Court Opinions

Format: 04/18/2019
Format: 04/18/2019
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Otis Johnson
M2018-01051-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Defendant, Brandon Otis Johnson, appeals from the trial court’s revocation of his probation. Defendant argues that the trial court improperly relied on hearsay evidence without making the required findings of reliability and good cause justifying its admission over his objections. After a full review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/09/19
Bobby K. Watson v. Matthew T. Watson et al.
E2019-004270COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Michael Sharp

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, arising from an appeal filed by the plaintiff to the Monroe County Circuit Court (“trial court”) from a judgment of the Monroe County General Sessions Court (“general sessions court”), granting the defendants immediate possession of certain contested property located in Madisonville, Tennessee. The plaintiff challenges both the January 8, 2019 trial court order, which denied his initial and supplemental motions seeking judicial recusal of the trial court judge, and the subsequent order, which denied his motion to alter or amend the January 8, 2019 order. Having carefully reviewed the petition for recusal appeal (“the Petition”), together with the challenged orders, we conclude that the Petition was not timely filed and accordingly dismiss this appeal.

Monroe County Court of Appeals 04/09/19
Bill Shannon Wilson v. State of Tennessee
E2018-00299-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The petitioner, Bill Shannon Wilson, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his Campbell County Criminal Court jury convictions of rape of a child. In this appeal, the petitioner reiterates his claim that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel and that the cumulative effect of the errors of his counsel, when combined with errors committed by the trial court and this court, deprived him of the right to a fair trial. Because the petitioner has failed to establish that he is entitled to post-conviction relief, we affirm.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/08/19
Anthony Blake Wisdom v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00641-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

The Petitioner, Anthony Blake Wisdom, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of aggravated robbery and resulting fourteen-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Leron Brown
M2017-00904-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Defendant, Timothy Leron Brown, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, unlawful possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, three counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, attempted first degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony while having prior felony convictions, theft of property valued less than $500, and failure to appear. The Defendant received an effective sentence of life plus thirty-one years. On appeal, the Defendant challenges (1) the sufficiency of the evidence of his convictions for first degree premeditated murder and theft, (2) the trial court’s denial of his motion to sever the offenses for trial, (3) the admission of bad act evidence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b), (4) the admission of evidence that the murder victim was a police informant, (5) the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress his cell phone records obtained pursuant to a judicial subpoena, (6) the trial court’s denial of his motion to exclude cell tower evidence as unreliable expert proof, (7) the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence obtained from the search of his cell phone, (8) the admission of text messages from the Defendant’s cell phone, (9) the admission of photographs from the Defendant’s cell phone, and (10) the trial court’s imposition of partial consecutive sentences. We conclude that the evidence is insufficient to support the Defendant’s theft conviction, and we, therefore, reverse and dismiss the theft conviction. We also conclude that the trial court erred in failing to sever the offenses and that the error was not harmless as to the Defendant’s conviction for first degree premeditated murder. Accordingly, we reverse the Defendant’s conviction for first degree premeditated murder and remand the case to the trial court for a new trial. We otherwise affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/08/19
Ricky Armstrong v. Armstrong Hardwood Flooring Company
W2018-00427-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge William B. Acree
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Butler

Ricky Armstrong (“Employee”) alleged that he injured his lower back, neck, and left shoulder in the course and scope of his employment with Armstrong Hardwood Flooring Company (“Employer”). The trial court determined that Employee was permanently and totally disabled. Employer’s 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 trial court’s judgment.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 04/05/19
KMI Group, Inc., et al. v. Wade Acres, LLC, et al.
W2018-00301-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

In this action to recover for property damage sustained as a result of flooding and seeking injunctive relief, the trial court held that the statutes of limitations and repose barred Plaintiffs’ claims for nuisance and negligent construction of a levee, that Plaintiffs did not prove certain elements of their claims for negligence or willful and wanton conduct, and that no civil conspiracy existed; the court granted summary judgment to Defendants. Plaintiffs appeal. Upon review, we reverse the grant of summary judgment with respect to the nuisance and negligence claims, and remand the case for further proceedings; we affirm the judgment with respect to the civil conspiracy claim.

Obion County Court of Appeals 04/05/19
Demario Lawon Fisher v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00131-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Petitioner, Demario Lawon Fisher, pled guilty to attempted especially aggravated robbery, two counts of attempted first degree murder, and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony in exchange for a total effective sentence of twenty-five years. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary. The post-conviction court denied relief, and upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/19
State of Tennessee v. Mandon Rogers
W2018-01599-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Mandon Rogers, Defendant, was convicted of attempted first degree murder (resulting in serious bodily injury), employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Defendant claims the evidence was insufficient to show that he intended to kill the victim or that the victim suffered serious bodily injury and that, if the attempted murder conviction is reversed, his conviction for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony should also be reversed. After a review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Trimon Pruitt
W2018-00039-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

Defendant, Trimon Pruitt, was indicted by the Madison County Grand Jury for first degree murder. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of second degree murder. The trial court sentenced Defendant to 24 years’ imprisonment with 100 percent release eligibility. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends: 1) the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction; 2) the trial court erred by admitting into evidence a statement made by Defendant; 3) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing Defendant. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we find no error. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Gantt
W2018-01158-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

On March 26, 2018, the Defendant, Kevin Gantt, pleaded guilty to soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor. The trial court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to two years at 30% in the Department of Correction and required that he register as a sex offender. The Defendant argues on appeal that the trial court erred in sentencing him to the maximum sentence of two years and in denying his request for judicial diversion. After thorough review, we affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/04/19
Randell Sexton v. David Hart, Et Al.
M2018-01537-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle

The pro se appellant, a state inmate, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Davidson County Chancery Court (“trial court”). Averring that correction facility officials had wrongfully withheld back pay due to him for thirty-seven days of work he missed in his prison employment program pending his ultimately successful appeal of a disciplinary action, the petitioner requested that the trial court direct prison officials to tender $1,475.37 in back pay plus interest. The prison officials, represented by the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the petitioner had waived this action in the trial court by previously filing a claim with the Division of Claims Administration (now known as the Division of Claims and Risk Management) and that the petitioner was not entitled to back pay under the applicable program procedures. In an order entered upon the pleadings, the trial court dismissed the petitioner’s action upon finding that the applicable procedures did not entitle the petitioner to back pay. The petitioner then filed a motion to alter or amend the judgment, which the trial court denied. The petitioner has appealed. Having determined that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over this action, we vacate the trial court’s order and dismiss this case.   

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/04/19
Bruce Milton Miller v. Lucinda Miller Miller
E2018-01058-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E.G. Moody

Bruce Milton Miller (“Husband”) and Lucinda Miller Miller (“Wife”) were divorced in December of 2017. The parties entered into a Mediation Agreement, a Marital Dissolution Agreement (“MDA”), and a Permanent Parenting Plan in connection with the divorce. In February of 2018, Husband filed a Rule 60 motion seeking to reform the parties’ MDA. The Trial Court entered its order on May 24, 2018, reforming the MDA based upon mutual mistake and awarding retroactive child support. Wife appeals to this Court raising issues regarding the reformation of the MDA and the amount of retroactive child support awarded. We find and hold that no proof was presented of a mutual mistake, and therefore, the Trial Court erred in reforming the MDA. We further find and hold that Wife waived her issue as to retroactive child support. We, therefore, vacate that portion of the Trial Court’s May 24, 2018 order reforming the MDA and affirm the portion awarding retroactive child support.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 04/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Rad Mandela Kellar
E2018-00313-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

The Defendant, Rad Mandela Kellar, appeals as of right from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s denial of his request for judicial diversion. The Defendant pled guilty to possession of not less than ten pounds, one gram of marijuana nor more than seventy pounds of marijuana with intent to sell, and he was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by denying judicial diversion. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/03/19
Edward Harper v. Shelby County Schools
W2018-01100-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor JoeDae L. Jenkins

This is a case arising out of the Teacher Tenure Act. A tenured middle school teacher sought review of a decision of the board of education upholding his termination for inefficiency, incompetence, and neglect of duty. The chancery court affirmed the board’s decision, sustaining the teacher’s termination. Teacher appealed to this Court. We reverse the chancery court’s findings with respect to neglect of duty. However, we affirm the chancery court’s findings with respect to inefficiency and incompetence, and thereby affirm the teacher’s termination.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/01/19
State of Tennessee v. Robert William Ward
M2017-02269-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Defendant, Robert William Ward, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of attempted first degree murder with serious bodily injury, a Class A felony, and possession of a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-12-101 (2018) (criminal attempt), 39-13-202 (2014) (first degree murder), 40-35-501(k)(5) (2014) (amended 2015, 2016) (sentencing for attempted first degree murder with serious bodily injury), 39-17-1324 (2014) (firearms possession). He received an effective thirty-five-year sentence, to be served consecutively to his sentence in another case. On appeal, he contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his attempted first degree murder with serious bodily injury conviction, (2) the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the Defendant’s prior conduct, (3) the court erred in failing to strike hearsay testimony from the record, (4) the court erred in admitting a State’s witness’s prior statement, (5) the court erred in limiting his cross-examination of a State’s witness, (6) cumulative trial error requires relief, and (7) his attempted first degree murder sentence is excessive. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/01/19
Deborah Lacy v. Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Et Al.
M2018-00832-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Brothers

The trial court held that Appellant failed to meet her burden to prove her claims of assault and battery. Appellant appealed. Due to the deficiencies in Appellant’s appellate brief, we do not reach Appellant’s substantive issues and dismiss the appeal.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/01/19
State of Tennessee v. Jocelin Williams
W2018-00797-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Jocelin Williams, of firstdegree, premeditated murder of Delvin Brown, the victim in this case. She was also convicted of murder during the perpetration of robbery, especially aggravated robbery, and theft of property valued over $500. The trial court merged the murder convictions and imposed an effective sentence of life plus twenty years’ imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant presents the following issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress a statement which was given while she was alleged to have been impaired; and (2) whether the evidence adduced at trial was sufficient to support her convictions of first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. Upon our review, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Robert Belt
W2018-00785-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Robert Belt, of first-degree, premeditated murder of Delvin Brown, the victim in this case. He was also convicted of murder during the perpetration of robbery and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the murder convictions and imposed an effective sentence of life plus twenty-five years’ imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant presents the following issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress; (2) whether the evidence is sufficient to convict the Defendant of first-degree murder; and (3) whether the trial court erred in ordering the sentences to be served consecutively. Upon our review, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Derrick Settles
W2018-01560-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The pro se Defendant, Derrick Settles, appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. After thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Germaine Markques Long
W2018-01203-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan

The Defendant, Germaine Markques Long, was found guilty by a Madison County Circuit Court jury of two counts of identity theft, a Class D felony, and theft of property valued at $1000 or less, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-150 (2018) (identity theft); 39-14-103 (2018) (theft); 39-14-105 (2018) (grading of theft). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to concurrent terms of four years for each identity theft conviction and eleven months, twenty-nine days for the misdemeanor theft conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and (2) the trial court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Craig Markeem Taylor
W2018-00242-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The Defendant, Craig Markeem Taylor, was convicted by a Madison County jury of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of first degree felony murder, attempted aggravated burglary, and two counts of attempted aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the felony murder convictions into the first degree premeditated murder conviction and sentenced the Defendant to life for the murder conviction, five years for each of the attempted aggravated robbery convictions, and three years for the attempted aggravated burglary conviction. The court ordered the attempted robbery sentences to be served concurrently with each other but consecutively to the sentence for first degree murder. The court ordered that the sentence for attempted aggravated burglary be served consecutively to the sentences for attempted aggravated robbery, for a total effective sentence of life plus eight years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and argues that the trial court committed reversible error by excluding proposed witness testimony on the erroneous basis that it constituted alibi testimony for which the State had not received prior notice. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand for entry of a corrected judgment in count five in order for the “Jury Verdict” box to be checked to reflect that the Defendant was convicted of the indicted offense pursuant to a jury verdict.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Marick Pettis
W2018-00102-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Appellant, Marick Pettis, pled guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and identity theft and received a total effective sentence of ten years. Thereafter, the Appellant filed a “Petition for Suspension of Sentence,” which was denied by the trial court. The Appellant appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
Nicos Broadnax v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01503-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer S. Nichols

The Petitioner, Nicos Broadnax, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that trial counsel’s admitting that the Petitioner was guilty of robbery in opening statement was “ineffective and prejudicial.” Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19
Peter D. Billington v. Shawn Phillips, Warden
W2018-01915-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore, Jr.

The pro se Petitioner, Peter D. Billington, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. Following our review, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/19