Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 12/13/2019
Format: 12/13/2019
State of Tennessee v. Justin Ryan Johnson, Alias
E2018-01457-CCA-R3-CD

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

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/15/19
Anthony Todd Ghormley v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01625-CCA-R3-PC

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

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/15/19
John Thomas Ammons v. William C. Longworth, Et Al.
E2018-01004-COA-R3-CV

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

Knox County Court of Appeals 11/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Todd Fawver
E2018-01062-CCA-R3-CD

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

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/19
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Johnson
W2018-01222-CCA-R3-CD

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

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/19
John Simmons v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00520-CCA-R3-PC

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

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/14/19
MSM Development, LLC v. William Steward et al.
E2019-00441-COA-R3-CV

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

Roane County Court of Appeals 11/13/19
Rodney Kilgore v State of Tennessee
E2018-01790-COA-R3-CV

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

Court of Appeals 11/13/19
Anthony C. Howell v. Noel Ruth Kail Howell
W2019-00061-COA-R3-CV

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

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/13/19
Randy B. Dalton v. State of Tennessee
E2018-01827-CCA-R3-PC

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

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/19
In Re Travis R.
E2019-01024-COA-R3-PT

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

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 11/13/19
In Re Estate of James Ronald Hunter
M2019-00084-COA-R3-CV

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

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Denton Jones
E2017-00535-SC-R11-CD

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

Knox County Supreme Court 11/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Bobby Lewis Parks
W2018-01752-CCA-R3-CD

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

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Shelby Isaac
W2018-00871-CCA-R3-CD

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

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Shelby Isaac - Concur
W2018-00871-CCA-R3-CD

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

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/13/19
State of Tennessee v. Michael L. Caudle
M2018-01471-CCA-R3-CD

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

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/19
In Re B.A., et al.
W2019-00129-COA-R3-PT

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

McNairy County Court of Appeals 11/12/19
State of Tennessee v. Walter Roy Chavez, Jr.
M2018-01491-CCA-R3-CD

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

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/19
Johnathan Robert Leonard v. State of Tennessee
M2018-01737-CCA-R3-PC

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

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/19
State of Tennessee v. Richard Earnest Williams
M2018-01361-CCA-R3-CD

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

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/12/19
State of Tennessee v. Shaun Michael Vincent
M2018-01654-CCA-R3-CD

A jury convicted the Defendant, Shaun Michael Vincent, of aggravated robbery after he brandished a baseball bat and took property from the victim, who was attempting to pay the Defendant’s girlfriend for sexual contact. The Defendant was sentenced to serve eleven years in confinement. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and asserts that the trial court erred in limiting cross-examination of the victim, excluding evidence implicating the victim in prior sexual misconduct, and excluding a video of the victim’s interactions with police. The Defendant further argues that the court erred in denying him jury instructions regarding defense of a third person and special instructions on aggravated robbery and that he is entitled to relief pursuant to cumulative error. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19
Carlos D'Juan Campbell, Jr. vs. State of Tennessee
E2018-01877-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Carlos D’Juan Campbell, Jr., appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his two convictions for attempted first degree murder and one conviction for employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, arguing (1) he received ineffective assistance of counsel and (2) the post-conviction court erred in allowing the State to present proof and argument at the post-conviction hearing after the State failed to file a written response to his petition.  We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court. 

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Blake O. Swann
E2018-00354-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Blake O. Swann, appeals the Washington County Criminal Court’s order revoking his probation for his aggravated assault conviction and ordering him to begin anew his four-year sentence on community corrections. The Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his probation. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19
State of Tennessee v. Brian Marquince Long
W2018-01558-CCA-R3-CD

In this consolidated appeal, Defendant, Brian Marquince Long, challenges the trial court’s revocation of Community Corrections in three separate cases. After a review, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in revoking Defendant’s Community Corrections sentence and ordering him to serve his effective seventeen-year sentence in incarceration.

Henry County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/08/19