Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 04/17/2021
Format: 04/17/2021
State of Tennessee v. Jessie James Somerville, IV
W2020-00105-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Jessie James Somerville, IV, was indicted by the Lauderdale County Grand Jury for one count of premeditated first degree murder and one count of felony reckless endangerment. Defendant entered no contest pleas to second degree murder and felony reckless endangerment. On the day of Defendant’s scheduled sentencing hearing, Defendant made an oral motion to withdraw his pleas, which the trial court took under advisement and subsequently denied by written order. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant as a Range I standard offender to serve concurrent sentences of 22 years for his second degree murder conviction and one year for his felony reckless endangerment conviction. In this appeal as of right, Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to withdraw his pleas and that his sentence is excessive. Having reviewed the entire record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/21
State of Tennessee v. John Ingram
W2020-00423-CCA-R3-CD

John Ingram, Defendant, pled guilty to several offenses including one count of aggravated burglary, one count of aggravated assault, and one count of domestic assault, with a total effective sentence of seven years, as a Range II offender. The trial court was to determine the manner of service of the sentence after a sentencing hearing. Following the hearing, the trial court denied alternative sentencing, concluding that Defendant’s prior criminal history and failed attempts at conditions involving release into the community rendered him an unfavorable candidate for an alternative sentence. Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/29/21
State of Tennessee v. Terrell Lamont Reid
W2019-00636-SC-R11-CD

On June 24, 2015, Terrell Lamont Reid (“the Petitioner”) pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to sell and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Pursuant to the criminal gang enhancement statute, the firearm offense was enhanced from a Class C to a Class B felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-121(b) (2014). On April 7, 2016, the Court of Criminal Appeals declared the criminal gang enhancement statute unconstitutional as a violation of substantive due process. See State v. Bonds, 502 S.W.3d 118, 158-60 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2016), perm. app. denied, (Tenn. Aug. 18, 2016). The Petitioner did not file a post-conviction petition challenging his guilty plea. Instead, the Petitioner filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 (“Rule 36.1”), arguing that the intermediate appellate court’s decision declaring the criminal gang enhancement statute unconstitutional rendered his sentence illegal. The trial court denied his motion, concluding it did not state a claim for relief, but the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed, holding that the Bonds decision rendered the Petitioner’s sentence for the firearm conviction void and, thus, illegal under Rule 36.1. In accordance with this Court’s holding in Taylor v. State, 995 S.W.2d 78, 83-85 (Tenn. 1999), we hold that the Petitioner’s sentence was voidable, not void and illegal. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Criminal Appeals’s decision and reinstate the trial court’s order denying the Petitioner’s motion.

Madison County Supreme Court 03/26/21
State of Tennessee v. Jadarius Sankevious Foster
W2020-00349-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Ladarius Sankevious Foster, was convicted by a Madison County Circuit Court jury of failure to maintain lane, possession of drug paraphernalia, and theft of property, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days, with the Defendant to serve ten days in jail and the remainder of his sentence on community corrections. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 55-8-123, 39-17-425(a), 39-14-103. On appeal, the Defendant argues: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions for possession of drug paraphernalia and theft of property, and (2) the trial court failed to conduct an independent assessment of the fines fixed by the jury in this case. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/26/21
Sallie Taylor v. Dushun Taylor
W2020-00520-COA-R3-CV

The plaintiff commenced the instant action by causing a detainer warrant to be filed against the defendant in the Shelby County General Sessions Court (“general sessions court”) on September 23, 2019, alleging that the defendant had been unlawfully inhabiting the residence at issue. The general sessions court subsequently entered a judgment in favor of the plaintiff. Upon appeal, the Shelby County Circuit Court (“trial court”) entered a final judgment in favor of the plaintiff, determining that she had submitted sufficient proof to demonstrate superior ownership of the residence. The defendant has appealed. However, due to significant deficiencies in the defendant’s brief, we conclude that he has waived consideration of any issues on appeal. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/26/21
Memphis Light Gas & Water Division v. Charles Nesbit
W2019-02275-SC-WCM-WC

Charles Nesbit (“Employee”) worked as a bucket truck driver for Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division (“Employer”). Employee sought workers’ compensation benefits for a gradually occurring injury to his knees. Relevant to the issues on appeal, the trial court found Employee suffered a compensable gradually occurring injury at work, and gave timely notice of his claim. Employer has appealed. The appeal has been referred to this 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. We find that Employee did not give timely notice of his claim, and we reverse the judgment.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 03/26/21
Charles Hopper v. UGN, Inc.
W2020-00524-SC-WCM-WC

Charles Hopper filed this workers’ compensation action after suffering a work-related injury to his neck. The trial court found that Mr. Hopper is permanently and totally disabled. Employer concedes that Mr. Hopper suffered a work-related injury but argues that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s judgment as to permanent and total disability. Employer also argues that any award should be limited to 1.5 times the impairment rating. The appeal has been referred to this Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Madison County Workers Compensation Panel 03/26/21
Tara Janay Swick v. Donovan Robert Swick
E2020-00661-COA-R3-CV

The husband in this divorce case failed to answer the wife’s complaint for legal separation or her amended complaint for divorce. The trial court awarded the wife a divorce, entered a permanent parenting plan, and divided the marital estate. The husband moved to set aside the judgment, and the trial court denied his motion. The husband appeals, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/25/21
In Re: Malachi M.
E2020-01114-COA-R3-PT

In this termination of parental rights case, the child was placed in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) because the child’s parents were incarcerated. The mother’s parental rights were later terminated based upon the trial court’s finding of clear and convincing evidence regarding two statutory grounds: (1) abandonment by an incarcerated parent and (2) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume legal and physical custody of or financial responsibility for the child. The trial court further determined by clear and convincing evidence that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. The mother timely appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Roane County Court of Appeals 03/25/21
Pamela Moses v. Terry Roland, et al.
W2019-00902-COA-R3-CV

A former county commissioner appeals the trial court’s decision finding him liable for defamatory statements made about a private individual during a county legislative meeting. Following a thorough review of the record, we reverse.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/25/21
Ralph Hall, et al. v. Jimmy D. Tabb, et al.
W2020-00740-COA-R3-CV

Appellants, purchasers of a residential property, filed an action against Appellees, sellers and owners of the residential construction company that built the subject property, for violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (the “TCPA”) and intentional misrepresentation for failure to disclose water damage and substandard repairs to the property. Appellants also sued a termite inspection company for negligently failing to disclose termite damage to the property. Appellants settled with the termite company for $45,000.00 but proceeded to trial against Appellees. Although the trial court found that Appellees intentionally misrepresented the condition of the property to Appellants, it found that Appellants were not “consumers” under the TCPA, and that the Act did not apply to this real estate transaction. The trial court awarded Appellants a $43,811.00 judgment against Appellees, for intentionally failing to disclose the water damage to the property, but found that Appellants had been fully compensated for their loss from the settlement with the termite company. As such, Appellants were not entitled to further compensatory damages from Appellees. We conclude the trial court erred in finding that Appellants were not consumers under the Act and that the TCPA was not applicable to this real estate transaction. We remand for a determination of whether Appellees violated the Act, and, if so, whether Appellants are entitled to an award of attorney’s fees and treble damages. The trial court’s order is otherwise affirmed.

Decatur County Court of Appeals 03/25/21
Earley Story v. State of Tennessee
W2019-01406-CCA-R3-ECN

The petitioner, Earley Story, appeals the denial of his petition for writ of error coram nobis by the Shelby County Criminal Court, arguing the trial court erred in dismissing the petition because newly discovered evidence exists which is material to his case. After our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/25/21
State of Tennessee v. Terrell Jackson
W2019-01883-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Terrell Jackson, of two counts of aggravated rape. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of twenty-five years in confinement at 100%. On appeal, the defendant contends the statute of limitations was not tolled during the period of time he was involuntarily residing in Louisiana, and therefore, his prosecution was barred. The defendant also argues the State delayed the testing of the victim’s rape kit to obtain a tactical advantage. Upon our review of the record, arguments of the parties, and pertinent authorities, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/25/21
Steven Skinner v. State of Tennessee
W2020-00385-CCA-R3-ECN

The Petitioner, Steven Skinner, filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis seeking relief from his two convictions for first degree premeditated murder and his consecutive life sentences. The trial court dismissed the petition because it was not timely filed, not entitled to due process tolling of the statute of limitations, and otherwise nonmeritorious. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the dismissal. 

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/25/21
Curtis Thomas v. Rhonda L. Gallman
E2020-00898-COA-R3-CV

A woman against whom the trial court granted an order of protection appeals the order of protection. The trial court granted the order based upon its finding that the woman, a former girlfriend of the petitioner, threatened the petitioner and his wife in a series of videos. Finding no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/24/21
State of Tennesse v. Terrance Lawrence
M2020-00630-CCA-R3-CD

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Terrance Lawrence, a.k.a. Terence Lawrence, was convicted of especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault, domestic assault, driving on a suspended driver’s license, and possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a felony involving the use or attempted use of force, violence, or a deadly weapon. The trial court imposed an effective sixty-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in limiting his cross-examination of the victim and the investigating officer; (2) the trial court erred in refusing to allow him to testify regarding his mental health issues; (3) the trial court erred in denying his request for a mistrial; and (4) he is entitled to a new trial due to cumulative error. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/21
Michael Kevin Upchurch v. Sullivan County Department Of Education
E2019-01071-COA-R3-CV

A vocational teacher sued his former employer, a county department of education, alleging that the department’s intentional failure to remediate mold contamination at the high school where he taught caused him to suffer long-term detrimental health effects and emotional distress. The trial court dismissed the teacher’s claims pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6), finding that the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Law, Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-101 et seq., provided the exclusive remedy for the acts alleged in the complaint and that the allegations therein failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under the statutory framework. Upon our review of the pleadings, we affirm the trial court’s judgment

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 03/24/21
Colin D. Savage v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01740-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Colin D. Savage, appeals the Montgomery County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/21
In Re Hayden F.
E2020-00872-COA-R3-PT

The trial court terminated a mother’s parental rights to her children on the grounds of (1) abandonment by willful failure to visit, (2) abandonment by willful failure to support, and (3) persistence of conditions. The trial court also found that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the best interest of the children. Although we reverse one of the termination grounds, we affirm the trial court’s conclusion that clear and convincing evidence supports a finding of abandonment by willful failure to support and a finding of persistence of conditions. We also affirm the trial court’s determination that the termination of the mother’s rights is in the best interest of the children.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 03/24/21
John Pearson v. Memphis Light Gas & Water Division
W2020-00462-SC-WCM-WC

Plaintiff-Appellant John Pearson appeals the decision of the Court of Workers’ Compensation declining to award him benefits for a spinal cord injury allegedly sustained during the course and scope of his employment. The trial court held that Mr. Pearson’s claim was barred by the applicable statute of limitations and, alternatively, that he had failed to prove that his job installing streetlights was the actual and proximate cause of his injury. 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. Because we conclude that Mr. Pearson filed his petition more than one year after he discovered his injury, the statute of limitations bars his claim. We therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Workers Compensation Panel 03/24/21
State of Tennessee v. Colton Davon Hatchett
W2020-00335-CCA-R3-CD

A jury convicted the Defendant, Colton Davon Hatchett, of the sale of 0.5 grams or more of methamphetamine and the delivery of 0.5 grams or more of methamphetamine. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to fifteen years as a Range II, multiple offender for each conviction, merged the convictions, and ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence consecutively to his sentence for a prior conviction. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions and the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentences. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Henderson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/21
State of Tennessee v. Charles Griffin
W2019-01561-CCA-R3-CD

A jury convicted the Defendant, Charles Griffin, of first degree felony murder for a shooting committed during the course of a robbery. The Defendant appeals his conviction, arguing that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to convict him of first degree felony murder, that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the State to introduce as evidence a photograph of the victim taken during the victim’s lifetime, and that the court erred in denying his motion for DNA testing and a continuance. After review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/21
In Re Sylvia H.
E2020-01009-COA-R3-PT

A father challenges the trial court’s decision terminating his parental rights on the grounds of abandonment by wanton disregard and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to personally assume custody or financial responsibility. He further asserts that the trial court erred in finding that termination of his rights is in the child’s best interest. After reviewing the record on appeal, we have concluded that clear and convincing evidence supports the trial court’s decision in all respects.

Claiborne County Court of Appeals 03/23/21
State of Tennessee v. Robert E. Huse
M2019-02087-CCA-R3-CD

The Dickson County Grand Jury charged Defendant, Robert E. Huse, with aggravated child abuse and first degree felony murder in connection with the death of his infant son, G.S. Prior to trial, the State filed a notice of intent to introduce prior bad act evidence that Defendant abused another child four years before the victim’s death. Against Defendant’s repeated objections, the trial court allowed the admission of the prior bad act evidence for the purposes of establishing intent, identity, and common scheme or plan. Following trial, the jury convicted Defendant as charged, and the trial court sentenced Defendant to life for first degree felony murder and to a concurrent term of fifteen years for aggravated child abuse. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court erred in admitting the prior bad act evidence, which prejudiced him. Following a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the prior bad act evidence and that this error prejudiced Defendant. Therefore, we reverse the judgments of the trial court and remand for a new trial consistent with this opinion.

Dickson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/23/21
Kevin French v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01766-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Kevin L. French, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for first-degree premeditated murder, first-degree felony murder, and especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, he argues that: (1) he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal; (2) the State committed prosecutorial misconduct; (3) the State committed a Brady violation; and (4) he is actually innocent. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/23/21