Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 09/04/2015
Format: 09/04/2015
Terry Pantuso v. Wright Medical Technology Inc., et al.
W2014-02315-COA-R9-CV

In this interlocutory appeal, the defendants appeal the trial court's denial of their motion to dismiss a product liability lawsuit on the ground of forum non conveniens. Discerning no abuse of discretion by the trial court, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
State of Tennessee v. Tabitha Gentry aka Re Bey
W2014-01456-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Tabitha Gentry aka Abka Re Bey, appeals as of right from her Shelby County jury convictions for two counts of aggravated assault and one count of intentionally evading arrest in an automobile. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-13-102, -16-603. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by: (1) imposing the maximum sentences for each of her convictions; (2) ordering each of her sentences be served consecutively; (3) denying judicial diversion; and (4) denying all other forms of alternative sentencing. Following our review, we conclude that the trial court improperly applied the dangerous offender classification when ordering consecutive sentences. After conducting a de novo review, we conclude that the Defendant’s sentences should have been ordered to run concurrently, rather than consecutively. In all other respects, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/15
State of Tennessee v. Daetrus Pilate
W2014-01593-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Daetrus Pilate, of aggravated assault by use of a deadly weapon and evading arrest in a motor vehicle creating a high risk of death or injury, and the trial court sentenced him to a total effective sentence of nine years of incarceration. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the trial court erred when it excluded photographs of him taken during his hospitalization after being shot during this incident; and (3) his sentence is excessive. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/15
State of Tennessee v. Jarrod Reese Spicer
W2014-01817-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Jarrod Reese Spicer, was convicted by an Obion County jury of second degree murder and aggravated robbery and sentenced to serve concurrent sentences of twenty-five and twelve years, respectively, as a standard offender. On appeal, Defendant argues that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions and that the trial court abused its discretion by sentencing him to the maximum sentence for each conviction. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/31/15
Valerie Cecile Burnett v. David Shaw Burnett
M2014-00833-COA-R3-CV

This case involves a mother’s request for a change in the primary residential parent designation for her children. Following a one-day hearing, the trial court found that the mother failed to prove a material change in circumstance as necessary to change the primary residential parent designation. On appeal, the mother argues that the court’s order did not comply with Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 52.01 and that the proof showed a material change in circumstance. After reviewing the record, we affirm the trial court’s decision. 

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
Ensureus, LLC v. Douglas S. Oliver, et al
M2014-00410-COA-R3-CV

Purchaser of insurance agency sued Seller, alleging breach of contract and misrepresentation. Seller filed a counterclaim seeking amount due on Purchaser’s promissory note.  The trial court found Purchaser failed to prove either breach of contract or misrepresentation, and it awarded Seller the balance due on the promissory note.  Purchaser appealed, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment in all respects.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
Darrell Jones v. Tennessee Department of Correction, et al.
M2014-02389-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a dispute between a prisoner and the Tennessee Department of Correction regarding the Department’s classification of the prisoner as a member of a security threat group. The trial court dismissed the prisoner’s petition for writ of certiorari because it was not timely filed, and therefore, the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the petition. We affirm.

Wayne County Court of Appeals 08/31/15
State of Tennessee v. Curtis Dewayne Staggs
M2015-00889-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, Curtis Dewayne Staggs, is appealing the order of the trial court denying his motion to correct a clerical error in the judgments of conviction.  The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20.  Said motion is hereby granted.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/15
State of Tennessee v. James Hawkins
W2012-00412-CCA-R3-DD

Defendant, James Hawkins, appeals from his Shelby County Criminal Court jury convictions of premeditated first degree murder, see T.C.A. 39-13-202(a)(1); initiating a false report, see id. 39-16-502, a Class D felony; and abuse of a corpse, see id. 39-17-312, a Class E felony. The jury sentenced Defendant to death for the first degree murder conviction based upon its findings that the defendant was previously convicted of one (1) or more felonies whose statutory elements involve the use of violence to the person, see id. ' 39-13-204(i)(2); and that the defendant knowingly mutilated the body of the victim after death, see id. 39-13-204(i)(13); and that these aggravating circumstances outweighed any mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. For the remaining felonies, the trial court imposed an effective sentence of 18 years' incarceration to be served consecutively to the death sentence. On appeal, Defendant alleges that (1) the trial court erred by denying Defendant's motion to suppress his statements given to the police; (2) the trial court erred by refusing to accept Defendant's guilty pleas to counts two and three of the indictment; (3) the trial court erred by admitting statements made by the victim through the victim's children, through Melvin Gaither, and through an application for order of protection; (4) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of other acts in violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 404(b); (5) the trial court erred by admitting photographs of bone fragments taken from the victim;(6) the trial court erred by admitting crime scene photographs that had not been provided during pretrial discovery; (7) the trial court erred by permitting improper closing argument by the State; (8) the evidence is insufficient to support Defendant's conviction of first degree murder; (9) the trial court erred by not requiring the State to provide discovery concerning an ongoing investigation of sexual abuse committed by Defendant's father against Defendant's sisters for use in the penalty phase of the trial; (10) the trial court erred by denying Defendant's special jury instruction request to charge the jury on the presumption that any sentence imposed for the first degree murder conviction would be carried out according to the laws of this State; (11) myriad aspects of Tennessee's death penalty statutes and procedure are unconstitutional in general and as applied to Defendant; (12) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence in both length and manner of service relative to the sentences for filing a false report and abuse of a corpse; and (13) the cumulative effect of these errors violated Defendant's right to due process. As an additional issue, Defendant alleges that the trial court erred by denying his petition for writ of error coram nobis. Following oral argument at the Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law at the University of Memphis and this court's full consideration, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/15
State of Tennessee v. Sandra Mitchell
W2015-00043-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Sandra Mitchell, pled guilty to theft of property of $60,000 or more but less than $250,000, a Class B felony. She received a twelve-year sentence to be served consecutively to a prior six-year sentence. On appeal, she challenges the trial court’s decision to impose consecutive sentences. Upon our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Gibson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/15
John A. Bailey v. State of Tennessee
W2014-02499-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant, John A. Bailey, appeals as of right from the Madison County Criminal Court's denial of his two separate motions for correction of illegal sentences pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. On appeal, the Appellant argues that the trial court erred by summarily denying his motions without appointing counsel after he had stated colorable claims for relief regarding the legality of the concurrent nature of his various sentences and his eligibility for community corrections and subsequent placement in that program. Following our review of the parties' briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court's summary denial of the Appellant's Rule 36.1 motions.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/15
State of Tennessee v. Bruce Marvin Vann
W2014-02119-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Bruce Marvin Vann, was indicted and, following a jury trial, convicted of three counts of rape of a child. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-522. The trial court imposed sentences of thirty-five years for each conviction and ordered the sentences to run concurrently, for a total effective sentence of thirty-five years to be served at 100 percent. On appeal, the Defendant contends (1) that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions; and (2) that the prosecutor committed misconduct during his closing argument. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/28/15
Robert Edward Williams, III v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01879-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Robert Edward Williams III, appeals as of right from the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief.  In this appeal, the Petitioner asserts that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to adequately communicate with him and because trial counsel “coerced” the Petitioner to enter guilty pleas, rendering his pleas unknowing and involuntary.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/15
Springfield Investments, LLC et al v. Global Investments, LLC et al.
E2014-01703-COA-R3-CV

This case involves a claim for, inter alia, intentional interference with business relationships. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants, owners and operators of a franchise pursuant to an agreement with Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers Restaurant (“Wendy's') in Cleveland, Tennessee, interfered with the plaintiffs' ability to timely secure a franchise agreement with Wendy's to build a new restaurant in Cleveland. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants improperly used a non-compete agreement, entered into in 1998 by the defendants and a brother of one of the plaintiffs, to object to Wendy's grant of the new franchise. Following a bench trial, the trial court found, inter alia, that the plaintiffs failed to establish the claim of intentional interference with business relationships. The court did enter a judgment, however, in favor of the plaintiffs for nominal damages in the amount of $500. The plaintiffs have appealed. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 08/27/15
State of Tennessee v. Mickey Edwards
W2014-00987-CCA-R3-CD

Mickey Edwards (“the Defendant”) was convicted of four counts of aggravated burglary, four counts of theft of property, one count of identity theft, and one count of fraudulent use of a credit card. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the denial of a motion to suppress evidence seized during his arrest, the denial of his motion to sever the counts in the indictment, the denial of his motion to exclude evidence of his prior convictions, and the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions. Upon review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/15
State of Tennessee v. Devon Elliott Cruze
E2014-01847-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Devon Elliott Cruze, alias, appeals as of right from the Knox County Criminal Court’s denial of judicial diversion and order that he serve his two-year sentence in split confinement following his guilty-pleaded convictions for two counts of theft of property and one count of burglary of an automobile. See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-14-103, -14-402. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred by failing to consider the applicable factors for judicial diversion and by denying judicial diversion. The Defendant further contends that the trial court erred by ordering his sentences for non-violent property offenses be served in split confinement in violation of Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-122. Following our review, we conclude that the trial court did not properly set forth the factors to be considered when denying judicial diversion and that this case should be remanded for a sentencing hearing where the trial court is instructed to consider and weigh the applicable factors on the record. Furthermore, we conclude that the trial court erred by sentencing the Defendant to a period of continuous confinement for a non-violent property offense. Therefore, the Defendant’s sentence is vacated and, on remand, the trial court should impose a sentence in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-35-122.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/15
Kenneth Ray Griffin v. State of Tennessee
E2015-00239-CCA-R3-PC

The pro se Petitioner, Kenneth Ray Griffin, appeals the Washington County Criminal Court’s denial of his motion to reopen his petition for post-conviction relief. Because the Petitioner failed to comply with the statutory requirements for seeking discretionary review of the dismissal of his motion, this court is without jurisdiction in this case. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.

Washington County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/27/15
Nonprofit Housing Corporation, et al. v. Tennessee Housing Development Agency
M2014-01588-COA-R3-CV

Three non-profit corporations filed suit alleging that they were wrongfully denied low income housing tax credits. The trial court determined that the plaintiffs’ claims were moot, and we concur.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 08/27/15
State of Tennessee v. John Henry Pruitt
M2013-02393-CCA-R3-CD

A Hickman County jury found the Defendant, John Henry Pruitt, guilty of two counts of first
degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder, and three counts of aggravated assault. Thereafter, the jury sentenced the Defendant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for both the first degree murder convictions. The trial court imposed a consecutive sentence of twenty-five years for his attempted first degree murder conviction and concurrent six-year sentences for each of the three aggravated assault convictions. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress the evidence obtained during the execution of a search warrant. The Defendant also contends that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions for first degree murder and attempted first degree murder, and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his sentence of life without the possibility of parole. After a thorough review of the record and relevant law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/15
State of Tennessee v. Verchaunt Joshua Williams
M2014-02049-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Verchant Joshua Williams, was convicted of one count of first degree (premeditated) murder, one count of tampering with evidence, a Class C felony, and one count of abuse of a corpse, a Class E felony.  On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence of his convictions for tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse, arguing that the two convictions should merge.  Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/15
State of Tennessee v. Varquez K. Sails
M2014-01343-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Varquez K. Sails, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of second degree murder, first degree felony murder, and employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony.  The trial court merged the homicide convictions, dismissed the count pertaining to the weapons offense, and imposed a life sentence.  See T.C.A. § 39-13-202(a)(2) (first degree felony murder) (2014).  On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress an identification of him from a photograph lineup, (2) the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction, (3) the trial court erred in excluding evidence that an eyewitness to the crime misidentified defense counsel as the defense investigator on a separate occasion, (4) the trial court erred in prohibiting cross-examination regarding a witness’s gang affiliation, (5) the trial court erred in excluding testimony regarding the software used to generate the photograph lineup, (6) the trial court erred in excluding an expert witness’s opinion testimony regarding whether the photograph lineup was impermissibly suggestive, (7) the trial court erred in failing to grant a mistrial when a witness testified that the Defendant had been incarcerated previously, (8) the State engaged in prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument, and (9) the State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/15
State of Tennessee v. Kevin Ladell Grandberry
W2014-01549-CCA-R3-CD

A Fayette County jury convicted the Defendant, Kevin Ladell Grandberry, of burglary, theft of property valued at $500 or more but less than $1,000, vandalism less than $500, and theft of a motor vehicle valued at $1,000 or more but less than $10,000. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant as a career offender to a total effective sentence of twenty-seven years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it ordered the Defendant to be shackled and handcuffed during the trial and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court's judgments.

Fayette County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/15
State of Tennessee v. Ricky Hopson
W2014-01718-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Ricky Hopson, was convicted by a Shelby County jury of aggravated assault, a Class C felony. He received a sentence of ten years which was suspended and ordered to be served on probation. On appeal Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction because he acted in self-defense at the time of the offense. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/15
State of Tennessee v. Decornick Moore
W2015-00169-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Decornick Moore, pleaded guilty to attempt to commit second degree murder and received a ten-year sentence. More than ten years later, the Defendant filed a motion pursuant to Tennessee Criminal Procedure Rule 36.1 requesting that the trial court correct an illegal sentence because his sentence should have been served consecutively to a previously imposed sentence. The trial court summarily dismissed the motion for failure to state a colorable claim. On appeal, he contends that the trial court erred in dismissing his motion. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Haywood County Court of Criminal Appeals 08/26/15
David G. Young v. City of Lafollette, et al.
E2013-00441-SC-R11-CV

We granted permission to appeal to address two issues: (1) Whether the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“GTLA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-101 to -408 (2012 & Supp. 2014), applies to Tennessee Public Protection Act (“TPPA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-1-304 (2008 & Supp. 2009), claims against governmental entities; and (2) If the GTLA does not apply, whether a constitutional or statutory right to trial by jury applies to TPPA claims brought in circuit court. As to the first issue, we hold that the GTLA does not apply to TPPA claims because the TPPA is an independent and specific body of law, which removes governmental immunity and thus controls the adjudication of TPPA claims against governmental entities. As to the second question, we hold that there is no constitutional right to trial by jury for TPPA claims and that there is no statutory right to trial by jury for TPPA claims filed in circuit court. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed on the separate grounds stated herein, and this matter is remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this decision.

Campbell County Supreme Court 08/26/15