Court Opinions

Format: 02/15/2019
Format: 02/15/2019
Natasha Bates v. State of Tennessee
E2017-01613-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Sandra Donaghy

The Petitioner, Natasha Bates, appeals the Bradley County Criminal Court’s denial of her petition for post-conviction relief from her convictions of two counts of first degree felony murder and two counts of aggravated child neglect and resulting effective sentence of two consecutive life terms. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the trial court should have granted her motions to suppress evidence and that she received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/19
Larry Johnson v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00503-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey, Jr.

The Petitioner, Larry Johnson, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis from his 1999 conviction for first degree premeditated murder and his sentence of life imprisonment. The Petitioner contends that the court erred by denying relief. We affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/15/19
Ken Smith Auto Parts v. Michael F. Thomas
E2018-00928-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ward Jeffrey Hollingsworth

This appeal concerns whether a circuit court has jurisdiction to consider a post-trial motion once it dismisses an appeal by a defendant from general sessions court for failure to appear. Ken Smith Auto Parts (“Plaintiff”) brought an action against Michael F. Thomas (“Defendant”) in the Hamilton County General Sessions Court (“the General Sessions Court”) and prevailed. Defendant appealed to the Circuit Court for Hamilton County (“the Circuit Court”). Defendant missed trial. The Circuit Court entered an order dismissing his appeal and remanding the case to the General Sessions Court for execution of judgment. Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 59 and 60 seeking relief on the basis that he missed trial because of a traffic jam. The Circuit Court granted Defendant’s motion and vacated the order of dismissal. However, the Circuit Court later concluded that it lost jurisdiction when it dismissed Defendant’s appeal and that its subsequent order was null. Defendant appeals to this Court. We hold that the Circuit Court’s order of dismissal was subject to post-trial motion via the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Circuit Court retained jurisdiction to consider it. We hold further that the Circuit Court properly exercised its discretion to grant Defendant’s motion. We affirm, in part, and reverse, in part, the judgment of the Circuit Court, and remand for further proceedings.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 01/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Jamie C. Moore
E2018-00294-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Defendant, Jamie C. Moore, appeals his convictions for possession with intent to sell and deliver more than .5 grams of cocaine and possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony. In his appeal, he contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions under a theory of criminal responsibility because he did not benefit from the proceeds of the drug sales. After a review, we conclude that Defendant received a benefit when he received drugs for his personal use. Therefore, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand for entry of a corrected judgment document for Count Two reflecting its merger with Count One.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/19
Amir Esfandyari v. Tiny's Construction, LLC
M2018-00395-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ellen H. Lyle

This appeal follows a jury trial in which the plaintiff was awarded a judgment of $9,950 for property damage caused by a construction company while demolishing a neighboring structure. Plaintiff appeals taking issue with, inter alia, the jury’s finding that he was comparatively at fault, the amount of the award, and opposing counsel’s closing argument. Because the plaintiff failed to file a motion for a new trial in the trial court, the plaintiff has waived any issue predicated upon error in “the admission or exclusion of evidence, jury instructions granted or refused, misconduct of jurors, parties or counsel, or other action committed or occurring during the trial of the case[.]” Tenn. R. App. P. 3(e). Moreover, because the plaintiff failed to provide this court with a transcript of the evidence or a proper statement of the evidence relevant to any issue presented for review, this court is precluded from considering the issues. See State v. Ballard, 855 S.W.2d 557, 561 (Tenn. 1993). Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/14/19
In Re: Jayla H.
E2018-00735-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney, C.J.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

Tabatha H. (“Mother”) and James M. (“Father”) appeal the April 5, 2018 order of the Juvenile Court for Bradley County (“the Juvenile Court”) terminating their parental rights to the minor child, Jayla H. (“the Child”). We find and hold that the Juvenile Court did not err in finding that there was clear and convincing evidence of grounds to terminate Mother’s parental rights for abandonment by willful failure to visit pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1), and that there was clear and convincing evidence that it was in the Child’s best interest for Mother’s parental rights to be terminated. We further find and hold that the Juvenile Court did not err in finding the evidence to be clear and convincing as to grounds to terminate Father’s parental rights for failure to establish paternity pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(9), and clear and convincing that it was in the Child’s best interest for Father’s parental rights to be terminated. We, therefore, affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 01/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Jeffery Yates
W2018-00284-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Petitioner, Jeffery Yates, sought correction of a clerical error in his judgment from a 2003 conviction for aggravated robbery. After the trial court corrected the judgment, Petitioner appealed. On appeal, Petitioner alleges that the trial court was without jurisdiction to amend the judgment, that the trial court failed to find the original judgment contained a clerical error, and that the amended judgment is incomplete. We determine that the amended judgment form is incomplete because it does not specify that Petitioner is a Career Offender, and we remand the matter to the trial court for correction of the judgment form. In all other respects, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/19
Ytockie Fuller v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00518-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

The Petitioner, Ytockie Fuller, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, in which he challenged his convictions for first degree premeditated murder and possession of a firearm after a felony conviction and his effective sentence of life without the possibility of parole plus eight years. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial due to trial counsel’s failure to: (1) request a limiting instruction regarding an audio recording of the murder; (2) object to the prosecutor’s comments regarding the Petitioner’s silence following his arrest; and (3) object to the prosecutor’s statements regarding the forensic pathologist’s testimony. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/19
Lazette Sanders v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00098-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

Petitioner, Lazette Sanders, was indicted by the Hardeman County Grand Jury for one count of attempted first degree murder. Petitioner pleaded guilty to the amended charge of attempted second degree murder and received a sentence as a Range I offender of eight years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. Petitioner filed a petition seeking postconviction relief, in which she alleged that she received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that her guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied her petition. Following our review, we dismiss the appeal. The notice of appeal was not timely filed. The State noted this problem in its brief. Petitioner did not file a motion to waive the timely filing of the notice of appeal. Petitioner did not file a reply brief addressing her failure to timely file the notice of appeal. Accordingly, Petitioner has waived consideration of her issues on appeal.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/19
Reginold C. Steed v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00492-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

The Petitioner, Reginold C. Steed, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, he argues: (1) post-trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in failing to present evidence that the victim allegedly recanted his trial testimony identifying the Petitioner as the perpetrator; (2) the post-conviction court erred in failing to notify him of the date of the post-conviction hearing; and (3) the trial court erred in failing to consider the victim’s alleged recantation during sentencing. We affirm the denial of post-conviction relief. However, we remand the case for entry of a corrected judgment form in Count 2, as specified in this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/19
State of Tennessee v. Felicia Graham
E2018-00260-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Reed Duggan

The Defendant-Appellant, Felicia Graham, appeals from the revocation of her supervised probation sentence by the Blount County Circuit Court, arguing that the trial court erred in revoking her probation and ordering her to serve the remainder of her sentence in confinement. Upon review, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/19
Fraternal Order Of Police Et Al. v. Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee, Et Al.
M2018-01717-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D. Jones

The Election Commission of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee used the August 4, 2016 election as the proper election for determining the appropriate number of signatures needed on the petition to hold a referendum on whether to create a police oversight board. Certain individuals and the Fraternal Order of Police (“FOP”) disagreed and sought a writ of certiorari. The trial court agreed with the election commission and affirmed its action. The individuals and the FOP appealed. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/11/19
Gregory Webster Et Al. Ex Rel Shakia Webster v. Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County, Tennessee, Et Al.
M2018-00106-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kelvin D Jones

The parents of a kindergartener filed suit against a metropolitan government for negligence after their child injured her arm at school. The trial court granted the metropolitan government’s motion for summary judgment based upon its finding that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the metropolitan government breached a duty of care owed to the plaintiffs or that any action or inaction by a metropolitan government employee was the cause in fact or proximate cause of the child’s injuries. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/11/19
State of Tennessee v. Terrell L. Lawrence
M2018-00576-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton

Defendant, Terrell L. Lawrence, appeals the trial court’s summary dismissal of his pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we conclude that Defendant has failed to state a cognizable claim for relief, and therefore, the trial court did not err in summarily dismissing Defendant’s motion. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/10/19
Joy Littleton Et Al. v. TIS Insurance Services, Inc.
E2018-00477-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deborah C. Stevens

In this professional negligence case against an insurance agent, Appellants appeal from the trial court’s order excluding their expert’s opinion on the applicable standard of care. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and vacate in part.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/09/19
State of Tennessee v. Windall Sherell Edwards aka "Woo"
W2018-00145-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

Defendant, Windall Sherell Edwards, also known as “Woo,” was convicted by a jury of first degree murder, theft of property valued at $500 or less, and felon in possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to an effective sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Defendant appeals the judgments of the trial court, arguing that the evidence was not sufficient to prove premeditation for the first degree murder conviction. Because we conclude that the evidence was sufficient, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Taylor Satterfield
E2017-02207-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don W. Poole

The Defendant-Appellant, Taylor Satterfield, was indicted by the Hamilton County Grand Jury for first degree premediated murder, tampering with evidence, and unlawful possession of a deadly weapon. He then filed a motion to suppress his statement to police, which was denied. After the State dismissed the tampering with evidence and weapon charges, the Defendant’s case proceeded to a jury trial on the first degree murder charge, and he was convicted of the lesser included offense of second degree murder and sentenced to twenty-two years in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant argues: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statement; (2) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; and (3) he received an excessive sentence. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/19
In Re Gabriella H., Et Al.
M2018-00723-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tim Barnes

This action involves the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her minor children. Following a bench trial, the court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the statutory grounds of abandonment by an incarcerated parent and for failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, and the persistence of conditions which led to removal. The court further found that termination was in the best interest of the children. We affirm. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 01/08/19
Anna Karpovich v. Gregory Brannick
W2017-01796-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Special Judge Harold W. Horne

This appeal arises from a modification of child support. Gregory Brannick (“Father”) and Anna Karpovich (“Mother”) divorced in 2003. Father was ordered to pay $560 per month in child support for the parties’ minor son (“the Child”). In 2016, the State of Tennessee ex rel. Mother filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Shelby County (“the Juvenile Court”) to establish arrears and/or to modify child support. Following a hearing, the Juvenile Court entered an order increasing Father’s child support obligation to $1,464.17 per month. Father appeals, arguing among other things that the Juvenile Court failed to consider his actual income for purposes of modifying his child support obligation. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/08/19
In Re Johnathan M. Et. Al.
M2018-00509-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clara W. Byrd

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights. The trial court found the petitioners proved two grounds for termination, “abandonment by an incarcerated parent and exhibition of wanton disregard for the welfare of the children, prior to and during incarceration, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102.” We conclude the record contains insufficient evidence to establish that Mother failed to visit or support the children for four consecutive months immediately preceding her incarceration. However, we affirm the trial court’s determination that Mother engaged in conduct prior to incarceration that exhibited a wanton disregard for the children’s welfare. Nonetheless, we have determined that the petitioners failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the children’s best interests. Accordingly, we vacate the judgment of the trial court to terminate Mother’s parental rights.

Macon County Court of Appeals 01/08/19
Vicki L. Mobley, et al. v. State of Arkansas, et al.
W2017-02356-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Brandon O. Gibson
Trial Court Judge: Judge Felicia Corbin Johnson

This appeal involves an Arkansas plaintiff who was involved in an auto accident on a bridge between Arkansas and Tennessee with another vehicle operated by an employee of the State of Arkansas. The Arkansas plaintiff and her husband filed this personal injury suit in the circuit court of Shelby County, Tennessee, naming as defendants the State of Arkansas, the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department, and the Arkansas state employee who was operating the other vehicle. The defendants moved to dismiss on numerous grounds, including sovereign immunity and the discretionary principle of comity. The Tennessee Attorney General filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Tennessee Department of Transportation asking the trial court to extend comity to the Arkansas defendants and dismiss the action against them. After two hearings, the trial court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss on the basis of comity. Discerning no error, we affirm the decision of the circuit court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/07/19
State of Tennessee v. David Scott Hall - Dissenting
M2015-02402-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page and Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins, joins
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

I maintain that the Court of Criminal Appeals properly affirmed the defendant’s conviction for attempted especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor.

Davidson County Supreme Court 01/07/19
State of Tennessee v. David Scott Hall
M2015-02402-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Holly Kirby
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte D. Watkins

We granted permission to appeal in this case to assess the sufficiency of the evidence for a conviction for attempted especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, i.e., attempted production of child pornography, in the wake of our decision in State v. Whited, 506 S.W.3d 416 (Tenn. 2016). The defendant hid a video camera in the minor victim’s bedroom, aimed to record the area of her bedroom where she normally changed clothes. Soon after the victim returned to her bedroom, fully clothed, she noticed the camera and turned it off. Consequently, the resulting video did not depict the minor in any degree of nudity. The defendant was charged with attempted especially aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor and was convicted of that offense after a bench trial. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed, and we granted permission to appeal. On appeal, the defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that he attempted to produce material that would include a depiction of a minor in a “lascivious exhibition” of her private body areas, as required under Tennessee’s child sexual exploitation statutes and construed in Whited. We agree. The evidence presented at trial shows at most that the defendant intended to produce material that would include images of the minor victim engaged in everyday activities ordinarily performed in the nude, which were deemed insufficient in Whited to constitute a “lascivious exhibition” under Tennessee’s child sexual exploitation statutes. Consequently, we hold that the evidence, even when viewed in a light most favorable to the verdict, is insufficient to support an inference that the defendant intended to record, and believed he would record, the minor victim engaged in a lascivious exhibition of her private body areas. Accordingly, we reverse the defendant’s conviction.

Davidson County Supreme Court 01/07/19
Roland Digital Media, Inc. v. City of Livingston
M2018-00163-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

This appeal arises from the dismissal of a petition for a common law writ of certiorari in which the petitioner sought to challenge a decision of the Livingston Board of Zoning Appeals. The trial court dismissed the petition pursuant to a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(1) motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because the petition failed to name the Livingston Board of Zoning Appeals, whose decision was at issue, as a defendant as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-9-104. This appeal followed. We affirm.

Overton County Court of Appeals 01/07/19
Joletta Hinson-Bull v. State of Tennessee
E2018-00469-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Petitioner, Joletta Hinson-Bull, pleaded guilty to theft of property valued at more than $1,000, criminal impersonation, and driving on a revoked license. She agreed to be sentenced as a Range III offender to an effective sentence of ten years, to be served consecutively to her sentence from a conviction in a different county. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that her counsel was ineffective and that her guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. The post-conviction court denied the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred when it denied her post-conviction relief. After review, we affirm the postconviction court’s judgment.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/07/19