Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 04/19/2014
Format: 04/19/2014
State of Tennessee v. Rommel Obligacion
W2013-00702-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Rommel Obligacion, appeals from his jury convictions for three counts of felony reckless endangerment, contending that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions beyond a reasonable doubt and that the trial court improperly denied his requests for probation and judicial diversion. After reviewing the record and the applicable authorities, we conclude that the trial court failed to demonstrate on the record that it considered all the relevant judicial diversion factors, assigned weight to each factor, and explained how some factors outweighed others. This error, however, was harmless in light of the other findings made by the trial court. Therefore, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Crockett County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/14
State of Tennessee v. Rommel Obligacion-Concurring
W2013-00702-CCA-R3-CD

I concur with the majority opinion. However, I respectfully disagree with the standard of review followed by the majority regarding judicial diversion. I agree with the reasoning set forth in State v. Kiara Tashawn King, No. M2012-00236-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL793588, at *7 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 4, 2013), perm. app. granted (Tenn. Aug. 14, 2013), that after Bise, Caudle, and Pollard, portions of Parker, Electroplating, and their progeny in which this court reversed a trial court’s decision to deny judicial diversion merely because the trial court failed to expressly consider one or more of the seven legally-relevant factors (or merely because it failed to specify why some factors outweighed others) can no longer be considered governing law.

Crockett County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/15/14
Elizabeth Breckinridge Wheeler v. Joseph Robert Wheeler
M2012-02154-COA-R3-CV

Following a 26-year marriage, Wife was granted a divorce,designated the primary residential parent of their children and given sole decision making authority for the minor children’s education, health and medical care, and extracurricular activities; Husband was ordered to pay child support, pendente lite support of $7,000 per month, post-divorce support at the same rate as pendente lite support until the marital residence was sold, transitional alimony of $3,600 for 48 months commencing upon the sale of the marital residence, and $25,000 of Wife’s attorneys’ fees. The parties’ separate and marital assets were classified, and the marital assets and debts were divided. Husband appeals, challenging Wife’s designation as the sole decision making authority for the children’s educational and extracurricular activities, the amount of Wife’s income for purposes of child support, the awards for pendente lite support, the indefinite award of post-divorce support and the additional award of transitional alimony for 48 months. Husband also challenges the classification and division of the marital estate, including holding him liable for one-half of the $335,000 home equity line of credit debt, most of which was incurred during the pendency of the divorce, and the award of attorneys’ fees to Wife. We have determined that Wife is not entitled to receive post-divorce support of $7,000 per month in addition to the award of transitional alimony of $3,600 for a term of 48 months; therefore, we reverse the indefinite post-divorce support award of $7,000 per month. We also modify the award of transitional alimony of $3,600 per month, reducing the term from 48 months to 24 months with the term commencing upon the entry of the Final Decree of Divorce. We affirm the trial court in all other respects. As for Wife’s request to recover the attorneys’ fees she incurred on appeal, we respectfully deny that request.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/15/14
Cindy Wheatley, et al. v. Robert J. Martineau, et al.
M2013-01704-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a certiorari proceeding instituted in December of 2011 in which owners of property adjoining a landfill sought review of the Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s decision in October 2011 to issue a modification of a permit to operate a Class II disposal facilitywhich was issued in 2008. The trial court held that the approval of the modification in 2011 was invalid because it was grounded on the 2008 permit, which the court also held to be invalidly approved; the court ordered the Commissioner to take action to void the 2008 permit and 2011 modification. The Commissioner and landfill owner appeal the holding that the 2008 permit and 2011 modification are null and void; adjoining landowners appeal the denial of their request for injunctive relief and ask this court to decide two issues which the trial court did not address. We conclude that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to review the issuance of the 2008 permit and to declare it void; that the Commissioner’s authority to approve the 2011 modification was not conditioned on the expansion project being approved by the city and county legislative bodies; that the landfill owner was not required to submit the 2011 modification application to the regional solid waste board prior to securing the Commissioner’s approval; and that the Commissioner had no dutyto require thatthe material to be placed in the landfill be determined not hazardous prior to approving the modification. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and dismiss the petition.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/15/14
Qui Pham v. Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole
M2013-00955-COA-R3-CV

Inmate filed petition for writ of certiorari seeking review of decisions of the Board of Parole denying him parole and setting a two year period for his next consideration. Trial court dismissed petition; finding no error, we affirm the decision.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 04/15/14
Ronald Lampley, et al. v. Town of Chapel Hill, Tennessee, et al.
M2013-01335-COA-R3-CV

A real estate developer entered an agreement with the Town of Chapel Hill to purchase sewer and water taps in exchange for the Town’s extension of a sewer line to the developer’s property. The developer paid the money and the Town extended the line, as agreed. Developer later lost the property through foreclosure before development occurred. When the property was sold to a third party, the Town transferred the sewer and water taps to the purchasers. The developer filed a complaint alleging the Town breached the agreement by transferring taps that belonged to the developer to the third party purchasers. The Town denied it breached the agreement and moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the Town’s motion for summary judgment and the developer appealed. We affirm. The agreement evidences the parties’ intention that the sewer and water taps were to be used in connection with the development of the property the developer owned when the agreement was executed. When the developer lost the property through foreclosure, the developer had no more interest in the taps.

Marshall County Court of Appeals 04/15/14
William E. Cherry et. al. v. Reagan Farr, Commissioner of the Department of Revenue for the State of Tennessee
M2013-01823-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiffs filed suit to recover income taxes paid under protest pursuant to Tennessee’s Hall Income Tax. At issue is a “Special Dividend” Plaintiffs received that was classified by the corporation for income tax purposes as a return of “paid-in capital.” Plaintiffs contend the Special Dividend was exempt because the Hall Income Tax states, in pertinent part, that “no distribution of capital shall be taxed as income under this chapter, and no distribution of surplus by way of stock dividend shall be taxable in the year such distribution is made; but all other distributions out of earned surplus shall be taxed as income when and in whatever manner made, regardless of when such surplus was earned[.]” Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-2-104(e)(7) (2011). The trial court ruled in favor of Plaintiffs based upon a finding that “[t]he Special Dividend was not a leveraged dividend and as such the reduction in book value could have onlycome through a return of capital distribution.” We have determined the mere fact the dividend was not a leveraged dividend is not sufficient to prove the dividend was exempt from the Tennessee Hall Income Tax. To qualify for the exemption, Plaintiffs had the burden to prove the Special Dividend was paid out of capital. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-2-104(e)(7). We, therefore, reverse and remand for entry of judgment in favor of the Department of Revenue and for other proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 04/15/14
State of Tennessee v. Stanley Blue
W2013-00437-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Stanley Blue, appeals from his resentencing to an effective term of forty-six years as a Range III, persistent offender for his convictions for facilitation of first degree murder, attempted second degree murder, and reckless endangerment. On appeal, the defendant contends that his sentence is excessive, and the State agrees. Based upon our review of the record, we conclude that the trial court erred in sentencing the defendant to forty years for attempted second degree murder and in classifying the defendant as a Range III, persistent offender for his reckless endangerment conviction. Accordingly, the trial court’s judgments are affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/14/14
In Re Grayson H.
E2013-01881-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case, focusing on Grayson H., the minor child (“Child”) of Steven H. (“Father”) and Jessica L. (“Mother”). The Child was taken into protective custody by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) on March 9, 2012, following Father’s incarceration and Mother’s subsequent arrest. Mother’s parental rights to the Child were terminated in a separate proceeding. On October 17, 2012, DCS filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Father. Following a bench trial held on July 11, 2013, the trial court granted the petition upon its finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that (1) Father had abandoned the Child by showing wanton disregard for the Child’s welfare and (2) the conditions causing the removal of the Child into protective custody persisted. The court further found, by clear and convincing evidence, that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the Child’s best interest. Father has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 04/14/14
Laurel Hills Condominiums Property Owners' Association v. Tennessee Regulatory Authority
M2013-01392-COA-R12-CV

A water utility challenges the authority of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority to order it to divest itself of the water system and to continue providing service until the sale. We find no error in the actions of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.

Court of Appeals 04/14/14
State of Tennessee v. Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III
E2013-00456-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III, was indicted by the Monroe County Grand Jury for one count of tampering with government records. After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted as charged and sentenced to eleven months and twenty-nine days with twenty days to serve in incarceration and the remainder to be served on probation. Appellant appeals his conviction. He argues that his indictment was faulty because the grand jury foreperson was not eligible to serve; that the trial court erred in ruling that Appellant could not testify regarding his proposed defense of necessity; and that the trial court erred in denying Appellant’s request for a jury instruction on the defense of necessity. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/14
State of Tennessee v. Boccous McGill, Jr. and Darius Lacy
M2013-01076-CCA-R3-CD

Darius Lacy (“Defendant Lacy”) and Boccous McGill, Jr., (“Defendant McGill”) (collectively “the Defendants”) each were charged with one count of rape of a child. Both Defendants were juveniles at the time of the alleged crimes. After a joint hearing, the juvenile court transferred both Defendants to circuit court to be tried as adults. The Defendants each pleaded guilty to one count of facilitation of rape of a child, and each Defendant reserved a certified question of law concerning the propriety of the juvenile court’s order of transfer. This Court consolidated the Defendants’ appeals. Upon our thorough review of the record and applicable law, we reject the Defendants’ challenges to the juvenile court’s orders of transfer and affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/14
Dennie Stough v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company
W2012-02275-WC-R3-WC

An employee sustained a compensable lower back injury, had surgery, returned to work, and settled his claim. Several months later, he re-injured his lower back. After several surgical procedures, he was unable to return to work. He filed this action for workers’ compensation benefits against his employer and the Second Injury Fund. The trial court awarded permanent total disability benefits, apportioning 50% of the award to the employer and 50% to the Fund. The Fund has appealed, contending that the trial court erred by assigning any liability to it because the later injury rendered the employee  totally disabled without regard to the first injury. We conclude that the trial court failed to provide the basis for its apportionment of liability between the Fund and the employer. We therefore reverse the trial court’s judgment to that extent and remand the case for further consideration on this issue.

Obion County Workers Compensation Panel 04/11/14
State of Tennessee v. Robert Gene Rogers
E2013-00909-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant Robert G. Rogers was on probation for multiple counts of aggravated burglary, theft over $10,000, and theft of $500 or less. His probation officer filed a probation violation warrant as a result of Appellant’s arrest in Bradley Count for extortion. The probation violation warrant was subsequently amended to allege that Appellant had absconded from supervision. At the conclusion of the probation violation hearing, the trial judge revoked Appellant’s probation and ordered him to serve his originally imposed twenty-year sentence. Appellant appeals arguing that the trial court erred in revoking his sentence and that the trial judge should have recused herself. After a review of the record on appeal, we affirm the revocation of Appellant’s probation.

Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/14
State of Tennessee v. Thomas Lee Hutchison
E2012-02671-CCA-R3-CD

A Knox County jury convicted appellant of three counts of facilitation of first degree murder and one count of facilitation of especially aggravated robbery. The trial court merged the facilitation of first degree murder convictions and sentenced appellant to seventeen years. The trial court also sentenced appellant to a concurrent sentence of eight years for facilitation of especially aggravated robbery. On appeal, appellant presents thirteen issues for our review: (1) whether the trial court erred in overruling appellant’s motion to suppress evidence seized in an extended warrantless search of his house; (2) whether the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce video footage of the crime scene; (3) whether the trial court erred in allowing the State to introduce evidence of blood samples taken from appellant without a warrant; (4) whether the trial court erred in admitting prior bad act evidence; (5) whether the trial court erred by allowing testimony regarding evidence that had been destroyed; (6) whether the trial court erred by allowing a medical examiner to testify about an autopsy performed by another medical examiner; (7) whether the trial court erred in denying appellant’s three motions for mistrial based on prosecutorial misconduct; (8) whether the trial court erred when it denied appellant’s request for a continuance in light of the State’s late disclosure of certain evidence; (9) whether the trial court erred by denying appellant’s request to strike a witness’s testimony when the testimony was internally contradictory; (10) whether the trial court erred by allowing the State to introduce graphic photographs of the victim’s injuries; (11) whether the trial court erred in its jury instructions; (12) whether the evidence was sufficient to support appellant’s convictions; and (13) whether appellant is entitled to a new trial due to cumulative error. Based on our thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/14
State of Tennessee v. Thomas Lee Hutchison - concurring and dissenting
E2012-02671-CCA-R3-CD

I concur with the results and most of the reasoning in the majority opinion. I disagree, though, with the majority’s conclusion that the Confrontation Clause was not implicated in the admission of the autopsy report. I believe the admission of the report in this case violated the Confrontation Clause but was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/14
Michael Martin v. State of Tennessee
W2012-01678-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Michael Martin, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2009 convictions for attempt to commit second degree murder, aggravated assault, and violating an order of protection and his effective eighteen-year, eleven-month, and twenty-nine-day sentence. The Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel because counsel (1) failed to interview and present a witness at the trial, (2) failed to object contemporaneously to the admission of the narrative portion of the order of protection, and (3) failed to include the transcript of the motion for a new trial hearing in the appellate record. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/14
State of Tennessee v. Donald Prescott
W2012-02454-CCA-R3-CD

Following a jury trial, Defendant, Donald Prescott, was found guilty of especially aggravated robbery. He was sentenced to serve thirty years’ incarceration. In this appeal as of right, Defendant presents two issues for review. He asserts that (1) the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the victim’s pre-trial and trial identifications of Defendant; and (2) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for especially aggravated robbery because the State failed to present sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim suffered serious bodily injury. After a thorough review of the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/14
Maurice Williams v. State of Tennessee
W2013-00883-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Maurice Williams, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his 2007 Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of carjacking and aggravated robbery, claiming that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/11/14
Lakeisha Margaret Watkins v. State of Tennessee
M2013-01381-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Lakeisha Margaret Watkins, was convicted by a jury of four counts of aggravated child abuse, two counts of aggravated child neglect, and one count of attempted child neglect. The trial court sentenced her to an effective sentence of forty years. On appeal, this court reversed and dismissed one of the aggravated child neglect convictions based on insufficient evidence. State v. Lakeisha Margaret Watkins, No. M2009-02607-CCA-R3-CD, 2011 WL 2682173, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 8, 2011), perm. app. denied (Tenn. 2011). Petitioner’s sentence was unaffected by this court’s decision. In her post-conviction petition, petitioner alleged that she received ineffective assistance of counsel. The post-conviction court denied her petition, and she now appeals from that denial. Specifically, petitioner argues that trial counsel should have moved to suppress petitioner’s statements to police, that he did not ensure she understood the significance of her decision not to testify at trial despite being aware that she had a learning disability, and that he should have called a witness at trial or at the sentencing hearing to testify about her learning disability. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/10/14
Jose Umanzor v. Zurich American Insurance Company et al.
W2012-02568-WC-R3-WC

An employee asserted that he injured his lower back while working as a construction laborer for his employer. Approximately two years after the incident, the employee provided written notice of his injury to his employer. The employer denied the claim, contending that the employee failed to give timely notice of his injury and that his claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court agreed with the employer and entered judgment in its favor. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 04/10/14
Christina A. Brown, et al v. Marisol Juarez, et al.
E2013-00979-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves Plaintiffs’ motion to set aside an order to dismiss for failure to prosecute in a personal injury action. The trial court denied the motion. Plaintiffs appeal. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Appeals 04/10/14
Jesse Bentley v. Wellmont Health System, et al
E2013`01956`COA-R3-CV

This is a health care liability action in which Defendants sought dismissal, claiming that the action was barred by the three-year statute of repose, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-116, as interpreted by Calaway v. Schucker, 193 S.W.3d 509 (Tenn. 2005). Plaintiff alleged that the Court’s interpretation of the statute was unconstitutional as applied to his case. The trial court disagreed and dismissed the case. Plaintiff appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 04/10/14
Elijah Truitt v. State of Tennessee
M2013-01848-CCA-R3-HC

Petitioner, Elijah Truitt, pled guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of greater than .5 grams of cocaine with intent to sell in Davidson County. The trial court sentenced Petitioner to eleven years for possession of cocaine and two years for possession of a firearm to be served consecutively. Petitioner was placed on community corrections. Petitioner’s community corrections sentence was eventually revoked and he was ordered to serve his original sentence as imposed. The trial court filed an amended judgment reflecting the revocation and imposition of the sentence. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus arguing that his sentence was illegal. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that Petitioner’s arguments are meritless. Therefore, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/10/14
Bernard Frazier v. State of Tennessee
W2013-00187-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Bernard Frazier, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered. After review, we conclude that the petitioner received effective assistance of counsel but that his guilty pleas were not knowingly and voluntarily entered. As such, we reverse the judgment and remand to the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 04/10/14