Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 10/21/2021
Format: 10/21/2021
State of Tennessee v. Darious Fitzpatrick
M2018-02178-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Darious Fitzpatrick, appeals as of right from his convictions for first degree felony murder, second degree murder, and especially aggravated robbery, for which the trial court imposed an effective sentence of life plus twenty years. The Defendant’s sole issue on appeal is whether his sentence is unconstitutional in light of his status as a juvenile at the time of the offenses. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/21
Jeremy Khristian Abney v. Kaitlynne Nichole Pace
M2020-00182-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a post-divorce proceeding. The father filed a petition to modify child support, and the mother filed a civil contempt action against the father for failure to pay child support as ordered by the court. Following trial, the trial court found that a significant variance existed from the previously ordered child support obligation and granted the father’s petition to modify child support. The trial court retroactively modified the father’s child support obligation from the date the petition was filed, resulting in three modifications while the petition had been pending. In the respective child support worksheets for the modifications, the trial court declined to include a credit to the mother for the health insurance premiums she had paid for the child, determining such expense of additional insurance coverage not to be “a reasonable necessity or requirement.” In consideration of the mother’s civil contempt complaint, the trial court found that the father had been in contempt of court due to his failure to pay child support as ordered by the court but that he had cured his contempt due to an involuntary payment from his income tax refund proceeds and the retroactive modification of his obligation and resultant overpayment of child support while the petition to modify was pending. The trial court further denied an award of attorney’s fees to either party. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court in all respects.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 08/31/21
In Re Kaelyn R.
E2020-01254-COA-R3-PT

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her daughter. The trial court concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that the mother had abandoned her child by wanton disregard and by committing severe child abuse against her. The court also concluded that the evidence was clear and convincing that termination of parental rights was in the child’s best interest. We agree and affirm.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 08/31/21
Nigel M. Reid, II v. Colette Jean Wallace
E2021-00181-COA-R3-CV

Following a hearing, the Circuit Court for Hamblen County (“trial court”) entered an order of protection against Nigel Reid II (“Respondent” or “Cross-Petitioner”) and in favor of Collette Jean Wallace (“Petitioner” or “Cross-Respondent”). Respondent appealed to this Court. Because Respondent’s brief fails to comply with Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 27, we dismiss the appeal.

Hamblen County Court of Appeals 08/30/21
Frederick Tucker v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00810-CCA-R3-ECN

The Petitioner, Fredrick L. Tucker, appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of error coram nobis from his rape of a child conviction, for which he received a twenty-one-year sentence. We affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/21
State of Tennessee v. James Howard Harmon, Jr.
E2019-02044-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, James Howard Harmon, Jr., appeals his Blount County Circuit Court jury convictions of second degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, theft of property valued at $500 or less, arson, and abuse of a corpse, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence his statement of April 10, 2012, and by admitting evidence in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b). Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/30/21
Marn Suzanne Larsen-Ball v. William Gordon Ball
E2020-00297-COA-R3-CV

In this post-divorce action concerning enforcement of the trial court’s order distributing the parties’ marital property, the trial court ultimately awarded a judgment to the wife in the amount of $206,868.67. The court also ordered that the wife would be entitled to a certain portion of the proceeds from the sale of the parties’ former marital residence. The court dismissed the wife’s contempt claims and declined to award interest or attorney’s fees. The husband has appealed. Having discerned two relatively minor errors in the judgment, we modify the amount awarded to the wife to increase it by $18,525.24, enlarging the trial court’s award to the wife to the total of $225,393.91 rather than $206,868.67. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/30/21
In Re PrinceKenyan F.
M2020-01306-COA-R3-PT

This appeal concerns the termination of a mother’s parental rights. The trial court found that seven grounds had been established: abandonment for failure to support; abandonment for failure to visit; abandonment for failure to provide a suitable home; substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan; persistence of conditions; mental incompetence; and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody. It also found that termination was in the child’s best interest for many reasons, including the mother’s failure to provide a safe home, maintain regular visitation, pay child support, and resolve her legal, mental health, and substance abuse issues. The mother contends the trial court incorrectly calculated the period relevant to the ground of abandonment, erred by admitting her mental health records into evidence in violation of Tenn. Code Ann. § 24-7-122, and that the evidence failed to meet the clear and convincing evidence standard. Following a thorough review of the record, we have determined that four of the seven grounds for termination as found by the trial court were established by clear and convincing evidence and that termination of the mother’s parental rights was clearly and convincingly in the child’s best interest. Therefore, we affirm the termination of the mother’s parental rights.

Lawrence County Court of Appeals 08/30/21
Julie C. W. v. Frank Mitchell W. Jr.
M2019-01243-COA-R3-CV

The Tennessee Supreme Court entered an order vacating our previous judgment in this matter solely with respect to the division of the marital estate and remanding for our further review consistent with its order. We find upon further review that the Circuit Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) abused its discretion in dividing the marital estate as it did. We vacate the judgment of the Trial Court on this one issue and remand for a new and equitable division of the marital estate.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/30/21
State of Tennessee v. Jody Alan Hughes
E2019-01185-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, Jody Alan Hughes, was convicted in the Bradley County Criminal Court of first degree premeditated murder; kidnapping, a Class C felony; tampering with evidence, a Class C felony; and conspiracy to commit tampering with evidence, a Class D felony. After a sentencing hearing, he received an effective sentence of life plus fourteen years. On appeal, the Appellant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions; (2) the trial court erred by denying his “numerous” requests to represent himself; (3) the trial court erred by not allowing defense counsel to comment about the codefendants’ exposure to prison sentences during counsel’s opening statement; (4) the trial court erred in its wording of a curative instruction to the jury; (5) the trial court erred by limiting a codefendant’s cross-examination about a false statement the codefendant made in a previous criminal case; (6) the trial court erred by limiting a detective’s testimony regarding the codefendants’ inconsistent statements; and (7) the trial court erred by not allowing testimony about a codefendant’s pretrial statement to impeach the codefendant. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we find no reversible error and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/21
State of Tennessee v. Demetrious Tommy Lee
M2020-00914-CCA-R3-CD
In 2018, a Davidson County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant, Demetrious Tommy Lee, for attempted first degree murder, aggravated kidnapping, reckless endangerment, evading arrest while operating a motor vehicle, and domestic assault. In 2019, a superseding indictment was returned, elevating the Defendant’s kidnapping charge to especially aggravated kidnapping and adding a charge for employment of a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony but keeping all other charges the same. One week prior to trial, the Defendant filed a motion for a continuance, which the trial court denied following a hearing. At trial, the jury found the Defendant guilty of the lesser included offense of attempted second degree murder as well as the charged offenses of especially aggravated kidnapping and employment of a firearm but found the Defendant not guilty of evading arrest. The charges of reckless endangerment and domestic assault were dismissed. Thereafter, the trial court imposed an effective eighteen-year sentence to be served at 100% for these convictions. On appeal, the Defendant argues: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to continue his trial after the State superseded the indictment and presented him with additional discovery shortly before trial; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion to exclude evidence that violated State v. Ferguson, 2 S.W.3d 912 (Tenn. 1999); (3) the trial court committed plain error in not requiring the State to make an election of offenses with regard to the especially aggravated kidnapping count; and (4) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions for attempted second degree murder and especially aggravated kidnapping. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 
Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/21
State of Tennessee v. Keontis Dontrell Cunningham
M2020-00874-CCA-R3-CD

A Bedford County jury convicted the defendant, Keontis Dontrell Cunningham, of two counts of aggravated assault, and the trial court imposed an effective sentence of five years’ incarceration. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions and argues the trial court erred in instructing the jury on selfdefense.  Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/21
State of Tennessee v. Darnell Treshawn Wiggins
M2019-02086-CCA-R3-CD

A Maury County jury convicted the defendant, Darnell Treshawn Wiggins1, of second degree murder, first degree felony murder, and kidnapping, for which he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. On appeal, the defendant argues the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions, the jury improperly weighed the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, and the State committed prosecutorial misconduct during its opening statement. The defendant also argues the trial court erred in admitting Officer Dalton’s testimony during the penalty phase, in denying his motion for mistrial, and in denying his motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/21
Ed Henry Loyde v. State of Tennessee
W2020-01310-CCA-R3-HC

A Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Ed Henry Loyde, of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery. The trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of thirty-five years. This Court affirmed the judgments on appeal. State v. Ed Loyde, No. W2014-01055-CCA-R3-CD, 2015 WL 1598121 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Apr. 6, 2015), perm. app. denied (Tenn. July 21, 2015). After unsuccessfully filing a petition for post-conviction relief, Ed Loyde v. State No. W2018-01740-CCA-R3-PC, 2020 WL 918602 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, Feb. 25, 2020), perm. app. denied (Tenn. July 22, 2020), the Petitioner filed for a writ of habeas corpus, which the habeas corpus court summarily dismissed. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s judgment.

Lake County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/21
State of Tennessee v. Will Vaughn
W2020-00366-CCA-R3-CD

In a consolidated trial of Case No. 18-04092 and Case No. 18-04093, a Shelby County jury convicted Will Vaughn (“Defendant”) of fifteen counts of Class C felony facilitation of attempted second degree murder, fifteen counts of Class C felony employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and two counts of Class A misdemeanor facilitation of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon. The trial court sentenced Defendant to six years for each of the thirty felony counts and to eleven months and
twenty-nine days for each count of facilitation of reckless endangerment counts. The trial court aligned some convictions concurrently and others consecutively in each case. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court stated that it was imposing an effective thirty-year sentence in Case No. 18-04092 and an effective thirty-year sentence in Case No. 18-04093 and ordered the two sentences to be run consecutively for a total effective sentence of sixty years. The “special conditions” section of the thirty-two judgment forms signed by the trial court state that the total effective sentence is fifty-four years. Also, the judgment forms for some of the counts do not match the consecutive/concurrent alignment announced by the trial court. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentencing. After a thorough review, we affirm the convictions and consecutive sentencing but remand for trial court resentencing in two counts and for entry of the proper judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/21
Irene Howard v. State of Tennessee
M2020-00735-COA-R3-CV

Following a car accident involving an employee of the State of Tennessee, Irene Howard (“Claimant”) sought damages against the State based on alleged injuries arising from the accident. The claim was denied by the Division of Claims and Risk Management (the “DCRM”), and Claimant thereafter appealed to the Claims Commission (the “Commission”). Because Claimant failed to appeal the DCRM’s decision within ninety days, however, the Commission concluded it lacked jurisdiction over the case and dismissed the appeal. We affirm.

Court of Appeals 08/26/21
In Re L.F., Et Al.
M2020-01663-COA-R3-PT

This case involves a petition to terminate parental rights.  The petition was filed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services against the biological mother of three minor children.  The petition listed seven grounds for termination of the mother’s parental rights.  After a final hearing on the petition, the trial court terminated Mother’s parental rights, finding five grounds for termination: (1) abandonment by failing to visit; (2) persistence of conditions; (3) substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan; (4) failure to manifest an ability or willingness to parent; and (5) severe child abuse.  We affirm the trial court in part, reverse in part, and remand.

Franklin County Court of Appeals 08/26/21
State of Tennessee v. James McClain
W2019-01217-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, James McClain, appeals his Madison County Circuit Court jury convictions of aggravated assault and witness coercion, claiming that the trial court erred by permitting him to represent himself at trial, by permitting the State to proceed on an amended indictment, and by imposing consecutive sentences. Because the record establishes that the defendant knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently waived his right to counsel, that the indictment was not amended, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by imposing consecutive sentences, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/21
State of Tennessee v. David Yost, Jr.
E2020-01115-CCA-R3-CD

The pro se petitioner, David Yost, Jr., appeals the Knox County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his motion to correct an illegal sentence, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/21
In Re Jackson H.
M2020-01551-COA-R3-PT

The trial court terminated a father’s parental rights to his child on the grounds of (1) persistence of conditions, (2) failure to manifest an ability and willingness to personally assume custody or financial responsibility, (3) substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan, and (4) abandonment by wanton disregard. The trial court also found that termination of the father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. Although we reverse three of the termination grounds, we affirm the trial court’s conclusion that clear and convincing evidence supports a finding of abandonment by wanton disregard. We also affirm the trial court’s determination that the termination of the father’s parental rights is in the best interest of the child.

Giles County Court of Appeals 08/25/21
James Black v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01008-CCA-R3-CD

The Petitioner, James Black, was convicted of two counts each of first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree felony murder and was sentenced to a concurrent life sentence by the trial court. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel stemming from trial counsel’s legal use of prescribed opioids during his trial, specifically asserting that 1) the prescribed opioids caused him to perform deficiently at trial; 2) that trial counsel’s offering of the Petitioner’s criminal history tainted the jury; and 3) that trial counsel’s use of prescribed opioids combined with his severe back pain created a conflict of interest. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Greene County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/25/21
Delia Ruth Smith Durham v. Karen Stone, Et Al.
E2020-01444-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff. After two hearings, the trial court entered an order granting the defendants’ motions to dismiss. The plaintiff appeals. We affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/25/21
Carlos Rodgers et al v. Nationstar Mortgage et al.
W2020-01022-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns the dismissal of one of the defendants involved in the underlying case. Because there is no written order evidencing how the operative claims against the subject defendant were resolved, we vacate the trial court’s dismissal of the defendant and remand for further proceedings not inconsistent with this Opinion.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/24/21
W. Scott Johnson v. Tomcat USA, Inc. et al.
E2021-00057-COA-R9-CV

This interlocutory appeal concerns the trial court’s refusal to enforce a forum selection clause contained in a stock bonus transfer agreement in this action arising out of the termination of the plaintiff’s employment. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue, citing the forum selection clause, which specified New York as the sole venue for litigating claims. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The defendants appeal. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Appeals 08/24/21
Zachary Gale Rattler v. State of Tennessee
E2020-01533-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Zachary Gale Rattler, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he was deprived of a fair and impartial jury and received ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/24/21