James M. Lammey, Jr., Judge (Service Ended August 31, 2022)


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. Smith, W2021-01075-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Aug. 11, 2022).  The Defendant, Daniel Smith, appeals the trial court’s revocation of his ten-year probation sentence for aggravated assault. The trial court determined that the Defendant’s act of sending a letter to the victim violated the terms of his probation sentence and ordered the Defendant to serve his sentence. The Defendant asserts that the trial court’s revocation of his probation sentence was an abuse of discretion and that he should be returned to service of a probation sentence. After review, we conclude that revocation of the probation sentence was not an abuse of discretion.

State of Tennessee v. Banks, W2021-01038-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 13, 2022).  Defendant, Hans Banks, was indicted by the Shelby County Grand Jury for second degree murder. After a trial, Defendant was convicted of the lesser-included offense, voluntary manslaughter, and received a sentence of six years. On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress his statements given to the police and that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of voluntary manslaughter. After review, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Colbert v. State of Tennessee, No. W2021-00778-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. June 13, 2022).  The Petitioner, Casey Colbert, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief from his convictions for first degree felony murder and attempted aggravated robbery, alleging that he received ineffective assistance of counsel and that the State committed prosecutorial misconduct depriving him of his right to a fair trial. After review, we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


Keller v. State of Tennessee, No. W2021-00123-CCA-R3-ECN (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. April 18, 2022). After the dismissal of his petition for error coram nobis relief without a hearing, Curtis Keller, Petitioner, appealed. Upon review, we determine that the petition for relief was properly dismissed and affirm the judgment of the coram nobis court.


Bland v. State of Tennessee, No. W2021-00897-CCA-R3-ECN (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. April 18, 2022). In 2015, a Shelby County jury convicted the Petitioner, Michael Bland, of first degree premeditated murder, and the trial court imposed a life sentence. On February 20, 2020, the Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of error coram nobis, alleging that newly discovered evidence exists. After a hearing on the petition, the coram nobis court issued an order denying the petition. The Petitioner appeals, arguing that the coram nobis court erred by denying relief. The Petitioner asserts that newly discovered evidence would have changed the outcome of the trial. After review, we affirm the coram nobis court’s judgment.


State of Tennessee v. Teresa Sumpter, No. W2021-00119-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. March 30, 2022). A Shelby County jury convicted the defendant, Teresa Sumpter, for the Class A felony of theft of property valued over $250,000 and for the Class B felony of money laundering. The trial court imposed an effective sentence of sixty years to be served in the Tennessee Department of Correction and ordered the defendant pay $373,412.77 in restitution. The defendant filed this timely appeal, challenging the evidence supporting her theft conviction and the trial court’s ruling allowing the defendant’s prior theft convictions to be entered into evidence. Following our review, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.


Demarco Waters v. State of Tennessee, No. W2021-00428-CCA-R3-PC (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 28, 2022). The Petitioner, DeMarco Waters, appeals the denial of post-conviction relief with respect to his convictions for one count of first degree premeditated murder, three counts of attempted first degree murder, one count of attempted second degree murder, and four counts of employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony, for which he received an effective sentence of life imprisonment plus seventy-seven years. On appeal, the Petitioner maintains that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. We affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.


State of Tennessee v. Kejuan King, No. W2020-01628-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 8, 2022). A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Kejuan King, of second-degree murder, and the trial court sentenced him to twenty-five years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that: (1) the trial court erred by excluding evidence of the victim’s “prior threats, violent provocations, and other prior bad acts toward the defendant and others,” (2) the State failed to properly manage evidence, and (3) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction because he acted in self defense. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgment.


State of Tennessee v. Andrea Spencer, No. W2021-00678-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 2, 2022). The defendant, Andrea Spencer, appeals the summary dismissal of his motion, filed pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Criminal Procedure 36.1, to correct what he believes to be an illegal sentence imposed for his 1983 guilty-pleaded convictions of robbery with a weapon, larceny from a person, and petit larceny. Discerning no error, we affirm the ruling of the trial court.


State of Tennessee v. Christopher Williams, No. W2020-01258-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Jan. 26, 2022). A Shelby County jury convicted the Defendant, Christopher Williams, of first degree premeditated murder and of being a felon in possession of a firearm. The trial court sentenced the Defendant to life imprisonment. On appeal, the Defendant asserts that the trial court erred when it admitted his confession into evidence and that the evidence was insufficient to support his convictions. After review, we affirm the trial court’s judgments.


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.



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