Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 01/18/2018
Format: 01/18/2018
In Re Aaralyn O., et al.
W2017-01411-COA-R3-PT

The trial court terminated Father’s parental rights on the grounds of (1) abandonment by failure to establish a suitable home; (2) abandonment by demonstrating a wanton disregard for the children’s welfare; (3) substantial non-compliance with the permanency plans; and (4) persistent conditions. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects.

Tipton County Court of Appeals 01/18/18
Thomas Ernest Young v. State of Tennessee
M2016-02333-CCA-R3-HC

The Petitioner, Thomas Ernest Young, appeals as of right from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. He claims entitlement to habeas corpus relief, alleging that his guilty-pleaded conviction for Class C felony possession of cocaine is void because the cocaine was obtained following his unlawful arrest, because he was the victim of vindictive prosecution, because he received ineffective assistance of counsel, and because his plea resulted from coercion. Alternatively, he submits that we should treat his petition as one seeking post-conviction relief and that the one-year statute of limitations should be tolled due to his mental incompetence. Following our review, we conclude that the Petitioner has failed to state a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief and, furthermore, that tolling of the one-year limitations period for filing a post-conviction petition is not required. Therefore, we affirm summary dismissal of his petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/18
State of Tennessee v. James Mario Starnes
M2016-02274-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, James Mario Starnes, appeals as of right from the Bedford County Circuit Court’s denial of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct an illegal sentence. The Appellant contends that the trial court erred because his motion stated a colorable claim for relief. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/18
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Christopher Scott
M2016-02362-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Brandon Christopher Scott, was sentenced to an effective twenty-five-year sentence for his guilty-pleaded convictions to attempted first degree murder and reckless endangerment. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court failed to provide adequate analysis in support of its decision to enhance his sentence to the maximum within the range for a Class A felony, failed to assign enough weight to the one mitigating factor it found applicable, and failed to apply two additional mitigating factors. Additionally, the Defendant submits that his enhanced sentence does not comport with the purposes and principles of our Sentencing Act. Following our review, we find no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s sentencing decision.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/18
State of Tennessee v. Christopher Jerald Crowley
M2016-02263-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Christopher Jerald Crowley, was convicted by a jury of premeditated first degree murder and sentenced to imprisonment for life. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-202. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the trial court erred in excluding the testimony of expert witnesses about the Defendant’s mental health that the Defendant sought to present to establish that the killing was a voluntary manslaughter; (2) that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on voluntary manslaughter; (3) that the trial court erred in admitting testimony from a witness about a statement the Defendant made several months before the killing; and (4) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain the Defendant’s conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/18
In Re Addison E., Et Al.
M2017-00481-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights action involving two minor children. In June 2015, temporary custody of the children was granted to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”), and the children were placed in foster care. DCS subsequently filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the father on May 12, 2016, following the mother’s surrender of her parental rights. The trial court conducted a bench trial on January 18, 2017. On February 1, 2017, the court entered an order granting the petition upon finding that DCS had proven by clear and convincing evidence the ground of abandonment by the father’s engagement in conduct exhibiting a wanton disregard for the welfare of the children prior to his incarceration. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination of the father’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest. The father has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Overton County Court of Appeals 01/17/18
Jeffrey Bryan Duggan v. Michelle Denise Duggan
W2016-02496-COA-R3-CV

Wife challenges the trial court’s correction of the final divorce decree pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.01 by correcting the type of alimony awarded and adding an end date for the payment of alimony. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm the decision of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Appeals 01/17/18
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Howard Hinson, III
W2016-02161-CCA-R3-CD

A Hardin County Circuit Court Jury convicted the Appellant, Joseph Howard Hinson, III, of selling .5 grams or more of methamphetamine within a drug-free zone, a Class B felony. The trial court sentenced the Appellant as a Range II, multiple offender to sixteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Hardin County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/18
Christopher Alan Walls v. Grady Perry, Warden
W2017-00296-CCA-R3-HC

Christopher Alan Walls, the Petitioner, filed a pro se Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, stating as his ground for relief that he was “presently restrained of his liberty by virtue of an illegal, void, and/or expired criminal conviction/sentence[.]” The Petitioner claimed that he was entitled to receive the pretrial jail credit for the time he was incarcerated in Loudon County after a hold was placed on him by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department on October 25, 2010. Therefore his sentence, after applying sentence reduction credits, expired on or about December 29, 2016. The habeas corpus court found that “the petition demonstrates no right to relief” and summarily dismissed the petition. We affirm the dismissal of the petition but remand the cause to the habeas corpus court for transfer to the Circuit Court for Jefferson County for correction of the judgments to provide the pretrial jail credit to which the Petitioner is entitled.

Hardeman County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/17/18
Dwayne Wright v. State of Tennessee
W2016-01260-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Dwayne Wright, was convicted of one count of aggravated rape and sentenced to twenty-four years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, this court affirmed his conviction and sentence. State v. Dwayne Wright, No. W2013-00433-CCA-R3-CD, 2014 WL 1168579 (Tenn. Crim. App. March 21, 2014). Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief. Following a hearing on the petition, the post-conviction court denied relief. On appeal, Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to call Eric Hulbert as a witness at trial. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/18
Joseph Cordell Brewer, III v. State of Tennessee
W2016-02106-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Joseph Cordell Brewer, III, appeals from the denial of relief following a hearing on his petition for post-conviction relief. Only Petitioner and his trial counsel testified at the post-conviction hearing. Since Petitioner failed to present evidence of any prejudice to him as a result of trial counsel’s alleged deficient representation, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/18
State of Tennessee v. James Earnest Smith
W2016-01131-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, James Earnest Smith, was indicted for one count of rape of a child and one count of aggravated sexual battery. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual battery. The trial court merged the convictions and imposed a sentence of twelve years’ confinement. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that the sentence was excessive. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Chester County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/18
State of Tennessee v. Quantez Person
W2016-01945-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Quantez Person, appeals his Shelby County Criminal Court jury conviction of criminal exposure to human immunodeficiency virus (“HIV”), see T.C.A. § 39-13-109(a), arguing that the trial court erred by consolidating the charge of criminal exposure to HIV with a charge of aggravated rape of which the defendant was later acquitted, that the trial court erred by admitting health department records, and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Under the circumstances presented in this case, Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 8(a) barred the State from bringing the charge of criminal exposure to HIV to trial. In consequence, the defendant’s conviction is vacated, and the charge is dismissed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/18
State of Tennessee v. Douglas Beauregard
W2017-00536-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Douglas Beauregard, appeals his Madison County Criminal Court jury conviction of vandalism of property valued at more than $500 but less than $1,000, alleging an insufficiency of evidence and error in the sentencing and restitution decisions of the trial court. Because the record does not support either the denial of all forms of alternative sentencing or the amount of restitution ordered in this case, we reverse the imposition of a fully incarcerative sentence, vacate the restitution order, and remand the case to the trial court for a new sentencing hearing.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/16/18
State of Tennessee v. Mario Donte Keene
E2017-00316-CCA-R3-CD

The Greene County Grand Jury indicted the Defendant, Mario Donte Keene, on four counts of felony murder, one count of especially aggravated robbery, and one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, all in connection with the death of the victim, Donald Gunter. A jury convicted the Defendant as charged, and the trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of life. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient for a rational juror to have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of felony murder, especially aggravated robbery, and especially aggravated kidnapping. The Defendant also asserts that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct in its closing arguments, warranting a new trial. After a thorough review of the facts and applicable case law, we affirm the Defendant’s convictions but remand the case for entry of amended judgments merging counts two, three, and four into count one.

Greene County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/12/18
Jamal Watson v. Tennessee Board Of Regents, Et Al.
E2017-00014-COA-R3-CV

This case involves the dismissal of a Tennessee Human Rights Act (THRA) action filed by Jamal Watson against the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) and Pellissippi State Community College (PSCC) (collectively the defendants). PSCC offered Watson a fulltime, tenure-track position, but subsequently rescinded the offer. Watson filed a THRA case in the Circuit Court for Knox County (the trial court) against the defendants alleging race discrimination. He later filed a notice of claim for breach of contract in the Tennessee Claims Commission against the same entities. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss in the trial court alleging that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. The defendants asserted that Watson waived his cause of action against “any state officer or employee,” pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 9-8-307(b), by filing a claim against the state in the Tennessee Claims Commission. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss. Watson appeals. We reverse.

Knox County Court of Appeals 01/12/18
Sebastian Valentino v. State of Tennessee
M2017-00448-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Sebastian Valentino, appeals from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered because he received ineffective assistance from his trial counsel. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/18
State of Tennessee v. Matthew Glen Howell
M2016-01812-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Matthew Glen Howell, who was originally charged with aggravated assault, appeals his 2016 Davidson County Criminal Court conviction of simple assault, which was imposed by the trial court after the jury found the defendant guilty of the inapplicable lesser included offense of reckless aggravated assault.  The defendant argues that, because the jury acquitted him of the crime of intentional or knowing aggravated assault and instead found him guilty of reckless aggravated assault, the trial court erred by amending the conviction offense to one that required an intentional or knowing mens rea.  The defendant also challenges several of the trial court’s evidentiary rulings.  Because the jury found the defendant guilty of a crime that did not exist under the facts of the case and because double jeopardy and collateral estoppel principles precluded the trial court from imposing a conviction that required an element of which the defendant had already been acquitted, the defendant’s conviction of simple assault is vacated, and the case is dismissed.  

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/18
State of Tennessee v. Matthew Glen Howell - Concurring in Part and Dissenting in Part
M2016-01812-CCA-R3-CD

I agree with the majority’s conclusions in section II of the opinion, the evidence of a federal lawsuit and section III, impeachment of the victim.  However, I respectfully disagree with the majority’s conclusion in section I that a new trial on the offense of simple assault is barred by the prohibition against double jeopardy.  I am of the opinion that there is no valid and final judgment for the purposes of collateral estoppel via double jeopardy and that a rational jury could have grounded its verdict upon an issue other than that which Defendant seeks to estop.  Therefore, I would remand the case for a new trial on simple assault.  

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/11/18
Melissa Gale Johnson, Et Al. v. Rutherford County, Tennessee, Et Al.
M2017-00618-COA-R3-CV

The plaintiffs, as co-conservators for their adult son, filed this action against the county, seeking payment of medical expenses incurred by their son following an assault upon him by another inmate while he was incarcerated at the county jail facility. The plaintiffs later amended their complaint to add allegations of civil rights violations, general negligence, and health care liability. The county filed a third-party complaint against the medical provider with whom the county had contracted to provide medical services for the inmates at the jail. The third-party complaint was based upon an indemnity clause contained within the respective parties’ contract. The medical provider filed a motion to dismiss the county’s third-party complaint because the county had not complied with the requirements of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (“THCLA”). Following a hearing, the trial court dismissed the county’s third-party complaint by reason of the county’s failure to comply with the requirements of the THCLA. The county timely appealed. Having determined that the trial court erred by treating the county’s third-party complaint as a THCLA claim, we reverse the court’s dismissal of the county’s third-party complaint.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 01/11/18
Alfred H. Knight, Et Al. v. Tyree B. Harris, IV
M2016-00909-COA-R3-CV

This case arises out of the dissolution of a law firm and the resulting accounting. The trial court held that Appellant, who withdrew as a member of the Appellee/Firm, converted a portion of an earned fee by withdrawing the fee directly from the Firm’s trust account. The trial court further held that the conversion was done through concealment so as to warrant an award of punitive damages. Appellant appeals the trial court’s finding of conversion, the award of punitive damages, and its award of various accounts receivable and payables. We reverse the trial court’s award of punitive damages against Appellant and reduce the compensatory damages award.  

Davidson County Court of Appeals 01/11/18
State of Tennessee v. James A. Kilgore
M2016-02393-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, James A. Kilgore, pled guilty to attempted conspiracy to manufacture more than 300 grams of methamphetamine, a Class B felony, and attempted initiation of a process to manufacture methamphetamine, a Class C felony, in exchange for respective ten- and five-year sentences, to be served consecutively. The five-year term was to be served on supervised probation; whereas, the manner of service for the ten-year term was to be determined by the trial court. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that the Defendant serve the ten-year sentence in confinement, which, on appeal, the Defendant challenges as error. We affirm the sentencing decision of the trial court.

Marion County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/10/18
In Re Nashay B., Et Al.
M2017-00630-COA-R3-PT

A mother appeals the termination of her parental rights to her two children. The juvenile court found three statutory grounds for termination of parental rights: abandonment by failure to support, abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, and persistence of conditions. The juvenile court also found that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest. We conclude that the evidence was less than clear and convincing that the mother abandoned the children by failure to support. But the record contains clear and convincing evidence to support the other grounds for termination and that termination is in the children’s best interest. Thus, we affirm the termination of the mother’s parental rights.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 01/10/18
Warren Pratcher v. State of Tennessee
W2017-00300-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Warren Pratcher, appeals from the Shelby County Criminal Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for
post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in dismissing his second petition for post-conviction relief on the basis that his first petition had been withdrawn with prejudice. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the
post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/10/18
Warren Pratcher v. State of Tennessee-Concurring
W2017-00300-CCA-R3-PC

I respectfully concur separately in this case to clarify a distinction between, on the one hand, the post-conviction court’s ordering a dismissal of the first petition with prejudice and, on the other hand, the petitioner’s waiver of post-conviction relief upon the voluntary dismissal of the first petition. Although I believe the latter may be effectual, I believe the former is not effectual apart from the petitioner’s waiver.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/10/18