Court Opinions

Format: 09/15/2019
Format: 09/15/2019
Ronnie Ingram v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01875-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The petitioner, Ronnie Ingram, 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 and on appeal. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
Samuel Winkfield v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01873-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Petitioner, Samuel Winkfield, appeals the Madison County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis from his second degree murder and tampering with evidence convictions, for which he received an effective sentence of twenty-five years. We affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Douglas Wayne Jackson
M2017-01528-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

A Montgomery County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant with second degree murder (count one), vehicular homicide (count two), aggravated assault (count three), failure to complete boating safety certification (count four), and operating a motorboat without a valid identification number (count five). Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant entered a guilty plea to reckless homicide, a lesser included offense of second degree murder (count one). The plea agreement further provided that the Defendant plead guilty as a Range II, multiple offender pursuant to Hicks v. State, 945 S.W.2d 706, 709 (Tenn. 1997) (holding that a knowing and voluntary guilty plea waives any irregularity as to offender classification or release eligibility), with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of his sentence. In exchange for the Defendant’s plea of guilty, the State agreed to dismiss the remaining counts in the indictment. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a sentence of five-years’ imprisonment. Ten days later, the Defendant filed a motion to modify his sentence pursuant to Rule 35 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. Following a second hearing, the trial court denied relief and imposed the same sentence. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in sentencing the Defendant and in failing to grant his Rule 35 motion to modify the sentence. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Clarence Reed Julian
E2019-00074-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

Defendant, Clarence Reed Julian, pled guilty to criminal simulation in exchange for a sentence of two years as a Range II, multiple offender with the manner of service of the sentence to be determined after a sentencing hearing. At the hearing, the trial court denied an alternative sentence, ordering Defendant to serve the sentence in incarceration. Defendant appeals. After a review, we determine there is a clerical error in the judgment form. The judgment form wrongly designates Defendant as a Range I, standard offender and the technical record indicates that Defendant, as a Range I offender, has already received the benefit of Determinate Release from the Department of Correction. We remand for entry of a corrected judgment form, designating Defendant as a Range II, multiple offender, requiring Defendant to complete his sentence as such an offender. Otherwise, we affirm the trial court’s denial of alternative sentencing.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/19
In Re Chivon G.
E2018-02012-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on the minor child of the mother/appellant. The child was placed in the legal custody of the petitioner/appellee on November 8, 2016, based upon the trial court’s finding that the child was dependent and neglected while in the mother’s care. On June 7, 2018, the petitioner filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that statutory grounds existed to terminate the parental rights of the mother upon its finding by clear and convincing evidence that (1) the mother had abandoned the child by willfully failing to provide financial support and (2) the conditions leading to the child’s removal from the mother’s home persisted. The court further found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. The mother has appealed. Having determined that the statutory ground of persistence of the conditions leading to removal was not proven by clear and convincing evidence, we reverse the trial court’s finding as to this ground. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including the termination of the mother’s parental rights to the child.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
Nina Villalba Et Al. v. Ciara McCown
E2018-01433-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle E. Hedrick

In this personal injury action arising from an automobile accident, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant upon finding that the plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate service of process in the originally filed action, which had been dismissed, such that the plaintiffs’ refiled action was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The plaintiffs have appealed. Having determined that, pursuant to the version of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 4.04(11) in effect at the time that the initial complaint was filed, the plaintiffs demonstrated valid service of process of the initial complaint, we reverse the grant of summary judgment to the defendant and grant partial summary judgment to the plaintiffs concerning the affirmative defenses of ineffective service of process and expiration of the statute of limitations. We remand this action for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
In Re Matasia R. Et Al.
E2018-01834-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Janice Hope Snider

This action involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his minor children. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory ground of abandonment by an incarcerated parent. The court further found that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
Johnny Alan Howell Et Al. v. Nelson Gray Enterprises Et AL.
E2019-00033-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge James E. Lauderback

This appeal involves a motorcycle/vehicle collision that occurred when a vehicle exited from a restaurant parking lot and collided with the plaintiffs’ motorcycle on a public highway. The plaintiffs filed a negligence and premises liability claim against the property owner, the restaurant owner, and the franchisee. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and noted that the defendants did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiffs, effectively negating an essential element of the plaintiffs’ claim. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm the grant of summary judgment by the trial court.

Johnson County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
In Re Brenlee F.
E2018-01498-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor M. Nichole Cantrell

This action involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her minor child. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory grounds of abandonment by her (1) failure to visit; (2) failure to support; and (3) conduct that exhibited a wanton disregard for the child’s welfare. The trial court also found that termination was in the best interest of the child. We reverse the trial court on its finding that the mother abandoned the child by failing to remit support. We affirm the trial court on all other rulings.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 08/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Randy Champion
W2018-01393-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Randy Champion, of one count of especially aggravated robbery, two counts of attempt to commit second degree murder, two counts of employment of a firearm, one count of attempt to commit especially aggravated robbery, and one count of attempt to commit aggravated robbery. For these convictions, the trial court ordered an effective sentence of twenty-four years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the evidence is insufficient to prove his identity as a perpetrator of the offenses, that the trial court improperly denied his motion for severance, and that the State presented inconsistent theories of prosecution at trial. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/19
James Walter Grooms, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01777-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

The petitioner, James Walter Grooms, Jr., appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, which petition challenged his conviction for two counts of aggravated assault, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received effective assistance of counsel at trial. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Michael Andrew Lethco
E2018-01042-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The defendant, Michael Andrew Lethco, was convicted of aggravated sexual battery for which he received a nine-year sentence. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction and asserts the State elicited improper testimony from the victim regarding other instances of abuse which prejudiced the defendant. Upon our thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/19
Arnold Cunningham v. Sunice, Inc.
M2018-01129-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

A Canadian company hired an independent contractor domiciled in Tennessee to market its sportswear to golfers on the PGA Tour. After the Canadian company terminated the contract, the independent contractor filed a breach of contract action in Tennessee. The Canadian company moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Finding insufficient minimum contacts with Tennessee, the trial court dismissed the complaint. On appeal, we conclude that the plaintiff failed to establish sufficient minimum contacts for the exercise of general or specific jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant. So we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/29/19
In Re Estate of Jerry Bradley Espy
M2018-01594-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tolbert Gilley

The only child of the decedent contests the validity of her father’s will on the grounds that the decedent lacked testamentary capacity, and the will was the result of his step-daughter’s undue influence. When the step-daughter, who was designated as the executrix and sole beneficiary, filed a petition to admit the will to probate, the daughter filed a will contest. Following discovery, the step-daughter filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the will contest. The motion was properly supported by a statement of undisputed facts that principally relied on the affidavit of the attorney who prepared the decedent’s will and attended the execution of the will. The attorney’s affidavit stated that the decedent was of sound mind when he executed his will and that the step-daughter, who was the sole beneficiary of the will, was not involved in the preparation of the will and was not present when the will was executed. The motion for summary judgment was also supported by the affidavit of a nurse who cared for the decedent at the veterans’ home and who also witnessed the execution of the will. The nurse testified that he was responsible for the day to day care of the decedent for three years and interacted with him on a daily basis. He also testified that he witnessed the genuine love and affection the decedent and his step-daughter shared, that the decedent wanted to leave everything to her, and that the decedent “was of sound mind and memory when he signed his Will in my presence.” The daughter filed a response to the motion; however, she failed to make specific citations to the record, as Tenn. R. Civ. P. 56.03 requires, of facts that would support her contentions of lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence. She also filed medical records concerning the decedent’s medical history; however, the records were not authenticated. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment based on the finding that there was no genuine dispute of material facts and the step-daughter was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 08/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Robert Jason Allison
M2017-02367-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Defendant, Robert Jason Allison, was indicted for two counts of delivery of marijuana; possession with intent to distribute over ten pounds of marijuana in a drug-free school zone; possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony; and two counts of money laundering. Following a jury trial, at which Defendant represented himself, he was convicted as charged. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed partial consecutive sentencing resulting in an effective 25-year sentence. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that: 1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for money laundering; 2) the indictment conflated two subsections of the money laundering statute; 3) the trial court failed to instruct the jury on all of the elements of money laundering; 4) Defendant’s convictions for money laundering violate double jeopardy; 5) the money laundering statute is unconstitutionally vague; 6) Defendant was deprived his right to a speedy trial; 7) the trial court erred by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized as a result of his warrantless arrest; 8) the trial court erred by denying Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence seized as a result of a search warrant; 9) the trial court erred in finding that Defendant waived his right to the assistance of counsel at trial; 10) the trial court abused its discretion in ordering consecutive sentencing; and 11) Defendant’s fines are excessive. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we find no error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/19
Allan Bradley Flynn v. Megan Marie Stephenson
E2019-00095-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry M. Warner

This action involves the trial court’s establishment of a permanent parenting plan for a child born to the unmarried parties. Allan Bradley Flynn (father) appeals the trial court’s decision ordering a permanent parenting plan giving him less than 80 days per year parenting time. Megan Marie Stephenson (mother) appeals the court’s decision to change the child’s surname to Flynn. The trial court made no findings of fact supporting its ordered parenting plan, which it referenced as providing “standard visitation.” The trial court made no reference to the governing statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-106 (2017), nor any of the factors provided in the statute. We vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand with instructions to make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by Tenn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. We hold that father failed to carry his burden of proving that a name change will further the best interest of the child, and consequently we reverse the trial court’s judgment ordering the child’s name changed.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 08/29/19
Giovanne Treymane Johnson a.k.a. Giovoanne Treymane Johnson v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00755-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

Petitioner, Giovoanne Treymane Johnson, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial. More specifically, he argues that trial counsel rendered deficient performance by failing to file a motion to sever his trial from that of his co-defendant and for failing to challenge the admission of his co-defendant’s inculpatory statement. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/19
Adayse Gaddy v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01272-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Seth Norman

The Petitioner, Adayse Gaddy, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2015 guilty plea to possession with the intent to sell or to deliver less than one-half gram of cocaine, for which he is serving a
ten-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was unknowingly and involuntarily entered. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/19
State of Tennessee v. William Robert Goodwin
E2018-01683-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

The Defendant-Appellant, William Robert Goodwin, appeals from the order of the Knox County Criminal Court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. In this appeal, the Defendant concedes that he violated his probation; however, he contends the trial court abused its discretion in ordering confinement because his probation violations were minor, he had established a stable life and work history, and he had compelling family reasons to remain on probation. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Jonathan David Schelfe
M2018-01604-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

Pro se Petitioner, Jonathan David Schelfe, appeals from the denial of his motion for correction of an illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. Following our review, we affirm.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Anthony T. Tollis
E2018-01695-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

The Defendant, Anthony T. Tollis, entered a plea of nolo contendre to sexual exploitation of a minor. The Defendant reserved a certified question of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) as to whether the search of the Defendant’s computer was lawful based on the search warrant. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/29/19
State of Tennessee v. Richard Williams
E2018-01460-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

Richard Williams, Defendant, was indicted on two counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder where the victim suffered serious bodily injury, and two counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted on all counts as charged and received a total effective sentence of thirty-six years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/19
State of Tennessee v. Gary Lee Bragg
E2018-01789-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bob R. McGee

The Defendant, Gary Lee Bragg, was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of two counts of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; possession of burglary tools, a Class A misdemeanor; and two counts of drug possession, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. § 39- 14-403 (2018); 39-14-701 (2018), 39-17-418 (2018). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range III, persistent offender to twelve years for each aggravated burglary conviction and to eleven months, twenty-nine days for each misdemeanor conviction. The court ordered consecutive service of the aggravated burglary sentences, for an effective twenty-four-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support one of the aggravated burglary convictions and (2) the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentencing. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/19
Deborah Russell v. Household Financial Services, Inc., Et Al.
M2019-01473-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Anne C. Martin

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Rule 10B of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, filed by Deborah Russell (“Plaintiff”), seeking to recuse the trial judge in this case which involves a foreclosure action. Having reviewed the petition for recusal appeal filed by Plaintiff, and finding no error in the Trial Court’s order denying recusal, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/28/19
State of Tennessee v. Randy Earl Edwards
M2018-02247-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The defendant, Randy Earl Edwards, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s order revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the balance of his 10-year sentence for the sale of less than .5 grams of cocaine in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/19