Court Opinions

Format: 01/25/2020
Format: 01/25/2020
Hubert Glenn Sexton, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01864-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The petitioner, Hubert Glenn Sexton, Jr., appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, in which the petitioner challenged his conviction for two counts of first degree murder, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we conclude the petitioner was denied his constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury and received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court, vacate the petitioner’s convictions, and remand the case to the trial court for a new trial.

Scott County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/25/19
In Re Antonio J. Et Al.
M2019-00255-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Clara W. Byrd

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on grounds of persistence of conditions and failure to manifest a willingness and ability to assume custody. The trial court’s order is affirmed in all respects.

Trousdale County Court of Appeals 11/25/19
In Re: Jayda H.
E2019-00855-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Janice Hope Snider

This is an appeal from a termination of parental rights proceeding. The trial court found that three grounds for termination had been established against the child’s father: substantial noncompliance with the requirements of the permanency plan, persistent conditions, and failure to manifest an ability to parent. The trial court also determined that it was in the child’s best interests to terminate the father’s parental rights. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 11/25/19
Chad Ray Thompson v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01074-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

The Petitioner, Chad Ray Thompson, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury convictions for first degree premeditated murder, first degree felony murder, and facilitation of especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance at trial due to trial counsel’s (1) failure to seek funding for an investigator and adequately prepare for trial; (2) failure to call certain witnesses; and (3) failure to file any pretrial motions or object at trial to exclude evidence. He also submits that the cumulative effect of these errors deprived him of a fair trial. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/25/19
Jonathan Linkous v. Tiki Club, Inc.
E2019-00357-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge John D. McAfee

This appeal arises from a personal injury action against the defendant restaurant after the plaintiff was allegedly injured due to a slip and fall following his use of a portable restroom facility located on the defendant’s premises. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant upon finding that no genuine issue of material fact existed that would show the defendant had either actual or constructive notice of the alleged dangerous condition. In so ruling, the trial court excluded the plaintiff’s expert from testifying regarding the portable restroom facility. The plaintiff has appealed. Having determined that the trial court erred in excluding the expert witness’s testimony, we vacate and remand.

Campbell County Court of Appeals 11/22/19
In Re Estate of Margaret Owens Bush Baker
W2019-00229-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Carma Dennis McGee

In this probate action involving a testate decedent, the surviving spouse filed a petition seeking to claim an elective share in addition to homestead rights, exempt property, and year’s support. The surviving spouse later withdrew his petition for an elective share but continued to assert claims for exempt property and year’s support. The trial court denied those claims, determining that the statutory provisions governing a surviving spouse’s claims for exempt property and year’s support require that the claimant had also simultaneously elected against the decedent’s will. The surviving spouse has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Carroll County Court of Appeals 11/22/19
In Re Malik G., Et Al.
E2019-01040-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Janice Hope Snider

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother’s parental rights. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Hamblen County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Chaunte G. (“Mother”) to her three minor children, Malik, Sean and Jaslene (“the Children,” collectively). After a hearing, the Juvenile Court found that DCS had proven the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, persistent conditions, and failure to manifest a willingness and ability to assume legal and physical custody of the Children, all by clear and convincing evidence. The Juvenile Court found also that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. Mother appeals to this Court, arguing mainly that terminating her parental rights is not in the Children’s best interest because she completed a number of her permanency plan tasks after the petition was filed. First, save for the ground of abandonment by failure to visit, which we reverse, we affirm the grounds for termination found by the Juvenile Court. As for the Children’s best interest, despite Mother’s tardy completion of some of her permanency plan tasks, the evidence nevertheless proves that it is unlikely she can safely parent the Children any time soon. Applying the standard of clear and convincing evidence, we find that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. While we reverse one ground for termination, we otherwise affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court terminating Mother’s parental rights to the Children.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 11/21/19
Penney Mosley, et al. v. City of Memphis, et al.
W2019-00199-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Jim Kyle

This matter concerns judicial review of a motion to disqualify a city attorney and/or the entire Memphis City Attorney’s Office from appearing in administrative cases pending before the Memphis Civil Service Commission between May 18, 2015 and September 29, 2017. Appellants argue that an assistant city attorney created a conflict of interest for herself and/or the entire office after she filed a notice of appearance claiming she represented the civil service commission in a separate case appealed to Chancery Court. Appellees argue that, even if the notice of appearance created a representation, state statutes and case law would permit the representation. The Civil Service Commission denied the Appellants’ motion, and the Shelby County Chancery Court affirmed the Commission’s decision. After applying the review standards outlined in the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, we affirm the ruling of the Chancery Court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/21/19
State of Tennessee v. Angela Carrie Payton Hamm and David Lee Hamm - Dissenting
W2016-01282-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

I respectfully dissent from the majority’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the warrantless and suspicionless search of Angela Payton Hamm’s home. In so holding, the majority erroneously equates the privacy interests of probationers and parolees despite statements by the United States Supreme Court and this Court that probationers have greater expectations of privacy than parolees. Samson v. California, 547 U.S. 843, 850 (2006); State v. Stanfield, 554 S.W.3d 1, 10 (Tenn. 2018); State v. Turner, 297 S.W.3d 155, 162 (Tenn. 2009). I would hold that the state and federal constitutional safeguards against unreasonable searches and seizures require law enforcement officers to establish reasonable suspicion for a warrantless search of a probationer. Here, as the courts below concluded, the State failed to establish reasonable suspicion for the search. Accordingly, I would hold that the search violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution and affirm the Court of Criminal Appeals’ judgment upholding the trial court’s decisions granting the defendant’s motion to suppress and dismissing the indictments.  

Obion County Supreme Court 11/21/19
State of Tennessee v. Angela Carrie Payton Hamm and David Lee Hamm - Dissenting
W2016-01282-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Sharon G. Lee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

One afternoon in November 2015, while David and Angela Hamm were not at home, four law enforcement officers entered and conducted a search of their home. The officers had neither a warrant nor reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Ms. Hamm was on probation; the officers used her probationary status to justify the intrusive home search. The majority’s decision to uphold this unreasonable search deprives Ms. Hamm and her husband of their rights to be free from unreasonable searches under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, section 7 of the Tennessee Constitution. The majority’s decision also casts a cloud over the lives of more than 65,000 Tennessee probationers and thousands of citizens living with probationers, all of whom are at risk of having their homes searched by law enforcement lacking reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. 

Obion County Supreme Court 11/21/19
State of Tennessee v. Angela Carrie Payton Hamm and David Lee Hamm
W2016-01282-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jeff Parham

The Obion County Drug Task Force conducted a warrantless search of the residence of probationer Angela Hamm and her husband, David Hamm, which yielded illegal drugs and drug-related contraband.  Defendant Angela Hamm had agreed, pursuant to probation conditions imposed in a prior case, to a warrantless search of her person, property, or vehicle at any time.  We granted the State’s appeal in this case to consider whether the warrantless search of a probationer’s residence who is subject to a search condition requires officers to have reasonable suspicion of illegal activity prior to conducting the search.  We conclude that it does not and therefore reverse the trial court’s judgment and the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision affirming the same.

Obion County Supreme Court 11/21/19
Daniel G. Carr v. State of Tennessee - Concurring/Dissenting
M2017-01389-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody Kane

I concur with the majority’s conclusions to reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and to remand this case for consideration of whether due process requires tolling of the one-year statute of limitations and, if so, whether the Petitioner is entitled to
post-conviction relief. However, I respectfully disagree with the majority’s conclusion that the Petitioner is entitled to habeas corpus relief.

Macon County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/19
Daniel G. Carr v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01389-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brody Kane

In this consolidated appeal, the Petitioner, Daniel G. Carr, appeals the Macon County Circuit Court’s dismissals of his petitions for post-conviction and habeas corpus relief from his 1999 convictions for rape, attempted rape, aggravated sexual battery, statutory rape, and two counts of sexual battery and his effective ten-year sentence. He contends that the court erred in denying post-conviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing and that the court erred by denying habeas corpus relief because the court lacked jurisdiction to amend the judgments. Because the Petitioner had completed his term of imprisonment prior to entry of the amended judgments, we agree with the Petitioner, and conclude that the court was without jurisdiction to enter the amended judgments. We reverse and vacate the court’s judgment relative to the habeas corpus claim, and we remand this matter with instructions to grant habeas corpus relief. In the event of further review, we also conclude that the court erred in dismissing the Petitioner’s post-conviction petition without a hearing, and we remand this case for consideration of whether due process requires tolling the post-conviction statute of limitations and, if so, whether the Petitioner is entitled to post-conviction relief.

Macon County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/21/19
Rodney Jennings v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00343-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Thomas C. Greenholtz

The petitioner, Rodney Jennings, 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.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Billy McCarty Amyx
E2018-01733-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex Pearson

A Hawkins County jury convicted the Defendant, Billy McCarty Amyx, of filing a false report and fabricating evidence, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of six years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Defendant appeals, asserting that the evidence does not support his convictions and that the trial court abused its discretion when it ordered him to serve six years. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/19
Anthony Arrington v. Barbara Bryant Et Al.
E2018-02165-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Douglas T. Jenkins

This case involves a dispute between siblings, named as co-executors of their mother’s estate. Anthony Arrington (plaintiff) brought this action against his sister Barbara Bryant, alleging she engaged in “self-dealing, fraud, theft, and conversion” of the assets of their late mother, Nuffie Arrington (decedent). Ms. Bryant responded by alleging that the parties had mediated their dispute and entered into a settlement agreement disposing of all issues between them. She presented the settlement agreement and two checks she wrote to plaintiff in accordance with the agreement. The plaintiff had cashed the checks. Ms. Bryant asserted the defense of accord and satisfaction. Plaintiff admitted entering into the agreement, but argued that it should be rescinded because of fraudulent inducement and concealment. Ms. Bryant died while the action was pending in the trial court. Her children, Rachel Bryant Ramsey and Nathan Bryant (defendants) were substituted for her. The trial court granted summary judgment for defendants, finding the settlement agreement valid and enforceable. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Greene County Court of Appeals 11/20/19
Ruby Diane Barron v. Bruce Joseph Barron
E2018-02257-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Pamela Fleenor

Wife filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. The trial court granted husband a divorce on the grounds of wife’s adultery and other inappropriate marital conduct. Despite the many factors found by the trial court to be favorable to husband, the court awarded husband only 43% of the net marital estate. It also awarded husband one year of transitional alimony at $2,000 per month. We hold that the trial court erred in its division of the net marital assets and in its determination as to the duration of the transitional alimony awarded to husband. We modify the trial court’s judgment so as to provide husband five years of transitional alimony. We hold that the Roth IRA is a marital asset; it is awarded to husband and wife in equal share. Furthermore, we hold that the FERS pension account is to be divided between the parties as set forth in this opinion. As modified, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Douglas Marshall Mathis
M2019-00279-CCA-R3-CO
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry Wallace

Petitioner, Douglas Marshall Mathis, appeals the denial of both his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 and his motion to withdraw his original, pro se petition for post-conviction relief, which was granted in 2001. Because Petitioner failed to state a colorable claim for relief and because the life sentence imposed for his first degree murder conviction is legal, we affirm the denial of his Rule 36.1 motion. Because Petitioner’s original petition for post-conviction relief was heard and granted nearly two decades ago, we affirm the denial of Petitioner’s motion to withdraw that petition.

Houston County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Omari Shakir Davis
M2018-01779-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Cheryl A. Blackburn

In this delayed appeal, the defendant, Omari Shakir Davis, challenges the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of alternative sentencing for his guilty-pleaded conviction of possession with intent to sell or deliver 15 grams or more of a substance containing heroin. The State contends that this appeal should be dismissed as untimely. Our review of the record indicates that the defendant’s notice of appeal was untimely. Because the interests of justice do not support our waiving the timely filing requirement, this appeal is dismissed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Randy Milligan
W2019-00377-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

Randy Milligan (“Defendant”) pled guilty, as a Range III persistent offender, to delivery of a Schedule III controlled substance, a Class D felony. At a subsequent hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to eleven years, with a forty-five percent release eligibility, to serve in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by denying Defendant’s request for a suspended sentence. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

McNairy County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/19/19
State of Tennessee v. Darius Deshun Mitchell
W2018-01364-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Joe H. Walker, III

The Defendant, Darius Deshun Mitchell, was convicted by a Lauderdale County Circuit Court jury of two counts of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of first degree felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202 (2014) (subsequently amended) (first degree murder), 39-13-403 (2018) (especially aggravated robbery), 39-17-1307(b)(1)(B) (2010)(subsequently amended) (possession of a weapon by a person who has been convicted of a felony drug offense). The trial court merged the first degree murder convictions with respect to each of the two victims into a single judgment of conviction for first degree murder as to each victim and imposed concurrent life sentences, which were to be served concurrently with a federal sentence and consecutively to a sentence for which the Defendant was on parole. The court imposed twenty-five-year sentences for each of the two especially aggravated robbery convictions and ordered that they be served concurrently with each other and to federal sentence and consecutively to the first degree murder sentences and to a sentence for which the Defendant was on parole. The court imposed a six-year sentence for the firearm conviction and ordered that it be served concurrently with a federal sentence and consecutively to the first degree murder sentences and to a sentence for which the Defendant was on parole. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/19/19
Willie Lee Hughes, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00248-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael Binkley

A Williamson County jury convicted Petitioner, Willie Lee Hughes, Jr., of aggravated robbery, for which he received a sentence of twenty-five years’ incarceration. Petitioner filed for post-conviction relief, which was denied following an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner appeals, asserting that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to: (1) explore racial bias during jury selection; (2) challenge the lack of diversity in the venire; (3) advise Petitioner of his right to allocution at sentencing; and (4) argue on appeal that the trial court erred by failing to declare a mistrial after being advised of an interaction between jurors and Petitioner’s son. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/19/19
Donald Eugene Winder, III v. Kara Elizabeth Winder
E2019-01636-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Casey Mark Stokes

This is an accelerated interlocutory appeal pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B. Wife sought the trial judge’s recusal on the ground of bias, alleging, among other things, that her husband—an attorney—appeared regularly in front of the trial judge and that the two men were friends. The trial judge’s order denied wife’s allegations and their factual basis and denied the motion to recuse. Finding no evidence of bias that would require the trial judge’s recusal under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Meigs County Court of Appeals 11/18/19
State of Tennessee v. Antonio Burkhart, Alias Antonio Markezzee Burkhart
E2018-001749-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

In two consolidated cases, the Defendant pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the sex offender registry, reserving two certified questions of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) regarding the validity of his original judgment and the validity of the reporting requirements. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/18/19
In Re Deishun M. Et Al.
E2019-00777-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert D. Philyaw

Jessica T. (“Mother”) appeals the April 3, 2019 order of the Hamilton County Juvenile Court (“Juvenile Court”) terminating her parental rights to the minor children, Deishun M. and Olivia M. (“the Children”). Upon petition of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”), the Juvenile Court terminated Mother’s rights on the statutory grounds of severe child abuse and persistent conditions. The Juvenile Court further found that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the Children. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/18/19