Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 12/19/2014
Format: 12/19/2014
State of Tennessee v. Barry D. McCoy
M2013-00912-SC-R11-CD

The defendant was indicted for seven counts of rape of a child. Prior to trial, the State sought permission to offer as evidence a video-recorded statement made by the child victim to a forensic interviewer. At the conclusion of a pre-trial hearing, the trial court refused to allow the video-recorded statement as proof at trial. We granted the State an interlocutory appeal to determine whether Tennessee Code Annotated section 24-7-123 (Supp. 2014) violates the separation of powers,whether the video-recorded statement qualifies as inadmissible hear say evidence, and whether the use of the statement at trial would violate the defendant’s right to confront witnesses. Because section 24-7-123 does not unconstitutionally infringe upon the powers of the judiciary and is a valid legislative exception to the general rule against the admission of hearsay evidence, the ruling of the trial court is reversed and the cause is remanded for trial. The State will be permitted to offer the video-recorded statement as evidence at trial, provided that the evidence is relevant and otherwise comports with the requirements of section 24-7-123 and the Tennessee Rules of Evidence.

Montgomery County Supreme Court 12/01/14
John Wayne McDonald v. Jamie Rhea McDonald Bunnell
M2014-00581-COA-R3-CV

John Wayne McDonald (“Father”) and Jamie Rhea McDonald Bunnell (“Mother”) had two children during their marriage before divorcing in 2012. The permanent parenting plan entered with the divorce named Mother the primary residential parent. After Mother remarried and relocated with the children, Father filed a petition to modify the existing parenting plan and asked the court to designate him the children’s primary residential parent. Father argued that the behavior of Mother’s new husband (“Stepfather”) around the children constituted a material change in circumstance and that the modification would be in the children’s best interest. At a hearing, Father presented evidence that Stepfather used foul language around the children and had, in jest, referred to them using a racial slur.  The trial courtfound thatStepfather’sbehavior,though “distastefuland ill-advised,”did not constitute a material change in circumstance. Father appealed. After careful consideration, we conclude that the evidence in the record does not preponderate against the trial court’s finding. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lewis County Court of Appeals 11/26/14
Daniel Louis Pinkava v. Tawania Leigh Kovacs-Pinkava
M2013-02375-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves the interpretation of a marital dissolution agreement (“MDA”). Wife filed suit to clarify the terms of the MDA regarding the apportionment of Husband’s future military retirement.  The trial court held that the MDA granted Wife twenty-five percent of Husband’s retirement benefits at the rank of captain, his rank at the time of divorce, including cost-of-living adjustments that will be in effect when he elects to retire. Husband appeals and argues that the award of retirement benefits was intended to be alimony in solido and was ascertainable at the time of divorce rather than at the time he elects to retire. We agree with the trial court’s interpretation and affirm the trial court in all respects.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 11/26/14
In Re: MacKeznie N., et al.
M2013-02805-COA-R3-PT

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights on the grounds of abandonment, contending that any failure to support or visit her children was not willful.Mother argues that her failure to support her children was a result of poverty and that her failure to visit was caused by obstruction on the part of the children’s grandmother/guardian. We find that the children’s grandmother/guardian failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence the existence of at least one of the statutory grounds for termination. We therefore reverse the termination of Mother’s parental rights.

Overton County Court of Appeals 11/26/14
Eric D. Brooks, et al. v. Tennessee Farmers Mutual Insurance Company
M2013-02326-COA-r3-CV

Plaintiffs filed suit against their property insurer for breach of their homeowner’s insurance policy to recover for damages sustained to their home as a result of a tornado; Plaintiffs also alleged that Defendant violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”). A jury found that Defendant’s actions violated the TCPA and awarded damages to Plaintiffs. Finding Defendant’s conduct to be willful, the trial court doubled the jury’s award; the court also awarded Plaintiffs attorneys fees and costs. Defendant appeals. We modify the award of costs to Plaintiffs; in all other respects, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Macon County Court of Appeals 11/26/14
State of Tennessee v. Billy Rapier
W2013-02297-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Billy D. Rapier, and two co-defendants, Cassandra Haynes and Leveris Keller, were charged with aggravated robbery. Mr. Keller was also charged with felony evading arrest, and Defendant was charged with evading arrest. Pursuant to a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of the charges and received concurrent sentences of eight years for aggravated robbery and eleven months, twenty-nine days for evading arrest. On appeal, Defendant argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions because the defense of duress barred his convictions. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/14
State of Tennessee v. Brandon Jones
W2013-00333-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Brandon Jones, was convicted of possession of marijuana with intent to sell, a Class E felony, and possession of a deadly weapon with intent to employ it in the commission of a dangerous felony, a Class D felony. He was sentenced to mandatory consecutive sentences of two years and four years for the respective convictions. On appeal, the defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred by allowing evidence regarding the defendant’s custodial statements; (2) the trial court erred by allowing hearsay testimony regarding statements made by the passenger in the defendant’s car; (3) the trial court erred in allowing a police officer to testify as an expert and offer opinion testimony; and (4) the evidence is insufficient to support the two convictions. Following review of the record, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/14
State of Tennessee v. Robert Echols
W2013-02044-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Robert Echols, of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and theft of property valued over $1,000. The trial court merged the theft of property conviction and the aggravated robbery conviction, and it ordered the Defendant to serve an effective sentence of twenty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the admission of the victim’s preliminary hearing testimony violated his constitutional right to confront and cross-examine itnesses against him; (2) the trial court erred when it admitted into evidence an unsigned statement of the Defendant; (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; and (4) the trial court erred when it sentenced him. After a thorough review of the record and relevant authorities, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/14
Carl Renee Brown v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02774-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Carl Renee Brown, appeals pro se from the summary dismissal of his 2013 petition for post-conviction relief, which challenged his 1987 convictions of criminal attempt to sell cocaine pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-6-417 (1982) (repealed 1989). Because the petition was filed decades beyond the applicable statute of limitations and because the petitioner failed to either allege or prove a statutory exception to the timely filing or a due process tolling of the statute of limitations, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/14
Timothy A. Baxter v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02427-CCA-R3-PC

A Madison County jury found the Petitioner, Timothy A. Baxter, guilty of aggravated assault, and the trial court sentenced him to a twelve-year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. The Petitioner appealed, and this Court affirmed the conviction in State v. Timothy A. Baxter, No. W2012-00361-CCA-R3-CD, 2013 WL 1197867 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Jackson, March 25, 2013), perm. app. denied (Tenn. June 13, 2013). The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, pro se, which he later amended with the assistance of counsel. The Petitioner subsequently filed a motion requesting that the post-conviction judge recuse himself. The post-conviction court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion to recuse and the petition for post-conviction relief, after which it denied both. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred when it denied his post-conviction petition because he received the ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, and he further contends that the post-conviction court erred when it denied his motion to recuse because there was a reasonable basis for questioning the post-conviction judge’s impartiality. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/14
State of Tennessee v. Desmond O'Brian Anderson and Camillia Harrison
W2013-02162-CCA-R3-CD

A Madison County jury convicted Desmond Obrian Anderson of aggravated burglary, especially aggravated kidnapping, and aggravated robbery. The jury convicted Camillia Harrison of aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery. The trial court ordered the defendants to serve effective sentences of twenty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant Anderson asserts that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court improperly denied his motion to sever after his codefendant had testified; and (3) the trial court erred when it failed to sentence him as an Especially Mitigated Offender. Defendant Harrison asserts that: (1) the trial court should have admitted the transcript of the preliminary hearing into evidence; and (2) the trial court should have severed the defendants’ charges in this case. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/14
In Re: Paige A.F., et al.
E2014-00450-COA-R3-PT

The State of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) filed a petition seeking to terminate the parental rights of Joann P.F. (“Mother”) and Gary A.M. (“Father”) to the minor children, Paige A.F., Tristan J.A.M., and Gaige D.W.M. (“the Children”). After a trial, the Juvenile Court for Anderson County (“the Juvenile Court”) terminated Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to the Children after finding that clear and convincing evidence was proven of grounds to terminate Mother’s and Father’s parental rights for substantial noncompliance with the permanency plan pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(2) and for persistent conditions pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(g)(3), and that clear and convincing evidence was proven that it was in the Children’s best interest for Mother’s and Father’s parental rights to be terminated. Mother and Father appeal the termination of their parental rights to this Court. We find and hold that the evidence does not preponderate against the Juvenile Court’s findings made by clear and convincing evidence, and we affirm.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 11/26/14
State of Tennessee v. James Tremelle Hunt
M2013-01649-CCA-R3-CD

In this delayed direct appeal, the defendant, James Tremelle Hunt, challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his 2011 Davidson County Criminal Court jury convictions of one count of aggravated rape, one count of aggravated robbery, one count of attempted aggravated robbery, two counts of especially aggravated kidnapping, and two counts of aggravated assault.  Because the defendant failed to file a timely petition for post-conviction relief, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to grant the delayed appeal in this case.  As a result, the appeal must be dismissed.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/26/14
Gregory Lance Peterson v. Tiara Blanco (Peterson)
W2014-01423-COA-R10-CV

This matter arises from post-divorce proceedings regarding the parties’ minor child. Mother filed an application for extraordinary appeal after the trial court designated Father as Temporary Primary Residential Parent and ordered that Father could enroll the parties’ child in a school in his school district. Mother’s application submitted three issues for review, but we grant extraordinary review only as to the issue regarding the trial court’s order designating Father as Temporary Primary Residential Parent and ordering that Father could enroll the parties’ child in a school in his school district. We vacate and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 11/26/14
Sheila Christine Jones Calloway v. Willard Randall Calloway
E2014-00558-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from a divorce. Sheila Christine Jones Calloway (“Wife”) sued Willard Randall Calloway (“Husband”) for divorce in the Chancery Court for Roane County (“the Trial Court”). The Trial Court granted Wife a divorce on the ground of adultery by Husband. The Trial Court equally divided the parties’ marital residence but awarded Husband’s onehalf interest in the marital residence to Wife as alimony in solido. The Trial Court also awarded Wife alimony in futuro and attorney’s fees. Husband appeals. Given the parties’ relative earning capabilities and other relevant circumstances of this case, we affirm the Trial Court’s award to Wife of Husband’s one-half interest in the marital residence as alimony in solido. However, once Wife was awarded Husband’s one-half interest in the marital residence, she no longer was financially disadvantaged relative to Husband, and, therefore, the Trial Court erred in awarding Wife alimony in futuro and attorney’s fees. We affirm, in part, and, reverse, in part, the judgment of the Trial Court.

Roane County Court of Appeals 11/26/14
In Re: Jacob B.
M2014-00933-COA-R3-PT

In this termination of parental rights case, Father appeals the trial court’s finding that termination of his parental rights is in the child’s best interests. Father was convicted of murdering the child’s mother and is imprisoned on a life sentence. We have reviewed the evidence and affirm the trial court in all respects.

White County Court of Appeals 11/25/14
In Re: Caira D. et al.
M2014-01229-COA-R3-PT

Department of Children’s Services filed petition to terminate mother and father’s parental rights to two minor children. Mother subsequently surrendered her parental rights, and the trial court found father abandoned the minor children by willful failure to support and willful failure to visit. The trial court also found termination of father’s parental rights was in the best interests of the children. Father appeals. We affirm the trial court’s finding that father abandoned his children by willfully failing to support them;however,we have concluded that the evidence is insufficient to clearly and convincingly establish that father’s visitation with his children was merely token and that he willfully failed to visit his children. We affirm the trial court’s finding that termination of father’s parental rights is in the best interests of the children. Therefore, we affirm the termination of father’s parental rights.
 

White County Court of Appeals 11/25/14
Earl T. Adams v. Air Liquide America, L. P. et al.
M2013-02607-COA-R3-CV

The sole issue presented in this appeal concerns the constitutionality of Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-28-103, the ten-year statute of repose under the Tennessee Products Liability Act and the exceptions to the statute of repose for asbestos claims and silicone gel breast implant claims, but not for silica-related claims. After working as a sandblaster for thirty years, Plaintiff developed silica-related injuries. Thereafter, Plaintiff commenced a products liability action against several silica manufacturers and suppliers, which was filed outside the ten-year period. When the defendants moved for summary judgment contending the action was timebarred by the ten-year statute of repose, Plaintiff challenged the constitutionality of the statute of repose as applied to silica claimants on equal protection grounds. Utilizing a rational basis analysis, the trial court found that silica claims were not similarly situated by injury or class to asbestos claims, and, if they were similarly situated, a rational basis exists to distinguish between the two. The trial court also found that silica has no similarity to silicone gel breast implants. Thus, the trial court summarily dismissed the action as timebarred based on the ten-year statute of repose under the Tennessee Products Liability Act, specifically Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-28-103(a). We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 11/25/14
Jeremy Shane Grooms v. Gerald McAlister, Warden
E2014-01249-CCA-R3-HC

In 2009, the Petitioner, Jeremy Shane Grooms, pleaded guilty to theft of property valued over $1,000 and aggravated burglary, and he was sentenced to eight years. One year of his sentence was to be served in jail, with the remainder to be served on community corrections. In December of 2009, a warrant was issued for the Petitioner’s arrest, alleging that he had violated his community corrections sentence by driving under the influence (“DUI”) and by attempting to break into and enter a vehicle. The warrant stated that the Petitioner had been sentenced to twelve years of community corrections for his original convictions. In 2014, the Petitioner filed a petition for habeas corpus relief, contending that his sentence had expired. The trial court dismissed the Petitioner’s petition. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the trial court erred when it dismissed his petition because “it met the qualifications for relief under the statute.” The State counters that the appeal is untimely and further that the habeas corpus court properly dismissed the petition. After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the habeas corpus court’s dismissal of the Petitioner’s petition for habeas corpus relief.

Cocke County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/25/14
Claude R. Ellis v. Melisa Jane Godfrey Ellis
E2013-02408-COA-R9-CV

The issue on this appeal is whether the parties’ prenuptial agreement (the agreement) is valid and enforceable. The trial court held that it was not. The court did so based upon its finding that Claude R. Ellis (Husband) failed to prove that he provided a full and fair disclosure of his assets to Melisa Jane Godfrey Ellis (Wife) before the agreement was executed. The trial court further found (1) that, given the date the draft agreement was furnished to wife, she did not have an opportunity to seek independent counsel for advice; (2) that the agreement was unfair; and (3) that Wife was under duress when the draft was presented to her. Applying the principles set forth by the Supreme Court in Randolph v. Randolph, 937 S.W.2d 815 (Tenn. 1996), and its progeny, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 11/25/14
State of Tennessee v. Justin Andrew Jones
E2014-00036-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, Justin Andrew Jones, pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of an intoxicant and was sentenced to eleven months and twenty- ine days, suspended to probation after forty-eight hours of incarceration. As part of the plea agreement, appellant reserved a certified question of law in which he challenged the denial of his motion to suppress. On appeal, appellant argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress because the arresting officer did not have reasonable suspicion to stop appellant and because the officer was acting outside of his community caretaking function when he stopped appellant. Following our review of the briefs, the record, and the applicable law, we dismiss appellant’s appeal.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/25/14
In Re Chelsea B. et al.
E2014-00758-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case involving three minor children. In April 2012, temporary custody of the children was granted to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”), and the children were placed in foster care. DCS subsequently filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of the mother and father on September 24, 2013. The petition alleged, as statutory grounds for termination, abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home, substantial noncompliance with the permanency plans, persistent conditions, and severe child abuse. Following a bench trial, the trial court granted the petition as to the mother upon finding that DCS had proven by clear and convincing evidence the grounds of (1) abandonment by failure to provide a suitable home and (2) persistence of the conditions leading to removal. The court also found clear and convincing evidence that termination of the mother’s parental rights was in the children’s best interest. The mother has appealed.1 Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hawkins County Court of Appeals 11/25/14
In Re: Valena E.
W2014-00719-COA-R3-JV

The Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, and we therefore have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal. Consequently, this appeal is dismissed.

McNairy County Court of Appeals 11/25/14
Ann C. Akard v. Wayne F. Akard
E2013-00818-COA-R3-CV

This is a divorce case. After the trial court entered the final decree of divorce and awarded Wife/Appellee attorney’s fees associated with a motion to compel, Husband/Appellant filed this appeal. Although Husband did not formally file a motion to recuse either trial judge involved in this case, his appeal centers on alleged judicial and opposing counsel misconduct. Husband also seeks a new trial. We affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Appeals 11/25/14
State of Tennessee v. Justin William Voto
E2013-02652-CCA-R3-CD

In 2008, the Defendant, Justin William Voto, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and was granted judicial diversion for a period of ten years. In 2013, the Defendant’s supervising officer filed a warrant to revoke his judicial diversion based upon new charges. At subsequent hearings, the trial court revoked the Defendant’s judicial diversion, entered a judgment of conviction, and sentenced him to ten years of supervised probation. The Defendant filed a notice of appeal. While the appeal was pending, the Defendant’s probation officer filed a warrant to revoke his probation based upon the Defendant’s failure to follow probation requirements, and the trial court revoked the Defendant’s probation sentence and ordered him to serve his sentence in confinement. In this consolidated appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it revoked his judicial diversion and his probation sentence. The Defendant also asserts that the trial court’s imposition of a ten-year sentence was improper because  the proper range in this case is three to six years. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgment revoking the Defendant’s judicial diversion, vacate the ten-year sentence imposed, and remand for a sentencing hearing.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 11/24/14