Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 01/21/2019
Format: 01/21/2019
State of Tennessee v. David Scott Hall
M2015-02402-SC-R11-CD

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

Davidson County Supreme Court 01/07/19
State of Tennessee v. David Scott Hall - Dissenting
M2015-02402-SC-R11-CD

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

Davidson County Supreme Court 01/07/19
Vicki L. Mobley, et al. v. State of Arkansas, et al.
W2017-02356-COA-R3-CV

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

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/07/19
Marlo Davis v. State of Tennessee
W2017-02127-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Marlo Davis, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his second degree murder and reckless homicide convictions. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/04/19
Jerald Jefferson v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00440-CCA-R3-PC

Jerald Jefferson, Petitioner, was convicted of aggravated rape and sentenced to twenty-five years’ incarceration and his conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. His petition for post-conviction relief was denied by the post-conviction court after a hearing. On appeal, Petitioner claims that he was denied effective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to file a motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 412 to allow cross-examination of the victim about an alleged consensual sexual encounter between the victim and Petitioner. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Sadegh Babanzadeh
M2017-02235-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Sadegh Babanzadeh, was convicted of one count each of tampering with evidence and filing a false report. The trial court sentenced him to a five-year sentence for tampering with evidence and a three-year sentence for filing a false report, to run concurrently, with a year to be served in the Department of Correction, and the remainder of the sentences to be served on probation. The Defendant argues on appeal that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Delmontae Godwin
W2017-02400-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Delmontae Godwin, was convicted of aggravated assault and aggravated robbery and sentenced to an effective sentence of twelve years, to be served consecutively to a sentence from another conviction. Defendant appeals his sentence, arguing that the trial court erred by sentencing him to the maximum sentence for each conviction. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Howard P. Fisher
M2017-00975-CCA-R3-CD

Following a bench trial, the Defendant, Howard P. Fisher, was convicted of aggravated assault and criminal trespass, for which he received a ten-year sentence and a $50 fine, respectively. In his direct appeal, the Defendant argued (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of aggravated assault; (2) that the trial court erred in granting the State a continuance for sentencing; and (3) that the trial court erred in denying his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. Upon review, this court affirmed the judgments of the trial court but declined to review the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel finding that the Defendant “raised a general claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in his motion for a new trial. His motion did not include any issues pertaining to trial counsel’s performance or facts in support of his claim.” State v. Howard P. Fisher, No. M2017-00975-CCA-R3-CD, 2018 WL 3060369, at *1, *5 (Tenn. Crim. App. June 20, 2018), perm. app. granted and case remanded, No. M2017-00975-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. Sept. 13, 2018) (order). On September 13, 2018, the Tennessee Supreme Court granted the Defendant’s application for permission to appeal and remanded the case to this court to discuss the merits of the Defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. State v. Howard P. Fisher, No. M2017-00975-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. Sept. 13, 2018) (order). Upon further review, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Nicholas Wyatt Barish
E2017-01794-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Appellant, Nicholas Wyatt Barish, was convicted by a Knox County jury of two counts of first degree felony murder and one count of second degree murder, see Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-202, -210, for which he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions of first degree felony murder because he did not have the requisite mental state to commit the predicate crimes of theft, burglary, and robbery. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/04/19
Christopher Lee Blunkall v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01038-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Christopher Lee Blunkall, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury conviction for rape of a child. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that he received ineffective assistance because trial counsel (1) failed to file suppression motions concerning multiple items of evidence, including the text message communications between the Petitioner and the victim, certain phone records, the Petitioner’s banking records and the automated teller machine (“ATM”) surveillance video showing the Petitioner’s withdrawing money, the traffic stop, and the Petitioner’s statement to the police; (2) failed to rebut the medical testimony from the State’s expert; and (3) failed to pursue a preliminary hearing, adequately investigate the victim’s background, or vigorously cross examine and impeach the victim. The Petitioner further contends that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct by failing to provide the defense with favorable evidence—the victim’s juvenile record—and by certain statements made during closing arguments. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/04/19
Deborah L. Akers v. Heritage Medical Associates, P.C., Et Al.
M2017-02470-COA-R3-CV

This is a health care liability action in which the plaintiff asserted claims of professional negligence, negligent supervision, and medical battery against a physician’s assistant, a dermatologist, and their employer. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 56.02, motion for dismissal under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 37.02, and motion for sanctions under Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122(d). We agree with the trial court’s determination that the plaintiff failed to obtain a competent expert witness to testify on the applicable standard of care as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-115 and violated Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-122 by filing a non-compliant certificate of good faith. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s action and award of sanctions.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/04/19
State of Tennessee v. Aaron Hatfield
E2018-00041-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Aaron Hatfield, appeals the denial of his bid for judicial diversion of the three-year sentence imposed for his Knox County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded conviction of aggravated assault. Following our review, we conclude that the defendant is entitled to judicial diversion. We remand the case for entry of an order placing the defendant on judicial diversion under the same terms and conditions of the previously imposed sentence of probation.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/03/19
State of Tennessee v. Aaron Hatfield - dissenting opinion
E2018-00041-CCA-R3-CD

I respectfully disagree with the conclusion reached by the majority in this case. For the reasons that follow, I would affirm the trial court’s judgment denying judicial diversion. The trial court considered and weighed on the record the factors governing judicial diversion for a qualified defendant set forth in State v. Parker, 932 S.W.2d 945 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1996) and State v. Electroplating, Inc., 990 S.W.2d 211 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1998). Therefore, we review the trial court’s decision under an “abuse of discretion standard accompanied by a presumption of reasonableness.” State v. King, 432 S.W.3d 316, 329 (Tenn. 2014). Although the trial court could have been more artful in its oral findings, the trial court’s findings, as set forth in the majority opinion, are in my opinion sufficient to determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying judicial diversion and that the trial court’s decision was reasonable.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/03/19
Austin Daugherty Ex Rel Chloe v. Sally Daugherty
E2018-01013-COA-R3-CV

Austin Daugherty petitioned the trial court for an order of protection against his former wife, Sally Daugherty, on behalf of their minor child, Chloe. Mr. Daugherty alleged that Ms. Daugherty engaged in domestic violence. The order granting the petition and the amended order were entered against Ms. Daugherty by apparent default. She appeals arguing that she did not receive notice of the petition and any subsequent proceedings. We vacate the order of protection and remand for further proceedings.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/03/19
Jeffrey Glenn Mitchell v. Carol Ann Thomas Mitchell
E2017-00100-COA-R3-CV

This is a post-divorce action involving the interpretation of certain provisions of the parties’ marital dissolution agreement (“MDA”) and allegations of contempt of court for failure to comply with the MDA. The Blount County General Sessions Court (“trial court”) conducted a bench trial, took the matter under advisement, and directed the parties to each prepare proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The trial court subsequently adopted verbatim the wife’s proposed findings and conclusions with what we determine to be insufficient explanation regarding the trial court’s decision-making process. The husband has appealed. Because we are unable to ascertain whether the trial court’s final order is an independent judgment of the court, we vacate the order and remand for sufficient findings of facts and conclusions of law that reflect the trial court’s independent analysis and judgment. 

Blount County Court of Appeals 01/03/19
Donald Berge, Et Al. v. Mary Gail Adams Warlick Et Al.
M2018-00767-COA-R3-CV

In this legal malpractice lawsuit, the trial court granted summary judgment for the defendant after the plaintiffs’ counsel failed to respond to the defendant’s motion and appear at the hearing. Thereafter, the plaintiffs filed a motion to set aside the judgment, arguing their attorney’s failure to respond was due to excusable neglect. The trial court denied the motion, and this appeal followed. We affirm the trial court’s denial of the plaintiffs’ motion to set aside because the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that they had a meritorious defense.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/03/19
Pee Wee Wisdom Child Development Center, Inc., et al. v. Herbert H. Slatery, III, in his official capacity as Attorney General and Reporter for the State of Tennessee
W2017-02437-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a suspended attorney’s attempt to file a petition pro se in a case in which he was not a party. The trial court denied the petition sua sponte, concluding that the suspended attorney was not a party to the original action, he did not file a petition to intervene, and he was using the pro se petition as a subterfuge to circumvent his suspension from the practice of law. The suspended attorney appeals. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 01/03/19
Jerome Maurice Teats v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00855-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Jerome Maurice Teats, filed for post-conviction relief from his conviction of one count of aggravated robbery and four convictions of especially aggravated kidnapping. The Petitioner alleged that based upon the advice of trial counsel, he rejected plea offers and decided to go to trial. The Petitioner further alleged that appellate counsel was ineffective by failing to include a suppression issue in the application for permission to appeal to the supreme court. The post-conviction court found that the Petitioner failed to prove that either trial counsel or appellate counsel were ineffective. On appeal, the Petitioner challenges this ruling. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/02/19
Martin Hughes v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00858-CCA-R3-HC

The Petitioner, Martin Hughes, appeals the Trousdale County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. In 2014, the Petitioner entered a guilty plea to several offenses and received an effective five-year sentence. He was later convicted of two new offenses and received concurrent sentences of ten and fifteen years, served consecutively to his five-year sentence. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges that his five-year sentence has expired and that he is being held illegally because the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) incorrectly calculated this sentence and erred in denying him a parole hearing. We affirm the summary dismissal of the petition.

Trousdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/02/19
Anmichael Leonard v. State of Tennessee
W2017-01865-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Anmichael Leonard, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of theft of property valued at $1000 or more but less than $10,000, identity theft, and fraudulent use of a credit card. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to an effective sentence of twentyfour years in confinement. A panel of this court affirmed Petitioner’s convictions on direct appeal. State v. Anmichael Leonard, No. 2015-01313-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 1446440 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 12, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 19, 2016). Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Having reviewed the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/28/18
Leterpa Mosley v. State of Tennessee
W2017-01879-CCA-R3-HC

The Petitioner, Leterpa Mosley, along with two co-defendants, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder, felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of life in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, this court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions and sentences. See State v. Charles McClain, No. W2013-00328-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 4754531, (Tenn. Crim. App., Jackson, Sept. 24, 2014), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 15, 2015). The Petitioner filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief and, after appointment of counsel, filed amended petitions alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and violation of his due process rights. Additionally, the Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, claiming the trial court lacked jurisdiction to sentence him and a petition for writ of error coram nobis, claiming newly discovered evidence in the form of an exculpatory letter written by a trial witness. After hearings, the post-conviction court denied the petitions. After review, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/28/18
Deandre Blake v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00727-CCA-R3-HC

In 2009, a Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Deandre Blake, of first degree felony murder during the perpetration of aggravated child abuse and first degree felony murder during the perpetration of aggravated child neglect, and the trial court merged the convictions and sentenced the Petitioner to life in prison. This court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions and remanded the case for the entry of a modified judgment. State v. Deandre Blake, No. W2010-00468-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 4433651, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Sept. 23, 2011), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Feb 15, 2015) (designated not for citation). The Petitioner did not appeal his convictions but did file a timely post-conviction petition, which was denied. This court affirmed. Deandre Blake v. State, W2015-01423-CCA-R3-PC, 2016 WL 4060696, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, July 27, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 22, 2016). The Petitioner filed a petition for habeas corpus relief alleging that his counsel was ineffective, and the habeas court summarily dismissed the petition, finding that the Petitioner had failed to comply with the habeas corpus statute by failing to attach his judgments and failing to raise a colorable claim. The Petitioner filed a motion to alter the order dismissing his petition, attaching the judgments and asking the habeas court to consider previous post-conviction testimony. The habeas court denied his motion. On appeal to this court, the Petitioner maintains that he is entitled to habeas corpus relief. After review, we affirm the habeas
court’s judgment.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/28/18
In Re Antonio J., Et Al.
M2017-01833-COA-R3-PT

A mother placed the children that are the subject of this appeal with a child placement agency because she was unable to provide a stable home for them. Ten months later, the agency filed a petition to have the children declared dependent and neglected; the court appointed a guardian ad litem for the children and in due course declared the children to be dependent and neglected and continued custody with the agency. The guardian ad litem initiated this proceeding to have the mother’s parental rights terminated on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit and support, abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home, substantial non-compliance with permanency plans, and persistence of conditions; the agency later filed a separate petition on most of the same grounds also seeking termination of mother’s rights. Following a trial, the court terminated the mother’s rights on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit, substantial non-compliance with the permanency plans, and persistence of conditions; the court also found that termination of mother’s rights was in the children’s best interest. The mother appeals, denying that grounds existed to terminate her rights and that termination was in the children’s best interest; the guardian ad litem and agency appeal the failure of the court to sustain the ground of abandonment by failure to support. Upon our de novo review, we affirm the determination that the evidence established the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit, substantial non-compliance with the permanency plans, and persistence of conditions; we vacate the holding that termination of mother’s rights was in the children’s best interest and remand the case for further consideration.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/28/18
Larry E. Parrish, P. C. v. Nancy J. Strong
M2017-02451-COA-R3-CV

A professional corporation through which a lawyer practiced law brought suit against a former client seeking to recover the “res” transferred to the corporation under an assignment of chose-in-action executed by the client as a means of paying fees owed to the corporation for its representation of the client in a legal malpractice action. The client counterclaimed for breach of contract. A jury found in favor of the client and awarded her compensatory and punitive damages. We find in favor of the client on all issues raised by the corporation. As to the client’s issues, we find that the trial court erred in failing to require the corporation to file a bond with regard to the injunction restraining the client from using certain funds during the pendency of the litigation and in failing to hold a hearing on the issue of piercing the corporate veil.       

Lincoln County Court of Appeals 12/28/18
Larry E. Parrish, P. C. v. Nancy J. Strong - Concurring In Part and Dissenting In Part
M2017-02451-COA-R3-CV

I concur in all aspects of the opinion, save one. The majority concludes that the Chancery Court of Lincoln County erred in denying the motion of Nancy J. Strong to hold Larry E. Parrish personally liable for the obligations of Larry E. Parrish, P.C. The majority vacates the trial court’s decision and “remands for a hearing” on that issue. Because I would affirm the denial of the motion, I respectfully dissent from that part of the opinion.  

Lincoln County Court of Appeals 12/28/18