Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 03/04/2015
Format: 03/04/2015
State of Tennessee v. Ronald Chery, Daryn W. Chery and John K. St. Cloud
M2013-02845-CCA-R3-CD

Appellants Ronald Chery, Daryn W. Chery, and John K. St. Cloud were charged in a presentment with thirteen counts of aggravated burglary, thirteen counts of varying degrees of theft, and one count of conspiracy to commit theft of property valued at more than $60,000.  Appellants filed a motion to dismiss the presentment on the grounds that they had been previously charged with one count of aggravated burglary and evading arrest that were so closely related to the subsequent thirteen burglaries and thefts that joinder of the offenses was mandatory.  Following a hearing on the motion to dismiss, the trial court denied relief. Each appellant pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated burglary, and the State dismissed all theft counts and the conspiracy count.  As part of the plea agreement, appellants reserved a certified question pertaining to the necessity of mandatory joinder of the subsequent thirteen burglaries with the first burglary and related offenses pursuant to Rule 8(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. 

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/04/15
William Newson v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00867-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, William Newson, pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI) with an agreed sentence of eleven months twenty nine days, with forty-eight hours to serve and the remainder on probation. The sentence was to be served concurrently with a parole violation and a violation of an order of protection in unrelated cases. Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief alleging that trial counsel promised him that his DUI guilty plea would result in his release from jail after serving the forty-eight hours as described in the guilty plea agreement and that he would return to probation. Petitioner now appeals the trial court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, in which he alleged that his guilty plea was not knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently entered due to the ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Having reviewed the record before us, we affirm the judgment of trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/04/15
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Bell
W2014-00504-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, Christopher Bell, pleaded guilty to especially aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and aggravated criminal trespass. The trial court sentenced appellant to an effective seventeen-year sentence. Appellant reserved a certified question of law arguing that the juvenile court did not properly conduct his transfer hearing from juvenile court to criminal court. Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we conclude that appellant’s transfer hearing was properly conducted and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/04/15
In Re Kinsley H.
W2014-00276-COA-R3-JV

The order appealed is not a final judgment and therefore, the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this matter. Consequently, this appeal is hereby dismissed.

Tipton County Court of Appeals 03/04/15
State of Tennessee v. Charlie E. Mullican
M2014-01122-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Charlie E. Mullican, pled guilty pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, to driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI), second offense, and possession of a handgun while under the influence of intoxicants.  He properly reserved a certified question of law for appeal.  The question of the law is dispositive of the case.  After a thorough review we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/04/15
Maurice Edward Carter v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00750-CCA-R3-PC

In December 2009, the Petitioner, Maurice Edward Carter, pled guilty to one count of aggravated statutory rape and one count of criminal exposure to HIV and received an effective sentence of 20 years.  Pursuant to his plea agreement, the Petitioner reserved a certified question of law concerning the trial court’s denial of his motions to suppress evidence and his statement.  On direct appeal, this Court determined that the certified question was not dispositive of the Petitioner’s case and dismissed the appeal.  Thereafter, the Petitioner filed a post-conviction petition but was denied relief.  The Petitioner now appeals, contending that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based upon trial counsel’s failure to:  (1) properly preserve the certified question of law; (2) adequately explain to the Petitioner the possible outcomes of his direct appeal; and (3) address in the certified question of law the issue of the legality of the officer’s opening a locked box found in the Petitioner’s vehicle.  The Petitioner further contends that his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary based upon trial counsel’s ineffectiveness and the trial court’s failure to ensure that the Petitioner understood the ramifications and possible outcomes of his appeal of a certified question of law.  Following review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Smith County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/03/15
In Re S.C.M. Et Al.
E2014-01379-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case regarding S.C.M. and T.O.J.M. (collectively, the Children), the minor children of H.C. (Mother) and B.M. (Father). After both parents were arrested, the Children’s maternal grandparents, R.R. and T.R. (collectively, the Grandparents) obtained temporary, emergency custody. Nearly three years later, the Grandparents filed a petition seeking to (1) terminate both parents’ rights and (2) adopt the Children. Following a trial, the court terminated both parents’ rights. Father appeals. We affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 03/02/15
State of Tennessee v. Elmi Abdulahi Abdi
M2014-00755-CCA-R3-CD

In this delayed direct appeal, the Defendant, Elmi Abdulahi Abdi, argues that the trial court erred when it admitted a redacted version of his video-recorded statement into evidence.  The Defendant contends that the trial court should have introduced the full video-recorded statement to allow the jury to consider his statement in context.  The record does not include the un-redacted video statement, a transcript of the audio of the un-redacted video statement, a transcript of a hearing on the Defendant’s motion in limine to exclude the redacted statement, or an order from the trial court ruling on the motion in limine.  Additionally, the Defendant did not make a contemporaneous objection when the redacted video was played to the jury and did not require the introduction of the un-redacted video pursuant to the rule of completeness, Tennessee Rule of Evidence 106.  We conclude that the trial court did not err in admitting the redacted video and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/02/15
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Allen Johnson
M2014-00766-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Timothy Allen Johnson, was convicted of one count of tampering with evidence, a Class C felony.  He was sentenced as a persistent offender to a twelve-year sentence.  On appeal, the defendant argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction.  After a thorough review of the record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/02/15
State of Tennessee v. William Scott Ross
M2014-00459-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Appellant, William Scott Ross, pled guilty to one count of facilitation of a conspiracy to sell over seventy pounds of marijuana and one count of official misconduct.  Pursuant to the plea agreement, he received an effective three-year sentence in the local corrections facility, suspended to supervised probation.  After a hearing, the trial court denied the Defendant’s request for judicial diversion.  On appeal, the Defendant argues that the trial court erred in refusing to grant judicial diversion.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/02/15
State of Tennessee v. Micah Johnson, Alias
E2013-02356-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Micah Johnson, alias, was convicted by a Knox County jury of one count of premeditated murder, two counts of felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, and one count of especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the murder counts and the kidnapping counts into a single count for each, respectively. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole plus fifty years for all of these convictions. In this direct appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for premeditated murder; (2) the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury regarding substantial interference as mandated in State v. White, 362 S.W.3d 559 (Tenn. 2012), thus, requiring reversal of his kidnapping convictions; (3) the trial court erred, in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b), by allowing introduction of the Defendant’s prison disciplinary records as rebuttal evidence to the neuropsychologist’s testimony about the Defendant’s psychological test results; (4) the trial court abused its discretion by allowing the State to impeach the forensic psychiatrist defense expert with a twenty-two-year-old academic misdeed; (5) the trial court erred by failing to suppress the video recording of the crime scene and the photographs taken at the crime scene and during the victim’s autopsy all gruesomely depicting the victim’s body; (6) plain error occurred when the State elicited testimony from its rebuttal mental health expert that, if the Defendant was found not guilty by reason of insanity, he was not committable to a mental health facility in her opinion; and (7) the imposition of consecutive sentencing was improper. Following our review of the record and the applicable authorities, we conclude that the trial court’s failing to instruct the jury properly pursuant to White constitutes reversible error. Therefore, the Defendant’s two convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping must be reversed and remanded to the trial court for a new trial as to those offenses only. In all other respects, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/02/15
Keesha Washington v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00250-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Keesha Washington, appeals the Williamson County Circuit Court’s denial of her petition for post-conviction relief from her 2010 conviction for aggravated arson and her eighteen-year sentence.  She contends that the post-conviction court erred by denying her relief because she received the ineffective assistance of counsel.  We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/27/15
S. W., by Heather Warren and Thomas C. Warren, as his natural parents and next friends v. Baptist Memorial Hospital, et al. - Concur
W2014-00621-COA-R10-CV

I concur in the result reached by the majority Opinion that the trial court erred in imposing additional restrictions on Defendants’ counsel with regard to the requested ex parte interviews in this particular case. I write separately, however, to express my concern regarding the implications of this ruling, as fully explained in my separate concurrence in Dean-Hayslett v. Methodist Healthcare, No. W2014-00625-COA-R10-CV, 2015 WL 277114 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 20, 2015) (Stafford, J., concurring). Specifically, I agree with the majority’s interpretation of Tennessee Code Annotated 29-26-121(f), and its holding that the statute, as interpreted, does not authorize the trial court to impose the additional restrictions at issue in this case. However, I have genuine concern that the practical effect of the majority’s holding limits the inherent power of the trial court to both enforce its orders and protect litigants from unfair invasions of their privacy. As such, I must respectfully file this separate concurrence, in reliance on and fully incorporating my concurrence in Dean-Hayslett. See 2014 WL 277114, at *14–*17.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/27/15
S.W., by Heather Warren and Thomas C. Warren, as his natural parents and next friends v. Baptist Memorial Hospital, et al.- Concur
W2014-00621-COA-R10-CV

I concur in the result reached by the majority opinion. I reach my conclusion, however, applying the abuse of discretion standard to the court’s action in imposing the specific restrictions and conditions in the protective order.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/27/15
State of Tennessee v. Jaron Harris
E2014-00822-CCA-R3-CD

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Jaron Harris, of two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated robbery, four counts of first degree felony murder, one count of second degree murder, one count of attempted second degree murder, two counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, and two counts of aggravated assault. The trial court merged several of the convictions, dismissed one count of aggravated assault, and then sentenced the Defendant to serve a total effective sentence of life plus fourteen years. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; and (2) the trial court erred when it allowed crossexamination of the Defendant about statements he made to other inmates about escaping from the courtroom. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/27/15
S.W., by Heather Warren and Thomas C. Warren, as his natural parents and next friends v. Baptist Memorial Hospital, et al.
W2014-00621-COA-R10-CV

This is a healthcare liability action. The trial court granted Defendants’ motion for a qualified protective order pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(f)(1), but set-forth several conditions, including: 1) a court reporter must be present at the ex parte interviews with Plaintiff’s treating healthcare providers and record all questions and answers; 2) all answers during the interviews must be under oath; 3) the interview transcripts shall be filed under seal and with permission of the trial court, and after showing of good cause, Plaintiff may access the transcripts for the purpose of determining whether a violation of privacy under HIPAA occurred during the interviews; and 4) Defendants should not attempt to elicit or discuss protected health information which is not relevant to the issues in this lawsuit. The order also provided “[t]his does not restrict the Defendants or their attorneys from discussing non-substantive matters unrelated to the patient’s protected health information.” The trial court denied Defendants’ joint motion for interlocutory appeal of the order and Defendants filed an application for extraordinary appeal pursuant to Rule 10 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. We granted the appeal for the sole purpose of determining whether, under section 29-26-121(f), the trial court erred by adding the four conditions noted above to its order. We reverse in part, affirm in part, and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County State Court Clerks 02/27/15
State of Tennessee v. Reginald Perry Davis Lashley
M2014-00733-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Reginald Perry Davis Lashley, appeals the revocation of his probationary sentence.  The defendant pled guilty to two counts of criminal attempt to deliver a controlled substance, to wit ecstasy, and received an effective six-year sentence, which was suspended to supervised probation following service of one year in incarceration.  Subsequently, a violation warrant was issued alleging that the defendant had violated the terms and conditions of his probation by being arrested for DUI, using intoxicants to excess, failing to report the new arrest, and failing to verify payment of costs and fines.  Following a hearing, the trial court found the defendant had violated the terms and conditions of his probation and ordered that the balance of the sentence be served in incarceration.  On appeal, the defendant contends that the decision to revoke was not supported by sufficient evidence.  Following review of the record, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in revoking the defendant’s probation.  As such, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/27/15
Delwin L. Huggins et al v. R. Ellsworth McKee et al.
E2014-00726-COA-R3-CV

This is the second appeal in this action involving a dispute over setoff claims related to a bankruptcy proceeding. The action commenced when the original plaintiff, Delwin L. Huggins, filed a complaint against the defendants, R. Ellsworth McKee and Alternative Fuels, LLC (“AF”), in December 2007. In July 2009, Mr. Huggins filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. In that proceeding, John P. Konvalinka purchased Mr. Huggins‟s interest in this action and was subsequently joined as a substitute plaintiff. Following consideration of the defendants‟ motion for judgment on the pleadings, the trial court dismissed Mr. Konvalinka‟s claims. Upon appeal, this Court affirmed the dismissal as to Mr. Konvalinka‟s claims against Mr. McKee but reversed as to the claims against AF. Upon remand, the trial court dismissed Mr. Konvalinka‟s claims against AF as moot. Having determined that the trial court failed to explain its conclusion that no relief would be possible, we vacate the judgment.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 02/27/15
In Re R.S.M.
E2014-00027-COA-R3-JV

A.E.M. (Mother) surrendered parental rights with respect to her minor daughter, R.S.M. (the Child), to prospective adoptive parents, P.B.G. and D.R.G. (collectively, Respondents). M.S.M. and M.W.M. (Grandparents), the Child’s maternal grandparents, filed a complaint seeking to intervene in the surrender by A.E.M. of her parental rights. At trial, the court found (1) that the burden of proof was on Grandparents to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that it was in the Child’s best interest to remove her from Respondents, and (2) that they failed to meet their burden. The court dismissed Grandparents’ complaint. They appeal. We affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 02/27/15
In Re K.M.K. et al
E2014-00471-COA-R3-PT

K.M.K. (Father) appeals the trial court’s judgment terminating his parental rights to his son, K.M.K., and his daughter, K.M.K. (collectively, the Children). The petitioner, Department of Children’s Services (DCS), removed the Children from their mother’s home after it found them living in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. They were placed in foster care and subsequently adjudicated dependent and neglected. Nine months later, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of both parents. The trial court terminated 1 Father’s rights based upon findings of (1) abandonment, (2) substantial noncompliance with a permanency plan, and (3) persistence of conditions. The trial court also determined that termination is in the best interest of the Children. Father appeals. We affirm the judgment of the trial court as modified in this opinion. Those modifications do not affect the trial court’s decision to terminate Father’s parental rights, which ultimate decision we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 02/27/15
Edward Martin v. Gregory Powers, et al
M2014-00647-COA-R3-CV

Holder of an automobile liabilityinsurancepolicybrought suit to recover for injuries sustained after being struck by a driver in a rental vehicle. The policy holder also sought coverage under the uninsured motorist coverage provision of his policy. Insurance carrier filed answer denying coverage and moved for summary judgment, contending that the policyholder was not entitled to coverage because the vehicle involved in the incident was owned by a rental car agency and, consequently, his damages did not arise out of the ownership, maintenance or use of an uninsured motor vehicle as required by the policy. The trial court held that the rental car agency was a self-insurer under Tennessee law and, consequently, the vehicle was not an “uninsured motor vehicle,”and granted the carrier’s motion. Policyholder appeals; finding no error, we affirm the judgment.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 02/27/15
In Re: J.A.G. et al.
M2014-01469-COA-R3-PT

This is a parental termination case concerning the four minor children (collectively, the Children) of L.Y.N.G. (Mother) and K.B.G. (Father). The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) was already involved with the family when it took emergency custody of the children following an incident of domestic violence between the parents. The children were placed together in fostercare with relatives. They were adjudicated dependent and neglected. Fifteen months later, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of both parents. The court granted the petition based on its finding, byclear and convincing evidence, (1) that multiple grounds for termination existed and (2) that termination was in the children’s best interest.  Mother and Father appeal. They challenge the trial court’s finding of grounds for termination, but do not raise an issue as to the trial court’s determination regarding the Children’s best interest. We affirm.

Putnam County Court of Appeals 02/27/15
Cynthia McKenzie v. Jason McKenzie
M2013-02003-COA-R3-CV

An attorney, who was representing herself in her divorce action, appeals the trial court’s  finding  that  she  was  in  direct  contempt  of court.  She  insists  her  conduct  was  not  contemptuous and it did not disrupt the orderly progress of the hearing. She also challenges  the procedure bywhich the trial court conducted the summary contempt hearing, asserting it was erroneously held hours after the successful completion of the hearing in which she was  allegedly in contempt of court. She also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and  contends the trial court erred by basing its finding of contempt on extraneous evidence  instead of relying solely on knowledge the judge obtained through his own senses, his sight  and hearing. A trial court has the authority to punish direct contempt summarily but only in  exceptional circumstances when necessary to“act swiftly and firmly to prevent contumacious conduct from disrupting the orderly progress” of a court proceeding. Danielsv.Grimac,342 S.W.3d 511, 517 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2010); State v. Turner, 914 S.W.2d 951, 956-57 (Tenn.  Crim. App. 1995); Robinson v. Air Draulics Eng’g Co., 377 S.W.2d 908, 911-12 (Tenn.  1964). The transcript of thehearingrevealsnoexceptionalcircumstances and no conduct that  obstructed the administration of justice. To the contrary, all issues at the hearing during  which  the  alleged  contemptuous  conduct  occurred  were  ruled  upon, and  the  hearing  concluded hours before the commencement of the summary contempt hearing. Based on  these facts, Plaintiff was entitled to a hearing upon proper notice pursuant to the procedures  of Tenn. R. Crim. P. 42(b). See Grimac, 342 S.W.3d at 517-18 (citing Turner,914S.W.2dat 959 n. 11). Therefore, the court erred by conducting a deferred summary contempt hearing.  Furthermore, the trial court found the attorney in contempt, “in willful misbehavior in her  official  transactions  by appearing  in  Court  intoxicated,” based  on  extrinsic  evidence,  urinalysis results, obtained after the hearing in question,not on conduct the court observed in the courtroom. Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure42(a),which governs the procedure by which a judge may summarily punish a person for criminal contempt,limits the evidence that may be considered to conduct the judge “saw or heard” in the courtroom. See Wilson v.  Wilson, No. 03A01-9104-CH-00126, 1992 WL 200971, at *4 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 21,  1992). Because the finding of intoxication was based on extrinsic evidence, the criminal  contempt judgment must be reversed. The record also reveals the extrinsic evidence, thetest results the court relied upon, was unreliable, for it was only designed to test the“presence”of  any alcohol for persons in recovery, not whether a person was “intoxicated.” Therefore, the  judgment of criminal contempt is reversed and the case is dismissed.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 02/27/15
Directv, Inc., et al v. Richard H. Roberts, Commissioner of Revenue, State of Tennessee
M2013-01673-COA-r3-CV

Plaintiffs contend that the sales tax law unconstitutionally discriminates against satellite television providers. The law taxes the entire subscription fee billed to satellite customers while the first $15 of the subscription fee billed to cable customers is exempt. On cross motions for summary judgment,the trial court found the sales tax law violated the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. The Commissioner of Revenue appeals. Because we find that satellite providers and cable providers are not similarly situated for purposes of the Commerce Clause, we reverse.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 02/27/15
Cody S. Thomas v. Jenna R. (Thomas) Miller
M2013-01485-COA-R3-CV

In this post-divorce case, Father filed a petition to modify the permanent parenting plan to make him the primary residential parent and to hold Mother in contempt for failure to abide by the joint decision-making provision of the plan.  The trial court found a material change of circumstances existed warranting a change in the primary residential parent and held Mother in contempt, awarding Father $675.00 in attorney’s fees as a sanction. Mother appeals. We find no error in the trial court’s decision to change the primary residential parent;however,we vacate the trial court’s finding of contempt because Father’s petition did not comply with the mandates of Tenn. R. Crim. P. 42(b).

Moore County Court of Appeals 02/27/15