Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 04/24/2014
Format: 04/24/2014
State of Tennessee v. Justin Shelton
M2013-01812-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, Justin Shelton, was indicted by the Lincoln County Grand Jury on two counts of reckless endangerment and two counts of vandalism. Appellant pled guilty and was sentenced to two years on each count for a total effective sentence of eight years. The trial court suspended the sentences and ordered Appellant to probation. Subsequently, a probation violation warrant was filed which alleged that Appellant had not reported to his probation officer; failed to pay fines; and failed to provide proof of employment. Petitioner also pled guilty to another offense. At a hearing, Petitioner pled guilty to the probation violation. The trial court ordered Appellant to serve the balance of his sentence in incarceration. Appellant appeals. After a review of the record and authorities, we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in revoking Appellant’s probation as there was evidence to support the conclusion of the trial court that a violation of the conditions of probation occurred. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Lincoln County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/24/14
Richard Thurmond v. Mid-Cumberland Infectious Disease Consultants, PLC et al.
M2012-02270-SC-R11-CV

Sixty days prior to filing his complaint, the plaintiff in this health care liability action sent written notice of his potential claim to each of the health care providers that would be named as defendants. Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a)(1) (2012 & Supp. 2013). The plaintiff served the pre-suit notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, as permitted by statute.  Id. § 29-26-121(a)(3)(B). In his subsequent complaint, the plaintiff alleged that he had complied with the statutory requirement of pre-suit notice, id. § 29-26-121(b), but the plaintiff failed to file with the complaint “an affidavit of the party mailing the [pre-suit] notice establishing that the specified notice was timely mailed by certified mail, return receipt requested,” id. § 29-26-121(a)(4). The defendants moved for dismissal of the lawsuit, citing the plaintiff’s failure to file with the complaint an affidavit of the person who had sent the pre-suit notice by certified mail. The defendants did not allege that the lack of the affidavit resulted in prejudice. Instead, the defendants contended that the pre-suit notice statute demands strict compliance with all its requirements and that dismissal is the mandatory remedy for noncompliance. The trial court “reluctantly” agreed with the defendants and dismissed the complaint. The Court of Appeals affirmed but noted the “harsh results”  strict compliance produces in cases, such as this one, where no prejudice is alleged. We granted the plaintiff’s application for permission to appeal. We hold that the statutory requirement of an affidavit of the person who sent pre-suit notice by certified mail may be satisfied by substantial compliance. We also hold that the plaintiff substantially complied with the statute. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the trial court’sdismissal of the complaint is reversed; the complaint is reinstated; and this matter is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Montgomery County Supreme Court 04/24/14
Ramsey Harris v. State of Tennessee
E2013-01770-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Ramsey Harris, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, false reporting to a law enforcement officer, and two counts of felony theft of property. He received an effective sentence of twenty years as a Range III offender. As part of the plea agreement, several other charges were dismissed. In his post-conviction proceedings, petitioner asserts that numerous errors with respect to trial counsel’s advice to him regarding the guilty plea to false reporting amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel. Following our review, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
In the Matter of Ryan K.M., et al.
W2013-02201-COA-R3-PT

Mother’s parental rights to her three sons were terminated after she pled guilty to the second degree murder of a fourth son. On appeal, Mother concedes that termination grounds were proven by clear and convincing evidence; she challenges only the trial court’s finding that termination of her parental rights is in the children’s best interest. We affirm the trial court’s best interest finding, and thus, its termination of Mother’s parental rights.

Chester County Court of Appeals 04/23/14
State of Tennessee v. William G. Barnett, Jr.
M2013-01176-CCA-R3-CD

The petitioner, William G. Barnett, Jr., pled guilty to four counts of aggravated statutory rape, Class D felonies, and one count of attempted solicitation of sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class A misdemeanor. Based upon the imposition of consecutive sentencing, the petitioner was sentenced to serve three years in the Department of Correction, followed by three years of probation. At the guilty plea hearing, the State noted that the petitioner asked to be allowed to reserve a certified question of law to appeal. The State read the petitioner’s question on the record, and the handwritten and signed statement was included in the record. It stated, “I would like to reserve my right to appeal the decision on the motion to dismiss.” The petitioner filed notice of direct appeal. Thereafter, the petitioner filed a petition for the writ of habeas corpus, which the trial court summarily dismissed based upon the pending direct appeal. The petitioner appealed that dismissal. This court has now consolidated those two issues into a single case. Thus, the issues presently before us are: (1) whether the defendant’s direct appeal of his certified question is properly before this court; and (2) whether the trial court properly dismissed the petition for the writ of habeas corpus. Upon review, we conclude that the certified question is not properly before this court and dismiss that portion of the appeal. However, with regard to habeas corpus relief, the petitioner has established what may be an illegal sentence. Remand to the trial court is necessary for further factual findings and actions taken in accordance with this opinion.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
State of Tennessee v. Howard Brackson Carrier
E2013-00247-CCA-R3-CD

A Sullivan County jury convicted appellant, Howard Brackson Carrier, of first degree premeditated murder, felony murder committed during the perpetration of a burglary, attempted first degree murder, and aggravated burglary, for which he received a sentence of life for the merged murder convictions, fifteen years, and three years, respectively. After the trial but before the hearing on the motion for a new trial, defense counsel discovered new evidence indicating that one of the State’s witnesses had falsely testified that a knife sharpener found at the murder scene belonged to appellant. At the motion for a new trial hearing, appellant argued that the testimony was crucial because it formed the basis for premeditation and intent. The trial court denied the motion, and this appeal follows. Herein, appellant raises one issue for our review: whether the witness’s false testimony necessitates a new trial. Following our review, we affirm the judgments for attempted first degree murder and aggravated burglary. We affirm the convictions for first degree premeditated murder and felony murder but vacate the judgments and remand the case to the trial court for entry of a single judgment for first degree murder noting merger of the two convictions.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
George Scott Mason v. State of Tennessee
M2013-01170-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, George Scott Mason, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of relief for his conviction of possession of a Schedule II substance for resale. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the post-conviction court erred in failing to make specific findings of fact and conclusions of law and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
Steven Aaron Page v. State of Tennessee
M2013-01267-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Steven Aaron Page, pled guilty in Davidson County to one count of aggravated child abuse. Pursuant to the plea, Petitioner was sentenced to fifteen years to be served at 100 percent. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief arguing that he was afforded ineffective assistance of counsel and that he entered his guilty plea unknowingly and involuntarily. The post-conviction court denied the petition. Petitioner appealed. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the post-conviction court did not err in denying the petition. Therefore, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
Kristopher Smith v. State of Tennessee
W2013-01135-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Kristopher Smith, appeals the denial of his bid for post-conviction relief from his 2009 Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of aggravated kidnapping and rape, claiming that the ruling in State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012), requires dismissal of his aggravated kidnapping conviction and that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Leon Knowles
M2013-01653-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Joseph Leon Knowles, pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement to attempt to commit aggravated child abuse of a child under six years old, a Class B felony, with the sentence to be determined by the trial court. See T.C.A. § 39-15-402 (2010). The trial court sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to twelve years’ confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred during sentencing by failing to apply certain mitigating factors relative to remorse, assisting the police, and his not having a substantial intent to violate the law and by denying him alternative sentencing. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Giles County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
Jarrod Phillips v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02026-CCA-R3-HC

Petitioner, Jarrod Phillips, was charged with first degree murder in Davidson County. He pled guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to thirty-two years as a Range II, violent offender. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in Hickman County. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s dismissal of the petition.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
State of Tennessee v. Kiara Tashawn King
M2012-00236-SC-R11-CD

The defendant pled guilty to aggravated burglary and theft of property over five hundred dollars. The trial court imposed concurrent, Range I sentences of five years and one year and six months, respectively, all to be served on probation. On appeal, the defendant contended that the trial court erred by imposing excessive sentences and by denying her application for judicial diversion. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed. We granted the application for permission to appeal in order to clarify the appropriate standard of appellate review for the grant or denial of judicial diversion. We hold that when the trial court places on the record its considerations for the grant or denial of judicial diversion, the determination should be given a presumption of reasonableness on appeal and reviewed for an abuse of discretion.  In the absence of appropriate considerations on the record, the appellate court should either remand for reconsideration or perform a de novo review. After our own de novo review of this record, we hold that the defendant is not entitled to judicial diversion.

Marshall County 04/23/14
Johnny Coffey v. State of Tennessee
E2013-01659-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Johnny Coffey, appeals the Bradley County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief. The Petitioner was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment. On appeal, he argues that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to properly petition the trial court for a State-funded psychiatric expert to assist the defense. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
State of Tennessee v. Steve Duclair
E2012-02580-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, Steve Duclair, was named in a presentment by the Sullivan County Grand Jury in September of 2008 for two counts of the sale of one-half a gram or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school and two counts of the delivery of one-half a gram or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school. The grand jury later named Appellant in a second presentment charging Appellant for one count of selling one-half gram or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school and one count of delivering one-half gram or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school. After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of two counts of selling one-half gram or more of cocaine, two counts of delivering one-half gram or more of cocaine, one count of selling one-half gram or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, and one count of delivering one-half gram or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school. The trial court merged the convictions for the sale of cocaine with the convictions for the delivery of cocaine. Appellant was sentenced to an effective sentence of fifteen years at 100 percent. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Appellant presents the following issues for our review on appeal: (1) whether the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; (2) whether the trial court committed error while dismissing the alternate juror at the conclusion of the trial; (3) whether the trial court committed error by asking Appellant where he was from during voir dire; (4) whether the trial court properly instructed the jury; (5) whether Appellant’s sentences constitute cruel and unusual punishment; (6) whether the assistant district attorney committed prosecutorial misconduct; and (7) whether the Drug-Free School Zone Act is unconstitutional. After a review of the record and the applicable authorities, we determine that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions; the trial court properly instructed the jury; the trial court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Appellant; the Drug-Free School Zone Act is not unconstitutional; the trial court did not violate Appellant’s right from self-incrimination during voir dire; the trial court did not err in dismissing the alternate juror; and the prosecutor did not commit misconduct during closing argument. Consequently, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/23/14
Carroll Marie Stovall, et al. v. UHS of Lakeside, LLC, et al.
W2013-01504-COA-R9-CV

Appellant medical providers appeal the trial court’s denial of their motions to dismiss a medical malpractice complaint for failure to strictly comply with Tennessee Code Annotated Section 29-26-122(d)(4). Because we conclude that the trial court had good cause to grant an extension, within which to file a certificate of good faith, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 04/22/14
Norma Simpson, Ind. and next of kin of J. W. Simpson v. Faye Fowler
W2013-02109-COA-R3-CV

This is the second appeal of this case, involving the application of Tennessee Code Annotated Section 31-1-105 to set aside certain transfers by decedent to his long-term companion, which transfers were allegedly made with intent to deny his surviving spouse of her share of his estate. From the totality of the circumstances, and applying the factors outlined by this Court in Finley v. Finley, 726 S.W.2d 923 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1986), we conclude that the evidence preponderates in favor of the trial court’s award of $8,500.00 in insurance proceeds to the surviving spouse for decedent’s funeral costs, but that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s award of a $28,000.00 bank account to the surviving spouse. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Obion County Court of Appeals 04/22/14
Melinda Jan Metzinger v. Ronald Wayne Metzinger
W2013-02220-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves the classification and division of Husband’s $66,000.00 personal injury settlement in a divorce proceeding. The trial court classified the settlement as marital property, it deducted $13,400.00 for what it found to be “legitimate expense[s] of the marriage” paid by Husband, and it awarded Wife one-half of the balance, or $26,300.00. We reverse the trial court’s award to Wife.

Dyer County Court of Appeals 04/22/14
State of Tennessee v. Keenan D. Singletary
M2013-01098-CCA-R3-CD

Keenan D. Singletary (“the Defendant”) pleaded guilty to facilitation of aggravated robbery. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to five years’ incarceration and ordered the Defendant to pay $174 in restitution. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the length and manner of service of his sentence. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/14
Mindy Dodd v. State of Tennessee
M2013-02385-CCA-R3-ECN

The petitioner, Mindy S. Dodd, appeals the denial of her petition for a writ of error coram nobis. On appeal, she contends that she presented newly discovered evidence that may have affected the outcome of her trial and that the error coram nobis court erred in denying her petition. Because the petition was not filed within the statutory limitations period, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/14
Rashe Moore v. State of Tennessee
W2013-00674-CCA-R3-PC

In this post-conviction appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at trial because trial counsel was deficient in failing to file a written motion requesting jury instructions on lesser-included offenses and that this failure resulted in prejudice because it precluded appellate review of the trial court’s refusal to instruct the jury on any lesser-included offenses. After a review of the record and the applicable authorities, we reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court with respect to trial counsel’s failure to file a written motion requesting an instruction on lesser-included offenses of especially aggravated kidnapping. We affirm the judgment in all other respects.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/14
Rashe Moore v. State of Tennessee-Concurring In Part, Dissenting In Part
W2013-00674-CCA-R3-PC

I concur with the majority opinion except for one issue. I respectfully disagree with the majority’s conclusion that the failure to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of aggravated kidnapping constitutes reversible error in this post-conviction case. Such a failure to charge a lesser-included offense is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt when no reasonable jury would have convicted the petitioner of the lesser-included offense. State v. Banks, 271 S.W.3d 90, 126 (Tenn. 2008).

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/14
State of Tennessee v. Danny Adams
E2013-01236-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Danny Adams, was convicted by a jury of simple assault. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for that conviction, including an argument therein of inconsistent verdicts. We have thoroughly reviewed the record on appeal, and although the evidence is sufficient, we must reverse the Defendant’s conviction because an incorrect mental state was included in the jury charge. Moreover, we cannot deem the error harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/14
State of Tennessee v. Jessica Root
E2013-01690-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Jessica Root, appeals the trial court’s nine-year sentence to her open plea of guilt to vehicular homicide by intoxication, contending (1) that the trial court failed to consider applicable mitigating factors and a sentencing practices report; (2) that she should have received the minimum sentence; and (3) that the trial court improperly denied all forms of alternative sentencing. Upon consideration of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/22/14
Kathy Austin, et al v. Jacob Wilds, Jr., et al
E2013-01310-COA-R3-CV

Kathy Austin, Vickie Shipley, and Sherry Foshie (“Plaintiffs”) sued their brothers, Jacob Wilds, Jr. and James Wilds (“Defendants”), seeking to have certain deeds from their mother set aside due to alleged undue influence and/or duress. After a bench trial, the Chancery Court for Greene County (“Trial Court”) entered its order rendering judgment in favor of Defendants after finding and holding, inter alia, that Plaintiffs had failed to prove the existence of a confidential relationship necessary to show that the subject deeds were procured through undue influence. Plaintiffs appeal. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Trial Court’s findings, and we affirm.

Greene County Court of Appeals 04/22/14
RCK Joint Venture, (A Joint Venture Comprised of River Road Construction, LLC, Creative Homes, LLC and Keystone Homes of TN, INC.) v. Garrison Cove Homeowners Association, A Tennessee Nonprofit Corporation
M2013-00630-COA-R3-CV

The only issue in this appeal is whether two property owners in a subdivision are entitled to an award of attorney fees for prevailing in a third-party action brought against them by the homeowners association to enforce restrictive covenants. The association argued that the property owners were not entitled to attorney fees because they did not prevail on every issue that came up during litigation, because the attorney fee provision in the restrictive covenants could be read to mean that no such award could be made if additional damages were not also awarded, and because they did not personally pay their own attorney fees. The trial court agreed with those arguments and denied the motion for attorney fees. We reverse the trial court and remand the case for a determination of the amount of the attorney fee award.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 04/22/14