Dee David Gay, Judge


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.


State of Tennessee v. Pitt, II, M2022-01730-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Dec. 14, 2023).  This appeal concerns sentencing issues only. Defendant, Robert W. Pitt, II, pleaded guilty in the Sumner County Criminal Court to five counts of statutory rape by an authority figure, involving one victim. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court sentenced Defendant to six years in confinement on each conviction and ordered the sentences to run consecutively, for an effective thirty-year sentence. Defendant argues on appeal that his sentences are excessive and that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering consecutive sentencing. We affirm.


State of Tennessee v. Childs, M2022-01685-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 7, 2023).  The Defendant, Jennifer Michelle Childs, was indicted in the Sumner County Criminal Court for driving under the influence (“DUI”) and filed motions to suppress evidence and dismiss the indictment. The trial court held a hearing, ruled that the Defendant’s warrantless arrest was illegal, and dismissed the indictment. The State appeals the dismissal, arguing that the remedy for an illegal arrest is suppression of any evidence obtained as a result of the arrest. Based upon the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we agree with the State. Accordingly, the trial court’s dismissal of the indictment is reversed, the indictment is reinstated, and the case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


State of Tennessee v. Brown, M2022-00729-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 5, 2023).  Anthony Terrell Brown, Defendant, was convicted by a jury in the Robertson County Circuit Court of first degree premeditated murder. He received a sentence of life in prison without parole. On appeal, Defendant contends the trial court erred when the presiding circuit court judge appointed, by interchange, a trial judge from an adjoining district to try the case, and that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. Bryant, M2022-00260-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 5, 2023).  Defendant, Clinton W. Bryant, was charged with five counts of rape of a child. Following the State’s proof at trial, the trial court granted Defendant’s motion for judgment of acquittal on one of the five counts, and a jury convicted Defendant of the remaining four counts. The trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective fifty-year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to sever all five counts; that the trial court erred in denying a new trial based on an incomplete trial transcript; and that the cumulation of these errors warrant relief. Following a review of the entire record, the briefs of the parties, and the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. Anderson, M2022-00262-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 24, 2023). A Sumner County jury convicted the defendant, Steven Lamont Anderson, of unlawful possession of a firearm after being convicted of a felony involving violence and unlawful possession of a handgun by a convicted felon, for which he received an agreed-upon sentence of twelve years in confinement. On appeal, the defendant contends the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support his convictions. The defendant also argues the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress and in sentencing the defendant as a Range II offender. After reviewing the record and considering the applicable law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. Pauze, M2022-00284-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 27, 2023). Defendant, Kayla Nicole Pauze was convicted by a jury of reckless homicide and aggravated assault. The trial court sentenced Defendant to an effective ten-year sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant challenges the length, range, and manner of her sentences. Following a thorough review of the record, the briefs and oral arguments of the parties, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. Blackwell, M2020-01171-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 15, 2022). Thomas Adam Blackwell, Defendant, claims that the trial court abused its discretion by revoking his probation, denying an alternative sentence, and ordering his three-year sentence for fourth offense driving under the influence (“DUI”) to be served consecutively to the seven-year sentence that he was serving on community corrections when he was arrested for the DUI. After a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we affirm.


State of Tennessee v. Richmond, M2021-01025-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 22, 2022). The Defendant, Douglas Mac Richmond, pled guilty in the Sumner County Criminal Court to nine counts of sexual exploitation of a minor by electronic means, a Class B felony. Pursuant to the plea agreement, he received an effective sixteen-year sentence as a Range I, standard offender with the trial court to determine the manner of service of the sentence. After a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered that he serve the sentence in confinement. On appeal, the Defendant claims that he was denied due process at sentencing because the trial court allowed unreliable hearsay testimony, “infused” the court’s religious beliefs into the court’s sentencing decision, failed to consider required statistical information from the Administrative Office of the Courts (“AOC”), and considered information outside the Defendant’s actual criminal conduct. The Defendant also claims that we should review the trial court’s sentencing decision de novo because the court did not follow the purposes and principles of sentencing and that we should grant his request for full probation or split confinement. Based on the oral arguments, the record, and the parties’ briefs, we conclude that the Defendant has not shown a violation of due process by the trial court but that a de novo review of the denial of alternative sentencing is warranted. Upon our de novo review, we conclude that the trial court properly ordered that the Defendant serve his effective sixteen-year sentence in confinement.


State of Tennessee v. Serghei, M2021-00776-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Sept. 15, 2022).  Sarioglo Serghei, Defendant, was issued a citation alleging that he “failed to move over for officer traffic stop (lights on).” Following a bench trial, the trial court found Defendant guilty of violating Tennessee Code Annotated Section 55-8-132(b), a Class B misdemeanor, and imposed a sentence of thirty days suspended to unsupervised probation and a fine of one hundred dollars. Following a thorough review of the record and applicable law, we determine that Defendant had limited English proficiency, that the trial court failed to comply with Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 42, and that proceeding with the trial when Defendant did not have the necessary means to communicate violated his constitutional right to testify and to be heard. We reverse the judgment of conviction and remand for a new trial consistent with this opinion.


State of Tennessee v. Looper, M2021-00652-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Aug. 11, 2022).  The Defendant, Phillip Myron Looper, pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated animal cruelty and one count of aggravated assault.  The trial court sentenced the Defendant to 364 days to be served in the county jail, followed by twelve years of probation, including a restriction from leaving the county of residence except for medical treatment.  The Defendant did not object to the sentence but filed a timely appeal, contending that the trial court erred when it imposed a sentence in excess of the agreed upon five years and by improperly imposing travel restrictions.  After review, we reverse the trial court’s judgments and remand the case for entry of an order as set forth herein.


Godfrey v. State of Tennessee, M2021-00768-CCA-R3-PC  (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. July 18, 2022).  Petitioner, William Carl Godfrey, initially agreed to plead guilty to domestic aggravated assault, resisting arrest, and vandalism under $1000.  During the plea submission hearing, Petitioner stated that he was not guilty.  The State then offered to accept a plea of “no contest,” and after discussion with trial counsel and the trial court, Petitioner accepted the no contest plea.  The trial court imposed an effective sentence of six years’ probation.  On appeal, Petitioner argues that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel and that his plea was unknowing and involuntary.  After a thorough review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


State of Tennessee v. Tice,  M2021-00495-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. July 18, 2022).  A Sumner County jury convicted the Defendant, Jamie L. Tice, of two counts of statutory rape by an authority figure and three counts of aggravated statutory rape, for which the trial court imposed an effective sentence of twenty-four years with release eligibility after service of thirty percent of the sentence in confinement.  On appeal, the Defendant argues (1) the evidence is insufficient to sustain her two convictions for statutory rape by an authority figure; (2) the State committed a Brady violation by failing to disclose payments made to a testifying witness and her husband; (3) the trial court erred in failing to provide a modified unanimity instruction in Count 4, and the evidence is insufficient to sustain her conviction for aggravated statutory rape in that count; (4) the trial court committed plain error in improperly admitting hearsay statements of the Defendant’s husband, as well as the argument thereof, which violated the Defendant’s right to due process and confrontation; (5) the trial court erroneously deprived her of the right of cross-examination on certain topics; (6) the trial court imposed an excessive sentence; and (7) cumulative error deprived her of a fair trial.  After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


Meyer v. State of Tennessee, No. M2021-00712-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App. June 27, 2022).  The petitioner, John Meyer, appeals the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief, which petition challenged his conviction of theft of property valued at $1,000 or less, alleging that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Discerning no error, we affirm the denial of post-conviction relief.


Solomon v. State of Tennessee, No. M2021-00739-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Crim. App. May 13, 2022).  The Petitioner, Christopher C. Solomon, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault, and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, and he received an effective thirty-three-year sentence. The Petitioner filed a petition for post-conviction relief, contending that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when trial counsel failed to seek the trial judge’s recusal at sentencing. Following a hearing, the post-conviction court denied the petition, and the Petitioner appeals. After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


State of Tennessee v. McMurry, No. M2021-00223-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 12, 2022).  Defendant, Mark Dewayne McMurry, was indicted for and pleaded guilty to robbery. Prior to sentencing, Defendant moved to recuse the trial judge. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion for recusal and, following a sentencing hearing, sentenced Defendant as a Range II multiple offender to serve 10 years in incarceration. In this appeal as of right, Defendant challenges his sentence as excessive and argues that the trial court should have granted his motion for recusal. Following our careful review of the record, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. Moore, No. M2020-01147-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 12, 2022). Amanda L. Moore, Defendant, appeals after a jury convicted her of two counts of vehicular assault, one count of driving under the influence (“DUI”), and one count of reckless endangerment. The trial court merged the DUI conviction into the convictions for vehicular assault. Defendant was sentenced to an effective sentence of four years. After the denial of a motion for new trial, Defendant appealed, arguing: (1) the trial court improperly admitted the results of a blood draw used by the hospital for medical treatment; (2) the trial court improperly allowed her to be questioned extensively about her driving history on cross-examination; (3) the trial court improperly allowed the State to meet with its expert during cross-examination; and (4) the trial court had improper ex parte communication with the jury during deliberation. After a review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court but remand to the trial court for entry of a judgment form for DUI.


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.



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