Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 07/06/2022
Format: 07/06/2022
Peggy Mathes et al. v. 99 Hermitage, LLC
M2021-00883-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a real property dispute.  Resolution of the competing interests ultimately turns on the propriety of certain adverse possession claims that have been asserted.  Following a bench trial, the trial court determined that there was no adverse possession established due to its finding that Mr. Whiteaker, a former record owner of the property, had “acquiesced in, and permitted” the possession of Mr. Eads, an original plaintiff in this action who is now deceased.  Judgment was accordingly entered in favor of the Appellee herein, an entity that purchased the property at a sheriff’s sale.  The Appellants, who assert rights to the property by dint of Mr. Eads’ alleged adverse possession, submit that there is no evidence to support the trial court’s view that Mr. Eads’ possession was subservient to Mr. Whiteaker.  For its part, the Appellee maintains that several considerations countenance against the assertion of adverse possession rights.  Having considered the various issues and arguments raised by the parties, we hold that the judgment of the trial court should be reversed, as we conclude that Mr. Eads previously acquired title to the property by common law adverse possession.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/06/22
In Re Connor B.
M2021-00700-COA-R3-PT

This is the second appeal involving the termination of a mother’s parental rights to her child.  On remand after the first appeal, the trial court determined there were six statutory grounds for terminating the mother’s parental rights and that termination was in the child’s best interest.  We conclude that the evidence was less than clear and convincing as to three of the grounds.  But the record contains clear and convincing evidence to support the other grounds.  The evidence is also clear and convincing that termination of the mother’s parental rights is in the child’s best interest.  So we affirm.

Lincoln County Court of Appeals 07/06/22
State of Tennessee v. Denzel Washington
E2021-00153-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Denzel Washington, was convicted following a jury trial of possession of heroin with intent to sell or deliver within 1,000 feet of a childcare agency (Count 1), possession of fentanyl with intent to sell or deliver within 1,000 feet of a childcare agency (Count 2), possession of marijuana (Count 3) and delivery of heroin within 1,000 feet of a childcare agency (Count 4). The trial court ordered Defendant to serve an effective nineyear sentence. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that his convictions in Counts 1 and 2 should have merged. Following our review of the entire record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/22
In Re Hope H. et al.
M2021-00513-COA-R3-PT

The mother of nine minor children appeals the termination of her parental rights. Two petitions for termination of parental rights are at issue in this appeal. The first was filed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) to terminate the mother’s parental rights to seven of her children who were in DCS custody. A second petition, filed by maternal cousins, sought to terminate her parental rights to two of her children who were in the cousins’ custody. Following a trial on both petitions, the juvenile court found that grounds for termination had been established and that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the children’s best interests. On appeal, the mother contends that no grounds for termination were proven and that termination of her parental rights is not in the children’s best interests. We affirm the trial court in all respects.

Fentress County Court of Appeals 07/06/22
Torry Holland v. Tennessee Department of Correction
M2022-00889-COA-R3-CV
This is an appeal from a final order dismissing an inmate’s Petition for Declaratory Judgment. Because the inmate did not file his notice of appeal with the clerk of the appellate court within thirty days after entry of the final order as required by Rule 4(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, we dismiss the appeal.
 
Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/06/22
In Re Lucas L.
M2020-01614-COA-R3-JV

The father of a child appeals the trial court’s finding that the child was dependent and neglected and the victim of severe abuse. Discerning no error, we affirm. 

Hickman County Court of Appeals 07/05/22
State of Tennessee v. Toby Dunn
E2021-00343-CCA-R3-CD

The Cocke County Grand Jury indicted Defendant, Toby Dunn, for attempted first degree murder in count one, aggravated assault in count two, employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony in count three, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony in count four. A jury found Defendant guilty in count one of the lesser-included offense of attempted second degree murder and guilty as charged in all other counts. At sentencing, the trial court merged counts one and two and merged counts three and four. The court sentenced Defendant to twelve years’ incarceration with a thirty percent release eligibility in count one and to a consecutive six years’ incarceration with a 100 percent release eligibility in count three. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred by limiting cross-examination of the victim, by excluding a video of the victim, and by admitting Defendant’s prior bad act. He also argues that the State failed to establish the chain of custody for the firearm, that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions, and that his sentence was excessive. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Cocke County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/22
Donna Anderson v. Branan White
M2021-00887-COA-R3-CV

Appellant appeals the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in Appellee’s favor on a breach of contract claim. Because Appellant’s brief is not compliant with Rule 27 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, we dismiss this appeal.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 07/05/22
State of Tennessee v. Dana Baker
W2021-00498-CCA-RE-CD

The defendant, Dana Baker, challenges his Madison County Circuit Court convictions of one count of assault, see T.C.A. § 39-13-101(a)(1), and one count of obstructing or preventing the service of process, see id. § 39-16-602(c), on grounds that an alleged Fourth Amendment violation prohibited his convictions and that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Because the evidence was insufficient to support either of the defendant’s convictions, the convictions are reversed, and the charges are dismissed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/22
State of Tennessee v. Dana Baker DISSENT
W2021-00498-CCA-R3-CD

I agree with the majority opinion that any alleged Fourth Amendment violation does not bar Defendant’s conviction. I respectfully disagree that the evidence did not show that Defendant intentionally prevented or obstructed the service of the criminal summons and recklessly assaulted officer Kelly Mason.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/05/22
State of Tennessee v. Jerry Louis Fitzgerald, Jr.
W2021-00195-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Jerry Louis Fitzgerald, Jr., was convicted at trial of sexual battery and possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to sell or deliver, and he received an effective sentence of fourteen years in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of sexual battery and that although he possessed the cocaine, the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that he intended to sell or deliver it. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/01/22
State of Tennessee v. Patricia Kaye Wilkey
E2021-00549-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Patricia Kaye Wilkey, appeals her conviction of first degree premeditated murder, for which she received a sentence of life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support her conviction; (2) the trial court improperly limited defense counsel’s cross-examination of the State’s witnesses; (3) the trial court erred in admitting hearsay statements; (4) the State made improper comments during closing arguments; and (5) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. Upon reviewing the record, the parties’ briefs and oral arguments, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rhea County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/01/22
State of Tennessee v. Robert Daniel Owens, Jr.
E2021-00814-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Robert Daniel Owens, Jr., pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated burglary, domestic assault, assault, and aggravated stalking, and he received an effective sentence of four years on supervised probation after service of eleven months, twenty-nine days in confinement, followed by a consecutive sentence of two years on unsupervised probation. A revocation warrant was issued, and following a hearing, the trial court found that the Defendant violated the conditions of his probation, revoked his probation, and ordered him to serve his sentences in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering him to serve his sentences in confinement. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/01/22
Mankin Media Systems, Inc. v. Timothy Corder
M2021-00830-COA-R3-CV

Appellant appeals the trial court’s order affirming the award of an arbitrator.  Appellant filed suit against its former employee, the Appellee, alleging breach of contract for violation of certain provisions of the employee handbook, which also contained an arbitration clause.  Because the handbook does not constitute an enforceable employment contract, the trial court erred in ordering the parties to arbitrate and in affirming the arbitrator’s award.  Reversed and remanded.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 06/30/22
Clare West Et Al. v. Wayne Akard
E2021-00962-COA-R3-CV

In this landlord-tenant dispute, the circuit court concluded that the landlord violated the Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (“Landlord/Tenant Act”), Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 66-28-101 to -522, and awarded the tenants $3,000 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punitive damages. The landlord appealed the punitive damages award. Because the landlord failed to file either a transcript or statement of the evidence, we conclusively presume that the record would have supported an award of punitive damages, and we affirm the circuit court’s judgment as modified.

Court of Appeals 06/30/22
State of Tennessee v. Mischa Knight Claiborne
E2021-00974-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Mischa Knight Claiborne, was indicted by the Scott County Grand Jury for four counts of aggravated battery, one count of solicitation of a minor to commit aggravated sexual battery, nine counts of sexual battery, one count of rape, and one count of continuous sexual abuse of a child. Defendant pleaded guilty to four counts of attempted aggravated sexual battery, one count of solicitation of a minor, nine counts of sexual battery, one count of rape, and the continuous sexual abuse of a child charge was dismissed. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court denied alternative sentencing and ordered Defendant to serve an effective 15 years’ incarceration. Defendant appeals his sentences as excessive. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Scott County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/22
State of Tennessee v. Daljit Singh
E2021-01040-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Daljit Singh, appeals the criminal court’s dismissal of his general sessions appeal from payment of a traffic citation after he filed a motion to withdraw payment of the citation. Following our review of the entire record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Greene County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/30/22
Staci L. Robinson v. Eric S. Robinson
E2020-01535-COA-R3-CV

In this divorce action, the husband contends that the trial court erred by: (1) declining to award him alimony; (2) declining to adopt his valuation of the couple’s three Subway franchises; (3) finding that he dissipated $65,000 from the marital estate; (4) awarding the wife a larger share of the marital estate; (5) imputing income of $58,000 to him for child support purposes; and (6) declining to award him his attorney’s fees at trial. We affirm the trial court’s rulings on all but one of these issues, finding that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s determination regarding the amount of marital assets the husband dissipated. We also deny the husband’s request for attorney’s fees on appeal.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 06/29/22
Melanie Miller Hollis v. Charles Myers Hollis, Jr.
E2020-01123-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns a divorce. Melanie Miller Hollis (“Wife”) sued Charles Myers Hollis, Jr. (“Husband”) for divorce in the Chancery Court for Bradley County (“the Trial Court”). After a trial, the Trial Court granted Husband a divorce based upon Wife’s inappropriate marital conduct. The Trial Court also divided the marital estate and awarded Wife alimony and child support. Wife appeals, arguing that the Trial Court erred by failing to classify and value as part of the marital estate Husband’s “book of business” from his job as a financial advisor at UBS, a financial services firm. Husband raises separate issues regarding child support, alimony, and the division of the marital estate. Discerning no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, we affirm the judgment of the Trial Court in its entirety. We also remand for the Trial Court to determine and enter an award to Wife of her reasonable attorney’s fees incurred on appeal, but only as they relate to issues of child support and alimony.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 06/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Lee Potts
M2020-01623-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Jeffrey Lee Potts, appeals his jury conviction for attempted second-degree murder, for which he received a Range I sentence of twelve years’ incarceration.  In this direct appeal, the Defendant alleges that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court erred by prohibiting the defense expert from testifying about the reasoning and science upon which he based his opinion of the Defendant’s mental condition at the time of shooting; (3) the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion for a mistrial after the trial court stated in the jury’s presence that defense counsel could “rehabilitate” and “clean up” the expert’s testimony; and (4) the trial court erred in sentencing the Defendant, both in imposing the maximum sentence, as well as in imposing a sentence of continuous confinement.  Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/22
Sedrick Darion Mitchell v. State of Tennessee
M2021-00783-CCA-R3-PC

The pro se petitioner, Sedrick Darion Mitchell, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal.  Following our review, we affirm the
post-conviction court’s denial of the petition.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Neal Scott Daniels
E2021-00561-CCA-R3-CD

During a time when the Tennessee judicial system was grappling with the lingering effects of COVID-19, a Knox County jury convicted Defendant, Neal Scott Daniels, of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”); driving with a blood alcohol level in excess of 0.08 percent (“DUI per se”); simple possession of marijuana; driving on a revoked license; failing to provide evidence of financial responsibility; DUI per se fourth offense; and DUI by impairment fourth offense. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of two years to be suspended to four years on supervised probation after serving 150 days in jail. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that: 1) the trial court erred by denying his motion to continue on the grounds that courtroom procedures implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with his right to a fair trial; 2) his right to confrontation was denied when he was made to wear a face mask during trial; 3) his right to the effective assistance of counsel was denied by requiring trial counsel and jurors to wear masks; 4) the trial court erred by admitting the results of his blood alcohol test because a valid chain of custody was not established; 5) the judgments of conviction in counts 6 and 7 are invalid because the indictment failed to include the dates of Defendant’s prior convictions; and 6) there was insufficient evidence to support Defendant’s conviction for simple possession of marijuana. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Lesa Annette White McCulloch
E2021-00404-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Lesa Annette White McCulloch, appeals her convictions for one count of initiating the manufacture of methamphetamine, three counts of simple possession of a controlled substance, one count of possession of marijuana with the intent to sell, and one count of possession of unlawful drug paraphernalia, and her resulting sixteen-year sentence. The Defendant argues that (1) the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence seized as a result of the search of the Defendant’s home; (2) the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion to dismiss for the State’s failure to preserve material evidence and by declining to issue a special jury instruction; (3) the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of facilitation of possession of marijuana with the intent to sell; (4) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of the Defendant’s prior bad acts; (5) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during closing arguments by commenting on the Defendant’s intelligence; (6) the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions; and (7) the trial court erred in determining her sentencing range and by ordering partial consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm; however, we remand the case for entry of a corrected judgment in Count 1 due to a clerical error.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/22
Anthony T. Grose v. David Kustoff ET AL.
W2021-00427-COA-R3-CV

In this case involving allegations of attorney misconduct and negligence, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant attorneys and their respective firms. The defendants had previously represented the plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit until the defendants withdrew from representation. The trial court determined that the plaintiffs’ claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that the plaintiffs had failed to refute the affidavit of one defendant attorney, who opined that the pertinent standard of care had not been breached. The plaintiffs have appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 06/29/22
State of Tennessee v. Desean Allen Blackman
W2020-01696-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, Desean Allen Blackman, was convicted in the Madison County Circuit Court of two counts of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony, and received concurrent nine-year sentences to be served at one hundred percent. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions and that the trial court erred by allowing a law enforcement officer to testify that the Appellant invoked his right not to speak with the officer. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the convictions. We also conclude that the trial court erred but that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 06/29/22