Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 04/25/2014
Format: 04/25/2014
Marsha Hicks v. Jennifer Prahl
E2013-00285-COA-R3-CV

This negligence action arose from an automobile accident occurring on October 8, 2009, in Knox County. The plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit on September 7, 2010, alleging that the defendant was negligent in the operation of her vehicle, causing the rear-end collision. A jury trial was held November 8-13, 2012, at the conclusion of which the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. The plaintiff filed a motion for new trial and a supplemental motion for new trial. The trial court denied these motions, determining that the evidence preponderated in favor of the jury’s verdict. The plaintiff timely appealed. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/25/14
In Re Jordan H.
E2013-01731-COA-R3-JV

In this child support enforcement action, the trial court granted the State, on behalf of the minor child’s mother, an arrearage award of $16,753.49 against the child’s father. The trial court found that the father’s sole source of income was his federal Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) and ordered the father to pay his entire lump-sum SSI payment to Child Support Enforcement. Father appeals. We affirm the trial court’s judgment only as to the amount of the arrearage. We reverse the portion of the trial court’s judgment attaching the father’s SSI benefits and remand for correction of the judgment.

Cocke County Court of Appeals 03/25/14
State of Tennessee v. Chavis Ricardo Douglas
M2011-02464-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant, Chavis Ricardo Douglas, pled guilty to possession of 300 grams or more of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver, possession of between one-half ounce and ten pounds of marijuana with intent to sell or deliver, possession of drug paraphernalia, felon in possession of a weapon, and two counts of possession or casual exchange of marijuana. After the entry of his guilty plea, but before sentencing, the Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, which the trial court denied after a hearing. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to an effective sentence of forty-two years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant claims that the trial court erred when it did not find a "fair and just reason" to allow the Defendant to withdraw his plea. After a thorough review of the applicable law and the record, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/25/14
State of Tennessee v. Donald King
M2013-01530-CCA-R3-CD

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant, Donald King, of sale of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a drug free school zone. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to twelve years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant contends that the trial court erred when it limited the scope of cross-examination of two witnesses, and that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we discern no error in the judgment of the trial court. Accordingly, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/25/14
Bradley Wells v. Chattanooga Bakery, Inc., et al
M2013-00935-COA-R3-CV

Plaintiff brought suit against defendants alleging the unlawful use of his image and likeness and asserting statutory claims for violation of the Tennessee Personal Rights Protection Act and the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and common law claims for unjust enrichment, accounting, and conversion. Upon defendants’ motion, the trial court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on complete preemption by the Copyright Act. We affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/25/14
State of Tennessee v. Danny Owens
M2012-02717-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Appellant, Danny Owens, was indicted by a Lawrence County Grand Jury for the first degree premeditated murder of his wife. At trial, Owens was convicted of second degree murder. The trial court sentenced Owens as a Range I, standard offender to a sentence of twenty years at one hundred percent release eligibility. On appeal, Owens argues: (1) the trial court erred in admitting evidence that he had threatened to kill the victim shortly before her death; (2) the trial court erred in admitting statements from the victim; (3) the trial court erred in allowing the State to exceed the scope of redirect examination in its questioning of a witness; (4) the trial court erred in admitting witnesses’ observations of the victim’s bruises; (5) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction; (6) he is entitled to relief based on cumulative error; and (7) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Lawrence County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/14
State of Tennessee v. Leonard Giles, Jr.
M2013-01037-CCA-R3-CD

The Defendant-Appellant, Leonard Giles, Jr., appeals the Williamson County Circuit Court’s revocation of his probation. On appeal, Giles argues (1) the special condition of his probation prohibiting him from driving or possessing a vehicle is invalid; (2) the trial court erred in failing to consider the invalidity of this special condition during his revocation hearing; (3) the admission of witness statements at the revocation hearing violated his right of confrontation; and (4) the cumulative effect of the aforementioned errors deprived him of his right to a fair trial. Upon review, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/24/14
State of Tennessee v. Terry Mcree
W2013-00194-CCA-R3-CD

A jury convicted the defendant of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony, and he was sentenced to twelve years’ imprisonment. The defendant appeals, alleging that the trial court erred in: (1) denying his motion to suppress and admitting an incriminating statement he made to police; (2) refusing to allow him to introduce the contents of a learned treatise during the cross-examination of a witness; (3) limiting closing argument; (4) excluding  character evidence; (5) denying his motions for judgment of acquittal and for a new trial on the basis of insufficient evidence; and (6) improperly applying the enhancing and mitigating factors during sentencing. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that there was no error, and we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Neal Stiles
W2013-01164-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Timothy Neal Stiles, was convicted by a jury of theft of property valued over $1,000 but under $10,000, a Class D felony. After trial, defense counsel investigated the ownership of the stolen vehicle, along with other discrepancies at trial, and introduced this evidence at the sentencing hearing and the hearing on the motion for a new trial. The trial court denied his motion for a new trial, and the defendant appeals. He asserts as error that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support the verdict; (2) a variance exists between the crime charged in the indictment and the proof at trial; (3) the State knowingly presented false testimony or withheld exculpatory material; and (4) the trial court refused to authorize the court reporter to transcribe the sentencing hearing. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude there was no error and affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Tipton County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Alvin Waller Jr.
W2012-02591-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Alvin “A.J.” Waller, Jr., was convicted after a jury trial of especially aggravated kidnapping, a Class A felony, aggravated assault, a Class C felony, and attempted voluntary manslaughter, a Class D felony. The trial court merged the attempted voluntary manslaughter conviction into the aggravated assault conviction and sentenced the defendant to ten years as a multiple offender on that count. The trial court sentenced the defendant to thirty years as a multiple offender at one hundred percent for the especially aggravated kidnapping conviction and ordered the two sentences to be served concurrently. The defendant appeals, challenging only the sufficiency of the evidence. After a thorough review of the record, we conclude that the evidence is insufficient to support the defendant’s conviction for attempted voluntary manslaughter. In all other respects, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/21/14
State of Tennessee v. Dwayne Wright
W2013-00433-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Dwayne Wright, was convicted of one count of aggravated rape, a Class A felony, and sentenced to twenty-four years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he raises five issues for our review: (1) whether the evidence is sufficient to support the conviction; (2) whether the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion for the jury to visit the crime scene; (3) whether the trial court properly allowed the victim to testify regarding prior sexual abuse; (4) whether the trial court properly ruled that the victim’s statements were admissible under the excited utterance hearsay exception; and (5) whether the sentence imposed is proper. Following review of the record, we affirm the judgment and sentence as imposed.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/21/14
Tonie V. Peterson v. Glenn E. Lepard, et al.
W2013-00367-COA-R3-CV

This case arises from the dismissal of the Appellant’s lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Shelby County for failure to timely perfect her appeal from General Sessions Court. Appellant filed her notice of appeal with the 24-hour General Sessions Criminal Clerk’s Office, but did not pay costs or bond because the 24-hour clerk’s office does not accept any payments for civil matters. As a result, Appellant’s bond was not paid until the eleventh day after the General Sessions Court’s judgment was entered, and was therefore outside the ten-day filing period. Tenn. Code Ann. § 27-5-108. Consequently, the trial court dismissed Appellant’s appeal for lack of jurisdiction. Discerning no error, we affirm and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/20/14
Tonie V. Peterson v. Glenn E. Lepard, et al. - Concurring Opinion
W2013-00367-COA-R3-CV

Because the requirements of Tennessee Code Annotated section 27-5-103 were clearly not met in this case, I concur fully in the result reached in this case. However, I write separately again to express my disagreement with this Court’s holding in Bernatsky v. Designer Baths & Kitchens, L.L.C., No. W2012-00803-COA-R3, 2013 WL 593911 (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 15, 2013) namely, that the statutory requirement of giving “bond with good security” for “the cost of the cause on appeal” is not satisfied by paying an initial filing fee. I find the statute unambiguous, and therefore, there is no need to attempt to discern legislative intent based upon the less than compelling legislative history of various statutory schemes relied upon by the majority in Bernatsky.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 03/20/14
State of Tennessee v. Timothy Davale Martin
M2013-00569-CCA-R3-CD

A Davidson County jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Timothy Davale Martin, of attempted especially aggravated robbery, attempted second degree murder, attempted aggravated robbery, and aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced him as a Range I, standard offender to an effective sentence of thirteen years in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions; (2) the trial court committed plain error in failing to merge the convictions for attempted aggravated robbery and aggravated assault; and (3) the trial court erred in imposing a sentence of confinement. Upon review, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the convictions. However, the Defendant’s dual convictions for attempted aggravated robbery and aggravated assault violate double jeopardy protections. Accordingly, we vacate his aggravated assault conviction in count four and remand the matter to the trial court for entry of an amended judgment reflecting the merger of the Defendant’s aggravated assault conviction into his attempted aggravated robbery conviction in count two. The judgments of the trial court are affirmed in all other respects.

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/20/14
State of Tennessee v. Michael Goodrum
M2012-02066-CCA-R3-CD

A Maury County jury convicted the Defendant-Appellant, Michael Goodrum, of one count of possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to sell within 1,000 feet of a park, a Class B felony, and one count of possession of .5 grams or more of cocaine with the intent to sell within 1,000 feet of a public school, a Class A felony. See T.C.A. §§ 39-17-417, -432 (2008). The trial court merged the two counts into one conviction and sentenced the Defendant as a Range I, standard offender to fifteen years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant argues that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court improperly excused a prospective juror; (3) the trial court erred in submitting his case to the jury for deliberation; and (4) application of the Drug-Free School Zone Act violated his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/20/14
State of Tennessee v. Russell Victor McCollum
M2012-00941-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Russell Victor McCollum, was convicted by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of three counts of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony, and one count of failure to appear, a Class E felony, and was sentenced to an effective term of twenty-two years in the Department of Correction. On appeal, he challenges the sufficiency of the evidence convicting him of aggravated sexual battery and the trial court’s consolidating the aggravated sexual battery and failure to appear indictments for trial. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.
 

Davidson County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/20/14
James Allen Austin v. Marely Torres
M2012-01219-COA-R3-CV

The divorced father of an seven year old child filed a petition to transfer custody of the child from the mother to himself. The trial court heard expert proof that the child suffered from a rare genetic disorder that can cause grave neurological consequences if the child’s diet is not strictly controlled. The mother’s testimony indicated that she was unconvinced that the child had a disorder and that she was unwilling to adjust the child’s diet to meet his medical needs. The court found that there had been a material change of circumstances and that it was in the best interest of the child that custody be transferred to the father, with the mother’s visitation limited to fifty days per year. The mother argues on appeal that the trial court’s order should be reversed because it committed a number of procedural errors in the course of the custody proceedings. We affirm the trial court.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 03/20/14
In Re: Anna L. J.
M2013-00561-COA-R3-JV

Husband and wife in dependent and neglect proceeding who were each held in criminal contempt for violating an order that they have no contact with other parties to the proceeding appeal their convictions, the sentences imposed, and other rulings of the trial court. We affirm the holding that the husband was in contempt, vacate the sentence imposed and remand the case for resentencing. We affirm the holding that the wife was in indirect contempt and the sentence imposed; we reverse the holding that wife was in direct contempt. In all other respects we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Williamson County Court of Appeals 03/20/14
In Re: Anna L. J. - Concurring
M2013-00561-COA-R3-JV

I write separately to emphasize the point that trial courts should not automatically impose the maximum sentence when consecutive sentencing is available; this is due in part to the recognition that “not every contemptuous act, or combination of contemptuous acts, justifies the imposition of a maximum sentence, particularly when consecutive sentencing is in play.” Simpkins v. Simpkins, 374 S.W.3d 413, 422 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2012). Imposition of the maximum sentence to be served consecutively is merely an option if the facts of the case justify the absolute maximum sentence. Further, there is a presumption in favor of concurrent sentencing as distinguished from consecutive sentencing. Id. at 424 (citing State v. Taylor, 739 S.W.2d 227, 230 (Tenn. 1987) (holding that consecutive sentences should not routinely be imposed in criminal cases and the aggregate maximum of consecutive terms must be reasonably related to the severity of the offenses involved)).

Williamson County Court of Appeals 03/20/14
Five Oaks Golf & Country Club, Inc. v. Reagan Farr, as Commissioner of Revenue of the State of Tennessee
M2013-01896-COA-R3-CV

A taxpayer sued for a tax refund based on two issues. In response to the commissioner’s motion for summary judgment, the taxpayer conceded one issue, which constituted about 70% of the amount contested, and moved for summary judgment on the other issue. The trial court ruled for the commissioner on the conceded issue and for the taxpayer on the other issue. Both sides sought attorney fees and expenses. The trial court determined that the taxpayer was the prevailing party. The commissioner appealed. Finding that there is no prevailing party, we reverse the trial court.

Wilson County Court of Appeals 03/20/14
Marcus Johnson v. State of Tennessee
E2013-01464-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Marcus Johnson, appeals as of right from the Knox County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. The Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by dismissing his petition as having been untimely filed. Discerning no error, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/20/14
Charles Blackstock v. State of Tennessee
E2013-01173-CCA-R3-HC

The petitioner, Charles Blackstock, appeals the dismissal of his petition for writ of habeas corpus, which petition challenged his 2000 Hamilton County Criminal Court guilty-pleaded convictions of rape of a child, claiming that the habeas corpus court erred by correcting the judgments in his case and by dismissing the petition. Discerning no error, we affirm.

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 03/19/14
In Re Kaylyn M.R.
E2013-01520-COA-R3-PT

This is a termination of parental rights case in which the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed a petition to terminate the parental rights of Father to the Child. Following a bench trial, the trial court found that clear and convincing evidence existed to support the termination of Father’s parental rights on the statutory grounds of persistence of conditions, abandonment for failure to provide a suitable home, and abandonment for wanton disregard of the Child’s welfare. The court likewise found that termination of Father’s parental rights was in the Child’s best interest. Father appeals. We affirm the decision of the trial court.

Jefferson County Court of Appeals 03/19/14
In Re Jalin M.B., et al
E2013-00635-COA-R3-JV

This is an appeal from the trial court’s final order modifying a custody arrangement that designated Mother as the primary residential parent and awarded Father limited visitation. Father filed a petition to modify, claiming that a material change in circumstances necessitated a change in the parenting plan. Following a hearing, the trial court designated Father as the primary residential parent, awarded the Parents equal time with the Children, and modified Father’s child support obligation. Mother appeals. We affirm the trial court’s custody determination but reverse its child support determination. The case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Appeals 03/19/14
Melissa L. Blackshear (Thompson) v. Stephen D. Blackshear
E2012-02499-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from the parties’ post-divorce issues. The father moved to modify his child support obligation because of a significant variance in his income. Following a hearing, the trial court modified the father’s child support obligation from $2,000 a month to $73 per month, awarded a $21,124 judgment against the mother for overpayment, and awarded the father attorneys’s fees in the amount of $10,000. The mother appeals. We vacate and remand.

Hamilton County Court of Appeals 03/19/14