Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 10/20/2014
Format: 10/20/2014
David Freeman Clay v. State of Tennessee
E2013-02262-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, David Freeman Clay, appeals from the trial court’s denial of his petition for postconviction relief following an evidentiary hearing. Petitioner sought post-conviction relief from his convictions of two counts of sexual battery and three counts of assault, based upon his assertions that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. In his appeal Petitioner asserts that the trial court erred by ruling that trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance of counsel. After a thorough review we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/14
State of Tennessee v. Charles A. Kennedy
M2013-02207-CCA-R9-CD

In this interlocutory appeal by the State, the State challenges the trial court’s suppression of the results of blood alcohol testing conducted on the defendant’s blood pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-10-406(f)(2) (Supp. 2012), claiming that the trial court erred by declaring Code section 55-10-406(f)(2) unconstitutional and by ruling that no exception to the warrant requirement existed to justify the warrantless taking of the defendant’s blood.  Because Code section 55-10-406(f)(2) does not mandate the warrantless taking of a blood sample, the trial court erred by declaring the statute unconstitutional, and that portion of the judgment is reversed.  Because no exception to the warrant requirement justified the warrantless taking of the defendant’s blood in this case, however, we affirm the trial court’s order suppressing the results of blood alcohol testing conducted on the sample.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/14
State of Tennessee v. Jonathan Casey Bryant
M2013-00922-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Jonathan Casey Bryant, pled guilty to promotion of the manufacture of methamphetamine.  As part of the plea agreement, the Defendant reserved a certified question of law challenging the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress the evidence resulting from his traffic stop.  However, the Defendant failed to file any document specifying the certified question presented.  Because the Defendant failed to properly reserve the certified question, the appeal is dismissed.

Warren County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/14
Lonnie Lanorris Holland, Jr. v. State of Tennessee
M2013-00124-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Lonnie Lanorris Holland, Jr., appeals the Davidson County Criminal Court’s denial of post-conviction relief from his 2012 guilty-pleaded conviction of second degree murder.  In the petition for post-conviction relief, the petitioner claimed that his guilty plea was unknowing or involuntary and stemmed from the ineffective assistance of his counsel.  Because the record supports the post-conviction court’s denial of relief, we affirm its order.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/14
State of Tennessee v. Andrea Kelly Jones
M2013-02720-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Andrea Kelly Jones, appeals her Class D felony, guilty-pleaded convictions of two counts of vehicular assault entered by the Dekalb County Criminal Court.  The trial court ordered that the agreed four-year sentence be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  On appeal, the defendant challenges the trial court’s denial of a sentencing alternative to incarceration.  We affirm the manner of service of the sentences imposed by the trial court.

DeKalb County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/14
State of Tennessee v. Concetta Long aka Concetta Walton
M2014-00565-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant appeals the order of the Rutherford County Circuit Court revoking her probation and ordering her to serve the balance of her sentence in confinement.  In this appeal, she argues that the trial court erred by ordering her to serve the balance of her sentence.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/14
State of Tennessee v. Gregory Lamont Hall
M2013-02841-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Gregory Lamont Hall, was indicted for one count of manufacturing .5 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, a Class B felony; one count of possession with intent to sell 26 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, a Class B felony; one count of possession of a firearm with the intent to go armed during the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class D felony; and tampering with evidence, a Class C felony.  See Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-16-503, -17-417, -17-1324(a).  The Defendant filed a suppression motion which the trial court denied.  The Defendant subsequently entered into a plea agreement with the State and reserved a certified question of law for appellate review pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 37(b)(2).  The Defendant pled guilty to one count of possession with intent to sell 26 grams or more of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school and received a ten-year sentence to be served consecutively to a prior sentence.  The remaining charges were dismissed.  In this appeal, the Defendant contends that there was not sufficient probable cause to justify the issuance of a warrant to search the residence in question.  Following our review, we reverse, vacate the judgment of the trial court, and dismiss the charge.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/03/14
Dana Automotive Systems Group, LLC, et al. v. Larry Evans
W2013-01960-SC-R3-WC

An employee developed carpal tunnel syndrome while working as a welder and supervisor for his employer. Prior to receiving medical treatment and unrelated to the injury, the employer gave the employee a choice to retire or potentially lose his substantial pension. The trial court held that the Medical Impairment Registry physician’s rating was incorrect and that the statutory one and one-half cap on permanent partial disability benefits did not apply. The employer appealed.  After a thorough review of the record, we reverse in part and affirm in part.

Gibson County Workers Compensation Panel 10/02/14
Russell Kyle v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company
W2013-01505-WC-R3-WC

An insurance adjuster was injured when he fell from a ladder after inspecting a roof for his employer. Consistent with a voluntary agreement with his employer, the employee received sick leave payments in lieu of temporary total disability payments. After returning to work for two months, the employee retired. In addition to the employee’s medical records, the parties introduced into evidence the deposition of a physician selected through the Medical Impairment Registry. The physician assigned an impairment of nine percent to the body as a whole. The trial court, however, awarded permanent disability benefits based on an impairment of fourteen percent and awarded additional temporary total disability benefits. The trial court also granted the employer a setoff for payments made to the employee pursuant to his accrued sick leave. The employer appealed. We conclude that the trial court erred by awarding a set-off of the payments made under the employer’s sick leave policy and by adopting an impairment rating other than that assigned by the MIR physician. We remand the case for additional proceedings and findings by the trial court.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 10/02/14
Kristen Ball v. Regions Financial Corporation, et al.
W2013-02454-SC-R3-WC

An employee fell in the bathroom at her place of employment and reported pain in her right shoulder and hip. She was treated and released by her authorized physician. Approximately five months after the fall, she developed left knee pain. Five more months later, she developed pain her left hip and lower back. The employee’s knee and back conditions ultimately required surgery, but her employer denied that the fall at work caused her conditions. The trial court disagreed and awarded benefits for the knee and back injuries. The employer appealed. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s finding that the employee sustained a permanent, work-related injury to her back. We otherwise affirm the judgment of the trial court and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

Shelby County Workers Compensation Panel 10/02/14
Ben J. Mosby v. McDowell Center for Children
W2012-02715-WC-R3-WC

The employee alleged that he sustained a compensable workers’ compensation injury to his left shoulder and knee from a fall at work. The employer denied the claim. The trial court found that the employee did not comply with the notice statute, Tenn. Code Ann. §50-6-201(a)(2008) and dismissed the claim. The employee has appealed, contending that the trial court’s notice ruling was erroneous. The appeal has been referred to the Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel for a hearing and a report of findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We find that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding and affirm the judgment.

Lauderdale County Workers Compensation Panel 10/02/14
State of Tennessee v. Allen Dale Spicer
W2013-01446-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Allen Dale Spicer, was convicted by a Fayette County Circuit Court jury of aggravated assault with serious bodily injury, a Class C felony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-13-102(a)(1)(A) (2010). The trial court sentenced the defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to ten years’ confinement and ordered the sentence be served consecutively to the sentence in another case. On appeal, he contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and (2) his sentence is excessive. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Fayette County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/02/14
State of Tennessee v. Roderick Jermaine McAlpin
E2013-02267-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Roderick Jermaine McAlpin, was indicted by the Knox County Grand Jury for possession with intent to sell more than .5 grams of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a public school; possession with intent to deliver more than .5 grams of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a public school; possession with intent to sell more than .5 grams of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a child care agency; possession with intent to deliver more than .5 grams of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a child care agency; criminal trespass, and public intoxication. Due to an error in the indictment, the trial court dismissed the public intoxication charge at the State’s request. Defendant was convicted by a jury of the remaining offenses. The four felony drug convictions were merged into one Class A felony conviction of possession with intent to sell more than .5 grams of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a public school. The trial court sentenced Defendant to serve 16 years’ incarceration for this conviction and 30 days, concurrently, for the conviction of criminal trespass. On appeal, Defendant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress the crack cocaine, and that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Finding no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/02/14
James David Shell v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00381-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, James David Shell, pled guilty to two counts of possession with intent to sell or deliver a Schedule II controlled substance and one count of driving under the influence.  During plea negotiations, Petitioner was offered two alternate sentences by the State: either one year to serve with ten years of probation or seven years to serve with no probation.  After consulting with his attorney, Petitioner chose the seven-year sentence.  Subsequently, Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary because he was under the influence of several prescribed medications at the time he pled.  He also claimed that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.  After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief, finding that Petitioner failed to prove his claims by clear and convincing evidence.  Petitioner appealed.  Upon thorough review of the record, we affirm the decision of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 10/02/14
Jay Jernigan, et al v. Charles K. Hunter, et al
M2013-01860-COA-R3-CV

The parents of the decedent brought this wrongful death action against the individual who pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter of the decedent in a separate criminal proceeding. Following a bench trial, the trial court found the defendant directly and intentionally contributed to the wrongful death of the decedent, and entered judgment against the defendant in the amount of $250,000. The defendant raises numerous issues on appeal. Finding no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/30/14
In Re: Grace Y.
M2013-02734-COA-R3-PT

This appeal involves the termination of a father’s parental rights to his five-year-old daughter. In 2010, the daughter was adjudicated dependent and neglected due to her parents’ substance abuse, and she was placed in the custody of her paternal grandmother and stepgrandfather. In 2013, these same grandparents filed a petition, as prospective adoptive parents, seeking to terminate the father’s parental rights on the statutory ground of persistent conditions. The trial court found that the ground of persistent conditions had been proven by clear and convincing evidence, and it also found by clear and convincing evidence that termination of the father’s parental rights was in the child’s best interest. The father appeals. We affirm.
 

Coffee County Court of Appeals 09/30/14
The Tennessean, et al. v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County, et al. - Dissent
M2014-00524-COA-R3-CV

The Court’s decision in this case excepts materials that are “relevant to a pending or contemplated criminal action” from disclosure under the Public Records Act based upon Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 16(a)(2). I find such a conclusion inconsistent with a fair reading of Rule 16(a)(2) and, therefore, respectfully dissent. However, because the trial court should have considered the victim’s rights, the criminal defendants’ Sixth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution,and the State’s interests in a fair trial before determining what materials were subject to public inspection, I would vacate the trial court’s ruling and remand for further proceedings.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/30/14
The Tennessean, et al. v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville And Davidson County, et al.
M2014-00524-COA-R3-CV

Various media outlets made request under the Tennessee Public Records Act for access to records accumulated and maintained by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department in the course of its investigation and prosecution of an alleged rape in a campus dormitory. When the request was refused, the outlets a filed petition in Chancery Court in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated § 10-7-505; the State of Tennessee, District Attorney General and alleged victim were permitted to intervene. The court held the required show cause hearing and, following an in camera inspection, granted petitioners access to four categories of records and documents. Petitioners, as well as the Metropolitan Government and Intervenors appeal, raising numerous and various statutory and constitutional issues. We have determined that the records sought are currently exempt from disclosure due to the continuing police investigation and pending prosecution; accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Chancery Court and dismiss the petition.
 

Davidson County Court of Appeals 09/30/14
In Re Jayden G.
W2014-00881-COA-R3-PT

In this termination of parental rights case, Mother appeals not only the trial court’s findings of severe child abuse and persistent conditions as the grounds for termination, but also the trial court’s conclusion that termination was in the child’s best interest. We affirm the trial court’s finding of severe abuse, but reverse the trial court’s finding that clear and convincing evidence exists to prove the persistence of conditions. We also affirm the trial court’s finding that termination is in the child’s best interest, and therefore, affirm the termination of the Mother’s parental rights.

Hardin County Court of Appeals 09/30/14
Kenneth T. Whalum, Jr. v. Shelby County Election Commission - Concurring/Dissenting
W2013-02076-COA-R3-CV

I fully concur with the result reached in this matter and, specifically, the determination that the election was not invalid, that a new election is not required, and that Mr. Woods is the winner in the 2012 District 4 election to the Shelby County School Board.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/30/14
Kenneth T. Whalum, Jr. v. Shelby County Election Commission
W2013-02076-COA-R3-CV

This is an election contest case between the declared winner of a school board race in Shelby County and an unsuccessful candidate. The trial court invalidated the election on the ground that there was “clear uncertainty about the election outcome.” On appeal, the declared winner of the race argues: (1) the unsuccessful candidate has no standing to prosecute his election contest; (2) the trial court erred in failing to dismiss the case pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated Section 5-1-111(a); and (3) the trial court erred in invalidating the election pursuant to Emery v. Robertson County Election Commission, 586 S.W.2d 103 (Tenn. 1979). We hold that the unsuccessful candidate maintains standing to prosecute this appeal, and that his claim is not moot. Additionally, we affirm the trial court’s denial of the declared winner of the race’s motion to dismiss, but reverse as to the trial court’s judgment declaring the election invalid and ordering a new election. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 09/30/14
State of Tennessee v. Jessie Dotson - CONCUR
W2011-00815-SC-DDT-DD

We concur fully with all of the Court’s opinion except for Section II(E)(4) containing
the proportionality analysis. After conducting our own independent proportionality analysis,
we concur with the majority’s conclusion that Mr. Dotson’s death sentences are not
disproportionate to the sentences imposed on other similar offenders who have committed
similar crimes.

Shelby County Supreme Court 09/30/14
State of Tennessee v. Jessie Dotson - APPENDIX
W2011-00815-SC-DDT-DD

Appendix
(Excerpts from the Decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals)

Shelby County Supreme Court 09/30/14
State of Tennessee v. Jessie Dotson
W2011-00815-SC-DDT-DD

A jury convicted the defendant, Jessie Dotson, of six counts of premeditated first degree murder for killing his brother, three other adults, and two of his brother’s minor sons at their Memphis, Tennessee home. The jury also convicted the defendant of three counts of attempted first degree murder for attacking with kitchen knives and wooden boards three more of his brother’s minor children who were also present in the home. At the  conclusion of the penalty phase of the trial, the jury imposed death sentences for the six first degree murder convictions, finding that the multiple aggravating circumstances applicable to each conviction outweighed the mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. At a separate sentencing hearing on the attempted first degree murder convictions, the trial court classified the defendant as a Range II multiple offender, imposed a forty-year sentence for each conviction, and ordered these sentences served consecutively to each other and to the death sentences. The defendant appealed, and the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his convictions and sentences. After the case was docketed in this Court, we entered an order identifying five issues for oral argument, in addition to the mandatory 1 review Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-13-206(c)(1) (2014) requires this Court to perform. We now hold that: (1) admission of the defendant’s custodial statements does not constitute plain error; (2) admission of testimony regarding the defendant’s invocation of his right to counsel did not deprive the defendant of a fair trial or violate his right to due process; (3) admission of testimony about a surviving victim’s statements to third parties did not violate the defendant’s state and federal constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him; (4) admission of testimony regarding the defendant’s history of imprisonment did not violate his right to a fair trial; and (5) admission of the pathologist’s testimony about autopsies another pathologist performed did not violate the defendant’s federal and state constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him. We also hold, in accordance with section 39-13-206(c)(1), that: (1) the sentences of death were not imposed in any arbitrary fashion; (2) the evidence supports the jury’s findings that the aggravating circumstances were proven beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) the evidence supports the jury’s findings that as to each first degree murder conviction the aggravating circumstances outweighed mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt; and (4) the sentences of death are neither excessive nor disproportionate to the penalty imposed in similar cases, considering both the nature of the crimes and the defendant. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court and the Court of Criminal Appeals upholding the defendant’s convictions of first degree murder and attempted first degree murder and sentences of death and forty years are affirmed. With respect to issues not specifically addressed herein, we affirm the decision of the Court of Criminal Appeals and include relevant portions thereof in an appendix to this opinion.

Shelby County Supreme Court 09/30/14
Willie Douglas Johnson v. State of Tennessee
E2013-02826-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Willie Douglas Johnson, appeals the post-conviction court’s denial of post-conviction relief from his convictions for attempted second degree murder and unlawful possession of a weapon. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 09/30/14