Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 09/18/2020
Format: 09/18/2020
State of Tennessee v. Jamarcus Miller
W2019-01701-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Jamarcus Miller, was indicted by a Shelby County grand jury for first-degree premeditated murder (Count 1) and
first-degree felony murder for a killing in the perpetration of attempted robbery (Count 2). A jury convicted Defendant of the
lesser-included offense of second-degree murder in Count 1, and convicted Defendant as charged in Count 2. On appeal, Defendant argues the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction in Count 2. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/27/20
in Re Madison J.
M2019-01188-COA-R3-PT

This case involves the termination of a biological mother’s parental rights to her minor child. The father and the stepmother initiated the case by filing a petition to terminate the mother’s rights and to allow stepmother to adopt the child. In their petition, the parties argued the mother abandoned the child by failing to visit and failing to provide support. Trial was held in March 2017, nearly three years after the petition was filed. In June 2019, the trial court granted the petition and entered its final order, finding there was clear and convincing evidence that the mother abandoned the child and that it was in the child’s best interests to terminate the mother’s parental rights. The mother timely appealed. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 07/24/20
The Metropolitan Government Of Nashville & Davidson County, Tennessee v. Prime Nashville, LLC
M2019-00564-COA-R3-CV

This is an action to enforce a citation from the Codes Department of the Metropolitan Government for operating a short-term rental property without a permit. The owner of the property appeals the default judgment entered as a sanction for failing to comply with the trial court’s order granting a motion to compel discovery. Upon a thorough review of the record, we have determined that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in entering the judgment as a sanction; accordingly, we affirm the judgment in all respects. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/23/20
State of Tennessee v. Sparkle Trenetta Jones
E2019-00804-CCA-R3-CD

A Knox County Criminal Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Sparkle Trenetta Jones, of selling and delivering less than fifteen grams of heroin within a drug-free school zone, Class A felonies. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that she serve seventeen years for each conviction and merged the convictions. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; that trial court committed plain error by allowing irrelevant testimony; and that the trial court erred by applying two enhancement factors. Based upon the record and the parties’ brief, we find no reversible error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/20
State of Tennessee v. Danielle Lynette Wright
E2019-01290-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Danielle Lynette Wright, was convicted of second-degree murder by a Knox County Jury. She received a sentence of seventeen years’ incarceration. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to sustain her conviction of seconddegree murder. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/20
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Lane
E2019-01293-CCA-R3-CD

Kevin Lane, Defendant, was indicted for multiple offenses stemming from incidents that occurred at the home of his mother and involved both Defendant's mother and brother. Prior to trial, Defendant filed a motion in limine seeking to prohibit the State from utilizing Defendant's prior convictions for impeachment. After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of three counts of aggravated criminal trespass, two counts of assault, one count of theft, five counts of domestic assault, one count of robbery, and one count of carjacking. As a result of the convictions, he was sentenced to an effective sentence of twenty-three years. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant filed a timely notice of appeal. On appeal, the following issues are presented for our review: (l) whether the evidence is sufficient to support the convictions; and (2) whether the trial court erred by permitting the State to introduce evidence of prior bad acts in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b). After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/23/20
In Re: Braelyn S.
E2020-00043-COA-R3-PT

Father appeals the termination of his parental rights. The trial court found grounds for termination by abandonment by failure to visit, abandonment by failure to support, and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume legal and physical custody of the child. The trial court also found termination was in the best interests of the child. We affirm in part and reverse in part, but affirm the termination of the father’s parental rights.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 07/22/20
In Re Braelyn S. - concurring and dissenting
E2020-00043-COA-R3-PT

Because I believe that the line of cases holding that the petitioner seeking to terminate a parent’s rights under Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-113(g)(14) must prove both a “failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody” with respect to the first prong of the analysis, I respectfully dissent from that portion of the majority’s opinion. See In re Ayden S., No. M2017-01185-COA-R3-PT, 2018 WL 2447044, at *7 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 31, 2018). In all other respects, including affirming the termination of Father’s parental rights, I concur.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 07/22/20
State of Tennessee v. James Demoss
M2019-01583-CCA-R3-CD

James Demoss, Defendant, pleaded guilty to one count of voluntary manslaughter and two counts of aggravated assault. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the manner of service of the effective fifteen-year sentence was to be determined by the trial court. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered Defendant’s sentence to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant claims that the trial court abused its discretion by sentencing him to serve his sentence in incarceration rather than granting an alternative sentence. Because the trial court failed to articulate adequate reasons for denying an eligible defendant an alternative sentence, the abuse of discretion standard with a presumption of reasonableness does not apply on appeal, and this court can either (1) conduct a de novo review to determine whether there is an adequate basis for denying an alternative sentence; or (2) remand for the trial court to consider the requisite factors in determining whether to grant an alternative sentence. We determine that the record on appeal is sufficient for this court to undertake a de novo review, and after a de novo review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the denial of an alternative sentence.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/20
Charles L. Jones, III v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01935-CCA-R3-HC

Charles L. Jones, III, Petitioner, appeals from the denial of habeas corpus relief from his sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole after he pled guilty to second-degree murder. After a review, we affirm the denial of habeas corpus relief.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/20
Suzette Michelle Gibson v. Michael Wayne Gibson
E2019-01051-COA-R3-CV

In this post-divorce proceeding, the trial court dismissed a Husband’s petition to modify or terminate the transitional alimony he was obligated to pay on the basis of the provision of the parties’ Marital Dissolution Agreement that made the alimony obligation nonmodifiable. Husband appeals. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/22/20
In Re Estate of Paul D. Freeman, Deceased
M2018-02131-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from an action to remove the decedent’s son as the executor of the estate. The action also sought to remove the decedent’s son as the nominated trustee of two testamentary trusts; however, the trustee never assumed his duties because neither trust was ever funded. The decedent’s wife was the principal beneficiary of the estate and both testamentary trusts. The action was initiated by the conservator for the decedent’s wife who alleged, inter alia, that the executor/trustee failed to distribute any property or income to the wife and used the assets for his personal benefit. The conservator also alleged that he improperly used the estate’s assets to satisfy a bank loan that encumbered real property he jointly owned with the decedent for which he and the decedent were liable. The conservator claimed the bank loan was not a lawful debt of the estate because the bank failed to file a claim against the estate within the time limits set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. § 30-2-307. In response, the executor/trustee contended the action to remove him was barred by the one-year statute of limitations for breach of trust actions. He also contended the debt to the bank was properly paid in accordance with the law of exoneration. After a hearing, the trial court found that the law of exoneration did not apply and held that the estate was not obligated on the debt to the bank because the bank did not timely file a claim against the estate. Additionally, the trial court removed the decedent’s son as both the executor and trustee based on his persistent failure to administer the estate and appointed a successor executor and successor trustee. The successor executor filed an inventory and accounting for the estate, and the former executor filed an objection. At the hearing that followed, the former executor submitted into evidence a document entitled “Land Agreement” and claimed that the agreement was enforceable against the estate as a contract to make a will. The trial court determined that the Land Agreement was a contract to make a will, but the claim was time barred. In its final order, the court assessed damages against the former executor and awarded the conservator her attorney’s fees. The former executor appealed, arguing that (1) the action was barred by the statute of limitations for breach of trust actions, (2) the Land Agreement was enforceable against the estate, (3) the debt to the bank was properly paid under the law of exoneration, and (4) he was not liable for attorney’s fees. We affirm the trial court’s decision in all respects.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 07/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Tracy Lynn Harris
W2019-00834-CCA-R3-CD

Pro-se petitioner, Tracy Lynn Harris, appeals from the Carroll County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Carroll County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/20
State of Tennessee v. Michael Ryan Boggs
W2019-01289-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Michael Ryan Boggs, was indicted for theft of property valued at more than $10,000 and less than $60,000, a Class C felony; aggravated burglary, a Class C felony; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a Class E felony; and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-14-103(a), -14-105(a)(4), -14-402, -14-403(a), -17-1307(b)(1)(B), -17-1324(a). Following a jury trial, the Defendant was acquitted of the firearms offenses and convicted of the theft of property and aggravated burglary offenses. The trial court imposed a sentence of ten years on each count, to be served concurrently. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence relative to his identity as a perpetrator of the burglary, arguing that the accomplice testimony was incredible and not adequately corroborated. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Benton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/20
Jeffery Yates v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00407-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Jeffery Yates, appeals from the summary dismissal of his latest petition for post-conviction relief. Petitioner has repeatedly and unsuccessfully challenged his convictions and sentences. In this, his latest challenge, Petitioner filed a petition for
post-conviction relief challenging his 2003 convictions. He alleged that he had received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that the trial court had improperly amended his judgment of conviction. The post-conviction court summarily dismissed the petition, concluding that the grounds for relief had clearly been waived because they had not been raised in Petitioner’s prior petitions for
post-conviction relief. Following our review, we conclude that an opinion in this case would have no precedential value and affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/22/20
James Scarlett v. AA Properties, GP
E2019-01371-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a default judgment in a detainer action. AA Properties, GP (“AA Properties”) filed a detainer warrant against James Scarlett (“Scarlett”) in the General Sessions Court for Knox County (“the General Sessions Court”) concerning real property of Scarlett’s that had been foreclosed upon. Default judgment was entered against Scarlett and a writ of possession was issued. Scarlett later filed a petition for writ of certiorari and supersedeas in the Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Circuit Court”). AA Properties filed a motion to dismiss, which the Circuit Court granted. Scarlett appeals, arguing that the warrant was deficient in that it failed to state specifically that personal service was attempted. Scarlett argues further that, under the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, only five days elapsed from the posting of the warrant to the hearing, when per statute he was entitled to six days. We hold, first, that the warrant sufficiently reflected that personal service was attempted. We hold further that, in this instance, the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure did not apply in the General Sessions Court. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 07/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Isaiah Kemp
E2019-01784-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Isaiah Kemp, appeals from the revocation of the probationary sentence imposed for his 2018 Sevier County Circuit Court guilty-pleaded conviction of passing worthless checks in an amount of $1,000 or more but less than $10,000, arguing that the trial court erred by ordering that he serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sevier County 07/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Bryan Johnson
M2019-00943-CCA-R3-CD

After pleading guilty to several offenses, Defendant, Joshua Bryan Johnson, received an effective eight-year sentence to be served on probation. A violation of probation warrant was issued and the trial court fully revoked his probation after a hearing. Defendant filed a timely notice of appeal. After the notice of appeal was filed, Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Rule 35 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure asking the trial court to modify his sentence to provide for inpatient rehabilitation. The trial court held a hearing on the motion and denied relief. Defendant filed an additional notice of appeal and this Court consolidated the appeals. After a review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Lane
E2019-01401-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Curtis Lane, appeals his 2019 Knox County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded conviction of second degree murder, arguing that the 22-year sentence is excessive. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/20
Sheila Mikel v. Tennessee Department Of Children's Services
E2019-02112-COA-R3-CV

A foster parent appealed the removal of two foster children from her home. This appeal arises from a petition for judicial review of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services Administrative Procedures Division’s decision to dismiss the foster parent’s appeal on the basis of mootness. The Chancery Court affirmed the Commissioner’s decision. Finding substantial and material evidence in support of the Commissioner’s decision, we affirm.

Court of Appeals 07/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Gary Wayne Ford
E2019-00684-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Gary Wayne Ford, appeals the Meigs County Criminal Court’s denial of alternative sentencing for his conviction of voluntary manslaughter, arguing that the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard, admitted improper rebuttal evidence at the sentencing hearing, and based its decision on unreliable or contradicted evidence. After careful examination of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Meigs County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/21/20
In Re: Sallie Ann Hofmann
E2019-01856-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns an action to establish undue influence and violations of the Tennessee Adult Protection Act, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated section 71-6-120, et seq.2 The trial court denied the claims submitted by Plaintiff. We affirm.

Johnson County Court of Appeals 07/21/20
Mary Denson v. VIP Home Nursing And Rehabilitation Service, LLC
M2019-02145-SC-R3-WC

The only issue in this workers’ compensation appeal is whether the trial court erred in awarding attorney’s fees. An employee sustained a compensable injury to her back at work. The settlement agreement resolving her workers’ compensation claim required her employer to pay her future medical expenses. When her employer refused to pay for prescribed pain medication, she filed a petition for contempt and to compel payment. After her employer reversed its denial of payment, the trial court awarded her $7,500 in attorney’s fees. We affirm the judgment and remand the case to the trial court for determination of reasonable attorney’s fees to be awarded to the employee for this appeal.

Putnam County Workers Compensation Panel 07/21/20
Mack Bilbrey v. Active USA, LLC Et Al.
M2019-00720-SC-R3-WC

This workers’ compensation appeal requires us to determine whether Employee elected to receive workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to Texas law and is, therefore, precluded from recovering in Tennessee under the doctrine of election of remedies. The trial court applied the election of remedies doctrine based on the Employee’s filing of a Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation Form-041, titled “Employee’s Claim for Compensation for a Work-Related Injury or Occupational Disease” (“Claim for Compensation”) with the Texas Department of Insurance (“TDI”), his filing of a “Request to Schedule, Re-Schedule, or Cancel a Benefit Review Conference (BRC)” (“Request to Schedule a Benefit Review Conference” or “Request”) with the TDI, his consultation with an ombudsman in the Texas Office of Injured Employee Counsel, and his “knowing and voluntary” acceptance of temporary total and medical benefits issued pursuant to Texas law. The trial court therefore determined that Employee was precluded from recovering workers’ compensation benefits in Tennessee. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. After careful consideration, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Trousdale County Workers Compensation Panel 07/21/20
State of Tennessee v. Dennis Lee Seale
M2019-01913-CCA-R9-CD

The Defendant, Dennis Lee Seale, filed a Rule 9 interlocutory appeal seeking our review of the trial court’s ruling that some of the prosecution’s out-of-state witnesses could testify at trial via two-way video conferencing technology. After a hearing, the trial court ruled that four of the prosecution’s witnesses could testify via teleconferencing rather than in person. The Defendant filed an application for an interlocutory appeal, which the State did not oppose, and which the trial court granted. This court determined that this application met the criteria of Rule 9, and granted the appeal. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred because its ruling violated his rights pursuant to the Confrontation Clause of both the Federal and our State constitution. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we conclude that this case, as one of first impression in this state, provides this court the opportunity to hold that the standard as articulated in Maryland v. Craig, 497 U.S. 836 (1990), should extend to two-way video conferencing technology. As such we reverse and remand this case to the trial court for a case-specific and witness-specific determination of whether the denial of the Defendant’s right to confront witnesses is necessary to further an important public interest.

Lewis County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/20/20