Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 07/07/2020
Format: 07/07/2020
State of Tennessee v. Buddy Wayne Mooney
W2019-01309-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Buddy Wayne Mooney, was convicted by a Henderson County Circuit Court jury of possession with intent to sell 0.5 gram or more of methamphetamine, a Class B felony; possession with intent to deliver 0.5 gram or more of methamphetamine, a Class B felony; possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor; and unlawful possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class D felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-417(a) (2018) (subsequently amended) (possession of methamphetamine), 39-17-1324 (2018) (subsequently amended) (possession of a firearm), 39-17-425 (2018) (possession of drug paraphernalia). The trial court merged the two possession of methamphetamine convictions and imposed a ten-year probationary sentence, and it imposed sentences of eleven months and twenty-nine days in jail for the possession of drug paraphernalia conviction and three years in the Department of Correction for the weapon possession conviction. The court ordered the sentence for possession of methamphetamine to be served consecutively to the sentence for possession of drug paraphernalia. The court imposed the sentence for firearm possession consecutively to the sentence for methamphetamine possession but concurrently to the sentence for possession of drug paraphernalia. The effective sentence was thirteen years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his felony convictions and (2) that the trial court erred in admitting evidence that the gun found inside the Defendant’s car had been stolen. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/27/20
State of Tennessee v. Beth Anne Manis
E2018-02098-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Beth Anne Manis, was convicted by a jury of one count of voluntary manslaughter, a Class C Felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-211(a). Thereafter, the trial court denied the Defendant’s request for judicial diversion and ordered the Defendant to serve five years, six months in confinement as a Range I, standard offender. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence was insufficient to negate her claim of self-defense; (2) the trial court erred by declining to give a special jury instruction on self-defense; (3) the Defendant’s constitutional rights were violated by the absence of a jury verdict form regarding self-defense; and (4) the trial court erred by denying judicial diversion. Upon a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/27/20
Christopher S. Mayberry v. State of Tennessee
M2018-02109-CCA-R3-PC

Following a bench trial, the trial court found the Petitioner, Christopher S. Mayberry, guilty of two counts of the sale of methamphetamine. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to concurrent sentences of ten years for each count, to run consecutively to a prior sentence. The Petitioner timely filed a post-conviction petition, alleging the ineffective assistance of counsel. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that his attorney was ineffective and also asserts that the post-conviction court erred by “delaying the [post-conviction] hearing.” After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Humphreys County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/26/20
Mitzi Bayne Ruth, Et Al. v. Home Health Care of Middle Tennessee, LLC., Et Al.
E2019-01178-COA-R3-CV

This is a breach of contract action in which Plaintiffs sought to recover the balance of a promissory note executed to secure payment for of a deceased owner’s interest in the defendant company and to recover on a guaranty to secure the note. Defendants conceded that they did not pay the note according to its terms and counterclaimed, asserting that Plaintiffs breached a separate agreement which required the deceased owner’s estate to file amended tax returns and tender payment to the Internal Revenue Service for taxes which had been paid on behalf of the deceased owner by the company. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment; the court granted Plaintiffs’ motion, denied Defendants’ motion, and dismissed Defendants’ counterclaim. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 05/26/20
Gardenia Parker, et al. v. Epstein Enterprises, LLC, et al.
W2019-00311-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal from a jury trial. The defendants own and manage an apartment complex in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2010, two pit bull dogs left one of the apartments and attacked two individuals in a neighboring lot. One of the individuals died on the scene. The jury found the defendants were at fault and awarded a total jury verdict of $2.5 million. The trial judge granted the defendants’ motion for remittitur of the jury verdict and suggested remittitur of the award to $1.3 million. The plaintiff accepted the remittitur under protest. The defendants appeal, arguing that the trial court erred by denying their motion to amend their answers to assert comparative fault; denying their motion for a continuance; denying their motion for directed verdict; denying their motion for a mistrial due to comments made by plaintiff’s counsel during closing arguments; and denying their motion for new trial due to juror misconduct. In her posture as appellee, the plaintiff asserts that the trial court erred in suggesting remittitur of the jury verdict. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the circuit court and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/26/20
June C. Horton, et al. v. Erin E. Cooley
M2019-00945-COA-R3-CV

The maternal grandparents filed this action against their daughter, seeking court-ordered visitation with her four-year-old son, after she ceased their visitation during her parenting time. The daughter insisted that the grandparents accept her new husband and cease contact with the child’s father, her ex-husband, before the grandparents could see her and the child again. The grandparents rebuffed their daughter’s request, choosing to visit with the grandchild during the ex-husband’s residential time instead. Following a trial, the trial court found, inter alia, that the daughter placed reasonable conditions on the grandparents’ visitation pending a resolution of the family dispute, that there had not been a severe reduction in the grandparents’ visitation with the child, and there was no danger of substantial harm to the child because the child continued to visit the grandparents on a regular basis. We affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 05/26/20
Sherrie Miller Daly v. John Daly
W2017-02549-COA-R3-CV

This post-divorce appeal is the fourth appeal between the parties. This action involves the court’s holding of the mother in criminal contempt for her repeated failure to adhere to the orders of the court. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/26/20
Strategic Acquisitions Group, LLC v. Premier Parking Of Tennessee, LLC
E2019-01631-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiff lessor appeals the trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment concerning the interpretation of a lease in favor of the defendant lessee. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 05/22/20
Karen Potter v. YAPP USA Automotive Systems, Inc.
M2019-01531-COA-R3-CV

An employee filed and settled a workers’ compensation claim against her employer for injuries sustained in an assault. The employee then filed a complaint under the Tennessee Human Rights Act (“THRA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-21-101 to -702, alleging that the assault, in conjunction with a previous incident, constituted sexual harassment that created a hostile work environment. The trial court granted summary judgment for the employer, and the employee appealed. We affirm the trial court’s decision.

Sumner County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 05/22/20
Dan E. Durell v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01393-CCA-R3-HC

The pro se petitioner, Dan E. Durell, appeals for the denial of his petition for writ of habeas corpus by the Criminal Court for Knox County, arguing the habeas court erred in summarily dismissing his petition. The petitioner asserts he is entitled to habeas corpus relief because the State withheld evidence favorable to the petitioner’s sentencing, his convictions violated double jeopardy protections, and the trial court relied on “improper, inaccurate, and mistaken information” in sentencing him. However, as noted by the State in its brief, the petitioner’s appeal is untimely, and our review of the record and the petitioner’s claims does not support a finding that the interest of justice supports the waiver of the petitioner’s untimely notice of appeal. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/22/20
Courtney Knowles v. State of Tennessee
W2018-00739-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Courtney Knowles, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged his 2012 conviction for rape of a child. In this appeal, Petitioner asserts that his trial counsel was ineffective and that he was denied a full and fair hearing on his post-conviction petition. After a review of the entire record, we conclude that Petitioner was not afforded a full and fair hearing on his petition. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand this matter for a new evidentiary hearing. Furthermore, the interests of justice require that under the circumstances of this case, and to insure the public perception of a fair and impartial hearing, the post-conviction proceedings be heard by a different judge than the judge who previously heard the proceedings. In light of our conclusion and disposition in this case, we need not address Petitioner’s claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel at this time.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Jason Bradley Walters
W2019-00420-CCA-R3-CD

The State appeals as of right from the trial court’s order granting the motion to suppress all evidence obtained as a result of an unconstitutional stop of the vehicle driven by Defendant, Jason Bradley Walters. The basis of the stop was the arresting deputy’s observation that Defendant violated Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-9-407, which requires a driver to dim headlights within 500 feet of an approaching vehicle. In its order, the trial court granted the motion solely based upon its determination that a violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-9-407 is not a crime. On appeal the State argues it is a Class C misdemeanor pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-301(a), and that the trial court’s judgment should be reversed. On this point, we agree with the State. However, we remand for the trial court to make specific findings of fact based upon the trial court’s credibility determinations of the witnesses, and any other evidence, direct or circumstantial, viewed in light of the trial court’s credibility of the testimony. The trial court must then issue a new order either granting the motion to suppress or denying the motion.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/22/20
Kamonie Ector v. State of Tennessee
E2019-01414-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Kamonie Ector, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel prior to and during his guilty plea hearing. After our review of the record, briefs, and applicable law, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/22/20
Tennessee State Bank v. Douglas V. Mashek et al.
E2019-00591-COA-R3-CV

This case involves a home equity line of credit (“HELOC”) extended to the co-defendant, Douglas V. Mashek, by the plaintiff, Tennessee State Bank (“the Bank”), via a promissory note secured by a deed of trust encumbering real property titled to Mr. Mashek and acquired during Mr. Mashek’s marriage to the co-defendant, Deborah A. Mashek. When the Bank subsequently attempted to foreclose on the property, Mr. Mashek objected based on alterations to the deed of trust and a notice of right of rescission that had allegedly occurred after the deed’s execution and prior to recordation. The Bank filed a complaint against the Masheks in the trial court, seeking declaratory judgment that the recorded deed of trust was valid and enforceable, or in the alternative, reformation of the executed deed of trust to conform to the recorded deed. The Bank also named the title company involved in the loan transaction as a third-party defendant, alleging the title company’s liability in the event that the trial court found the deed of trust, either as executed or as recorded, to be unenforceable.1 The Masheks, proceeding pro se, filed various pleadings in response to the complaint, including a counterclaim against the Bank, alleging, inter alia, common law fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, equitable estoppel, slander of title, statutory estoppel, wrongful foreclosure, and unclean hands. Upon the Bank’s motion for partial summary judgment and following a hearing, the trial court granted the motion as to reformation of the executed deed of trust, declaring the deed, as reformed, to be enforceable and finding that the Bank was entitled to pursue foreclosure proceedings. The trial court found in part that the Bank or its agent(s) had employed “procedurally questionable and perhaps fraudulent” methods that were “at the very least negligent and potentially criminal in nature” to correct mistakes in the executed deed of trust and to, without authorization, affix the Masheks’ initials over a change in a date of signature on the notice of right of rescission. However, having also found that the mistakes corrected were mutual and amounted to scrivener’s errors that were not intended to and did not prejudice the Masheks, the trial court granted the Bank’s request to reform the executed deed of trust. The trial court 1 The title company is not participating in this appeal. 05/21/2020 2 awarded to the Bank a monetary judgment against Mr. Mashek, as the sole debtor named in the loan documents, in the amount of $294,566.39 for unpaid principal and interest. The trial court also awarded to the Bank reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses in the amount of $8,795.84, limiting such fees to those that “would be expected in an ordinary foreclosure action.” The trial court dismissed the Masheks’ various counterclaims and subsequently denied the Bank’s motion to alter or amend language in the judgment. The Masheks have appealed, and the Bank has raised issues regarding the trial court’s denial of its request to alter the court’s findings and denial of its request for additional attorney’s fees and expenses. Having determined that the Bank or its agent(s) made a unilateral mistake in materially altering the deed of trust after the document’s execution and then recording the altered deed of trust with the unilateral mistake incorporated, we reverse the trial court’s judgment as to the reformation and enforceability of the executed deed of trust. Having also determined that the action of the Bank or its agent(s) in affixing the Masheks’ initials over the altered date on the rescission notice without authorization or notice constituted gross negligence, we reverse the trial court’s finding that no gross negligence occurred but affirm the trial court’s implied finding that the Bank could not succeed in its request to reform the effective date of the rescission notice. However, concluding that no alterations were made to the promissory note, we further determine that the trial court properly found Mr. Mashek to be liable for the unpaid principal and interest due under the terms of the note. We therefore affirm the trial court’s $294,566.39 monetary judgment against Mr. Mashek. We vacate the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees and expenses to the Bank and remand for a hearing to determine the amount of attorney’s fees and expenses incurred by the Bank solely to obtain a judgment based on the promissory note. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects, including its denial of the Bank’s request for additional attorney’s fees and expenses and its denial of the Bank’s motion to alter or amend the language of the judgment. Finally, we clarify that no evidence has been presented in this case to support a finding of the intent necessary for forgery as a cause of action against the Bank or its agent(s).

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Daniel Ginther
M2019-00112-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Daniel L. Ginther, appeals as of right from the Williamson County Circuit Court’s revocation of his probation and reinstatement of the remainder of his eight-year sentence for passing worthless checks in the amount of $1,000 or more but less than $10,000. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering the Defendant to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement in spite of the Defendant’s “serious medical issues.” Following our review, we affirm.

Williamson County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 05/21/20
Bruce Gillam v. Destiny Ballew
E2018-01782-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns the trial court’s designation of the father as the minor children’s primary residential parent after establishing his paternity. During trial, the court granted the father’s motion in limine to exclude testimony from the mother’s expert witness. The mother appeals the trial court’s evidentiary ruling and the designation of primary residential parent. We affirm the trial court’s decision.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 05/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Wayne Wethington
E2018-02140-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Joseph Wayne Wethington, appeals his Grainger County Circuit Court jury convictions of attempted rape of a child, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction, that the trial court admitted certain testimony in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b), and that his sentence was excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/20
In Re Aryana S.
E2019-01267-COA-R3-PT

Lacy B. and Quentin B. (collectively, “Petitioners”) filed a petition for adoption and to terminate the parental rights of the mother, Morgan S. (“Mother”), to the minor child, Aryana S. (“the Child”). The Trial Court found that Petitioners had proven by clear and convincing evidence that the grounds of abandonment by failure to support and severe child abuse existed for termination of Mother’s parental rights but that termination of her rights was not in the Child’s best interest. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Meigs County Court of Appeals 05/21/20
RODOLFO GUERRA ROSALES v. STATE OF TENNESSEE
M2019-01375-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Rodolfo Guerra-Rosales, pleaded guilty in General Sessions Court to misdemeanor drug possession, and the court imposed a probation sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days. The Petitioner timely filed a post-conviction petition in circuit court, alleging that his guilty plea in general sessions court was involuntary based upon the ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition, concluding that the claim was not cognizable and that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner asserts, and the State concedes, that the post-conviction court had jurisdiction to consider the petition and that his petition stated a colorable claim. After review, we reverse the post-conviction court’s dismissal and remand for an evidentiary hearing on the Petitioner’s claim.

Rutherford County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 05/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Benjamin Keith Franklin
E2019-01047-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Benjamin Keith Franklin, was convicted by the Rhea County Circuit Court jury of sexual battery by an authority figure, a Class C felony, and was sentenced to four years and six months in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that his conviction violates principles of double jeopardy and the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rhea County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/21/20
In Re: Ava M., Et Al.
E2019-01675-COA-R3-PT

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother’s parental rights. Janae M. (“Mother”) is the mother of Ava M., Camille W., and Michael W., III (“the Children”).1 Tommy G. (“Grandfather”) and Glenda G. (“Grandmother”) (“Grandparents,” collectively) are the Children’s paternal grandparents. When Mother was incarcerated in 2014, Grandparents received custody of the Children. A few years later, Grandparents filed a petition in the Circuit Court for Hamblen County (“the Trial Court”) seeking to terminate Mother’s parental rights. After a trial, the Trial Court found that the grounds of failure to support and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody were proven against Mother, and that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. Mother appeals arguing, among other things, that the Trial Court wrongly applied two different four-month periods for the ground of failure to support. Grandparents raise their own separate issue of whether the Trial Court erred in not finding the additional ground of failure to visit. We hold, inter alia, that although the Trial Court erred in applying two different four-month determinative periods for failure to support, the error was harmless in this case. We affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 05/20/20
State of Tennessee v. Ricky Lakino Covington
E2019-00359-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Ricky Lakino Covington, appeals from the trial court’s revocation of his probation. Upon our review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/20/20
State of Tennessee v. James Greenlee Davis, Jr.
E2019-00682-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, James Greenlee Davis, Jr., was convicted by a jury of possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell within a
drug-free zone, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver within a drug-free zone, and criminal trespass. The trial court sentenced Defendant to twenty-year sentences for each of the drug convictions and to a thirty-day sentence for the criminal trespass conviction. The trial court merged the drug convictions, and ordered the trespass sentence to be served concurrently to the drug sentence. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion for new trial. Defendant argues the trial court erred by (1) denying the motion to suppress; (2) certifying Donna Roach as an expert; and (3) admitting the Knoxville-Knox County KUB Geographic Information Systems (”KGIS”) map in to evidence. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/20/20
State of Tennessee v. Paul Kolb
W2019-01075-CCA-R3-CD

Paul Kolb, Movant, pled guilty on November 18, 2011, to rape of a child, rape, incest, and aggravated sexual battery. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of twenty-five years at one hundred percent service. On April 10, 2018, Movant filed a Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct what he claimed was an illegal sentence in Count 1, rape of a child. The trial court determined the sentence was not illegal and dismissed the motion. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/20/20
Michael John Stitts v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00867-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner was convicted by a Madison County jury of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated burglary, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, for which he received an effective sentence of sixty-one years’ imprisonment. State v. Michael John Stitts, No. W2017-00209-CCA-R3-CD, 2018 WL 2065043, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 27, 2018), appeal denied (Aug. 8, 2018). After his convictions were affirmed by this Court, the Petitioner filed a petition for postconviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel based on various grounds, which was denied following a hearing. In this appeal, the Petitioner raises the same issues and contends that trial counsel was ineffective in (1) failing to conduct a proper investigation into the facts of the case; (2) failing to object to improper witness testimony; (3) failing to adequately cross-examine witnesses; (4) failing to file certain pre-trial motions; and (5) failing to ensure juror impartiality. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/20/20