Court Opinions

Format: 05/13/2021
Format: 05/13/2021
State of Tennessee v. Stephen L. Purcell, Jr.
M2020-00217-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

A Lawrence County jury convicted the Defendant, Stephen L. Purcell, Jr., of felony reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, auto burglary, and theft of property valued at more than $10,000. The trial court imposed an effective twenty-year sentence to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions for reckless endangerment, aggravated assault, and especially aggravated kidnapping. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments. 

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/21
State of Tennessee v. Steven Michael Simpson
E2020-00345-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Scott Green

The defendant, Steven Michael Simpson, appeals his Knox County Criminal Court jury conviction of first degree felony murder, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/21
Clarksville Towers, LLC v. John Straussberger Et Al.
M2020-00756-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Thomas R. Frierson, II
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Laurence M. McMillan, Jr.

This appeal concerns the potential personal liability of the owner of a corporation, which was engaged as the contractor in a multi-million-dollar construction project. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the construction company’s owner, determining that the owner could not be held personally liable for the corporation’s alleged violations of either the Tennessee Contractors Licensing Act, the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, the Tennessee Trust Fund Statute, or the Prompt Pay Act. The plaintiff has appealed. Upon our de novo review, we affirm the grant of summary judgment to the corporation’s owner.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/11/21
In Re Enrique F. Et Al.
M2019-01765-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Judge Arnold B. Goldin
Trial Court Judge: Judge Stella L. Hargrove

This is an appeal from a termination of parental rights proceeding. Although the trial court found that certain grounds for termination were established against the children’s father, it determined that there was insufficient proof that termination was in the children’s best interests. On appeal, the guardian ad litem and prospective adoptive parents challenge the trial court’s best interests determination, as well as the trial court’s failure to conclude that other grounds for termination were established. Our review of the record reveals that no grounds for termination were properly found by the trial court, and we therefore affirm the trial court’s denial of the petition to terminate on this basis.

Lawrence County Court of Appeals 05/11/21
Marcus Thurman Wade v. State of Tennessee
M2019-00716-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge L. Craig Johnson

The Petitioner, Marcus Thurman Wade, filed for post-conviction relief from his two convictions of first degree murder and one conviction of especially aggravated robbery, arguing that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied the petition. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that trial counsel was ineffective by (1) advising the Petitioner not to testify; (2) failing to request a psychological evaluation of the Petitioner; (3) failing to introduce at the suppression hearing proof of the Petitioner’s mental capacity; (4) failing to challenge the racial composition of the jury venire; (5) failing to request funds for expert witnesses; (6) failing to investigate and review motel camera footage; and (7) failing to file a motion in limine to block evidence of the Petitioner’s drug transactions. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.  

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/21
Howard Burnett v. State of Tennessee
E2020-00697-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge James Curwood Witt, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Scott Green

The petitioner, Howard Burnett, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his conviction of first degree murder, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Because the petitioner failed to show that he was prejudiced by trial counsel’s representation, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/21
State of Tennessee v. Bradley Robinson
E2020-00555-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert L. Holloway, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge G. Scott Green

Defendant, Bradley Robinson, appeals his Knox County convictions for facilitation of first degree felony murder and facilitation of especially aggravated robbery, for which he received an effective sentence of thirty-seven years to serve in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant contends that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/11/21
State of Tennessee v. Michael Keith Clark
M2019-01613-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge:

The Defendant, Michael Keith Clark, was convicted at trial of possession of 0.5 grams or more of methamphetamine with intent to sell or deliver, possession of a firearm with intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia. He received an effective sentence of four years in confinement followed by eight years on community corrections. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of possession of a firearm with intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, that the trial court violated his right to confront the State’s witness during cross-examination, and that the State improperly commented on his decision not to testify in its closing argument. After reviewing the record, the parties’ briefs, and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.  

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/10/21
State of Tennessee v. Rashawn Boseman-Humes
E2020-00938-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everette Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Tammy M. Harrington

The Defendant, Rashawn Boseman-Humes, appeals the trial court’s order revoking his probation with respect to his convictions for attempted possession of a Schedule I controlled substance with the intent to sell or deliver and introduction of contraband into a penal facility. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred in finding that he violated the terms of his probation and in ordering him to serve his sentences in confinement. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/10/21
State of Tennessee v. Andrew G. Walsh
M2020-00057-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge John Everett Williams
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

The Defendant, Andrew G. Walsh, pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful photography, and he agreed to concurrent sentences of eleven months and twenty-nine days. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied alternative sentencing and judicial diversion and ordered the Defendant to register as a sex offender. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in making its sentencing decisions. We affirm the trial court’s judgments.  

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/10/21
State of Tennessee v. Mannan Mehdi
W2020-00021-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Timothy L. Easter
Trial Court Judge: Judge Carolyn W. Blackett

After being indicted for one count of sexual battery, Mannan Mehdi, Defendant, entered a best interest guilty plea with no agreement as to the sentence. The trial court denied judicial diversion, ordering Defendant to a one-year sentence, suspended to probation. The trial court also ordered Defendant to serve periodic confinement of “6 weekends in jail over the course of the probation.” Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court improperly denied judicial diversion. After a review, we determine that the trial court considered irrelevant factors in denying diversion. As a result, we reverse and remand the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
State of Tennessee v. Marterious O'Neal
W2019-02155-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Marterious O’Neal, of especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of thirty years in confinement. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. The defendant also contends the trial court erred in sentencing him as a Range II offender. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the defendant’s convictions but remand for imposition of sentences as a Range I, standard offender.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
State of Tennessee v. Ronald Curry
W2020-00865-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Chris Craft

The petitioner, Ronald Curry, appeals from the trial court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence pursuant to Rule 36.1 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. After a thorough review of the briefs of the parties and the applicable law, we conclude that the petitioner failed to state a colorable claim and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
State of Tennessee v. James Moore
W2020-00641-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge J. Ross Dyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge J. Robert Carter, Jr.

The defendant was convicted by a Shelby County jury of attempted first-degree murder and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. As a result of his convictions, the defendant received an effective sentence of twenty-six years. On appeal, the defendant contends the evidence was insufficient to establish his identity as the shooter and insufficient to support a finding of premeditation. Upon our thorough review of the record, the applicable law, and the briefs, we affirm the jury’s verdict.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
In Re Anari E., Et Al.
M2020-01051-COA-R3-PT
Authoring Judge: Chief Judge D. Michael Swiney
Trial Court Judge: Judge Amy cook Puckett

This appeal concerns the termination of a father’s parental rights to his two minor children. Thomas Miller (“Petitioner”), guardian ad litem, filed a petition in the Juvenile Court for Hickman County (“the Juvenile Court”) seeking to terminate the parental rights of Desia E. (“Father”) to Anari E. and Chrifayni O. (“the Children,” collectively). After a trial, the Juvenile Court entered an order terminating Father’s parental rights on six grounds and finding that termination of Father’s parental rights is in the Children’s best interest, all by clear and convincing evidence. Father appeals, arguing Petitioner failed to meet his burden as to any of the grounds and as to best interest. We affirm the judgment of the Juvenile Court.

Hickman County Court of Appeals 05/07/21
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Burnside
E2019-02273-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Bobby R. McGee

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Curtis Burnside, of thirty-three counts of theft, twelve counts of burglary, one count of criminal impersonation, and one count of simple possession of a controlled substance. The trial court imposed partial consecutive sentencing for an effective sentence of twenty-four years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his burglary convictions; (2) the State’s theory on the “aggregated counts” of the indictment was improper; and (3) the trial court sentenced him under an outdated “theft grading scheme.” After review, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions but reverse a number of his sentences. We conclude that the Defendant was sentenced on certain counts pursuant to an outdated version of the theft grading statute, Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-14-105(a), and should be resentenced on these counts pursuant to the updated version effective January 1, 2017. We affirm the convictions in all counts but remand to the trial court for resentencing consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
Estate of Sedley Alley v. State of Tennessee
W2019-02046-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge Paula L. Skahan

The Appellant, the Estate of Sedley Alley (“the Estate”), appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s dismissal of its petition for post-conviction DNA analysis. The 2019 petition sought DNA testing of items from the Defendant’s trial despite the fact that the Defendant, who had received the death penalty, was executed in 2006. The Estate argued that the Post-Conviction DNA Analysis Act (“the DNA Act”) permitted the Estate to petition for DNA testing because the civil right of survivorship statute applied. The Estate additionally argued that United States and Tennessee Constitutions require that the Estate be allowed to petition for DNA testing under the DNA Act, citing to principles of due process and a “reputational guarantee.” Following our review of the applicable authorities, we hold that the Estate is not a “person” within the purview of the DNA Act and that neither due process nor any reputational guarantee require a remedy under these facts. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
Frankie Joe Alfred Benton v. State of Tennessee
E2020-00864-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge John F. Dugger, Jr.

The Petitioner, Frankie Joe Alfred Benton, appeals from the Hawkins County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2013 convictions upon his guilty pleas to nine drug offenses, for which he received an effective nine-year sentence. On appeal, he contends that the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his petition. We affirm the judgment of the
post-conviction court.

Hawkins County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
State of Tennessee v. Vanassa Hurst
E2020-00980-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert H. Montgomery, Jr.
Trial Court Judge: Judge E. Shayne Sexton

The Defendant, Vanassa Hurst, was convicted by a Claiborne County Criminal Court jury of first degree felony murder and second degree murder. See T.C.A. §§ 39-13-202(a)(2) (2019) (subsequently amended), 39-13-210(a)(1) (2014) (subsequently amended). The trial court imposed a life sentence for first degree murder, ordered a sentence of nineteen years for second degree murder, and merged the second degree murder conviction into the first degree murder conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress her pretrial statements and (2) the evidence is insufficient to support her convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Court of Criminal Appeals 05/07/21
Robin Nunley, Et Al. v. James E. Farrar D/B/A Farrar Bonding
M2020-00519-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

Appellant filed a civil warrant in general sessions court seeking a refund of her payment to Appellee, a bondsman, because the bondee was never released from public custody. The general sessions court granted judgment in Appellee’s favor, and Appellant appealed to circuit court. Eventually, Appellee filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Appellant was not entitled to a refund. In response, Appellant filed a motion to amend her civil warrant to clarify her theories. The trial court granted Appellee’s motion for summary judgment and denied Appellant’s motion to amend her civil warrant. Because Appellee’s failure to comply with Rule 56.03 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure prevents meaningful review of its motion for summary judgment, we reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. We vacate the trial court’s denial of Appellant’s motion to amend.

Bedford County Court of Appeals 05/06/21
Regions Commercial Equipment Finance, LLC v. Richard Aviation, Inc.
W2020-00408-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Presiding Judge J. Steven Stafford
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor Walter L. Evans

In this second appeal, Appellant appeals the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on the basis that the ruling is not the product of the trial court’s independent judgment. Appellee argues that the trial court’s ruling can be affirmed on a different basis, as the trial court erred in denying its motion to alter or amend the judgment to include this additional basis for the judgment in its favor. We agree that the trial court’s order does not comply with Smith v. UHS of Lakeside, 439 S.W.3d 303 (Tenn. 2014), and so we once again vacate the grant of summary judgment. We decline, however, to reverse the trial court’s denial of Appellee’s motion to alter or amend.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/06/21
Lizandro Guevara v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00118-CCA-R3-PC
Authoring Judge: Judge Robert W. Wedemeyer
Trial Court Judge: Judge Steve R. Dozier

In 2011, a Davidson County jury convicted the Petitioner, Lizandro Guevara, of eight counts of aggravated sexual battery and four counts of rape of a child, and the trial court sentenced him to sixty-nine years of incarceration. The Petitioner appealed, and our court affirmed the convictions. State v. Lizandro Guevara, No. M2015-01719-CCA-R3- CD, 2016 WL 5266552 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Sept. 21, 2016), perm. app. denied. Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, which the post-conviction court denied after a hearing. The Petitioner appealed, and, after review, we affirm the postconviction court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/21
Estate of Pagiel Hall Czoka Et Al v. Life Care Center of Gray Et Al.
E2020-00995-COA-R9-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Kristi M. Davis
Trial Court Judge: Judge Jean A. Stanley

This case is about the requisite mental capacity to execute a power of attorney. After the death of Pagiel Hall Czoka (“Decedent”), Decedent’s estate initiated a lawsuit against several defendants affiliated with the Life Care Center of Gray (“Defendants”) in January of 2018. The estate’s claims arose from an alleged assault on Decedent while she resided in Defendants’ residential health-care facility in Gray, Tennessee. In response, Defendants sought to compel arbitration of all issues and claims based upon an arbitration agreement entered into by Defendants and Decedent’s power of attorney when Decedent was admitted to Defendants’ facility in 2015. The estate responded by asserting that Decedent lacked sufficient mental capacity to execute the power of attorney on the day it was signed and that the power of attorney and the arbitration agreement were therefore void. As such, the estate argued that Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration should be denied and that the case should proceed to trial. The Circuit Court for Washington County (the “trial court”) granted Defendants’ motion to compel arbitration and the estate sought and was granted permission for this interlocutory appeal. Because the evidence in the record does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding that Decedent had the requisite capacity to enter into the power of attorney on the date in question, we affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 05/06/21
State of Tennessee v. Jamie Lee Blankenship
M2020-00730-CCA-R3-CD
Authoring Judge: Judge Norma McGee Ogle
Trial Court Judge: Judge M. Wyatt Burk

The Appellant, Jamie Lee Blankenship, pled guilty in the Bedford County Circuit Court to violating a motor vehicle habitual offender (MVHO) order and driving under the influence (DUI), second offense, and received an effective sentence of one year, six months to be served at thirty percent release eligibility. The Appellant served some time in confinement and was released on probation. Subsequently, the trial court revoked the Appellant’s probation and ordered that he serve the remainder of his effective sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant acknowledges that he violated probation but contends that the trial court should have ordered a sentence of split confinement followed by reinstatement of probation. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/06/21
Glenver Ian Smith, et al. v. Stephen L. Hughes, et al.
W2020-01228-COA-R3-CV
Authoring Judge: Judge Carma Dennis McGee
Trial Court Judge: Chancellor William C. Cole

This case involves an action filed by heirs of a deceased debtor seeking to set aside a foreclosure sale and their claims for damages against multiple defendants involved with the sale. The trial court granted summary judgment to the substitute trustee who conducted the sale, granted motions to dismiss filed by five other defendants, and dismissed the two remaining defendants sua sponte. The plaintiffs appeal. We affirm and remand for further proceedings.

Fayette County Court of Appeals 05/05/21