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Today's Opinions

Click on the category of your choice to view summaries of today’s opinions from that court, or other body. A link at the end of each case summary will let you download the full opinion in PDF format.

01 - TN Supreme Court
00 - TN Workers Comp Appeals
00 - TN Supreme Court - Rules
05 - TN Court of Appeals
18 - TN Court of Criminal Appeals
01 - TN Attorney General Opinions
00 - Judicial Ethics Opinions
00 - Formal Ethics Opinions - BPR
00 - TN Supreme Court - Disciplinary Orders









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TN Supreme Court

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. NV SUMATRA TOBACCO TRADING COMPANY
With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys:

Steven C. Douse, Nashville, Tennessee; and Christopher L. Rissetto, Washington D.C., for the appellant, NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Company.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; John H. Sinclair, Jr., Deputy Attorney General; and Rebekah A. Baker, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: KOCH

This appeal concerns whether Tennessee courts may exercise personal jurisdiction over an Indonesian cigarette manufacturer whose cigarettes were sold in Tennessee through the marketing efforts of a Florida entrepreneur who purchased the cigarettes from an independent foreign distributor. From 2000 to 2002, over eleven million of the Indonesian manufacturer’s cigarettes were sold in Tennessee. After the manufacturer withdrew its cigarettes from the United States market, the State of Tennessee filed suit against the manufacturer in the Chancery Court for Davidson County, alleging that the manufacturer had failed to pay into the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Escrow Fund as required by Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 47-31-101 to -103 (2001 & Supp. 2012). The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the trial court dismissed the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction over the Indonesian manufacturer. The Court of Appeals reversed, granted the State’s motion for summary judgment, and remanded the case to the trial court to determine the applicable fines. State ex rel. Cooper v. NV Sumatra Tobacco Trading Co., No. M2010-01955-COA-R3-CV, 2011 WL 2571851 (Tenn. Ct. App. June 28, 2011). We find that, under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Tennessee courts lack personal jurisdiction over the Indonesian manufacturer. We therefore reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(2).


TN Court of Appeals

LESLIE DWIGHT COFFEY v. PAULA SUE COFFEY

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Phillip C. Lawrence, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Leslie Dwight Coffey.

Gary R. Patrick, Elizabeth M. Hill and McKinley S. Lundy, Jr., Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellee, Paula Sue Coffey.

Judge: SUSANO

Leslie Dwight Coffey (“Husband”) filed this action for divorce against his spouse, Paula Sue Coffey (“Wife”). During the course of the proceedings, Husband was held in contempt on no less than four separate occasions. The contempt findings were sometimes related to some aspect of his refusal to pay child support. He was also found guilty of contemptuous conduct related to other matters. Each time, his sentence was suspended. Eventually, the suspended time amounted to a total of 50 days in jail. After over ten years of litigation, Wife filed two separate petitions asking that Husband show cause why he should not be held in criminal contempt. On the second petition, the court found Husband in criminal contempt, revoked the suspensions of the previously-imposed sentences and imposed a five day sentence for the new contempt. The court also awarded Wife $10,000 in attorney’s fees in a separate order entered the morning after Wife’s counsel filed an affidavit claiming over $20,000 in fees and expenses. Husband appeals. We affirm that part of the judgment holding Husband in criminal contempt and ordering him to serve a total of 55 days, which figure includes the previously-suspended sentences. We vacate that part of the judgment awarding Wife $10,000 in attorney’s fees and remand for a hearing to allow Husband an opportunity to challenge the fees and expenses claimed by Wife’s counsel.


LAURA NICOLE HARBIN v. CASEY PARKER JONES

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Jason D. Nowlin and Rachael E. Putnam, Memphis, Tennessee for Petitioner/1 Appellant, Laura Nicole Harbin

Brice M. Timmons, Memphis, Tennessee for Respondent/Appellee, Casey Parker Jones

Judge: KIRBY

This appeal involves a post-divorce order of protection. Several years after the parties’ divorce in another state, the appellant mother obtained an order of protection against the appellee father in a Tennessee general sessions court, to restrict his contact with her and the parties’ minor child. The parties’ out-of-state divorce decree was enrolled in the Tennessee chancery court, where the mother also sought a continued order of protection, contempt relief, and modification of the parties’ parenting arrangement. All matters, including the general sessions order of protection, were consolidated in the Tennessee chancery court. The chancery court held a hearing on the order of protection. It declined to extend the order of protection and dissolved it. All other matters before the chancery court remained pending. The mother filed a notice of appeal to this Court. We hold that the dissolution of the order of protection, with other matters still pending, is not a final and appealable judgment. We dismiss the appeal for lack of appellate jurisdiction, and remand to the chancery court.


IN THE MATTER OF: JUSTIN K., COURTNEY K., EVA K.

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Wayne Clemons, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, J.M.K.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Marcie E. Greene, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Judge: COTTRELL

Mother’s parental rights to three children were terminated based on her abandonment, failure to comply with family permanency plans the Department of Children’s Services developed, and persistence of the conditions that required removal of the children initially. Mother appealed, and we affirm the trial court’s judgment. The trial court’s findings are supported by clear and convincing evidence.


NORTHLAND INSURANCE COMPANY v. MICHAEL BURTON AND DONALD BURTON d/b/a BURTON BROTHERS TRUCKING

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

B. Timothy Pirtle, McMinnville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Michael Burton and Donald Burton d/b/a Burton Brothers Trucking.

Samuel A. Baron, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Northland Insurance Company.

Judge: COTTRELL

Insurance Company provided Trucking Company with a general liability insurance policy that included the MCS-90 endorsement required by the Motor Carrier Act of 1980. A woman who was a passenger in the insured’s tractor made a claim against Insurance Company for injuries she sustained after the tractor turned over. Insurance Company paid the woman’s claim even though she had not filed a complaint or obtained a judgment against Trucking Company/Insured. Insurance Company then filed a complaint against Trucking Company seeking reimbursement for the amount it paid out. Trial court awarded Insurance Company reimbursement. We reverse because no judgment had been obtained against Trucking Company when Insurance Company paid the woman’s claim. The MCS-90 endorsement is not triggered unless an injured member of the public recovers a final judgment against a motor carrier/insured. Therefore, Insurance Company had no right of reimbursement.


WASTE CONNECTIONS OF TENNESSEE, INC. v. THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE & DAVIDSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Nancy Vincent, Maia Tiffany Woodhouse, and V. Austin Shaver, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Waste Connections of Tennessee, Inc.

Lora Barkenbus Fox and Emily Herring Lamb, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee.

Judge: CLEMENT

The dispositive issue in this land use appeal highlights important legal distinctions between when a local governmental body is functioning in a legislative capacity or an administrative capacity, and what can go wrong when the governmental body fails to conduct its meetings pursuant to the proper legal standards. When the local governmental body is enacting laws, such as zoning ordinances, it is functioning in a legislative capacity; however, when the governmental body is implementing existing zoning ordinances it is functioning as an administrative body or board. In this case the Council of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee (“Metro Council”) was functioning as an administrative board, not in a legislative capacity, when it disapproved an application for the location of a waste transfer station located on property zoned “industrial restrictive.” When the application was disapproved, the applicant filed a petition for common law writ of certiorari seeking to set aside the disapproval on the ground that it was illegal, arbitrary, fraudulent, and/or capricious because the Metro Council failed to comply with the requirements of Metropolitan Code § 17.40.280 by making a decision for the sole reason that local residents opposed the station, and not because the proposed use was “consistent or not consistent” with the requirements of Metro Code § 17.16. The trial court dismissed the petition and this appeal followed. Under the common law writ of certiorari standard, our review of the Metro Council’s administrative decision is limited to determining whether the decision is clearly illegal, arbitrary, or capricious. An administrative decision that is not supported by substantial and material evidence is, by definition, arbitrary and capricious. This record is devoid of any substantial or material evidence to support the decision to disapprove the location for a waste transfer station; accordingly, the decision was arbitrary. We, therefore, reverse the trial court’s dismissal of the common law petition for writ of certiorari and remand with instructions to set aside the Metro Council’s disapproval of the location and to order that the application for a special exception be submitted to the Board of Zoning Appeals for its consideration pursuant to Metro Code § 17.40.280.


TN Court of Criminal Appeals

STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DESHAWN LAMAR BAKER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Michael A. Colavecchio, Nashville, Tennessee, (on appeal); and Paul Walwyn, Nashville, Tennessee, (at trial), for the appellant, DeShawn Lamar Baker.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Cameron L. Hyder, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; Bret Gunn, Assistant District Attorney General; and Rob McGuire, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

A Davidson County Grand Jury returned an indictment against Defendant, DeShawn Lamar Baker, charging him with solicitation of aggravated robbery, conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery, and felony possession of a handgun. Following a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery, aggravated robbery, and felony possession of a handgun. Defendant was sentenced to ten years for the conspiracy charge, eighteen years for aggravated robbery, and four years for the handgun charge to be served concurrently for an effective eighteen-year sentence in the Department of Correction as a Range II offender. On appeal, Defendant argues: (1) that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions; and (2) that the State commited prosecutorial misconduct by failing to timely disclose the discovery of his wallet containing the victim’s driver’s license and that John Peoples would be called as a witness at trial. After a thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


PHILANDER BUTLER v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Philander Butler, Memphis, Tennessee, Pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Sophia S. Lee, Senior Counsel; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Jessica Banti, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The petitioner, Philander Butler, appeals the summary dismissal of his petition for the writ of error coram nobis which challenged his 1989 and 1990 guilty pleas to sale of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, and attempted possession of a controlled substance with the intent to sell. The trial court dismissed the petition on grounds: (1) that it was filed outside the applicable statute of limitation; and (2) that the petition failed to state a cognizable claim. On appeal, he contends that the dismissal was erroneous. The petitioner also contends that the court erred in summarily dismissing his “Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment Pursuant to Rule 59.04 and Motion to Set Aside Judgment Pursuant to Rule 60.02(2)-(3).” Following review of the record we discern no error and affirm the dismissal of the petition and motion.


DAMIEN CLARK v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Constance Wooden Alexander, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Damien Clark.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Betsy Weintraub, Assistant District Attorney General; and Marlinee Iverson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, the State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Following a jury trial, Petitioner, Damien Clark, was convicted of second degree murder. This court affirmed the judgment of conviction in State v. Damien Clark, W2007-00651- CCA-R3-CD, 2009 WL 890886 (Tenn. Crim. App. April 1, 2009), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Aug. 17, 2009). Petitioner filed a timely petition for post-conviction relief. Following an evidentiary hearing, the petition was dismissed. Petitioner appeals, asserting that he is entitled to post-conviction relief because his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JIM GEORGE CONASER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Joshua L. Brand, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jim George Conaser.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson, III., District Attorney General; and Bret T. Gunn, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Defendant, Jim George Conaser, contends (1) that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his conviction for harassment and (2) that the trial court’s imposition of consecutive sentencing was improper. After a review of the record and the applicable authorities, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support the Defendant’s harassment conviction and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering the sentence from that conviction to run consecutively to a prior, unserved sentence.


CHARLES W. ELSEA, JR. v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Douglas A. Trant, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Charles W. Elsea, Jr.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Lacy Wilber, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: THOMAS

The Petitioner, Charles W. Elsea, Jr., appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion to reopen his post-conviction proceedings. However, because the Petitioner failed to comply with the requirements in Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 28 section 10 for seeking discretionary review of the denial of his motion, this court has no jurisdiction in this case. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. LEWIS GREEN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Sean H. Muizers, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lewis Green.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Ann Schiller, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The defendant, Lewis Green, appeals the trial court’s decision to deny his request for alternative sentencing and judicial diversion. The defendant pled guilty to seven counts of possession of cocaine with intent to sell and one count of possession of marijuana with intent sell. He received an effective five-year sentence for the convictions. Following a hearing, the trial court ordered that the sentences be served in incarceration and denied the defendant’s request for judicial diversion. Following review of the record, we affirm the sentencing decisions of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JOHN ALLEN HESSMER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Comer L. Donnell, District Public Defender; and William K. Cather, Assistant Public Defender, for the appellant, John Allen Hessmer.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jennifer L. Smith, Associate Deputy Attorney General; Tom P. Thompson, Jr., District Attorney General; and Brian W. Fuller, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: TIPTON

The Defendant, John Allen Hessmer, appeals pursuant to Rule 9 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. The trial court denied the Defendant’s request to proceed pro se during his pretrial hearings on the charges of aggravated burglary, arson of a structure, arson of personal property or real estate, harassment, and stalking. We reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand the case to the Criminal Court for Wilson County.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DOMINICK S. HODGES

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Roger E. Nell, Clarksville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dominick S. Hodges.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, David H. Findley, Senior Counsel; John Wesley Carney, Jr., District Attorney General; and Samuel Knolton and Steven L. Garrett, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Montgomery County Circuit Court Jury convicted the appellant of the felony murder and attempted aggravated robbery of the victim, George Miller, Jr. The trial court imposed a total effective sentence of life imprisonment in the Tennessee Department of Correction with the possibility of parole. On appeal, the appellant challenges the trial court’s denial of the appellant’s motions to suppress the results of a buccal swab and testimony regarding DNA test results. He also contests the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his convictions. Upon review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DALE KEITH LARKIN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Mark D. Slagle (on appeal and at trial); Penny J. White (on appeal); and Johnathan A. Minga (at trial), Johnson City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Dale Keith Larkin.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Renee W. Turner, Senior Counsel; Tony Clark, District Attorney General; and Dennis D. Brooks, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Dale Keith Larkin (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of first degree premeditated murder and one count of insurance fraud. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to life imprisonment for the murder conviction and to a concurrent term of eight years for the fraud conviction. In this direct appeal, the Defendant raises the following issues: (1) the trial court erred in refusing to sequester the jury; (2) the trial court erred in allowing the Defendant’s expert witness to testify for the State; (3) the trial court erred in admitting autopsy photographs and some of the victim’s bones into evidence (4) the trial court improperly limited the Defendant’s right to cross-examine a State’s witness; (5) the prosecutor engaged in misconduct during closing argument; (6) the evidence is not sufficient to support his convictions; (7) the trial court failed to discharge its duty as thirteenth juror; and (8) the cumulative effect of these errors violated the Defendant’s rights to a fair trial. Upon our thorough review of the record, we have determined that (1) the trial court failed to satisfy its mandatory duty to act as thirteenth juror; (2) the trial court committed reversible error in allowing the Defendant’s expert witness to testify for the State; (3) the State failed to adduce sufficient proof to support the Defendant’s conviction of first degree premeditated murder; and (4) the State failed to adduce sufficient proof to support the Defendant’s conviction of insurance fraud. Therefore, we must reverse the Defendant’s convictions and remand this matter for a new trial on the charge of second degree murder and any appropriate lesserincluded offenses. The charge of insurance fraud is dismissed.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DOUGLASS LEON LYLE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Mark Stephens, District Public Defender, and Robert C. Edwards, Assistant Public Defender, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Douglass Leon Lyle.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Leslie E. Price, Senior Counsel; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; Steven W. Sword, Assistant District Attorney; and Josh Arters, Special Prosecuting Attorney, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: BIVINS

Douglass Leon Lyle (“the Defendant”) was convicted by a jury of two counts of aggravated sexual battery. After a hearing, the trial court sentenced the Defendant to twelve years for each offense, to be served concurrently in the Tennessee Department of Correction. In this appeal as of right, the Defendant raises the following issues: (1) the State’s election of offenses was ineffective; (2) the trial court should have merged the two convictions; (3) the trial court erred in its ruling on a Tennessee Rule of Evidence 412 motion; (4) the jury charge was erroneous; and (5) his sentences are excessive. We hold that the State’s election of offenses was ineffective as to Count 2, and we reverse that conviction and remand for further proceedings. We affirm the trial court’s judgment of conviction and sentence as to Count 1.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. ALEXIS MASON and TERRENCE HARRIS

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

James E. Thomas (on appeal) and Michael G. Floyd (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Alexis Mason.

Blake D. Ballin, Memphis, Tennessee, for the Defendant-Appellant, Terrence Harris.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Senior Counsel, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; Glen C. Baity and Kate Edmands, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

In a joint trial, the Appellants, Alexis Mason and Terrence Harris, were convicted of various offenses by a Shelby County jury. Appellant Mason was found guilty of one count of second degree murder, a Class A felony, and three counts of aggravated assault, a Class C felony, for which she received an effective sentence of thirty-seven years in the Department of Correction. Appellant Harris was convicted of three counts of facilitation of aggravated assault, a Class D felony, and one count of facilitation of criminally negligent homicide, a Class A misdemeanor, for which he received an effective sentence of twelve years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days in the Department of Correction. In this consolidated appeal, both Appellants challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting their convictions and the sentences imposed by the trial court. Appellant Harris additionally argues that the trial court erred in the following evidentiary rulings: admission of various out-of-court statements; admission of an autopsy photograph; exclusion of evidence of the deceased victim’s violent character; and the denial of jury instructions on self-defense and lesser included offenses. Finding no reversible error, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


CLARENCE NESBIT v. STATE OF TENNESSEE
With dissenting opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Marty B. McAfee and Gerald Skahan, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Clarence Nesbit.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; David H. Findley, Assistant Attorney General; and Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and John Campbell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Petitioner, Clarence Nesbit, was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of first degree murder and sentenced to death. He sought post-conviction relief, and the postconviction court vacated the death sentence and granted a new sentencing hearing, which the State has not appealed. The post-conviction court denied Petitioner relief from his first degree murder conviction. On appeal, Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by denying his claim that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel during the guilt phase of the trial. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. MARCIE LYNN PURSELL aka MARCIE PURSELL FRAZIER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

David M. Hopkins (on appeal), and Ron Pursell and Jodie Bell (at trial), Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Marcie Lynn Pursell.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. (Torry) Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Brian Keith Holmgren and Elizabeth Foy, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: TIPTON

The Defendant, Marcie Lynn Pursell, was found guilty by a Davidson County Criminal Court jury of three counts of aggravated child abuse, Class A felonies. See T.C.A. § 39-15-402 (2006) (amended 2009, 2011, 2012). She was sentenced as a Range I, standard offender to three concurrent terms of fifteen years’ confinement. On appeal, she contends that the evidence is insufficient to support her convictions and that the trial court erred by not allowing her to present evidence that she consented to a polygraph examination. We affirm the judgments of the trial court.


CHARLES RICE v. STATE OF TENNESSEE

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Donald E. Dawson, Paul Johnston Morrow, and Kertyssa Smalls, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Petitioner-Appellant, Charles Rice.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; James E. Gaylord, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and John W. Campbell, Deputy District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: MCMULLEN

The Petitioner, Charles Rice, appeals from the judgment of the Shelby County Criminal Court denying his petition for post-conviction relief. A Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner of premeditated first degree murder and felony murder and imposed a sentence of death. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed the Petitioner’s convictions and sentence on direct appeal. See State v. Rice, 184 S.W.3d 646 (Tenn. 2006). On appeal, the Petitioner challenges the effectiveness of his counsel’s representation in both the guilt and penalty phases of the trial. We hold that the post-conviction court properly found that the Petitioner received effective assistance of counsel at trial. The judgment of the postconviction court is affirmed.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. CURTIS STANTON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

William Yonkowski (at trial), and Stephen Bush, Barry W. Kuhn, and Harry E. Sayle, III, (on appeal), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Curtis Stanton.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Chris West and Jeff Jones, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

A Shelby County Criminal Court Jury convicted the appellant, Curtis Stanton, of the first degree premeditated murder of the victim, Regina Tidwell. The trial court sentenced the appellant to life imprisonment 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.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. DEANGELO THOMPSON

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Ruchee J. Patel, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Deangelo Thompson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and Muriel Malone, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Defendant, Deangelo Thompson, appeals from his conviction in the Shelby County Criminal Court for reckless aggravated assault as a lesser-included offense of aggravated assault. Defendant was sentenced by the trial court as a Range II multiple offender to five years incarceration. In this direct appeal, Defendant asserts that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction; that the trial court erred by sentencing him to five years in confinement for his conviction; and that certain comments and questions by the trial court constitute plain error. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. NEIL VADER

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Robert Dalton, Lewisburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Neil Vader.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; Charles Frank Crawford, District Attorney General; and Chris Collins, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WOODALL

Following a jury trial, Defendant, Neil Vader, was convicted of driving in violation of a motor vehicle habitual offender (MVHO) order, driving under the influence of an intoxicant (DUI), violation of the implied consent law, and driving on a revoked driver’s license. Defendant waived a jury trial to determine the number of his prior DUI convictions. The trial court found that Defendant had three prior DUI convictions and was guilty of DUI fourth offense. The trial court sentenced Defendant to serve one year and nine months for counts one and two and eleven months and twenty nine days for count three. All of Defendant’s sentences were ordered to run consecutively. The trial court merged count four, driving on a revoked driver’s license, with violation of a MVHO order. On appeal, Defendant raises the following issues: (1) the trial court erred in excluding testimony offered as extrinsic evidence of a prior inconsistent statement to impeach a witness; (2) the prosecuting attorney engaged in misconduct during closing arguments; and (3) the cumulative effect of the trial court’s evidentiary error and prosecutorial misconduct constitutes reversible error. After thorough review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


STATE OF TENNESSEE v. JEFFREY L. VAUGHN

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys:

Mr. Charles S. Kelly, Jr., Dyersburg, Tennessee, for the appellant, Jeffrey L. Vaughn.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel Harmon, Assistant Attorney General; Phillip Bivens, District Attorney General; and Karen Burns, Assistant District Attorney General; for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: WILLIAMS

The defendant was convicted of possessing more than 0.5 grams of cocaine with intent to sell or deliver, a Class B felony. The trial court sentenced the defendant to fourteen years as a Range II, multiple offender. On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress cocaine that was seized by police after they searched his person. We conclude that the defendant waived this argument by failing to include it in his motion for new trial. The defendant also claims that the State violated Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), by using two of its peremptory strikes to remove two African American potential jurors. We conclude that these potential jurors were removed for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons. Finally, the defendant claims that the trial court erred by allowing a felony drug conviction that was more than ten years old into evidence after the defendant denied that he sold drugs on the stand. We agree, but we conclude that the error was harmless. We affirm the judgments of the trial court accordingly.


TN Attorney General Opinions

Requiring Persons Admitted to Polling Places to Be United States Citizens

Court: TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2013-03-27

Opinion Number: 13


Three Nominated for 30th District Criminal Court Vacancy

The Judicial Nominating Commission has submitted three nominees to Gov. Bill Haslam to fill the Criminal Court vacancy in the 30th district caused by the death of Shelby County Judge W. Otis Higgs. The nominees are Dean Thomas DeCandia, Garland Ingram Erguden and Glenn Wright.


AG Questions Bill Banning Non-U.S. Citizen from Pollwatching

Attorney General Robert Cooper issued an opinion calling a bill banning non-U.S. citizens from poll watching “constitutionally suspect” and likely violating the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. House Bill 985, sponsored by Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, and Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, would prohibit non-U.S. citizens, regardless of their immigration status, from working at or even entering voting sites. The House opted to delay voting on the bill for one week in the wake of Cooper’s opinion. The Tennessean has the story.


Hamilton County Chooses Magistrates

Hamilton County Commissioners today unanimously voted to continue Randy Russell and Sharetta Smith as county magistrates, Chattanoogan.com reports. Commisioners had interviewed eight of the 17 applicants for the positions. Commissioners also voted to keep Russell as the chief magistrate.


Waller Lawyer Named to Leadership Council

Heather Hubbard of Nashville’s Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis has been named a 2013 fellow to the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. The year-long fellowship will allow Hubbard to learn from some of the legal profession’s top general counsels and managing partners. It also includes extensive contact with LCLD’s top leadership as well as in-person conferences, virtual training on the fine points of legal practice, and peer-group projects to foster collaboration and build relationships. The Nashville Post has the story.


Appeals Court Reverses Judgment in Brentwood vs Election Commission Case

The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled that the city of Brentwood library should be forced to accommodate the Williamson County Election Commission as an early voting polling place, the Nashville City Paper reports. The commission sued the city of Brentwood last year after the library refused to hold early voting during the Republican primary. The Williamson County Chancery Court ruled in favor of the library, citing state law that “obligates the Commission to reasonably negotiate with local governments (or the controlling authority) whose facilities the Election Commission seeks to use.” The appeals court disagreed in its opinion and remanded the case back to chancery court.


Services Held for Retired TennCare Attorney Betty Boner

Betty Fowlkes Boner died March 19 at the age of 64. She was a graduate of Nashville School of Law and worked for Shipley and Behm, Metro Legal and TennCare before retiring. Memorial services were held Tuesday at Westminister Presbyterian Church. Donations may be made to Nashville Children’s Alliance or Habitat for Humanity.


Senate Bill Would Cut Lawmakers’ Allowance

The Senate has passed a bill to eliminate hotel allowances for lawmakers who live within 50 miles of the state Capitol. The proposal, sponsored by Republican Sen. Ferrell Haile of Gallatin, would discontinue the $107 per night hotel payment for Nashville-area legislators, saving more than $250,000 annually according to WATE Knoxville. The legislation would continue to provide for mileage and meal allowances for all lawmakers however.


 
 

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About this publication: Today's News is a compilation of digests of news reports of interest to Tennessee lawyers compiled by TBA staff, links to digested press releases, and occasional stories about the TBA and other activities written by the TBA staff or members. Statements or opinions herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Tennessee Bar Association, its officers, board or staff.


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