Court Opinions

Format: 04/27/2017
Format: 04/27/2017
Roderick McAlpin v. State of Tennessee
E2016-01482-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The petitioner, Roderick McAlpin, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/17
Brunswick L. Robinson v. State of Tennessee
E2016-02429-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stacy L. Street

The pro se petitioner, Brunswick L. Robinson, appeals the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus by the Johnson County Criminal Court, arguing the trial court erred in summarily dismissing the petition as his sentence has expired. After our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/17
State of Tennessee v. David G. Jenkins
M2016-00270-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

The Defendant, David G. Jenkins, appeals his conviction of first degree premeditated murder for which he received a sentence of life imprisonment.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court erred in admitting post-mortem photographs of the victim; (3) the trial court improperly commented on the evidence in front of the jury; (4) the trial court erred in limiting defense counsel’s cross-examination of a witness; (5) the trial court erred in its rulings on various hearsay evidence; (6) the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s request to give his own closing argument to the jury; and (7) reversal is warranted due to the cumulative effect of the errors.  Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Franklin County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/17
David Turner, et al. v. Karl Kendrick, et al. v. Danny Anderson, et al
M2016-00884-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

This appeal arises from the dismissal of a third-party complaint, which was filed two years after the third-party plaintiffs filed its answer to the original complaint. The trial court found that the third-party plaintiffs failed to seek leave of the court to join the third-party defendants as required by Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 14.01. The trial court also determined that the third-party plaintiffs failed to state a claim which would support the trial court granting leave to file a third-party complaint, and, accordingly, dismissed the Appellants’ third-party complaint. The third-party plaintiffs appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.  

Williamson County Court of Appeals 04/21/17
Myron Lorenzo Johnson v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01361-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Myron Lorenzo Johnson, of first degree felony murder, first degree premeditated murder, and especially aggravated robbery.  The trial court merged the convictions for first degree premeditated murder and felony murder and ordered an effective sentence of life imprisonment plus sixty years.  On appeal, this Court affirmed the trial court’s judgments.  See State v. Myron Lorenzo Johnson, No. M2008-02198-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 521028, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Feb. 12, 2010), perm. app. denied (Tenn. May 12, 2010).  The Petitioner then filed a post-conviction petition in which he alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective, and the post-conviction court denied relief following a hearing.  On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel.  After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/17
DONALD RAY BROWN v. ZURICH AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY
E2016-00237-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: JUDGE ROBERT E. LEE DAVIES, SR.
Trial Court Judge: CHANCELLOR TELFORD E. FORGETY

Donald Brown (“Employee”) filed this action, alleging that he sustained a compensable heart attack while working for Grand Eagle Company (“Employer”).[1]  After a hearing on the merits, the trial court found that Employee had failed to satisfy his burden of proof that the heart attack was caused by an acute, immediate, stressful event.  Judgment was entered for Employer.  Employee timely filed a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court, and 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.



[1]Grand Eagle Company went out of business before the trial.  Therefore, suit was brought against its insurer, Zurich American Insurance Company, in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-102(11) (1999).

Sevier County Workers Compensation Panel 04/21/17
State of Tennessee v. Darryl Wilkins Burton
M2016-00690-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

The Defendant-Appellant, Darryl Wilkins Burton, entered a guilty plea to driving under the influence (DUI) in exchange for a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served on probation after the service of forty-eight hours in the Williamson County jail.  The Defendant reserved a certified question of law challenging the denial of his motion to suppress, which was based upon an unconstitutional seizure.  Because the Defendant failed to properly reserve the certified question, we dismiss the appeal.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/17
State of Tennessee v. Teena Marie Bright
M2016-01873-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Curtis Smith

The Defendant, Teena Marie Bright, pleaded guilty to possession of .5 gram or more of a methamphetamine with intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver.  Pursuant to the plea agreement, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to eight years as a Range I, standard offender.  The sentence was suspended to supervised probation after 158 days in confinement.  A violation of probation warrant was subsequently issued, and, after a hearing, the trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation and ordered service of the balance of the sentence in confinement.  The Defendant appeals the trial court’s order that she serve her sentence in confinement.  We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Franklin County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/17
Peggy Patterson v. Shane Patterson
M2016-00886-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Mark Rogers

Stepmother filed a detainer warrant against Stepson and was awarded possession of the real property in the general sessions court. Stepson appealed to the circuit court, and a bench trial was conducted. The trial court awarded the property to Stepmother. We affirm the trial court’s finding that no resulting trust was proven. Although we affirm the trial court’s finding of unjust enrichment for the improvements on land based on the three-part test under Freeman Indus., LLC v. Eastman Chem. Co., 172 S.W.3d 512, 525 (Tenn. 2005), we reverse the trial court’s award of $37,000.00 to Stepson for the improvements to the property because Stepson failed to prove the correct measure of damages at trial. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Cannon County Court of Appeals 04/20/17
Christopher Locke v. State of Tennessee
E2015-02027-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

Petitioner, Christopher Locke, pleaded guilty to one count of incest and received a three-year sentence of probation after the trial court denied judicial diversion. State v. Christopher Locke, No. E2010-01965-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 3446442 (Tenn. Crim. App., Aug. 9, 2011), perm. app. denied (Tenn., Nov. 16, 2011). Petitioner appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief as being untimely. Additionally, Petitioner asserts that the trial court erred by failing to conduct an independent inquiry regarding a conflict of interest between trial counsel and post-conviction counsel. Having reviewed the record, the applicable law, and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/17
Sharyn Haynes, et al. v. Wayne County, Tennessee
M2016-01252-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell Parkes
This is an appeal from the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant, Wayne County, in a wrongful death action filed under the Governmental Tort Liability Act. The plaintiff’s grandson committed suicide several hours after being released from the defendant’s jail. The plaintiff filed this wrongful death action alleging that his death was caused by the defendant’s negligence in releasing him from custody in an intoxicated state without a mental health evaluation and without notifying his family of suicidal threats that he made while incarcerated. Having reviewed the record, we conclude that the plaintiff’s evidence at the summary judgment stage is insufficient to establish that the defendant breached its duty of care to the decedent or that its conduct was a proximate cause of his death. We therefore affirm the trial court’s grant of summary judgment.
 
Wayne County Court of Appeals 04/19/17
Darryl F. Bryant, Sr. v. Darryl F. Bryant, Jr. - (Dissent)
M2014-02379-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

The Court has adopted a majority rule that allows a co-tenant to unilaterally sever a joint tenancy with right of survivorship and convert the estate into a tenancy in common without the knowledge or consent of the other co-tenant. The better rule, followed by other jurisdictions, does not allow a co-tenant to act unilaterally to sever the other co tenant’s interest, thereby protecting the rights and expectations of joint tenants who are conveyed property with a survivorship interest. 

Davidson County Supreme Court 04/19/17
Darryl F. Bryant, Sr. v. Darryl F. Bryant, Jr.
M2014-02379-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

We granted permission to appeal in this case to address whether a joint tenancy with an express right of survivorship can be severed by the unilateral actions of one of the co-tenants. The owner of the property at issue in this appeal executed a deed conveying the property to herself and to her son in a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. The same grantor later executed a quitclaim deed granting her interest in the property to her grandson (the son’s child). After the grantor died, the son filed a declaratory judgment action against the grandson, claiming that the son was the rightful owner of the property in fee simple as the surviving joint tenant under the first deed. In response, the grandson asserted that the grantor’s second deed severed the joint tenancy, conveyed the grantor’s one-half interest to him, and destroyed the son’s right of survivorship. The trial court granted the son’s motion for summary judgment, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. We reverse. Following the common-law doctrine of severance, we hold that a joint tenancy with an express right of survivorship may be severed by the unilateral action of one of the co-tenants, and that doing so converts the estate into a tenancy in common and destroys the survivorship interests of the original joint tenants. In this case, the grantor’s second deed, conveying her interest in the property to the grandson, severed the joint tenancy and destroyed the son’s right of survivorship, so the son and the grandson own the property in equal parts as tenants in common.

Davidson County Supreme Court 04/19/17
State of Tennessee v. Michael Dean Hodges
M2014-01544-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl Blackburn

The Davidson County Grand Jury indicted the Appellant, Michael Dean Hodges, of aggravated child abuse in counts one through three and aggravated child neglect in count four.  After a jury trial, the Appellant was acquitted in count one but convicted as charged in counts two and three and convicted of knowing aggravated assault as a lesser-included offense of aggravated child neglect in count four.  The trial court merged the aggravated assault conviction into the aggravated child abuse convictions and sentenced the Appellant to an effective twenty-five-years in confinement to be served at 100%.  On appeal, the Appellant claimed that the trial court erred by failing to sever the charge of aggravated child abuse in count one from the remaining two counts of aggravated child abuse; that the trial court erred by allowing the jury to hear a portion of his statement in which he admitted to prior bad acts; that the trial court erred by giving the jury a supplemental instruction on “knowingly” that failed to include language about non-accidental conduct; and that cumulative error warranted a new trial.  This court concluded that the trial court erred by allowing the jury to hear that the Appellant had been “in trouble” previously but that the error was harmless; however, we concluded that the Appellant’s conviction of aggravated assault had to be reversed because knowing aggravated assault was not a lesser-included offense of aggravated child neglect.  The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the Appellant’s application for permission to appeal and remanded the case to this court for reconsideration in light of the court’s recent opinion in State v. Howard, 504 S.W.3d 260 (Tenn. 2016), regarding lesser-included offenses.  Upon reconsideration, we again conclude that knowing aggravated assault is not a lesser-included offense of aggravated child neglect as charged in this case and modify the conviction to reckless endangerment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/17
State of Tennessee v. Tazarius Jay Vond Leach
M2015-01866-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Tazarius Jay Vond Leach, of two counts of aggravated robbery and one count of carjacking.  The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of fifteen years.  On appeal, the Appellant argues that the State’s providing “a hypothetical using the facts of the case” to explain criminal responsibility during voir dire violated his right to a fair trial and impartial jury.  Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/17
In Re: Lorenda B.
M2016-01841-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sheila Calloway

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her minor child. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Davidson County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Judith B. (“Mother”) to her minor child Lorenda B. (“the Child”). Mother has alleged throughout this case that there is a satanic conspiracy against her and that the Child is at risk of having her organs harvested for trafficking purposes. After a trial, the Juvenile Court terminated Mother’s parental rights. Mother appeals to this Court. We affirm the grounds of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan and mental incompetence, but we reverse the grounds of willful failure to support and persistence of conditions. We also affirm the Juvenile Court’s finding that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Child’s best interest. We affirm, in part, and reverse, in part, the judgment of the Juvenile Court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/19/17
George M. Greenwood, et al. v. City of Lebanon, Tennessee
M2016-01168-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Charles K. Smith

The plaintiffs entered into a contract signed by the commissioner of finance for the City of Lebanon to act as the City’s insurance broker for health care benefits. The plaintiffs secured a group health care benefit contract for the City for the period from July 1, 2013 through July 1, 2014. In February 2014, the City informed the plaintiffs that it had appointed another broker and refused to pay the monthly service fees for the remaining months of the contract. The City asserted that the contract was ultra vires because it was not signed by the mayor or approved by ordinance enacted by the city council as required by the City’s charter. The trial court found the contract to be ultra vires, but determined that the City “should be equitably estopped from denying the validity of the agreement” and granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.  

Wilson County Court of Appeals 04/19/17
Mitchell Garner v. State of Tennessee
W2015-02431-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

The Petitioner, Mitchell Garner, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of aggravated sexual battery and resulting twelve-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner claims that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Based upon the record and the parties' briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/18/17
Aaron Malone v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00666-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The petitioner, Aaron Malone, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction for first degree felony murder. He asserts that the court erred in denying relief because he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and his due process rights were violated by the State’s failing to preserve unedited footage from “The First 48” television show. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/18/17
Tracy Payne v. D & D Electric, et al.
E2016-01177-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas L. Wyatt

The issue in this workers’ compensation appeal is whether the employer is entitled to summary judgment. The employee filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, alleging he injured his foot in the course and scope of his employment. His employer denied the claim, citing a lack of medical proof that the injury was job-related. The Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims denied a motion for summary judgment filed by the employer, finding there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the work injury contributed more than fifty percent in causing the injury. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board reversed and dismissed the case, holding that the employee failed to produce sufficient evidence that his foot condition arose primarily out of and in the course and scope of his employment. After careful review, we affirm the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. 

Hamilton County Workers Compensation Panel 04/18/17
In Re: Kira G.
E2016-01198-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Douglas T. Jenkins

This case to terminate the parental rights of a father to his daughter is before the court for the second time. The case began when the mother and stepfather filed the petition to terminate the father’s rights and for the stepfather to adopt the child. The petition alleged the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit and support and by engaging in conduct showing a wanton disregard for the welfare of the child, and asserted that termination was in the child’s best interest. After a hearing, father’s parental rights were terminated; Father appealed. This Court vacated the judgment terminating his rights and remanded the case for the trial court to include written findings of fact and conclusions of law and to consider the four months prior to the father’s incarceration in the determination of whether the father had abandoned the child. On remand, the court entered an order which included findings of fact and conclusions of law, and terminated father’s parental rights on the grounds alleged in the petition and upon a finding that termination was in the child’s best interest. The father appeals. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Greene County Court of Appeals 04/18/17
In Re Estate of Virginia Spears
W2016-00599-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Karen D. Webster

This appeal involves a challenge to certain decisions made by the probate court pursuant to a petition to ratify the decisions of the estate’s executor. Although we affirm the probate court’s determination that a $250,000.00 debt once owed to the decedent is now extinguished and also affirm its determination that a certain annuity policy should be transferred to the estate, we reverse the probate court’s determination that insurance policies owned by the decedent at her death should be transferred to her grandchildren. Further, we reverse the trial court’s order to the extent that it directs two other annuity policies to be directed to the decedent’s grandchildren. These other two annuities are also assets of the estate that are subject to distribution in accordance with the decedent’s will.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/17/17
Steven J. Thomas, et al. v. Jeffrey M. Thomas, et al. v. Delmus L. Thomas, et al.
W2016-01412-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor George R. Ellis

This appeal concerns the proper ownership of a piece of farm property in which the deed recites ownership as one-half to parents and one-fourth each to their two sons. The trial court eventually ruled that the property in dispute was solely owned by parents based on the complaining son’s nonpayment of taxes and awarded full ownership of the property to the parents under the theories of title by prescription and unjust enrichment. We reverse and remand.

Crockett County Court of Appeals 04/17/17
State of Tennessee v. Yelsin A. Cruz
M2016-01099-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert L. Jones

The defendant, Yelsin A. Cruz, appeals his Maury County Circuit Court jury conviction of rape of a child, claiming that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his pretrial statement to the police, that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, and that the 27-year sentence is excessive.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/17/17
Linda Diane Cobb v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01755-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Lee Holloway, Jr.

The plaintiff filed suit alleging discriminatory and harassing practices violative of the Tennessee Human Rights Act. The defendants moved for summary judgment, and the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims, holding that the defendants had negated essential elements of the plaintiff’s claims. On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in failing to allow for additional discovery before ruling on the request for summary judgment. The plaintiff also argues that the trial court failed to address all her claims and that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment. We conclude that the trial court properly granted summary judgment. Therefore, we affirm.

Maury County Court of Appeals 04/17/17