Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 04/17/2021
Format: 04/17/2021
Eric D. Wallace v. Tony Parker, Et Al.
M2019-01044-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from the summary dismissal of an inmate’s petition for declaratory judgment pertaining to the calculation of his release eligibility date. The inmate was convicted of two felonies and ordered to serve a life sentence for the first felony and a 15-year sentence for the second, with the sentences to be served consecutively. When calculating his release eligibility date, the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”) applied the inmate’s pretrial jail credits to the life sentence but not to the 15-year sentence. The inmate claimed that TDOC erred by failing to apply the credit to both sentences because the criminal court included the credit on both sentencing orders. While the inmate’s petition was pending, the criminal court issued a corrected sentencing order for the 15-year sentence, in accordance with Rule 36 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure, removing the pretrial jail credits. Thereafter, TDOC filed a motion for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion, determining that TDOC complied with the criminal court’s judgment and the applicable law. We affirm. 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/08/21
State of Tennessee v. Regina Jackson
M2019-01390-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Regina Jackson, appeals her Cheatham County Circuit Court jury conviction of second offense driving under the influence (“DUI”), arguing that the trial court erred by denying her motion to dismiss for lack of probable cause and by denying her a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/05/21
Phi Air Medical, LLC v. Corizon, Inc.
M2020-00800-COA-R3-CV

PHI Air Medical brought suit based on unjust enrichment and action on sworn account against Corizon for air ambulance services it provided without a contract after Corizon paid only a portion of the billed amount, citing its practice of paying according to statutory caps and Medicare rates. The trial court granted summary judgment, finding that the preemption clause of the Airline Deregulation Act, 49 U.S.C. § 41713, which provides that a state “may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier that may provide air transportation,” preempts PHI’s claims. We affirm the trial court’s finding that PHI’s claims are preempted and that summary judgment was proper. We reverse the trial court’s grant of PHI’s voluntary nonsuit of a claim that PHI did not plead.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 03/05/21
In re River L. et al.
M2019-02049-COA-R3-PT

A mother appeals the juvenile court’s decision to terminate her parental rights based on four statutory grounds. She also challenges the juvenile court’s finding by clear and convincing evidence that termination of her parental rights was in the best interest of the children. We affirm the juvenile court’s termination of the mother’s parental rights.

Fentress County Court of Appeals 03/04/21
Pamela Salas v. John David Rosdeutscher, M.D, et al.
M2021-00157-COA-T10B-CV

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. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the motion.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/04/21
Jon Vazeen v. Martin Sir
M2019-01395-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a fraud claim filed against an attorney by his former client. The attorney conceded that the client had been double-billed for some charges and repaid the client for those matters prior to trial. However, the client, now pro se, continued to pursue his claim for fraudulent billing, insisting that fraud extended to the entire invoice. He also claimed that the attorney had charged a higher hourly rate than agreed. After a bench trial, the trial court found that the client failed to demonstrate that the attorney intentionally misrepresented the amounts owed by the client and failed to present sufficient evidence of fraud. As such, the trial court dismissed the claim and granted the attorney’s request for discretionary costs. The client appeals. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/04/21
Terrell B. Johnson v. State of Tennessee
E2020-00488-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Terrell B. Johnson, 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.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/04/21
State of Tennessee v. Kenzie Anderson
M2020-00120-CCA-R3-CD

A Davidson County jury found Defendant, Kenzi Eugene Anderson, guilty on two counts each of aggravated burglary, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and aggravated robbery, for which the trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective sentence of twenty-three years’ incarceration. On appeal, Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion by denying Defendant’s motion to sever defendants and by imposing an excessive sentence and that the trial court committed plain error by failing to sever his offenses for trial. Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/03/21
State of Tennessee v. Gary Wayne Bunch
E2019-00300-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, Gary Wayne Bunch, pled guilty to two counts of theft under $1,000. The trial court sentenced him to concurrent sentences of ten years for each offense, and he was placed on supervised probation. Upon finding that the Appellant violated the conditions of his probation, the trial court revoked the Appellant’s probation and ordered him to serve his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the ruling of the trial court. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/03/21
State of Tennessee v. Gary Wayne Bunch - Concurring Opinion
E2019-00300-CCA-R3-CD

I concur fully with the conclusion reached by the majority that there was evidence to support the trial court’s decision to revoke Defendant’s probation and to order Defendant to serve the balance of his original sentence in incarceration. I write separately to affirm my belief expressed in my concurring opinion in State v. Craig Dagnan, No. M2020- 00152-CCA-R3-CD, 2021WL 289010, at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Jan. 28, 2021), perm. app. filed, that once a determination is made that a defendant has violated the conditions of his or her probation, neither an additional hearing nor any additional findings are statutorily mandated of a trial court to determine the manner in which the original sentence should be served. Thus, there is no opportunity for an abuse of discretion when a “second exercise of discretion” is not required by either sections 40-35-310 or 40-35-311 of Tennessee Code Annotated.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/03/21
Department of Finance And Administration, Division Of TennCare v. The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority D/B/A Erlanger Health System
M2020-00230-COA-R3-CV

This appeal concerns an administrative judge’s decision to exclude several exhibits in a contested case between a hospital and the TennCare Division of the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration. At issue in the contested case is the validity of two TennCare rules that regulate payment for emergency services provided to Medicaid beneficiaries when the hospital has no contract with the beneficiaries’ managed care provider. The exhibits contain out-of-court statements made by industry representatives and federal agency employees about the meaning and application of federal and state law. TennCare asserts that the exhibits are necessary to show the reasonableness of its decision-making process. The healthcare services provider argues that the exhibits contain irrelevant, inadmissible hearsay. Having determined that the exhibits are not admissible under the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, we affirm the administrative judge’s ruling.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/03/21
State of Tennessee v. Eli Kea
E2019-00890-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Eli Kea, was convicted by a jury of four counts of attempted aggravated robbery, four counts of aggravated assault, one count of reckless aggravated assault, and two counts of reckless endangerment of another by discharging a firearm into an occupied habitation. Thereafter, the trial court merged several of the convictions and imposed an effective ten-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress, arguing that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion for an investigatory stop of his vehicle based solely on a general description of the vehicle; (2) the evidence was insufficient to establish his identity as the perpetrator of the episode involving four counts of attempted aggravated robbery and four counts of aggravated assault; and (3) the trial court erred by allowing the State to impeach a co-defendant with a prior statement because the jury was unlikely to consider the prior statement only for credibility purposes given the prejudicial nature of the statement. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/02/21
State of Tennessee v. Nathaniel Shawn Declue
M2019-01424-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Nathaniel Shawn Declue, pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, two counts of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, driving on revoked license, violation of the vehicle registration law, simple possession of a Schedule VI substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court merged multiple convictions and imposed an effective sentence of twenty years in confinement. The Defendant appeals, asserting that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to apply a mitigating factor and by failing to consider the economic resources available to state prisons in its decision to impose a twenty-year effective sentence. After review of the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/02/21
State of Tennessee v. Kelly Lee Pitts
E2019-01656-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Kelly Lee Pitts, was convicted by a jury of seven counts each of attempted first degree murder and possessing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony. Thereafter, the trial court imposed an effective fifty-one-year sentence. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions for attempted first degree murder, specifically, challenging the element of premeditation; (2) the trial court erred by imposing partial consecutive sentencing based upon the dangerous offender criterion; (3) and the trial court erred in imposing Class C felony convictions for employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony when he was convicted only of possessing such a firearm, a Class D felony.1 The State concedes that the sentences and judgments for employment of a firearm were in error, and we agree. In all other respects, we affirm. Accordingly, though we affirm the Defendant’s convictions, we vacate and modify certain judgment forms and sentences consistent with this opinion. The case is remanded.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/02/21
State of Tennessee v. Alfred Lee Boykin, III
E2019-02070-CCA-R3-CD

Pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37, the defendant, Alfred Lee Boykin, III, appeals two certified questions of law related to the trial court’s denial of his motion to dismiss his case due to excessive delay in prosecuting the case. Because the defendant failed to establish prejudice flowing from the more than two-year delay in this case, the trial court did not err by denying his motion to dismiss. The judgments of the trial court are, therefore, affirmed.

Hamblen County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/02/21
State of Tennessee v. Trenton Jermaine Bell
M2019-01810-CCA-R3-CD

Trenton Jermaine Bell, Defendant, was arrested and charged with first degree premediated murder, tampering with evidence, and abuse of a corpse in connection with the death of the victim, Sydney Green. A Wilson County jury convicted Defendant as charged on all counts, and the trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective life sentence. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court committed plain error by failing to issue a curative instruction when a police detective offered improper lay testimony. He also contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for first degree premeditated murder and that he was denied a jury venire comprising a fair cross section of the community. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/02/21
Judy Morrow Wright, et al. v. Matthew G. Buyer, et al.
W2019-01157-COA-R3-CV

After their case was dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, the plaintiffs moved for relief from the judgment claiming that the trial judge should have recused herself. The court denied the motion for relief, and this appeal followed. We previously considered the plaintiffs’ claims of the judge’s “appearance of a predispositional bias” in an accelerated interlocutory appeal as of right under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 10B. In that appeal, we determined that the plaintiffs had waived their right to challenge the judge’s impartiality. So based on the law of the case, we affirm the denial of plaintiffs’ motion for relief from the judgment.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/02/21
In Re Jazmine D. Et Al.
E2021-00199-COA-R3-PT

The appellant, Juanita D., filed a motion to accept late-filed notice of appeal. Because the notice of appeal was not timely filed, this Court lacks jurisdiction to consider the appeal.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 03/02/21
Aaron J. Cryer, et al. v. City of Dyersburg, et al.
W2020-00045-COA-R3-CV

City employees brought action against the city upon its amendment of the pension plan. The trial court ruled in favor of the city. The employees appeal. We affirm.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 03/02/21
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Neal Olive
M2019-01379-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Jeffrey Neal Olive, was convicted by a Marshall County Circuit Court jury of second-degree murder, a Class A felony, and was sentenced to twenty years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction and that his sentence is excessive and contrary to law. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Marshall County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/01/21
Jesus Baltazar Diaz Ramos v. State of Tennessee
M2019-01525-CCA-R3-CO

The pro se Petitioner, Jesus Baltazar Diaz Ramos, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court summarily dismissing the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/01/21
State of Tennessee v. Shalonda Weems
M2018-02288-SC-R11-CD

This case examines a trial court’s decision to grant, in part, a motion for judgment of acquittal in a criminal case. A Davidson County jury convicted Shalonda Weems of aggravated child neglect and reckless homicide following the death of her six-month-old daughter, Kar’mn. The autopsy investigation determined that Kar’mn’s primary cause of death was malnutrition and dehydration and that the circumstances of her death were neglect. Ms. Weems was adamant in her statements to law enforcement that she fed Kar’mn, and medical records showed Ms. Weems took Kar’mn to all of her regularly scheduled doctors’ appointments. After the jury’s verdict, Ms. Weems filed a motion for judgment of acquittal as to both charges. The trial court granted the motion as to the aggravated child neglect charge but denied the motion as to the reckless homicide charge. The State appealed the trial court’s decision to partially grant the acquittal, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. Because we conclude that a reasonable jury could have found all the necessary elements of the crime of aggravated child neglect, Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-15-402 (2003), beyond a reasonable doubt, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals and vacate the trial court’s decision to grant the motion for judgment of acquittal as to the aggravated child neglect charge. As a result, Ms. Weems’ conviction for aggravated child neglect is reinstated. We remand this case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Davidson County Supreme Court 03/01/21
In Re Dominic B.
E2020-01102-COA-R3-PT

This is an appeal from a termination of parental rights case. The trial court determined that three grounds for termination had been established as to the child’s mother: abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 36- 1-102(1)(A)(ii), persistence of conditions pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-113(g)(3), and failure to manifest an ability and willingness to assume custody pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 36-1-113(g)(14). The court further determined that the termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the child’s best interests. Although we vacate two of the termination grounds due to insufficient findings, we affirm the trial court’s conclusion that there is clear and convincing evidence to support its finding of abandonment and its determination that the termination of the mother’s rights is in the child’s best interests.

Court of Appeals 03/01/21
State of Tennessee v. Robert Edward Seaton
E2019-01225-CCA-R3-CD

Following a jury trial, the Defendant, Robert Edward Seaton, was convicted of facilitation of theft of property valued at $2,500 or more but less than $10,000, a Class E felony, and one count each of vandalism, evading arrest, and driving with a revoked license, second offense, Class A misdemeanors. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-11-403, -14-103, -14-105, - 14-408, -16-603, 55-50-504. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion for a mistrial when a court officer, who was acting as jury custodian, was called and sworn as a rebuttal witness; (2) that the court erred by denying the Defendant’s motion for a mistrial after the court elicited from a defense witness the name of the witness’s father-in-law, who was “a notorious criminal and murderer”; (3) that the court erred by admitting reputation or opinion evidence from three law enforcement officers regarding a defense witness’s character for truthfulness; (4) that plain error occurred when the State cross-examined a defense witness regarding prior criminal behavior not resulting in a conviction; and (5) that the cumulative effect of these errors deprived the Defendant of a fair trial. Following our review, we conclude that the admission of reputation and opinion evidence from law enforcement officers constitutes reversible error such that the Defendant is entitled to a new trial. Alternatively, we conclude that the Defendant would be entitled to relief due to cumulative error.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/21
State of Tennessee v. Michelle Bennington
E2020-00025-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Michelle Bennington, filed a pro se motion pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36 to correct an alleged clerical error in a July 22, 2019 probation revocation order. The motion sought entry of a corrected order providing 827 days of postjudgment jail credit. The trial court determined that there was no clerical error in the revocation order and denied the motion. However, the trial court determined that there was a clerical error in the May 23, 2016 judgments of conviction and entered corrected judgments providing two additional days of pretrial jail credit. Finding no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/21