Court Opinions

Format: 01/25/2020
Format: 01/25/2020
Anthony Todd Ghormley v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01625-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Don Ash

The Petitioner, Anthony Todd Ghormley, appeals the Blount County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of two counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of especially aggravated burglary, and three counts of aggravated assault and resulting effective sentence of one hundred five years. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel and that the trial court was impermissibly biased against him. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Justin Ryan Johnson, Alias
E2018-01457-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

Following a revocation hearing, the trial court revoked the probation of Defendant, Justin Ryan Johnson, and ordered confinement for his remaining sentence. On appeal, Defendant alleges the trial court abused its discretion and requests the revocation be reversed and his sentence be returned to enhanced probation. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Donald Lee Shields, Jr.
M2019-00344-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Larry B. Stanley, Jr.

After a trial, a Warren County jury found Defendant, Donald Lee Shields, Jr., guilty of three counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of attempted aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced Defendant as a Range I standard offender to an effective sentence of eighteen years. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/15/19
Mihir Kishorchandra Patel v. Janki Anil Patel
W2018-00820-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

The parties divorced after a thirteen year marriage in which the family was initially solely supported by Wife’s $40,000.00 per year income, but ending with Husband earning approximately $850,000.00 per year. The trial court found that long-term alimony was appropriate given Wife’s contribution to Husband’s earning capacity, her inability to achieve his earning capacity despite her efforts at education, and the parties’ relatively high standard of living during the marriage. Both parties take issue with the trial court’s alimony award. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court in all respects.

Madison County Court of Appeals 11/15/19
John Simmons v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00520-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris B. Craft

The Petitioner, John Simmons, pleaded guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and alleging prosecutorial misconduct. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. The Petitioner appeals the denial, maintaining that he received ineffective representation in violation of his constitutional right to counsel. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Johnson
W2018-01222-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lee V. Coffee

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Brandon Johnson, was convicted of premeditated first-degree murder and unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, for which he received an effective sentence of life plus ten years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred by failing to suppress three lineup identifications that were unduly suggestive; (2) the trial court erred by refusing to sever the unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon offense from the first-degree murder count, thereby preventing him from receiving a fair trial; and (3) the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Following our review, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Todd Fawver
E2018-01062-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven Wayne Sword

The Appellant, Todd Fawver, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation and denial of his motion to reduce his sentence, arguing that his violation was merely “technical” and that he should have been given a second chance at alternative sentencing. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/19
John Thomas Ammons v. William C. Longworth, Et Al.
E2018-01004-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge John McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael W. Moyers

This appeal involves many attempts to secure repayment of a loan. After the most recent hearing, the trial court denied the plaintiff’s request to revisit the prior rulings. We affirm as modified.

Knox County Court of Appeals 11/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Shelby Isaac - Concur
W2018-00871-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

I concur with the majority opinion, but am writing separately in order to explain my analysis of why the evidence is sufficient beyond a reasonable doubt to sustain Defendant’s conviction for criminally negligent homicide of the unborn child of Ms. Thomas. I must admit that initially I was skeptical that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction in light of the specific facts of this case as they applied to the statutory definition of “criminal negligence” set forth in T.C.A. § 39-11-106(a)(5) (Supp. 2019).

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Shelby Isaac
W2018-00871-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

Defendant, Shelby Isaac, was convicted of two counts of second degree murder, one count of reckless homicide, and one count of criminally negligent homicide after a jury found her guilty of killing three victims. The trial court sentenced Defendant to a total effective sentence of thirty years. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting her convictions, the admission of a photograph of an opened uterus, the admission of a witness’s gang affiliation, the admission of a witness’s jail phone call as a prior consistent statement, the admission of a photograph of Defendant standing next to a man making a hand gesture that Defendant claims is a gang sign, the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion for a continuance, the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion for mistrial, the propriety of the prosecutor’s rebuttal closing argument, and the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentencing. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Bobby Lewis Parks
W2018-01752-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Defendant, Bobby Lewis Parks, pled guilty to possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver. Pursuant to the plea agreement, Defendant attempted to reserve a certified question of law regarding the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress evidence found pursuant to a search warrant. Additionally, Defendant challenges the trial court’s imposition of a thirty-year sentence. Based upon our review of the record, we conclude that Defendant failed to properly preserve his certified question of law and dismiss that portion of his appeal. In all other respects, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Denton Jones
E2017-00535-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

The State charged the Defendant, Denton Jones, with five separate misdemeanor thefts aggregated into a single felony count pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-105(b)(1) (2014) which provides that “[i]n a prosecution for theft of property, . . . the state may charge multiple criminal acts committed against one (1) or more victims as a single count if the criminal acts arise from a common scheme, purpose, intent or enterprise.”  The Defendant proceeded to trial, and the jury convicted him as charged.  The jury aggregated the values of the separate misdemeanor thefts as totaling more than $1,000 but less than $10,000.  Accordingly, the Defendant was convicted of a Class D felony.[1]  The Defendant appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment.  We granted the Defendant’s application for permission to appeal in order to determine whether the separate misdemeanor thefts were properly aggregated into a single felony charge and whether the evidence sufficiently established that the separate thefts arose from a common scheme, purpose, intent, or enterprise.  Answering both of these questions in the affirmative, we affirm the Defendant’s conviction.

Knox County Supreme Court 11/13/19
In Re Estate of James Ronald Hunter
M2019-00084-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge David Randall Kennedy

The issue on appeal is whether a codicil to the decedent’s will was effective to revoke or amend two revocable trusts. Just hours prior to his death, the decedent got married and executed a fifth codicil to his will that purportedly devised two residential properties to his new wife. However, the decedent previously conveyed the properties to revocable trusts by deeds that were properly recorded. Therefore, the decedent did not own either of the properties at the time of his death. The principal beneficiary of each trust was the decedent’s minor son from a previous marriage. After the will and five codicils were admitted to probate, the court-appointed guardian ad litem for the decedent’s minor child filed a motion in the probate court to determine the ownership of the two properties. Following briefing of the parties and a hearing, the probate court determined that the method for amendment or revocation of the trusts as specified in the trusts was the exclusive method, and the fifth codicil failed to substantially comply with the method required by the trusts. Therefore, acting pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 35-15-602(c), which does not allow a codicil or any other method to revoke or amend a revocable trust if the terms provide an exclusive method, the court ruled that the codicil was ineffective to amend or revoke either trust. Accordingly, the properties were owned by and remained subject to the terms of each trust. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/13/19
In Re Travis R.
E2019-01024-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Frank G. Clement Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Dennis Roach II

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed this petition to terminate the parental rights of a father to his seven-year-old son. The father was incarcerated for most of the child’s life, and he was serving a three-year sentence in New Jersey at the time of the final hearing. The mother surrendered her parental rights after the child was found dependent and neglected and placed in foster care. Although the father was scheduled to be released from prison, he had not seen the child in over five years. The trial court found that the father had abandoned the child by failing to visit during the four months before his incarceration and exhibiting a wanton disregard for the child’s welfare by engaging in criminal behavior. The trial court also found that the father’s conduct during the child’s life failed to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody and that placing the child in the father’s custody would pose a risk of substantial harm to the child. Moreover, the court found that terminating the father’s rights would be in the child’s best interests because there was no substantial relationship, and the father had no plans for employment or housing after his release. The father contends that the trial court’s findings did not constitute clear and convincing evidence that termination of his rights was in the child’s best interests. We find the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings of fact and affirm its conclusion that DCS proved its case by clear and convincing evidence.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 11/13/19
Randy B. Dalton v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01827-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge James L. Gass

In 2016, the Petitioner, Randy B. Dalton, pleaded guilty to offenses contained in three indictments: aggravated robbery, theft of a vehicle valued at more than $1,000, escape from a penal institution, harvesting ginseng out of season, and harvesting ginseng out of season with less than three prongs. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the trial court imposed partial consecutive sentencing with a total effective sentence of eighteen years of confinement. In 2017, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel. Following a hearing, the postconviction court denied the petition. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/19
Anthony C. Howell v. Noel Ruth Kail Howell
W2019-00061-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Robert Samual Weiss

In this divorce case, Husband/Appellant appeals the trial court’s award of $30,000 in alimony in solido to Wife and its award of $30,000 for Wife’s attorney’s fees as additional alimony in solido. Discerning no errors, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/13/19
Rodney Kilgore v State of Tennessee
E2018-01790-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: William A. Young, Commissioner

This appeal arose from a claim filed with the Tennessee Claims Commission against the State of Tennessee (“the State”), seeking an award of damages for defamation allegedly committed by two attorneys employed by the State during the course of a separate federal litigation involving the claimant. The State filed a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and the claimant filed, inter alia, a response objecting to the motion. Following a hearing, the Claims Commission dismissed the claim upon finding that the litigation privilege applied to protect the statements at issue and that the statements were not defamatory. The claimant has appealed. Having determined that the litigation privilege applies, we affirm.

Court of Appeals 11/13/19
MSM Development, LLC v. William Steward et al.
E2019-00441-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Andy D. Bennett
Trial Court Judge: Judge Frank V. Williams, III

A commercial tenant transferred its interest in a lease to two individuals through a document called an assignment. The rental term set forth in the lease was fourteen months longer than the rental term set forth in the assignment. The transferees only paid rent for the term set forth in the assignment, and the landlord filed a complaint in an effort to collect the rent for the additional fourteen months. The trial court concluded that the document transferring the initial tenant’s interest was a sublease rather than an assignment because the term in the assignment was shorter than the term set forth in the lease. The transferor appealed, and we reverse the trial court’s judgment because the assignment specified that in the event of a conflict between the lease and the assignment, the lease controlled.

Roane County Court of Appeals 11/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Richard Earnest Williams
M2018-01361-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas T. Woodall
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

Defendant, Richard Earnest Williams, entered open pleas of guilty to the charges in three separate indictments. He pled guilty to three counts of aggravated burglary, a Class C felony, four counts of theft over $10,000, a Class C felony, two counts of theft more than $2,500 but less than $10,000, a Class D felony, three counts of vandalism, a Class E felony, and one count of reckless aggravated assault, a Class D felony. In Case No. 17-CR-145, the trial court imposed a sentence of fifteen years as a persistent offender for aggravated burglary, fifteen years as a persistent offender for each count of theft over $10,000, and twelve years as a career offender for vandalism, and twelve years as a career offender for reckless aggravated assault. In Case No. 17-CR-146, the trial court imposed a sentence of fifteen years for aggravated burglary as a persistent offender, twelve years for each count of theft more than $2,500 but less than $10,000 as a career offender, and six years for vandalism as a career offender. In Case No. 17-CR-147, the trial court imposed a sentence of fifteen years as a persistent offender for aggravated burglary, twelve years as a career offender for each count of theft more than $2,500 but less than $10,000, and six years as a career offender for vandalism. The trial court merged the two theft convictions in each case into one count because they involved alternate theories of committing the offense. The trial court ordered the counts in each case to run concurrently with each other but consecutively to the other cases for an effective forty-five-year sentence to be served in confinement. On appeal, Defendant challenges the length of his sentences. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/19
Johnathan Robert Leonard v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01737-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Franklin L. Russell

The Defendant, Johnathan Robert Leonard, was convicted of three counts of rape of a child, two counts of soliciting sexual exploitation of a minor, and one count of aggravated sexual battery and was sentenced to an effective term of ninety-six years. After this court affirmed the judgments on direct appeal, the Defendant sought post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. The post-conviction court granted the Defendant a delayed appeal to allow him to challenge his sentence. In this delayed appeal, the Defendant challenges the length of his sentence for each conviction and the trial court’s imposition of partial consecutive sentences. We conclude that counsel was not ineffective in failing to challenge the Defendant’s sentence in his direct appeal and that the post-conviction court, therefore, erred in granting the delayed appeal. Accordingly, we vacate the post-conviction court’s order and remand for further proceedings.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/19
State of Tennessee v. Walter Roy Chavez, Jr.
M2018-01491-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Forest A. Durard, Jr.

A Lincoln County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Walter Roy Chavez, Jr., of possession of one-half gram or more of methamphetamine with intent to resell, possession of one-half gram or more of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, simple possession of marijuana, and driving on a revoked license. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court merged the convictions of possession of methamphetamine and ordered that he serve an effective twelve years in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions of possession of methamphetamine and that the trial court erred by ordering an excessive sentence and by denying his request for alternative sentencing. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/19
In Re B.A., et al.
W2019-00129-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Charles D. Susano, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Martha B. Brasfield

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights to two children, B.A. and K.A. The trial court considered six grounds for termination: (1) persistent conditions, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(3)(A); (2) severe child abuse, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(4); (3) sentencing to more than two years for conduct against a child, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(5); (4) sentencing to ten years or more and child under eight years of age, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(6); (5) non-compliance with a permanency plan, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(2); and (6) abandonment, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(1). The court did not find sufficient evidence to support termination of father’s parental rights for abandonment. The court found clear and convincing evidence on the other five grounds. By the same quantum of proof, the court also found that termination is in the children’s best interest. Father appeals. We affirm.

McNairy County Court of Appeals 11/12/19
State of Tennessee v. Michael L. Caudle
M2018-01471-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

In this delayed appeal, the Defendant, Michael L. Caudle, appeals his convictions for two counts of the sale of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine within a drug-free school zone, two counts of the delivery of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine within a drug-free school zone, and one count of possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine within a drug-free school zone with the intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver, for which he received an effective sixty-year sentence as a career offender. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We conclude that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to grant the delayed appeal. Therefore, we dismiss the delayed appeal.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/19
Christopher Jones v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00053-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

Petitioner, Christopher Stephen Jones, was convicted by a jury of first degree murder and abuse of a corpse, for which he received a life sentence. His convictions were affirmed on direct appeal by this Court. State v. Christopher Jones, No. W2015-01028-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 192146, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 17, 2017), no perm. app. filed. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied relief after a hearing. Petitioner appealed. After a review, we dismiss the appeal.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Quinterrio Murrell
W2019-00315-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Defendant, Quinterrio Murrell, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his probation, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering that he serve his four-year sentence in confinement. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19