Court Opinions

Format: 05/22/2020
Format: 05/22/2020
John Brent v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01968-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

Petitioner, John Brent, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. The trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment for his convictions. Defendant’s convictions and sentences were affirmed by this court on direct appeal. State v. John Brent, No. W2013-01252-CCA-R3- CD, 2014 WL 5342610, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 21, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Apr. 13, 2015). Petitioner sought post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective. Following evidentiary hearings, the post-conviction court denied relief. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/20
Travis Tate v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01380-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

A jury convicted Petitioner, Travis Tate, of second degree murder, attempted voluntary manslaughter, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Petitioner’s convictions were upheld by this Court on direct appeal. State v. Travis Tate, No. 2014-02102-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 7664764 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 31, 2016), no perm. app. filed. Petitioner timely filed a petition for post-conviction relief. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition. After a reviewing the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/20
Josh Cathey v. William Beyer, ET AL.
W2019-01603-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

This is a health care liability case. Appellant brought a pro se action against two licensed counselors alleging injuries arising from the altering and concealment of counseling records of Appellant’s minor children. The trial court dismissed the complaint, under Tennessee Rule Civil Procedure 12.02, for failure to comply with the pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith requirements of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act. Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 29-26-121, 122. We conclude that Appellant’s claims relate to the provision of health care services and are subject to the procedural requirements in Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-101 et seq. Therefore, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of Appellant’s complaint.

Madison County Court of Appeals 04/24/20
KIMBERLY MEDDERS v. LANDON NEWBY, ET AL.
M2019-00793-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

This is an uninsured motorist case. Appellant was in an automobile accident, and Appellee insurance company denied uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. After bifurcating the issues of insurance coverage and liability, the trial court entered an order finding that Appellee’s denial of Appellant’s claim was proper. Because the order appealed is not final, we dismiss the appeal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Davidson County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 04/24/20
In Re: Estate of Edward Alan Ladd Et Al.
E2019-00484-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Melissa T. Blevins-Willis

In this estate matter, the trial court determined that when calculating the value of the decedent’s net estate for purposes of determining his widow’s elective share, insurance proceeds and retirement benefits that were distributed via beneficiary designation forms and were not distributed pursuant to the decedent’s last will and testament would not be included in the net estate value pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 31-4-101(b). The widow’s estate has appealed. We affirm the trial court’s interpretation of Tennessee Code Annotated § 31-4-101(b) (2015) and the court’s method of calculating the widow’s elective share by declining to include any assets that passed outside probate in the value of the decedent’s net estate. We vacate, however, the trial court’s valuation of the decedent’s real property, and we remand this issue to the trial court for further determination. Once such value has been established, it should be incorporated into the trial court’s calculation of the widow’s elective share, utilizing the same methodology as was employed by the court in the original calculation. We decline to award attorney’s fees to the widow’s estate on appeal.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 04/24/20
State of Tennessee v. Shun M. Ramey
M2019-00755-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody Kane

Defendant, Shun M. Ramey, is appealing the trial court’s denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence. The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/20
In Re: Kelty F.
E2019-01383-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas J. Wright

This is a termination of parental rights case. The child at issue was removed after her umbilical cord blood tested positive at birth for methamphetamine and amphetamine. The trial court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that mother’s parental rights should be terminated on the grounds of abandonment by the willful failure to visit and the willful failure to provide a suitable home for the child, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, persistence of conditions, and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody or financial responsibility of the child. The trial court further found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination was in the best interests of the child. Having reviewed the record on appeal, we affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 04/24/20
Suzanne Elaine Crawley Cowan v. Robert Elmo Cowan, Jr.
W2019-00179-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mary L. Wagner

This appeal concerns a post-divorce proceeding for contempt. Wife filed a petition for scire facias and civil contempt, alleging Husband willfully disobeyed the terms of the parties’ marital dissolution agreement. The trial court granted Wife’s petition, awarding her one-half of Husband’s retirement bonus, and held Husband in civil contempt. The trial court granted Wife attorney’s fees for enforcing the parties’ marital dissolution agreement. For the reasons stated herein, we agree that Wife is entitled to one-half of Husband’s net retirement bonus, that Husband willfully violated the parties’ marital dissolution agreement and should be held in civil contempt for  this violation, and that Wife should be awarded attorney’s fees for having to enforce the agreement. We therefore affirm the decision of the circuit court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/24/20
In Re: Tucker H. Et Al.
E2019-01970-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge:

This is a termination of parental rights case. Appellant mother appeals the trial court’s termination of her parental rights on the grounds of: (1) abandonment by an incarcerated parent for failure to visit and wanton disregard; (2) failure to substantially comply with the requirements of the parenting plans; and (3) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 04/24/20
Michael Waddell v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01853-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Petitioner, Michael Waddell, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of second degree murder and the accompanying thirty-seven-year sentence, contending that the post-conviction court erred by holding that he received effective assistance of counsel. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/20
State of Tennessee v. Roy Rogers, Jr.
W2019-00977-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clayburn Peeples

For the third time in this Court, Defendant, Roy Rogers, Jr., challenges his convictions for initiating the manufacturer of methamphetamine, promoting the manufacture of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and criminal impersonation, for which he received a total effective sentence of twelve years. See State v. Roy Rogers, Jr., No. W2015-00988-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 1045352, at *1-2 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 15, 2016) (“Rogers I”), no perm. app. filed; Roy Rogers, Jr. v. State, No. W2017-01939-CCA-R3-PC, 2018 WL 6075655, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 20, 2018) (“Rogers II”), no perm. app. filed. Defendant appeals after the post-conviction court denied his motion for new trial after remand. Because the post-conviction court failed to follow the directive of this Court on remand after Rogers II, we reverse the judgment of that court and remand the case with the same instructions given by this Court in Rogers II, for the post-conviction court to: (1) conduct an evidentiary hearing on Defendant’s postconviction petition; (2) determine whether Defendant is entitled to a delayed appeal; and (3) if the post-conviction court holds the hearing and determines Defendant is entitled to a delayed appeal, enter an order that (a) allows Defendant to file a new motion for new trial, and (b) stays the post-conviction proceedings on Defendant’s remaining claims until the resolution of the delayed appeal.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/20
State of Tennessee v. Marlando Shuntell Sturghill and Xavier Talik-Rashod Martin
W2019-00807-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

Marlando Shuntell Sturghill (“Mr. Sturghill”) and Xavier Talik-Rashod Martin (“Mr. Martin”) (jointly “Defendants”) were convicted by a jury of aggravated robbery and sentenced to eight years’ incarceration with release eligibility after service of eighty-five percent of their sentence. In this consolidated appeal, both Defendants claim there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions. After a thorough review of the record and briefs, we affirm the Defendants’ judgments of conviction.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/20
IN RE KYLER C. ET AL.
M2019-00041-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge William Riley Anderson III

Mother and Father appeal the termination of their parental rights. Based on a prior finding that they had committed severe child abuse against one of their children, the juvenile court concluded that there was a statutory ground to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the abused child, his siblings, and a half-sibling. The court also concluded that termination of parental rights was in the best interest of all the children. Although we agree that there was clear and convincing evidence of a ground to terminate parental rights, we are unable to review the court’s best interest determination due to a lack of factual findings. So we vacate the judgment terminating Mother’s and Father’s parental rights.

Grundy County Juvenile & Family Courts 04/23/20
In Re Jeremiah S.
W2019-00610-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dan H. Michael

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her two children. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory grounds of: (1) severe child abuse, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(4); (2) abandonment by willful failure to support, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113 (g)(14); (3) abandonment by wanton disregard, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102(1)(A)(iv); and (4) persistence of conditions, Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(3)(A). The court also found that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/23/20
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. NEMON OMAR WINTON
M2018-01447-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

Defendant, Nemon Omar Winton, was convicted of two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of aggravated robbery. The trial court imposed a sentence of thirty years for each count of especially aggravated kidnapping, fifteen years for aggravated kidnapping, and fifteen years for aggravated robbery. The trial court ordered the sentences for especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated kidnapping to be served concurrently with each other and consecutively to the sentence for aggravated robbery for an effective forty-five-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and aggravated kidnapping; (2) that the trial court erred in denying his request for a special jury instruction; and (3) that his sentence was excessive. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of conviction for especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery. We conclude the evidence is legally insufficient to support the conviction of aggravated kidnapping, reverse that conviction and dismiss with prejudice the charge of aggravated kidnapping contained in Count Nine of the indictment. That count is remanded for consideration of appropriate lesser-included offenses, if any, of aggravated kidnapping.

Coffee County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 04/23/20
IN RE ELLIE K.
M2019-01269-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge, Middle Section, Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Faris

The grandparents of a minor child filed a petition seeking to terminate the parental rights of the child’s biological father. Following a hearing on the petition, the trial court terminated the father’s parental rights, determining that clear and convincing evidence existed to establish five statutory grounds for termination: abandonment by failure to visit, abandonment by failure to support, persistence of the conditions leading to the child’s removal, abandonment by conduct prior to incarceration demonstrating wanton disregard for the child’s welfare, and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume legal and physical custody of or financial responsibility for the child. The trial court also determined by clear and convincing evidence that termination was in the child’s best interest. The father has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects, including the termination of the father’s parental rights.

Franklin County Juvenile & Family Courts 04/23/20
Joseph Nathaniel Nance v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00566-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

In 2009, a Campbell County jury convicted the Petitioner, Joseph Nathaniel Nance, of six counts of rape of a child and one count of aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court sentenced him to sixty-four years of incarceration. The Petitioner appealed his convictions to this court, and we affirmed the judgments. State v. Nance, 393 S.W.3d 212 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2012). Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, which the
post-conviction court denied after a hearing. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Thomas Massey
M2019-00700-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

The Appellant, Thomas Massey, filed a pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, and the Rutherford County Circuit Court summarily denied the motion. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the effective ten-year sentence he received pursuant to his guilty pleas to aggravated assault and evading arrest is illegal because he is being held beyond the period of incarceration authorized by the judgments of conviction. Based upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/20
Ricky Harris v. Kevin Hampton, Warden
E2019-00571-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Justin C. Angel

The pro se Petitioner, Ricky Harris, appeals as of right from the Bledsoe County Circuit Court’s order summarily denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The State has filed a motion to dismiss this appeal as untimely or to affirm the trial court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we conclude that the State’s motion is
well-taken as to the filing of a memorandum opinion and affirm the order of the habeas corpus court.

Bledsoe County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/20
Sandra K. Fisher v. Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security
M2018-02040-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

A police department seized a car after citing its owner for driving on a revoked license.  Following the issuance of a forfeiture warrant and a contested case hearing, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security forfeited the owner’s interest in the car.  The car owner petitioned for judicial review, contending that the forfeiture violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  The chancery court denied the petition after determining that there were no constitutional violations.  We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Darnell Robinson
M2019-00303-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

Rodney Darnell Robinson ("Defendant") was convicted in Davidson County Criminal Court of two counts of child abuse, five counts of aggravated sexual battery, four counts of rape of a child, two counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, two counts of rape, and one count of attempted rape of a child, for which he received an effective sentence of sixty years' incarceration. On appeal, Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; (2) he was denied the effective assistance of counsel; (3) the trial court erred by allowing trial counsel to proceed while "clearly ill"; (4) the trial court failed to remedy statements made during voir dire by a potential juror, thereby depriving Defendant of a fair trial; (5) the trial court erred in allowing cumulative testimony in the cross-examination of Defendant; (6) the trial court erred in allowing improper leading questions to a witness; (7) the trial court erred in the admission of certain evidence; (8) the trial court erred in the exclusion of certain evidence; (9) there was an appearance of bias from the trial judge that violated Defendant's due process rights; and (10) cumulative error requires a new trial. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 04/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Emanuel Graham
M2019-00388-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

The Defendant, Joseph E. Graham, was convicted by a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury of two alternate theory counts of felony murder; one count of especially aggravated burglary, a Class B felony; seven counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, Class A felonies; and five counts of attempted aggravated robbery, Class C felonies. The trial court merged the felony murder convictions and sentenced the Defendant to an effective term of life plus twenty years. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions, and there was insufficient evidence corroborating co-defendant Cheeks’ accomplice testimony; (2) the trial court erred in limiting his cross-examination of co-defendant Cheeks and excluding relevant evidence; and (3) he is entitled to a new trial based on the newly discovered evidence of codefendant Cheeks’ testimony at co-defendant Shelton’s trial. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 04/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Marilda Evon Green
E2018-01287-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

The Defendant, Marilda Evon Green, appeals from the Jefferson and Grainger County Circuit Courts’ orders revoking her probation based upon her guilty plea to a separate charge of aggravated statutory rape and reinstating her effective six-year sentence. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by requiring her to serve the balance of her sentence in custody and subsequently denying her motions to reduce the sentence and petitions for early release. Following our review, we affirm.

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Kendall Allison Clark
E2019-00515-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex Pearson

The Defendant, Kendall Allison Clark, pleaded guilty in the Criminal Court for Hamblen County to driving under the influence (DUI), a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. § 55- 10-401 (2018). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months, twenty-nine days suspended to probation after forty-eight hours in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant presents a certified question of law regarding the legality of the traffic stop. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamblen County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/20
Vickie S. Young, Individually and as Administrator of the Estate of Randall Josh Young, Deceased v. Frist Cardiology, PLLC ET AL.
M2019-00316-SC-R11-CV
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joseph P. Binkley, Jr.

We granted review to determine whether a doctor is qualified to testify in a health care liability case as an expert witness under Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26- 115(b) when the doctor was not licensed to practice medicine in Tennessee or a contiguous state within one year of the alleged injury or wrongful conduct, but was practicing under a licensure exemption. Section 29-26-115(b) provides that a doctor is competent to testify as an expert witness only if the doctor is licensed to practice medicine in Tennessee or a contiguous state and the doctor was practicing medicine in Tennessee or a contiguous state during the year before the date of the alleged injury or wrongful conduct. We hold that under Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-115(b), a doctor, who was permitted to practice medicine in Tennessee under a statutory licensure exemption but was not licensed to practice medicine in Tennessee or a contiguous state during the year before the date of the alleged injury or wrongful conduct, does not meet the requirements of section 29-26-115(b) to testify as an expert witness in a health care liability action. We reverse and remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Davidson County Supreme Court 04/20/20