Assigned on Briefs August 1, 2017
from the Chancery Court for Davidson County No. 15-1497-III
Ellen Hobbs Lyle, Chancellor
appeal arises from the denial of parole to an inmate by the
Tennessee Board of Parole ("the Board"). The inmate
was convicted in 1990 of first degree murder and first degree
burglary. The Board denied parole on the basis that the
inmate's release at the time of the hearing would
depreciate the seriousness of the crime for which he was
convicted. The inmate filed a petition for writ of certiorari
with the Davidson County Chancery Court ("trial
court"), alleging violations of due process and equal
protection. The trial court denied relief, determining that
no grounds existed to disturb the Board's decision.
Discerning no reversible error, we affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Chancery
Court Affirmed; Case Remanded
Joe Greenwood, Wartburg, Tennessee, Pro Se.
Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter;
Andrée Blumstein, Solicitor General; and Thomas J.
Aumann, Assistant Attorney General, for the appellee,
Tennessee Board of Parole.
R. Frierson, II, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Richard H. Dinkins, J., and J. Steven Stafford, P.J.,
R. FRIERSON, II, JUDGE
Factual and Procedural Background
Joe Greenwood is an inmate in the custody of the Tennessee
Department of Correction, currently housed at the Morgan
County Correctional Complex. In 1990, Mr. Greenwood was
convicted of first degree murder and first degree burglary.
He was sentenced to life in prison for the murder conviction
and six years of incarceration for the burglary conviction,
with such sentences to be served concurrently. On direct appeal,
Mr. Greenwood's convictions were affirmed by the
Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, which recited the
following facts underlying Mr. Greenwood's original
The record establishes that in April 1989, the defendant was
quite distraught over his recent divorce from Alice Evonne
Dishman and resulting separation from his young daughter.
While in this troubled state of mind, the defendant began to
consume excessive amounts of alcoholic beverages and drugs.
During the day of 22 April 1989, he drank approximately two
cases of beer, smoked marijuana, and ingested cocaine and
That evening, Greenwood broke into the home of Sherry
Dishman, Alice Evonne Dishman's sister, and took a loaded
.30-.30 caliber rifle. Rifle in hand, he sat on the hood of
his car in front of her home waiting for his former wife to
Sherry Dishman arrived first. She was accompanied by a male
friend, Charles Haney. They did not observe Greenwood, and he
permitted them to pass without incident.
A short time later, David Dishman drove up, and Greenwood
confronted him. After saying to Dishman, "You ain't
Evonne, you son-of-a-bitch, " he shot Dishman in the
stomach. Leaving Dishman on the ground where he had fallen,
the defendant went to the front door of the home, kicked it
in, and entered.
Once inside, he was met by Sherry Dishman and Haney. The
rifle discharged as the three of them struggled over it.
Unable to cock the rifle again, the defendant produced a
knife and threatened to use it to kill them.
Haney and Dishman were able to eject the defendant. Outside
again, the defendant noticed that David Dishman was
attempting to stand. Dishman reached out to the defendant,
called his name, and apologized for whatever he had done to
him. In response, the defendant said that they would die
together and thereupon shot Dishman a second time. Dishman
later succumbed to these wounds, and the defendant was
arrested two days later.
State v. Greenwood, No. 01C01-9108-CC-00228, 1992 WL
38054, at *1 (Tenn. Crim. App. Mar. 3, 1992) (reinstated
to Tennessee Board of Parole records, a parole hearing
regarding Mr. Greenwood was held on July 14, 2009, following
which the Board denied parole upon finding that Mr.
Greenwood's release from custody at that time would have
depreciated the seriousness of his crime. The Board
recommended that Mr. Greenwood complete or participate in
"anger [management], substance abuse [treatment],
criminal thinking, etc. programs, " and a review hearing
was scheduled for July 2015.
second parole hearing, held on July 23, 2015, is at issue now
on appeal. Mr. Greenwood spoke during the hearing and
requested that the Board release him from custody on parole.
Evidence presented at the hearing included the factual
circumstances concerning the criminal offense for which Mr.
Greenwood is incarcerated, in addition to signatures
supporting and in opposition to parole; oral statements in
support of parole presented by Mr. Greenwood, two prison
employees, and a friend of Mr. Greenwood's; certificates
of completion from various programs in which Mr. Greenwood
had participated while incarcerated, including Change
Companies Residential Drug Abuse Program, Victim Impact
Program, Pro-Social Life Skills Program, and Behavioral
Therapeutic Community; letters both in support of and in
opposition to Mr. Greenwood's release on parole; and oral
statements from Alice Dishman, Sherry Dishman, Charles Haney,
and a representative of the district attorney's office in
opposition to Mr. Greenwood's release.
the parole hearing, the hearing officer, Board member Tim
Gobble, informed Mr. Greenwood that he was voting to deny
parole, having concluded that the seriousness of Mr.
Greenwood's crime would be depreciated by his release at
that time. When informing Mr. Greenwood of his
recommendation, Mr. Gobble stated:
Mr. Greenwood, after considering the totality of the
circumstances here and your file, there [are] some things I
want to commend you on. I do want to commend you on your
institutional behavior and your efforts there.
I want to commend you on your program participation and your
efforts there with your substance abuse and addiction issues
and your admitted anger issues that you were no doubt dealing
with at the point of this offense.
But I also cannot overcome at this time the seriousness of
this offense where a young man was ruthlessly and needlessly
gunned down by you not once, but twice, and the 18-year-old
young man had no involvement in anything at all with what you
were angry about, and had a full life ahead of him that was
taken away from him senselessly and needlessly.
And you having served less than 30 years of a life conviction
prevents me from voting to parole you at this time because of
the seriousness of the offense in which you were convicted
To do so at this time would depreciate the seriousness of the
crime of which you've been convicted and promote
disrespect for the law. So my vote is to deny your parole and
review it again in July of 2020. That's five years from
I do want to commend you on the efforts that you are making
towards rehabilitation. I think you are showing some
progress. I want to see that continue.
I appreciate the comments that the prison officials have
made, and I know they don't do that lightly.
And so I think you have made some strides. But again, the
seriousness of this offense just prevents [me from] voting to
parole you at this time, having served less than 30 years of
a life sentence.
additional Board members adopted Mr. Gobble's reasoning
and voted unanimously to deny parole. On August 4, 2015, the
Board provided Mr. Greenwood with written notice that parole
had been denied and that his next parole hearing would be
scheduled for July 2020. Mr. Greenwood filed an
administrative appeal with the Board, which was ultimately
denied. Following a review of the Board's file and an
audio recording of the hearing, the Board reasoned that Mr.
Greenwood's allegation that significant procedural errors
had occurred at the parole hearing was unsubstantiated.
Greenwood subsequently filed a petition for writ of
certiorari with the trial court. Upon the Board's notice
of no opposition to the issuance of a writ of certiorari, the
trial court granted Mr. Greenwood's
petition. In the trial court, Mr. Greenwood alleged
that the Board's denial of parole violated "his
Fourteenth Amendment right to due process of law under the
United States Constitution and article one sections eight and
nine of the Tennessee Constitution." Mr. Greenwood also
alleged that his equal protection rights were violated,
arguing that other inmates who were similarly situated had
been released on parole.
trial court subsequently entered an order dismissing Mr.
Greenwood's petition upon finding that "[t]he
declination of parole based upon seriousness of the offense
is supported by evidence in the hearing transcript in this
case, describing [Mr. Greenwood's] murder of a
defenseless eighteen year old who was not involved in the
dispute between [Mr. Greenwood] and his ex-wife." The
court concluded that "the Board's final decision to
decline parole based on the seriousness of the offense was
proper pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-35-503(b) and
Arnold [v. Tenn. Bd. of Paroles, 956 S.W.2d
478 (Tenn. 1997).]." The trial court further found that
the Board's deferral of parole for five years was
"not unlawful or arbitrary." Regarding Mr.
Greenwood's equal ...