Court Opinions

Format: 06/24/2017
Format: 06/24/2017
State ex rel. Appaloosa Bay, LLC et al. v. Johnson County, Tennessee, et al.
E2016-01163-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John C. Rambo

Two owners of separate lots in a planned residential subdivision of twenty lots brought this action against the Johnson County Regional Planning Commission and several state entities after the subdivision’s developer went into bankruptcy and development of the subdivision was halted. When the developer had earlier posted a performance bond securing the completion of the subdivision’s infrastructure, the planning commission had approved the subdivision plat, although infrastructure, including roads and utilities, had not been completed. After developer’s bankruptcy, the State of Tennessee bought the land comprising all of the subdivision lots, except the two owned by the plaintiffs. All of the remaining land in the intended subdivision, except for several other lots purchased by individuals before the bankruptcy, is now part of the Doe Mountain Recreation Area — an entity subsequently created by the State. Plaintiffs brought this action for breach of contract between developer and the planning commission. Plaintiffs also asked the trial court to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the county to complete the proposed subdivision infrastructure. The trial court granted the defendants summary judgment. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm.

Johnson County Court of Appeals 06/09/17
State of Tennessee v. Adarius Dewayne Garth
E2016-00931-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

Defendant, Adarius Dewayne Garth, was indicted by the Hamilton County Grand Jury for two counts of attempted first degree murder, domestic aggravated assault, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Defendant entered an “open” guilty plea to the lesser-included offense of reckless aggravated assault, and the remaining charges were dismissed on motion by the State. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to four years’ incarceration as a Range I offender. Defendant appeals the length and manner of service of his sentence. Following a careful review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/09/17
State of Tennessee v. Tony Arthur Swann
E2015-01516-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Jerry Beck

Petitioner, Tony Arthur Swann, appeals from the denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36 motion to correct a clerical error due to the alleged denial of pretrial jail credits and his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion alleging that his sentence is illegal because of a probation revocation order. Following our review, we affirm the trial court’s decision.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/08/17
Jessica Marcel Broadnax v. Quentin Elliott Lawrence
E2016-01176-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge J.B. Bennett

This case is again before this Court after being remanded to the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”) for a determination of whether it was in the best interest of the parties’ minor child (“the Child”) to relocate to New Jersey with Jessica Marcel Broadnax (“Mother”). Mother appeals the Trial Court’s May 5, 2016 order upon remand, which found, inter alia, that it was in the best interest of the Child to remain with Quentin Elliott Lawrence (“Father”) and not to move with Mother to New Jersey. We find and hold that the evidence in the record on appeal does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s findings. Finding no error on the part of the Trial Court, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 06/08/17
Sanders Lee Madewell v. State of Tennessee
M2016-00499-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Randall Wyatt, Jr.

A Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Sanders Lee Madewell, of especially aggravated robbery and criminal impersonation, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of seventeen years in prison. On appeal, this Court affirmed the convictions and sentence. See State v. Sanders Lee Madewell, No. M2012-02150-CCAR3- CD, 2012 WL 3129186, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, July 31, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 26, 2012). The Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel, that the State had withheld evidence favorable to him, that he was “actually innocent”, and that the trial court failed in its role as the thirteenth juror. Following a bifurcated hearing, the postconviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains the aforementioned issues. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/08/17
State of Tennessee v. Errol Shields
M2016-01342-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

A Williamson County jury convicted the Defendant, Errol Shields, of theft of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1,000, and the trial court sentenced him to two years, suspended to probation. The Defendant filed a motion for judgment of acquittal and/or a new trial and then filed a supplement to that motion. The trial court denied the motion, and the Defendant appeals. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion because the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction and that the trial court improperly allowed the State to introduce evidence that the Defendant returned an item to the store that he had legally purchased. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/08/17
State of Tennessee v. Ronnie Brewer
M2016-01651-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas W. Graham

The Defendant, Ronnie Brewer, was convicted by a Grundy County Circuit Court jury of reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-102 (2003) (amended 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to three years, which was suspended to probation after six months’ confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction, (2) the trial court erred during jury instructions, and (3) the trial court erred during sentencing. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Grundy County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/08/17
Raymond Cass Ballard v. Gertrude Cayabas
W2016-01913-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Tony Childress

This is an appeal arising out of a petition to change the primary residential parent and a petition for civil and criminal contempt. The notice of appeal for the criminal contempt finding was not timely filed, and the appeal is therefore dismissed as to the criminal contempt. With respect to the remaining issues, we remand this matter to the trial court for the limited purpose of conducting an evidentiary hearing regarding the timeliness of this appeal.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 06/08/17
George Washington Matthews v. State of Tennessee
M2016-01011-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The Appellant, George Washington Matthews, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of his petition for 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 06/08/17
State of Tennessee v. Larry Donnell Golden, Jr.
W2016-01512-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald E. Parish

The Defendant, Larry Donnell Golden, Jr., was convicted by a Carroll County Circuit Court jury of second degree murder, a Class A felony, and reckless endangerment for discharging a firearm into an occupied habitation, a Class C felony. He was sentenced to an effective term of twenty-three years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred by sua sponte modifying the Tennessee Pattern Jury Instructions relative to the charge of reckless endangerment and that the State improperly commented in its closing argument on his decision not to testify. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Vernon Livingston v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02188-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The petitioner, Vernon Livingston, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition. The petitioner argues he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial which forced him to enter a guilty plea prior to the conclusion of the trial. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Mario Hubbard
W2016-01521-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A Shelby County jury found the defendant, Mario Hubbard, guilty of burglary of a motor vehicle and sentenced him to six years, as a career offender, in the county workhouse. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court erred when allowing the jury to hear a statement he gave to the arresting officer prior to receiving Miranda warnings and when denying his request for a jury instruction on the destruction of evidence. The defendant further argues the jury’s verdict was against the weight of the evidence and instead supported by his uncorroborated statement only. Based on our review of the record and pertinent authorities, we agree the trial court erred when denying the defendant’s motion to suppress, but given the otherwise overwhelming evidence presented at trial, this error was harmless. For the same reason, the jury’s verdict was not against the weight of the evidence. Finally, the evidence submitted at trial did not warrant a jury instruction on spoliation, so the trial court did not err when denying the defendant’s request for the same. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Jackson Martin v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01388-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The petitioner, Jackson Martin, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of one count of attempted second-degree murder and two counts of carjacking. Over one year after this Court affirmed his convictions, the petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief. The trial court subsequently denied the petition on its merits. Following our review of the record and pertinent authorities, we conclude the petition was untimely, and so this Court is without jurisdiction to consider this appeal. Accordingly, we dismiss this appeal and remand the matter to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Edward Hood, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01998-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The petitioner, Edward Hood, Jr., appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief as untimely. The petitioner asserts the applicable statute of limitations for his claim should be tolled as he was incompetent during the filing period. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Justice Ball
W2016-01358-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

A Shelby County jury found the defendant, Justice Ball, guilty of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, carjacking, employing a firearm during a dangerous felony, and evading arrest. The trial court imposed an effective fifteen-year sentence to be served at one hundred percent, and the defendant appealed. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions, arguing the evidence was insufficient to find him criminally responsible for the indicted offenses, while further challenging the constitutionality of the criminal responsibility statute. The defendant also argues the trial court erred in instructing the jury on criminal responsibility and their duty to not independently investigate the case. The defendant asserts the trial court erred by not granting his pre-trial motion to suppress or motion for a mistrial made during the State’s case-in-chief. Finally, the defendant asserts the trial court’s cumulative errors warrant a new trial. After our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Zachary Carlisle v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01357-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Petitioner, Zachary Carlisle, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony and received an effective sentence of thirty years, all of which was affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Zachary Carlisle, No. W2012-00291-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 5561480, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 7, 2013), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Mar. 17, 2014). Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial vindictiveness. The post-conviction court denied relief after a hearing. We affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Courtney Means
W2016-02209-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

More than twelve years ago, Defendant, Courtney Means, was convicted of three counts of aggravated robbery. As a result, he was sentenced to an effective sentence of twenty-four years in confinement. His convictions and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Courtney Means, No. W2005-00682-CCA-R3-CD, 2006 WL 709206 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 21, 2006), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 5, 2006). In January of 2016, Defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The trial court appointed counsel, had a hearing, and then determined that Defendant’s claims were not colorable. As a result, the trial court denied relief. Defendant appealed. We affirm the denial of relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Calvin Ellison v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01784-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy Morgan

The petitioner, Calvin Ellison, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his 2013 convictions of misdemeanor reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, and employing a firearm during the commission of a felony. Because the petitioner failed to establish that he was prejudiced by counsel’s failure to challenge the consecutive alignment of his sentences and because he failed to establish that counsel performed deficiently in any other regard, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Douglas Martinez v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00093-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

Petitioner, Douglas Martinez, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Because the record is inadequate for our review, we affirm the judgment of the postconviction court. However, an error in the judgment form necessitates a remand for correction of the judgment to reflect the proper conviction.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Alex Goodwin and Joey Lee aka Joey Currie
W2015-00813-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camile R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

In this consolidated appeal as of right, Defendants Alex Goodwin and Joey Lee challenge their convictions of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, see T.C.A. § 39-13-402, for which they received eleven and ten years’ imprisonment, respectively. Both Defendants challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting their convictions. Defendant Goodwin argues that the trial court erred in (1) denying his motion to suppress text messages obtained from Defendant Goodwin’s cell phone and (2) refusing to instruct the jury on facilitation as a lesser included offense of aggravated robbery. Defendant Lee argues that the trial court erred in (1) admitting into evidence a BB gun located remotely in time and place to the offense without any testimony to connect the weapon to the offense; (2) allowing an expert witness to interpret the meaning of slang terminology used by the co-defendant in the text messages; and (3) the cumulative effect of the errors committed during trial denied him a fair trial. Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Ally Financial v. Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security
M2016-01894-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security forfeited a finance company’s interest in a vehicle after determining that the finance company failed to timely file a claim to contest the forfeiture after receiving notice. The finance company thereafter filed a petition for judicial review. The trial court reversed the forfeiture on the basis that the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security failed to prove that it sent proper notice to the finance company. We vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings before the administrative agency. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Alvina Tinisha Brown
E2016-00314-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Defendant, Alvina Tinisha Brown, was convicted by a McMinn County Criminal Court jury of tampering with evidence, a Class C felony, misdemeanor possession of marijuana, misdemeanor possession of alprazolam, and possession of drug paraphernalia, Class A misdemeanors. See T.C.A. §§ 39-16-503 (2014) (evidence tampering), 39-17- 418 (2010) (amended 2014, 2016) (misdemeanor possession), 39-17-425 (2014) (possession of drug paraphernalia). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range III, persistent offender to an effective fifteen years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress, (2) the evidence is insufficient to support her tampering with evidence conviction, and (3) the tampering with evidence sentence is excessive. Because the evidence is insufficient to support the Defendant’s conviction for tampering with evidence, we reverse the judgment of the trial court, vacate the conviction, and dismiss the charge. We affirm the remaining judgments of the trial court.

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Tony Edward Bigoms - separate opinion
E2015-02475-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

All members of the panel agree that the Defendant must receive a new trial, although we disagree, in part, about the reasons why a new trial is required. Specifically, Judge Easter and I disagree with Judge Thomas’s analysis regarding whether a jury separation occurred when the jurors were allowed to speak with family members by telephone while in the presence of court officers, and we conclude that no separation occurred. Likewise, Judge Easter and I depart from Judge Thomas’s analysis of the trial court’s admission of evidence related to the Defendant’s knowledge of DNA matters due to his presence at a prior judicial proceeding at which expert DNA proof was received. Although Judge Easter and I agree with Judge Thomas that the evidence was inadmissible, we disagree with his analysis pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b) and believe, instead, that the proper framework for determining the admissibility of the evidence is provided by Rules 401, 402, and 403.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
State of Tennessee v. Tony Edward Bigoms
E2015-02475-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Tony Edward Bigoms, was convicted of premeditated first degree murder and abuse of a corpse, a Class E felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202, -17-312(a). The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of imprisonment for life plus four years. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that jury separations occurred when the sequestered jury members were allowed to go to their individual homes, unsupervised, to pack their belongings at the start of the trial, were allowed to make phone calls to family members during the trial, and were allowed to visit with family members the day before the trial concluded; (2) that the trial court erred in admitting testimony from a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) special agent regarding that agent’s testimony during a previous murder trial at which the Defendant was acquitted; (3) that the trial court erred in admitting evidence found as a result of a warrantless search of the Defendant’s cell phone; (4) that the State failed to prove venue by a preponderance of the evidence; and (5) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s convictions. Following our review, we conclude that jury separations occurred when the jurors were allowed to go home unsupervised and to make phone calls during the trial. Furthermore, we conclude that the State failed to meet its burden to show that no prejudice to the Defendant occurred during these separations. Additionally, we conclude that the admission of the TBI agent’s testimony regarding the Defendant’s previous murder trial violated Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b)’s prohibition against evidence of other bad acts and that this error was not harmless. Finally, we conclude that the trial court erred in admitting the evidence found on the Defendant’s cell phone as that evidence was not relevant. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand the case for a new trial. With respect to the Defendant’s remaining issues, we will address those issues so as not to pretermit them. See State v. Parris, 236 S.W.3d 173, 189 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2007) (following a similar procedure).

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/07/17
Sarah Nichole Neveau v. Adam Paul Neveau
E2015-02221-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rex A. Dale

This is an appeal from a divorce. The trial court granted the parties an absolute divorce and named the mother the primary residential parent of the parties’ minor child. The father filed this appeal challenging the designation of the mother as the primary residential parent and questioning the number of days of parenting time he received in the parenting plan. We find that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s designation of the mother as the primary residential parent; however, the evidence does preponderate against the parenting plan that greatly limits the parenting time awarded to the father. Because we have concluded that the evidence preponderates against the parenting plan, we remand this issue to the trial court to adopt a plan that affords the father additional parenting time and to modify the child support award to comport with the new parenting plan. We also conclude that the tax exemption should be awarded to the father until such time as the mother becomes employed, at which time the issue can be revisited.

Loudon County Court of Appeals 06/07/17