Court Opinions

Format: 08/05/2020
Format: 08/05/2020
Pedro Ignacio Hernandez v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01305-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Petitioner, Pedro Ignacio Hernandez, appeals the post-conviction court’s summary dismissal of his post-conviction petition without a hearing to determine whether due process dictates the tolling of the statute of limitations. The State concedes that the
post-conviction court erred in dismissing the petition without a hearing to address the Petitioner’s tolling argument. We agree. We reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand for appointment of counsel and a hearing to determine whether the Petitioner is entitled to due process tolling of the statute of limitations.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/20
Geneva Jessica Day v. Beaver Hollow L.P., Et Al.
E2019-01266-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jean A. Stanley

This appeal concerns a jury verdict in a slip and fall case. Geneva Jessica Day (“Plaintiff”), a resident of Beaver Hollow Apartments (“the Apartments”), sued Beaver Hollow L.P. (“BHLP”), which owned the Apartments, as well as Olympia Management, Inc. (“Olympia”) (“Defendants,” collectively), the entity BHLP contracted with to manage the Apartments, in the Circuit Court for Washington County (“the Trial Court”). Plaintiff was injured when she slipped on ice and snow in the Apartments’ parking lot. The jury allocated 49% of the fault to Plaintiff, 50% to Olympia, and 1% to BHLP. Defendants appeal. Defendants argue, among other things, that no material evidence supports the jury’s allocation of fault to BHLP. After a careful review of the record, we find no material evidence to support the jury’s verdict regarding BHLP, which exercised no actual control of the premises whatsoever. The Trial Court erred in denying Defendants’ motion for a directed verdict with respect to BHLP. As we may not reallocate fault, we vacate the judgment of the Trial Court, and remand for a new trial.

Washington County Court of Appeals 06/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Jeremy Reynolds
E2018-01732-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas
Trial Court Judge: Judge Barry A. Steelman

The Defendant, Jeremy Reynolds, appeals his Hamilton County Criminal Court jury conviction for first degree premeditated murder. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202. On appeal, the Defendant argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court erred by admitting evidence that the Defendant and other individuals were gang members in violation of Tennessee Rules of Evidence 403 and 404(b); (3) exculpatory evidence, namely the victim’s gunshot residue test and a photograph referenced by the gang report, were improperly withheld by the State; (4) the trial court erred by failing to compel the State to produce the above-referenced gunshot residue test and photograph; and (5) the cumulative effect of these errors deprived the Defendant of a fair trial. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we conclude that the evidence is insufficient relevant to premeditation and that some of the evidence relative to gangs was improperly admitted. We remand for a new trial on one count of second degree murder, in which some gang evidence shall be excluded.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Michael Wright
M2019-00082-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

In a sealed indictment, the Defendant-Appellant, Michael Wright, was charged by a Davidson County grand jury with alternative counts of first-degree premeditated murder and murder in the perpetration of or attempt to perpetrate a robbery of Gregory “Pee Wee” Johnson (counts one and two), and first-degree premeditated murder of Daresha Cole (count three). A petite jury convicted the Defendant as charged of felony murder in count one and first-degree premeditated murder in count three, for which he received consecutive sentences of life imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant raises the following issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to dismiss based on a violation of the Interstate Compact on Detainers (ICD); (2) whether the trial court erred in denying the Defendant’s motion to sever offenses; (3) whether the trial court erred in admitting the Defendant’s social media posts; (4) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain the Defendant’s convictions; and (5) whether the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Jimmy M. Cruse
W2019-01331-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

A Madison County jury convicted the defendant, Jimmy M. Cruse, of driving under the influence (“DUI”), third offense. The trial court imposed a sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days in the Madison County Jail. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Eric Bernard Howard
M2019-01900-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

Eric Bernard Howard, Movant, filed a pro se “Motion to Correct Judgment Pursuant to Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure 36.1” (the Rule 36.1 Motion). The trial court found that the Rule 36.1 Motion failed to state a colorable claim and summarily denied the Rule 36.1 Motion. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/22/20
Reginald McWilliams v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00935-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Petitioner, Reginald McWilliams, acting pro se, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief for failure to prosecute on the part of the Petitioner. Because the record does not establish an abuse of process, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand this matter for proceedings consistent with this opinion

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/19/20
Christopher Bailey v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00678-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

Petitioner, Christopher Bailey, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Following a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of one count of rape of child and sentenced to twenty-five years at one-hundred percent. Petitioner contends on appeal that the
post-conviction court erred in denying the petition for post-conviction relief because he was denied effective assistance of counsel. He contends that trial counsel was ineffective for (1) failing to file a pre-trial motion in limine; (2) failing to object when the State asked the victim to testify about other times in which Petitioner forced the victim to perform oral sex; (3) asking the victim’s stepsister about her opinion of Petitioner’s character for truthfulness; (4) asking the victim why she slept downstairs; (5) failing to object when the State asked the victim about counseling and her medication; and (6) failing to argue during the Rule 412 hearing that Petitioner should be permitted to introduce evidence concerning the victim’s prior sexual behavior. Petitioner further argues: that the cumulative effect of trial counsel’s errors warrants post-conviction relief; that the post-conviction court erred in denying Petitioner’s request for funding for an investigator; and that the post-conviction court erred in denying Petitioner’s request to call the prosecutor as a witness at the post-conviction hearing. Following a review of the briefs and the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/19/20
Cuben Lagrone v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01825-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

The petitioner, Cuben Lagrone, 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. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/19/20
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Lester Haven
W2018-01204-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge:

The Defendant, Joseph Lester Haven, was convicted pursuant to a bench trial of rape of a child and two counts of aggravated sexual battery for crimes committed against his stepchildren, and he received an effective forty-year sentence. On appeal, he asserts that the State failed to establish venue, that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdicts, that the State improperly failed to elect the factual bases of the convictions, that the trial court improperly considered evidence of other bad acts included in the forensic interviews, that the forensic interviewer was not qualified under statute, and that the trial court erred in applying enhancement factors to his offenses. Upon a review of the record, we conclude that the State failed to establish venue for the aggravated sexual battery conviction in Count 4, and we reverse this conviction and sentence and remand for any further proceedings. The Defendant has not demonstrated that he is entitled to any other appellate relief, and we affirm the remaining judgments of the trial court.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/19/20
State of Tennessee v. Samuel O. McAlister
W2019-00660-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Defendant, Samuel McAlister, entered a partially open guilty plea in case number 18-501 for possession of marijuana, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and possession of drug paraphernalia; and in case number 18-956, for driving on a revoked license, failing to illuminate his license plate, and violation of the financial responsibility law. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to a total effective sentence of five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the trial court abused its discretion by denying his request for alternative sentencing. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/19/20
State of Tennessee v. Mario Johnson
W2019-00934-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Alan E. Glenn
Trial Court Judge: Judge W. Mark Ward

The Appellant, Mario Johnson, appeals the trial court’s summary 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.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/19/20
Ski Chalet Village Owners Club, Inc. v. Richard Pate Et Al.
E2019-00982-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert E. Lee Davies

Following a jury trial in the underlying contract action and upon a verdict finding misrepresentation/concealment, the trial court entered a monetary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, Ski Chalet Village Owners Club, Inc. (“Ski Chalet”), and against the defendants, Richard Pate and Clint Bowman d/b/a P&B Construction & Remodeling, and J. Ron Dillmon, jointly and severally, in the amount of $166,401.26 for compensatory damages plus $190,000.00 in punitive damages.1 The trial court also awarded to Ski Chalet a $1,000.00 judgment against Mr. Dillmon on a separate claim of defamation. Upon Mr. Dillmon’s subsequent pro se motion, the trial court denied his request for a new trial, finding, inter alia, that Mr. Dillmon had failed to meet his burden of providing a valid excuse for his failure to appear at trial, failed to file any pleadings stating the reason for his failure to appear, and refused to testify under oath when given an opportunity to explain his failure to appear. In addition, the trial court found that an affidavit executed by a physician who had treated Mr. Dillmon, which Mr. Dillmon had filed with his motion for a new trial, did not sufficiently support a valid reason for Mr. Dillmon’s failure to appear. The trial court subsequently denied a motion filed by Mr. Dillmon for production of the trial transcript. Concerning a motion for the trial court judge’s recusal and a motion for contempt against opposing counsel filed by Mr. Dillmon after he had filed a notice of appeal, the trial court entered an order finding that it did not have subject matter jurisdiction to consider either motion. Mr. Dillmon has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm. Upon an issue raised by Ski Chalet, we decline to find the appeal frivolous and deny Ski Chalet’s request for attorney’s fees and expenses on appeal.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 06/19/20
State of Tennessee v. Adonis Reynolds
E2019-01165-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Appellant, Adonis Reynolds, pled guilty in the Knox County Criminal Court to two counts of burglary of a vehicle, one count of fraudulent use of a credit card, two counts of theft, and one count of evading arrest. Pursuant to the plea agreement, he received an effective three-year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). The trial court granted the Appellant judicial diversion and placed him on supervised probation for three years. Subsequently, the trial court revoked his probation and his judicial diversion and ordered that he serve his effective three-year sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his probation and judicial diversion. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/19/20
Kenneth K. Altom, Jr. Et Al. v. Capital Resorts Group, LLC Et Al.
E2019-00739-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor John F. Weaver

This is an appeal from an order denying the defendants’ motions seeking to compel the parties to participate in mandatory arbitration. The trial court denied the motions to compel arbitration with respect to “the issue of the unconscionability of the precise agreement to arbitrate or delegation to arbitration” and “the issue of cancellation of the purchase agreements,” finding that such issues presented questions for the court rather than an arbitrator. The trial court also determined that the defendants had not waived their right to arbitration. The defendants timely appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Knox County Court of Appeals 06/19/20
State of Tennessee v. Charles Bernard Griffin
E2019-00969-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Defendant, Charles Bernard Griffin, appeals his convictions for especially aggravated robbery and possession of a firearm while having a prior felony conviction involving the use or attempted use of force, violence, or a deadly weapon, for which he received an effective sentence of seventy-five years as a career offender. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and the trial court’s denial of his motion to bifurcate the trial. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/19/20
State of Tennessee v. Samantha Darlene Brewer
E2019-01361-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy M. Harrington

Following a revocation hearing, the trial court revoked the probation of Defendant, Samantha Darlene Brewer, and ordered confinement for her sentence. On appeal, Defendant alleges the trial court abused its discretion and requests split confinement and furlough to substance abuse and mental health treatment courses. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/18/20
In Re Johnathan T. Et Al.
E2019-01398-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amanda Sammons

Jodie T. (“Mother”) appeals the termination of her parental rights to the minor children, Johnathan T., Jaylynn T., Jayla T., Johnna T., and Jaydan T. (collectively, “the Children”). In January 2019, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition to terminate Mother’s rights to the Children in the Campbell County Juvenile Court (“Juvenile Court”). Following a hearing in June 2019, the Juvenile Court terminated Mother’s parental rights after finding that DCS had proven the statutory ground of substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans and that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the Children’s best interest. Mother timely appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 06/18/20
State of Tennessee v. Juan Ramon Chaves-Abrego
M2018-01880-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

A Maury County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Juan Ramon Chaves-Abrego, of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and the trial court sentenced him to thirty years to be served at one hundred percent. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction, that the admission of the victim’s forensic interview into evidence violated his right to confrontation, that the trial court erred by allowing proof of other bad acts, that cumulative error requires reversal of his conviction, and that his sentence is excessive. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction, that the Appellant’s sentence is not excessive, and that his remaining issues have been waived because his motion for new trial was untimely. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/18/20
State of Tennessee v. Marcus Sturghill, III
W2018-01892-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

A jury convicted Defendant, Marcus Sturghill III, of two counts of aggravated robbery, and he received an eight-year sentence. Defendant was seventeen at the time he committed the crimes, and he gave a statement to law enforcement outside the presence of his parents, confirming that he had possession of a firearm on the date of the robbery. Defendant appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress his statement to police. We conclude that the trial court did not err in admitting the statement, and we affirm the convictions.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Miller
W2019-00080-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

A Shelby County Jury found Defendant, Rodney Miller, guilty of rape of a child, aggravated statutory rape, and aggravated sexual battery. The trial court imposed a sentence of thirty-six years for rape of a child, four years for aggravated statutory rape, and ten years for aggravated sexual battery to be served consecutively in confinement. On appeal, Defendant raises the following issues: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to support his conviction for rape of a child; (2) whether the trial court properly admitted the victim’s medical history provided during her SANE examination; (3) whether the trial court properly denied Defendant’s motion for a bill of particulars; (4) whether the trial court erred by failing to merge Defendant’s conviction for aggravated sexual battery into his conviction for rape of a child; (5) whether the trial court erred by ordering consecutive sentences; and (6) cumulative error. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/17/20
Zacharious Cole v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00841-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle Atkins

The Petitioner, Zacharious Cole, appeals from the order of the Madison County Circuit Court denying post-conviction relief from his jury convictions of attempted first-degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, for which he received an effective term of twenty-six years’ imprisonment. Following an evidentiary hearing, the
post-conviction court determined that trial counsel’s advice to the Petitioner to enter a post-sentencing waiver of his right to direct appeal was deficient but not prejudicial. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief. Because the record shows that the Petitioner was denied the right to pursue a direct appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel, this matter is remanded to the trial court for entry of an order allowing the filing of a motion for new trial. See T.C.A.
§ 40-30-113(a)(3). Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is reversed, and this matter is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/17/20
Thomas Mitchell v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01092-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett

The Petitioner, Thomas Mitchell, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction for burglary, for which he is serving a ten-year, Range III sentence. He contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his ineffective assistance of counsel claims that (1) counsel failed to object and to request a mistrial when a witness testified that a police officer knew the Petitioner by name, (2) counsel failed to impeach a witness with prior inconsistent statements, (3) counsel failed to call a police officer as a witness, (4) counsel stated in closing argument that a witness had given a statement to the police in which the witness said the Petitioner entered one of the buildings from which the Petitioner was alleged to have removed wiring, (5) counsel failed to state explicitly in closing argument that the jury should consider lesser included offenses, and (6) the cumulative effect of counsel’s deficient performance in multiple instances deprived the Petitioner of the effective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/17/20
Shawn Dallas Owen v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01242-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge. D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The Petitioner, Shawn Dallas Owen, pled guilty to one count each of burglary, identity theft, credit card fraud, forgery, simple possession of marijuana, and driving on a revoked license. The Petitioner was given a total effective sentence of fourteen years to be served on supervised probation. Upon being served with a warrant alleging the Petitioner violated his probation, he subsequently filed a petition seeking post-conviction relief from his guilty plea, alleging, among other things, that trial counsel was ineffective because of the failure to properly advise the Petitioner regarding the grading of the credit card fraud offense to which he was pleading guilty. The Petitioner appeals the postconviction court’s denial of relief. Following our review, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Precious Briana Horton
M2019-00826-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

A jury convicted the Defendant, Precious Briana Horton, of two counts of aggravated robbery, and the Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of theft of property valued under $500. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to eight years of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the State exercised its preemptory challenges in a discriminatory manner; (2) the trial court erred when it excluded testimony regarding the Defendant’s mental health; (3) the trial court prohibited her from offering to the jury her pretrial, out-of-court statement; and (4) the evidence is insufficient to sustain one of her aggravated robbery convictions. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/17/20