Court Opinions

Format: 08/16/2018
Format: 08/16/2018
State of Tennessee v. Tyrail Jermaine Cooke
E2017-00781-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Scott Green

Aggrieved of his convictions of reckless homicide and aggravated child abuse, the defendant, Tyrail Jermaine Cooke, appeals. In this appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred by refusing to suppress the entirety of his pretrial statement to the police; that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence the video recording of his pretrial statement; that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence photographs, testimony, and other evidence relating to bruising in the victim’s genital area and a hole in the wall in the closet of the defendant’s residence; that the trial court erred by refusing to grant the defendant’s request for a special jury instruction regarding the right of parents to use corporal punishment to discipline their children; that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial based upon the prosecutor’s improper comment on the defendant’s right to remain silent during his closing argument; that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; that the 29-year effective sentence is excessive; and that the cumulative effect of the errors deprived him of the constitutional right to a fair trial. Because we discern no reversible error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/18
State of Tennessee v. Larry Allen Stumbo
E2017-01405-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge R.Jerry Beck

A Sullivan County jury convicted the Defendant, Larry Allen Stumbo, of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, evading arrest, and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective sixty-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it denied his motion for substitution of counsel; (2) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (3) the trial court erred when it sentenced him; and (4) no hearing was held as required by T.C.A. § 39-17-1324 to determine the existence of a prior qualifying felony conviction to sustain the Defendant’s conviction for possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments of conviction. We affirm the Defendant’s sentences for all the convictions except employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. For reasons contained herein, we vacate the sentence for the employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony conviction and remand the case to the trial court for resentencing on that count.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/18
State of Tennessee v. Bryant Eugene Page, Jr.
E2017-01344-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Defendant, Bryant Eugene Page, Jr., pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, a Class C felony, as a Range III offender, with an agreed sentence of twelve years, but with a Range II release eligibility of 35% rather than a Range III release eligibility of 45%. More than a year later, the Defendant filed a motion to reduce his sentence, asking the trial court for a sentence of six years, at 35%, arguing that his sentence was not in range. The trial court summarily dismissed his motion. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when the trial court did not reduce his sentence because: (1) his motion was timely but the court clerk refused to file his motion; (2) his sentence is illegal because it is out of range. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/18
James Jones v. Raymond M. Hargreaves
M2017-01271-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Hamilton V. Gayden

In this health care liability action, the defendant doctor filed an unopposed motion for summary judgment. After the motion was granted, he filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122, requesting the court to compel the plaintiff or his counsel to provide the court with a copy of the expert’s signed written statement that was relied upon in executing the certificate of good faith that accompanied the complaint. The trial court denied the motion, holding that the matter should have been raised in the Defendant’s motion for summary judgment or a motion for discretionary costs. Upon our review of the statute, we do not find a requirement that the request for the expert witness’ statement be made in the manner held by the trial court; accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further consideration of the defendant’s motion.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
State of Tennessee v. Melvin Dwayne Dunn, Jr.
E2017-00911-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Defendant, Melvin Dwayne Dunn, Jr., was convicted by a jury of nine counts of burglary; one count of attempted theft of property valued at $10,000 or more but less than $60,000; one count of evading arrest; and one count of possession of burglary tools. He was sentenced as a career offender and received an effective sentence of thirty-six years’ imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his attempted theft conviction. He also argues that the trial court erred in admitting statements made by the Defendant during bond negotiations. After thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/18
Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County v. Delinquent Taxpayers As Shown On The 2011 Real Property Tax Record
M2018-00026-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

A delinquent taxpayer’s property was sold at a tax sale on January 22, 2014. The taxpayer subsequently conveyed her interest in the property to a third party that redeemed the property within the one-year statutory redemption period. The proceedings were stayed a year and a half due to the redeeming party’s bankruptcy; after the stay was lifted, the trial court held a hearing on the tax-sale purchaser’s motion for additional costs and then entered an order finalizing the redemption. In that order, the trial court ruled that the redeeming party was required to, among other things, pay interest on the price paid by the tax-sale purchaser at the tax sale for the entire period between the tax sale and entry of the final order. The redeeming party appeals, arguing that the statute only allowed interest to be charged from the date of the tax sale through the date the redemption process began. We agree, and we therefore reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
Primary Residential Mortgage, Inc. v. Sheri Baker, Et Al.
M2016-01786-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Plaintiff sued a defendant for filing an unauthorized financing statement. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss and later a motion to disqualify the judge, both of which were denied. The court also ordered Defendant to file an answer. When Defendant failed to comply, the court granted Plaintiff’s motion for a default judgment. Defendant’s husband intervened shortly thereafter, claiming that he filed the financing statement. Defendant’s husband likewise filed a motion to dismiss and a later motion to disqualify. The court denied both motions and ordered husband to file an answer. When Husband failed to do so, the court granted Plaintiff’s motion for a default judgment against Husband. Husband filed a motion to set aside the default judgment, which was denied. This appeal followed. We affirm. Deeming this appeal frivolous, we award Plaintiff attorney’s fees incurred on appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
In Re Gabriel B.
W2017-02514-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Christy R. Little

A juvenile court terminated a father’s parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by willful failure to support, substantial noncompliance with permanency plans, and persistence of conditions. The father appeals the termination of his rights. We conclude that the evidence clearly and convincingly supports the trial court’s termination on these grounds and affirm the judgment.

Madison County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
AMCO Insurance Company v. Ralph W. Mello, et al.
M2017-01904-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph Woodruff

This appeal involves a dispute between an insurance company and its insured regarding the application of exclusion clauses in a homeowners’ insurance policy and a personal umbrella liability policy. After malicious prosecution and abuse of process claims were filed against the insured in Alabama by a law firm, the insurance company accepted the defense under a reservation of rights and filed the present action seeking a declaration that it is not required to provide coverage for the damages complained of in the Alabama lawsuit. Following a bench trial held on stipulated facts, the trial court determined that the insured was, in fact, entitled to certain coverage. We reverse.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
Jason Garner Williams v. Stacy Brown Williams
W2017-02023-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor W. Michael Maloan

This is a divorce case. The trial court entered a final decree of divorce designating Husband as the primary residential parent for the parties’ minor child and concluding that Husband is not under-employed for purposes of calculating child support. Because the trial court did not make sufficient findings of fact and conclusions of law as required under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 52.01, we vacate the trial court’s judgment as to the issues raised on appeal.

Weakley County Court of Appeals 07/23/18
Michael White v. State of Tennessee
M2017-02039-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee Russell

The defendant, Michael White, appeals the denial of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence imposed for his 2005 Marshall County Circuit Court jury convictions of rape. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of relief.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/18
State of Tennessee v. Mardoche Olivier
M2017-01618-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Defendant, Mardoche Olivier, was convicted by a jury of one count of evading arrest while operating a motor vehicle, a Class E felony. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction, arguing that there was insufficient evidence that he “received any signal” from law enforcement “while operating a motor vehicle” to bring that vehicle to a stop or that he “intentionally fle[d] or attempt[ed] to elude” either officer. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/18
State of Tennessee v. Rebecca Michelle Spears, Alias
E2017-01836-CCA-R9-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

Defendant, Rebecca Michelle Spears, appeals after the trial court granted the State’s motion to disqualify trial counsel on the basis that trial counsel was a necessary witness. Because we determine that trial counsel was a necessary witness and any testimony given by trial counsel would be related to contested issues, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/18
Brent Christopher Dishon v. Lisa Renee Dishon
M2017-01378-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

This appeal arose from a divorce action filed by the husband. The parties entered into a mediation agreement in December 2014, wherein the parties agreed, inter alia, that the husband would pay to the wife $1,200 per month in alimony, that the husband’s alimony obligation would cease if the wife were cohabitating with a person of the opposite sex, and that the wife would be designated as the primary residential parent for the parties’ minor child. Following execution of the mediation agreement, the husband’s employment hours were decreased by his employer. The wife subsequently filed a “Motion to Restore Payment Agreement,” in which she alleged that the husband had failed to adhere to his financial responsibilities pursuant to the mediation agreement. The husband thereafter filed a response to the wife’s motion, alleging that a material change in circumstance had occurred subsequent to the mediation agreement. The trial court entered a judgment on February 25, 2016, enforcing the mediation agreement but determining, due to the husband’s decrease in income, that a material change in circumstance had occurred since the mediation agreement was entered into by the parties. The trial court further found that the wife had been cohabitating with a person of the opposite sex. Nonetheless, the trial court determined that the wife remained the economically disadvantaged spouse following the divorce and reduced the husband’s alimony responsibility to $500 per month. The trial court further determined that it was in the best interest of the child for the wife to be the primary residential parent of the child. The husband subsequently filed a motion to alter or amend the trial court’s judgment and a motion to terminate his alimony obligation, both of which were denied by the trial court. Husband timely appealed. Having determined that the trial court erred by failing to cease Husband’s alimony responsibility, in compliance with the enforced mediation agreement, upon its finding that the wife was cohabitating with a person of the opposite sex, we reverse the alimony award. We affirm the remaining aspects of the trial court’s judgment. Because the husband’s payment history regarding alimony is unclear from the record, we hereby remand for a determination by the trial court regarding whether Husband owes Wife alimony incurred prior to February 25, 2016, or whether Husband is owed reimbursement of alimony paid past February 25, 2016.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 07/20/18
Brent Ray, Et Al. v. Thomas Neff, Et Al.
M2016-02217-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

Plaintiffs/Appellants sued Defendants/Appellees for nuisance and trespass claims over a dispute in the change of water flow onto Appellants’ property due to modifications, namely the installation of a pipe, on Appellees’ property. Appellants voluntarily non-suited the case twice, and ultimately filed the instant complaint almost five years after the filing of their original complaint. Appellees moved for summary judgment on both claims. In a three-part ruling spanning thirteen months, the trial court granted summary judgment and determined (1) that the pipe was a permanent nuisance and, therefore, any nuisance claim was time-barred; (2) that the trespass was a permanent trespass and, again, time-barred; and (3) that Appellants could not establish causation as to the trespass claim. We affirm the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Angela Faye Daniel
M2015-01073-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

We granted permission to appeal in this case in order to determine whether the exclusionary rule should be applied to a blood sample drawn from an individual pursuant to a search warrant because the arresting officer failed to leave a copy of the warrant with the individual. The Defendant, Angela Faye Daniel, was arrested for driving under the influence. The arresting officer obtained a search warrant and transported the Defendant to a medical facility for a blood draw. The officer failed to give the Defendant a copy of the search warrant. The trial court granted the Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence obtained pursuant to the warrant on the basis of the exclusionary rule set forth in Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 41. The State sought and was granted an interlocutory appeal, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. We hold that, under the facts and circumstances of this case, a good-faith exception should be applied to Rule 41’s exclusionary rule. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment below and remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings.  

Williamson County Supreme Court 07/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Lindsey Brooke Lowe
M2014-00472-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dee David Gay

A jury convicted the Defendant, Lindsey Brooke Lowe, of two counts of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of first degree felony murder, and two counts of aggravated child abuse, all arising from the Defendant’s smothering to death her newborn infant twins. The trial court merged the alternative counts of first degree murder as to each victim and sentenced the Defendant to two terms of life imprisonment for the murders and two terms of twenty-five years for the aggravated child abuse convictions, all to be served concurrently. On direct appeal, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the Defendant’s convictions and sentences. We granted the Defendant’s application for permission to appeal in order to address the following issues raised by the Defendant: (1) whether the Exclusionary Rule Reform Act, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-6-108 (“the ERRA”), violates the Tennessee Constitution’s Separation of Powers Clause; (2) whether the trial court erred by relying on the ERRA to deny the Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence gathered at her house pursuant to a search warrant that did not conform with the technical requirements of Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 41; (3) whether the trial court erred by ruling inadmissible certain expert testimony proffered by the defense during the hearing on the Defendant’s motion to suppress her statement to Detective Malach; (4) whether the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress her statement; and (5) whether the trial court erred by prohibiting the Defendant’s expert witness from testifying at trial about the reliability of her responses to Detective Malach’s questions. We also directed the parties to address the additional issue of whether the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule adopted by this Court in State v. Davidson, 509 S.W.3d 156, 185-86 (Tenn. 2016), should be expanded to include clerical errors made by the issuing magistrate when the search in question is otherwise constitutional. We hold that the ERRA represents an impermissible encroachment by the legislature upon this Court’s authority and responsibility to adopt exceptions to the exclusionary rule and, therefore, violates the Tennessee Constitution’s Separation of Powers Clause; that the exclusionary rule should not be applied to suppress evidence gathered pursuant to a search warrant that is technically defective under Rule 41 due to the magistrate’s simple and good-faith clerical error of incorrectly indicating on one of three copies of the warrant that it was issued at 11:35 “PM” while correctly indicating on the other two copies that it was issued at 11:35 “AM”; that the trial court did not err in ruling inadmissible the defense expert’s testimony at the hearing on the Defendant’s motion to suppress her statement, although the trial court should have allowed defense counsel to proffer the testimony in a question and answer format; that the trial court did not err in ruling that the Defendant was not in custody at the time she made her statement to Detective Malach, rendering moot any claimed defects in the administration of Miranda warnings prior to her statement being made; and that the trial court did not commit reversible error in ruling inadmissible at trial certain proffered expert testimony by a defense witness. In sum, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions and sentences. 

Sumner County Supreme Court 07/20/18
John R. Jackson v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00787-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

A Montgomery County jury convicted the Petitioner, John R. Jackson, of two counts of facilitation of aggravated robbery, one count of aggravated burglary, one count of facilitation of theft of property valued over $500, and one count of aggravated sexual battery. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of twenty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, this court affirmed the judgments and sentence. See State v. John R. Jackson, No. M2013-00696-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 2039761 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, May 16, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Sept. 22, 2014). The Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition, and the post-conviction court denied relief following a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, his convictions are based on illegal evidence presented at trial, and the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during opening and closing statements. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/18
State of Tennessee v. Michael Lee Hogan
M2017-01115-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Wolfe

A Dickson County jury convicted the Defendant, Michael Lee Hogan, of two counts of the sale of cocaine, one count of the sale of less than .5 grams of cocaine and one count of the sale of more than .5 grams of cocaine. The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Career Offender to an effective sentence of forty-five years of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends: (1) the trial court erred when it failed to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of casual exchange; and (2) the trial court erred when it sentenced him. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/18
In Re Blake A., Et Al.
M2016-01621-COA-R10-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Timothy K. Barnes

The parents of two children adopted a parenting plan in which Mother was designated the primary residential parent and parenting time was split equally; a special provision in the parenting plan prevented either parent from relocating with the children without the other parent’s permission. Mother subsequently informed Father of her intent to relocate to another state with the children. In response, Father filed a petition in opposition to removal and to modify the parenting plan. The court denied Mother’s relocation, holding that the provision in the parenting plan superseded the application of the parental relocation statute; the court further determined that the parties were spending substantially equal time with the children and that relocation was not in the children’s best interest. Mother appeals. We conclude that the court erred in holding that the provision in the parenting plan prevented Mother from relocating; that the court did not make sufficient findings of fact to support its holding that the parents were spending substantially equal time with the children; and that the finding that relocation is not in the best interest of the children is supported by the evidence. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment in part, affirm in part, and remand the case for further proceedings.   

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/19/18
Kenneth Cage v. Harris E. Dowlen
M2018-01119-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

This is an appeal from a final judgment entered on March 12, 2018. Because the defendant did not file his notice of appeal within thirty days after entry of the final judgment as required by Tenn. R. App. P. 4(a), we dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/19/18
Greg Hearn v. American Wash Co., Inc., Et Al.
M2017-00722-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Richard H. Dinkins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This is an appeal by the prevailing party of an award of damages in a breach of contract action arising out of a commercial lease agreement. Upon our review, we find no reversible error and accordingly affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Lashun Wren
W2017-01978-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Defendant, Curtis Lashun Wren, appeals from the denial of relief from his “Ex Parte Injunction and/or Show Cause Order,” which the trial court treated as a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Because the pleading, even if treated as a petition for writ of habeas corpus, does not meet the procedural requirements set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-21-105, -106, and/or -107, we affirm the judgment of the trial court, albeit for different reasons.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Samantha Gadzo
M2017-00646-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

The Defendant, Samantha Gadzo, was indicted for driving under the influence of an intoxicant, driving under the influence per se, reckless driving, violation of the Due Care law, and failure to maintain her lane of travel. See T.C.A. §§ 55-10-401,-401(a)(2),-205; 55-8-136, -123. She filed a motion to suppress the evidence seized during the traffic stop, arguing that it was not supported by reasonable suspicion or probable cause. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the Defendant’s motion, which is the subject of this State appeal. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/18
State of Tennessee v. Phillip Daniel Morton
M2017-01083-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

The Defendant-Appellant, Phillip Daniel Morton, was convicted by a Davidson County jury of first degree murder, for which he received a life sentence. See T.C.A. § 39-13- 202. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his (1) petition for writ of error coram nobis and (2) request for a jury charge of voluntary intoxication. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/19/18