Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 01/22/2020
Format: 01/22/2020
Brandan Dane Windrow v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01911-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Brandan Dane Windrow, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions of aggravated assault and felony vandalism and resulting effective sentence of fourteen years in confinement. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/22/20
Nena Proffitt Valentine v. Fred Holt et al.
E2019-00186-COA-R3-CV

The original plaintiff filed this action to set aside a quitclaim deed and died while the case was still pending. When no motion for substitution of party was filed within 90 days of the original plaintiff’s death being suggested on the record, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The original plaintiff’s son filed a response and requested that he be substituted as the plaintiff. Finding excusable neglect, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss and allowed the original plaintiff’s son to be substituted as the plaintiff. The trial court determined that the quitclaim deed was valid and conveyed to the defendants four tracts of land but did not convey a fifth tract due to an inadequate description of the property. The defendants appealed the trial court’s decision. We affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion to dismiss, but we vacate the trial court’s decision regarding the adequacy of the property description and remand for further proceedings.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 01/22/20
Snake Steel, Inc. v. Holladay Construction Group, LLC
M2019-00322-COA-R3-CV

A subcontractor sought statutory penalties against a prime contractor based on the contractor’s failure to comply with the Prompt Pay Act’s requirement that any retainage withheld be deposited into an interest-bearing escrow account as set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. § 66-34-104(a). The prime contractor moved to dismiss the complaint, asserting that the claim was barred by the one-year statute of limitations applicable to statutory penalties, Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-3-104(a)(1)(C). The trial court granted the prime contractor’s motion and dismissed the complaint. On appeal, we hold that the discovery rule applies to this type of claim for statutory penalties under the Prompt Pay Act and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Rashan Lateef Jordan
E2018-00471-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Rashan Lateef Jordan, appeals from his conviction for the sale of more than 0.5 grams of cocaine within one thousand feet of a childcare agency. Defendant was sentenced to 15 years for his conviction. On appeal, Defendant contends: (1) that the trial court erred by not granting his motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial; (2) the jury instructions were inadequate and failed to include a lesser included offense; and (3) the jury instructions were confusing to the jury and in attempting to make clarifications, the trial court unduly influenced the jurors. Having reviewed the parties’ briefs and the entire record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/21/20
In Re Aubrie W.
E2019-00862-COA-R3-PT

This is an appeal from the termination of the father’s parental rights. The trial court found the petitioners had proved that the father abandoned the child by willfully failing to visit, willfully failing to support the child, and exhibiting conduct showing a wanton disregard for the child’s welfare and that termination of the father’s parental rights, was in the child’s best interest. Following the entry of the order terminating his rights, the father appealed. Finding the record does not clearly and convincingly establish the ground of abandonment by wanton disregard, we reverse the trial court’s determination on that ground; however, the record clearly and convincingly established the other two grounds and that termination of the father’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest. Therefore, we affirm the termination of the father’s parental rights.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 01/21/20
In Re C.L. Et Al.
E2018-02032-COA-R3-PT

C.A. (petitioner) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of H.L. (mother) and R.L. (father) with respect to their two children, C.L. and A.L. (the children). The trial court found clear and convincing evidence to terminate mother and father’s parental rights on two grounds: abandonment by willful failure to support and persistent conditions. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination of mother and father’s parental rights is in the best interest of the children. Both parents appeal. We vacate the trial court’s finding that there is clear and convincing evidence to terminate mother and father’s parental rights on the ground of abandonment by willful failure to support. Nevertheless, we affirm the court’s order terminating mother and father’s parental rights because there is clear and convincing evidence that termination is supported by the ground of persistent conditions and is in the best interest of the children.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 01/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Brian Anthony Wiley
M2018-01817-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Brian Anthony Wiley, pled guilty to multiple drug offenses and received an effective eight-year sentence. The Defendant’s plea agreement reserved a certified question of law regarding the legality of the search of the Defendant’s automobile that was parked in the overnight camping area of a local music festival. Following our review, we conclude that the warrantless search of the Defendant’s automobile did not violate Fourth Amendment protections and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Abu Musa Abdullah
M2019-00510-CCA-R3-CD

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Abu Musa Abdullah, of three counts of aggravated sexual battery and two counts of rape of a child. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to serve an effective sentence of fifty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On delayed appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it: (1) limited cross-examination of two State witnesses; and (2) ordered an excessive sentence. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/21/20
Rose Coleman v. Bryan Olson
M2019-00176-COA-R3-CV

This is the second time this dispute has been before this court. The appeal arises from a violation of Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-106(d)(2), which prohibits a divorcing party from “canceling, modifying, terminating, assigning, or allowing the lapse” of any insurance policy that provides coverage to either spouse or their children without the consent of the other spouse, a court order, or abatement of the action. In this case, the wife modified her life insurance policy by replacing her husband with her mother as the sole beneficiary of the policy during the pendency of a divorce action and without the husband’s consent or a court order. The wife died one week later, which caused an abatement of the divorce action. After the insurance company remitted the proceeds of approximately $393,000 to the wife’s mother, the husband commenced this action to recover the proceeds. Following the first trial, the trial court found the wife intended to remove the husband and substitute their minor child as the insurance beneficiary, and it awarded the proceeds to the child. Both parties appealed. In the first appeal, we reversed the trial court and, after applying an equitable-balancing test, awarded the proceeds to the husband. See Coleman v. Olson, No. M2015-00823-COA-R3-CV, 2016 WL 6135395, at *15 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 20, 2016) [hereinafter Coleman I]. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed our use of an equitable-balancing test but determined there was insufficient evidence to decide the merits on appeal. Coleman v. Olson, 551 S.W.3d 686, 697 (Tenn. 2018) [hereinafter Coleman II]. Thus, the Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to hear additional evidence and, after considering the equities of the parties, “remedy the violation of the statutory injunction by awarding all or a portion of the life insurance benefits to either or both parties.” Id. at 688. However, the Court did not identify the equitable factors to consider. Following an evidentiary hearing on remand, the trial court found the equities weighed in favor of the husband receiving the insurance proceeds. The wife’s mother appeals, contending the trial court erred in determining that the equities between the parties weighed in favor of depriving her of the insurance proceeds. We have determined that the trial court’s ruling was based on the erroneous determination that the court was limited to two options, enforcing the policy based on the beneficiary designation when the statutory injunction went into effect or enforcing the policy based on the beneficiary designation when the divorce action abated, instead of having the discretion to award a portion of the proceeds to each party based on the equities. Recognizing that the purpose of the § 106(d)(2) injunction was merely to preserve the status quo, not to make the ultimate determination of the rights of the parties to the proceeds, we have determined that the husband was entitled to an amount necessary to prevent an “unjust result” due to the wife’s inability to assist in caring for the parties’ minor child or to provide financial support to care for and educate the child until he reaches the age of majority. Having considered the financial benefits and burdens resulting from the wife’s death, we modify the judgment to award the husband a lump sum based on a support payment of $500.00 a month calculated from the month of the wife’s death until the minor child turns eighteen. Because the husband has been receiving a monthly payment of $500.00 since the trial court ordered the clerk of the court to remit such monthly payments out of the insurance proceeds on deposit with the clerk, the aggregate sum the husband has received from the clerk shall be deducted from the lump sum awarded to the husband. The wife’s mother shall be awarded the balance of the insurance proceeds on deposit with the clerk. We also vacate the judgment awarded against the wife’s mother and the award of prejudgment interest to the husband. The case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 01/21/20
Alexander J. Bynum, et al. v. Mark D. Sampson, et al.
W2019-00188-COA-R3-C

This appeal concerns an alleged breach of contract. Alexander Bynum and his father, Hal Bynum, (“the Bynums,” collectively) bought a slaughterhouse owned by Mark D. Sampson (“Defendant”) and his then-wife Kimberly Sampson (“the Sampsons,” collectively) and kept it running as Southern Chop Shop, LLC. The contract for sale provided that all plumbing systems would be in working order on the day of closing. A year after closing, the Bynums discovered a pipe on the property that was gushing animal blood straight from the kill floor of the slaughterhouse into a ditch. Defendant knew about but had not disclosed the pipe. The State became involved and demanded a halt to the discharge. When remedial efforts proved economically unfeasible, the Bynums shut down the slaughterhouse. The Bynums and Southern Chop Shop, LLC (“Plaintiffs,” collectively) sued the Sampsons for breach of contract in the Chancery Court for Weakley County (“the Trial Court”). The Trial Court found for Plaintiffs, ordering rescission or, if that is not possible, a monetary judgment against the Sampsons. Defendant appealed and argues that the plumbing system was in working order on the day of closing notwithstanding the blood-gushing pipe. We disagree and find that, contrary to the representations made by Defendant and relied upon by the Bynums, the plumbing system was not in working order on the day of closing. Defendant, therefore, breached the contract. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Weakley County Court of Appeals 01/21/20
Timothy Roy Bozza v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01607-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Timothy Roy Bozza, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his conviction of first degree murder, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/20
State of Tennessee v. Samantha Grissom Scott
M2018-01852-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Samantha Grissom Scott, pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court for Warren County to possession with the intent to deliver more than twenty-six grams of methamphetamine and to possession of drug paraphernalia. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-434 (2018) (possession with the intent to deliver methamphetamine), 39-17-425 (2018) (possession of drug paraphernalia). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective eight years and ordered her to serve 180 days’ confinement with the remainder on probation. On appeal, the Defendant presents a certified question of law regarding the legality of the warrantless entry into her home. We dismiss the appeal because the certified question is not dispositive of the case.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/20
State of Tennessee v. Samantha Grissom Scott - dissenting
M2018-01852-CCA-R3-CD

I dissent from the dismissal of this appeal. The majority contends that the certified question is not dispositive of the case because “even if the Defendant’s consent to search the home was constitutionally invalid and exigent circumstances did not exist, the evidence would have been inevitably discovered.” The majority rests its decision on the theory that the deputies could have obtained and executed a search warrant to search the Defendant’s home for the third-party arrestee, Dishman, which would have eventually revealed the drug-related evidence. I believe that the majority misapprehends the inevitable discovery doctrine in rejecting the certified question in this case. See United States v. Quinney, 583 F.3d 891, 894-95 (6th Cir. 2009) (reversing denial of motion to suppress evidence seized from defendant’s residence without a warrant based on misapplication of inevitable discovery doctrine after recognizing that finding the evidence admissible simply because the agents could have obtained a warrant would have totally obviated the warrant requirement); State v. Cothran, 115 S.W.3d 513, 525 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2003) (“Proof of inevitable discovery ‘involves no speculative elements but focuses on demonstrated historical facts capable of ready verification or impeachment.’”) (quoting Nix v. Williams, 467 U.S. 421, 444 n.5 (1984)). Applying the inevitable discovery doctrine, as the majority has done here, would render virtually every Fourth Amendment determination certified pursuant to Rule 37 meaningless. Regardless, based on this record, the inevitable discovery doctrine does not defeat the dispositive nature of the certified question in this case.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/20
Montez Deontay Ridley v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01773-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Montez Deontay Ridley, was convicted by Davidson County jury of aggravated robbery and received a sentence of nine years’ imprisonment. State v. Montez Deontay Ridley, No. M2015-01607-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 359091, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 24, 2017)(no perm. app filed). He appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel based on the failure to cross-examine the victim concerning his inconsistent description of the gun used in the robbery. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/20
Debra Lovelace, et al. v. Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis
W2019-00453-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiff filed a health care liability action against Defendant hospital following the death of Plaintiff’s husband in 2014. The trial court granted summary judgment to the hospital on two alternative, independent grounds: that the Plaintiff’s expert witness, a registered nurse, was not competent to testify as an expert witness, and that the expert witness failed to provide causation testimony as required to prove liability. Plaintiff appealed the trial court’s ruling about the competency of her expert witness, but she failed to raise the failure to provide causation testimony as an issue on appeal. As no argument was made to challenge a distinct ground for summary judgment, we consider the argument waived and affirm the trial court’s order granting summary judgment.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/16/20
Jacqueline Graybill McSurley v. Michael Glen McSurley
M2019-02016-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises out of a Final Decree of Divorce entered on June 19, 2019, and the denial of the husband’s post-judgment motions. Because the husband did not file his notice of appeal within the time required by Tenn. R. App. P. 4, we dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/16/20
In Re Ronon G.
M2019-01086-COA-R3-PT

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her two children on grounds of abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with permanency plans, and persistence of conditions. We conclude that two grounds were not applicable to Mother’s younger child because she was not removed from Mother’s home. Because at least one ground was supported by the evidence as to each child, and the evidence clearly and convincingly shows that termination is in their best interest, we affirm the overall termination of Mother’s parental rights as modified.

Lewis County Court of Appeals 01/16/20
David Allen Binkley v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00389-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, David Allen Binkley, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he challenged his guilty plea to aggravated robbery and his effective sentence of eight years with a release eligibility date of eighty-five percent. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was not knowingly entered. After a review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/20
State of Tennessee v. William Thomas Reed
M2018-01591-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, William Thomas Reed, was convicted after a jury trial of attempted rape of a child, three counts of rape of a child, and two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor by electronic means, and he received an effective sentence of thirty-five years. The State’s evidence included DNA analysis, and after conviction, the Defendant requested but was denied post-conviction DNA analysis. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred in denying him a hearing on the admissibility of the DNA analysis technique used by the State’s expert, that the trial court erred in admitting the DNA evidence, and that the trial court erred in denying his motion for post-conviction DNA analysis and appointment of an expert witness. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence and that the Defendant did not establish the necessary criteria for post-conviction DNA analysis. Accordingly, the trial court’s judgments are affirmed.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/20
Jonathan Mitchell Grimes v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01665-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Jonathan Grimes, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which sought relief from his conviction of aggravated sexual battery. On appeal, Petitioner asserts four claims of ineffective assistance of counsel: (1) trial counsels did not take reasonable steps to keep the State from presenting prejudicial allegations at trial that were not included in the indictment; (2) trial counsels failed to communicate a favorable plea and failed to actively seek out a favorable plea for Petitioner; (3) trial counsels failed to visit or take photos of the crime scene; and (4) trial counsels failed to present evidence of the victim’s medical history regarding her credibility. After reviewing the briefs and the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/20
State of Tennessee v. Alejandro Avila-Salazar
M2019-01143-CCA-R3-PC

Alejandro Avila-Salazar, Petitioner, appeals the dismissal of what the post-conviction court determined to be his second petition for post-conviction relief (the “2018 Petition”). The State concedes that the post-conviction court “improperly dismissed” the 2018 Petition and asks this court to remand the case to the post-conviction court for a ruling on Petitioner’s claims “based on the evidence received at the hearing already afforded.” We hold that the amended judgment of conviction correcting an illegal sentence in the original judgment by imposing a new, more punitive sentence that includes community supervision for life was a separate judgment for the purposes of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-30-102, that the 2018 Petition presented an issue that had not been previously litigated, that the 2018 Petition was the first post-conviction challenge to the new judgment, and that the post-conviction court erred in finding the 2018 Petition was a second petition. We reverse and remand for a determination on the merits of the claims raised in the 2018 Petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Robert D. Cameron, III
M2018-01406-CCA-R3-CD

Following a bench trial, Robert D. Cameron, III, Defendant, was convicted of driving under the influence (“DUI”) and DUI per se. On appeal, Defendant asserts that the trial court erred in denying his Motion to Suppress the video recording of his traffic stop, the blood test results, and the results of his field sobriety tests. The trial court found reasonable suspicion for the stop and probable cause for the ensuing arrest. Finding no error, we affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/15/20
State of Tennessee v. Steven Dale Davidson, Jr.
M2018-00182-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Steven Dale Davidson, Jr., was convicted by a jury of voluntary manslaughter and vehicular homicide. Thereafter, the trial court merged the counts and imposed an effective ten-year sentence, to run consecutively to a previous sentence for which probation had been revoked due to the convictions in this case. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by excluding the complete police interview of a defense witness and in its consideration during sentencing of enhancement and mitigating factors. Upon review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

White County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/20
State of Tennessee v. John P. Russell
W2019-00346-CCA-R3-CD

John P. Russell, Defendant, appeals the trial court’s denial of his “Motion to Receive Jail Credits and Time at Liberty.” Because Defendant’s Notice of Appeal was not timely filed and the interest of justice does not warrant waiver, we dismiss the appeal.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/20
State of Tennessee v. G'Wayne Kennedy Williams aka Kenney Williams
W2018-00924-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, G’wayne Kennedy Williams, a/k/a Kenney Williams, was convicted by a jury of three counts of rape, eight counts of rape of a child, three counts of aggravated statutory rape, three counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, three counts of sexual battery by an authority figure, eleven counts of incest, eight counts of aggravated sexual battery, and two counts of violating the sex offender registry. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of sixty-four years’ incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant argues (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for rape and rape of a child; (2) that the trial court erred by admitting evidence of the Defendant’s prior bad acts; (3) that admission of the victim’s complete hospital record was improper given that the records contained hearsay statements and that the record was prepared for purposes of prosecution; (4) that the trial court erred by qualifying a witness as an expert in sexual assault nurse examination; (5) that the trial court erred by not declaring a mistrial after the State attempted to enter a recording of the victim’s forensic interview into evidence without having provided the interview to the defense before trial; (6) that the trial court erred by failing to sever the sex offender registry charges; and (7) that the trial court erred in its application of enhancement and mitigating factors in sentencing. Following a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence is insufficient to support five counts of rape of a child, five counts of aggravated sexual battery, and five counts of incest. In addition, some of the convictions for incest, aggravated statutory rape, statutory rape by an authority figure, and sexual battery by an authority figure were improperly merged. We remand the case for resentencing and the entry of new judgments. In all other respects, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/14/20