Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts

Appellate Court Opinions

Format: 01/25/2015
Format: 01/25/2015
John Brunner v. State
W2013-02120-CCA-R3-PC

John Brunner (“the Petitioner”) was indicted for first degree murder and domestic assault. After a trial, a jury convicted him of the lesser-included offense of second degree murder and domestic assault. In this appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief, the Petitioner argues that he was denied effective assistance of counsel. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/15/14
In Re: Kaiden T.
M2014-00423-COA-R3-PT

Mother appeals the termination of her parental rights contending the evidence was insufficient to prove any ground or that it was in the child’s best interest to terminate her parental rights. The trial court found that the petitioners, the father and step-mother, proved two grounds of abandonment, failure to support and failure to visit the child, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-102(1)(A)(i), and that termination of Mother’s rights was in the best interest of the child, pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-1-113(c)(2) and (i). We have determined the evidence is sufficient to prove both grounds of abandonment; therefore, we affirm the trial court’s findings on both of these issues. However, we must remand the issue of the child’s best interest, due to the lack of specific findings of fact as mandated by Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-1-113(k). Therefore, we reverse and remand with instructions for the trial court to provide specific findings of fact concerning whether termination of Mother’s parental rights is in the best interest of the child and to enter judgment consistent with its findings.

Overton County Court of Appeals 12/15/14
Corey Blocker v. Nashville Rescue Mission
M2013-00936-COA-R3-CV

In this action for conversion of personal property, Plaintiff contends the defendant, the Nashville Rescue Mission,is liable for throwing away his personal possessions that he stored in a locker at the Mission. Relying on the terms and conditions of a written “Locker Use Guidelines and Agreement,” the Mission insists it is not liable because it disposed of the property as authorized by Plaintiff. The Mission submitted interrogatories and requests for admissions to which Plaintiff objected generally. The Mission then obtained an order compelling Plaintiff to respond to the discovery as required by the rules of civil procedure. When Plaintiff responded, but not as required by the rules of civil procedure, the Mission filed a motion to have the requests for admissions deemed admitted; the trial court granted the motion. Thereafter, the Mission filed a motion for summary judgment relying on the admissions and the relevant terms and conditions of the Locker Use Guidelines and Agreement. Based upon the Agreement and other facts that were deemed admitted, the court concluded that summary judgment was appropriate as Plaintiff could not establish an essential element of his claim for conversion. Finding no error, we affirm.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/15/14
State of Tennessee v. Billy Jason Hancock
M2012-02307-CCA-R3-CD

The defendant, Billy Jason Hancock, appeals his Putnam County Criminal Court jury convictions of first degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, and abuse of a corpse, claiming that the trial court erred by concluding that certain communications with his wife and his pastor were not protected by any evidentiary privilege and that the trial court’s instruction regarding jury unanimity during the penalty phase was incorrect. Discerning no error, we affirm.

 

Putnam County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
State of Tennessee v. Santos Medardo Funes Romero
E2013-02137-CCA-R3-CD

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Santos Medardo Funes Romero, of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of twenty-five years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it did not grant a mistrial or dismiss the jury after several members of the venire discussed having been victims of child sexual abuse; (2) the trial court erred when it denied defense counsel the opportunity to question the investigator about her comments about the weakness of the case; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we reverse the trial court’s judgments, and we remand the case for a new trial or other proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
State of Tennessee v. Santos Medardo Funes Romero
E2013-02137-CCA-R3-CD

A Knox County jury convicted the Defendant, Santos Medardo Funes Romero, of rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of twenty-five years. On appeal, the Defendant contends that: (1) the trial court erred when it did not grant a mistrial or dismiss the jury after several members of the venire discussed having been victims of child sexual abuse; (2) the trial court erred when it denied defense counsel the opportunity to question the investigator about her comments about the weakness of the case; and (3) the evidence is insufficient to sustain his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and applicable authorities, we reverse the trial court’s judgments, and we remand the case for a new trial or other proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Knox County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
Anthony Todd Ghormley v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00363-CCA-R3-ECN

In 2009, a Blount County jury convicted the Petitioner, Anthony Todd Ghormley, of two counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of especially aggravated kidnapping, two counts of especially aggravated burglary, and three counts of aggravated assault. State v. Anthony Todd Ghormley, No. E2010-00634-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 171940, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App., at Knoxville, Jan. 20, 2012), no Tenn. R. App. P. 11 application filed. The trial court sentenced the Petitioner to an effective sentence of 105 years of confinement. Id. On direct appeal, this Court affirmed the judgments but reversed the trial court’s denial of a competency hearing and remanded the case for a competency hearing. Id. The Petitioner was deemed competent on remand. The Petitioner filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis, which the coram nobis court denied. On appeal, the Petitioner contends that the coram nobis court erred when it denied his petition. He asserts that the coram nobis court’s dismissal was based on “known fraud” because “three of the State’s witnesses committed perjury at the [competency] hearing.” After review, we affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
Jimmy W. Bilbo, Et Al. v. Ocoee Place Condominium Homeowners Association, Et Al.
E2013-02535-COA-R3-CV

Jimmy W. Bilbo and Mildred D. Bilbo (“Plaintiffs”) sued Ocoee Place Condominium Homeowners Association (“Defendant”) for, among other things, negligent 1 construction which allegedly caused flooding that damaged Plaintiffs’ property. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment alleging, in part, that Defendant did not own the relevant real property, that Defendant exercised no input or control over the construction, and that Plaintiffs’ action was barred by the statute of limitations and the statute of repose. The Circuit Court for Bradley County (“the Trial Court”) granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs filed a motion to alter or amend, which the Trial Court denied. Plaintiffs appeal to this Court raising issues regarding whether the Trial Court erred in refusing to alter or amend the grant of summary judgment pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02 or Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02. We find no abuse of discretion in the Trial Court’s denial of Plaintiffs’ Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02 or 60.02 motion, and we affirm.

Bradley County Court of Appeals 12/12/14
Gary Haiser Et Al. v. Michael Haines Et Al.
E2013-02350-COA-R3-CV

This appeal arises from an internal conflict in a planned community. A group of property owners (“Plaintiffs”) sued another group of property owners (“Defendants”) 1 in the Chancery Court for Cumberland County (“the Trial Court”). Both groups contested which was the legitimate Board of Directors for the community association. Plaintiffs sought, among other things, declaratory relief as to the rights and responsibilities of the parties. Plaintiffs filed a motion for class action certification. The Trial Court, finding that Plaintiffs had failed to establish the requirements of typicality and adequacy of representation, denied Plaintiffs’ request for class certification. Plaintiffs appeal the denial of class certification. Finding no abuse of discretion, we affirm the Trial Court.

Cumberland County Court of Appeals 12/12/14
Damon Tatum v. Mercedeas Tatum
W2013-02112-COA-R3-CV

The trial court denied Defendant Mother’s motion to recuse in this post-divorce dispute. We affirm.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/12/14
Ricardo Davidson v. State of Tennessee
M2014-00565-CCA-R3-HC

The petitioner, Ricardo Davidson, filed a petition in the Maury County Circuit Court, seeking habeas corpus relief from four felony drug convictions.  The court summarily dismissed the petition, finding that the petitioner failed to file in the court closest to him and that, regardless, his claims did not entitle him to habeas corpus relief.  On appeal, the petitioner challenges this ruling.  Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.

Maury County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
Mack Transou v. State of Tennessee
W2014-00537-CCA-R3-ECN

The petitioner, Mack Transou, appeals from the dismissal of his second coram nobis petition, some of which appears to be repackaged claims from his previous post-conviction attacks on his sentences, with others not cognizable for coram nobis relief. The coram nobis court concluded that his petition was without merit, and we concur. Accordingly, we affirm the denial of relief pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
Rodricko Thomas v. Jerry Lester, Warden
W2014-00686-CCA-R3-HC

The petitioner, Rodricko Thomas, received an effective sentence of fourteen years after pleading guilty to an included offense of aggravated robbery and nolo contendere to the charged offenses of aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary, and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. Two years after being sentenced, he filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, alleging the firearm conviction was void because the indictment had not specified a predicate felony. The habeas corpus court summarily dismissed the petition, and this court affirmed that dismissal because the petition did not include a copy of the assailed indictment. Rodricko O. Thomas v. Jerry Lester, Warden, No. W2013-02522-CCA-R3-HC, 2014 WL 2442272, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. May 23, 2014). Subsequently, he filed a second petition, making the same allegations and, with this petition, included a copy of the indictment. The habeas corpus court determined that the indictment was sufficient to apprise the petitioner of the employing a firearm offense and dismissed the petition. Because the petitioner has failed to state a cognizable claim for habeas corpus relief, we affirm the summary dismissal of the petition pursuant to Rule 20, Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Lauderdale County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/12/14
David Jones v. Mortgage Menders, LLC, et al
M2014-00140-COA-R3-CV

This appeal involves several claims relating to the sale and refinancing of Plaintiff’s two properties. When Plaintiff defaulted on the mortgages, Mortgage Menders, LLC offered to purchase the properties,fulfill the mortgage indebtedness, refurbish the properties for resale, and remit half of the profits when the properties sold. Mortgage Menders, LLC borrowed money from Defendant Hazlewood to accomplish the terms of the agreement. Defendant Hazlewood also served as an escrow and closing agent for two later transactions involving the properties. When Plaintiff failed to receive any portion of the proceeds relating to the sale of one of the properties, he filed suit for breach of contract, fraud, and civil conspiracy against each of the parties involved. Defendant Hazlewood filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that he was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The trial court partially granted the motion for summary judgment, finding that Defendant Hazlewood was not a party to the contract and that he had not participated in a civil conspiracy. Years later, the court dismissed the remainder of the case for failure to prosecute. Plaintiff appeals. The decision of the trial court is affirmed in part and reversed in part. We remand the case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/12/14
In Re: Josie A., et al
M2014-00442-COA-R3-PT

Father’s parental rights to his three children were terminated on the grounds of abandonment by failure to visit, failure to support, and failure to provide a suitable home, as well as persistence of the conditions that led to the removal of the children. He appeals, contending that there is not clear and convincing evidence sufficient to terminate his parental rights. Finding no error in the judgment of the trial court, we affirm.

Montgomery County Court of Appeals 12/12/14
Maria Beth Reynolds v. William Reynolds
M2013-01912-COA-R3-CV

Wife filed a criminal contempt petition against Husband alleging seven violations of the order of protection she obtained against him. The trial court found Husband guilty of six of the seven counts of criminal contempt and, after considering each count of contempt individually, sentenced him to a total of 28 days in jail to be served consecutively. Husband challenges five of the six findings of criminal contempt and the sentence. Husband also challenges the exclusion of his witness based on her violation of Tennessee Rule of Evidence 615. We have determined the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding Husband’s witness for violating Rule 615. We have also determined the evidence supports the finding that Husband violated the order of protection on each of the five counts he challenges and that the sentence imposed is appropriate. Therefore, we affirm the trial court in all aspects.

Davidson County Court of Appeals 12/12/14
Perry L. McCrobey v. State of Tennessee
E2014-00369-CCA-R3-HC

The Petitioner, Perry L. McCrobey, appeals the Hamilton County Criminal Court’s dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, petition for post-conviction relief, and petition for a writ of error coram nobis, seeking relief from his conviction of possession of cocaine for resale and resulting eight-year sentence. On appeal, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal of the petitions

Hamilton County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/14
State of Tennessee v. Letivias D. Prince
M2014-00260-CCA-R3-ECN

The petitioner, Letivias D. Prince, appeals the Williamson County Circuit Court’s summary dismissal of his petition for writ of error coram nobis, which challenged his 1997 jury conviction of first degree murder.  Discerning no error, we affirm.

Williamson County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/14
State of Tennessee v. Bobby Joe Mason
E2014-00571-CCA-R3-CD

The appellant, Bobby Joe Mason, pled guilty in the Blount County Circuit Court to robbery, a Class C felony, and criminal impersonation, a Class A misdemeanor, and received an effective three-year sentence to be served as 160 days in confinement and the remainder on enhanced supervised probation. On appeal, the appellant contends that the trial court erred by revoking his probation and ordering that he serve the remainder of his sentences in confinement. Based upon the record and the parties’ briefs, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/14
State ex rel. Department of Transportation v. William H. Thomas, Jr.
W2013-02082-COA-R3-CV

This is the second appeal of this case involving the Appellee’s construction of a billboard without the required state permit. In the first appeal, this Court held that the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to adjudicate any of Appellee’s purported defenses or counterclaims raised in response to the State of Tennessee’s petition for injunctive relief. Accordingly, we held that the trial court’s order was “void and of no effect.” Upon remand, the State sought restitution for amounts paid to Appellee pursuant to the void order. In contravention of the law of the case, the trial court awarded Appellant only part of its restitution, and ruled in Appellee’s favor on his First Amendment defense to the State’s petition. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s order and remand the case with mandated instructions.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/11/14
State of Tennessee v. Janice Kirkland
E2013-02243-CCA-R3-CD

A Blount County jury found the Appellant guilty of two counts of assault against an unacquainted homeowner. On appeal, the Appellant contends that the trial court erred by subjecting her to double jeopardy in convicting her of two counts of assault rather than one. She also challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain the convictions. Because we find that the two convictions are based on separate offenses under applicable law, and because a rational jury could find the Appellant guilty based on the evidence presented, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Blount County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/11/14
In Re Conservatorship of Michael S. Starnes
W2013-02614-COA-R3-CV

This is a conservatorship case. Appellant, the only child of Appellee, sought a conservatorship over Appellee after Appellee suffered a stroke. Appellee filed a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) motion to dismiss the petition. The trial court, in its memorandum opinion, denied the Appellee’s motion to dismiss, finding Appellant’s petition to appoint a conservator “legally sufficient.” In that same opinion, the trial court considered matters outside the pleadings, converted the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment, and sua sponte granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee. Appellant appeals. Because Appellant was not, as required under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02, “given reasonable opportunity to present all material made pertinent to [the] motion by Rule 56,” we vacate and remand.

Shelby County Court of Appeals 12/10/14
State of Tennessee v. Calvin Ellison
W2013-02786-CCA-R3-CD

Calvin Ellison (“Defendant”) was indicted on one count of attempted first degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and one count of employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony - attempted first degree murder. A jury returned verdicts convicting the Defendant of misdemeanor reckless endangerment as a lesser-included charge of attempted first degree murder, one count of aggravated assault, and employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony. On appeal, the Defendant challenges the trial court’s ruling excluding a portion of his expert witness’s testimony; argues that his conviction for employing a firearm during the commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony should be overturned in light of the jury’s verdict in the first count of the indictment; and challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions. After a thorough review of the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/10/14
Ricky Frith v. State of Tennessee
W2013-02435-CCA-R3-PC

The Petitioner, Ricky Frith, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel based upon trial counsel’s failure to: (1) adequately communicate, investigate, and prepare for trial by obtaining “exonerating records”; (2) raise a Fourth Amendment challenge to the Petitioner’s illegal arrest; (3) subpoena the officer who took the victim’s initial suspect description; and (4) file a timely motion for new trial. Additionally, the Petitioner contends that he received ineffective assistance of appellate counsel based upon appellate counsel’s advice that there was no legitimate basis for an appeal, and appellate counsel’s failure to request a delayed appeal. After our review, we conclude that the Petitioner has failed to establish that he is entitled to post-conviction relief and affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

Shelby County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/10/14
State of Tennessee v. Rothes Taylor
W2013-02520-CCA-R3-CD

The Appellant was convicted of burglary and theft over $500 and sentenced to four years. On appeal, the Appellant argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions. After reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

Madison County Court of Criminal Appeals 12/10/14