Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 03/21/2019
Format: 03/21/2019
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Junior Parker

Defendant, Timothy Junior Parker, complains on appeal that the trial court improperly ordered him to serve the balance of his consecutive two-year sentences upon finding that Defendant had violated the conditions of probation. Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion, we affirm.

Humphreys County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/08/19
Courtney P. Brunetz v. Neil A. Brunetz

This appeal concerns a post-divorce proceeding for contempt. Mother filed a petition for contempt over Father’s alleged failure to pay certain expenses. The trial court granted the Mother’s petition and found the Father in contempt and awarded Mother attorney’s fees. We reverse the trial court’s decision ordering Father to pay expenses associated with a parental evaluation ordered by the trial court. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 03/08/19
Joseph R. Wiggins v. State of Tennessee

In 1983, while incarcerated on other charges, the Petitioner pleaded guilty to the rape of another inmate. The trial court sentenced him to five years, to run concurrently with his existing sentence. In 2002, the Petitioner obtained parole, but his parole was revoked when he failed to register as a sex offender pursuant to the sex offender registry requirements. Sometime before 2010, the Petitioner filed his first petition for habeas corpus relief, alleging that his sentence for rape was illegal because the application of the sex offender registry to his sentence violated ex post facto principles. The petition was denied, and that decision was affirmed by this court on appeal. Joseph R. Wiggins v. State, No. W2010-00091-CCA-R3-CD, 2010 WL 3075644, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Aug. 6, 2010), no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application filed. The Petitioner filed this, his second habeas corpus petition in 2010. The habeas corpus court again denied the petition. On appeal, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/08/19
State of Tennessee v. James Wallace Norton

A Sumner County grand jury indicted the defendant, James Wallace Norton, with ten counts of sexual exploitation of a minor over one hundred images, twenty-three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, and one count of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. Following trial, a jury found the defendant guilty of all counts, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of twenty years. On appeal, the defendant argues the trial court erred in consolidating his two indictments, declining to force the State to make an election regarding which images constituted aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor, admitting testimony regarding the defendant’s internet search history, and admitting the cell phone and contraband images without a proper showing of the chain of custody. He also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions and the applicability of the enhancement factors used in determining his sentence. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/08/19
In Re Estate of Charles E. Caldwell

This appeal involves a will contest. The decedent’s son alleges that his father “was of unsound mind, without sufficient degree of mental capacity and/or was mentally incompetent to make a valid will” and “was unduly influenced . . . in all circumstances surrounding and including the execution of the purported Last Will and Testament” by his daughter. The trial court found that the decedent had the requisite testamentary capacity to execute the November 2012 will, no confidential relationship existed between the Decedent and his daughter that triggered a presumption of undue influence, and the will was not a product of undue influence. The trial court further found that, in the alternative, the daughter rebutted any presumption of undue influence. The plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 03/07/19
Jason Perry v. State of Tennessee

The petitioner, Jason Perry, appeals the ruling of the Knox County Criminal Court granting him relief from a sentence imposed pursuant to Code section 40-35-121(b), the gang enhancement statute previously declared unconstitutional by this court, arguing that the trial court erred by finding that the illegal sentence issue was not a material element of his plea agreement and arguing that he should have been permitted to withdraw his guilty pleas. The record supports the determination of the trial court. For reasons discussed more fully below, however, we affirm that court’s ruling not as a grant of post-conviction relief but as a grant of habeas corpus relief.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/07/19
In Re: Cumberland Bail Bonding

The Appellant, Cumberland Bail Bonding, argues that the trial court erred in suspending its bonding privileges due to a violation of Rule 26.05(B) of the Local Rules of the Thirty-First Judicial District, a rule requiring a bonding agent to be present for a defendant’s court appearance. After review, we reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Van Buren County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/07/19
Kristen Paulette Stokes v. Steven Wade Stokes

A mother and father each sought to be named the primary residential parent of their son, who was nine years old when the court granted the father a divorce. The trial court designated the father as the primary residential parent and granted the mother 146 days of residential parenting time with the child per year. The mother appealed, arguing that the court erred in conducting its comparative fitness analysis and in concluding that the father should be the primary residential parent. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/07/19
State of Tennessee v. Terry Leon Lancaster

Defendant, Terry Leon Lancaster, was indicted on four counts of rape of a child and four counts of aggravated sexual battery for events that took place during the summer of 2015 when the victim, then aged twelve, was staying at Defendant’s home while attending vacation bible school. At trial, the trial court dismissed Counts 1 and 2 of the indictment after a motion for judgment of acquittal. The jury found Defendant guilty of the remaining counts of the indictment, two counts of rape and four counts of aggravated sexual battery. Defendant was sentenced to an effective sentence of thirty years as a multiple offender. Defendant appeals his convictions, arguing that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Stewart County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/07/19
Daniel Fults v. Metlife Auto & Home Insurance Agency, Inc.

In this action to recover for personal injuries suffered in a hit-and-run accident, the trial court held that the suit was barred by the one year statute of limitations and dismissed it. Plaintiff appeals; we affirm the judgment of the trial court.    

Franklin County Court of Appeals 03/07/19
Mark Ross Et Al. v. Orion Financial Group, Inc. Et Al.

This appeal involves the assignment of a deed of trust and subsequent foreclosure. Appellants purchased a home and later defaulted on the mortgage. Appellees foreclosed on the property, and Appellants filed suit to set aside the foreclosure. Appellees argued numerous theories, which were all dismissed by the trial court on grant of summary judgment. Appellants appeal. We affirm. 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 03/07/19
Angela M. Greene v. State of Tennessee

The Petitioner, Angela Greene, filed a post-conviction petition, seeking relief from her convictions of first degree murder in the perpetration of a theft, aggravated assault, and theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000 and the accompanying life sentence. The Petitioner raised numerous allegations of ineffective assistance of trial counsel, including insufficient trial preparation, failure to request a continuance when cocounsel became ill, failure to raise objections during trial, failure to ask the Petitioner on direct examination whether she killed the victim, and a conflict of interest due to his prior representation of a State’s witness. Following the post-conviction court’s denial of relief, the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/07/19
In Re Devin V. et al.

J.V. (mother) and R.W. (father) have two children together, D.V. (child 1) and S.W. (child 2). In connection with a case involving the custody of the children, father attended a hearing in the trial court. He brought his children to the courthouse. While there, he was taken into custody and thereafter extradited to Michigan on outstanding warrants. Mother was not able to care for the children. As a consequence, the children remained in Hamilton County without a parent or legal guardian. The children were adjudicated dependent and neglected and placed in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services. Father was later convicted in Michigan on four counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree; mother was identified as the victim. Father was sentenced to serve a minimum of fifteen years in prison. In 2017, DCS filed a petition to terminate mother and father’s parental rights. Mother did not oppose the termination, but father did. The trial court found clear and convincing evidence to support DCS’s petition to terminate the parties’ parental rights. By the same quantum of proof, the court also found that termination is in the children’s best interest. Father appeals. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 03/06/19
State of Tennessee v. Darius Alexander Cox

Defendant, Darius Alexander Cox, was convicted after a jury trial of two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated robbery, and two counts of employing a firearm during a dangerous felony. After a sentencing hearing, Defendant received a total effective sentence of forty years. After the denial of his motion for new trial, Defendant appeals and argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, that the trial court erroneously admitted evidence of other crimes under Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b), that the prosecutor made improper comments during closing argument, and that the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentences. After a thorough review, we conclude that the trial court committed reversible error by admitting evidence of Defendant’s other crimes because the evidence was not relevant to a material issue other than Defendant’s character. Accordingly, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand for a new trial.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/06/19
State of Tennessee v. Anthony Eugene Barnett

The defendant, Anthony Eugene Barnett, appeals his Lawrence County Circuit Court jury convictions of possession with intent to sell alprazolam, possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, simple possession of marijuana, and speeding, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the trial court’s ruling admitting certain evidence. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/06/19
Janet C. Fleming v. City of Memphis

This appeal concerns whether the public duty doctrine, which immunizes public employees and governmental entities from liability when their duty is owed to the general public rather than any particular individual, survived the 1973 enactment of the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“The GTLA”). While walking in Memphis, Janet C. Fleming (“Plaintiff”) was bitten by a pit bull. Plaintiff sued the City of Memphis (“Defendant”) in the Circuit Court for Shelby County (“the Trial Court”) alleging that Defendant knew of the dog’s violent tendencies from prior incidents and should have taken stronger preventative action. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment asserting the public duty doctrine. The Trial Court granted the motion. Plaintiff appeals, arguing that the GTLA supersedes the public duty doctrine despite the fact that our Supreme Court has held otherwise in a never-overturned opinion. Constrained to adhere to our Supreme Court’s binding precedent, we hold that the public duty doctrine was not superseded by the GTLA. We hold further that while the GTLA does not provide immunity to Defendant, the public duty doctrine does because Defendant’s duty was to the public at large and Plaintiff has not established a special duty exception. We, therefore, affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/05/19
In Re Estate of Milford Cleo Todd

In this case, the decedent’s ex-wife filed a claim against his estate to collect unpaid pension benefits awarded to her in their divorce. She asserted that the decedent failed to pay her a pro rata share of his cost-of-living allowances and “supplemental” benefit. The executrix for the decedent’s estate filed an exception to the claim, asserting that the divorce decree expressly provided that the ex-wife would “have no claim against the estate of [the decedent],” and did not award cost-of-living allowances or an interest in the “supplemental” benefit. The trial court found that the divorce decree did not bar the ex-wife’s action, that the ex-wife was entitled to a share of the decedent’s cost-of-living allowances and “supplemental” benefit, and awarded prejudgment interest. We affirm the trial court’s award of damages and interest but modify the judgment to reflect that the ex-wife is entitled to postjudgment rather than prejudgment interest.

Benton County Court of Appeals 03/05/19
Naomi Marie Jones v. Donnie Frank Jones, Jr.

Wife/Appellee filed a complaint for divorce while the Husband/Appellant was incarcerated. After the matter was set for final hearing, Husband filed a motion with the trial court requesting that Husband be allowed to participate in the proceeding via telecommunication. The trial court failed to rule on Husband’s motion, and proceeded to hold the hearing and grant Wife’s petition with no participation from Husband. Because we conclude that the trial court erred in proceeding with the final hearing while Husband’s motion remained pending, the judgment of the trial court is hereby vacated in its entirety and the case is remanded for a new trial. 

Dickson County Court of Appeals 03/05/19
Almonda Duckworth v. State of Tennessee

The Petitioner, Almonda Duckworth, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and his guilty pleas were unknowing and involuntary. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the
post-conviction court denying the petition.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/05/19
State of Tennessee v. Stephen Richard Mayes
The Defendant, Stephen Richard Mayes, pleaded guilty to aggravated kidnapping, and the trial court entered the agreed out-of-range sentence of fifteen years of incarceration, to be served as a Range II offender. The Defendant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, alleging that he was mentally incompetent at the time of sentencing, that he negotiated to be sentenced as a Range I offender and not a Range II offender, and that his sentence was illegal as it was out-of-range. The trial court summarily dismissed the motion, finding that he had not presented a colorable claim for relief because he had negotiated and agreed to an out-of-range sentence, which had not yet expired. On appeal, the Defendant maintains that his sentence is illegal. After review, we affirm the criminal court’s judgment.
Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/04/19
Christopher Michael Parker v. Courtney Williams Parker

In this post-divorce dispute, the mother filed a criminal contempt petition alleging the father had violated the permanent parenting plan.  Two years later, the father filed a petition for criminal contempt and modification of the parenting plan.  The court consolidated the competing petitions for trial.  Sometime after the court began hearing proof, the mother filed a motion to change venue, arguing that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to modify the plan because she and the child had lived in Georgia for seven years.  The court denied the mother’s motion.  And after completion of the trial, the court found that a material change in circumstance had occurred sufficient to modify the residential parenting schedule and that modification of the schedule was in the child’s best interest.  The court also found the mother in criminal contempt for violations of the parenting plan.  Based on the circumstances surrounding the mother’s contempt, the court ordered the mother to pay the father’s attorney’s fees.  Upon review, we conclude that the trial court retained exclusive, continuing jurisdiction to modify the parenting plan.  Based on the state of the record, we also affirm the modification of the parenting plan and the criminal contempt conviction.  But we vacate the award of attorney’s fees and remand for reconsideration of the amount of fees awarded. 

Bedford County Court of Appeals 03/01/19
Dexter Lee Williams v. Tennessee Department Of Correction, Et Al.

Appellant, an inmate in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Correction, appeals the trial court’s dismissal of his petition for common law writ of certiorari. Appellant raises several issues regarding violations of the Tennessee Department of Correction’s uniform disciplinary procedures. The inmate was found guilty of refusal/attempt to alter a drug test. After exhausting his administrative appeals, he filed an application for a writ of certiorari in the trial court. The trial court granted the writ of certiorari, and on review of the record, dismissed Appellant’s petition. Finding no error, we affirm.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 03/01/19
State of Tennessee v. Larry Joe Carroll, AKA Larrie Carroll

Following a bench trial, Larry Joe Carroll (“Defendant”) was convicted of criminal trespass, criminal simulation valued at $1,000 or less, and criminal impersonation, for which he received an effective sentence of two years to serve in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence as it relates to his convictions for criminal simulation valued at $1,000 or less and criminal impersonation. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/01/19
State of Tennessee v. Joe T. Brooks

The Defendant, Joe T. Brooks, appeals as of right, from the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s revocation of his probationary sentence and order of nine months’ incarceration for his conviction of reckless endangerment. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to serve nine months of confinement before being returned to supervised probation. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/01/19
Dustin W. Brown v. Sarah Farley

In this child custody action, the trial court awarded custody of the minor child to the child’s father despite the fact that the child had resided with and/or been in the legal custody of the respondent maternal grandmother for a significant period of time. The maternal grandmother has appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 02/28/19