Court Opinions

Format: 06/22/2018
Format: 06/22/2018
State of Tennessee v. Bobby Ray Graves, Jr.
M2017-00088-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

A Warren County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Bobby Ray Graves, Jr., of failure to appear, a Class E felony, and the trial court sentenced him to six years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction because the State failed to prove that he “went into hiding to avoid prosecution” and that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/18
State of Tennessee v. Peterpal T. Tutlam
M2016-01659-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A Davidson County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Peterpal T. Tutlam, of two counts of especially aggravated robbery, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, and two counts of aggravated rape, Class A felonies. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Appellant to twenty-five years for each conviction and ordered that the sentences be served consecutively for a total effective sentence of one hundred fifty years. On appeal, the Appellant contends that his effective sentence is excessive. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/23/18
George Grant Et Al. v. Elaine Anderson, Clerk Of Williamson County, Et Al.
M2016-01867-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Joseph A. Woodruff

Plaintiffs filed suit seeking declaratory relief to determine the continuing validity of laws relating to the issuance of marriage licenses and to determine whether the issuance of marriage licenses violates the state constitution. Plaintiffs also asked the trial court to enjoin the issuance of all marriage licenses in Williamson County, Tennessee. Upon the county clerk’s motion to dismiss, the trial court concluded, among other things, that the plaintiffs lacked standing. We affirm the dismissal of the complaint.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/22/18
John Kinder Et Al. v. Wendell Bryant Et Al.
E2017-01688-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement Jr., P.J., M.S.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerri Bryant

The plaintiffs commenced this declaratory judgment action to establish that their claim to a forty-acre tract of real property is superior to that of the defendants. The plaintiffs claim to have purchased the disputed property in 1980; however, their deed was not recorded until 1995. The defendants’ predecessors in interest purchased the property at a tax sale in 1994, and their deed was duly recorded prior to the plaintiffs’ deed. The plaintiffs’ claims are based, inter alia, on adverse possession and the contention that the 1994 tax deed is void or voidable due to lack of notice of the sale. After hearing cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court summarily dismissed the complaint finding that the plaintiffs were not entitled to notice of the tax sale because, at the time of the sale, the plaintiffs’ deed had not been recorded and the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the lack of notice to their predecessors in title who were the owners of record at the time of the tax sale. The trial court further found that the plaintiffs had not paid any taxes on the property and that the defendants paid the property taxes for more than twenty years, which raised the rebuttable presumption of ownership under Tenn. Code. Ann. § 28-2- 109. Based on these findings, the trial court held that Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-2-110 barred any affirmative action by the plaintiffs to claim an interest in the property and summarily dismissed the complaint. We affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/22/18
Jana Lea Purvis v. Dennis Patrick Purvis, II
E2016-02167-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

In this divorce case, Dennis Patrick Purvis, II (Father) appeals the trial court’s judgment allowing Jana Lea Purvis (Mother), the primary custodial parent, to relocate to California with the parties’ two children. The trial court found that Father had physically abused Mother and emotionally abused her and the children. Mother appeals, challenging, among other things, the trial court’s order expanding Father’s parenting time. She argues that he should be limited to the co-parenting time set forth in her proposed parenting plan. She states that his time should be so limited as mandated by Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6- 406(a)(2) (2017). We find that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings of abuse. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s decision allowing Mother to move to California. We modify the parenting plan to vacate the trial court’s decision allowing Father visitation in California for one weekend a month in seven months. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/22/18
William Boatwright v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00211-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Petitioner, William Boatwright, appeals from the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his especially aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and two aggravated assault convictions, for which he is serving a forty-seven-year sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand the case for additional findings of fact and conclusions of law.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/22/18
Paul Gray v. Wingfoot Commercial Tire Systems et al.
W2017-00380-SC-WCM-WC
Authoring Judge: Judge Don R. Ash
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

Paul Gray (“Employee”) was injured in the course of his employment with Wingfoot Commercial Tire Systems (“Employer”). Several physicians—authorized and unauthorized—examined and treated Employee. After a Benefit Review Conference was completed and suit filed, an unauthorized physician performed surgery. The trial court considered numerous issues including subject matter jurisdiction, payment of unauthorized medical expenses, impairment, and disability. It ruled in favor of Employee and awarded 50% permanent partial disability benefits. Employer appeals. 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 in part, reverse in part, and remand to the trial court.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 05/21/18
Dustin Lucio v. State of Tennessee
E2017-00089-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: JudgeThomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Duane Slone

Petitioner, Dustin Lucio, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner was convicted by a jury of aggravated rape and sentenced by the trial court to 23 years in confinement to be served at 100 percent release eligibility. Petitioner’s conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Dustin Matthew Lucio, No. E2014-00642-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 1510830 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 31, 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 13, 2015). Petitioner contends that his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to include in the record on appeal a transcript of the hearing on the State’s motion in limine. In that motion, the State sought to exclude from evidence the victim’s medical records showing that she received treatment for drug abuse after the offense occurred. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/18
Willard P. Wagner, ET AL. v. Eric Martin Novelli
E2017-01183-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Neil Thomas, III

This appeal concerns a dispute over an agreement to install a heating and air conditioning system (“HVAC”) in a house. Eric Martin Novelli (“Novelli”) engaged Willard P. Wagner d/b/a Wagner Heating & Air (“Wagner”) to install an HVAC system at Novelli’s house. There was no written contract. Novelli grew dissatisfied with Wagner’s work and dismissed him from the project. Wagner sued Novelli in the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Trial Court”) for payment on the project. Novelli filed an answer and counterclaim. Novelli alleged, among other things, that the units Wagner installed were too large which created problems. After a trial, the Trial Court found that it could not find any breach of contract with respect to installation. Instead, the Trial Court applied the Uniform Commercial Code (“UCC”) and awarded Wagner $11,400 for payment on the project. Novelli appeals to this Court. We find, as did the Trial Court, that Wagner in sizing the units relied on specifications Novelli gave him, installed the HVAC per their agreement using merchantable, fit for purpose units, and is entitled to judgment as awarded by the Trial Court. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 05/21/18
Frederick Wendell Thomas v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00917-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The petitioner, Frederick Wendell Thomas, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2013 Shelby County Criminal Court jury conviction of first degree murder, for which he received a life sentence. In this appeal, the petitioner contends only that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/18
State of Tennessee Ex Rel. Nicole Lytle v. Seneca Webb
M2017-01137-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

This appeal arose from a child support proceeding wherein the father sought modification of his child support obligation. After concluding that an incorrect arrearage amount had been established in a prior order, the trial court determined that the correct arrearage amount, including statutory interest, was $48,574.88. The trial court relied on an affidavit executed by the mother, which reflected the father’s child support payments. The mother’s affidavit, however, is not contained within the record on appeal. Furthermore, the trial court’s order contained no findings of fact demonstrating how the trial court calculated the arrearage or the statutory interest. Because the trial court failed to make adequate findings of fact, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand for entry of sufficient findings of fact regarding the method of calculation of the arrearage and interest.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/21/18
Nathan Chaleunsak v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01186-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Evertt Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve Dozier

The Petitioner, Nathan Chaleunsak, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his 2015 guilty-pleaded conviction of second degree murder, for which he received an agreed, out-of-range sentence of thirty years to be served at 100%. The Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, asserting that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was not voluntarily and knowingly entered. Following a hearing, the postconviction court denied relief. After review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Morgan Nyle Janyja
M2017-01835-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Defendant, Morgan Nyle Janyja, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the revocation. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/18
Robert Earl Borner v. State of Tennessee
M2017-02305-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. Wootten, Jr.

The Petitioner, Robert Earl Borner, appeals the dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. He argues that the indictment is void because it failed to state the essential elements of the conviction offense. After a thorough review of the record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Ashley N. Menke
M2017-00597-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Thompson

On July 14, 2016, Ashley N. Menke, the Defendant, entered an open guilty plea in Case No. 925-CR-2015 to five felonies and three misdemeanors, including one count of theft in the amount of $1,000 or more but less than $10,000 (Count 9), and to a violation of probation in Case No. 268-CR-2014. The value of the property taken in Count 9 was exactly $1,000, and the Defendant was released on bail for felony offenses in Counts 3, 4, 5, and 6 at the time she committed the theft in Count 9. Following the December 2, 2016 sentencing hearing, the trial court took the matter under advisement without sentencing the Defendant. On January 1, 2017, the Public Safety Act of 2016 became effective. Section 5 of the Public Safety Act “deleted and replaced” Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-105(a), the “grading of theft” statute. Theft in the amount of $1,000 or less committed after January 1, 2017, is now graded as a Class A misdemeanor. In its March 10, 2017 sentencing order, the trial court imposed an eleven month and twenty-nine day sentence in Count 9 based on the criminal savings statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-11-112, and ordered the sentence to be served concurrently with the effective three-year sentence for the other seven counts. The judgment states that the conviction offense is a Class D felony. We hold that the criminal savings statute does not apply and that the trial court erred in sentencing the Defendant in Count 9 to a concurrent sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days because of the following: (1) the General Assembly did not specifically indicate that Section 5 of the Public Safety Act operated retrospectively so the statute is presumed to operate prospectively; (2) “the value of the property or services obtained” is an essential element of the offense of theft; and (3) the legislature changed an essential element of, not the sentence for, Class A misdemeanor theft, Class E felony theft, and Class D felony theft. We affirm the judgment of conviction for the Class D felony theft in Count 9, vacate the sentence in Count 9, and remand the case to the trial court for resentencing within the applicable range for Class D felony theft and for consecutive alignment of the sentence pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-20-111(b) and Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 32(c)(3)(C).

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/18
State of Tennessee v. Dequevion Lamar Lee
W2017-01449-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The defendant, Dequevion Lamar Lee, was convicted by a Madison County jury for attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault. On appeal, he argues the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand the case for entry of a corrected judgment form as to count two reflecting the defendant’s aggravated assault conviction was merged with count one.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Morris
W2017-00393-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Curtis Morris, of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse, aggravated child neglect, and felony murder of his seventeen-month-old son. On appeal the defendant argues: the trial court erred when excluding a daycare record; the trial court erred when permitting the jury to view autopsy photos of the victim; the trial court erred when allowing certain expert testimony; the State failed to properly elect offenses; the trial court erred when failing to define “knowing” in its aggravated child abuse instructions; the State presented insufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict; and the cumulative effect of these errors resulted in the denial of a fair trial. Based on our thorough review of the record, pertinent authorities, and arguments of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/18
In Re Estate of Johnny Mack Galbreath
M2017-01409-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

This is a probate case. The chancery court entered an order purporting to close a probate estate. Several months later, the Appellant filed a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60.02(2) motion to set aside the order closing the estate on the basis of fraud and/or misconduct. The Appellant averred that her “verbal contract” claim which she had timely filed as a claim against the estate remained outstanding. After a hearing, the court denied the motion, having concluded that the Appellant failed to offer sufficient proof to substantiate her allegations and to justify re-opening the decedent’s estate. Because the order closing the estate was not final, we dismiss the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and remand to the trial court to enter a final judgment addressing Appellant’s claim

Maury County Court of Appeals 05/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Pamela Moses
W2016-01762-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

Defendant, Pamela Moses, was placed on intensive probation following the entry of guilty pleas to several offenses. The State filed two petitions to revoke her probation. After a lengthy hearing, the trial court revoked Defendant’s probation and ordered the “original judgment of conviction” into execution with additional jail credit for time served in confinement. Defendant argues on appeal that the trial court improperly revoked probation. For the following reasons, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/18
John Doe, By His Next Friend Jane Doe v. Brentwood Academy Inc., Et Al.
M2018-00668-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

A Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B petition for recusal appeal was filed in this Court after the trial court denied a motion for recusal. Because the petition for recusal appeal was not timely filed in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, we dismiss the appeal.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/18/18
Donald Scott Kimbrough v. State of Tennessee
E2017-01354-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

In April 2005, Donald Scott Kimbrough (“the Petitioner”) pled guilty to second degree murder and attempted second degree murder. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the Defendant received an effective sentence of twenty-five years’ incarceration. Almost twelve years after his guilty plea, in March 2017, the Petitioner filed an untimely petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner acknowledged that his petition was untimely filed but asserted that the statute of limitations should be tolled because he was a minor at the time of the offenses. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition as time-barred after finding that no statutory exception existed to toll the limitations period and that the Petitioner failed to establish a basis for due process tolling. The Petitioner now appeals the post-conviction court’s order. However, because the Petitioner filed an untimely notice of appeal with this court and the interest of justice does not favor a waiver of the timely filing requirement in this case, the Petitioner’s appeal is dismissed.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/18
State of Tennessee v. Nathaniel Morton Champion
M2016-01648-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Vanessa Jackson

A Coffee County jury convicted the Defendant, Nathaniel Morton Champion, of possession of contraband in a penal institution, a Class C felony, for which the trial court imposed an eight-year sentence to run consecutively to the Defendant’s prior sentences. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss the indictment based on the State’s failure to preserve evidence pursuant to State v. Ferguson, 2 S.W.3d 912 (Tenn. 1999); (2) the evidence introduced at trial was insufficient to support his conviction; (3) the trial court abused its discretion by denying the Defendant’s request for a continuance based on the failure of a defense witness to appear to testify at trial; (4) the Defendant’s waiver of the right to counsel was not knowing and intelligent; and (5) the trial court abused its discretion by enhancing the Defendant’s sentence to eight years and ordering consecutive sentencing. Following a thorough review, we affirm the Defendant’s judgment of conviction.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/18
Nasir Hakeem v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02549-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Petitioner, Nasir Hakeem, appeals the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s denial of post-conviction relief, arguing that his attorneys were ineffective for failing to inform him of the deportation and other immigration consequences of a conviction at trial pursuant to Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010). The State contends that the petition is time-barred and that the post-conviction court erred in tolling the one-year statute of limitations based on the Petitioner’s ignorance of Padilla. Because the postconviction court erred in tolling the limitations period, this court is deprived of jurisdiction to hear this appeal. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/18/18
William Casey v. State of Tennessee
E2017-01265-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin

The Petitioner, William Casey, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his convictions for first degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of aggravated rape for offenses that occurred in 1979 and 1980. The Petitioner raised numerous issues in his petition, alleging errors at trial, prosecutorial misconduct, and ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. The post-conviction court entered a preliminary order dismissing all of the Petitioner’s claims of errors at trial, prosecutorial misconduct, and ineffective assistance of appellate counsel and the majority of his claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Following an evidentiary hearing on the Petitioner’s remaining claims, the postconviction court entered an order denying the Petitioner relief. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in dismissing the majority of his claims before the evidentiary hearing and in finding that the Petitioner failed to establish during the evidentiary hearing that he is entitled to relief as to his remaining claims. We conclude that the post-conviction court properly dismissed the Petitioner’s claims of errors during the trial and prosecutorial misconduct and properly denied the Petitioner relief as to his claims presented during an evidentiary hearing. We also conclude the post-conviction court erred in dismissing the Petitioner’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal without conducting an evidentiary hearing. Accordingly, the post-conviction court’s judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and we remand the case to the post-conviction court for an evidentiary hearing on the issues of ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal that were dismissed by the court in its preliminary order and properly preserved by the Petitioner on appeal.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/17/18
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth Michael McIntosh
E2017-01353-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

The defendant, Kenneth Michael McIntosh, pled guilty to sixteen counts of aggravated child abuse and a single count of child abuse. The trial court sentenced the defendant to eight years for each aggravated child abuse conviction and eleven months and twentynine days for the single child abuse conviction and ordered two of the sentences for aggravated child abuse to be served consecutively for an effective sentence of sixteen years. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court erred in ordering two of his eightyear sentences to be served consecutively. Upon review, we affirm the findings of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/17/18