Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 03/29/2015
Format: 03/29/2015
Josephine Whitthorne Young v. William F. Young, Jr.
W2014-02006-COA-R3-CV

This post-divorce dispute concerns a divorce decree that required husband to pay one-half of his retirement benefits to wife as alimony in solido. Fourteen years after the divorce, Husband returned to the trial court to terminate the payments on the ground that by the terms of the divorce decree, husband had been substantially overpaying wife. The trial court denied husband’s petition on the alternative grounds of res judicata, and a finding that the divorce decree obligated husband to pay wife one-half of the entire value of the retirement plan. We reverse the trial court’s determination that res judicata bars husband’s petition, but affirm as to the trial court’s interpretation of the divorce decree. Reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/26/15
State of Tennessee v. Courtney B. Matthews
M2005-00843-CCA-R3-CD

In 1996, a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury convicted the defendant, Courtney B. Matthews, of four counts of first degree felony murder and one count of especially aggravated robbery.  The jury sentenced the defendant to a term of life in prison without the possibility of parole for each first degree murder conviction, and the trial court sentenced the defendant to a term of 25 years in prison for the especially aggravated robbery.  The court ordered that all sentences be served consecutively.  On appeal, the defendant contends: (1) that he was denied due process in the delay of the preparation of his trial transcript and of the hearing on the motion for new trial; (2) that the trial court erred in not reopening the hearing on the motion for new trial; (3) that the trial court erred by permitting cameras in the courtroom during the trial; (4) that the cameras “invaded” the deliberations of the jury; (5) that the trial court should have changed venue due to the influence of pretrial publicity; (6) that the trial court erred by admitting photographs of the victims; (7) that the trial court erred by admitting DNA evidence; (8) that the trial court erred by certifying a state witness as an expert in DNA analysis; (9) that the trial court erred by admitting the testimony of the medical examiner; (10) that the trial court erred by permitting the medical examiner to utilize demonstrative aids during his testimony; (11) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions under a theory of criminal responsibility for the conduct of another; (12) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions under a theory of direct liability; (13) that the trial court violated his due process rights by “forcing” the state to proceed on inconsistent theories at his trial and the trial of his codefendant; (14) that the trial court erred by interrupting jury deliberations to provide an instruction on criminal responsibility for conduct of another; (15) that the convictions for especially aggravated robbery and felony murder violate double jeopardy principles; (16) that the evidence was insufficient to support the finding that the murders were heinous, atrocious, or cruel; (17) that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on certain non-statutory mitigating factors; and (18) that the trial court erred by imposing consecutive sentencing.  Upon hearing oral arguments and reviewing the briefs of the parties, the extensive record, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Montgomery County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/15
Terry Nelson v. Michael D. Ponce & Associates, PLLC
M2014-01079-COA-R3-CV

This is a legal malpractice case that was dismissed on grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellee law firm. The trial court denied Appellant’s motion to continue the hearing on the motion for summary judgment, and also struck Appellant’s filings in opposition to the motion for summary judgment as untimely. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 02/26/15
State of Tennessee v. Rubalddi Espinoza Yoc
M2014-01031-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Rubalddi Espinoza Yoc, was convicted by a jury of one count of possession with intent to sell 0.5 grams or more of a Schedule II controlled substance and one count of delivery of 0.5 grams or more of a Schedule II controlled substance.  The trial court merged the two counts and sentenced Defendant to nine years’ incarceration as a Range I, standard offender, with all but one year suspended on probation.  On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence.  Based upon our review of the record and legal authorities, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Bedford County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/15
William A. Osborne v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00458-CCA-R3-PC

A Sumner County jury convicted the Petitioner, William A. Osborne, of three counts of facilitation of aggravated burglary, one count of facilitation of theft of property valued more than $500, one count of theft of property valued between $1,000 and $10,000, and one count of theft of property valued between $500 and $1,000.  The trial court sentenced him as a career offender and ordered the Petitioner to serve an effective sentence of thirty-six years.  The Petitioner appealed, and this Court affirmed the judgments of the trial court.  State v. William A. Osborne, No. M2010-02412-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 1243243, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Nashville, Apr. 5, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 17, 2012).  The Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, in which he alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective on multiple grounds.  The post-conviction court dismissed the petition after a hearing.  After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

Sumner County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/15
Marques Johnson v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01419-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Marques Johnson, entered into a plea agreement in two separate cases.  In the first case, Petitioner pled guilty totwo counts of burglary of a motor vehicle and one count of theft of property valued over $500 and was sentenced to an effective sentence of six years.  In the second case, Petitioner pled guilty to two counts of burglary of a motor vehicle and one count of theft of property valued over $1,000 and was sentenced to an effective sentence of twelve years.  The trial court held a sentencing hearing and determined that the sentences should run consecutively, for a total effective sentence of eighteen years.  This Court affirmed that decision on direct appeal.  State v. Marques Sanchez Johnson, No. M2012-00169-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 5188136 (Tenn. Crim. App. Oct. 18, 2012), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Jan. 22, 2013).  Petitioner subsequently filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that he did not enter his plea knowingly and voluntarily.  Petitioner claimed that his trial counsel never informed him of his right to testify at the sentencing hearing or to make a statement of allocution.  After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief, finding that Petitioner had not proven his claim by clear and convincing evidence.  After a thorough review of the record, we affirm the decision of the post-conviction court. 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/15
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Scott Tucker
M2014-00861-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Jeffrey Scott Tucker, was convicted after a jury trial of assault, a Class A misdemeanor; assault of a law enforcement officer, a Class A misdemeanor; domestic assault, a Class A misdemeanor; and resisting arrest, a Class B misdemeanor.  The defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for the domestic assault conviction, contending that the testimony did not establish that the victim was in fear.  The simple assault conviction, which the parties agreed would merge with the domestic assault conviction, was dismissed by the trial court after the jury returned a verdict.  The defendant asserts that allowing the jury to consider the simple assault charge was error that affected his other convictions.  We conclude that the evidence is sufficient to sustain the verdicts. We further conclude that the jury properly considered the simple assault charge. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/26/15
Easter Baugh v. Larry Moore
M2013-0224-COA-R3-CV

In the first appeal of this action to quiet title to real property, which was the former home of the parties’ common ancestor, Plaintiff was declared the owner of the real estate. Thereafter, the same two parties disputed who owned the personal property in the home. The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing and determined that Plaintiff owned some of the personal property, and Defendant owned the remaining personal property. Being dissatisfied with that determination, Defendant filed a motion for new trial contending Plaintiff made false statements under oath, which was denied. In this appeal, Defendant contends the evidence preponderates against the trial court’s ruling concerning the ownership of the personal property. He also appeals the denial of his motion for a new trial. Because Defendant has not provided a verbatim transcript of the evidence or a statement of the evidence pursuant to Tenn. R. App. P. 24, we have no evidence to review. Lacking any evidence to review, we presume the evidence presented supports the trial court’s decisions. Defendant’s contention that he is entitled to a new trial must also fail because his motion was not supported by any evidence, and he offered nothing more than bare assertions that Plaintiff made false statements at trial. We find no merit to either contention and affirm the trial court in all respects. We have also determined that this appeal was devoid of merit; thus, it constitutes a frivolous appeal under Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-1-122. Accordingly, Plaintiff is entitled to recover the reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees and expenses she incurred on appeal. For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the trial court in all respects and remand with instructions for the trial court to award Plaintiff her reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees and expenses.

Coffee County Court of Appeals 02/25/15
Cindy A. Tinnel v. East Tennessee Ear, Nose and Throat Specialists, P.C. et al.
E2014-00906-COA-R3-CV

This is a medical malpractice action. Plaintiff filed a complaint after sending pre-suit notices to Defendants. After voluntarily dismissing the complaint, Plaintiff filed a second set of pre-suit notices before re-filing the complaint. The pre-suit notices were filed within one year of the voluntary dismissal. Defendants moved for summary judgment, alleging that the re-filed complaint was untimely because it was not filed within one year of the dismissal pursuant to the saving statute. Plaintiff responded that the re-filed complaint was timely because the pre-suit notices entitled her to a 120-day extension of the saving statute pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(c). The trial court dismissed the action. Plaintiff appeals. We reverse the decision of the trial court.

Anderson County Court of Appeals 02/25/15
City of Knoxville v. Carlos Geovanny Ponce-Carpio
E2014-00316-COA-R3-CV

In this appeal, the owner of a bar sought review of a citation he received for failure to display a beer permit. We affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 02/25/15
First American Title Insurance Company v. Citizens Bank
E2014-01105-COA-R3-CV

First American Title Insurance Company (“First American”) sued Citizens Bank seeking a declaratory judgment holding that First American had no liability to Citizens Bank for two specific transactions involving loan closings on real property located in Sevierville, Tennessee. First American filed a motion for summary judgment. After a hearing, the Chancery Court for Sevier County (“the Trial Court”) granted First American summary judgment and dismissed Citizens Bank’s counterclaim. Citizens Bank appeals to this Court raising issues regarding whether the Trial Court erred in finding that by assigning the mortgages and deeds of trust Citizens Bank also had assigned the two closing protection letters related to these specific transactions, and also that Citizens Bank’s counterclaim was barred because Citizens Bank failed to give First American timely notice of the settlement between Citizens Bank and the assignee of the mortgages.

Sevier County Court of Appeals 02/25/15
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Paul Lewis
E2014-00918-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Joshua Paul Lewis, was convicted of two counts of rape of a child, Class A felonies, and one count of attempted rape of a child, a Class B felony. He received twentyfive year sentences for the convictions for rape of a child and a ten-year sentence for attempted rape of a child, all to be served concurrently, for an effective sentence of twentyfive years. On this delayed appeal, the defendant argues that (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion for acquittal; and (3) the cumulative effect of the errors at trial deprived him of his right to a fair trial. After reviewing the record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Cumberland County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/15
State of Tennessee v. Joseph Sanford McNair, Jr.
E2014-00916-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Joseph Sanford McNair, Jr., was convicted by a Knox County Criminal Court jury of possession with the intent to sell more than 0.5 grams of cocaine in a drug-free zone, a Class B felony, possession with the intent to deliver more than 0.5 grams of cocaine in a drug-free zone, a Class B felony, and possession of marijuana, a Class A misdemeanor. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-417(a)(4) (2010) (amended 2012, 2014) (possession with intent to sell and to deliver), 39-17-432 (2014) (drug-free school zone), 39-17-418 (2010) (amended 2014) (possession of marijuana). The trial court merged the possession with the intent to deliver cocaine conviction with the possession with the intent to sell cocaine conviction and sentenced the Defendant to twelve years’ confinement. The court ordered concurrent service of eleven months and twenty-nine days for the marijuana possession conviction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction for possession with the intent to sell more than 0.5 grams of cocaine and (2) the court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/15
Cadence Bank, NA v. The Alpha Trust, et al.
W2014-01151-COA-R3-CV

In this action to collect on a promissory note, the trial court granted summary judgment to the bank. Appellants appeal the trial court’s decisions regarding whether the bank was properly doing business in the State of Tennessee and whether the Appellants’ two contract-based counter-claims fail as a matter of law. Discerning no error regarding the trial court’s finding that the bank was properly doing business in the State, we affirm the trial court’s ruling in that regard. We also affirm the trial court’s finding that the bank was entitled to summary judgment on the contract-based counterclaims.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/25/15
Cadence Bank, NA v. The Alpha Trust, et al. - Dissent
W2014-001151-COA-R3-CV

I agree with the result reached by the majority Opinion with regard to whether Cadence was properly authorized to bring this suit. I also concur in the majority’s conclusion that the Appellants cannot survive summary judgment on their claims arising from the parties’ written contract. I must respectfully dissent, however, from the majority’s holding that summary judgment was proper with regard to Appellants’ breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims concerning the alleged oral contract. My disagreement with the majority’s Opinion is two-fold. First, a genuine dispute of fact exists over whether the parties entered into a binding oral contract. Byrd v. Hall, 847 S.W.2d 208, 211 (Tenn. 1993). Second, contrary to the majority’s conclusion that no contract existed between the parties based on the omission of material terms, Tennessee law will uphold a contract’s formation even though one party has discretion to choose between material terms. Gurley v. King, 183 S.W.3d 30, 41 (Tenn. 2005). Accordingly, I would reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Cadence Bank on Appellants’ claims under the alleged oral contract.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 02/25/15
State of Tennessee v. Desmond Sykes
W2013-02005-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Desmond Sykes, of two counts of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective nine years in confinement. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress his statement to police and evidence obtained pursuant to his arrest because the police lacked probable cause for the arrest. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/15
State of Tennessee v. Joshua Jones
W2013-02119-CCA-R3-CD

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant of the aggravated assault of Jack Austin. The trial court sentenced the appellant as a Range II, multiple offender to ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence sustaining his conviction. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/15
Joshua Bishop v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00509-CCA-R3-PC

The petitioner, Joshua Bishop, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, arguing that the post-conviction court erred in finding that his guilty plea was knowing and voluntary. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/15
State of Tennessee v. Devin Rogers
W2013-02442-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Devin Rogers, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of aggravated robbery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced to eleven years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statement to police and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/15
State of Tennessee v. Willard V. Fleming
E2014-01137-CCA-R3-CD

A jury convicted the defendant, Willard V. Fleming, of facilitation of the sale of cocaine, a Class D felony; facilitation of keeping or maintaining a dwelling used for keeping or selling controlled substances, a Class E felony; and assault, a Class A misdemeanor. The defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and denial of his motion to acquit, asserting that the co-defendant’s testimony regarding the defendant’s involvement was insufficiently corroborated; that there was no proof that drugs were present because only lay testimony supported the conclusion that the substance sold was cocaine; that the evidence was insufficient to prove that the defendant maintained the dwelling; and that the confidential informant’s testimony did not establish the elements of assault. We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the verdicts, and we accordingly affirm.

Sullivan County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/25/15
Nazario Araguz v. State of Tennessee
M2014-01131-CCA-R3-PC

Petitioner, Nazario Araguz, was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to deliver 300 grams or more of cocaine in a drug-free school zone and possession with intent to deliver 300 grams or more of cocaine in a drug-free school zone.  He received concurrent seventeen-year sentences.  Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.  After a hearing, the post-conviction court denied relief.  On appeal, petitioner argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel did not properly advise him regarding his right to testify. Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court. 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/24/15
State of Tennessee v. Mark A. Crites
M2014-00560-CCA-R3-CD

Appellant, Mark A. Crites, was convicted of driving under the influence of an intoxicant (“DUI”), second offense.  The trial court sentenced him to eleven months and twenty-nine days in confinement.  On appeal, appellant argues that the assistant district attorney general committed prosecutorial misconduct in her closing argument and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.  Following our review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/24/15
State of Tennessee v. Jeffrey Gallaher
M2014-01232-CCA-R3-CD

Defendant, Jeffrey Gallaher, was indicted by the Lewis County Grand Jury for one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of introduction of contraband into a penal institution, and one count of possession of a schedule IV drug.  After a jury trial, Defendant was found not guilty of aggravated assault.  He was convicted of introduction of contraband into a penal institution and simple possession.   The trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective sentence of six years in incarceration as a Range II, multiple offender.  On appeal, Defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for the conviction for introduction of contraband into a penal institution.  He does not challenge the conviction for simple possession.  We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the conviction for introduction of contraband into a penal institution.  Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed. 

Lewis County Court of Criminal Appeals 02/24/15
Alison Fein (Young) Dahl v. Shawn Patrick Young
M2013-02854-COA-R3-CV

Mother and Father were divorced when their child was not quite two years old. Mother was named the primary residential parent. She remarried when the child was three years old and sought to relocate to Virginia when her husband was required to move there for his job. Father objected and sought to be named the primary residential parent. The evidence was undisputed that Mother’s stepson (the child’s stepbrother) committed an act of sexual abuse on the child when he was four and the stepson was ten. Counselors were retained to work with each child. Both counselors testified the situation was under control and Mother was taking proper precautions to protect the child. The trial court permitted Mother to relocate with the child, but it limited the number of days the stepbrother could spend with the child in Virginia. Mother appealed, claiming the trial court’s ruling was arbitrary. She also appealed the trial court’s ruling requiring her to pay the transportation costs of the child’s flights to Tennessee to visit Father, its credit to Father for childcare expenses on the child support worksheet, and its denial of her request for attorney’s fees. We vacate the court’s $250 childcare credit to Father because no evidence of this expense was offered at trial. We affirm the trial court’s judgment in all other respects.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 02/24/15
In Re Blaklyn M.
M2014-00503-COA-R3-JV

Father who filed petition to establish visitation with his child appeals the award of parenting time, contending that the parenting plan does not maximize his participation in the child’s life. Finding that the evidence preponderates against the parenting schedule ordered by the Court, we reverse the judgment and remand for the adoption of a plan that increases Father’s residential parenting time.

Sumner County Court of Appeals 02/24/15