Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 01/22/2020
Format: 01/22/2020
Jafarris Miller v. State of Tennessee
W2018-02111-CCA-R3-HC

Petitioner, Jafarris Miller, appeals from the dismissal of his petition for habeas corpus relief. On appeal and in his pro se petition, Petitioner argues that his convictions for intentionally evading arrest in a vehicle, a Class E felony, and theft of property less than $500.00 in value, a Class A misdemeanor, are void because the arrest warrant was invalid. After review of the record and the briefs, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Grady Alton Vest
W2018-01694-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Grady Alton Vest, was indicted by the Henderson County Grand Jury for four counts of rape of a child and four counts of incest. Defendant was convicted as charged following a jury trial. The trial court sentenced Defendant to 33 years for each rape of a child conviction and five years for each incest conviction, with two of his 33-year sentences to run consecutively, for a total effective sentence of 66 years’ incarceration. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, and his effective sentence is excessive. Following our review of the entire record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/19
Randy Jackson v. State of Tennessee
W2018-01644-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Randy Jackson, was convicted of aggravated robbery and attempt to commit aggravated robbery and received an effective twenty-two-year sentence. He appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief in which he alleged ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that Petitioner has failed to show that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel, and we accordingly affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/19
State of Tennessee v. Dustin Todd King
M2019-00241-CCA-R3-CD

Dustin Todd King, Defendant, pled guilty to four counts of aggravated statutory rape and one count of violation of a no-contact order with the trial court to determine the length and manner of service of the sentences after a sentencing hearing. The trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective sentence of four years, eleven months and twenty-nine days, ordering partial consecutive sentencing. As a collateral consequence, the Defendant was placed on the sex offender registry. On appeal, Defendant challenges his sentence as excessive. After a review, we determine that the trial court sentenced Defendant to a sentence within the range for each conviction and followed the proper sentencing procedure. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/19
James F. Logan, Jr. Et Al. v. The Estate of Mildred Cannon Et Al.
E2018-02043-COA-R3-CV

Upon remand from this Court in a previous appeal, the trial court conducted a bench trial on a claim of common law adverse possession initiated by the plaintiff concerning a onequarter ownership interest in an unimproved 7.18-acre tract of real property located in Bradley County, Tennessee. In its final order, the trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s action in its entirety upon finding that although the plaintiff had presented evidence that preponderated in favor of adverse possession, the evidence did not rise to the level of the clear and convincing standard required to establish ownership through adverse possession. The plaintiff has appealed. Having determined that the plaintiff demonstrated adverse possession of the property interest at issue by clear and convincing evidence, we reverse.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 12/27/19
Linda Bridges v. Lifford L. Lancaster, M.D., Et Al.
M2019-00352-COA-R3-CV

This is a health care liability action.  The trial court determined that Plaintiff’s evidence did not establish that any act or omission of Defendant caused Plaintiff to suffer an injury that would not have otherwise occurred.  The trial court awarded summary judgment to Defendant physician.  We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/27/19
State of Tennessee v. Johnny David Key
M2019-00411-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Johnny David Key, was convicted upon his guilty pleas of vehicular homicide, a Class B felony, and vehicular assault, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-213 (vehicular homicide) (2018), 39-13-106 (vehicular assault) (2018). The plea agreement called for Range I sentences of eight and four years, respectively, to be served concurrently, with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court. After a sentencing hearing, the court ordered that the Defendant serve his effective eight-year sentence in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying alternative sentencing. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Fentress County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/27/19
Donita Dale Dowden v. Ronald J. Feibus
E2019-00036-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arose from post-divorce litigation concerning the trial court’s distribution of marital assets, specifically the distribution of the marital portion of the husband’s federal government pension to the wife. In its divorce decree entered on August 10, 2004, the trial court awarded to the wife “1/2 of [the husband’s] Administrative Law Judge Government Pension through the date of this Final Decree.” Upon the husband’s appeal, this Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment in all respects, including the trial court’s award to the wife of one-half of the marital portion of the husband’s pension. Dowden v. Feibus, No. E2004-02751-COA-R3-CV, 2006 WL 140404 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 18, 2006) (“Dowden I”). The husband sought no further judicial review at that time. Following his retirement from federal employment on May 1, 2017, the husband received correspondence concerning the calculation of the wife’s portion of his pension from the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”). On August 2, 2018, the husband filed a “Motion for Clarification and/or Relief from Judgment” contending, inter alia, that OPM miscalculated the portion of his pension that would be diverted to the wife because the trial court’s final decree was “too vague” and did not “provide sufficient guidance to OPM to allow them to correctly compute” the wife’s interest in the pension. On December 6, 2018, the trial court entered an order finding that there was “no lack of clarity” in its final decree and denying the husband’s motion. The husband has appealed. Having determined that the trial court did not err in denying the husband’s motion, we affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand to the trial court for enforcement of the judgment. We decline to award attorney’s fees on appeal to the wife.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 12/27/19
William Acree Ex Rel. John D. Acree v. Metropolitan Government Of Nashville And Davidson County
M2019-00056-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from an action in tort against the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County Tennessee (“the Metropolitan Government”) as the sole defendant. The action is brought by the brother on behalf of the decedent who died after being shot by police officers employed by the Metropolitan Government. The plaintiff asserts that the Metropolitan Government owed a special duty of care to the decedent because the police officers were reckless by failing to conduct a reasonable investigation concerning the decedent’s mental health before attempting to serve a felony warrant.  Moreover, the plaintiff asserts that police officers failed to abide by internal police department guidelines pursuant to which, the complaint alleges, the officers should have withdrawn from the area before the decedent exited the rear door of his house pointing a handgun at police officers. The undisputed material facts are that when the officers attempted to serve the decedent at his residence, the decedent refused to respond to the officers at the front door of his residence and, instead, abruptly exited through the rear door armed with a loaded handgun where the decedent and one of the police officers exchanged gunfire, resulting in the death of the decedent. The trial court summarily dismissed the complaint under the Governmental Tort Liability Act finding, inter alia, that the police officers owed a general duty to the public at large when serving the felony capias; the internal policies and procedures of the Metropolitan Police Department did not establish a duty enforceable in tort; there were no genuine issues of material fact to show the police officers acted recklessly, thus the special duty exception to the public duty doctrine did not apply; and because the special duty doctrine did not apply, the police officers and the Metropolitan Government were immune from liability. The trial court also found the claim was barred by the doctrine of comparative fault based on the undisputed fact that the decedent was at least 50% at fault for his injuries and death because he aimed a loaded weapon at the police officer before the officer opened fire. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/27/19
Anne Frost Montgomery Renner v. Robert Bruce Renner, Sr.
E2019-01879-COA-T10B-CV

Movant, defendant in a divorce case, seeks accelerated review of the denial of his motion for recusal. He claims a lack of impartiality on the part of the chancellor presiding over the divorce case due to her knowledge of unrelated litigation in which the movant was a party. He contends that the chancellor revealed her lack of impartiality in making adverse credibility determinations against movant, determining movant violated a statutory injunction, and ignoring prior orders and agreements of the parties in making factual findings. Movant also complains of the manner in which the chancellor conducted an emergency hearing, alleging that the chancellor “lacked patience and cooperation with the litigants on th[at] day.” After a de novo review, we affirm the denial of the motion for recusal.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 12/27/19
Jeff Robinson v. Cody Haynes Et Al.
E2019-00477-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal from a case involving a contract for the sale of real property. The Trial Court disposed of some of the claims by granting summary judgment. Other claims were dismissed or voluntarily non-suited, and the Trial Court attempted to render its judgment final by citing to Rule 54 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The Trial Court, however, reserved disposition of a petition for attorney’s fees and an amended petition for attorney’s fees. As a result of the reservation of the disposition of the petitions for attorney’s fees there is no final judgment, and this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider this appeal.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/27/19
State of Tennessee v. Denton Jones
E2018-01981-CCA-R3-CD

The State of Tennessee appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of its motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The State sought to correct the six-year sentence the trial court previously imposed for the Defendant’s two merged convictions for theft of property valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000. See T.C.A. §§ 39-14-103 (2014) (theft); 39-14-105 (2014) (subsequently amended) (grading of theft). On appeal, the State contends that the six-year sentence is illegal because the trial court improperly sentenced the Defendant pursuant to the amended version of the grading of theft statute, which became effective after the commission of the offense. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/27/19
Courtney B. Mathews v. State of Tennessee
M2017-01802-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Courtney B. Mathews, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury convictions for four counts of first-degree felony murder and one count of especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Petitioner’s issues center around (1) an ex parte communication between the trial judge and trial counsel that took place at the trial judge’s residence; (2) trial counsels’ inadvertent disclosure of the unredacted timeline to the co-defendant’s defense team that contained attorney-client privileged information; (3) the lack of any jury instructions on lesser-included offenses for the felony murder counts; (4) the Petitioner’s alleged absence during the issuance of the supplemental jury instruction on criminal responsibility and when the trial judge answered jury questions; and (5) cumulative error. After a thorough review of the record, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court. We conclude that due to trial counsels’ various deficiencies, there has been a complete breakdown in the adversarial process during the Petitioner’s motion for new trial proceedings. While the Petitioner’s convictions remain intact, the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/27/19
State of Tennessee v. Chriteris Allen
W2019-01038-CCA-R3-CD

The Madison County Grand Jury indicted Defendant, Chriteris Allen, in two separate indictments, each containing four counts. In Case Number 18-1445, Defendant was indicted for aggravated robbery in count one, aggravated sexual battery in count two, aggravated burglary in count three, and especially aggravated kidnapping in count four. In Case Number 18-1446, Defendant was indicted for aggravated burglary in count one, especially aggravated kidnapping in count two, aggravated robbery in count three, and aggravated rape in count four. Defendant submitted an open guilty plea on all counts. The trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of forty-four years at one hundred percent. On appeal, Defendant argues that his sentence is excessive. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/27/19
Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., et al. v. City of Memphis, et al.
W2019-00299-COA-R3-CV

Appellants appeal the trial court’s grant of Appellees’ Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02 motions in this declaratory judgment action. The trial court dismissed Appellants’ complaint on the ground that Appellants had no standing to seek a declaratory judgment interpreting a contract, to which Appellants were neither parties nor third-party beneficiaries. We affirm the dismissal of Appellants’ complaint for declaratory judgment on the ground that the complaint is barred as res judicata.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/26/19
Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., et al. v. City of Memphis, et al. - dissent
W2019-00299-COA-R3-CV

The majority chooses to affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint filed by EPE on the basis of the doctrine of res judicata. Because I conclude that an essential element of the doctrine of res judicata has not been established, I must respectfully dissent.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/26/19
State of Tennessee v. James R. Baysinger
E2018-02295-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, James R. Baysinger, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. § 39-13-215 (2018). Pursuant to the plea agreement, the trial court was to determine the length and the manner of service. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to two years and ordered him to serve five months, followed by four years’ probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the court erred by denying his requests for judicial diversion and full probation. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing.

Anderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/23/19
State of Tennessee v. Andrew K. Johnston
M2019-00219-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, Andrew K. Johnston, filed a pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, and the Bedford County Circuit Court summarily denied the motion. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the twenty-seven-year sentence he received pursuant to his guilty plea to second degree murder is illegal because it is outside the maximum range of punishment for a Range I offender convicted of a Class A felony. Based upon our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/23/19
In Re: Rader Bonding Company, Inc.
M2017-01687-SC-R11-CD

We granted this appeal to determine whether a surety remains obligated under a bond agreement entered on the defendant’s arrest for driving under the influence second offense when a subsequent indictment charged the defendant with driving under the influence fourth offense.  We conclude that sureties remain obligated pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated sections 40-11-130(a)(1), -138(b) and this Court’s holding in Young v. State, 121 S.W.2d 533 (Tenn. 1938).  We hold, therefore, that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it entered the final judgment of forfeiture against Rader Bonding Company, Inc. (“Rader”) for the total amount of the bond and declined to grant Rader’s motion to alter or amend.  Accordingly, we reverse that portion of the Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision holding that Rader should have been relieved from forfeiture on the $7,500 bond in connection with the defendant’s DUI charge and affirm its conclusion that Rader remains obligated on the $2,500 bond in connection with the defendant’s driving on a revoked license charge.

Davidson County Supreme Court 12/23/19
State of Tennessee v. Donald Dodd
W2018-01961-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Donald Dodd, of second degree murder as charged, and the trial court imposed a sentence of twenty-five years at one hundred percent release eligibility. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-210, 40-35-501(i). On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/23/19
Tommy Dale Adams v. State of Tennessee
M2018-00470-CCA-R3-PC
The Petitioner, Tommy Dale Adams, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his jury convictions for first-degree felony murder, second-degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, the Petitioner alleges the following grounds of ineffective assistance of trial counsel: (1) failure to present a cohesive defense theory, investigate, interview the Petitioner and witnesses, and explain the sufficiency of the evidence; (2) failure to object to the trial court’s ex parte communication with the jury during deliberations; and (3) failure to advise the Petitioner of his right to testify. He also alleges ineffective assistance of appellate counsel and cumulative error stemming from trial counsel’s alleged deficiencies. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Reuben Eugene Mitchell
E2017-01739-SC-R11-CD

The defendant, Reuben Eugene Mitchell, was convicted of one count of arson and one count of presenting a false or fraudulent insurance claim.  The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the defendant’s arson conviction but reversed his conviction for presenting a false or fraudulent insurance claim.  We granted the State’s application to appeal to address whether the proof at trial was sufficient to support the defendant’s conviction for presenting a false or fraudulent insurance claim.  Our review leads us to conclude that the evidence was sufficient.  Accordingly, we reverse in part the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals and reinstate the defendant’s conviction for presenting a false or fraudulent insurance claim. 

Knox County Supreme Court 12/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Robbie Joe Kilgore
M2019-00281-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Robbie Joe Kilgore, appeals the order of the trial court revoking his probation and ordering him to serve his original three-year sentence in confinement. Upon review of the record, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the defendant violated the terms of his probation, and the imposed sentence is proper. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/20/19
Vanquish Express, LLC v. Dixie Ohio Xpress, LLC, Et Al.
M2018-01934-COA-R3-CV
This is an appeal from the trial court’s denial of the defendants’ motion to set aside an agreed order, which, among other things, dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice. Defendants alleged that their former counsel entered into the agreement without their authorization. Finding that the defendants submitted no evidence to support the allegation, the trial court denied the motion. Defendants appeal. We affirm.
 
Sumner County Court of Appeals 12/20/19
Steven J. Dale v. Sharon K. Ball Dale
M2018-01999-COA-R3-CV

In this post-divorce matter, the mother appeals the award of attorney fees to the father, who prevailed in his opposition to the mother’s request to relocate out of state. The mother gave notice to the father that she wanted to move to Arizona while the parties’ competing petitions to modify the parenting plan were pending. The trial court denied the mother’s request to relocate and awarded attorney fees to the father as the prevailing party in the relocation matter. As for the petitions to modify the parenting plan, the court ruled that the mother was the prevailing party and awarded to the mother the attorney fees she incurred in the modification matter. The mother appeals contending she should have been awarded fees in both matters as the “overall” prevailing party. Alternatively, the mother contends the trial court erred by awarding the father attorney fees solely on the basis he was the prevailing party in the relocation matter. Having found the trial court identified and properly applied the most applicable legal principles and that the award of attorney fees to the father was within the range of acceptable alternative dispositions, we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 12/20/19