Court Opinions

Format: 05/25/2017
Format: 05/25/2017
Frankie Jason Cope v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01690-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The pro se Petitioner, Frankie Jason Cope, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction DNA analysis. Following our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Shane H. Bishop
W2016-01688-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

Defendant, Shane H. Bishop, pled guilty to vehicular homicide by intoxication. He appeals from his sentence of eleven years, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by denying an alternative sentence. Because Defendant was ineligible for an alternative sentence, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Chester County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Eddie H. Pittman
W2016-00745-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

A Madison County jury found Eddie H. Pittman, the defendant, guilty of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, aggravated criminal trespass, and reckless aggravated assault. The trial court merged the reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon conviction with the reckless aggravated assault conviction and imposed an effective sentence of twelve years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his convictions and argues the trial court erred when imposing consecutive sentences. Following our review of the record and the pertinent authorities, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
Jarrod Reese Spicer v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02160-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey W. Parham

The petitioner, Jarrod Reese Spicer, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing the trial court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel. More specifically, the petitioner claims counsel was ineffective because he failed to fully assist the petitioner until receiving full payment for his services, failed to subpoena certain witnesses to testify at trial, failed to obtain a medical expert to rebut the medical examiner’s opinion regarding the victim’s cause of death, and failed to obtain a mental evaluation. Following our review of the record and submissions of the parties, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
Mindy Leigh Veard v. Edward Eugene Veard, Jr.
M2017-00898-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

This accelerated interlocutory appeal arises from the trial court’s denial of a motion for recusal. After carefully reviewing the trial court’s ruling pursuant to the de novo standard of review required under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, we affirm the decision of the trial court denying the motion for recusal.        

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/16/17
Sheila Mitchell v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01356-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

Pro se petitioner Sheila Mitchell appeals from the post-conviction court’s summary denial of relief. In this appeal, the State concedes, and we agree, that the petitioner stated a colorable claim in her petition. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand for appointment of counsel.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
Gallatin Housing Authority v. Mahoganee Pelt
M2015-01694-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

This appeal arises from an indigent tenant’s petition for writs of certiorari and supersedeas for a de novo review of an unlawful detainer action originally filed in general sessions court. The tenant sought to remain in possession of the leased premises during the review without posting a possessory bond. The circuit court initially issued the writs and, in lieu of a bond, ordered the tenant to pay rent as it became due. The landlord objected, arguing that a possessory bond was mandatory under the applicable statute. The circuit court then ordered the tenant to post a bond and, after the tenant failed to comply, dismissed the previously issued writs. On appeal, the tenant argues that the circuit court erred in calculating the amount of the bond and in dismissing the writ of certiorari with the writ of supersedeas. She also contends that the landlord executed the writ of possession in violation of the initial stay of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 62.01. We conclude that, although it erred in including court costs as part of the possessory bond in light of the tenant’s indigence, the trial court properly dismissed the writs of certiorari and supersedeas after the tenant failed to file a possessory bond. We also conclude that Rule 62.01 did not stay the dismissal of the writ of supersedeas. Consequently, we affirm.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 05/16/17
Steffon Hodges v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00895-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Petitioner, Steffon Hodges, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief by the Madison County Circuit Court. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that his guilty plea was involuntary and unknowing because he received ineffective assistance of counsel and was not advised of his rights before entering his guilty plea. After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
James Ryan Skelton v. Jenna Marie Skelton
M2015-01426-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Joseph Woodruff

A father and mother moved to modify a permanent parenting plan in which they were each named primary residential parent. Both parents alleged, for different reasons, that a material change in circumstance had occurred sufficient to modify custody. After a hearing, the court determined a material change in circumstance had occurred and that modification of the current joint custody arrangement was in the child’s best interest. The court named the father the primary residential parent and granted the mother liberal visitation. The mother appeals, arguing that the court erred in finding that her move was a material change and in dismissing her modification petition. Upon review, we conclude that the evidence does not preponderate against the chancery court’s findings, and the court did not err in dismissing Mother’s petition. Accordingly, we affirm.

Lewis County Court of Appeals 05/16/17
Wesley Finch v. O.B. Hofstetter/Anderson Trust, et al.
M2016-00562-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Russell T. Perkins

This appeal stems from a dispute over a tract of real property in Nashville.  The plaintiff, who claims to have entered into an enforceable contract for sale of the disputed tract, brought multiple claims against multiple defendants after the land was not transferred to him.  After competing cross-motions for summary judgment were filed, the trial court dismissed all of the plaintiff’s claims, finding, inter alia, that the plaintiff never entered into a valid, enforceable contract regarding the subject property.  For the reasons stated herein, we affirm and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/16/17
Jaleel Jovan Stovall v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01981-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The Petitioner, Jaleel Jovan Stovall, was convicted by a Hardeman County jury of rape of a child and received a sentence of twenty-five years at 100% service. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which asserted that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that trial counsel’s performance was deficient for failing to object to hearsay introduced by the State and for failing to argue that a letter allegedly authored by the Petitioner was not properly authenticated. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Westley A. Albright
M2016-01217-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David D. Wolfe

The defendant, Westley A. Albright, pled nolo contendere to one count of soliciting a minor in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-528, a Class E felony, for which he received a one-year suspended sentence and deferred judicial diversion.  As a condition of probation, the defendant agreed to participate in therapeutic treatment for the duration of probation or until favorably discharged.  Prior to the conclusion of the one-year suspended sentence, the defendant’s treatment provider discharged him for failure to comply with the goals of his treatment program.  Following service of a probation warrant and a hearing, the trial court revoked the defendant’s deferred diversion and extended his probation for six months to allow for the completion of treatment.  On appeal, the defendant argues: (1) the trial court violated his due process rights by failing to advise him at the time he entered his nolo contendere plea that, as a condition of probation, he would be required to confess to the solicitation of a minor; (2) the trial court violated his due process rights by relying on a probation rule not referenced in the revocation warrant; and (3) the trial court erred when revoking his deferred diversion despite his completion of the objective requirements of the sex offender treatment program.  Upon review, we affirm the findings of the trial court.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
Walter Jr. Shegog v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00034-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

Appellant, Walter Jr. Shegog, appeals the trial court’s summary denial of his petition seeking habeas corpus relief.  The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20.  Said motion is hereby granted.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
In Re: Hailey K., Et Al.
E2017-00397-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This is a termination of parental rights appeal. The Trial Court Judge announced a ruling from the bench at the conclusion of the final hearing below and then subsequently entered a written order vacating the oral ruling. The order vacating the oral ruling contemplates further proceedings in the Trial Court. Because there is no final written order terminating the parental rights of the appellant, Shanna K., to her children, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Rawney Jean Taylor
M2015-02142-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

A Montgomery County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Rawney Jean Taylor, of initiating a false report, a Class D felony; criminally negligent homicide, a Class E felony; and reckless endangerment, a Class A misdemeanor, and the trial court sentenced her to three years, two years, and eleven months, twenty-nine days, respectively.  The court ordered that she serve the three- and two-year sentences consecutively for a total effective sentence of five years.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that her three- and two-year sentences are excessive, that the trial court erred by ordering consecutive sentencing, that the trial court erred by denying her request for judicial diversion, and that the trial court erred by denying her request for probation.  Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Vanessa Rennee Pinegar
M2015-02403-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

The defendant, Vanessa Rennee Pinegar, appealed her convictions of one count of facilitation of delivery of 0.5 or more grams of cocaine within a drug-free school zone and two counts of attempted delivery of 0.5 or more grams of cocaine within a drug-free school zone, challenging the denial of her motion to sever the trial of the defendants, certain evidentiary rulings, the jury instructions, the sufficiency of the evidence, and her effective nine-year sentence.  This Court affirmed the convictions and sentence.  The defendant filed an application for permission to appeal to our Supreme Court.  The Tennessee Supreme Court granted the application and remanded the case to this Court for reconsideration of sentencing in light of State  v. Gibson, 506 S.W.3d 450 (Tenn. 2016).  Upon reconsideration, we vacate the defendant’s enhanced sentences under the Drug-Free School Zone Act and remand the matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.  In all other respects, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Patrick Russell Chambers
E2016-01324-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David R. Duggan

The Defendant, Patrick Russell Chambers, pleaded guilty in the Blount County Circuit Court in case number C-24053 to possession of contraband inside a penal institution, a Class C felony. See T.C.A. § 39-16-301 (2014). The Defendant also stipulated that his conduct in case number C-20453 violated the conditions of his community corrections sentence relative to a reckless homicide conviction in case number C-20398. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range III, persistent offender to ten years’ confinement for the contraband conviction and to serve the remainder of his eight-year sentence for the reckless homicide conviction after finding that the Defendant had violated the conditions of his release. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his request for alternative sentencing. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. Tommy Lee Collins, Jr.
M2015-01030-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge F. Lee Russell

The Defendant, Tommy Lee Collins, Jr., was convicted by a Bedford County Circuit Court jury of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class C felony, evading arrest, a Class D felony, and reckless endangerment, possession of marijuana with the intent to sell, and possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver, Class E felonies. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-1324 (2014) (employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony), 39-16-603 (2014) (amended 2016) (evading arrest), 39-13-103 (Supp. 2012) (amended 2013) (reckless endangerment), 39-17-417(a)(4) (Supp. 2012) (amended 2014) (possession of a controlled substance). The trial court merged the possession of marijuana convictions and sentenced the Defendant to an effective eight years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his drug and firearm convictions, (2) the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the traffic stop and subsequent search of the car he was driving, (3) the prosecutor improperly challenged a juror on the basis of race, (4) the trial court erred by declining to order the prosecutor to disclose the identity of a confidential informant, and (5) the Defendant’s dual convictions for reckless endangerment and evading arrest violated double jeopardy principles. Because we conclude a juror was improperly challenged, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand for a new trial.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
Mitchell Nathaniel Scott v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02241-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth W. Norman

The pro se petitioner, Mitchell Nathaniel Scott, appeals the denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis by the Davidson County Criminal Court, arguing the trial court erred in summarily dismissing the petition because newly discovered evidence exists in his case. The petitioner also calls on this Court to apply the doctrine of stare decisis and ignore the Tennessee Supreme Court holding of Frazier v. State, 495 S.W.3d 246 (Tenn. 2016). After our review, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/16/17
State of Tennessee v. William Charles Burgess
E2015-02213-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Defendant, William Charles Burgess, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of one count of preventing or obstructing an arrest and two counts of obstructing or preventing service of process, Class B misdemeanors. See T.C.A. § 39-16- 602 (2014). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to six months, with all but ten days suspended to supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. Because the Defendant’s conduct did not constitute a criminal offense, we reverse the judgments of the trial court, vacate the Defendant’s convictions, and dismiss the charges.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
Individual Healthcare Specialists, Inc. v. BlueCross BlueShield Of Tennessee, Inc.
M2015-02524-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

This is a breach of contract action in which the issues hinge on the meaning of several provisions in the agreement. In 1999 and again in 2009, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Inc. (“BlueCross”) and Individual Healthcare Specialists, Inc. (“IHS”) entered into a general agency agreement that authorized IHS to solicit applications for individual insurance policies through IHS’s in-house agents and outside “subagents.” The commission rates to be paid were stated in a schedule, which was subject to modification by BlueCross. During the first eleven years, BlueCross modified the commission schedule several times and each modification was prospective only. In 2011, BlueCross modified the commission schedule and, for the first time, applied the commission schedule retrospectively. At the same time, IHS determined that BlueCross had been underpaying commissions since 1999. As a consequence, it commenced this action asserting claims for, inter alia, breach of contract and damages, while also claiming it was entitled to recover its attorney’s fees based on the contract’s indemnification provision. BlueCross denied any breach of contract. It also asserted the statute of limitations defense as a bar to recovering any commissions that accrued more than six years earlier, and asserted that IHS was not entitled to recover its attorney’s fees because the indemnification provision did not apply to disputes between the contracting parties. Shortly thereafter, BlueCross terminated the general agency agreement and began paying renewal commissions directly to IHS’s subagents instead of paying them to IHS as it had done since 1999. IHS then amended its complaint to assert a claim that BlueCross also breached the agreement by failing to pay commissions directly to IHS. Following a bench trial, the court denied BlueCross’s statute of limitations defense on the ground that IHS’s claims were “inherently undiscoverable.” The court also determined that BlueCross breached the contract by underpaying commissions, by applying the 2011 commission rates for renewals to existing policies, and by failing to pay all renewal commissions to IHS after termination of the general agency agreement. As for damages, the court awarded IHS some of the damages it claimed but denied others on the ground the evidence was speculative. As for IHS’s attorney’s fees, the trial court considered parol evidence to ascertain the intent of the parties and held that the indemnification provision authorized the recovery of attorney’s fees in a dispute between the contracting parties. Accordingly, it held that IHS, as the prevailing party, was entitled to recover its attorney’s fees. Both parties appeal. We affirm the trial court in all respects but one, that being the award of attorney’s fees. We have determined the trial court erred by considering parol evidence to determine the meaning of the indemnification provision. We also find that the indemnification provision does not apply to contractual disputes between the parties. Accordingly, IHS is not entitled to recover its attorney’s fees in this action.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/15/17
State of Tennessee v. Blake Austin Weaver
E2016-01774-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

The Defendant, Blake Austin Weaver, appeals the revocation of his community corrections sentence. Pursuant to a guilty plea, he was convicted of one count of theft of property valued more than $60,000 and eleven counts of forgery of a check in an amount greater than $1,000 and less than $10,000. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of fifteen years to be served on community corrections. The trial court revoked the Defendant’s community corrections sentence after finding that the Defendant failed a drug screen, failed to pay restitution, and did not comply with orders to attend intensive outpatient therapy and enter a halfway house. After revocation, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve the remainder of his sentence in prison. He argues that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his community corrections sentence, contending that the trial court erroneously failed to consider his ability to pay restitution, relied on grounds outside the notice of violation, and acted too harshly in requiring him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment revoking the Defendant’s community corrections sentence.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
Walter Lee Hicks v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01050-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Petitioner, Walter Lee Hicks, was indicted for aggravated assault, evading arrest, reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, driving on a revoked driver’s license, speeding, and making a false report. Following a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of the lesserincluded offense of assault, evading arrest, reckless endangerment, driving on a revoked driver’s license, speeding, and making a false report. The trial court imposed a 17-year sentence. A panel of this court affirmed Petitioner’s convictions and sentence on direct appeal, but the panel remanded the case for entry of corrected judgments to reflect that the conviction for misdemeanor assault merged into the conviction for felony reckless endangerment. State v. Walter Lee Hicks, Jr., No. M2013-01410-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 2902277, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., June 26, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn., Oct. 22, 2014). Petitioner timely filed a petition for post-conviction relief. Following a hearing on the petition, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel omitted portions of a state trooper’s dash camera video when presenting that evidence at trial. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
Robert E. Lequire, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2015-01950-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

Petitioner, Robert E. Lequire, Jr., appeals from the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, in which he alleged that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17
Felton Jackson v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00490-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody Kane

The Petitioner, Felton Jackson, filed a petition in the Wilson County Criminal Court, seeking post-conviction relief from his conviction of especially aggravated robbery.  The Petitioner alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to call alibi witnesses, coercing the Petitioner not to testify, and failing to investigate or present proof regarding the Petitioner’s “social, medical and mental health.”  The post-conviction court denied relief, and the Petitioner appealed.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/17