Court Opinions

Format: 01/17/2019
Format: 01/17/2019
Reginold C. Steed v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00492-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The Petitioner, Reginold C. Steed, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, he argues: (1) post-trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in failing to present evidence that the victim allegedly recanted his trial testimony identifying the Petitioner as the perpetrator; (2) the post-conviction court erred in failing to notify him of the date of the post-conviction hearing; and (3) the trial court erred in failing to consider the victim’s alleged recantation during sentencing. We affirm the denial of post-conviction relief. However, we remand the case for entry of a corrected judgment form in Count 2, as specified in this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/19
State of Tennessee v. Felicia Graham
E2018-00260-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

The Defendant-Appellant, Felicia Graham, appeals from the revocation of her supervised probation sentence by the Blount County Circuit Court, arguing that the trial court erred in revoking her probation and ordering her to serve the remainder of her sentence in confinement. Upon review, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/19
Fraternal Order Of Police Et Al. v. Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee, Et Al.
M2018-01717-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

The Election Commission of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee used the August 4, 2016 election as the proper election for determining the appropriate number of signatures needed on the petition to hold a referendum on whether to create a police oversight board. Certain individuals and the Fraternal Order of Police (“FOP”) disagreed and sought a writ of certiorari. The trial court agreed with the election commission and affirmed its action. The individuals and the FOP appealed. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/11/19
Gregory Webster Et Al. Ex Rel Shakia Webster v. Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee, Et Al.
M2018-00106-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D Jones

The parents of a kindergartener filed suit against a metropolitan government for negligence after their child injured her arm at school. The trial court granted the metropolitan government’s motion for summary judgment based upon its finding that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the metropolitan government breached a duty of care owed to the plaintiffs or that any action or inaction by a metropolitan government employee was the cause in fact or proximate cause of the child’s injuries. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/11/19
State of Tennessee v. Terrell L. Lawrence
M2018-00576-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

Defendant, Terrell L. Lawrence, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of his pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we conclude that Defendant has failed to state a cognizable claim for relief, and therefore, the trial court did not err in summarily dismissing Defendant’s motion. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/10/19
Joy Littleton Et Al. v. TIS Insurance Services, Inc.
E2018-00477-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deborah C. Stevens

In this professional negligence case against an insurance agent, Appellants appeal from the trial court’s order excluding their expert’s opinion on the applicable standard of care. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and vacate in part.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Windall Sherell Edwards aka "Woo"
W2018-00145-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

Defendant, Windall Sherell Edwards, also known as “Woo,” was convicted by a jury of first degree murder, theft of property valued at $500 or less, and felon in possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to an effective sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Defendant appeals the judgments of the trial court, arguing that the evidence was not sufficient to prove premeditation for the first degree murder conviction. Because we conclude that the evidence was sufficient, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Taylor Satterfield
E2017-02207-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The Defendant-Appellant, Taylor Satterfield, was indicted by the Hamilton County Grand Jury for first degree premediated murder, tampering with evidence, and unlawful possession of a deadly weapon. He then filed a motion to suppress his statement to police, which was denied. After the State dismissed the tampering with evidence and weapon charges, the Defendant’s case proceeded to a jury trial on the first degree murder charge, and he was convicted of the lesser included offense of second degree murder and sentenced to twenty-two years in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant argues: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statement; (2) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; and (3) he received an excessive sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/19
In Re Gabriella H., Et Al.
M2018-00723-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

This action involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her minor children. Following a bench trial, the court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory grounds of abandonment by an incarcerated parent and for failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, and the persistence of conditions which led to removal. The court further found that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 01/08/19
Anna Karpovich v. Gregory Brannick
W2017-01796-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Harold W. Horne

This appeal arises from a modification of child support. Gregory Brannick (“Father”) and Anna Karpovich (“Mother”) divorced in 2003. Father was ordered to pay $560 per month in child support for the parties’ minor son (“the Child”). In 2016, the State of Tennessee ex rel. Mother filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Shelby County (“the Juvenile Court”) to establish arrears and/or to modify child support. Following a hearing, the Juvenile Court entered an order increasing Father’s child support obligation to $1,464.17 per month. Father appeals, arguing among other things that the Juvenile Court failed to consider his actual income for purposes of modifying his child support obligation. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/08/19
In Re Johnathan M. Et. Al.
M2018-00509-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clara W. Byrd

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. The trial court found the petitioners proved two grounds for termination, “abandonment by an incarcerated parent and exhibition of wanton disregard for the welfare of the children, prior to and during incarceration, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102.” We conclude the record contains insufficient evidence to establish that Mother failed to visit or support the children for four consecutive months immediately preceding her incarceration. However, we affirm the trial court’s determination that Mother engaged in conduct prior to incarceration that exhibited a wanton disregard for the children’s welfare. Nonetheless, we have determined that the petitioners failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the children’s best interests. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the trial court to terminate Mother’s parental rights.

Macon County Court of Appeals 01/08/19
Vicki L. Mobley, et al. v. State of Arkansas, et al.
W2017-02356-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Felicia Corbin Johnson

This appeal involves an Arkansas plaintiff who was involved in an auto accident on a bridge between Arkansas and Tennessee with another vehicle operated by an employee of the State of Arkansas. The Arkansas plaintiff and her husband filed this personal injury suit in the circuit court of Shelby County, Tennessee, naming as defendants the State of Arkansas, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, and the Arkansas state employee who was operating the other vehicle. The defendants moved to dismiss on numerous grounds, including sovereign immunity and the discretionary principle of comity. The Tennessee Attorney General filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Tennessee Department of Transportation asking the trial court to extend comity to the Arkansas defendants and dismiss the action against them. After two hearings, the trial court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss on the basis of comity. Discerning no error, we affirm the decision of the circuit court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/07/19
State of Tennessee v. David Scott Hall - Dissenting
M2015-02402-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page and Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins, joins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

I maintain that the Court of Criminal Appeals properly affirmed the defendant’s conviction for attempted especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.

Davidson County Supreme Court 01/07/19
State of Tennessee v. David Scott Hall
M2015-02402-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte D. Watkins

We granted permission to appeal in this case to assess the sufficiency of the evidence for a conviction for attempted especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, i.e., attempted production of child pornography, in the wake of our decision in State v. Whited, 506 S.W.3d 416 (Tenn. 2016). The defendant hid a video camera in the minor victim’s bedroom, aimed to record the area of her bedroom where she normally changed clothes. Soon after the victim returned to her bedroom, fully clothed, she noticed the camera and turned it off. Consequently, the resulting video did not depict the minor in any degree of nudity. The defendant was charged with attempted especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and was convicted of that offense after a bench trial. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, and we granted permission to appeal. On appeal, the defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that he attempted to produce material that would include a depiction of a minor in a “lascivious exhibition” of her private body areas, as required under Tennessee’s child sexual exploitation statutes and construed in Whited. We agree. The evidence presented at trial shows at most that the defendant intended to produce material that would include images of the minor victim engaged in everyday activities ordinarily performed in the nude, which were deemed insufficient in Whited to constitute a “lascivious exhibition” under Tennessee’s child sexual exploitation statutes. Consequently, we hold that the evidence, even when viewed in a light most favorable to the verdict, is insufficient to support an inference that the defendant intended to record, and believed he would record, the minor victim engaged in a lascivious exhibition of her private body areas. Accordingly, we reverse the defendant’s conviction.

Davidson County Supreme Court 01/07/19
Roland Digital Media, Inc. v. City of Livingston
M2018-00163-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

This appeal arises from the dismissal of a petition for a common law writ of certiorari in which the petitioner sought to challenge a decision of the Livingston Board of Zoning Appeals. The trial court dismissed the petition pursuant to a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(1) motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the petition failed to name the Livingston Board of Zoning Appeals, whose decision was at issue, as a defendant as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-9-104. This appeal followed. We affirm.

Overton County Court of Appeals 01/07/19
Joletta Hinson-Bull v. State of Tennessee
E2018-00469-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Petitioner, Joletta Hinson-Bull, pleaded guilty to theft of property valued at more than $1,000, criminal impersonation, and driving on a revoked license. She agreed to be sentenced as a Range III offender to an effective sentence of ten years, to be served consecutively to her sentence from a conviction in a different county. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that her counsel was ineffective and that her guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. The post-conviction court denied the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred when it denied her post-conviction relief. After review, we affirm the postconviction court’s judgment.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/07/19
Jamie N. Grimes v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00319-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Davidson County Criminal Court denied the Petitioner’s petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of selling twenty-six grams or more of cocaine within one thousand feet of a school and resulting twenty-five-year sentence. The Petitioner appealed to this court, arguing that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that the State violated the mandatory joinder rule, and we affirmed the judgment of the post-conviction court. However, in a footnote to our opinion, we noted errors in the post-conviction court’s order that did not accurately reflect what occurred at the post-conviction evidentiary hearing. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the Petitioner’s application for permission to appeal, vacated the judgment of this court, and remanded the case to the post-conviction court for entry of a corrected order denying the petition for post-conviction relief. The amended order is now before us. Upon reconsideration of the record and the parties’ briefs, we again affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/07/19
Matthew Tolliver Et Al. v. Tellico Village Property Owners Association, Inc.
E2018-00090-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael S. Pemberton

This litigation finds its genesis in a water pipeline break that caused damage to residential property. At the time of the break, Joseph and Martha Mosakowski were the title owners of the damaged property. Matthew Tolliver, who was purchasing the property under a contract for deed, resided in the home. Mr. Tolliver filed a complaint against Tellico Village Property Owners Association, Inc. (defendant) alleging negligence and breach of contract. The Mosakowskis were later joined to the suit as co-plaintiffs. Pursuant to a court order, the Mosakowskis filed their own complaint, which contained similar factual allegations and asserted the same causes of action as alleged in Mr. Tolliver’s complaint. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the Mosakowskis’ negligence claim. The defendant also filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims asserted by Mr. Tolliver and the Mosakowskis. Mr. Tolliver consented to the entry of an agreed order granting summary judgment to the defendant as to all of his claims. The Mosakowskis, however, contested defendant’s motions. Ultimately, the trial court granted defendant’s motion to dismiss the Mosakowskis’ negligence claim because the court determined that the statute of limitations had expired. In a separate order, the court granted the defendant summary judgment on the Mosakowskis’ breach of contract claim because the court determined that there was no consideration for the alleged contract. The court denied summary judgment as to the Mosakowskis’ negligence claim because the court’s order dismissing that claim rendered the issue moot. The Mosakowskis appeal. We affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the negligence claim. Although the court erred by dismissing the negligence claim pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6), we find that ruling to be harmless because summary judgment was proper under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56. Finally, we reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on the breach of contract claim and remand for further proceedings.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 01/07/19
State of Tennessee v. Samuel Enrique Mendez
M2018-00371-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

The Defendant, Samuel Enrique Mendez, was indicted on two counts of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony; and five counts of rape of a child, a Class A felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-504, -522. Prior to trial, the State dismissed one of the aggravated sexual battery counts and three of the rape of a child counts. At the close of the State’s proof, the State requested that the remaining aggravated sexual battery count also be dismissed. The jury then convicted the Defendant of the remaining two counts of rape of a child, and the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of fifty-four years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in allowing a defense character witness to be cross-examined about a specific instance of the Defendant’s conduct. Following our review, we conclude that the trial court did not comply with the requirements of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 405 in allowing the witness to be cross examined about the specific instance of the Defendant’s conduct, and that the error was not harmless. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/07/19
Deborah L. Akers v. Heritage Medical Associates, P.C., Et Al.
M2017-02470-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

This is a health care liability action in which the plaintiff asserted claims of professional negligence, negligent supervision, and medical battery against a physician’s assistant, a dermatologist, and their employer. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 56.02, motion for dismissal under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 37.02, and motion for sanctions under Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122(d). We agree with the trial court’s determination that the plaintiff failed to obtain a competent expert witness to testify on the applicable standard of care as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-115 and violated Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122 by filing a non-compliant certificate of good faith. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s action and award of sanctions.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/04/19
Christopher Lee Blunkall v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01038-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin Lee Russell

The Petitioner, Christopher Lee Blunkall, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury conviction for rape of a child. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance because trial counsel (1) failed to file suppression motions concerning multiple items of evidence, including the text message communications between the Petitioner and the victim, certain phone records, the Petitioner’s banking records and the automated teller machine (“ATM”) surveillance video showing the Petitioner’s withdrawing money, the traffic stop, and the Petitioner’s statement to the police; (2) failed to rebut the medical testimony from the State’s expert; and (3) failed to pursue a preliminary hearing, adequately investigate the victim’s background, or vigorously cross examine and impeach the victim. The Petitioner further contends that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct by failing to provide the defense with favorable evidence—the victim’s juvenile record—and by certain statements made during closing arguments. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Nicholas Wyatt Barish
E2017-01794-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Defendant-Appellant, Nicholas Wyatt Barish, was convicted by a Knox County jury of two counts of first degree felony murder and one count of second degree murder, see Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202, -210, for which he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions of first degree felony murder because he did not have the requisite mental state to commit the predicate crimes of theft, burglary, and robbery. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Howard P. Fisher
M2017-00975-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

Following a bench trial, the Defendant, Howard P. Fisher, was convicted of aggravated assault and criminal trespass, for which he received a ten-year sentence and a $50 fine, respectively. In his direct appeal, the Defendant argued (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of aggravated assault; (2) that the trial court erred in granting the State a continuance for sentencing; and (3) that the trial court erred in denying his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Upon review, this court affirmed the judgments of the trial court but declined to review the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel finding that the Defendant “raised a general claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in his motion for a new trial. His motion did not include any issues pertaining to trial counsel’s performance or facts in support of his claim.” State v. Howard P. Fisher, No. M2017-00975-CCA-R3-CD, 2018 WL 3060369, at *1, *5 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 20, 2018), perm. app. granted and case remanded, No. M2017-00975-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. Sept. 13, 2018) (order). On September 13, 2018, the Tennessee Supreme Court granted the Defendant’s application for permission to appeal and remanded the case to this court to discuss the merits of the Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. State v. Howard P. Fisher, No. M2017-00975-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. Sept. 13, 2018) (order). Upon further review, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Delmontae Godwin
W2017-02400-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Defendant, Delmontae Godwin, was convicted of aggravated assault and aggravated robbery and sentenced to an effective sentence of twelve years, to be served consecutively to a sentence from another conviction. Defendant appeals his sentence, arguing that the trial court erred by sentencing him to the maximum sentence for each conviction. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Sadegh Babanzadeh
M2017-02235-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Defendant, Sadegh Babanzadeh, was convicted of one count each of tampering with evidence and filing a false report. The trial court sentenced him to a five-year sentence for tampering with evidence and a three-year sentence for filing a false report, to run concurrently, with a year to be served in the Department of Correction, and the remainder of the sentences to be served on probation. The Defendant argues on appeal that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/04/19