Court Opinions

Format: 06/28/2022
Format: 06/28/2022
Allison Haynes v. Perry County, Tennessee
M2020-01448-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge W. Neal McBrayer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Michael E. Spitzer

A gunshot victim filed a tort action against a county, alleging misconduct on the part of a sheriff’s deputy.  The plaintiff asserted that the county was liable under both the Governmental Tort Liability Act and Tennessee Code Annotated § 8-8-302.  The county moved to dismiss the complaint.  The county argued that it was immune from liability under either the discretionary function exception or the public duty doctrine.  The trial court dismissed the complaint.  We conclude that, because the deputy sheriff’s actions as alleged in the complaint were operational in nature, the county is not immune from liability under the Governmental Tort Liability Act.  The complaint also contains sufficient factual allegations of reckless misconduct such that the special duty exception to the public duty doctrine could apply.  So we vacate the dismissal.

Perry County Court of Appeals 04/25/22
Antywan Eugene Savely v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00746-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

Petitioner, Antywan Eugene Savely, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding that he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial.  More specifically, Petitioner asserts that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present any proof on his behalf.  Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/22
Sheila Adams v. Henry Hughes
W2020-00450-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge Frank G. Clement, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jerry Stokes

This appeal arises from an action to recover personal property. The plaintiff, who is the former fiancé of the defendant, claimed the defendant retained some of her personal property after he forced her to vacate the premises where they previously resided. This action was initiated with the filing of a civil warrant in the general sessions court. After the general sessions court awarded the plaintiff a judgment in the amount of $7,500, the defendant appealed to the circuit court. Following a trial, the circuit court awarded the plaintiff a judgment of $4,745.30. This appeal followed. Finding no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/25/22
State of Tennessee v. Noah Cassidy Higgins
M2021-00281-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Deanna B. Johnson

Defendant, Noah Cassidy Higgins, pled guilty as a Range I standard offender to vehicular homicide by recklessness with the sentence to be determined by the trial court.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied judicial diversion and probation and sentenced Defendant to five years’ incarceration with a thirty percent release eligibility.  Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court: (1) improperly denied judicial diversion; (2) improperly denied probation; (3) considered facts outside the record; and (4) erred in applying and balancing certain enhancement and mitigating factors.  Following our review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/25/22
William Cole Nicholson v. State of Tennessee
M2020-01128-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge William R. Goodman, III

William Cole Nicholson, Petitioner, was convicted of one count of aggravated sexual battery, and this court affirmed his conviction on direct appeal.  State v. William Cole Nicholson, No. M2017-01761-CCA-R3-CD, 2018 WL 4203549, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 4, 2018), no perm. app. filed.  Petitioner filed a pro se post-conviction petition and an amended petition through counsel, arguing that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel.  The post-conviction court denied the petition, and Petitioner now appeals.  Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/22
State of Tennessee v. Marcus Roshone Perry
M2020-01407-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

Marcus Roshone Perry, Defendant, appeals his convictions for two counts of premeditated first degree murder, one count of first degree felony murder, and one count of felon in possession of a firearm, claiming that the trial court erred (1) in admitting hearsay evidence, (2) in admitting discoverable evidence that was not provided to Defendant, and (3) by empaneling a jury which was not representative of Defendant’s peers.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/22
State of Tennessee v. Quincy Lamont Collins
W2020-01566-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Roy B. Morgan, Jr.

Defendant, Quincy Lamont Collins, was indicted by the Madison County Grand Jury for one count each of attempted first degree premeditated murder, aggravated assault, especially aggravated robbery, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony having been previously convicted of a dangerous felony. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted as charged, and he received an effective sentence of 31 years. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his statement to police; that the trial court should have suppressed the gun located as a result of information obtained during Defendant’s interrogation; that the trial court erred by instructing the jury on flight; and that his convictions for attempted first degree premeditated murder and aggravated assault violate double jeopardy. Following our careful review of the record, the arguments of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/22
Auto Owners Insurance v. Phillip H. Thompson, III
W2021-00268-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Judge Rhynette N. Hurd

The plaintiff challenges the trial court’s order granting the defendant’s Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) motion to dismiss as a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 56 motion for summary judgment and dismissing the plaintiff’s cause of action with prejudice. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion both as a Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss and as a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment despite stating in its order that it had not excluded extraneous evidence presented by the defendant and that it would treat the motion as one for summary judgment. We conclude that the trial court erred by granting the defendant’s motion as a Rule 12.02(6) motion to dismiss after having considered extraneous evidence and that the trial court erred by failing to include in its order the legal grounds for its decision to grant the defendant’s motion as a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. Inasmuch as the plaintiff failed to file a proposed amended complaint in the trial court, we are unable to address the issue raised concerning the motion to amend the complaint. We vacate the trial court’s order and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion and Rule 56.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/21/22
State of Tennessee v. Sean Matthew Houser
E2020-01389-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

I concur with the majority’s conclusion to dismiss the Defendant’s appeal. However, I would dismiss the appeal on the basis that the certified questions are not dispositive because even if the results of the Defendant’s warrantless blood draw were suppressed, other sufficient evidence exists upon which the Defendant could be convicted of DUI.

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/22
State of Tennessee v. Sean Matthew Houser
E2020-01389-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge O. Duane Slone

The Appellant, Sean Matthew Houser, pled guilty in the Grainger County Circuit Court to driving under the influence (DUI) per se, a Class A misdemeanor. As a condition of his plea, he reserved two certified questions of law regarding the admissibility of his warrantless blood alcohol test. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the certified questions do not comply with Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2)(A) because they are too broad. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

Grainger County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/22
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Scott Donaldson
E2020-01561-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steven W. Sword

Aggrieved of his Knox County Criminal Court jury convictions of second degree murder, the defendant, Brandon Scott Donaldson, appeals. He alleges error in the composition of the jury, arguing that the venire did not represent a fair cross-section of the community and that the State improperly used a peremptory challenge to strike an African American. He claims error in both the admission and exclusion of evidence, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence a sonogram photograph and by excluding text messages sent by the victim, certain of the victim’s medical records, and prior consistent statements of a defense witness. He also asserts that the trial court erred by denying his motion for a mistrial after a State’s witness offered improper testimony. He asserts that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct during closing argument. He claims error in the jury instructions provided by the trial court, arguing that the trial court incorrectly defined the offense of voluntary manslaughter and that the sequential jury instruction essentially barred the jury from adequately considering voluntary manslaughter as a lesser included offense of second degree murder. The defendant also challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the propriety of the total effective sentence. Finally, he asserts that the cumulative effect of the alleged errors prevented him from receiving a fair trial. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/21/22
Frederick Russell v. Aluma-Form, Inc., et al.
W2021-00717-SC-R3-WC
Authoring Judge: Senior Judge Robert E. Lee Davies
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amber E. Luttrell

Employee Frederick Russell was working for Employer Aluma-Forrn, Inc. in January 2018 when he sustained an injury to his left shoulder and neck. He reported the injury and received treatment from an orthopedic specialist whose conservative approach to his case included an MRI, an EMG, physical therapy, and referrals to a neurosurgeon and a pain management specialist. Though Employee reported continued pain despite these efforts, his medical providers opined that they could find no objective basis for his reported syrnptoms and believed them unrelated to his work injury. Employee later sought treatment from a different, unauthorized orthopedic specialist who performed surgeiy on his shoulder and thereby discovered and repaired a previously undiagnosed torn labrum. Employee sought compensation, and after considering the proof, the Court of Workers' Compensation Claims held that Employee had established that his injury was caused by his workplace incident, that Ernployer was liable for his medical expenses including those incurred for unauthorized treatrnent, and that Employee was entitled to both permanent partial disability benefits and temporary total disability benefits. Employer appealed, arguing that the trial court erred on all three issues. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers' Compensation Appeals Panel for consideration and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the judgment.

Workers Compensation Panel 04/21/22
Antonio Bonds v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00589-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge John Wheeler Campbell

The Petitioner, Antonio Bonds, was convicted by a jury of first degree premeditated murder, and he received a sentence of life imprisonment. The Petitioner filed this fourth petition for post-conviction relief over twenty years after his conviction, and the postconviction court summarily dismissed his petition on the ground that the statute of limitations barred its consideration of his claims. The Petitioner appeals. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/22
State of Tennessee v. Marcus Willingham
M2020-01740-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge David M. Bragg

A Rutherford County jury convicted the Defendant, Marcus Willingham, of ten counts of rape of a child and two counts of solicitation of sexual exploitation of a child, for which the trial court imposed an effective sentence of thirty years’ incarceration.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it admitted pornographic material found on his electronic devices and that the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions.  After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.  

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/20/22
Codie Hadley v. State of Tennessee
E2021-00203-COA-R3-JV
Authoring Judge: Judge John W. McClarty
Trial Court Judge: Judge Alex E. Pearson

A juvenile entered a best interest plea to and was adjudicated delinquent for the offense of sexual battery. The juvenile was placed on probation under the supervision of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services. He sought relief through a
post-conviction petition in the trial court. The State moved to dismiss the petition. Pursuant to the juvenile’s concession that no valid claims could be brought, the trial court dismissed the petition. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 04/20/22
Clay County Et Al. v. Purdue Pharma L.P. Et Al.
E2022-00349-COA-T10B-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jonathan L. Young

A Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B petition for recusal appeal was filed in this Court following the denial of a motion that sought the disqualification of the trial court judge. As explained herein, because we conclude that concerns contributing to an appearance of partiality necessitate the trial judge’s recusal, we reverse. In addition, we vacate an order on substantive matters that was signed by the trial judge while the recusal motion was pending.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 04/20/22
State of Tennessee v. William Eugene Moon
M2019-01865-SC-R11-CD
Authoring Judge: Chief Justice Roger A. Page
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

William Eugene Moon (“Defendant”) was convicted of attempted second degree murder and unlawful employment of a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony. Defendant appealed his conviction and asserted, among other things, that he had been denied the right to a speedy trial and that the trial court erred by allowing improper impeachment of a defense witness. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the judgments of the trial court, holding that Defendant was not denied a speedy trial and, although the trial court erred in allowing the prosecution to improperly impeach a defense witness, the error was harmless.  This Court granted Defendant’s application for permission to appeal to consider whether the Court of Criminal Appeals applied the proper standard of review to Defendant’s claim that he was denied a speedy trial, to address the merits of Defendant’s speedy trial claim, and to determine whether the trial court committed reversible error in allowing improper impeachment of a defense witness. We hold that the standard of review for an alleged speedy trial violation is de novo with deference to the trial court’s findings of fact unless the evidence preponderates otherwise. When reviewed under this standard, we determine that the Court of Criminal Appeals properly held that the Defendant was not denied a speedy trial. Further, we agree with the intermediate court that the trial court erred in allowing improper impeachment of a defense witness. However, we hold that this error was not harmless and is reversible error. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals and vacate the judgments of the trial court. The case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Coffee County Supreme Court 04/20/22
State of Tennessee v. Daniel H. Jones
E2021-00701-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge James F. Goodwin, Jr.

The pro se Appellant, Daniel H. Jones, appeals the Sullivan County Criminal Court’s orders summarily dismissing his motions to recuse the trial judge and motion for relief from final judgment. See Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02. The State has filed a motion to affirm the trial court’s judgments pursuant to Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Following our review, we conclude that the State’s motion is well-taken and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/22
In Re Harley K.
E2021-00748-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

Mother and Father appeal the termination of their parental rights, focusing solely on the issue of best interest. Because we conclude that the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services presented clear and convincing proof of both grounds for termination and that the child’s best interests would be served by the termination of both parents’ parental rights, we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 04/19/22
In Re S.S.
E2021-00761-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Judge Lawrence Howard Puckett

This appeal involves termination of the parental rights of two parents who severely abused their child. The trial court found by clear and convincing evidence that one ground for termination existed based on a prior adjudication of severe child abuse and that termination was in the best interest of the child. We affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 04/19/22
Marian Neamtu v. Iveta Neamtu
M2021-00265-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Philip E. Smith

This appeal arises from a husband’s petition to terminate his alimony payments to his former wife.  The trial court declined husband’s request and instead found that there was a substantial and material change in wife’s circumstances such that an increase in alimony was necessary.  Because we conclude that this appeal was not timely filed, we are without subject matter jurisdiction and therefore dismiss the appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/19/22
State of Tennessee v. Casey Bryan Gibbs
M2021-00933-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Suzanne Lockert-Mash
Defendant, Casey Bryan Gibbs, entered a nolo contendere plea to possession of methamphetamine over 0.5 grams and felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to ten years in the Department of Correction to serve 180 days with the balance suspended to the Community Corrections program. Following a hearing on a community corrections violation warrant based on Defendant’s failure to report, the trial court revoked Defendant’s community corrections sentence and ordered him to serve the remainder of his ten-year sentence in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues the trial court abused its discretion in fully revoking his community corrections sentence and ordering him to serve the sentence in confinement. Following our review of the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 
Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/22
State of Tennessee v. Quentin Dean Bird
M2021-00372-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers

The Defendant, Quentin Dean Bird, was convicted by a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury of two counts of first degree premeditated murder.  See T.C.A. § 39-13-202(a)(1) (2014) (subsequently amended).  The jury imposed sentences of life without the possibility of parole, which the trial court ordered to be served consecutively to each other.  On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) he was deprived of his right to equal protection under the law when the State exercised a peremptory challenge against a black prospective juror without articulating a valid race-neutral reason, (2) the trial court erred in admitting graphic autopsy photographs, (3) the sentence of life without parole for the murder of one of the victims was excessive and constituted double jeopardy because the facts used to establish the enhancement factor were also used to enhance the sentence for the murder of the second victim, and (4) the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences based upon its finding that the Defendant was a dangerous offender.  We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/19/22
Curtis Keller v. State of Tennessee
W2021-00123-CCA-R3-ECN
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge James M. Lammey

After the dismissal of his petition for error coram nobis relief without a hearing, Curtis Keller, Petitioner, appealed. Upon review, we determine that the petition for relief was properly dismissed and affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/18/22
State of Tennessee v. Jeremiah Emery
W2021-00086-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Jill Bartee Ayers
Trial Court Judge: Judge Donald H. Allen

Defendant, Jeremiah Emery, entered open guilty pleas to one count of possession of marijuana with intent to sell (Count 1), one count of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver (Count 2), one count of possession of drug paraphernalia (Count 3), two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony (Counts 4 and 5), and one count of unlawful possession of a firearm (Count 6). The trial court sentenced Defendant to a total effective sentence of five years in confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion by misapplying enhancement factors and ordering the maximum sentence for Counts 1 and 2, that the trial court erred in denying a probated sentence for Counts 1 and 2, and that the trial court erred in ordering Defendant to serve the conviction for possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony to be served after Counts 1 and 2. Following our review of the entire record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/18/22