Court Opinions

Format: 12/16/2017
Format: 12/16/2017
Randall Lloyd Case v. Mary Kathryn Case
E2017-02025-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Nicole Cantrell

The notice of appeal in this case indicates on its face that the appellant is appealing from a decision entered on September 18, 2017. However, there is no final judgment in the proceedings below entered on September 18, 2017, or any other date. Because the case remains pending in the trial court, we lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 12/11/17
Kim Maura Baxstrom (Webb) v. Kirk Ewing Webb
E2017-01651-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Per Curiam
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

This is an appeal from an order granting a motion filed pursuant to Rule 60 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Because the order does not resolve all issues raised in the proceedings below, this appeal is dismissed for lack of jurisdiction without prejudice to the filing of a new appeal once a final judgment has been entered.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 12/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Zachary Everett Davis - Concurring
M2016-01579-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

I concur in the results reached by the majority but write separately to express my policy concerns regarding the Defendant’s sentence. With regard to the Defendant’s sentence of imprisonment for life, Judge Holloway, in the majority opinion, concludes that the Defendant’s sentence is constitutional because the United States Supreme Court’s precedents in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012) and its progeny are not violated in that the Defendant did not receive a mandatory sentence of life without parole. I am compelled to agree that our statutory sentencing scheme for first degree murder does not violate the strict holdings of those cases. However, it is my fear that the reality of our sentencing provisions, when applied to juveniles, may run afoul the spirit of those opinions.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Zachary Everett Davis
M2016-01579-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

When he was fifteen years old, the Defendant, Zachary Everett Davis, killed his mother by hitting her in the head with a sledgehammer numerous times and attempted to kill his brother by setting the family’s residence on fire. After determining that the Defendant was competent to stand trial, the juvenile court transferred the Defendant’s case to the Sumner County Criminal Court. The Sumner County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant on charges of first degree premeditated murder, attempted first degree premeditated murder, and aggravated arson. After a competency hearing, the trial court determined that the Defendant was competent to stand trial. After a suppression hearing, the trial court concluded that the Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights prior to an interview conducted by the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office. A Sumner County jury found the Defendant guilty as charged, and the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve a life sentence for his first degree murder conviction. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve twenty years with a thirty percent release eligibility for attempted first degree murder and twenty years with a 100% release eligibility for aggravated arson; the trial court ordered the twenty-year sentences to run concurrently with each other but consecutively to the Defendant’s life sentence. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in: (1) denying the Defendant’s motions to be declared incompetent; (2) denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress his statement to the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office; (3) denying the Defendant’s motion for mistrial after the Defendant testified on direct and cross-examination that he did not commit the offense; and (4) sentencing the Defendant to a de facto sentence of life without parole in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/17
Kim Covarrubias v. Gerald Edward Baker
E2016-02316-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement Jr., P.J., M.S.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillian

This appeal arises out Husband’s petition to reduce his alimony in futuro obligation and Wife’s motion for criminal contempt for Husband’s failure to pay his alimony obligation in full. Wife opposed the modification of alimony on two grounds: (1) the 2007 Marital Settlement Agreement was not modifiable and (2) there had been no material change in circumstances. The trial court held that the alimony in futuro provision was modifiable and, based on a finding that Husband had proven a material change in circumstances, reduced Husband’s alimony obligation. The court then calculated Husband’s alimony arrearage for 2015 based on his income in 2007, not on his income as stated on his W-2 for 2015, which was greater. The court also dismissed the contempt petition upon a finding that Wife failed to prove the essential elements. Wife appeals, contending the trial court erred (1) by dismissing her motion for criminal contempt; (2) by finding that the trial court had the authority to modify alimony; (3) by finding that a substantial and material change in circumstances warranted a modification; and (4) by failing to properly calculate Husband’s alimony arrearage for 2015. We have determined that the double jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution precludes us from reviewing the trial court’s decision to dismiss the contempt petition; therefore, we affirm the dismissal of the criminal contempt petition. As for Husband’s petition to modify alimony in futuro, we affirm the trial court’s determination that the alimony in futuro provision was modifiable; however, we have determined that there is no factual basis to support a finding that Husband proved a substantial and material change in circumstances. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s decision to decrease Husband’s alimony obligation and remand with instructions to reinstate the alimony award as stated in the final divorce decree. Because the alimony arrearage judgment was based on the reduced alimony obligation, we also reverse that award and remand with instructions for the trial court to award an arrearage judgment based on Husband’s gross earnings in 2015, not his salary in 2007. Therefore, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for recalculation of the alimony arrearage judgment. Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed in Part, Reversed in Part, and Remanded.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/11/17
State of Tennessee v. Daniel Nesbit
W2016-00492-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Defendant, Daniel Nesbit, was indicted for felony murder and attempted especially aggravated robbery for his role in the shooting death of the victim, Jernario Taylor. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted as charged and sentenced to an effective sentence of life imprisonment. Defendant appeals, arguing that: (1) the trial court erred in granting the State a continuance over the objection of defense counsel; (2) the State failed to disclose exculpatory evidence; (3) the trial court erred by admitting a recording of a telephone call between the co-defendant and his girlfriend; (4) the trial court erred by failing to grant a mistrial; (5) the trial court erred by allowing the State to argue inconsistent theories; (6) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of Defendant’s arrest in Alabama; (7) the evidence was insufficient to support the convictions; (8) the trial court erred by failing to disclose a note received from the jury during deliberations; and (9) cumulative error necessitates a reversal of Defendant’s convictions. Having carefully reviewed the record before us and the briefs of the parties, we find no error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/17
Metropolitan Development And Housing Agency v. Nashville Downtown Platinum, LLC
M2017-00450-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

In this condemnation case, a jury trial was held concerning the amount of compensation owed to Appellant as a result of the governmental taking of its property. The jury returned a verdict finding that the fair market value of the property had been over $2,000,000.00 on the date of the taking, and the trial court entered judgment on the verdict. Although Appellant now appeals raising several issues, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/08/17
State of Tennessee v. Stephano Lee Weilacker
M2016-00546-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

Defendant, Stephano Lee Weilacker, was found guilty by a Montgomery County jury of especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery. He received an effective twenty-year sentence to be served consecutively to a previous sentence. In this, Defendant’s third direct appeal, he argues: that the evidence was insufficient; that the trial court permitted a reversible constructive amendment to the indictment; that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury as provided by White; that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence found in his vehicle; that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments, and that consecutive sentencing was improper. We find that all of Defendant’s issues, except for the issues concerning the amendment to the indictment and the jury instruction, have been previously addressed by this court in Defendant’s two prior appeals and cannot be reconsidered. We find that the issue concerning the indictment is waived and that the trial court was not required to instruct the jury in accordance with White. Therefore, Defendant’s convictions are affirmed.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/17
State of Tennessee v. Dale Albert Greca
E2017-00570-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

A Campbell County Criminal Court jury convicted the defendant, Dale Albert Greca, of especially aggravated kidnapping, robbery, unlawfully carrying a firearm in a public place, and driving on a suspended license – second offense. As a result of his convictions, the defendant received an effective sentence of twenty-four years in confinement. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping. He argues the confinement and removal of the victim did not substantially interfere with the victim’s liberty and the confinement was simply incidental to the robbery. He also contends that the evidence is insufficient to support a finding that the kidnapping was accomplished with a deadly weapon because the jury found him guilty of the lesser-included offense of robbery rather than the indicted offense of aggravated robbery. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Anthony J. Harris
E2016-01952-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

Defendant, Anthony J. Harris, was convicted of two counts of facilitation of felony murder and one count of facilitation of attempted second degree murder. He received an effective sentence of twenty-two years. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support each of his convictions, that his due process and speedy trial rights were violated by the timing of the superseding indictment, that the trial court erred by not allowing Defendant’s expert witness to testify, that the State failed to properly preserve evidence, and that the State made improper remarks in their closing argument. After review, we hold that Defendant is not entitled to relief on any of his claims. The judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Lisa Kay Young
M2016-01149-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

The Defendant, Lisa Kay Young, appeals as of right from her convictions for one count each of first degree premeditated murder, second degree murder, and aggravated assault. The Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred by refusing to admit statements by Miranda Brown, one of the Defendant’s co-defendants; and (2) that this court should vacate or merge the Defendant’s convictions for second degree murder and aggravated assault with her conviction for first degree premeditated murder. Following our review, we conclude that the trial court erred in preventing the Defendant from admitting Ms. Brown’s statements as evidence and that this error was not harmless. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial. With respect to the Defendant’s remaining issue, we will address that issue so as not to pretermit it. See State v. Parris, 236 S.W.3d 173, 189 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2007) (following a similar procedure).

White County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/07/17
Tina Lynn Davis Newell v. First State Bank, Inc., et al.
W2017-01209-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

A customer of a tanning salon injured herself upon exiting the salon when she fell while stepping off the curb onto a snow and ice-covered portion of the parking lot where she had parked her car. The customer brought suit against the owners of the tanning salon and of the shopping center, as well as a grounds keeping service, alleging that the codefendants negligently failed to clear the ice and snow from the parking lot or warn her of the potential danger. The owners of the tanning salon filed a motion for summary judgment. Finding that the tanning salon owed no duty to the customer, the trial judge granted summary judgment. The customer appealed. We affirm.

Tipton County Court of Appeals 12/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Michelle D. Shoemaker
M2017-00026-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The defendant, Michelle D. Shoemaker, appeals from the entry of an amended judgment granting her 370 days of pretrial jail credit. The basis for the defendant’s appeal is her allegation that the trial court erred in calculating her jail credits and that she is actually entitled to 520 days of pretrial credit. Following our review, we conclude that the defendant failed to state a colorable claim and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Jackson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Jesse Charles Gerg
M2016-00601-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The defendant, Jesse Charles Gerg, was sentenced to eight years in confinement by the trial court for his Class D felony conviction for child abuse. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court improperly enhanced his sentence as a Range II offender from the minimum of four years to the maximum of eight years in violation of the purposes and principles of the Tennessee Criminal Sentencing Reform Act. The defendant also argues the trial court failed to properly consider his request for alternative sentencing. Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the eight-year sentence to be served in confinement.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/07/17
Frankie G. Munn v. Sandra M. Phillips Et Al. - Dissenting
E2016-02242-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex H. Ogle

The majority holds that a remand to the trial court is necessary “[b]ecause the trial court failed to make specific findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the applicability of any res judicata defense . . . .” (Italics in original.) I believe the record in this case clearly shows that the claim of the appellee Frankie G. Munn is barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Hence, I see no need for a remand.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 12/07/17
Frankie G. Munn v. Sandra M. Phillips Et Al.
E2016-02242-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex H. Ogle

In this unjust enrichment action, the trial court awarded the plaintiff $42,929.00 for the fair market rental value of improved real property that the plaintiff purchased at a foreclosure sale in 2012 but did not gain possession of until 2015. Following the foreclosure sale, the plaintiff was forced to litigate for a period of three years to obtain title, during which time the former owners of the home, who had defaulted in payments on their mortgage, remained in possession and failed to pay rent. The plaintiff subsequently filed this action in the trial court, seeking an award of fair market rental value of the home from the former owners. The trial court ordered that the former owners pay reasonable rent of $1,200.00 per month from August 2, 2012, the date of the foreclosure sale, to July 24, 2015, the date upon which the court in the prior action entered a final order declaring the plaintiff to be the rightful owner of the property. The former owners have appealed. Because the trial court failed to make specific findings of fact and conclusions of law regarding the applicability of any res judicata defense, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand this matter to the trial court for resolution of that issue.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 12/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Calvin Watkins
W2016-01808-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

The pro se defendant, Calvin Watkins, appeals the revocation of his judicial diversion by the Shelby County Criminal Court. The defendant argues the trial court improperly revoked his diversion based upon an unindicted arrest. After our review, we affirm the trial court’s revocation pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/06/17
In Re Estate of Calvert Hugh Fletcher
M2015-01297-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven D. Qualls

A husband and wife deposited funds in a joint checking account designated with a right of survivorship. Later, the husband withdrew most of the funds from the joint account and placed the funds in a certificate of deposit issued solely in his name. After the husband’s death, a dispute arose between his surviving spouse and his children from a previous marriage regarding ownership of the certificate of deposit. The trial court, relying on Mays v. Brighton Bank, 832 S.W.2d 347 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1992), held that the certificate of deposit was an asset of the husband’s estate because the funds ceased to be entireties property when withdrawn from the joint account. The Court of Appeals reversed and, relying on In re Estate of Grass, No. M2005-00641-COA-R3-CV, 2008 WL 2343068, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App. June 4, 2008), held that the certificate of deposit belonged to the surviving spouse because the funds were impressed with the entireties and could be traced to the joint account. We hold that once funds are withdrawn from a bank account held by a married couple as tenants by the entirety, the funds cease to be entireties property. Accordingly, the certificate of deposit issued to the husband from funds withdrawn from the joint bank account belongs to his estate, not his surviving spouse. We reverse the Court of Appeals and remand to the trial court for further proceedings.

Putnam County Supreme Court 12/06/17
In Re Estate of Eunice Katherine Sanders McCollum
M2015-02169-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Meise

This is a probate case, and the parties are Decedent’s children. Appellant son filed a claim against Appellee daughter, alleging that she mishandled the Decedent’s financial affairs, both during Decedent’s life and after her death in 2007. In 2009, the trial court appointed a special master, who conducted two evidentiary hearings and filed two reports, which essentially exonerated Appellee from any wrong-doing. Two years later, the trial court ordered the Administrator of the estate to pay certain fees and file certain applications so that the estate could be closed, and dismissed all pending motions filed by the parties. Appellant filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment of the trial court that was denied. Concluding that the Appellant did not have standing to bring a claim against Appellee, we affirm and remand.  

Dickson County Court of Appeals 12/05/17
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Vance
W2016-01015-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

Defendant, Brandon Vance, was convicted of first degree felony murder by a Shelby County jury. He received a life sentence. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/17
Ricco Williams v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02602-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

Ricco Williams, the Petitioner, was convicted of various charges, and on appeal, this court and the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed three convictions of especially aggravated kidnapping of three minor victims accomplished with a deadly weapon, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery accomplished with a deadly weapon, and aggravated assault. The Petitioner timely filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post-conviction court denied. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts that trial counsel’s performance was deficient because he failed to: (1) request fingerprint testing on several items of evidence; (2) file a motion to suppress the introduction of these items at trial; (3) request a mistrial when two potential jurors stated during voir dire that they recognized the Petitioner from his prior incarceration; (4) allow the Petitioner to negotiate directly with the State regarding plea offers; and (5) move to dismiss the indictment "because one count contained an inaccurate conviction.” The Petitioner asserts that he was prejudiced by these deficiencies because “[t]he trial evidence circumstantially tied the [Petitioner] to the crime” and “anything trial counsel could do to refute the circumstantial evidence would be crucial for the jury to consider.” The Petitioner additionally asserts that, had he “prevailed in a Motion to Suppress or Motion to Dismiss the Indictment[,] he would have prevailed at trial.” After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/17
Ronald Curry v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02158-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The petitioner, Ronald Curry, pled guilty to rape of a child for which he received a sentence of twenty-five years. He filed the instant post-conviction petition, and following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the petitioner contends that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to adequately evaluate the mental health issues of the petitioner and for failing to secure and present evidence of his innocence. The petitioner also claims trial counsel coerced him into pleading guilty. Upon review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/17
State of Tennessee v. Coynick Boswell
W2016-02591-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

Following a jury trial, the defendant, Coynick Boswell, was convicted of the first-degree murder of the victim, Kadrian Woods. On appeal the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction for premeditated murder and his request for and instruction on self-defense. Having thoroughly reviewed the record and although the evidence is sufficient to sustain the jury’s verdict, we conclude that the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury as to self-defense. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the matter for a new trial.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/17
Monterious Bell v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01709-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The petitioner, Monterious Bell, appeals the dismissal of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in dismissing the petition as time-barred. Following our review, we conclude the petition was timely filed. The judgment of the post-conviction court is reversed and the matter remanded for consideration of the postconviction petition in accord with the Post-Conviction Procedure Act.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/17
in Re Estate of Eunice Katherine Sanders McCollum
M2015-02169-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael R. Meise

This is a probate case, and the parties are Decedent’s children. Appellant son filed a claim against Appellee daughter, alleging that she mishandled the Decedent’s financial affairs, both during Decedent’s life and after her death in 2007. In 2009, the trial court appointed a special master, who conducted two evidentiary hearings and filed two reports, which essentially exonerated Appellee from any wrong-doing. Two years later, the trial court ordered the Administrator of the estate to pay certain fees and file certain applications so that the estate could be closed, and dismissed all pending motions filed by the parties. Appellant filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment of the trial court that was denied. Concluding that the Appellant did not have standing to bring a claim against Appellee, we affirm and remand.  

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/17