Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 01/22/2020
Format: 01/22/2020
Ruby Diane Barron v. Bruce Joseph Barron
E2018-02257-COA-R3-CV

Wife filed for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences. The trial court granted husband a divorce on the grounds of wife’s adultery and other inappropriate marital conduct. Despite the many factors found by the trial court to be favorable to husband, the court awarded husband only 43% of the net marital estate. It also awarded husband one year of transitional alimony at $2,000 per month. We hold that the trial court erred in its division of the net marital assets and in its determination as to the duration of the transitional alimony awarded to husband. We modify the trial court’s judgment so as to provide husband five years of transitional alimony. We hold that the Roth IRA is a marital asset; it is awarded to husband and wife in equal share. Furthermore, we hold that the FERS pension account is to be divided between the parties as set forth in this opinion. As modified, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/20/19
Anthony Arrington v. Barbara Bryant Et Al.
E2018-02165-COA-R3-CV

This case involves a dispute between siblings, named as co-executors of their mother’s estate. Anthony Arrington (plaintiff) brought this action against his sister Barbara Bryant, alleging she engaged in “self-dealing, fraud, theft, and conversion” of the assets of their late mother, Nuffie Arrington (decedent). Ms. Bryant responded by alleging that the parties had mediated their dispute and entered into a settlement agreement disposing of all issues between them. She presented the settlement agreement and two checks she wrote to plaintiff in accordance with the agreement. The plaintiff had cashed the checks. Ms. Bryant asserted the defense of accord and satisfaction. Plaintiff admitted entering into the agreement, but argued that it should be rescinded because of fraudulent inducement and concealment. Ms. Bryant died while the action was pending in the trial court. Her children, Rachel Bryant Ramsey and Nathan Bryant (defendants) were substituted for her. The trial court granted summary judgment for defendants, finding the settlement agreement valid and enforceable. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Greene County Court of Appeals 11/20/19
State of Tennessee v. Billy McCarty Amyx
E2018-01733-CCA-R3-CD

A Hawkins County jury convicted the Defendant, Billy McCarty Amyx, of filing a false report and fabricating evidence, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of six years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Defendant appeals, asserting that the evidence does not support his convictions and that the trial court abused its discretion when it ordered him to serve six years. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/19
Rodney Jennings v. State of Tennessee
E2019-00343-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Rodney Jennings, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/20/19
Willie Lee Hughes, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00248-CCA-R3-PC

A Williamson County jury convicted Petitioner, Willie Lee Hughes, Jr., of aggravated robbery, for which he received a sentence of twenty-five years’ incarceration. Petitioner filed for post-conviction relief, which was denied following an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner appeals, asserting that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel based on trial counsel’s failure to: (1) explore racial bias during jury selection; (2) challenge the lack of diversity in the venire; (3) advise Petitioner of his right to allocution at sentencing; and (4) argue on appeal that the trial court erred by failing to declare a mistrial after being advised of an interaction between jurors and Petitioner’s son. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/19/19
State of Tennessee v. Darius Deshun Mitchell
W2018-01364-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Darius Deshun Mitchell, was convicted by a Lauderdale County Circuit Court jury of two counts of first degree premeditated murder, two counts of first degree felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202 (2014) (subsequently amended) (first degree murder), 39-13-403 (2018) (especially aggravated robbery), 39-17-1307(b)(1)(B) (2010)(subsequently amended) (possession of a weapon by a person who has been convicted of a felony drug offense). The trial court merged the first degree murder convictions with respect to each of the two victims into a single judgment of conviction for first degree murder as to each victim and imposed concurrent life sentences, which were to be served concurrently with a federal sentence and consecutively to a sentence for which the Defendant was on parole. The court imposed twenty-five-year sentences for each of the two especially aggravated robbery convictions and ordered that they be served concurrently with each other and to federal sentence and consecutively to the first degree murder sentences and to a sentence for which the Defendant was on parole. The court imposed a six-year sentence for the firearm conviction and ordered that it be served concurrently with a federal sentence and consecutively to the first degree murder sentences and to a sentence for which the Defendant was on parole. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/19/19
State of Tennessee v. Randy Milligan
W2019-00377-CCA-R3-CD

Randy Milligan (“Defendant”) pled guilty, as a Range III persistent offender, to delivery of a Schedule III controlled substance, a Class D felony. At a subsequent hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to eleven years, with a forty-five percent release eligibility, to serve in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by denying Defendant’s request for a suspended sentence. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

McNairy County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/19/19
In Re Deishun M. Et Al.
E2019-00777-COA-R3-PT

Jessica T. (“Mother”) appeals the April 3, 2019 order of the Hamilton County Juvenile Court (“Juvenile Court”) terminating her parental rights to the minor children, Deishun M. and Olivia M. (“the Children”). Upon petition of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”), the Juvenile Court terminated Mother’s rights on the statutory grounds of severe child abuse and persistent conditions. The Juvenile Court further found that termination of Mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the Children. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 11/18/19
State of Tennessee v. Antonio Burkhart, Alias Antonio Markezzee Burkhart
E2018-001749-CCA-R3-CD

In two consolidated cases, the Defendant pleaded guilty to three counts of violating the sex offender registry, reserving two certified questions of law pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2) regarding the validity of his original judgment and the validity of the reporting requirements. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/18/19
Donald Eugene Winder, III v. Kara Elizabeth Winder
E2019-01636-COA-T10B-CV

This is an accelerated interlocutory appeal pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B. Wife sought the trial judge’s recusal on the ground of bias, alleging, among other things, that her husband—an attorney—appeared regularly in front of the trial judge and that the two men were friends. The trial judge’s order denied wife’s allegations and their factual basis and denied the motion to recuse. Finding no evidence of bias that would require the trial judge’s recusal under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Meigs County Court of Appeals 11/18/19
Mihir Kishorchandra Patel v. Janki Anil Patel
W2018-00820-COA-R3-CV

The parties divorced after a thirteen year marriage in which the family was initially solely supported by Wife’s $40,000.00 per year income, but ending with Husband earning approximately $850,000.00 per year. The trial court found that long-term alimony was appropriate given Wife’s contribution to Husband’s earning capacity, her inability to achieve his earning capacity despite her efforts at education, and the parties’ relatively high standard of living during the marriage. Both parties take issue with the trial court’s alimony award. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm the trial court in all respects.

Madison County Court of Appeals 11/15/19
State of Tennessee v. Donald Lee Shields, Jr.
M2019-00344-CCA-R3-CD

After a trial, a Warren County jury found Defendant, Donald Lee Shields, Jr., guilty of three counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of attempted aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced Defendant as a Range I standard offender to an effective sentence of eighteen years. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/15/19
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