Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 02/08/2016
Format: 02/08/2016
State of Tennessee v. Kervin Jackson
W2015-00134-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Kervin Jackson, was convicted of first degree murder for the shooting death of his brother-in-law. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction because the State failed to establish premeditation. After a review of the evidence and authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/16
State of Tennessee v. Joe Travis Northern
W2015-01364-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Joe Travis Northern, appeals the dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence. Because the defendant has failed to prepare an adequate record for review, we affirm.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/08/16
State of Tennessee v. James Dickerson
M2014-02238-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, James Dickerson, appeals his Montgomery County Circuit Court jury convictions of aggravated sexual battery and rape of a child, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions and that the trial court erred by admitting certain evidence at trial.  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/07/16
State of Tennessee v. Jacob R. Mowery
M2015-00250-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Jacob R. Mowery, appeals the revocation of his probation, asserting that there was insufficient evidence to support the revocation.  After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court revoking the defendant’s probation and ordering him to serve his original sentence in confinement.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/07/16
Jeffrey S. Whitaker v. State of Tennessee
E2014-02240-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Jeffrey S. Whitaker, appeals the Roane County Criminal Court's dismissal of his second petition for post-conviction relief. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that the one-year statute of limitations should be tolled based on the later-arising claims doctrine and the discovery rule of contract law, that his plea agreement was breached when his judgments were corrected to show a release eligibility of 100% and when the trial court imposed partially consecutive sentences, and that the post-conviction court erred in failing to apply the doctrine of judicial estoppel against the State. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Roane County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/07/16
Janice Gail Mory v. Daniel Keith Mory
W2015-00423-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises out of a divorce case. The husband asserts that the trial court erred in classifying, valuing, and distributing the parties’ marital property. Because the husband failed to comply with Rule 7 of the Rules of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee, we deem his issues regarding the marital property division to be waived. The trial court’s decision is accordingly affirmed.

Henry County Court of Appeals 01/07/16
Guyoka Bonner v. Sgt. Cagle, et al.
W2015-01609-COA-R3-CV

An inmate sought a writ of certiorari challenging the decision of the prison disciplinary board, alleging both a violation of his due process rights and a violation of the Uniform Disciplinary Procedures. The trial court granted a motion for judgment on the pleadings based upon the Tennessee Supreme Court's holding in Willis v. Tennessee Department of Correction, 113 S.W.3d 706 (Tenn. 2003). We affirm the dismissal of the inmate's due process claim but reverse the trial court's decision to grant the motion for judgment on the pleadings of the inmate's claim related to the alleged failure to comply with the Uniform Disciplinary Procedures. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

Lake County Court of Appeals 01/07/16
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Stephens
E2014-02514-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Rodney Stephens, was convicted by a Campbell County Criminal Court jury of aggravated stalking. T.C.A. § 39-17-315(c)(1)(E) (2010) (amended 2012). The court sentenced the Defendant to three years, with sixty day' confinement and the remainder to be served on probation. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in allowing the trial to proceed despite the absence of a police officer and (2) the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction. We modify the judgment of conviction for aggravated stalking to one for misdemeanor stalking, and we remand the case for sentencing and entry of a judgment of conviction for misdemeanor stalking.

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/06/16
State of Tennessee v. June Curtis Loudermilk
W2015-00222-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, June Curtis Loudermilk, appeals his sentence for driving under the influence (“DUI”), third offense, a Class A misdemeanor, which was imposed upon remand after this Court modified his original conviction for DUI, fourth offense, a Class E felony. He argues that the sentence is illegal because, during his first direct appeal, he completed a probationary period which exceeded the statutory maximum punishment for a Class A misdemeanor. We conclude that Defendant’s sentence is not illegal because he was not on probation pending the resolution of his direct appeal. Therefore, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Stephens - dissenting
E2014-02514-CCA-R3-CD

I respectfully dissent with the conclusions of the majority that a rational trier of fact could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that Defendant possessed the culpable mental state of knowingly violating an order of protection. On direct examination, Defendant acknowledged that he was served “with something” when he left the jail. On cross-examination, Defendant admitted that he knew that there was an order telling him not to have contact with his wife when he left the jail. He acknowledged that somebody had given him a copy of the order and he showed it to the officer who stopped him a few minutes later. Finally, he agreed with the State that he was not “trying to tell the folks of the jury that [he] didn’t know that [he was] not allowed to have contact with [Ms. Stephens]” and he knew that there was an order of protection

Campbell County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/06/16
State of Tennessee v. Billy S. Watson
E2015-00525-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Billy S. Watson, appeals his McMinn County Criminal Court jury convictions of aggravated burglary, attempted theft, and vandalism, claiming that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. Discerning no error, we affirm.

McMinn County Court of Criminal Appeals 01/05/16
In re Rainee M.
E2015-00491-COA-R3-PT

In this action, a minor child’s foster parents petitioned to adopt the child and terminate the parental rights of her biological father. A previous action seeking to terminate the father’s parental rights had been filed by the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (“DCS”) in a different court. The prior case resulted in termination of the father’s parental rights, but the ruling was reversed on appeal. The foster parents filed the instant action during the pendency of the appeal in the first matter. The father filed a motion to dismiss the instant petition, which the trial court denied, proceeding to conduct a trial on the merits. Following the trial, the court took the matter under advisement and subsequently entered an order terminating the father’s parental rights. The father has appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Washington County Court of Appeals 12/30/15
James Anthony Moore v. Michael Gaut
E2015-00340-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiff James Anthony Moore was at Defendant Michael Gaut’s residence to do maintenance on his satellite dish when he was bitten by Defendant’s dog, a Great Dane. The dog was in Defendant’s fenced-in backyard, Plaintiff was on the other side of the fence, and the dog bit Plaintiff on his face. The trial court granted Defendant summary judgment based on its finding that there was no evidence that Plaintiff knew or should have known that the dog had any dangerous propensities. On appeal, Plaintiff argues that the large size of the Great Dane, a breed Plaintiff characterizes as being in a “suspect class,” should be enough, standing alone, to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Plaintiff should have known the dog had dangerous propensities. We disagree and affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Knox County Court of Appeals 12/30/15
In re Estate of Sally Layton
E2015-00624-COA-R3-CV

In this case, we are called upon to determine whether an exception to a claim against an estate was timely filed. Sally Layton (the decedent) died intestate. On the day before the one-year anniversary of her death, Blounts Operator, LLC, dba Greystone Healthcare Center, the operator of a nursing home, petitioned the trial court for letters of administration on the decedent's estate. The court granted the petition the same day. Also on the same day, Blounts filed a claim against the estate. Elizabeth Layton, one of the decedent's children, later filed an exception to Blounts's claim. The exception was filed within five months of the first notice to creditors. The trial court held that the exception was timely filed. The court reduced the amount of the claim. Blounts appeals, arguing only that the exception was not timely filed. We affirm the trial court's judgment as to the timeliness of the filing of the exception.

Washington County Court of Appeals 12/30/15
Lorenza Zackery v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00890-CCA-R3-ECN

Lorenza Zackery (“the Petitioner”) pleaded guilty to two counts of rape of a child.  Subsequently, the Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Error Coram Nobis (“the Petition”) alleging “newly discovered evidence” in the form of an affidavit from the Petitioner stating that the victim testified in a 2009 juvenile court hearing that she had no sexual contact with the Petitioner until she was fifteen years old.  The coram nobis court denied relief.  On appeal, the Petitioner argues that (1) due process requires that the statute of limitations be tolled; (2) the coram nobis court should have held an evidentiary hearing because the newly discovered evidence shows that the Petitioner was “factually innocent” of the crime of rape of a child; and (3) the State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963) when it failed to provide the Petitioner with a record of the juvenile hearing.[1]  Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/15
Jared S. Aguilar v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00430-CCA-R3-PC

Jared S. Aguilar (“the Petitioner”) filed a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief alleging ineffective assistance of counsel.  After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief.  On appeal, the Petitioner argues that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel when she (1) decided not to obtain the services of an expert witness for the defense without consulting the Petitioner and (2) ignored the Petitioner’s specific request that she cross-examine the State’s experts “on areas such as the contradicting of computer expert reports vs. the expert’s in-court testimony and whether [the Petitioner’s] estranged wife had ‘set him up.’”  Upon review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/15
Jason Curtis Johnson v. State of Tennessee
M2015-00258-CCA-R3-PC

Jason Curtis Johnson (“the Petitioner”) was convicted of one count of first degree premeditated murder and one count of second degree murder for the shooting death of Christy Waller and her unborn child.  He was sentenced to life plus twenty-five years.  In this post-conviction proceeding, the Petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel for the following reasons: (1) trial counsel’s “inadequate trial preparation and performance”; (2) trial counsel’s “errors concerning [the] Petitioner’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair and impartial jury”; (3) trial counsel’s failure to have evidence tested; (4) “trial errors”; (5) trial counsel’s failure to object to a State’s witness commenting on the Petitioner’s right to testify; (6) trial counsel’s failure to object to “prosecutorial misconduct”; (7) trial counsel’s failure to present proof as to the viability of the fetus and appellate counsel’s failure to present the issue on appeal; (8) appellate counsel’s failure to “fully raise the issue of sufficiency of the evidence”; and (9) trial counsel’s failure to put on any evidence of mitigating factors during the sentencing hearing.  Additionally, the Petitioner claims that (1) his Fifth Amendment rights were violated because his Miranda waivers and confessions were not voluntary; (2) his Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated because that right had attached before the police questioned the Petitioner; and (3) his “Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial was violated by the use of Tennessee’s unconstitutional sentencing scheme.”  Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief.  Upon review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Wilson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/15
Brian Le Hurst v. State of Tennessee
M2014-02083-CCA-R3-PC

In 2010, Brian Le Hurst (“the Petitioner”) was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder in the death of Eddie Dean Evans and sentenced to life.  The Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the Davidson County Criminal Court denied following a hearing.  On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred in denying relief on his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct.  Specifically, he asserts that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to:  (1) complete ballistics testing on the bullet recovered from the victim; (2) object to the prosecutor’s closing argument; (3) object to the admission into evidence of a phone call from the victim on the basis of the Confrontation Clause; (4) object to the admission of allegedly irrelevant information from the Petitioner’s computer; and (5) object to the testimony of two of the State’s witnesses.  Regarding his claim of prosecutorial misconduct, the Petitioner contends that the prosecutor made multiple arguments during closing argument that were not supported by the evidence.  Following a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/15
State of Tennessee v. Cumecus R. Cates
E2015-00035-CCA-R3-CD

Cumecus R. Cates (“the Defendant”) entered a global plea agreement to two Class B felony drug offenses and two Class C felony drug offenses and was sentenced to eight years for each Class B felony drug offense and three years for each Class C felony drug offense. Pursuant to the agreement, the three-year sentence in case number 68311 was aligned concurrently with the eight-year sentence in case number 68366, the three-year sentence in case number 68367 was aligned concurrently with the eight-year sentence in case number 68827, and the two eight-year sentences were aligned consecutively for an effective sentence of sixteen years. Thereafter, the Defendant filed a Rule 36.1 motion claiming that the concurrent alignment of one of his three-year sentences with one of his eight-year sentences was illegal because he was released on bail for the other felonies when he committed the second Class B felony. At the motion hearing, the State conceded a mandatory consecutive sentence was illegally aligned concurrently and that the Defendant was sentenced pursuant to a plea agreement. On motion of the State, the trial court vacated the judgments for the two Class C felonies. The trial court then determined that the illegal provisions of the now-vacated judgments were not material components of the plea because the Defendant's effective sentence of sixteen years remained after the convictions for the illegal sentences were vacated. Upon review, we reverse the trial court's order vacating the Defendant's judgments of conviction and remand the case for reinstatement of the judgments of conviction and for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/15
State of Tennessee v. Thomas George Headla
E2015-00560-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Thomas George Headla, pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court for Sevier County to driving under the influence (DUI), a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. § 55-10-401 (2012) (amended 2013, 2015). The trial court sentenced the Defendant to eleven months, twenty-nine days suspended to probation after forty-eight hours in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant presents a certified question of law regarding the legality of the traffic stop. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Sevier County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/30/15
Mary Hovatter v. JDAK, LLC, et al.
M2015-01015-SC-R3-WC

An employee developed carpal tunnel syndrome. Her employer provided medical treatment until the authorized treating physician opined the condition did not arise primarily from her work. The employer then denied the claim. At trial, the employee presented the testimony of an evaluating physician who opined her work was the primary cause of the condition. The trial court found the employee had successfully rebutted the opinion of the authorized treating physician, as required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 50-6-102(12)(C)(ii). It further found the condition arose primarily from her employment, as required by section 50-6-102(12)(A)(ii) and awarded benefits. The employer appeals. 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 pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51. We affirm.

Robertson County Workers Compensation Panel 12/30/15
Johnny Braden v. M&W Transportation Co., Inc., et al.
M2015-00555-SC-R3-WC

Johnny Braden (“Employee”) suffered a compensable injury to his right elbow in April 2005 while working for M&W Transportation (“Employer”). Within six months of returning to work, Employee began experiencing pain in his right shoulder and numbness in his hand. He received treatment over the next two years and eventually was assigned a seven percent (7%) partial permanent disability rating. Three different insurance companies covered Employer during the time of Employee’s treatment. Each insurer disclaimed liability for the eventual disability. The trial court found the disability to be a direct and natural consequence of the original injury and assigned liability to the first insurer. The insurer appealed, asserting that liability for the shoulder and hand conditions should be assigned to the subsequent insurers based on the “last day worked rule.” Pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 51, 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. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.
 

Williamson County Workers Compensation Panel 12/30/15
Emma Jean Anderson v. James Kenneth Lowry, et al
M2014-01107-COA-R3-CV

This appeal originated from a boundary line dispute between adjacent landowners. In this boundary line dispute, the trial court: (1) determined the boundary line that divides the parties’ properties; (2) awarded treble damages to Appellee for timber that had been removed from the disputed property by the Appellant; (3) set aside the quitclaim deed recorded the day before the trial by Appellant as a fraudulent conveyance; and (4) awarded attorney fees to Appellee for the expenses incurred in prosecuting the petition to set aside the quitclaim deed as a fraudulent conveyance. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.
 

Putnam County Court of Appeals 12/30/15
Deanne G. Roney v. Linda F. Nordhaus
M2014-02496-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal from the entry of a five-year order of protection. The general sessions court entered an ex parte order of protection on behalf of the Appellee against the Appellant. After a hearing, the general sessions court entered a one-year order of protection. Appellant appealed this order to the Circuit Court for Smith County. After a hearing, the trial court concluded that Appellant had violated the previous order of protection and extended the order of protection to five years. Because the trial court did not make sufficient findings of fact to support its conclusion that Appellant violated a previous order of protection, we conclude the trial court did not meet the requirements of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 52.01. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court’s judgment and remand.
 

Smith County Court of Appeals 12/30/15
Carrie M. Thompson v. Stephen Matthew Thompson
M2014-02124-COA-R3-CV

Father appeals the parenting schedule that substantially restricts his parenting time. Without making any findings of fact, the trial court restricted Father’s parenting time to 48 hours per month, with no overnight visitation, until the child is three years old. Father contends the severe restrictions on his parenting time are not supported by the evidence. He further contends the trial court erred by severely limiting his parenting time without making any finding that he was guilty of conduct that affected his ability to parent pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-406(d). In all actions tried upon the facts without a jury, the trial court is required, pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 52.01, to find the facts specially, state separately its conclusions of law, and enter judgment accordingly. The underlying rationale for this mandate is that it facilitates appellate review by affording a clear understanding of the basis of the trial court’s decision; in the absence of findings of fact and conclusions of law, this court is left to wonder on what basis the court reached its ultimate decision. In this case, the trial court did not identify the legal principles it applied or the factual basis for its decision; therefore, it failed to satisfy the Rule 52.01 mandate. Because the trial judge has retired and both parties wish to avoid the cost of a new trial, the parties have requested that we conduct a de novo review of the record, and we have determined that the transcript of the evidence is sufficient for this court to conduct a de novo review to determine where the preponderance of the evidence lies. See Gooding v. Gooding, __ S.W.3d __, No. M2014-01595-COA-R3-CV, 2015 WL 1947239, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 29, 2015). We find Father’s inappropriate statements and conduct concerning the child’s genitals are directly adverse to the best interests of the child. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-6-406(d). We also find that the evidence preponderates in favor of a finding of neglect and substantial nonperformance of Father’s parenting responsibilities to such a degree as to be adverse to the best interest of the child. See id. Accordingly, we affirm the parenting plan that substantially restricts Father’s parenting time.

Rutherford County Court of Appeals 12/30/15