Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 05/25/2015
Format: 05/25/2015
Wilmarcus H. Martin v. State of Tennessee
E2014-02009-CCA-R3-CD

The Petitioner, Wilmarcus H. Martin, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his guilty-pleaded conviction for cocaine possession with intent to sell within 1,000 feet of a park. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, leading to an involuntary plea, because trial counsel told him incorrectly that his release eligibility would be changed from 100% to 85% by the Tennessee Department of Correction (“TDOC”) once he began serving his sentence, and because trial counsel failed to reserve a challenge to the search as a part of the guilty plea. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/15
State of Tennessee v. Sharon Donella Phillips
E2014-00996-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Sharon Donella Phillips, appeals her Sullivan County Criminal Court jury convictions of reckless endangerment and aggravated arson, challenging the sufficiency of the convicting evidence on the arson conviction and the length of her sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/15/15
State of Tennessee v. Donald Bruce Anderson, et al.
W2014-01971-COA-R3-CV

The trial court determined that it did not have authority to assess discretionary costs against the State in an eminent domain proceeding. It accordingly denied Defendants’ motion for discretionary costs under Rule 54.04 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure and determined that it did not have jurisdiction to make findings with respect to the reasonableness and necessity of Defendants’ costs. We affirm the trial court’s conclusion that Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-17-912 does not authorize an assessment of costs against the State in an eminent domain proceeding other than those costs that are explicitly permitted by the section.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/15/15
Soumya Pandey v. Manish Shrivastava
W2014-01071-COA-R3-CV

At issue in this appeal are several divorce and post-divorce matters. We conclude that we are without jurisdiction to adjudicate the issues related to the divorce litigation, as they were not timely appealed. With respect to the post-divorce matters, we conclude that the trial court properly exercised jurisdiction over Mother’s petition to modify the parties’ parenting schedule, that the evidence does not preponderate against its decision to modify the parenting schedule, and that it did not err in its refusal to find Father in civil contempt. Exercising our discretion, we decline to award Mother discretionary costs and attorney’s fees pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 27-1-122 or attorney’s fees pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-5-103(c).

Shelby County Court of Appeals 05/15/15
State of Tennessee v. Termel Dowdy
M2014-02147-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Termel Dowdy, pled guilty to introduction of contraband into a penal institution, a Class C felony, and DUI, a Class A misdemeanor, in exchange for a ten-year sentence with the manner of service to be determined by the trial court.  After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that the defendant serve his sentence in confinement, which he now appeals.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

White County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Jeremiah Thomas Sullivan
M2014-00568-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Jeremiah Thomas Sullivan, pled guilty in the Bedford County Circuit Court to one count of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor involving one to twenty-four images, a Class C felony; eight counts of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor involving twenty-five or more images, a Class B felony; one count of sexual exploitation of a minor involving 100 or more images, a Class B felony; and two counts of solicitation of a minor, a Class B felony.  Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court used a combination of concurrent and consecutive sentencing to sentence him to an effective term of twenty-eight years in the Department of Correction.  On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred by not merging the multiple convictions for aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor involving twenty-five or more images into a single offense and by imposing an excessive sentence.  Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/15
In re Estate of Harold Curtis Morrison
E2014-00764-COA-R3-CV

The decedent in this estate action made inter vivos transfers of all his real and personal property to the defendant, who was the decedent's friend and caretaker. Following the decedent's death, his brother was appointed as administrator of the decedent's estate. The decedent's brother filed the instant action, questioning whether the transfers of property by the decedent were the result of undue influence by the defendant. The trial court determined that there existed no confidential relationship between the decedent and the defendant. The court ultimately found that no undue influence had been shown. The decedent's brother appeals that determination. He also appeals the trial court's ruling regarding an evidentiary matter and motions seeking the trial judge's recusal. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court's judgment in all respects.

Rhea County Court of Appeals 05/14/15
Bakers Construction Services, Inc. v. Greenville-Greene County Airport Authority
E2014-01395-COA-R3-CV

This is a breach of contract action concerning a construction project. The plaintiff argued that the defendant's failure to provide access to the job site hampered its ability to complete the project in an efficient manner. The defendant responded that the plaintiff waived the failure to provide access to the site and that the plaintiff was the first to breach the contract by failing to provide a construction schedule. Following a bench trial, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court as modified to reflect an adjustment in the award of discretionary costs.

Greene County Court of Appeals 05/14/15
Undray Luellen v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00508-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Undray Luellen, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. After review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/15
State of Tennessee v. Travis Lamonte Steed
W2014-00146-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Travis Lamonte Steed, was convicted by a Madison County Criminal Court jury of first degree felony murder; second degree murder, a Class A felony; felony reckless endangerment, a Class E felony; convicted felon in possession of a handgun, a Class E felony; and attempted second degree murder, a Class B felony. The court sentenced the defendant as a Range I, violent offender to concurrent sentences of life for the felony murder conviction and twenty-five years for the second degree murder conviction. The court sentenced the defendant as a Range II, multiple offender to twenty years for the attempted second degree murder conviction and four years each for the felon in possession of a handgun and felony reckless endangerment convictions. The court ordered that the defendant serve the four-year sentences for felony reckless endangerment and felon in possession of a handgun concurrently to each other but consecutively to the twenty-year sentence for attempted second degree murder. The court also ordered that the defendant serve the twenty-year sentence for attempted second degree murder consecutively to the life sentence, for a total effective sentence of life plus twenty-four years in the Department of Correction. The defendant raises three issues on appeal: (1) whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain his murder and attempted murder convictions; (2) whether the jury's verdicts finding him guilty of first degree felony murder and attempted second degree murder are mutually exclusive; and (3) whether the trial court erred in ordering consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand for entry of corrected judgments to reflect that the defendant's second degree murder conviction is merged into his felony murder conviction.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/15
State of Tennessee v. James Robert Christensen, Jr.
W2014-00931-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, James Robert Christensen, Jr., stands convicted of resisting arrest, a Class B misdemeanor; promotion of methamphetamine manufacture, a Class D felony; initiation of methamphetamine manufacture, a Class B felony; and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, Class D felonies. He received an effective sentence of three years‟ incarceration followed by eight years suspended to supervised probation. On appeal, appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence and that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions for two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Following our careful review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/15
State of Tennessee v. James Robert Christensen, Jr. - Concurring In Part, Dissenting In Part
W2014-00931-CCA-R3-CD

I agree that in this case, there are three separate state actions to consider when determining whether the evidence seized, as a result of the warrantless search of the defendant's residence, should have been suppressed. First, the investigators entered the defendant's property to conduct a “follow-up investigation,” without a search warrant, despite the defendant's “no trespassing” signs. Second, after smelling methamphetamine, Investigator Chunn forcibly entered the defendant's residence and conducted a brief sweep, during which he saw the firearms and some of the components for making methamphetamine, but did not see the active nor inactive labs. Third, after the defendant told officers that the lab was in the freezer, the investigators re-entered the defendant's residence and collected the active lab from the refrigerator and the inactive lab from the deep freezer. I believe the majority has correctly analyzed actions two and three. My disagreement with the majority only relates to the State's first action. My review of the record leads me to conclude that this defendant had clearly revoked any implied consent for the officers to come upon his property without a search warrant. Without lawfully being upon the premises, the second and third actions are void and the fruit of the poisonous tree.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/14/15
Bank of Vernon v. Larry Lunan, et al.
E2014-00023-COA-R3-CV

Larry Lunan and Susan Lunan appeal the order of the Law Court for Sullivan County (“the Trial Court”) finding the Lunans not indigent. We previously affirmed the Trial Court's determination regarding indigency. As such, we find and hold that this issue is moot. We affirm

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 05/13/15
Jerry Rommell Gray v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00849-CCA-R3-PC


Petitioner, Jerry Rommell Gray, was convicted in Knox County of felony murder, attempted especially aggravated robbery, and attempted aggravated robbery. Trial counsel filed a premature notice of appeal and an untimely motion for new trial. On direct appeal, this Court reviewed Petitioner’s issues, other than sufficiency of the evidence, for plain error. State v. Jerry Rommell Gray, No. E2010-00637-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 2870264, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. July 13, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Nov. 20, 2012). Petitioner’s convictions were affirmed. Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief in which he sought a delayed appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel, specifically alleging that trial counsel’s failure to file a timely motion for new trial was presumptively prejudicial. The post-conviction court determined Petitioner was entitled to a delayed appeal but instructed Petitioner that he was not permitted to file an additional motion for new trial. Petitioner appealed to this Court, and we determined that the petition was untimely, reversed the decision of the post-conviction court, and remanded the matter for a hearing on whether due process should toll the statute of limitations. See Jerry Rommell Gray v. State, No. E2014-00849-CCA-R3-PC, 2014 WL 6876184, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 5, 2014), perm. app. granted (Tenn. Apr. 13, 2015). Petitioner filed an application for permission to appeal pursuant to Rule 11. The supreme court granted the application in light of the timeliness of the petition for post-conviction relief and remanded the case to this Court to consider whether the post-conviction court should have allowed Petitioner to file a second motion for a new trial when it granted him a delayed appeal. We determine the trial court improperly prohibited Petitioner from filing a motion for new trial upon grant of the delayed appeal. Accordingly, the judgment of the post-conviction court is reversed and remanded. On remand, Petitioner is entitled to file a motion for new trial, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-30-113(a)(3).

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Willy J. Hall
E2014-01156-CCA-R3-CD

Willy J. Hall (“the Defendant”) appeals the trial court’s revocation of his community corrections sentences and order of incarceration. Although acknowledging that he violated the terms of his community corrections sentences, the Defendant nonetheless contends that it was improper for the trial court to revoke his sentences and order him to serve an effective seven-year sentence in the Department of Correction. Upon review, we affirm the trial court’s revocation of the Defendant’s community corrections sentences.
 
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
In Re: Hill's Bonding Company
E2014-02355-CCA-R3-CO
The Appellant, Hill’s Bonding Company, filed a petition for permission to issue bail bonds in the Ninth Judicial District. The trial court denied the Appellant’s petition, stating that it was not considering any such petitions at the present time. The Appellant appeals the trial court’s denial. The State concedes that the trial court did not have the authority to deny the Appellant’s petition. After review, we reverse the trial court’s judgment.
Roane County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Charles Derrick Belk
W2014-00887-CCA-R3-CD


The defendant, Charles Derrick Belk, was convicted by an Obion County Circuit Court jury of simple possession, a Class A misdemeanor; possession of marijuana with intent to sell or deliver, a Class E felony; Class C felony unlawful possession of a weapon; Class D felony unlawful possession of a weapon; and bringing a controlled substance into a penal institution, a Class C felony. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court imposed an effective twelve-year sentence as a persistent offender. On appeal, the defendant argues that: (1) evidence obtained pursuant to the search warrant should have been suppressed; and (2) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction for bringing a controlled substance into a penal institution. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Obion County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
Dimitrie Colbert v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02768-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Dimitrie Colbert, murdered his girlfriend and was subsequently charged with one count of first degree (felony) murder, one count of first degree (premeditated) murder, one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated rape, one count of aggravated kidnapping, and one count of evading arrest in a motor vehicle. The State sought the death penalty. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the petitioner pled guilty to one count of first degree (felony) murder and one count of evading arrest in a motor vehicle, a Class D felony. He received an agreed-upon life sentence for the murder conviction and a consecutive four-year sentence for the evading arrest conviction. The petitioner filed a timely post-conviction petition, alleging that trial counsel performed deficiently in investigating his mental health and in advising him to accept the plea offer. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the petitioner has not established that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, and we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
Marcus Deangelo Lee v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00994-CCA-R3-CO

The defendant, Marcus Deangelo Lee, argues that the trial court erred in denying him relief under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 after finding that his sentences were illegal and the illegality was a material component of the plea agreement. The State agrees with the defendant’s assertion. After review, we conclude that the trial court should have allowed the defendant the remedies available to him under Rule 36.1, and we, therefore, reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
Marcus Deangelo Lee v. State of Tennessee-Dissenting
W2014-00994-CCA-R3-CO

Something rather odd appears to be happening in this case and others similar to it. It appears that this defendant pled guilty to three offenses and received an agreed-to effective sentence of three years in December 1995. His sentences should have expired in December 1998. Yet this court has either denied or dismissed this defendant’s challenges to his convictions in 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. And now in 2015, almost 20 years later, we feel obligated to set this defendant’s convictions aside as illegal and allow him to withdraw his 1995 guilty pleas because he did not receive twice as much time in jail as he should have in 1995. What makes this case stranger is that it is not the State who is asking for relief; rather, the defendant complains that he did not get consecutive sentencing when he should have in 1995. It is a rare case indeed when a defendant complains about not getting more time in jail. If the defendant was seeking the remedy of serving additional jail time because the law required it at the time he pled guilty, I would be happy to oblige him. But he is not. He is attempting to have his conviction set aside and presumably to have a trial, whereupon if he is found guilty, he will have to do additional time to that ordered in 1995. What, if anything, has changed to allow such a seemingly absurd result to take place?

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Williams
W2014-00251-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Rodney Williams, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to twelve years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; (2) the trial court erred in allowing recordings of his jailhouse phone calls into evidence; (3) the trial court erred in admonishing him in the presence of the jury; and (4) the trial court erred in imposing the maximum sentence. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/13/15
In re: Addison B., et al.
M2014-02265-COA-R3-PT

The trial court found clear and convincing evidence that Mother had abandoned her children by failing to visit and engaging in conduct prior to incarceration that exhibited a wanton disregard for the childre's welfare. The trial court then found by clear and convincing evidence that it was in the best interest of the children to terminate Mother's parental rights. Mother appealed. We affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 05/13/15
State of Tennessee v. Jimmie Lee Reeder
M2013-02538-CCA-R3-CD

A Cheatham County Circuit Court Jury convicted the appellant, Jimmy Lee Reeder, of rape of a child, a Class A felony, and aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony.  After a sentencing hearing, he received an effective thirty-five-year sentence to be served at 100%. On appeal, the appellant contends that he was denied his right to an impartial jury, that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct during the State’s case-in-chief and closing arguments, and that the trial court’s decision to exclude any evidence regarding prior allegations of sexual abuse of the victim deprived him of his right to present a defense.  Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Cheatham County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/15
State of Tennessee v. James Cauley
M2014-00973-CCA-R3-CD

In 2005 Defendant, James Cauley, pled guilty to felony possession of less than 0.5 gram of cocaine, felony evading arrest, possession of contraband in a penal institution, and felony failure to appear.  Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, Defendant received an effective sentence of nine years to be served on probation, and other pending charges were dismissed.  In November 2012, a violation of probation warrant was issued.  Additional amendments to the warrant were issued in January 2013, April 2013, and September 2013.  At a hearing in October 2013, Defendant admitted that he had violated probation as alleged in the warrants.  Defendant asserted he was entitled to jail credit for time he served in a federal prison while he was on state probation.  The matter was continued to allow Defendant the opportunity to file a brief in support of his argument.  Another hearing was held in February 2014, and the trial court ordered the effective sentence to be served by incarceration.  Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by ordering him to serve the entire nine-year sentence at a time when he had less than one year remaining on probation and without giving him credit for the time he spent in federal custody.  We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 05/12/15
Dana A. Daniels v. Natalie Huffaker et al.
E2014-00869-COA-R3-CV

This case involves an automobile accident in which the plaintiff's vehicle was struck by an oncoming pick-up truck when the truck's driver attempted to turn left in front of the plaintiff's vehicle. The plaintiff suffered injuries to her neck and back, as well as significant damage to her vehicle. The plaintiff brought this action, alleging negligence against the driver of the truck and negligent entrustment against the truck's owner, who was the defendant driver's brother-in-law. The plaintiff also alleged that the truck's owner was vicariously liable for damages under the family purpose doctrine. The driver of the truck was never successfully served with process and is not a party to this appeal. The defendant owner of the truck filed a motion for summary judgment. Following a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant owner. The plaintiff appeals. Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 05/12/15