Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 07/31/2015
Format: 07/31/2015
State of Tennessee v. Jeffery D. Aaron
M2014-01483-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Jeffery D. Aaron, was indicted by the Williamson County Grand Jury for driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI), and driving while his blood alcohol concentration was .08 percent or more (DUI per se). Prior to trial, the trial court granted Defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the state trooper’s stop of Defendant. The State appeals. After a thorough review of the record, relying upon our supreme court’s decision in State v. Brotherton, 323 S.W.3d 866 (Tenn. 2010), we conclude that the trooper had reasonable suspicion, based on specific and articulable facts, that Defendant had committed or was about to commit the Class C misdemeanor offense set forth in Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-8-123(1). Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is reversed.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/10/15
State of Tennessee v. Twanna Blair
E2014-01377-CCA-R3-CD
In this appeal, the State challenges the trial court’s dismissal of two counts of conspiracy to commit first degree premeditated murder, a Class A felony. Through a series of indictments, the State charged the defendant, Twanna Blair, with one count of conspiracy to commit first degree premeditated murder, three counts of felony murder, and one count of especially aggravated robbery, a Class A felony. The trial court consolidated the indictments and required the State to elect which offenses it wished to prosecute. The State chose not to prosecute the defendant on the charge of conspiracy to commit first degree premeditated murder and proceeded to trial on Count 2 of the indictment, especially aggravated robbery, and Counts 3, 4, and 5 of the indictment, felony murder. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury was deadlocked. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for acquittal as to Count 2. The trial court also granted the motion of acquittal for felony murder and the lesser included offense of second degree murder in Counts 3, 4, and 5. The trial court declared a mistrial in Counts 3, 4, and 5 for the remaining lesser included offense of facilitation of felony murder. After the mistrial, the State re-indicted the defendant for a host of offenses, including two counts of conspiracy to commit first degree premeditated murder. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the indictment, which the trial court granted. The State now appeals, challenging only the dismissal of the two counts of conspiracy to commit first degree premeditated murder. The State argues that: (1) the indictments are not barred by the statute of limitations; (2) the Double Jeopardy Clause does not prohibit the re-indictment of the defendant; and (3) Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 8 does not prevent an indictment for additional charges after the declaration of a mistrial. After thoroughly reviewing the record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we conclude that the indictments are not prohibited by the statute of limitations or the Double Jeopardy Clause but that the indictments constitute the “saving back” of charges that Rule 8 is intended to prevent. Accordingly, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 
Bradley County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/09/15
Frank Shackelton v. David B. Westbrook, Warden
M2015-00252-CCA-R3-HC

The pro se petitioner, Frank Shackleton, appeals the Davidson County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, arguing that his conviction and sentence are illegal and void because he pled guilty to an offense with a different date from the offense date in the indictment. Because the petitioner has failed to state a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/09/15
State of Tennessee v. Deandre D. Rucker
M2014-00742-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Deandre D. Rucker, was convicted of first degree premeditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to sever, the evidence is insufficient to sustain the conviction, and the court erred in denying a motion for a mistrial or a cautionary instruction because of prosecutorial misconduct during the State’s closing argument. Following our review, we conclude that the defendant’s first two assignments of error are without merit. However, we agree that the State’s closing argument was improper to such a degree that we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for a new trial.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/09/15
Stephanie Brummett Zarecor v. Glenn Payne Zarecor, Sr.
W2014-01579-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves a trial court's award of alimony in a divorce action. Wife filed for divorce in November 2012. Following a two-day trial, the trial court entered an order awarding Wife $10,000 as alimony in solido and transitional alimony of $1,000 per month for three years and, thereafter, $650 per month for an additional four years. Husband appealed the alimony awards. We affirm.

Tipton County Court of Appeals 07/09/15
Christopher Allen Cummins v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01197-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Christopher Allen Cummins, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court denying the petition.

Wayne County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/09/15
State of Tennessee v. Alfred Calvin Whitehead
M2014-00748-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Alfred Calvin Whitehead, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of possession of 0.5 gram or more of cocaine with the intent to deliver in a Drug-Free School Zone, a Class A felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-417(a)(4) (2010) (amended 2012, 2014) (possession of cocaine with intent to sell), 39-17-417(c)(1) (classifying the offense as a Class B felony), 39-17-432(b)(1) (2014) (requiring that offenses committed in a Drug Free School Zone be sentenced one classification higher and affecting the minimum required service and release eligibility of the sentence). The Defendant, a Range II offender, was sentenced to serve twenty-eight years with a minimum required service of twenty-five years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support the conviction, (2) the trial court erred in failing to grant a mistrial because a juror slept during a portion of the proof, (3) the trial court erred in permitting a police officer to testify as an expert witness, and (4) the sentence imposed constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/09/15
MLG Enterprises, LLC v. Richard Johnson
M2014-01205-COA-R3-CV

The lessor of commercial property brought this action for breach of a lease agreement against the tenant, a limited liability company, and the tenant’s president/owner, Richard Johnson, whom Plaintiff contends agreed to be personally liable for “all of tenant’s obligations” under the lease. Mr. Johnson signed the lease in two places. It is undisputed that his first signature was in a representative capacity on behalf of the tenant; the disputed issue is whether his second signature expresses a clear intent to be personally liable for the tenant’s obligations. After a default judgment was entered against the tenant, Mr. Johnson’s alleged personal liability was tried without a jury. At the close of Plaintiff’s proof, Mr. Johnson made an oral motion for involuntary dismissal. The trial court granted the motion, concluding that Mr. Johnson did not personally agree to be liable for the tenant’s obligations. This determination was based on the findings that Mr. Johnson was entitled to the presumption that he signed the lease in a representative capacity because he handwrote the words “for Mobile Master Mfg. L.L.C.” after his second signature, and that the sole provision in the lease, which states that he agreed to be personally liable, was not in capital or bold letters, nor was the one-sentence paragraph indented or otherwise emphasized. The court also noted that the signature provision at issue did not bear the title Guarantor. Plaintiff appealed. As the foregoing indicates, our review is benefited by the trial court’s Tenn. R. Civ. P. 41.02 findings of facts and conclusions of law, which disclose the reasoned steps by which the trial court reached its ultimate conclusion and enhance the authority of the trial court’s decision. Having reviewed the trial court’s findings of fact in accordance with Tenn. R. App. P. 13(d), we have concluded that the evidence does not preponderate against the trial court’s findings, and that the trial court identified and properly applied the applicable legal principles. For these reasons, we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 07/09/15
MLG Enterprises, LLC v. Richard Johnson - Dissenting
M2014-01205-COA-R3-CV

Because I conclude that the clear intent of the Lease Agreement was to bind Mr. Johnson individually, I respectfully dissent. As the majority states, “[a] cardinal rule of contractual interpretation is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the parties.” Allmand v. Pavletic, 292 S.W.3d 618, 630 (Tenn. 2009). The parties’ intent is determined through examination of the plain language of the contract as a whole. 84 Lumber Co. v. Smith, 356 S.W.3d 380, 383 (Tenn. 2011). In conducting this analysis, the hidden, subjective intent of the parties is of no value because the unexpressed intent of one party is not binding on another party without notice. Cone Oil Co. v. Green, 669 S.W.2d 662, 664 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1983). Interpretation of the parties’ intent is a matter of law subject to de novo review. 84 Lumber, 356 S.W.3d at 383.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 07/09/15
Bradley K. Lowe et al v. The Greene County Partnership et al.
E2015-00996-COA-R3-CV

This is an appeal from an order certified by the Trial Court as a final judgment pursuant to Rule 54.02 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. The Notice of Appeal was filed more than thirty (30) days from the date of entry of the judgment. The appellee, The Greene County Partnership, has filed a motion to dismiss this appeal based upon the untimely filing of the Notice of Appeal. Because the Notice of Appeal was not timely filed, we have no jurisdiction to consider this appeal and grant the motion to dismiss.

Greene County Court of Appeals 07/08/15
Shaun Alexander Hodge v. State of Tennessee
E2014-01005-CCA-R3-ECN

A Knox County Criminal Court Jury convicted the petitioner, Shaun Alexander Hodge, of first degree premeditated murder, and the trial court imposed a life sentence. Subsequently, the petitioner filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, arguing that he was entitled to a new trial based upon the recantation of a State witness. After an evidentiary hearing, the coram nobis court denied the petition, and the petitioner appeals. Based upon our review of the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/08/15
David Anthony Lajeniss v. State of Tennessee
E2014-01434-CCA-R3-PC
David Anthony Lajeniss (“the Petitioner”) filed a petition for post-conviction relief claiming that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that his guilty plea was involuntary and unknowing. After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/15
State of Tennessee v. Susan Gail Stephens
M2014-01270-CCA-R9-CD

In this interlocutory appeal, Susan Gail Stephens (“the Defendant”) challenges the prosecutor‟s denial of her application for pretrial diversion. She asks this court to remand the case to the prosecutor with instructions that the Defendant be granted pretrial diversion. She also asks us to instruct the prosecutor to grant pretrial diversion nunc pro tunc to the Defendant‟s 2012 update to her application for pretrial diversion. Upon review, we find that there is no substantial evidence in the record to support the denial of pretrial diversion. Accordingly, we reverse the order of the trial court and remand the case to the trial court with instructions that the Defendant be granted pretrial diversion upon the terms and conditions of the diversion to be established by the trial court. However, we decline to instruct that pretrial diversion be granted nunc pro tunc to 2012.

Coffee County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/15
State of Tennessee v. Vickie Lynn Perry
E2014-01088-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Vickie1 Lynn Perry, appeals her convictions for first degree murder and robbery, arguing: 1) that there is insufficient evidence to establish that she killed the victim while committing felony robbery; 2) that the State introduced improper evidence; 3) that the trial court improperly admitted evidence of a specific instance of conduct to impeach Defendant‟s character for truthfulness; and 4) that the State made improper remarks during its closing argument. After careful review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/15
State of Tennessee v. William Seigler
M2014-02559-CCA-R3-CD
The Appellant, William Seigler, is appealing the order of the trial court denying his “motion to correct sentence.” The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.
Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/15
State of Tennessee v. William Seigler
M2014-02559-CCA-R3-CD
The Appellant, William Seigler, is appealing the order of the trial court denying his “motion to correct sentence.” The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.
Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/15
State of Tennessee v. William Seigler
M2014-02559-CCA-R3-CD
The Appellant, William Seigler, is appealing the order of the trial court denying his “motion to correct sentence.” The State has filed a motion asking this Court to affirm pursuant to Court of Criminal Appeals Rule 20. Said motion is hereby granted.
Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/15
State of Tennessee v. Michael Anthony Smith
M2014-01930-CCA-R3-CD

In a plea agreement encompassing several cases, the Defendant, Michael Anthony Smith, pleaded no contest to one count of theft of property valued over $1,000, one count of sale of a Schedule II drug, one count of sale of a Schedule IV drug, and one count of theft of property valued less than $500. In exchange for his plea, the State dismissed several charges against him. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of nine years to be served on supervised probation. It also ordered that he successfully complete the 23rd Judicial Drug Court Program and pay restitution. Subsequently, the Defendant’s probation officer filed a warrant, alleging that he had ceased to participate in the 23rd Judicial Drug Court Program. At a hearing, the Defendant admitted the violation, and the trial court revoked his probation and ordered him to serve the remainder of his sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it ordered him to serve his sentence in confinement. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

Humphreys County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/15
Margaret Smith v. HSBC Mortgage Services, Inc., et al.
W2014-01070-COA-COA-R3-CV

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

Shelby County Court of Appeals 07/07/15
State of Tennessee v. Terrance E. Kindall
M2014-01680-CCA-R3-CD

The appellant, Terrance E. Kindall, appeals the Rutherford County Circuit Court’s revoking his community corrections sentence for carjacking and ordering that he serve the balance of his sentence in confinement. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the appellant was statutorily ineligible for community corrections. Therefore, the appellant’s community correction sentence is vacated, and the case is remanded to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the illegal sentence was a bargained-for element of the appellant’s plea agreement.  

Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/15
State of Tennessee v. Michael G. Kohlmeyer
M2014-01359-CCA-R3-CD
A Humphreys County jury convicted the Defendant, Michael G. Kohlmeyer, of two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, a Class D felony, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of two years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress photographs and videos police officers found on his cellular telephone because the police officers did not have consent to search the phone or probable cause to view photographs and videos on the phone. After review, we affirm the convictions and sentences. We remand the case to the trial court for the entry of corrected judgments reflecting that the convictions and sentences are for sexual exploitation of a minor rather than attempted sexual exploitation of a minor.
Humphreys County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/15
State of Tennessee v. Rodney Jeffries
W2014-02464-CCA-R3-CD

Rodney Jeffries, the Defendant, appeals the summary dismissal of his Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1 motion to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence. Discerning no error, we affirm the summary dismissal of his motion.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/07/15
State of Tennessee v. Gary Hamilton
E2014-01585-CCA-R9-CD

Gary Hamilton (“the Defendant”) seeks interlocutory review of the district attorney general‟s denial of his application for pretrial diversion and the trial court‟s affirmance of that denial. The Defendant, a former teacher‟s assistant, was charged with assault after engaging in an altercation with a student at the school where he was employed. The district attorney general denied the Defendant‟s application for pretrial diversion. The Defendant filed a petition for writ of certiorari to the trial court, challenging the denial, and the trial court upheld the district attorney general‟s decision. On appeal, the Defendant argues that the district attorney general abused his discretion in denying pretrial diversion and that the trial court erred when it found no abuse of discretion. Upon review of the record and applicable law, we hold that the trial court did not properly review the district attorney general‟s decision to deny pretrial diversion. Additionally, although the district attorney general considered all the relevant pretrial diversion factors and did not consider any irrelevant factors, the record does not contain substantial evidence supporting the denial of pretrial diversion. Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the trial court and remand with instructions that the Defendant be granted pretrial diversion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/15
State of Tennessee v. John Clayton Fields III
M2014-01691-CCA-R3-CD
The defendant, James Clayton Fields II, appeals the determinations of sentencing and judicial diversion made by the Cheatham County Circuit Court. The defendant’s convictions of aggravated assault and three counts of child abuse and his effective three-year sentence all resulted from his nolo contendere pleas. The State did not oppose judicial diversion, and the manner of service of the effective sentence was left to the trial court’s determination. The defendant appeals the trial court’s denial of probation and judicial diversion and the order to serve the three-year effective sentence in confinement. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.
Cheatham County Circuit, Criminal & Chancery Courts 07/06/15
State of Tennessee v. Drennard T. Riley
M2014-01360-CCA-R3-CD
The appellant, Drennard T. Riley, appeals the Rutherford County Circuit Court’s revoking his community corrections sentences for aggravated burglary and robbery and ordering that he serve the balance of his effective ten-year sentence in confinement. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.
Rutherford County Court of Criminal Appeals 07/06/15