disabled and awarded 44% permanent partial disability benefits. Employee has appealed, contending that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that he was not permanently and totally disabled. He also claims that the judgment entered by the trial court is defective because it does not include certain findings. 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 of the trial court.

Davidson County Workers Compensation Panel 02/17/17
In Re: John J.
M2016-01136-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sam E. Benningfield, Jr.

This is an appeal from an order terminating a Mother’s parental rights to her son. The Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to have the child declared dependent and neglected when he was observed with burn marks on his thigh and fingers. He was adjudicated to be dependent and neglected, and custody was given to the Department. A petition to terminate Mother’s parental rights was subsequently filed and, following a trial, the court held that Mother had abandoned the child by failing to visit him and by engaging in behavior which exhibited a wanton disregard for the child’s welfare; the court also determined that termination of Mother’s rights was in the child’s best interest. Mother appeals, contending that the court erred in holding that termination of her rights was in the child’s best interest. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court in all respects.  

White County Court of Appeals 02/17/17
Jose Luiz Dominquez v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00302-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Mudge Monte Watkins

The Petitioner, Jose Luiz Dominguez, appeals the dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus by the Davidson County Criminal Court.  On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the indictment was defective and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, which rendered his guilty plea involuntary.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Dunn
M2016-00469-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

A Robertson County jury convicted the Defendant, Timothy Dunn, of sale of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school and delivery of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school.  The trial court merged the two convictions and sentenced the Defendant to serve seventeen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his request for a continuance; (2) the trial court erred when it allowed Detective Eddie Stewart to testify when he was not listed on the indictment; (3) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction; and (4) his sentence is excessive.  After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/17/17
Austin Myles Tomlin v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00705-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durand, Jr.

The Petitioner, Austin Myles Tomlin, pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide by intoxication, and the trial court sentenced him to ten years for each count, to be served consecutively.  The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred when it dismissed his petition because his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to properly advise him regarding his guilty plea.  After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Michael O. Brown
M2016-01343-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

In 1991, the Defendant, Michael O. Brown, was convicted of sale of cocaine, and the trial court sentenced him to eleven years of incarceration.  In 1996, the Defendant was convicted of sale of cocaine, and the trial court sentenced him to twenty years of incarceration to be served consecutively to his sentence for the 1991 conviction.  In 2006, the Defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence.  The trial court concluded that the Defendant’s 1991 sentence had been improperly enhanced, so it modified the sentence to eight years.  The trial court further concluded that this modification did not affect the Defendant’s sentence for his 1996 conviction.  After filing multiple motions to correct an illegal sentence from 2006 to 2008, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 in 2016, contending that his 1991 conviction was illegal and had been vacated, making the trial court’s use of it as an enhancement for his 1996 sentence improper.  The trial court dismissed the Defendant’s motion and denied his subsequent motion to reconsider.  The Defendant appeals, contending that his sentence for his 1996 conviction was improperly enhanced and that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to reconsider.  After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Minor-Concur In Part, Dissent In Part
W2016-00348-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

I concur with the majority with respect to its resolution of the Defendant's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. However, in light of this court;s holding in State v. Bonds, 502 S.W.3d 118 (Tenn. Crim. App. April 7, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 18, 2016), I respectfully disagree with the majority's conclusion that the Defendant has waived his challenge to the constitutionality of the gang enhancement statute.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Minor
W2016-00348-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

In a bifurcated trial, a Madison County jury convicted the defendant, Christopher Minor, of two counts of first degree murder, two counts of aggravated burglary, one count of aggravated assault, one count of convicted felon in possession of a firearm, one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, one count of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony having been previously been convicted of a felony, and six counts of violating Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-121, the criminal gang offenses enhancement statute. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of life plus twenty years. The defendant appeals his conviction, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence and the constitutionality of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-121. The State argues the evidence was sufficient to support the defendant's convictions, and the defendant waived his constitutional challenge by raising his argument for the first time on appeal. We agree with the State and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/16/17
State of Tennessee v. David Troy Firestone
W2016-00347-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

David Troy Firestone (“the Defendant”) pled guilty to burglary and theft of property. At a bench trial, the trial court found that the value of the stolen property was over $10,000. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to concurrent sentences of four years for the burglary conviction and to five years for the theft of property conviction as a Range I standard offender. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to establish that the value of the stolen property exceeded $10,000, that he was improperly sentenced, and that the trial court erred in ordering the Defendant to pay $5,000 in restitution to Storage Town of America. After a thorough review of the record and case law, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions and sentences but reverse and vacate the trial court’s order of restitution to Storage Town of America.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/16/17
Reginald Davis v. City of Memphis, et al.
W2016-00967-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

This appeal involves the termination of a firefighter’s employment with the City of Memphis. The firefighter appealed his termination to the City of Memphis Civil Service Commission. He also filed a lawsuit in federal district court asserting various causes of action against the City of Memphis and other defendants. After a six-day jury trial in federal court, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendants. The City of Memphis then sought dismissal of the firefighter’s appeal before the Civil Service Commission based on the principles of res judicata and/or collateral estoppel. The Civil Service Commission granted the motion and dismissed the appeal. The firefighter then sought review in chancery court, and the chancery court upheld the decision of the Civil Service Commission. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/16/17
Kenneth Dale Sanders v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00756-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

The pro se petitioner, Kenneth Dale Sanders, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis.  Following our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition as time-barred pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Grundy County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/16/17
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Tanikia Yolanda Hurt v. William George Bulls, III
E2015-02078-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

This case originated when the State, acting on behalf of Tanikia Yolanda Hurt (Mother), filed a petition against William George Bulls, III (Father) seeking to have him held in contempt because of his failure to pay child support. A juvenile court magistrate dismissed the State’s petition, finding that Father had paid all of his arrearage. On the day the court dismissed the petition, Mother filed a new pleading, a motion, again seeking a finding of contempt against Father. She once again alleged unpaid support in addition to other matters. This motion was also dismissed. Mother appeals. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 02/16/17
In Re Estate of Earsie L. Kirkman
W2016-00759-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

This case involves the disposition of several certificates of deposit that were held in joint tenancy, with right of survivorship, by Decedent and her daughter, Appellee. Appellants, beneficiaries of Decedent’s estate, argued that the certificates of deposit were probate assets. The trial court denied the objection and closed the estate, finding that the certificates of deposit passed to Appellee as the surviving joint tenant. Appellants appeal. Affirmed and remanded.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 02/15/17