'Body Farm' founder to lead forensics program

Join Dr. William Bass, founder of the UT Forensic Anthropology Center -- better known as the "Body Farm" -- and a team of top legal experts for a new Forensics Overview course from TennBarU. It doesn't matter if you are in the criminal or civil arenas, forensic evidence impacts many aspects of law, and understanding new developments in DNA analysis, serology, and the impact of forensic science on legal ethics is critical. Joining Dr. Bass on the program will be Knoxville attorneys Andy Roskind and W. Thomas Dillard, Nashville attorney William "Tripp" Hunt III and Memphis Criminal Court Judge Mark Ward.


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Court: TSC



Court: TCA


Stephen W. Pate, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellants, Melanie Gayle King (Lyon) and Bradley N. Lyon.

William H. Bryson, Woodbury, Tennessee, for the appellee, James David King.


The mother and stepfather of two minor children filed a petition against the father of the children to terminate the father's parental rights. The petitioners alleged, inter alia, that the father abandoned the children by failing to exercise any of the residential time and vacation time awarded to the father in the divorce and that he had willfully failed to visit the children during the four months preceding the filing of the petition. Following a bench trial, in which the mother and stepfather were represented by counsel, but the father was pro se, the trial court dismissed the petition to terminate based upon the finding that "due to the costs of transportation between the parties respective homes in Giles County and Cannon County and due to [the father's] limited income," the petitioners had failed to establish the ground of abandonment. The mother and stepfather have appealed, contending the trial court failed to correctly apply the law to the facts of this case and that the evidence clearly and convincingly proves that the father's failure to visit was willful due to the fact he had a vehicle, for which he could afford insurance, and the cost of driving the approximately sixty miles between their homes was within his financial means. We have determined that the trial court committed reversible error when it failed to appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the minor children, which is mandated by Tenn. S. Ct. R. 13 section 1(d)(2) in proceedings to terminate a parent's rights when the petition is contested. We have also determined that if the father was indigent, which fact may be significant to the issue of willfulness, he had a constitutional right to appointed counsel. As Tenn. S. Ct. R. 13 section 1 (c) and (e) mandates, when the father appeared without counsel, the trial court had an affirmative duty to advise the father of his rights and to conduct an indigency hearing to determine if he was without sufficient means to pay reasonable attorney fees for representation in this case and, if so, to appoint counsel to represent him. We therefore vacate the judgment of the trial court and remand this matter to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion, including if necessary a new trial on the merits of the issues raised in the petition filed in this matter.



Court: TCA


M. Taylor Harris, Jr., Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, John R. Shomo and Sylvia J. Shomo.

Douglas Berry, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, City of Franklin, Tennessee.


The Shomos owned several sewer taps on undeveloped property. The City of Franklin sold sewer taps on the property, offering lower prices than the Shomos. The Shomos sued Franklin asserting causes of action for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, conversion, and violation of the duties of a public utility. The trial court granted Franklin's motion to dismiss on the grounds that the complaint contained no set of facts that would entitle the Shomos to any relief according to law. We affirm.



Court: TCA


Bruce N. Oldham, Oldham & Dunning, LLC, Gallatin, Tennessee, and Paul A. Gontarek, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee for the appellant, Suzanne Shults.

John R. Phillips, Jr., Gallatin, Tennessee, Susan R. High-McAuley, Bone McAllester Norton, PLLC, Hendersonville, Tennessee, and Nathan Harsh, Gallatin, Tennessee for the appellees, Robert L. Shults, Barbara Gail Shults Smith and Terry Wayne Shults.

Judge: ASH

This appeal arises from a dispute regarding interpretation of Loyd R. Shults's last will and testament, which incorporated by reference his and his wife's antenuptial property agreement. The Chancery Court interpreted Mr. Shults' last will and testament, determining certain property ownership rights acquired by the decedent during his marriage to be his solely. The court also ordered reformation of the testamentary trust, contained within the will, to identify the biological children of the decedent as the remainder beneficiaries. The Decedent's widow, Suzanne Shults, now challenges the Chancery Court's orders, first, arguing her husband's property, while titled solely in his name, should be considered marital property because it was acquired during the marriage. Suzanne Shults also argues the antenuptial agreement between her and her deceased husband indicates his intent to leave the corpus of the trust to her because property acquired during their marriage was to be marital property. We disagree with the appellant's argument and affirm the ruling of the Chancery Court. Cost of this appeal shall be assessed to the appellant, Suzanne Shults.


IN RE: T. C. S. S.

Court: TCA


A. Ensley Hagan, Jr., Lebanon, Tennessee, for the appellant, A.A.S.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Amy T. McConnell, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children's Services.


The father of an infant appeals the termination of his parental rights. The trial court found inter alia that his rights should be terminated pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. section 36-1-113(g)(6) due to the fact the father was confined in prison as a result of a criminal act under a sentence of more than ten years imposed when the child was under eight years of age and termination was in the child's best interests, due in part to the child's numerous and serious medical complications and the fact the father had never met the child. Finding no error, we affirm.



Court: TCCA


Derrick Bryant, Wartburg, Tennessee, Pro Se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; and Jennifer L. Bledsoe and John Bledsoe, Assistant Attorneys General, attorneys for appellee, State of Tennessee.


The pro se petitioner, Derrick Bryant, appeals the Morgan County Circuit Court's summary dismissal of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The state has filed a motion requesting that this court affirm the trial court's denial of relief pursuant to Rule 20 of the Rules of the Court of Criminal Appeals. Following our review, we conclude that the state's motion is well-taken, and the judgment of trial court is affirmed.



Court: TCCA


Danny H. Goodman, Jr., Tiptonville, Tennessee, for the Petitioner, Peter Graves.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; Jennifer L. Smith, Associate Deputy Attorney General; Thomas A. Thomas, District Attorney General, for the State of Tennessee.


A Weakley County jury convicted the Petitioner, Peter Graves, of possession of both a schedule II and a schedule IV drug with intent to sell or deliver, and the trial court sentenced him to an effective sentence of fifteen years. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, which the post- conviction court denied. The Petitioner now appeals, claiming: (1) he was denied the right to a fair trial because the jury saw him in handcuffs and shackles; (2) he was denied the right to a fair trial because the trial court did not conduct a jury out hearing when jurors wanted to ask him questions; and (3) he was not afforded the effective assistance of counsel. Upon a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the post-conviction court's judgment.



Court: TCCA


Dan Channing Stanley (on appeal), Knoxville, Tennessee; L. Allison Dobbs (at trial), Sevierville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Marvin Richard Rauhuff.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; J. Ross Dyer, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; Marya E. Wilkerson, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


In April 2005, a Knox County grand jury indicted the defendant, Marvin Richard Rauhuff, on one count of driving under the influence (DUI), third offense. Following a jury trial in Knox County Criminal Court, the defendant was convicted of the sole count of the indictment and was sentenced to eleven months, twenty-nine days in jail, with the defendant to serve 120 days in jail and the balance of his sentence on probation. The defendant appeals, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction, and that his due process rights were violated by the state's failure to turn over evidence of a blood alcohol test indicating that the defendantís blood alcohol content (BAC) was below .08 percent. After reviewing the record, we find no error and affirm the judgment of the trial court.



Court: TCCA


Brian J. Hunt, Clinton, Tennessee, for the appellant, Mitchell Simpson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Preston Shipp, Assistant Attorney General; R. Steven Bebb, District Attorney General; James H. Stutts, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


In August 2006, the McMinn County Circuit Court, after a hearing, revoked the probation of the defendant, Mitchell Simpson, and ordered that the defendant serve the remainder of his five-year sentence in the Department of Correction. The defendant did not file a direct appeal of the probation revocation order. In February 2007, the defendant filed a motion for reduction of sentence pursuant to Rule 35 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure. The trial court subsequently denied the defendant's motion. The defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in denying the defendant's motion. After reviewing the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.



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Floyd Stewart with the Center For Independent Living of Middle Tennessee writes that Tennessee nursing home residents are woefully abused and neglected and takes legislators to task for pushing a bill that would make them "the least protected class" in the state. Read his opinion here

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