Opinion FlashMay 23, 2002
Volume 8 Number 91
Following this index are summaries of each case, including its name, first paragraph, author's name, and the names of attorneys for the parties of each opinion.
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Howard H. Vogel
REPOST: STATE OF TENNESSEE v. WILLIAM R. STEVENS Court:TSC Attorneys: Brock Mehler and F. Michie Gibson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, William R. Stevens. Paul G. Summers, Attorney General and Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; Jennifer L. Smith, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, State of Tennessee. Judge: BARKER First Paragraph: The defendant was found guilty by a Davidson County jury of hiring eighteen year-old Corey Milliken to murder his wife, Sandra Jean Stevens, and his mother-in-law, Myrtle Wilson. He was also convicted of especially aggravated robbery. The jury found two aggravating circumstances: (1) The defendant was previously convicted of one or more felonies, other than the present charge, whose statutory elements involve the use of violence to the person, Tenn. Code Ann. S 39-13- 204(i)(2); and (2) the defendant employed another to commit the murders for the promise of remuneration, Tenn. Code Ann. S 39-13-204(i)(4). Finding that the aggravating circumstances outweighed the mitigating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury sentenced the defendant to death for the murder of each victim. On the especially aggravated robbery conviction, the court sentenced the defendant to life without parole as a repeat violent offender with the sentence to run consecutively to both death sentences. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the defendant's convictions and sentences of death. On automatic appeal to this Court, we affirm and hold as follows: (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in limiting the testimony of defendant's crime scene expert to his analysis of the evidence at the crime scene; (2) the trial court's exclusion of the testimony of Corey Milliken's foster father regarding Milliken's prior bad acts constituted harmless error; (3) the trial court applied hearsay and other evidentiary rulings in an unbiased and even-handed manner; and (4) the sentence of death is not disproportionate to the sentence imposed in similar cases. For all other issues not specifically discussed in this opinion, we agree with and affirm the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TSC/stevensw_opn.wpd
REPOST: STATE OF TENNESSEE v. WILLIAM R. STEVENS Court:TSC BIRCH CONCURRING AND DISSENTING http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TSC/stevensw_dis.wpd
IN RE: ADOPTION OF A.B.K. Court:TCA Attorneys: Janie Lindamood, Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellant, W.T.D., Jr. James F. Taylor, Mt. Carmel, Tennessee, for the appellee, W.D.B. Judge: SUSANO First Paragraph: Presented with competing petitions for adoption, the trial court terminated the parental rights of W.T.D., Jr. ("the biological father") to his natural daughter, A.B.K. ("the subject child"). The trial court based termination on the failure of the biological father to visit the subject child; it made the order of termination a final judgment pursuant to the provisions of Tenn. R. Civ. P. 54.02. The biological father appeals, contending, among other things, that the trial court erred in terminating his parental rights. The trial court has reserved a ruling on the competing petitions to adopt pending a resolution of this appeal. Under the unique circumstances of this multiple-petition case, we find that the trial court should resolve all matters, including the issue of adoption, before this case is ripe for appeal. Accordingly, we vacate the trial court's Rule 54.02 designation and remand for further proceedings. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/abk.wpd
PAULINE CATO v. THE MONTGOMERY COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS Court:TCA Attorneys: Teresa R. Ricks and J. Russell Farrar, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Pauline Cato. Roger A. Maness, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellee, The Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. Judge: KOCH First Paragraph: This appeal arises from a property owner's efforts to rezone a 94-acre tract of property in the Sango community of Montgomery County from an agricultural to a residential classification. Despite the planning commission's approval of the proposal, the Montgomery County Commission declined to change the property's zoning classification. The property owner thereafter filed a petition for common-law writ of certiorari in the Chancery Court for Montgomery County asserting that the county commission had succumbed to community pressure and lacked any other appropriate basis for declining to rezone the property. The trial court, sitting without a jury, upheld the county commission's decision after concluding that it was fairly debatable whether the proposed development was compatible with the surrounding community. The property owner has appealed. We have determined that the courts have no basis to second-guess the county commission's decision and, therefore, we affirm the judgment. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/catop.wpd
IN RE: THE ESTATE OF CLARA MASSEY ELY COOK Court:TCA Attorneys: Timothy P. Webb, Jacksboro, Tennessee, for the Appellant Ruthelma Hill. Lee Asbury, Jacksboro, Tennessee, for the Appellees Erma Thompson, Lois Clarkston, Carl Massey, Verga Slaughter, and Jeffrey Massey. Judge: SWINEY First Paragraph: After the death of Ms. Clara Massey Ely Cook ("Ms. Cook"), a last will and testament was admitted to probate. Subsequently, a Petition for Probate of Holographic Will was filed by Ruthelma Hill ("Petitioner"), one of Ms. Cook's daughters. Petitioner apparently located what she claimed to be a holographic will and sought to have certain property distributed in accordance with the terms of this document. Respondents are the remaining surviving children and a grandson of Ms. Cook, and they collectively opposed the petition. The only issue before the Trial Court was whether the handwritten document which Petitioner sought to have probated contained the necessary testamentary intent to be considered Ms. Cook's last will and testament. The Trial Court held it did not. We affirm. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/cookcme.wpd
SHARON KAYE OUTTEN v. RUSSELL CAMPBELL Court:TCA Attorneys: L. G. Burnett, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Russell Campbell. Paul G. Summers, Attorney General & Reporter; Stuart F. Wilson-Patton, Senior Counsel, for the appellee, State of Tennessee, ex rel., Sharon Kaye Outten. Judge: CANTRELL First Paragraph: A Tennessee woman filed a petition in a Tennessee court to establish paternity, naming a Georgia resident who had minimal contacts with the State of Tennessee. The defendant failed to respond, and the court granted the petitioner a default judgment, ordering the defendant to pay retroactive child support of over $63,000. The defendant's employer subsequently began withholding money from his paycheck pursuant to a wage assignment. We find that the judgment was void ab initio because the court lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant. We also find that the defendant's subsequent appearance in the Tennessee court for the purpose of objecting to jurisdiction and obtaining a refund of the money he lost through wage assignment cannot revive the void judgment. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/outtensk.wpd
CORY L. STAPLES v. WILLIAM L. CLIFTON Court:TCA Attorneys: Harry K. Hays, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for Appellant. Morgan G. Adams, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for Appellee. Judge: FRANKS First Paragraph: Trial Court entered Judgment for plaintiff on malicious prosecution claim. On appeal, plaintiff seeks an additur. Defendant also appeals, arguing there is no evidence to establish the cause of action and damages were not established. We affirm. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/staplesc.wpd
T.H. ENGINEERING & MANUFACTURING, INC., and RON TOURTE, v. CHRIS A. MUSSARD, individually and doing business as T.H. ENGINEERING & MANUFACTURING, L.L.C. Court:TCA Attorneys: Arthur F. Knight, III, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellants. John P. Newton, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellees. Judge: FRANKS First Paragraph: Plaintiff sued on promissory note. Defendant counterclaimed on grounds of breach of contract, violation of Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, and fraud. The Trial Court entered Judgment for plaintiff and defendant has appealed. We affirm. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/thengineering.wpd
PELILIA SAN JUAN-TORREGOSA, et al., v. ENGRACIA TORREGOSA GARCIA, ROMULO G. GARCIA, ROEL T. GARCIA, RONALD T. GARCIA, IMELDA GARCIA-MARGULIES, and ZERLINA GARCIA- WALDROP, and ST. MARY'S HOSPICE CENTER and RANDALL E. NICHOLS, ESQ. Court:TCA Attorneys: Gerald L. Gulley, Jr., Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellant, Engracia Torregosa Garcia, by and through the Guardian Ad Litem, Gerald L. Gulley, Jr. David T. Lewis, Knoxville, Tennessee, for St. Mary's Health System, Inc., d/b/a St. Mary's Hospice Center. Kenneth W. Holbert, Knoxville, Tennessee, for Appellees.* *Appellees by and through counsel gave notice to the Court that they "elected not to participate in the appellate process" and did not file a brief. Judge: FRANKS First Paragraph: Patient in "chronic vegetative state" is on life support, i.e., nutrition by "percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy". The Trial Court found by clear and convincing evidence that patient would not want to be subjected to artificial nutrition. However, the Court ruled since she had not executed a living will, the Court had no authority to authorize discontinuance of the artificial nutrition. On appeal, we reverse. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCA/torregosa.wpd
STATE OF TENNESSEE v. TERESA DOCKERY Court:TCCA Attorneys: Joe Walker (on appeal) and Walter B. Johnson (at trial and on appeal), Harriman, Tennessee, for the appellant, Teresa Dockery. Paul G. Summers, Attorney General and Reporter; Elizabeth B. Marney, Assistant Attorney General; J. Scott McCluen, District Attorney General; and Roger Delp, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee. Judge: WADE First Paragraph: The defendant, Teresa Dockery, was convicted in a bench trial of assault, a Class B misdemeanor. The trial court placed the defendant on judicial diversion. See Tenn. Code Ann. S 40-35-313 (a)(1)(A). In this appeal, the defendant claims that the evidence is insufficient to support her conviction. Because the defendant was placed on judicial diversion, she has no appeal as of right under Tennessee Rule of Appellate Procedure 3. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed. http://www.tba.org/tba_files/TCCA/dockeryteresa.wpd
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