Court Opinions

Format: 08/18/2022
Format: 08/18/2022
Vatisha Evans-Barken v. Madison County, Tennessee
W2020-01101-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor James F. Butler

Appellee, a Sergeant with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, sought judicial review of the Civil Service Board’s affirmance of the Sheriff Department’s decision to terminate her employment. On its finding that the Board failed to consider all relevant evidence presented, the trial court exercised its discretion to remand the case to the Board for rehearing. Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-322(h). Appellant, Madison County, Tennessee, filed the instant appeal. We conclude that the trial court’s remand order is not a final, appealable order under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3(a). As such, this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction over the appeal. Appeal dismissed.

Madison County Court of Appeals 05/11/22
In Re Arianna B. et al.
M2021-00980-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Ronald Thurman

In this termination of parental rights case, Appellant Father appeals the trial court’s termination of his parental rights to the two minor children on the ground of abandonment by failure to support, Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(g)(1), 36-1-102(1)(A)(iv).  Appellant also appeals the trial court’s finding that termination of his parental rights is in the children’s best interest.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 05/11/22
Darrell Wren v. State of Tennessee - Dissent
W2021-00485-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

I respectfully disagree that the interests of justice are best served by granting a waiver of Petitioner’s untimely notice of appeal in this case. The notice of appeal, although only tardy by seven days, was nonetheless untimely. Petitioner has not sought waiver and offers no reason for such a break. Even after having an opportunity to reply to the State’s argument that this Court should dismiss the Petitioner’s untimely appeal, the Petitioner did not. There is simply no basis upon which this Court may find that the “interests of justice” merit a waiver of the untimely filed notice of appeal. See State v. Rockwell, 280 S.W.3d 212, 214 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2007) (“If this [C]ourt were to summarily grant a waiver whenever confronted with untimely notices, the thirty-day requirement of Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a) would be rendered a legal fiction.”). Accordingly, I would find that the appeal should be dismissed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/22
Darrell Wren v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00485-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Camille R. McMullen
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

The Petitioner, Darrell Wren, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for postconviction relief as time-barred. He asserts on appeal that his petition was timely filed or alternatively that due process considerations warranted the tolling of the one-year statute of limitations mandated by Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-30-102(a). He further asserts that post-conviction counsel’s violation of Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 28 section 6(C) requires remand. Following our review, we affirm the dismissal of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/22
State of Tennessee v. $133,429 In U.S. Currency Seized From Joni Assefa Kilenton, et al.
W2021-01005-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

In this seizure and forfeiture action, we do not reach the substantive issues because the order granting the forfeiture does not comply with the requirements of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 58 for entry of judgments. Nonetheless, we exercise our discretion under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 2 to take jurisdiction of the appeal for the limited purpose of instructing the trial court to enter an order on remand that not only complies with Rule 58, but also makes sufficient findings to enable this Court to make a meaningful review as required under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 52.01. Vacated and remanded.

Fayette County Court of Appeals 05/10/22
Leah Ward v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00952-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Mitchell

The petitioner, Leah Ward, appeals the dismissal of her petition for writ of error coram nobis, which petition challenged her 2005 Shelby County Criminal Court Jury conviction of first degree murder, arguing that the coram nobis court should have held a hearing on her petition. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/10/22
David Frazier v. State of Tennessee
W2021-01475-CCA-R3-HC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn Wade Blackett

The petitioner, David Frazier, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which petition challenged his Shelby County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded conviction of rape of a child, arguing that the trial court’s order denying habeas corpus relief does not contain sufficient factual and legal findings to facilitate appellate review. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/10/22
State of Tennessee v. Zachery Brandon
M2020-01092-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. Campbell, Sr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

The Defendant, Zackery Brandon, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of attempted aggravated robbery, especially aggravated robbery, and aggravated robbery and was sentenced by the trial court as a Range I, standard offender to an effective term of twenty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions and that the trial court erred in admitting the unsworn recorded statement of one of his
co-defendants.  After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 05/10/22
In Re Analesia Q.
E2021-00765-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brad Lewis Davidson

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Cindy B. (“Mother”) and Francisco Q. (“Father”) to their minor daughter, Analesia Q. (the “Child”). Following a bench trial, both parents’ rights were terminated pursuant to several statutory grounds, and Father appeals. He challenges the statutory grounds for termination, the trial court’s finding that termination of his rights was in the Child’s best interests, and the trial court’s decision to admit hearsay testimony regarding potential abuse of the Child pursuant to Tenn. R. Evid. 803(25). We reverse the trial court’s decision to terminate Father’s parental rights for abandonment by failure to visit and severe abuse, and vacate the trial court’s decision to terminate Father’s parental rights for failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody or financial responsibility of the Child. We affirm the termination of Father’s parental rights as to the remaining grounds, as well as the holding that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the Child’s best interests. The ultimate decision of the trial court is therefore affirmed.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 05/10/22
State of Tennessee v. James R. Ciaramitaro
W2021-00046-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Weber McCraw

A Fayette County jury convicted the Defendant, James R. Ciaramitaro, of one count of rape of a child and two counts of aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court sentenced him to a total effective sentence of forty-four years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it admitted the victim’s forensic interview. The Defendant also contends that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court erred when it sentenced him. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Fayette County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/22
Christina Ann Standley v. Carl Anthony Standley
M2021-00591-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kenny Armstrong
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

In this post-divorce action, Mother appeals the trial court’s award of Father’s attorney’s fees on his petition to modify child custody.  Because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in awarding Father attorney’s fees, we affirm. 

Williamson County Court of Appeals 05/09/22
State of Tennessee v. Tadarius L. Clift
M2021-00425-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Monte Watkins

The Defendant, Tadarius L. Clift, appeals his convictions for first degree premeditated murder and three counts of reckless endangerment, for which he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment plus four years.  On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the convictions and the trial court’s decision to limit defense counsel’s cross-examination of a witness for the State.  Upon reviewing the record, the parties’ briefs, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.  

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/09/22
Anthony Washington v. Tony Parker as Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Corrections
M2021-00583-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Christopher V. Sockwell

An inmate filed a petition for declaratory judgment against the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Corrections (“TDOC”).  The action was filed in Wayne County Chancery Court instead of Davidson County Chancery Court as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-225(a).  The trial court found that venue in Wayne County Chancery Court was not proper and that it was not in the interest of justice to transfer venue to Davidson County because Defendant neither had paid any portion of the filing fee, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-21-807,nor had he named the agency, TDOC, as a party to the action as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-225(a).  The trial court, therefore, dismissed the inmate’s petition.  We find that the inmate had not failed to comply with the partial filing fee payment because the trial court had not assessed the initial filing fee to be paid.  However, the trial court was correct that the inmate had failed to include TDOC as a party to the action as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 4-5-225(a).  Upon consideration of the appellee’s argument concerning the timeliness of the inmate’s notice of appeal, we hold that we have subject matter jurisdiction over this appeal.  Although we disagree with the trial court’s conclusion regarding the inmate’s compliance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 41-21-807, we affirm the trial court’s judgment dismissing the inmate’s action because the inmate failed to name TDOC as a party to the action.

Wayne County Court of Appeals 05/09/22
Corinio Pruitt v. State of Tennessee
W2019-00973-CCA-R3-PD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

Petitioner, Corinio Pruitt, was convicted in 2008 of first degree felony murder and was sentenced to death. After Petitioner’s conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Tennessee Supreme Court on direct appeal, Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition. After an extensive evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. In this appeal, Petitioner raises the following claims for relief: 1) the post-conviction judge erred by failing to recuse himself; 2) Petitioner is ineligible for the death penalty due to his intellectual disability, and trial counsel were ineffective in their handling of Petitioner’s intellectual disability claim at trial1; 3) trial counsel were ineffective for failing to investigate and present additional mitigating evidence regarding Petitioner’s traumatic social history, mental health, and cognitive impairments; 4) the prosecutors abused their discretion by seeking the death penalty in this case, operated under a conflict of interest, and committed misconduct by exercising peremptory strikes against African-American jurors and making inappropriate statements and arguments, and trial counsel were ineffective for failing to raise appropriate objections to these issues; 5) trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance during the course of voir dire, trial, closing argument, and jury instructions during the guilt phase; 6) the death penalty is unconstitutional and is a disproportionate sentence in this case; and 7) the cumulative effect of these errors rendered Petitioner’s trial fundamentally unfair. After a thorough examination of the briefs of the parties and amici curiae, the records of the post-conviction hearing and direct appeal, and the applicable law, this court affirms the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/22
Rita A. Roach v. Moss Motor Company, Inc. et al.
M2021-00511-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Western Section Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge Ross H. Hicks

The trial court denied a defendant’s motion to amend to include a cross-claim against another defendant. We reverse.

Robertson County Court of Appeals 05/06/22
Emmanuel Deshawn Bowley v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00390-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Petitioner, Emmanuel Deshawn Bowley, appeals from the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for
post-conviction relief from drug- and weapon-related convictions, for which he is serving an effective sixteen-year sentence.  On appeal, he contends that (1) the post-conviction court erred in denying relief based upon his ineffective assistance of counsel claims related to trial counsel’s performance in the appeal of the convictions and (2) he is entitled to post-conviction relief due to the existence of multiple instances of ineffective assistance of counsel in the appeal of the convictions.  We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/22
State of Tennessee v. Eric Tyre Patton
M2020-00062-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Royce Taylor

The Appellant, Eric Tyre Patton, was convicted in the Rutherford County Circuit Court of conspiracy to sell 150 grams or more of heroin and 300 grams or more of cocaine with at least one overt act occurring within a drug-free school zone (DFSZ) and possession of 300 grams or more of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver within a DFSZ.  On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained from GPS tracking devices and wiretaps; that the trial court erred by not requiring the State to identify four confidential informants (CIs); that the trial court erred by admitting testimony about a prior bad act and by denying his motion for a mistrial; that the trial court improperly instructed the jury on witness credibility; that the State improperly withheld exculpatory information in violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963); and that he is entitled to relief under cumulative error.  Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we find no reversible error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.  

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/22
In Re J.H. Et Al.
E2021-00624-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Brad L. Davidson

Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) removed two children from the custody of Polly H. (“Mother”) and Billy H. (“Father”) in March 2020 after receiving a referral regarding the family and allegations of abuse, and after Mother’s partner was found at the home with Mother and the children in violation of a permanent restraining order against Mother’s partner. In December 2020, DCS filed a petition to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights. DCS alleged, as statutory grounds for termination, abandonment by failure to support, abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home, failure to manifest an ability and willingness to parent, persistence of conditions, and severe child abuse. Father voluntarily surrendered his parental rights on the day of the trial. The trial court found that DCS proved four of the five grounds for termination of Mother’s rights by clear and convincing evidence and that termination was in the children’s best interests. Mother appeals. We affirm in part and reverse in part. We affirm the trial court’s ultimate holding that the parental rights of Mother should be terminated.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 05/05/22
State of Tennessee v. David Ian Lemons
W2020-01613-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

The Appellant, David Ian Lemons, was convicted in the Madison County Circuit Court of eleven drug and weapons offenses, ranging from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class B felony. After a sentencing hearing, he received an effective twenty-three-year sentence as a Range II, multiple offender. On appeal, the Appellant contends that his effective sentence is excessive because the trial court improperly applied an enhancement factor and improperly ordered consecutive sentencing. The State acknowledges that while the trial court may have partially misapplied an enhancement factor, the Appellant’s twenty-three-year sentence is not excessive. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we agree with the State and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/22
In Re Miranda T., et al.
W2021-00628-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paul B. Conley, III

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her minor children. The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Crockett County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Tiffany T. (“Mother”) to her minor children, Miranda and Baylee (“the Children”). After a hearing, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Mother’s parental rights on four grounds and finding that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. Mother appeals, arguing solely that the Juvenile Court erred in its best interest determination. We find, as did the Juvenile Court, that DCS proved four grounds for termination of parental rights against Mother by clear and convincing evidence. We find further by clear and convincing evidence, as did the Juvenile Court, that termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court.

Crockett County Court of Appeals 05/05/22
Corey Dendy v. State of Tennessee
W2020-01364-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The Petitioner, Corey Dendy, filed a petition for post-conviction relief from his conviction of aggravated robbery, alleging that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to contact a witness prior to the Petitioner’s guilty plea and that the Petitioner’s guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. The post-conviction court denied relief, and the Petitioner appeals. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/22
Cedric Evans v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00379-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Kyle C. Atkins

Cedric Evans, Petitioner, sought post-conviction relief from his guilty-pleaded convictions for second degree murder and felon in possession of a firearm, claiming that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court dismissed the petition. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/05/22
State of Tennessee v. Corey Taylor
M2021-00954-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jennifer Smith

Defendant, Corey Taylor, entered a guilty plea to aggravated assault and was sentenced to four years, suspended to supervised probation.  Following a hearing on a warrant alleging a violation of probation based on new arrests and failure to report, the trial court found defendant in violation, revoked his probation, and ordered him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement.  On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in declining to dismiss the probation violation warrant on speedy trial grounds.  Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/22
Alejandro Avila-Salazar v. State of Tennessee
M2020-01605-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Mark J. Fishburn

Petitioner, Alejandro Avila-Salazar, appeals the post-conviction court’s refusal to vacate his guilty plea to second-degree murder after the vacating his guilty plea to attempted aggravated rape based on trial counsel’s failure to inform Petitioner that he would be subject to mandatory lifetime community supervision for the attempted aggravated rape conviction.  The State argues that the post-conviction court erred by vacating the attempted aggravated rape conviction.  Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court and remand the case for reinstatement of the original judgment of conviction and sentence previously imposed for attempted aggravated rape. 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/22
State of Tennessee v. Darick A. Hinerman
M2021-00251-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Defendant, Darick A. Hinerman, was convicted by a Robertson County Circuit Court jury of first degree premeditated murder.  See T.C.A. § 39-13-202 (2018) (subsequently amended).  The trial court imposed a sentence of life imprisonment.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction, (2) the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence recovered during a warrantless search, and (3) the trial court erred during jury instructions.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/04/22