Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 12/21/2014
Format: 12/21/2014
Heather Lynn Spigner v. Michael Dean Spigner
E2013-02696-COA-R3-CV

In this post-divorce proceeding, Wife appeals the denial of her motion to partially set aside the final decree of divorce, the denial of two civil contempt petitions, and the trial court’s ruling with regard to the parties’ competing motions for modification of the parties’ permanent parenting plan. Because the order in the record with regard to both the contempt and parenting plan issues contain insufficient findings of fact or conclusions of law, we vacate and remand those issues to the trial court for reconsideration. We, however, affirm as to the denial of Wife’s motion to partially set aside the final divorce decree.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 12/08/14
Gary Connell, et al. v. Mia Scullark
W2014-00587-COA-R3-CV

Purchaser of real estate at a foreclosure sale filed a forcible entry and detainer action against the occupant of the real estate. The General Sessions Court of Shelby County awarded possession, despite the objection of an individual claiming she purchased the real estate prior to the foreclosure sale. On appeal, the Shelby County Circuit Court granted the foreclosure purchaser’s motion for summary judgment and affirmed the judgment of the general sessions court. The pre-foreclosure purchaser appeals. Finding that the pre-foreclosure purchaser lacks standing, we affirm the judgment of the Shelby County Circuit Court.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/08/14
William T. Johnson v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00828-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, William T. Johnson, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, the Petitioner claimed (1) he was denied effective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel was absent during a portion of jury deliberation and when the jury returned its verdict, and (2) because the trial court failed to secure the Petitioner’s waiver of counsel’s presence. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/14
William T. Johnson v. State of Tennessee - separate opinion
E2014-00828-CCA-R3-PC

I fully concur in the majority opinion in this case. I only write separately to express a view that counsel’s absence from court – even during jury deliberations and verdict announcement – for reasons no more substantial than coaching a basketball game presents a closer question than our opinion may suggest. It may be that a certain casualness has permeated the practice of law, and courts and lawyers should be vigilant in maintaining standards of regularity and professionalism

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/14
State of Tennessee v. William Whitlow Davis, Jr.
E2013-02073-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, William Whitlow Davis, Jr., pleaded guilty to first offense driving under the influence of an intoxicant with a blood alcohol level of .08 percent or more and reserved as a certified question the propriety of the vehicle stop leading to his arrest. Determining that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings in its order denying the motion to suppress, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/14
State of Tennessee v. Lee Michael Gianaro
E2014-01200-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Lee Michael Gianaro, was indicted by the Hamilton County Grand Jury for one count of aggravated burglary, one count of theft of property valued over $1,000, and one count of vandalism. Defendant pled guilty to aggravated burglary in exchange for a sentence of three years, to be served on probation, and payment of $1,500 restitution to the victim. The remaining charges were dismissed. Defendant violated the terms of his probation. The trial court partially revoked probation, ordering Defendant to Community Corrections until restitution was paid in full before returning Defendant to supervised probation. A second probation violation report was filed alleging Defendant violated the terms of his probation. After a hearing, the trial court revoked Defendant’s probation and ordered him to serve his sentence in incarceration. Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in revoking probation. After a review of the record, we conclude that substantial evidence supported the revocation of probation. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/14
State of Tennessee v. Jason Braden
E2014-00572-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Jason Braden, pled guilty to aggravated burglary, false imprisonment, and assault in Blount County in May of 2011. In exchange for the guilty plea, Defendant received a five-year sentence to be served on supervised probation. In October of 2011, a warrant was filed alleging a robation violation. Simultaneously, Defendant was in state custody, facing a new charge and probation violation in Anderson County. The revocation hearing in Blount County did not take place until March 2014. After hearing the evidence, the trial court found a material violation and ordered Defendant to serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. Defendant appeals. After a review, we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering Defendant to serve the balance of his sentence.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/14
State of Tennessee v. Donald Terrell
W2014-00340-CCA-R3-CO

The Appellant, Donald Terrell, filed a pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence under Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1. The trial court summarily dismissed the Appellant’s motion, and he appealed. Following our review of the record, we conclude that the Appellant’s motion presented a colorable claim that his sentences were illegal. We therefore reverse the trial court’s summary dismissal and remand for further proceedings.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/08/14
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 gravated robbery. Trial counsel filed a premature notice of appeal and failed to file a timely 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). Petitioner’s convictions were affirmed. Petitioner subsequently filed an untimely 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. Without ruling on the timeliness of the petition, the post- onviction 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. After a review of the record and authorities, we reverse the decision of the post-conviction court and remand the matter for a hearing, during which the post-conviction court should first determine whether the statute of limitations for postconviction petitions should be tolled. If the post-conviction court determines that the statute should be tolled for due process considerations, the court should then determine if Petitioner received ineffective assistance of counsel and is entitled to a delayed appeal under Tennessee Code annotated section 40-30-113, which authorizes the filing of a motion for new trial when no motion for new trial was filed in the original proceeding. Consequently, the judgment of the post-conviction court is reversed and remanded.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/14
Audrey Bonner, et al. v. Dean Deyo, et al.
W2014-00763-COA-R3-CV

This appeal results from the trial court’s suggestion of additur to a jury verdict stemming from an automobile accident. Plaintiff sued for damage to her vehicle and physical injuries sustained when she was rear-ended by one of the defendants. Plaintiff’s husband also asserted a loss of consortium claim. The plaintiffs sued both the driver of the vehicle and the vehicle’s owner, also husband and wife. As the matter of liability was stipulated, the only issues submitted to the jury was the amount of damages, if any, suffered by the plaintiffs. The jury returned a verdict awarding plaintiff $3,577.00 for her medical expenses, but declined to award the plaintiffs any damages claimed for other injuries, including any pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, or loss of consortium. The trial court suggested an additur of $10,000.00 to the jury verdict. Defendants accepted the additur under protest and timely appealed to this Court. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/05/14
Adrian Lamont Henry v. State of Tennessee
M2013-00034-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Adrian Lamont Henry, pled guilty to second degree murder, a Class A felony, and was sentenced to forty years in confinement.  The petitioner filed the instant petition for post-conviction relief, in which he alleged that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was involuntary.  Following an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief.  On appeal, the petitioner argues that his constitutional rights were violated when he was not given proper Miranda warnings and when he was interviewed while under the influence of marijuana.  The petitioner also argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when trial counsel: (1) failed to communicate the defense strategy, defenses, or theory of the case with the petitioner; (2) failed to file a motion to suppress the petitioner’s statements to law enforcement; (3) failed to utilize important witnesses; and (4) pressured the petitioner into pleading guilty.  The petitioner argues that due to these errors, his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered.  After our review of the parties’ briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/14
State of Tennessee v. Travis Meadows
M2013-01646-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, Travis Meadows, pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted aggravated sexual battery, Class C felonies.  The trial court sentenced him to four years on each count, to be served consecutively, for an effective eight-year sentence.  The effective eight-year sentence was suspended, and appellant was placed on supervised probation.  As part of the plea agreement, appellant reserved a certified question of law challenging the denial of his motion to suppress.  On appeal, appellant argues that the State failed to include the certified question in the judgment form and filed the judgment form without notice to appellant; therefore, the State violated the terms of the plea agreement.  Appellant also argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his statement to law enforcement due to the coercive and misleading nature of the interrogation.  Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we dismiss appellant’s appeal.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/14
State of Tennessee v. Jonathan Womack
M2013-02743-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Jonathan Womack, pled guilty to possession of less than .5 grams of methamphetamine with intent to sell or deliver. He agreed to a sentence of six years, all of which was suspended after sixty days’ incarceration. 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 obtained during the warrantless search of his residence, which was conducted following a “knock and talk” encounter and claimed exigent circumstances. After a thorough review of the applicable law, we conclude that the officers encroached upon the curtilage of the Defendant’s home to conduct the “knock and talk” at the backdoor of his residence and that they, thereafter, created any exigent circumstances. However, we further conclude that the evidence found on the Defendant’s person was obtained pursuant to an independent source—a valid warrant for his arrest. Therefore, the order of the trial court denying the motion to suppress is affirmed.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/14
State of Tennessee v. Randall Wayne Cagle
M2013-02271-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Randall Wayne Cagle, appeals from the trial court’s judgment revoking his probation.  Defendant pled guilty in the Hickman County Circuit Court to four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.  The judgments are not in the appellate record, but according to other documents and testimony at the probation violation hearing, the trial court imposed  an effective sentence of eight years to be served entirely on supervised probation.  Approximately five months later, a violation of probation warrant was filed and served on Defendant.  Following a hearing, the trial court concluded that Defendant had violated probation.  The trial court deemed its ruling as a “partial revocation” and ordered Defendant to serve sixty days in the Hickman County Jail and to thereafter be placed back on supervised probation.  Defendant has appealed the trial court’s revocation order.  The trial court erroneously allowed testimony of Defendant’s failure to pass a polygraph test. Therefore, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand this matter for a new probation violation hearing in which the results of any polygraph test, any evidence of Defendant’s refusal (or willingness) to submit to a polygraph examination, and any statements made by Defendant as to why he would not submit to a polygraph examination are not to be admitted into evidence or otherwise relied upon by the trial court.

Hickman County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/05/14
State of Tennessee v. Lonta Montrell Burress, Jr. and Darius Jerel Gustus
E2013-01697-CCA-R3-CD


The Defendant-Appellant, Lonta Montrell Burress, Jr., was convicted as charged by a Hamilton County jury of three counts of aggravated assault, one count of possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of an offense not defined as a dangerous offense, one count of theft of property, one count of felony evading arrest, and one count of misdemeanor evading arrest. The trial court sentenced Burress to an effective sentence 1 of six years. The other Defendant-Appellant, Darius Jerel Gustus, who was tried jointly with Burress, was convicted as harged of three counts of aggravated assault, one count of possession of a deadly weapon during the commission of an offense not defined as a dangerous offense, one count of felony reckless endangerment, and one count of misdemeanor evading arrest. The trial court also sentenced Gustus to an effective sentence of six years. On appeal, Burress argues: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his aggravated assault convictions and his theft conviction; (2) the trial court erred in denying a mistrial based on the admission of gang testimony; (3) the trial court erred in denying a mistrial based on a Bruton violation; and (4) the trial court erred in determining that LaJuana Woods was an unavailable witness pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Evidence 804 and erred in allowing the State to have Woods read her testimony from the juvenile court transfer hearing transcript at trial. On appeal, Gustus contends: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his aggravated assault conviction regarding victim Frederick Jones, Jr.; (2) the trial court erred in denying a mistrial based on the admission of gang testimony; and (3) the trial court erred in admitting two bandanas because there was an improper chain of custody. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/04/14
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Lee Steele
E2014-00321-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Joshua Lee Steele, pleaded guilty to second degree murder, agreeing to allow the trial court to determine his sentence. The trial court sentenced him to serve twenty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it sentenced him because it did not properly consider the mitigating factor that the Defendant assisted authorities in tecting or apprehending other persons who had committed the offenses. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgment

Monroe County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/04/14
State of Tennessee v. Joe Travis Northern Jr.
W2013-02757-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Joe Travis Northern, Jr., was convicted by a Madison County Criminal Court jury of possession of more than one-half ounce of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, a Class E felony; possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony with a prior felony, a Class D felony; possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, a Class E felony; tampering with evidence, a Class D felony; and possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor, and was sentenced by the trial court as a Range II, multiple offender to an effective term of eighteen years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence in support of his convictions and argues that the trial court imposed an excessive sentence. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/03/14
State of Tennessee v. Devaughn Edwards
W2013-02009-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Devaughn Edwards, was convicted of three counts of facilitation of kidnapping, two of which subsequently were merged; two counts of facilitation of robbery, and one count of facilitation of aggravated burglary, for which he received an effective sentence of sixteen years. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was not sufficient to sustain the convictions for facilitation of kidnapping and that the court erred in imposing consecutive sentencing. Following our review, we affirm the judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/03/14
State of Tennessee v. Latickia Tashay Burgins
E2014-02110-CCA-R8-CO

The defendant, Latickia Tashay Burgins, through counsel, sought automatic review of the trial court’s revocation of bail pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 8. The defendant argues that the trial court’s reliance upon Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-11-141(b) to revoke and deny pretrial bail following her garnering additional charges violates Article I, section 15 of the Tennessee Constitution. Upon full consideration of the defendant’s motion for review and the State’s response, we conclude that Code section 40-11-141(b) violates the constitutional guarantee to pretrial bail by permitting a trial court to hold a defendant without bail pending trial. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court denying the appellant pretrial bail and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/03/14
Laurie McCallen Bainer, et al. v. Mamie Ruth McCallen, et al.
W2014-00627-COA-R3-CV

Because the order appealed is not a final judgment, we must dismiss this appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/03/14
J. L. Fralix v. The University of Tennessee
M2014-00342-COA-R3-CV


Plaintiff, a former employee of the Middle Tennessee Research and Education Center of the University of Tennessee, appeals the termination of his employment for gross misconduct in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct. He contends the statement he admittedly made to a female employee on university property did not justify termination of his employment. We affirm the termination of plaintiff’s employment.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/02/14
State of Tennessee v. Tamekia Shantell Jones
W2013-02578-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Tamekia Shantell Jones, was charged with Class A misdemeanor theft from Macy’s store in an indictment returned by the Madison County Grand Jury. Following a jury trial, she was found guilty as charged. The trial court sentenced her to serve eleven months and twenty-nine days in the Madison County jail, to be served consecutively to a sentence for convictions in Hardeman County. In this appeal, Defendant’s sole issue is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to support the conviction. After a thorough review of the record and the briefs of the parties, we affirm the judgment of the trial court pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/02/14
State of Tennessee v. Caleb Wayne Dehoog
W2013-02110-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Caleb Wayne DeHoog, was convicted by a Madison County Criminal Court jury of attempted aggravated burglary, a Class D felony; two counts of aggravated assault, Class C felonies; and one count of aggravated criminal trespass, a Class A misdemeanor. He was sentenced to three years for the attempted aggravated burglary, five years for each count of aggravated assault, and eleven months and twenty nine days for the aggravated criminal trespass. The court ordered that the sentences for the two aggravated assault convictions be served consecutively to each other but concurrently with the sentences on the other convictions, for an effective term of ten years. On appeal, the defendant challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentences. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/02/14
State of Tennessee v. Kenneth James Morris
W2013-02298-CCA-R3-CD

Kenneth James Morris (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of manufacture of a Schedule II controlled substance within a drug-free zone and promotion of methamphetamine manufacture. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to 15 years. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions and claims the jury improperly weighed certain testimony and incorrectly assessed the credibility of a witness. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Weakley County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/02/14
State of Tennessee v. Lucian Alan Green
M2014-00242-CCA-R3-CD

In a two-count indictment, appellant, Lucian Alan Green, was charged with burglary of a building other than a habitation and theft of property valued at more than $1,000 but less than $10,000, both Class D felonies.  The jury found him guilty as charged, and the trial court sentenced him as a standard offender to concurrent terms of three years, six months at thirty percent release eligibility for each offense to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction.  Appellant now challenges the sufficiency of the convicting evidence and the trial court’s sentencing decision.  Upon our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Robertson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/02/14