Barry Tidwell, Judge

Biography

Reports of Cases Reviewed by Appellate Courts – Beginning Jan. 1, 2022

Text is the appellate court’s summary of the opinion.

Scroll down for important information.

 

Chambers v. State of Tennessee, No. M2023-00929-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. May 1, 2024). The Petitioner, LaNorris O’Brien Chambers, appeals from the Rutherford County Circuit Court’s denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, wherein he challenged his convictions for two counts of robbery, two counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, and one count of aggravated assault. On appeal, the Petitioner argues trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in failing to challenge Count 5, in failing to request dismissal of Count 2 of the superseding indictment, in failing to explain Rule 404(b) and the effect of his prior convictions, in failing to challenge the sufficiency of the State’s notice of sentence enhancement, and in failing to review all discovery with him. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Gleaves, No. M2023-00175-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 26, 2024). The Appellant, Izaiha Gleaves, was convicted of second degree murder, attempted second degree murder, two counts of employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, aggravated assault, and tampering with evidence. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of forty-nine years’ confinement. On appeal, the Appellant argues: (1) the evidence is insufficient to support his convictions; (2) the trial court erred when it failed to excuse a juror who had a conflict of interest; (3) the trial court erred when it admitted a redacted recording of a witness interview; (4) the trial court’s cumulative errors warrant reversal; and (5) the trial court erred when it imposed an effective sentence of forty-nine years.1 After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.

 

State of Tennessee v. Nelson, No. M2023-00176-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Mar. 20, 2024). A Rutherford County jury found Defendant, Lavondas C. Nelson, guilty of two counts of sale of more than 0.5 grams of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school (Counts 1 and 2), and sale of more than 0.5 grams of cocaine (Count 3). The trial court sentenced him to forty years in the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC). On appeal, Defendant argues the evidence was insufficient to establish that he sold cocaine within a school zone, the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on entrapment, and his sentence is excessive. After review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court. However, we remand the case to the trial court for entry of revised judgments in Counts 1 and 2 that reflect the proper release eligibility for those offenses.

 

Lehmann v. Wilson, No. M2023-00232-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 4, 2024). The appellant challenges his convictions on two charges of criminal contempt for violating an order of protection prohibiting him from contacting his former partner. The convictions arise from two communications between the appellant and the appellee when exchanging their minor child. We have determined that the underlying orders lack the required level of clarity and contain significant ambiguities. We, therefore, reverse the convictions.

 

State of Tennessee v. Patton, No. M2023-00801-CCA-WR-CO (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 15, 2024). Eric Tyre Patton, Defendant, was convicted of two Class A felony drug offenses committed within the 1000-foot prohibited zone of an elementary school and was sentenced to consecutive terms of twenty-five years at 100% service. Defendant filed a motion for resentencing pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-17-432(h). The trial court found that granting a shorter sentence was not in the interests of justice and denied the motion. Defendant filed a petition seeking certiorari and/or extraordinary review. This court denied extraordinary review but granted the petition seeking certiorari and ordered the record to be assembled and transmitted for this court to conduct a review of the trial court’s ruling. Following a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

Robey v. State of Tennessee, No. M2022-01257-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Nov. 15, 2023).  In 2013, the Petitioner, Marcus Anthony Robey, pleaded guilty to evading arrest and criminal impersonation in exchange for an effective sentence of eleven months and twenty-nine days. In a bifurcated proceeding, a jury convicted the Petitioner of aggravated robbery following which he pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. For these convictions he received concurrent thirty- and fifteen-year sentences, respectively. State v. Robey, No. M2015-00306-CCA-R3-CD, 2016 WL 4487954, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 25, 2016), perm. app. denied (Tenn. 2016). Thereafter, the Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that he received the ineffective assistance of counsel, that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction related to the indictment, and that the State withheld evidence resulting in prosecutorial misconduct. The post-conviction court denied his petition after a hearing. After review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s judgment.

 

State of Tennessee v. Janes, No.  M2023-00112-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 3, 2023).  The Defendant, Adam Janes, appeals the trial court’s denial of his motion for a reduction of sentence pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 35. Specifically, the Defendant argues that: (1) he received the ineffective assistance of trial counsel; (2) he entered into his guilty plea unknowingly and involuntarily; (3) the assistant district attorney was prejudiced against him; (4) he was entitled to concurrent sentences; (5) he was not given the opportunity of rehabilitation; (6) his sentence was not the least severe measure necessary to achieve the purposes for which the sentence was imposed; and (7) the State failed to file a notice of intent to seek enhanced punishment. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

Nedomthottathil v. Thomas, No. M2020-00473-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 27, 2023) (memorandum opinion).  In this divorce action, the court limited Wife’s proof at trial as a sanction for her failure to respond to pre-trial discovery. After the trial, the court granted the parties an absolute divorce, equitably divided the marital estate, adopted a permanent parenting plan for their minor children, and declined to award Wife spousal support. Wife argues that the court erred in limiting her proof at trial, dividing the marital estate, and denying her request for spousal support. Discerning no abuse of discretion in these decisions, we affirm.

 

Montgomery v. State of Tennessee, No. M2022-00780-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Aug. 21, 2023). The Petitioner, Angela Montgomery, was convicted in the Rutherford County Circuit Court of six counts of rape of a child, for which she received an effective sentence of forty years’ imprisonment to be served at one hundred percent. This court affirmed her convictions, and she filed a petition for post-conviction relief claiming that she received the ineffective assistance of counsel. After an evidentiary hearing, the post-conviction court granted relief. The State then appealed, claiming for the first time that the petition was untimely. This court remanded the case to the post-conviction court to determine whether the Petitioner was entitled to due process tolling of the one-year statute of limitations. The post-conviction court held that she was not and denied the petition as untimely. The Petitioner now appeals contending that she is entitled to due process tolling because, despite her repeated requests, trial counsel failed to provide her with a copy of the trial transcript. Upon review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Kirk, No.  M2022-01334-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Aug. 3, 2023). Defendant, William Timothy Kirk, pleaded guilty to driving under the influence (DUI), first offense. The trial court sentenced Defendant to a term of eleven months, twenty-nine days in confinement, to be served at seventy-five percent. The trial court ordered the DUI sentence to be served consecutively to the life sentence for which Defendant was on parole at the time of the offense. On appeal, Defendant argues the trial court abused its discretion by imposing consecutive sentences. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

State of Tennessee v. Hurt, No.  M2021-01139-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Apr. 11, 2023).  Antonio J. Hurt, Defendant, was indicted by a Rutherford County Grand Jury for attempted first degree murder, employing a firearm during a dangerous felony, aggravated assault, and reckless endangerment after a shooting at a barber shop. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of the lesser included offense of attempted voluntary manslaughter and employing a firearm during a dangerous felony. The trial court entered a nolle prosequi on the aggravated assault charge, and the State withdrew the reckless endangerment charge. Defendant was sentenced to an effective sentence of 8 years. Defendant filed a motion for judgment of acquittal. Defendant filed a pro se premature notice of appeal in the trial court. The trial court denied the motion for judgment of acquittal. Defendant filed an untimely notice of appeal in this Court. This Court waived the timely filing of the notice of appeal. On appeal, Defendant complains about the sufficiency of the evidence, the admissibility of certain testimony of two witnesses, and statements made by the prosecutor during closing argument. After a review, we determine the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions and that Defendant is not entitled to plain error review of the remaining issues. Accordingly, the judgments of the trial court are affirmed. However, the matter is remanded to the trial court for entry of a judgment form dismissing the count of the indictment for reckless endangerment.

 

State of Tennessee v. Pitts, No.  M2021-01334-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Nov. 22, 2022).  Larry Dale Pitts, Defendant, was convicted of aggravated assault after a jury trial. The trial court denied his request for judicial diversion and sentenced him to split confinement, with one year of incarceration, and the remainder on supervised probation. He now appeals the sentencing determinations of the trial court, arguing that it abused its discretion in denying judicial diversion, denying full probation, and sentencing him to the maximum within-range sentence of six years. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

Eugene Franklin v. State of Tennessee, No. M2021-00367-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. March 23, 2022). Petitioner, Eugene Franklin, appeals from the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief challenging his convictions upon his guilty pleas to two counts of aggravated sexual battery, for which he received consecutive eight-year sentences resulting in an effective 16-year sentence.  Petitioner contends that the post-conviction court erred by finding that he received the effective assistance of counsel and that his guilty pleas were knowingly and voluntarily entered.  Following our review, we affirm the post-conviction court’s denial of the petition.

 

Understanding the Limitations and Use of the Information Found in This Book

Tennessee’s trial judges resolve hundreds of thousands of legal and factual issues in tens of thousands of cases every single year.  No appeal is filed in the vast percentage of those cases, indicating that while the “losing” party may not like a ruling on a particular issue, that party understands there was an appropriate reason for the judge’s decision or, at a minimum, the judge was acting within his or her discretion.

 

Of course, a small number of decisions of trial judges do result in an appeal. Experienced trial lawyers know that the number of cases appealed out of a particular trial judge’s court does not, in and of itself, reveal much about the trial judge. For example, some judges hear more complex cases than others, and those cases are more likely to be appealed. Convictions in child sex abuse cases are frequently appealed, as are many criminal cases resulting in long sentences. There are a large number of parental rights termination cases that find their way to the appellate courts.  Judges who routinely try those types of cases will, other things being equal, see more of their cases reviewed by appellate courts than judges who do not see such cases.

 

Second, certain litigants (and certain lawyers) are more likely to appeal a case than others.  Thus, judges who have those litigants or lawyers regularly appear in their courtrooms will find more cases reviewed by the appellate courts.

 

For these and other reasons, the reader is cautioned not to read too much into the number of cases appealed from a court.  Stated differently, there is no reason to believe that a judge who has ten cases reviewed by an appellate court in a single year is a “worse” judge than one who has one case appealed, or that a judge who has three cases appealed is a “better” judge than one who has nine cases appealed.

 

Next, the number of times a judge’s ruling is reversed by an appellate court is not necessarily indicative of the quality of his or her work. For example, experienced lawyers know that there are “holes in the law,” i.e., cases where there is no law directly on point and the judge is forced to predict what an appellate court would rule on the issue. The fact that a judge decided an open legal issue one way and an appellate court decided it another way does not mean that the trial judge was “wrong” or does not understand the law. It simply means that the trial judge had a different view of what the law should be than the appellate court that decided the issue. A trial judge is not blessed with a crystal ball that can with 100 percent accuracy forecast how an appellate court will rule on an undecided legal issue.

 

In addition, the trial court is sometimes not provided with the same in-depth legal arguments and law that is supplied to the appellate court by the parties, or which is provided by law clerks at the appellate level (many trial courts do not have law clerks). The trial judge may have reached the same conclusion as the appellate court if he or she had been supplied with additional law or argument.

 

Finally, the law changes constantly, and the trial judge may rule on a case based on today’s law, which may evolve between the time of that ruling and the issuance of an opinion of the appellate court. In such cases, the reversal of the case by the appellate court is a question of timing of the original court decision as compared to changes in the law, not one of error by the trial court.

 

So, what is the value of this book?  How can the trial lawyer use it to help his or her clients given the limitations expressed above? Permit me to digress slightly.

 

You have seen the coffee cups or t-shirts that proclaim, “A good lawyer knows the law, but a great lawyer knows the judge.”

 

Some read this phrase as suggesting that the “great lawyer” is one who has an improper relationship with the judge – that he or she can use a personal relationship to improperly influence the judge.  But most lawyers know better.  Most lawyers understand that “knowing the judge” means knowing the judge’s background, preferences concerning the presentation of evidence (including exhibits), arguments of motions, drafting of proposed orders, and given that experience, how he or she is likely to rule on a particular issue.  “Knowing the judge” also means knowing the local rules, local forms, local customs, and what things irritate the judge (and every judge is irritated by at least one thing that lawyers or litigants may do).

 

Many lawyers, particularly those in more rural areas of the state or who limit their practice to one area of law, understand the personality and preferences of the judges they see on a regular basis. Many of these lawyers may have a fair advantage appearing before that judge. (The advantage is “fair” because it results from experience and knowledge.)  That advantage – knowing how the judge thinks and his or her preferences – is not outcome-determinative, but it still may be an advantage, similar to a sports team playing on their home field.

 

Why did I say it “may” be an advantage, given what I said earlier about the benefits of “knowing the judge?”  Because simply knowing the judge’s thought processes and preferences is not enough. You still need to have the law and the facts on your client’s side.  And you need to be prepared to be able to give the judge what he or she needs to know to make a ruling.

 

So, the purpose of “The Book” is to give Tennessee lawyers case-related information to help them understand the trial judge who will rule on their client’s case or preside over a jury trial. By looking at past appellate court rulings arising from cases decided by the trial judge, anyone unfamiliar with a judge can get a “feel” for the judge. The case data contained herein does not compare with daily or weekly appearances in front of the judge on issues like a given case, but it is readily available information that give you an idea of how the judge has ruled in the past on a variety of matters.

 

The cases included are those originally decided by the trial judge that were in appellate court opinions released on or after January 1, 2022.  Note that there are a substantial number of judges who first took office in 2022 and thus it is reasonable to assume that there will be no appellate decisions for such judges until late 2023 or 2024.

 

License

"The Book" - Information on Tennessee Trial Judges Copyright © 2023 by BirdDog Law, LLC. All Rights Reserved.