Court Opinions

Format: 04/27/2018
Format: 04/27/2018
State of Tennessee v. Marcellus Woods
W2016-01527-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

The Defendant, Marcellus Woods, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to eight years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in allowing testimony under Rule 404(b) of the Tennessee Rules of Evidence concerning his involvement in an attempted robbery of one business and his suspicious activities near another business. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Marcus S. Akins
W2017-01538-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge R. Lee Moore

The Defendant, Marcus S. Akins, appeals as of right from the Dyer County Circuit Court’s revocation of his probation and order of incarceration for the remainder of his three-year sentence. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering execution of his sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Dyer County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
Sheddrick Harris v. State of Tennessee
W2016-00904-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Petitioner, Sheddrick Harris, appeals from the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury convictions for first degree felony murder and especially aggravated robbery. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202(a)(2), - 403. In this appeal as of right, the Petitioner raises the following ineffective assistance of counsel claims: (1) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to inform the Petitioner that he had a constitutional right to a trial before a different judge than the one who signed the search warrant for the Petitioner’s automobile; (2) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to seek recusal of the trial judge because the trial judge had an ex parte communication with a head deputy that led to enhanced courtroom security procedures, evincing the trial judge’s bias against the Petitioner, and because the trial judge was the same judge who issued the search warrant; (3) that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the warrantless search of the Petitioner’s vehicle, failing to challenge the search warrant by requesting a Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978) hearing, and failing to challenge the Petitioner’s illegal detention effectuated without probable cause and without an arrest warrant and solely for the purpose of gathering additional evidence against the Petitioner; and (4) that trial counsel failed to adequately impeach an attorney witness who was facing disciplinary action by the Board of Professional Responsibility at the time of the Petitioner’s trial. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Andrew Young Kim
W2017-00186-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Andrew Young Kim, pled guilty to six counts of burglary, seven counts of theft of property in varying amounts, and one count of vandalism. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of fourteen years’ incarceration. In this direct appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court improperly sentenced him to continuous confinement for a non-violent property offense and erred in setting the length of his sentences, in denying all forms of alternative sentencing, and in imposing partially consecutive sentences. Upon a thorough review of the record below and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s order as to the length of the Defendant’s sentences, the denial of any alternative sentence, and the partial consecutive sentence alignment, but reverse the trial court’s order of continuous confinement for the Defendant’s Class E felony conviction for theft of property (Count 14), an enumerated non-violent property offense in Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-122(c)(11). Upon our de novo review of Count 14, we order that the Defendant’s two-year sentence on that count be served on supervised probation with the imposition of $1000 fine. Moreover, for reasons stated herein, Counts 7 through 10 are remanded for correction of clerical errors in the judgment forms. In all other respects, the judgments are affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. Chastity Coleman
M2017-00264-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, Chastity Coleman, entered into a plea agreement with the State with an agreed-upon sentence. During the plea colloquy, the trial court invited and met with the Defendant outside the presence of the prosecutor and trial counsel after which the court decided to reduce the Defendant’s period of incarceration. The State appeals. We conclude that we have jurisdiction to review the trial court’s judgments under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3. We further conclude that the trial court committed three errors that each independently require reversal: (1) the trial court acted improperly by engaging in ex parte communication with the Defendant; (2) the trial court erred in failing to rule on the State’s motion to recuse while continuing to hear matters involving this case; and (3) the trial court lacked the authority to unilaterally modify the plea agreement. Because the trial judge has predetermined the sentence to be imposed, we remove the trial judge from further consideration of this case. We vacate the judgments and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
State of Tennessee v. David Smith, Jr.
M2017-00902-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Appellant, David Smith, Jr., pled guilty in the Davidson County Criminal Court to robbery with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of the sentence. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that he serve four years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his request for judicial diversion or probation. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/06/18
Roger Chase Hagans v. Rachel Wallock Hagans
M2017-00174-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jeffrey F. Stewart

In this divorce action initiated by Father, the chancery court adjudicated the divorce and entered a parenting plan proposed by Father, naming him as primary residential parent and establishing a residential parenting schedule for the parties’ child; Mother had previously initiated a custody proceeding in Scotland. Mother moved to dismiss the Tennessee proceeding, contending that the Tennessee court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate the divorce because the parties we not domiciled in Tennessee and did not have jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act to adjudicate the child custody matters. Upon Mother’s appeal, we conclude that the trial court properly exercised jurisdiction over the divorce but, due to the pendency of the proceeding in Scotland, did not have jurisdiction over the custody matters. Accordingly, we affirm the grant of divorce to Father, vacate the parenting plan and child support provisions of the final decree, and remand the case for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.  

Franklin County Court of Appeals 04/05/18
State of Tennessee v. Marcus K. Williams and Corey Zimberlist Rutland, Jr.
M2017-00509-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Defendants, Marcus K. Williams and Corey Zimberlist Rutland, Jr., were indicted for aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated robbery and aggravated assault. Defendant Williams was also indicted for aggravated burglary. After a jury trial, Defendants Williams and Rutland were convicted of aggravated robbery and aggravated assault, and Defendant Williams was convicted of aggravated burglary. At a sentencing hearing, Defendants Williams and Rutland received identical sentences of eleven years for aggravated robbery and five years for aggravated assault. Defendant Williams received a five year sentence for aggravated burglary. On appeal, Defendant Williams challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for his aggravated robbery charge. Defendant Rutland argues that the trial court improperly excluded the content of a phone call between Defendant Rutland and Defendant Williams, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions under a theory of criminal responsibility, and that his sentence is disproportionate and excessive. Finding that the only error by the trial court was harmless, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
Toniann Whitaker v. James B. Devereaux
E2017-01812-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ben W. Hooper, II

After Appellant’s son violated an order of protection entered against him, Appellant sought relief from the trial court. Although the trial court ruled on some of the issues raised by Appellant, not all of her claims were adjudicated. We therefore dismiss the appeal due to the absence of a final judgment.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 04/05/18
State of Tennessee v. James Williams
W2017-01117-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter Jr.

The Defendant, James Williams, was convicted by a jury of one count of driving under the influence (DUI) per se, one count of DUI, and one count of reckless driving. The trial court merged the DUI per se conviction with the DUI conviction and imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days to be served in the county workhouse. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress, which challenged “the legality of the traffic stop” resulting in the Defendant’s arrest. Following our review, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
State of Tennessee v. Michael Edward Roberts
W2017-00395-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeffrey W. Parham

The Defendant, Michael Edward Roberts, was indicted on one count of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; one count of aggravated kidnapping, a Class B felony; seven counts of rape, a Class B felony; and one count of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-102, -13-304, -13-503, -14-403. The State ultimately dismissed five of the rape charges. Following a bench trial, the trial court convicted the Defendant of aggravated assault and the lesser-included offenses of aggravated criminal trespass of a habitation, a Class A misdemeanor, and two counts of assault, a Class B misdemeanor. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-301(a)(3), -14-406. The trial court acquitted the Defendant of the aggravated kidnapping charge. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed a total effective sentence of three years to be served on supervised probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions and (2) that the trial court erred in admitting fresh complaint evidence. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
Wendell Guinn v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02152-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The Petitioner, Wendell Guinn, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends (1) that his constitutional rights were violated by prosecutorial misconduct during the jury voir dire and the State’s closing arguments; (2) that the trial court committed several errors in the jury instructions; and (3) that he received ineffective assistance from his trial and appellate counsel. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
State of Tennessee v. Leroy Collins
W2016-01685-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Glenn Ivy Wright

Defendant, Leroy Collins, pled guilty to three counts of reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony, and one count of Class C felony reckless endangerment, all committed during one criminal episode. The offenses involved Defendant shooting three people and shooting into a house occupied by two other people. Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement with the State, the sentence for each conviction of reckless aggravated assault is the minimum sentence of two years, and the sentence for the reckless endangerment conviction is the minimum sentence of three years. The State further agreed that the sentences would be served concurrently with each other, for an effective sentence of three years for four felony convictions committed with a handgun involving three victims being shot. However, the State opposed Defendant’s request for judicial diversion or probation for the effective three-year sentence. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court denied both requests for alternative sentencing and ordered Defendant to serve the entire sentence by incarceration. Defendant appeals from the trial court’s ruling. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/05/18
Herbert S. Moncier v. Nina Harris, Et Al.
E2016-00209-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clarence E. Pridemore, Jr.

This appeal involves a request for access to examine records under Tennessee Code Annotated section 10-7-505, in which the plaintiff sought the release of civil forfeiture documents from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. The trial court held that the plaintiff did not show sufficient cause for release of the sought-after documents in a non-redacted format. Upon our previous review, we found the issue to be moot owing to the legislative enactment of 2016 Tenn. Pub. Acts, chapter 722, § 5. Upon the plaintiff’s appeal, the Supreme Court remanded the case for our reconsideration in light of the legislative enactment of 2017 Tenn. Pub. Acts, chapter 113, § 1, which amended the Tennessee Public Records Act. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 04/05/18
Trustmark National Bank v. Sunshine Carwash No. 5 Partners, et al.
W2017-01759-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

In this garnishment case, a judgment creditor garnished funds from the joint bank account of a non-debtor depositor and a debtor. The trial court allowed the garnished funds to be tendered to the judgment creditor because the account agreement showed that the joint account was held with rights of survivorship. Tennessee Code Annotated section 45-2- 703(a), however, allows the non-debtor depositor to prove his rights in the funds held in the joint account. Because the non-debtor depositor provided sufficient evidence to prove his rights to the funds in the joint account, the judgment of the trial court is reversed.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/05/18
Warren R. Schede v. Anthony & Gordon Construction Co., Inc.
E2016-02318-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

A bookkeeper for two companies was terminated after his employers learned that he had a conviction for money laundering and mail fraud arising out of his previous employment. The employee filed suit, alleging that he was terminated because of his age, in violation of the Tennessee Human Rights Act, and his disability, in violation of the Tennessee Disability Act. The employers moved for summary judgment, asserting that the employee was terminated for poor performance and for not disclosing the prior conviction, that these grounds constituted legitimate, nondiscriminatory grounds for termination, and that the employee could not demonstrate that these grounds were a pretext for unlawful discrimination. The trial court granted summary judgment to the employers, and the employee appeals. Finding that there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether the asserted reasons for Plaintiff’s termination are pretextual, we reverse the judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 04/05/18
Jay Dee Garrity v. State of Tennessee - Rehear
M2016-01463-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Petitioner, Jay Dee Garrity, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of three counts of aggravated sexual battery and resulting effective forty-eight-year sentence to be served at 100%. On appeal, he contends that he is entitled to a new trial because trial counsel was presumptively ineffective under United States v. Cronic, 466 U.S. 648 (1984). In the alternative, he contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel under the usual Strickland standard. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the Petitioner received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel under Strickland. Therefore, the judgment of the post-conviction court is reversed, the judgments of conviction are vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/04/18
Charles Michael Kincade v. Amanda Wooldridge Kincade
M2017-00797-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Joseph A. Woodruff

This appeal arises from a divorce; the primary issues on appeal pertain to the permanent parenting plan. During the pendency of the divorce and following a successful mediation, the parties entered into a Marital Dissolution Agreement and a Permanent Parenting Plan. Six weeks later, Father filed a notice of withdrawal of his consent to the mediated parenting plan. Subsequently, an order was entered approving the Marital Dissolution Agreement and declaring the parties divorced, reserving the issue of a permanent parenting plan for trial. Following the trial, the court established a permanent parenting plan similar to the mediated plan with four modifications. When Mother’s counsel submitted the final order for the court’s approval, it contained three alternatives for the “right-of-first-refusal” provision, which was one of the four modifications. The trial court approved one of the “right-of-first-refusal” alternatives and entered the final order. Father appeals, arguing the trial court abused its discretion in its formulation of the parenting plan and in awarding Mother her attorney’s fees. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm. We also award Mother the reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees she incurred on appeal.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 04/04/18
David R. Fitzgerald v. Hickman County Government, Et Al.
M2017-00565-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

Former county employee appeals the dismissal of his claims against the county and the county mayor related to the termination of his employment. In his complaint, the employee raised claims of violations of due process, indemnification, restitution, negligence, invasion of privacy, workplace harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and misrepresentation. After the county and county mayor filed a motion to dismiss, the trial court ruled that it would decide the motion without the benefit of a hearing. The trial court eventually dismissed all the claims; some claims, however, were dismissed on the basis of summary judgment after the trial court considered a county personnel manual. We conclude that the trial court was entitled to consider the personnel manual as part of the pleadings for purposes of the motion to dismiss under Rule 10.03 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. Consequently, we affirm the dismissal of all claims raised by the employee under the motion to dismiss standard, with the exception of the employee’s claim against the county mayor for false light invasion of privacy. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 04/04/18
In Re: Maya R. Et Al.
E2017-01634-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy E. Irwin

Mother appeals the trial court’s decision to terminate her parental rights to two children on the grounds of (1) persistence of conditions, (2) substantial noncompliance with the requirements of the permanency plan, and (3) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to personally assume legal and physical custody or financial responsibility of the children. She further challenges the trial court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence that termination of her parental rights was in the best interest of the children. We reverse in part and affirm in part.

Knox County Court of Appeals 04/04/18
Marcus T. Johnson v. Darren Settles, Warden
E2017-01848-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

Marcus T. Johnson, the Petitioner, filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus (“the Petition”) claiming that he was being illegally restrained of his liberty because the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole (“the Parole Board”) violated his due process rights by failing to timely serve him with a parole violation warrant and failing to conduct a preliminary hearing within fourteen days of the service of the warrant. The State moved to dismiss the Petition for failure to state a cognizable claim. The habeas corpus court granted the State’s motion and summarily dismissed the Petition. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/04/18
Russell Leaks v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01609-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Commissioner James A. Hamilton, III

This appeal involves a suit filed in the Tennessee Claims Commission against the State of Tennessee. The claimant alleged that he was seized without a warrant or probable cause, in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. The State sought dismissal, alleging that the Claims Commission did not have the requisite jurisdiction to hear such a claim. The Claims Commissioner agreed and dismissed the claim. The claimant appeals. We affirm.

Court of Appeals 04/04/18
Converging Capital, LLC v. Michael Matthews
M2016-02352-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones, III

This appeal involves the attempt of Converging Capital, LLC, to collect an alleged credit card debt of Michael Matthews. Converging Capital alleged that it owned the debt as a result of a sale of certain accounts receivable from Pilot Receivables Management, LLC, which had earlier bought the debt from Citibank, the issuer of Matthews’s alleged MasterCard account. During the trial, Converging Capital presented the testimony of its records administrator. Matthews objected to the introduction of the bills of sale and assignment, and several credit card statements, on hearsay grounds. He also argued that Converging Capital failed to establish that his debt, if any, was included in the sales of the accounts receivable. The trial court overruled these objections and entered judgment against Matthews in the amount of the alleged debt, $55,684.88. We find that Converging Capital failed to meet its burden of proving that it owned the debt. Consequently, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and dismiss Converging Capital’s complaint with prejudice. Costs are assessed against Converging Capital. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/03/18
State of Tennessee v. Samuel Huffine
E2016-02267-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant, Samuel Huffine, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide by intoxication, reckless aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, driving under the influence of an intoxicant, driving under the influence of an intoxicant per se, driving left of center, and speeding, for an effective sentence of nine years, with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the sentence. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it denied an alternative sentence. We affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/03/18
State of Tennessee v. Lee Alan Sprague
E2017-00721-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Pemberton

The defendant, Lee Alan Sprague, appeals his Roane County Criminal Court jury convictions of reckless driving and driving on a suspended license, claiming that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a new preliminary hearing. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Roane County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/03/18