Court Opinions

Format: 01/22/2020
Format: 01/22/2020
State of Tennessee v. Aaron Dale Dodson
M2018-01333-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

The Defendant, Aaron Dale Dodson, was convicted by a jury of one count of first degree felony murder; one count of especially aggravated robbery, a Class A felony; and one count of aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202, -304, -403. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his felony murder and especially aggravated robbery convictions. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/20
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Wooten - concurring opinion
E2018-01338-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

I agree with all of Judge McMullen’s well-reasoned opinion except the determination that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the audio recording of the 911 call to be played in its entirety before the jury.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/20
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Wooten
E2018-01338-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Defendant-Appellant, Jeffrey Wooten, was convicted as charged by a Knox County jury of three alternative counts of first degree felony murder; first degree premeditated murder; two counts of especially aggravated burglary; especially aggravated robbery; two counts of aggravated robbery; two counts of attempted especially aggravated kidnapping; two counts of carjacking; two counts of evading arrest; two counts of employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony; aggravated burglary; and automobile theft, for which he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment without parole plus forty-eight years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in admitting portions of a 911 call; that there was insufficient evidence to support the Defendant’s convictions; that the trial court erred in allowing evidence of an alleged offense in Georgia during the penalty phase; and that the trial court erred in imposing partial consecutive sentencing. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we remand this case for entry of judgment forms for each count of the indictment.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/13/20
Sherrilyn Kenyon v. Kerrie Ann Plump, Et Al.
M2019-00944-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

During a hearing on a party’s motion for a protective order, the trial court summarily found the party to be in contempt of court and sentenced her to spend ten days in jail after she described members in the gallery as pedophiles and abusers of her children.  The party appealed, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment and sentence.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 01/13/20
Hill Boren Properties, et al. v. Ricky Lee Boren v. Tamara Hill, et al.
W2019-02128-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

Third-party defendants in a lawsuit moved to disqualify the trial judge, asserting that the judge is a material witness in the case and demonstrated bias and prejudice against one of the parties in another case; the trial court denied the motion and the parties filed an expedited interlocutory appeal pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B. Upon a thorough review of the petition for recusal appeal and supporting materials, we affirm the decision of the trial court denying the motion for recusal and remand for further proceedings.

Madison County Court of Appeals 01/10/20
Antonio M. Crockett v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01416-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Petitioner, Antonio M. Crockett, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury conviction for first-degree felony murder. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges the following grounds of ineffective assistance of trial counsel: (1) failure to impeach a witness; (2) failure to assert a proper basis for severance pretrial or renew the motion to sever at trial; (3) failure to request a jury instruction; (4) failure to object to the State’s articulating multiple theories during its closing argument; (5) failure to object to the prosecutor’s inflammatory comments during the State’s rebuttal argument; (6) failure to develop and present evidence of the disproportionality of a mandatory life sentence. The Petitioner also argues that his mandatory life sentence is unconstitutional and that he was deprived of a fair trial on the basis of cumulative error. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/10/20
State of Tennessee v. Shalonda Weems
M2018-02288-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

Shalonda Weems, Defendant, was indicted in a two-count indictment for aggravated child neglect and felony murder in connection with the starvation death of her six-month-old child. The jury found Defendant guilty of aggravated child neglect and reckless homicide. Defendant filed a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 29(e) Motion for Judgment of Acquittal (“the Motion”) as to both counts. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the Motion in part, set aside the guilty verdict for aggravated child neglect, and entered a judgment of acquittal. The court denied the Motion as to the reckless homicide verdict and entered a judgment of conviction. The State appeals claiming that the trial court erred in granting the Motion. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment of acquittal for aggravated child neglect.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/10/20
Trumaine Winters v. State of Tennessee
W2018-02090-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn I. Wright

A Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Trumaine Winters, of first-degree murder and aggravated robbery, and the trial court sentenced him to life in prison for the murder conviction plus twelve years for the robbery conviction. The Petitioner appealed his convictions and sentence to this court, and we affirmed the convictions but remanded for resentencing. State v. Trumaine Winters, No. W2007-00529-CCA-R3-CD, 2008 WL 2901616 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, July 24, 2008), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Apr. 13, 2015). The Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective for improperly
cross-examining key witnesses and for not objecting to prosecutorial misconduct. The post-conviction court denied the petition after a hearing. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/09/20
In Re Emma S.
E2019-00718-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

In this parental termination case, the juvenile court found two statutory grounds for termination of a mother’s parental rights: substantial noncompliance with the requirements of the permanency plan and persistence of conditions. The juvenile court also found that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in her child’s best interest. Because the record contains clear and convincing evidence to support the grounds for termination and the best interest determination, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 01/09/20
In Re Mahaley P. Et Al.
E2019-00770-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert M. Estep

This is the second appeal concerning the petition filed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) in the Claiborne County Juvenile Court (“Juvenile Court”) to terminate the parental rights of Ed P. (“Father”) to the children, Mahaley P. and Morgan P. (“the Children”). During the first appeal as to Father, this Court reversed the statutory ground of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan and remanded for the Juvenile Court to make additional findings of fact and conclusions of law related to the two remaining grounds and as relevant to the best interest analysis. See In re Mickeal Z., No. E2018-01069-COA-R3-PT, 2019 WL 337038 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 25, 2019). On April 4, 2019, the Juvenile Court entered an order making additional findings of fact and conclusions of law. Father appeals the April 4, 2019 order of the Juvenile Court terminating his parental rights to the Children upon its determination that DCS had proven by clear and convincing evidence the statutory grounds of persistent conditions and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody of the Children and that the termination of Father’s parental rights was in the Children’s best interest. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Claiborne County Court of Appeals 01/09/20
Amanda Bliss Gricunas (Harmon) v. Andrew James Gricunas
E2018-02284-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Beth Boniface

In this post-divorce proceeding, the mother filed a petition to modify time sharing arrangements between the mother and the father with regard to the minor children of the parties. The parties have been divorced since 2010. The mother also requested a modification of the father’s child support obligation and asked that the father pay for onehalf of the children’s past and future medical expenses.

Greene County Court of Appeals 01/09/20
In Re O.W., Jr., et al.
W2019-01127-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Harold W. Horne

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights, arguing that one ground for termination was not proven and that the trial court’s ruling as to that ground did not reflect its independent judgment and did not include sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm five grounds for termination and vacate the ground of failure to manifest an ability and willingness to parent the children. We also affirm the trial court’s finding that termination is in the child’s best interest. As such, we affirm the termination of Father’s parental rights.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/09/20
In Re: A.W.
M2019-00358-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Darrell Scarlett

In this parental termination case, the petitioners sought termination of the parental rights of mother and the unknown father based upon four statutory grounds, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(2018). Following a hearing on the petition, the trial court entered an amended order holding that there was clear and convincing evidence sufficient to terminate the parents’ rights for abandonment based upon their failure to support and failure to visit the minor child. By the same quantum of proof, the court found that termination is in the child’s best interest. The trial court, however, failed to address all of the grounds for termination raised in the petition. The trial court’s judgment was not final. Accordingly, this appeal is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 01/08/20
WARREN BROTHERS SASH & DOOR COMPANY v. SANTORO CUSTOM BUILDERS, INC., ET AL.
M2019-00374-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge James G. Martin, III

Plaintiff filed a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 69.04 motion to extend a 2008 default judgment entered against Defendant’s company and Defendant in his personal capacity.  Defendant filed a Rule 60.02(3) motion to set aside the default judgment with respect to himself in his individual capacity, asserting the judgment was void for lack of service. The trial court determined 1) Defendant had been served in the underlying matter, 2) that the judgment in the underlying case was not void, and 3) alternatively, if the judgment was invalid, “exceptional circumstances” justified the court’s refusal to set it aside.  We find that the 2008 default judgment was not void for lack of service and affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 01/08/20
In Re Estate of Gladys Yarboro Lloyd
E2017-02563-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

In this probate proceeding, the trial court applied the no contest provision of the will to prevent the beneficiary from inheriting under the will, holding that certain actions and issues raised by the beneficiary triggered the provision. The court also imposed sanctions pursuant to Rule 11.03 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure against the disinherited beneficiary and her attorney for filing an improper lien on real property of the decedent and in refusing to remove the lien, thereby requiring the estate to seek judicial relief. The beneficiary and her attorney appeal the application of the no contest clause and the imposition of sanctions. Upon our review, we discern no error warranting reversal and accordingly, affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/08/20
Arnold Stevens v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00530-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Russell Parkes

Petitioner, Arnold Stevens, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, Petitioner argues that his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary due to the ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/20
Martha L. Butler v. James L. Burrow, Et Al.
M2018-02283-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Joe Thompson

This appeal arises from an action for trespass, injunctive relief, and to quiet title pursuant to a theory of common law adverse possession. The multiple parties are adjoining neighbors and/or affiliated businesses. The centerpiece of this litigation concerns the ownership of a strip of railroad property that is 66 feet wide and comprises 2.9 acres. The railroad removed the track and abandoned the property in 1977, after which all that remained was a berm on which the former track lay. After the track was removed, one of the neighboring owners erected a fence along the center of the entire length of the railroad property. Since that time, the neighboring property owners considered the fence to be the new property line and used the 33 feet of the property on their side of the fence as their respective property. However, the neighboring property owners never paid taxes on the abandoned railroad property. In 2015, one of the three defendants acquired the abandoned property by quitclaim deed from the railroad and removed the fence and leveled the berm in order to install a road to serve a residential development planned for an adjacent 42-acre tract. Thereafter, the owners of two separate adjoining properties filed suit against the three affiliated defendants seeking an injunction and to recover damages caused by flood water that had been diverted onto the plaintiffs’ property due to the removal of the berm. The plaintiffs also asserted claims for trespass and to quiet title to the 33 feet of the former railroad property that adjoined their property. The defendants filed counterclaims alleging that the temporary injunction halted development of the road and caused them to suffer damages. Following a bench trial, the court ruled that the plaintiffs acquired half of the abandoned railroad property through adverse possession. The court also awarded damages against the defendants for removing the fence the plaintiffs used to contain their cattle and for flood damage that resulted from the removal of the berm. The court also ordered the defendants to replace the berm. The defendants appealed. We have determined that Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-2-110(a) bars the plaintiffs’ claim of adverse possession because it is undisputed that they did not pay taxes assessed on the railroad property for more than 20 years. Therefore, we reverse the trial court’s determination that the plaintiffs own half of the railroad property and hold that the defendant who acquired the property from the railroad by quitclaim deed in 2015 is the rightful owner of the entire 2.9-acre tract. We also reverse the award of damages to the plaintiffs for replacement of the fence and restoration of the entire berm; however, we affirm the trial court’s determination that the defendants are jointly and severally liable for diverting water onto the plaintiffs’ property by removing the railroad berm, and remand this claim for the trial court to award damages and/or determine the appropriate measures the defendants should take to remedy the flooding caused by the removal of the berm. Further, the defendants claim for damages resulting from the temporary injunction is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 01/07/20
In Re: Draven K.
E2019-00768-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This is a termination of parental rights case. Mother/Appellant appeals the trial court’s termination of her parental rights to the minor child on the grounds of: (1) abandonment by willful failure to visit and abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1), §§ 36-1-102(1)(A)(i) (ii); (2) persistence of the conditions that led to the child’s removal, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(3); (3) failure to substantially comply with the reasonable requirements of the permanency plan, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(2); and (4) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody or financial responsibility for the child, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1- 113(g)(14). Mother also appeals the trial court’s determination that termination of her parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Because the record does not contain an adjudicatory order of dependency and neglect, we reverse the trial court’s termination of Mother’s parental rights on the ground of persistence of conditions. We affirm the trial court’s termination of Mother’s parental rights on all other grounds and on its finding that termination of Mother’s rights is in the child’s best interest.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/07/20
Joshua Iceman v. State of Tennessee
M2018-02202-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David A. Patterson

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

White County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/06/20
State of Tennessee v. Deddrick Clay
W2018-01716-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Defendant, Deddrick Clay, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for especially aggravated robbery and for being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of especially aggravated robbery and found not guilty of the firearm possession charge. Following a sentencing hearing, Defendant was sentenced to serve 22 years incarcerated. Defendant’s sole issue on appeal is whether the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/06/20
State of Tennessee v. Septian Jamarquis Valentine
W2018-01400-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The Defendant, Septian Jamarquis Valentine, was charged with two counts of rape. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-503. Following a jury trial, the Defendant was found not guilty on count one and guilty on count two and sentenced to fourteen years incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that error exists because (1) the trial court did not allow Lisa Garrett to testify about the Defendant’s negative chlamydia test performed one year after the incident; (2) the evidence was insufficient to convict the Defendant; and (3) a juror, who was “not truthful” during voir dire, “bullied” others into convicting the Defendant. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/03/20
Timothy A. Baxter v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00590-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

In 2010, Timothy A. Baxter, Defendant, was charged with aggravated assault and was arraigned on May 9, 2011. Defendant was subsequently charged with failure to appear for his June 13, 2011 court date on the aggravated assault charge. A jury found Defendant guilty of failure to appear, and the trial court sentenced him to six years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. This court affirmed Defendant’s judgment of conviction on direct appeal in January 2014. Defendant filed a pro se “Motion to Correct Record and Amend Judgment” on March 21, 2018. The trial court dismissed this motion on April 17, 2018, and Defendant filed a pro se “Motion to Alter or Amend” under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) on April 30, 2018. The trial court denied Defendant’s Motion to Alter or Amend on March 8, 2019, and Defendant timely appeals. Because Defendant has failed to provide an adequate record for review, and because this court does not have jurisdiction, the appeal is dismissed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/03/20
State of Tennessee v. Dustin Todd King
M2019-00241-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Dustin Todd King, Defendant, pled guilty to four counts of aggravated statutory rape and one count of violation of a no-contact order with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of the sentences after a sentencing hearing. The trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective sentence of four years, eleven months and twenty-nine days, ordering partial consecutive sentencing. As a collateral consequence, the Defendant was placed on the sex offender registry. On appeal, Defendant challenges his sentence as excessive. After a review, we determine that the trial court sentenced Defendant to a sentence within the range for each conviction and followed the proper sentencing procedure. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/19
Randy Jackson v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01644-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Petitioner, Randy Jackson, was convicted of aggravated robbery and attempt to commit aggravated robbery and received an effective twenty-two-year sentence. He appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that Petitioner has failed to show that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel, and we accordingly affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Grady Alton Vest
W2018-01694-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Defendant, Grady Alton Vest, was indicted by the Henderson County Grand Jury for four counts of rape of a child and four counts of incest. Defendant was convicted as charged following a jury trial. The trial court sentenced Defendant to 33 years for each rape of a child conviction and five years for each incest conviction, with two of his 33-year sentences to run consecutively, for a total effective sentence of 66 years’ incarceration. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, and his effective sentence is excessive. Following our review of the entire record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/19