Court Opinions

Format: 04/24/2019
Format: 04/24/2019
State of Tennessee v. Roddarous Marcus Bond
W2018-00107-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The Defendant, Roddarous Bond, was convicted of two counts of conspiracy to commit first degree murder. The trial court merged the two convictions and imposed a twentythree-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support the offenses; (2) the trial court erred in allowing witnesses to refer to letters that had been destroyed; and (3) the trial court erred in allowing the State to impeach the Defendant with a prior statement that the trial court had excluded. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/28/19
State of Tennessee v. Makyle Love
W2018-00738-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Defendant, Makyle Love, was convicted of aggravated rape and was sentenced to twenty-three years of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. Upon review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the Defendant’s conviction.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/28/19
State of Tennessee v. David Lassiter
W2018-01020-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, David Lassiter, pled guilty to four counts of theft of property valued at $2,500 or more and four counts of theft of property valued at more than $1,000. He received an effective sentence of sixteen years. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of alternative sentencing and the imposition of partial consecutive sentences. Upon review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/28/19
State of Tennessee v. Linda Anne Dunavant
W2018-00031-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph H. Walker, III

The Defendant, Linda Anne Dunavant, was convicted by a jury of aggravated assault and two counts each of first degree felony murder, aggravated child neglect, and aggravated arson. She challenges her convictions on appeal, arguing that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions, specifically that the State did not negate her expert’s testimony that “the fire rekindled by accident,” and (2) the trial court erred in refusing to issue an instruction on setting fire to personal property or land, and its attempt, as a lesser-included offense of aggravated arson. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/28/19
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Swift
W2018-00054-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James C. Beasley, Jr.

The Defendant, Christopher Swift, was convicted by a jury of first degree premeditated murder; attempted first degree murder, a Class A felony; and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony; a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-12-101, -13-202, -17-1324. The trial court later imposed a total effective sentence of life plus twenty-six years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction for first degree premeditated murder; (2) the trial court abused its discretion in denying the Defendant’s motion to disqualify one of the prosecutors; (3) African-Americans were improperly excluded from the jury venire; (4) the State “intentionally mislead [the] jury” during the examination of one of its witnesses; (5) the trial court erred by allowing the admission of hearsay; (6) the trial court erred by allowing the jury to review transcripts of recorded jail phone calls as those recordings were played; (7) the State improperly displayed photographic exhibits during its closing argument; (8) the State withheld evidence; and (9) a new trial is warranted due to cumulative error. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/28/19
State of Tennessee v. Perry Avram March
M2018-00660-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Defendant, Perry Avram March, was convicted in Case No. 2004-D-3113 of second degree murder, abuse of a corpse, and destruction of evidence for his role in the death of his wife and in Case No. 2005-D-2854 of conspiracy to commit first degree murder for his plan to kill his in-laws. Defendant was sentenced to a total effective sentence of fifty-six years. Defendant’s direct appeals were unsuccessful. See State v. March, 494 S.W.3d 52 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2010) (“the conspiracy case”); State v. March, 395 S.W.3d 738 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2011) (“the murder case”). Subsequently, Defendant sought relief by filing a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36, arguing that there was an error in one of the judgment forms with regard to the manner of service of the sentence. The trial court denied relief. On appeal, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/28/19
Dane Sayles, Alias Bradley Harper v. State of Tennessee
E2018-00141-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

The Petitioner, Dane Sayles, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of possession of three hundred grams or more of cocaine for resale and resulting forty-year sentence as a Range II, multiple offender. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by refusing to apply Riley v. California, 134 S. Ct. 2473 (2014), which prohibits the warrantless search of an arrestee’s cellular telephone incident to arrest, retroactively. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/28/19
Venture Express v. Jerry Frazier
W2018-00344-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge:
Trial Court Judge:

Jerry Frazier alleged that he sustained a compensable injury in the course of his work as a truck driver for Venture Express. The trial court held that Mr. Frazier’s January 29, 2014 accident at work caused his neck, back and mental injuries, that the 1.5 times cap on permanent disability benefits did not apply, and that Mr. Frazier was permanently and totally disabled. Venture Express has appealed. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 03/27/19
State of Tennessee v. Kevin McDougle
W2018-00996-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The defendant, Kevin McDougle, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. Upon our review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/27/19
Marty Holland v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01517-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

The Petitioner, Marty Holland, appeals from the Hardeman County Circuit Court’s denial of post-conviction relief. On appeal, the Petitioner argues generally that “the postconviction court erred in finding [the Petitioner] received effective assistance of counsel.” Based on the issues developed at the post-conviction hearing and the order of the post-conviction court, the issue presented is whether the Petitioner’s guilty pleas are constitutionally infirm due to trial counsel’s failure to investigate (1) a coerced confession; (2) the validity of a bench warrant concerning an unrelated offense; and (3) a search warrant executed at the Petitioner’s home concerning an unrelated case. Following our review, we deem it necessary to remand this matter to the post-conviction court for a hearing to determine whether the Petitioner was advised of the circumstances attendant to entering a guilty plea based upon an agreement that his state sentence would be served concurrently to a previously imposed federal sentence. In all other respects, the judgment of the post-conviction court it affirmed.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/27/19
State of Tennessee v. Arbra Allen Sims III
M2018-01296-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

Defendant, Arbra Allen Sims III, pled guilty to two counts of accessory after the fact to aggravated robbery. Defendant agreed to serve four years on each count concurrently with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered Defendant to serve the sentence in custody with the possibility of release pending the completion of a rehabilitative program. On appeal, Defendant argues that he should have been granted probation and that the trial court abused its discretion by relying solely on Defendant’s perceived untruthfulness about his participation in the underlying crime. We hold that the trial court did not abuse its discretion, and we affirm the trial court’s decision to deny probation.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/27/19
Dwayne Cochran v. Town Of Jonesborough, Tennessee
E2018-01512-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James E. Lauderback

After the plaintiff was arrested by a police officer employed by the defendant town, the plaintiff brought suit in federal court alleging that his civil rights were violated during the course of the arrest. Plaintiff further alleged that the town was negligent in its training and supervision of the arresting officer. The federal court dismissed the civil rights claims with prejudice, but declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s negligence claim against the town. As such, the plaintiff filed a second complaint in the Circuit Court for Washington County, in which the plaintiff again alleged that the town was negligent in its supervision and training of the arresting officer. After the town filed a motion to dismiss, the trial court concluded that immunity under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act was not removed as to the Plaintiff’s claims because the negligence claim arose out of the alleged violations of Plaintiff’s civil rights; accordingly, the trial court determined that Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-20-205(2) preserved the Defendant’s immunity, and dismissed the case with prejudice. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 03/27/19
Mary Beth Harcrow v. Clyde Johnson Harcrow, III
M2019-00353-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe Thompson

This is an interlocutory appeal as of right, pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B (“Rule 10B”), from the trial court’s denial of a motion for judicial recusal filed by the plaintiff wife during the course of the parties’ divorce proceedings. Discerning no reversible error in the trial court judge’s denial of the motion, we affirm. 

Sumner County Court of Appeals 03/27/19
Aurelio Garcia Sanchez v. State of Tennessee
M2017-02253-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody N. Kane

The Petitioner, Aurelio Garcia Sanchez, appeals the Macon County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of five counts of rape of a child and resulting effective sentence of one hundred twenty-five years to be served at one hundred percent. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Macon County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/27/19
State of Tennessee v. Donalson Wells Carter, AKA Donaldson W. Carter
M2017-02057-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Defendant, Donalson Wells Carter, was convicted of the sale of fentanyl, simple possession or casual exchange of fentanyl, possession with intent to sell or deliver 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, and possession with intent to sell or deliver 0.5 grams or more of methamphetamine. He received an effective sentence of thirty years. The Defendant raises three issues on appeal, arguing that: (1) the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce evidence of prior bad acts; (2) the trial court erred by failing to require the State to disclose favorable treatment of witnesses; and (3) his sentence is excessive. Upon reviewing the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/27/19
Ricky Benson v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00967-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

A Shelby County grand jury indicted the Petitioner for two counts of burglary of a building. In March 2018, before being convicted of the charges, the Petitioner filed a habeas corpus petition seeking appointment of counsel and “an updated trial in another courtroom.” The habeas corpus court denied the petition because the Petitioner had not yet been convicted of the charged offenses and based upon the numerous procedural deficiencies in the petition. The Petitioner appeals the habeas corpus court’s denial. After review, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/26/19
Ramone Lawson v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00929-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Petitioner, Ramone Lawson, appeals from the dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief following an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner asserts that he was denied effective assistance of counsel which led to his convictions of one count of first degree murder, two counts of attempted first degree murder, and two counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. After reviewing the briefs of the parties and the entire record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/26/19
Innerimages, Inc. v. Robert Newman et al.
E2018-00375-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carter S. Moore

Innerimages, Inc. (“Innerimages” or “the developer”) filed suit against homeowners Robert Newman, David and Melba White, and David and Susan Schilt as trustees for the David Schilt and Susan Schilt Trust. It sought to recover unpaid maintenance fees required by the restrictive covenants governing their real property. The homeowners filed a counterclaim, seeking various forms of relief. The homeowners also joined the following third-party defendants: Sandra Gunn, the president of Innerimages, homeowners David and Joan Barrett, and property owner Cupid’s Rose, LLC.2 After a bench trial, the court dismissed the collection action filed by the developer. The court determined: (1) that the restrictive covenants are unenforceable as to the four homeowners and their successors in title; (2) that the developer is liable for breach of fiduciary duty for its failure to honor its obligations under the restrictive covenants; and (3) that Sandra Gunn is personally liable under an alter ego theory of piercing the corporate veil. Finally, the court awarded the homeowners damages in the amount of all fees paid since taking ownership of their property or, in the case of the Schilt family, fees paid over the last three years. In a subsequent order, the trial court clarified that only Mr. Newman was entitled to money damages because the other homeowners had not paid fees to the developer during the relevant time period. The court also denied the homeowners’ request for attorney’s fees. Innerimages, Sandra Gunn, and Cupid’s Rose, LLC appeal. Because this appeal presents novel issues relating to the enforceability of restrictive covenants, we take this opportunity to adopt the Restatement (Third) of Property: Servitudes § 6.19(1)-(2) (Am. Law Inst. 2000). We modify the trial court’s judgment pursuant to the principles set forth in the Restatement. As modified, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Sevier County Court of Appeals 03/26/19
Lequita Nix Hilliard v. Dolgencorp, LLC
E2018-00312-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri S. Bryant

Lequita Nix Hilliard (“Plaintiff”) sued Dolgencorp, LLC (“Defendant”) alleging discrimination in violation of Tenn. Code Ann. § 8-50-103, of the Tennessee Disability Act, and Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-311, of the Tennessee Human Rights Act; and retaliatory discharge for filing a worker’s compensation claim. The Chancery Court for Polk County (“the Trial Court”) granted summary judgment to Defendant. Plaintiff appeals. We find and hold that there is no genuine disputed issue of material fact with regard to the fact that due to her medical restrictions Plaintiff is unable to perform the essential job functions of a store manager. Given this, Defendant was entitled to summary judgment on both of Plaintiff’s claims. We, therefore, affirm.

Polk County Court of Appeals 03/26/19
Volha Purswani v. Krish Purswani
E2018-01029-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Beth Boniface

This action involves petitions for orders of protection filed by a wife against her husband. Following a hearing on the merits, the trial court entered an order of protection against the husband and in favor of the wife on May 23, 2018. The order of protection prohibited the husband from having contact with the wife and granted the husband co-parenting time with his four children every other weekend. The husband has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 03/26/19
In Re E.Z. et al.
E2018-00930-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Gregory S. McMillan

This appeal arises from a finding of dependency and neglect. S.Z. (“Mother”) is the mother of both E.Z. and B.G. (“the Children,” collectively). C.G. (“Father”) is the father of B.G.1 In the wake of certain non-accidental injuries sustained by B.G., Father’s father filed a petition seeking custody of the Children. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) intervened, and the Children’s maternal grandfather filed a petition, as well. Mother and Father both denied abusing B.G. The Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) found the Children dependent and neglected. The Trial Court found also that Mother or Father abused B.G. and the other parent knows who committed the abuse, but the Trial Court held it could not determine which parent committed the abuse. Consequently, the Trial Court declined to find severe child abuse. DCS appeals to this Court, and Mother raises additional issues. We find, inter alia, that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s factual finding that Mother or Father abused B.G. and the other knows who committed the abuse. Given that and other findings, we hold that the Trial Court erred in concluding that it could not find severe child abuse. We, therefore, reverse that aspect of the Trial Court’s judgment and hold that severe child abuse was proven by clear and convincing evidence. In all other respects, we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/26/19
Susan Knight as Executrix of the Estate of Elton M. Johnson v. Horse Creek Rock, Inc.
W2018-01014-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carma Dennis McGee

This is a dispute over a lease agreement for property upon which the lessor permitted the lessee to mine limestone. After the original lessor died, his estate demanded that the lessee provide weight tickets as provided in the lease agreement. When the lessee failed to comply, the estate filed suit and the lessee counterclaimed. The trial court granted summary judgment to the estate on its claim for declaratory judgment and declared that the lease agreement was terminated. The court also granted summary judgment in favor of the estate on the lessee’s counterclaim for intentional interference with a business relationship. We affirm the decision of the trial court in all respects.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 03/26/19
State of Tennessee v. James Dominic Stevenson
M2017-01514-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

The defendant, James Dominic Stevenson, appeals his Marshall County Circuit Court jury convictions of attempted first degree murder, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment involving the use of a deadly weapon. He challenges the sufficiency of the evidence as to the element of identity. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/26/19
Lisa Lyon Williams v. Lane Edward Williams
W2018-00800-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

This is a divorce case. Husband/Appellant appeals the trial court’s: (1) award of alimony in futuro to Wife; (2) award of alimony in solido for Wife’s attorney’s fees; and (3) classification of certain jewelry as Wife’s separate property. We affirm.

Madison County Court of Appeals 03/26/19
State of Tennessee v. Ahmon Watkins and Peter Dodson, IV
M2017-01600-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

In a joint trial, a Rutherford County jury convicted Ahmon Watkins of two counts of aggravated rape, four counts of rape, and two counts of sexual battery, and Peter Dodson, IV, of one count of aggravated rape, one count of rape, and two counts of sexual battery. The trial court sentenced Defendant Watkins to an effective sentence of twenty years and Defendant Dodson to an effective sentence of twenty-five years. On appeal, Defendant Watkins and Defendant Dodson assert that: (1) the trial court erred when it did not grant a new trial based upon newly discovered evidence; (2) the trial court erred when it did not grant a new trial based upon the victim’s false testimony; (3) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument; (4) the trial court made improper “introductory comments” to prospective jurors during voir dire; (5) the trial court improperly excluded impeachment testimony; (6) the trial court failed to order the deposition of the victim; (7) the trial court erred when it gave jury instructions on the law before jury selection was complete; (8) the trial court improperly instructed the jury on reckless conduct; (9) the trial court improperly addressed a jury question during deliberations; (10) the defendants are entitled to relief based upon cumulative error; and (11) the evidence is insufficient to sustain the defendants’ convictions. Defendant Watkins additionally raises issues related to sentencing. After review, we reverse for cumulative error and remand for a new trial.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/26/19