Court Opinions

Format: 08/05/2020
Format: 08/05/2020
Allen Hill v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01994-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

The Petitioner, Allen Hill, appeals from the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2018 conviction for possession with the intent to sell 0.5 gram or more of cocaine, for which he is serving a twenty-year sentence as a Range II offender. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, rendering his guilty plea involuntary. We affirm the judgment of the postconviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/20
State of Tennessee v. Michael William Shavers
E2019-01558-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

The defendant, Michael William Shavers, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s order revoking his probation and ordering him to serve the balance of the 10-year effective sentence for his guilty-pleaded convictions of attempted second degree murder in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/20
State of Tennessee v. Steve M. Jarman
M2017-01313-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry J. Wallace

Steve M. Jarman (“defendant”) was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for the death of his girlfriend, Shelly Heath (“victim”). At trial, the State was permitted to introduce evidence that the defendant allegedly assaulted the victim two years prior to her death, an act for which he was tried and acquitted. The defendant appealed his conviction, and the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed based, in part, on the acquitted-act evidence being used at trial. We accepted the State’s appeal to consider two issues: (1) whether the rule announced in State v. Holman, 611 S.W.2d 411 (Tenn. 1981), which prohibits the use of acquitted-act evidence against a defendant at a subsequent trial, should be overruled, and (2) if so, whether the trial court properly admitted the acquitted-act evidence as a prior bad act under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b). After a thorough review of the case law in this area and the record before us on appeal, we expressly overrule our decision in Holman to the extent that it prohibits the use of acquitted-act evidence against a defendant in a subsequent trial under all circumstances. Additionally, we hold that it was not an abuse of discretion for the trial court to admit the acquitted-act evidence, pursuant to Rule 404(b), under the theory that it was relevant to show the defendant’s intent. We also hold that additional errors in admitting threats made by the defendant against the victim or the victim’s sister, not at issue in this appeal, were harmless. For reasons stated herein, we reverse the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision and reinstate the defendant’s conviction.

Dickson County Supreme Court 07/06/20
Quinton A. Cage v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01888-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Jane McClendon

Petitioner, Quinton A. Cage, appeals the denial of his petition for habeas corpus relief in which he argues that he was deprived of a fair trial. Because we determine that Petitioner has failed to file a timely notice of appeal or provide a reason as to why the timely filing of the notice of appeal should be waived, the appeal is dismissed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/20
Dwight Michael Alston v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00930-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The Petitioner, Dwight Michael Alston, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his conviction for first degree premeditated murder. The Petitioner maintains that trial counsel was ineffective for advising him not to testify and for failing to investigate and raise issues regarding the competence of the Petitioner’s son. Additionally, the Petitioner asserts that the postconviction court erred in finding that appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise issues on appeal that were included in the motion for new trial. The Petitioner also argues that the post-conviction court erred in not allowing a continuance or bifurcated hearing so that appellate counsel could be present to testify. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/02/20
Miguel Saenz v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01665-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

The petitioner, Miguel Saenz, appeals the dismissal of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in dismissing the petition as time-barred. Following our review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s dismissal of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/02/20
In Re Jaxon W. H.
E2019-01836-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

A father appeals the trial court’s decision terminating his parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by failure to support and failure to visit. Finding clear and convincing evidence to support both grounds and that termination of the father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest, we affirm the trial court’s decision.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 07/02/20
State of Tennessee v. Bryan James Cooke
M2019-01164-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

The Defendant, Bryan James Cooke, challenges his effective sentence of two consecutive terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole resulting from his convictions of two counts of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of felony murder, two counts of aggravated burglary, and a theft offense. Both the Defendant’s motion for a new trial and his notice of appeal were filed over one year after the entry of the judgment forms, and the Defendant has given no explanation of the untimely filings. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/02/20
Leonel Lopez v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00683-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

A Davidson County grand jury indicted Petitioner, Leonel Lopez, for first degree murder. After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of second degree murder. Petitioner received a twenty-year sentence. This Court upheld Petitioner’s conviction on appeal. State v. Lopez, 440 S.W.3d 601 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2014). Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, that the prosecution failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, that the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct, and that the trial court made various errors. After two hearings, the post-conviction court denied relief. After reviewing the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/02/20
Kenneth Darrin Fisher v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01816-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald Ray Elledge

The petitioner, Kenneth Darrin Fisher, 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. Specifically, the petitioner asserts trial counsel was ineffective for failing to properly prepare the petitioner to testify at trial; failing to object to the State’s assertion that the gun found in the petitioner’s vehicle was an “assault rifle;” failing to object to the admission of the unredacted video of the petitioner’s police interview; and failing to appeal the trial court’s admission of Ms. Burchett’s recorded preliminary hearing testimony. The petitioner also asserts he was deprived due process when the post-conviction court sustained the State’s objection regarding Ms. Green’s testimony. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/01/20
Sinan Gider v. Lydia Hubbell
M2018-01941-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sheila Calloway

The mother of an eight-year-old child petitioned to have the primary residential parent designation changed from the father to herself. The juvenile court found she failed to show that a material change of circumstance warranted such a change, and she appealed. We affirm the juvenile court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/01/20
State of Tennessee v. Carlton Smith
E2019-01532-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

A Knox County jury convicted the defendant, Carlton Smith, of three counts of burglary and one count each of assault and theft. As a result of his convictions, the trial court sentenced the defendant to 12 years’ confinement for each count of burglary and 11 months and 29 days for assault and theft. The trial court merged the three burglary convictions into one count and ordered the defendant’s sentences to be served concurrently. On appeal, the defendant challenges the application of the burglary statute, challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions, and claims his misdemeanor convictions for theft and assault should merge into his conviction for burglary. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the defendant’s convictions. However, we conclude the defendant’s convictions for assault and theft should be merged with his conviction for burglary and remand the matter to the trial court for entry of amended judgments in accordance with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/01/20
In Re Easton W.
E2018-01883-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

This consolidated appeal concerns a father’s action, filed pro se, to be granted custody of his child, or, in the alternative, reasonable visitation without the requirement of paying child support. Following a series of hearings in juvenile court, the father was named the primary residential parent, a permanent parenting plan was adopted, and the child support proceedings were assigned a separate docket number to be handled by Maximus/Child Support Services. Because the action was originally yet mistakenly filed as a dependency and neglect action by the father, the mother appealed the juvenile court’s decision to circuit court. On the father’s motion to alter or amend, the juvenile court struck the dependency and neglect language from its order, and the circuit court then dismissed the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. We affirm the juvenile court’s decision in decreeing this matter a paternity and visitation action, and we find that the circuit court correctly held that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 07/01/20
State of Tennessee v. William Johnson
W2019-00914-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John W. Campbell

The defendant, William Johnson, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court jury conviction of vandalism of property valued at $500 or less, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/20
State of Tennessee v. Eddie Smith
W2018-01509-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Defendant, Eddie Smith, appeals his conviction for second degree murder and his twentyone-year sentence. On appeal, Defendant contends that the trial court erred in (1) excluding proof of the victim’s prior bad acts as corroborative evidence that the victim was the initial aggressor and (2) instructing the jury that Defendant had a duty to retreat before using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury in selfdefense. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/20
Anthony Thompson v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01206-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The petitioner, Anthony Thompson, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his conviction of first degree murder, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/20
Leo Landry, Et Al. v. Sumner County Board of Education
M2019-01696-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Thompson

This is a negligence case arising out of an injury suffered by a middle school student when a chair fell on his finger in his school’s lunchroom. The trial court determined that summary judgment was warranted as a matter of law because there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate that a dangerous condition existed and because the incident was not foreseeable.  We conclude that there is no dispute of material fact and that summary judgment in favor of the school district was properly granted; accordingly, we affirm.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 06/30/20
Joseph S. McNair, Jr. v. Bert Boyd, Warden
E2019-01524-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stacy L. Street

Petitioner, Joseph S. McNair, Jr., appeals from the dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief. On appeal and in his pro se petition, Petitioner argues that he is entitled to habeas corpus relief because the trial court permitted the State to improperly amend the original indictment. After review of the record and the briefs, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Johnson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/20
State of Tennessee v. Calvin Smith and Hayden Bowen
W2019-01227-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

The Shelby County Grand Jury indicted Defendants Calvin Smith and Hayden Bowen for attempted first degree murder in counts one and three and for employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony in counts two and four. Each Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the failure of the State to name a specific victim in counts one and three violated their right against double jeopardy. Following a hearing, the trial court dismissed all counts of the indictment. The State appeals as of right from the trial court’s dismissal of Defendants’ indictment, arguing that the trial court improperly dismissed the indictment based on the weight of the evidence and that the indictment provided sufficient protection against double jeopardy. After a thorough review, the judgments of the criminal court are reversed, the indictment is reinstated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/20
In Re: Lachlan B., Et Al.
E2019-01698-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Arnold

This appeal concerns the trial court’s decision to change the non-marital children’s surname from that of the mother to the father. We vacate the trial court’s decision and remand for findings of fact to facilitate appellate review.

Washington County Court of Appeals 06/30/20
State of Tennessee v. Donquise Tremonte Alexander
M2019-01715-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Petitioner, Donquise Tremonte Alexander, entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder and was sentenced to thirty years in confinement. Following a motion to correct an illegal sentence and an untimely petition for post-conviction relief, the Petitioner filed a pro se petition to correct a clerical error on his judgment form, alleging that the form was not stamped “filed.” The post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Petitioner filed a timely appeal. Following our review, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/20
Lois Irene Davis, Et Al. v. 3M Company, Et Al.
M2018-02029-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

In this wrongful death action, the plaintiff, the decedent’s spouse, asserted claims against multiple defendants. The plaintiff settled with all but one of the defendants prior to trial, and the settling defendants were dismissed from the case. At trial, the sole remaining defendant asserted the comparative fault of the decedent and the settling defendants. The jury assigned percentages of fault to the decedent, the defendant, and the settling defendants but returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiff. The jury found noneconomic damages that, when reduced by the percentage of the decedent’s fault, exceeded the statutory cap. So the trial court entered a judgment against the defendant based on its percentage fault as applied to the statutory cap. On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the statutory cap was incorrectly applied. We affirm.

Maury County Court of Appeals 06/30/20
State of Tennessee v. Michael Chambers
W2019-00661-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Defendant-Appellant, Michael Chambers, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of felony vandalism of property in an amount $2,500 or more but less than $10,000, in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-408, a Class D felony. The Defendant was sentenced as a Range II, multiple offender, to six years to be served on supervised probation. In this appeal as of right, the sole issue presented for our review is whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction for felony vandalism. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/20
Marquette Jones v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00399-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Petitioner, Marquette Jones, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court denying the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/20
DANA MARLENE PAGLIARA v. TIMOTHY J. PAGLIARA
M2019-01397-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

This interlocutory appeal arises from a pending divorce action. During discovery, the husband sought certain communications between the wife and her attorneys. During some of these meetings between the wife and her attorneys, a third party was present during discussions of whether the wife should report conduct by the husband to law enforcement. The wife could not identify which of the meetings the third party had been present and which she had not. Because the wife did not meet her burden of proof in demonstrating that attorney-client privilege applied to the communications, we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 06/29/20