News

4 Apply for 30th District Judicial Vacancy

The Trial Court Vacancy Commission will consider four applicants when it meets on Nov. 6 in Memphis to select nominees for the Criminal Court vacancy in the 30th Judicial District, representing Shelby County. The vacancy was created by the retirement of Judge James C. Beasley Jr. The applicants are Dean DeCandia of Memphis, Robert Harris of Germantown, Jennifer J. Mitchell of Memphis and Jennifer S. Nichols of Memphis. The commission will interview the applicants at the Marriott Memphis East, 5795 Poplar Avenue. The meeting will include a public hearing starting at 9 a.m. The commission is expected to vote immediately following the interviews and forward three names to Governor Bill Haslam for his consideration.
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DSC Moves to Protect Records in Brentwood Academy Suit

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services is fighting Brentwood Academy’s efforts to obtain documents, correspondence and records related to allegations made by a boy who is suing the school and other students accused of assaulting him, the Tennessean reports. The department has a statutory obligation to maintain the confidentiality of its records, a DCS spokesman told the newspaper. School officials say they should have access to the information as part of the discovery process. A court hearing on the DCS motion is scheduled for Nov. 9. 

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Court Affirms Especially Aggravated Robbery Conviction

In an opinion filed today, the Supreme Court of Tennessee clarified when a serious bodily injury must occur during a robbery to elevate the crime to especially aggravated robbery. In State of Tennessee v. Antonio Henderson, the Supreme Court determined a serious bodily injury suffered by a victim of a robbery must be sustained during the robbery in order for the enhanced charge and punishment to apply. In deciding when a robbery is over, the Court concluded a theft is completed when a defendant has taken all of the property he intended to steal.
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8 Cases Granted Review by Supreme Court

The Tennessee Supreme Court has recently granted review in eight cases, including civil cases that involve wrongful death plaintiffs, health care liability pre-suit notices, and accrual of civil actions. Criminal cases include sex offender probation, error coram nobis, warrantless searches, retroactivity of constitutional challenges, and creation of child pornography. The Raybin Supreme Court Hot List reviews the cases and offers predictions.

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Shelby Sheriff’s Office Wins $350K Grant to Reduce Jail Population

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office won a $350,000 MacArthur Foundation grant to assist in reducing the jail population of low-level nonviolent offenders by 24 percent over the next two years, The Commercial Appeal reports. The grant seeks to reduce the jail population without hurting public safety, according to Shelby County Chief Deputy Floyd Bonner. This is the third grant Shelby County has received to support these efforts.
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Court Issues Proposed Rules Amendments, Asks for Comment

The Tennessee Supreme Court has published the annual package of recommendations from the Advisory Commission on Rules of Procedure and Evidence, the 2018 Proposed Rules Amendments. Several TBA sections are reviewing the recommendations for possible comment. Comments are due to the court no later than Nov. 22.

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SCOTUS to Hear Case of Death Row Inmate Unable to Stop Lawyer from Conceding Guilt

The U.S. Supreme Court today announced it will consider whether it is unconstitutional for defense counsel to concede a defendant’s guilt over his express objection, the ABA Journal reports. The question centers around the case of Robert Leroy McCoy, a Louisiana death row inmate who objected to his lawyer’s suggestion to admit guilt and accept a plea deal. His lawyer, Larry English, argued that it was his ethical duty to save McCoy’s life, and therefore admitted McCoy’s guilt with the goal of sparing him from the death penalty.
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SCOTUS to Hear Case of Death Row Inmate Unable to Stop Lawyer from Conceding Guilt

The U.S. Supreme Court today announced it will consider whether it is unconstitutional for defense counsel to concede a defendant’s guilt over his express objection, the ABA Journal reports. The question centers around the case of Robert Leroy McCoy, a Louisiana death row inmate who objected to his lawyer’s suggestion to admit guilt and accept a plea deal. His lawyer, Larry English, argued that it was his ethical duty to save McCoy’s life, and therefore admitted McCoy’s guilt with the goal of sparing him from the death penalty.
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Adams Gets Life Plus 50 Years for Rape and Murder of Holly Bobo

Zach Adams was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 50 years for the kidnapping, rape and murder of Holly Bobo, ABC News reports. Judge C. Creed McGinley said that Adams made a deal with prosecutors minutes prior to his scheduled sentencing hearing on Saturday, allowing him to avoid the death penalty. Adams was convicted of murder, especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape on Friday.
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Zach Adams Found Guilty of the Murder of Holly Bobo

After coming to the judge with questions during deliberations, a Hardin County jury has found Zach Adams guilty of the first degree murder of Holly Bobo, The Tennessean reports. Adams was also found guilty of seven other charges, including especially aggravated kidnapping and aggravated rape. Closing arguments in the case were given yesterday. Adams will not be sentenced today; the court will recess and resume tomorrow at 10 a.m. to begin the penalty phase of the trial, and ultimately determine if he will be sentenced to the death penalty.  Adams was arrested in 2014 for the 2011 murder of Bobo.
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Second Mistrial Declared in Case of Murdered Pregnant Woman

For the second time, a judge declared a mistrial in the case of Norman Eugene Clark, accused of killing his girlfriend and their unborn son, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Criminal Court Judge Steven Sword set an Oct. 20 status hearing to determine whether the state will try Clark for a third time, after the second trial’s jury deadlocked on all counts. Victim Brittany Eldridge was killed inside her bedroom in 2011. The defense argues evidence against Clark is circumstantial.
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AOC Director Tate Named to National Opioid Task Force

Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) Director Deborah Taylor Tate and Indiana Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush were appointed co-chairs of the newly created Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA) National Opioid Task Force. The Task Force will find solutions, examine current efforts and make recommendations to address the opioid epidemic’s ongoing impact on the justice system. "We hope Tennessee — through Director Tate’s strong leadership and background in mental health — can play a pivotal role in national solutions," said Marie Williams, Commissioner of Tennessee Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

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Eyewitness Changes Testimony in Chattanooga Homicide Case

An eyewitness to the Lookout Valley triple homicide case changed his testimony on the witness stand today, the Times Free Press reports. Brandon Jackson told law enforcement that he saw a vehicle headed towards his family’s trailer home and he witnessed Derek Morse get out of the car and head toward three men who were killed that night. However, on the stand today Jackson said he couldn’t remember giving the statement.
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U.S. Senate Leaders to Reintroduce Criminal Justice Reform Bill

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee members confirmed Tuesday that they plan to reintroduce the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which increased judicial discretion in sentencing, reduced sentences for some nonviolent drug offenders and expanded reentry services for prisoners, the Brennan Center for Justice reports. The bill has seen bipartisan support, with committee chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., taking part in the announcement.
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Felony Count Changes for Bradley County Sheriff

Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson faces 12 felony charges, up from the six he was indicted with in July, after his attorney challenged the wording of the original charges, the Times Free Press reports. Watson’s attorney, James F. Logan Jr., said that the 12 felony counts are "merely a reformulation of the prior charges against him," which in their original form could have lead to non-unanimous guilty verdicts against his client. The charges are related to falsified or altered vehicle titles.
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Court Denies Roof’s Request to Replace His Indian, Jewish Lawyers

The Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request from white supremacist Dylann Roof, who asked for new lawyers because his court-appointed ones are Indian and Jewish, the ABA Journal reports. Roof, who was convicted of the mass murder of nine black churchgoers, filed the pro se motion on Monday because he said the lawyers were his “political and biological enemies” and it would be impossible for them to represent him fairly. The court denied his request the following day.
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Cheatham County Inmate, Deputies Reach Settlement in Tasing Lawsuit

A former Cheatham County inmate who sued three deputies for using excessive force has dropped his civil lawsuit, NewsChannel 5 reports. Ben Raybin, Jordan Norris's attorney, said his client reached a confidential settlement in the case. The lawsuit alleged that Cheatham County deputies used force amounting to torture when they tased Norris multiple times while he was strapped into a chair. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation found that they had used a stun gun on Norris at least four times.
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Mass Shooter Dylann Roof Wants to Drop His Indian, Jewish Lawyers

Convicted mass shooter and white supremacist Dylann Roof has asked a court to remove his appointed appellate lawyers because they are his "political and biological enemies,” the ABA Journal reports. His attorneys are Jewish and Indian, and so, Roof claims in a motion filed in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, “it is therefore quite literally impossible that they and I could have the same interests relating to my case.” Roof made similar claims about his Jewish trial lawyer.
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Court Square Series Coming to Dyersburg on Friday

On Sept. 22, TBA CLE will bring the Court Square Series to the Farms Golf Club in Dyersburg. Public Defender Sean Day will provide case law updates and review statutory law governing criminal cases. Bankruptcy Trustee Molly Williams will provide guidance on real property issues in bankruptcy cases. The final session will be a presentation on appellate practice with attorneys Jennifer Vallor Ivy and Samuel Ivy.

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One-Year License Suspension for Mo. Public Defender With 110 Cases

A Columbia, Missouri, public defender who said he was responsible for about 110 cases of post-conviction relief on the date of his disciplinary hearing, has received a stayed suspension from the Missouri Supreme Court with a one-year license probation period. According to ABAJournal.com, Karl Hinkebein had the largest caseload of anyone in his office but he provided inadequate client representation partly because of a heavy and unreasonable caseload, and had testified he believed he would be fired if he turned down a case. His lawyer argued that the case must be understood in the context of a "broken public defense system," and that the Missouri State Public Defender was taking in more cases than it believed it could handle, while requests for increased staffing were "only minimally successful."

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Privacy Concerns Raised Over iPhone's New Facial Recognition Technology

Users of the new iPhone X from Apple will be able to unlock their phones using facial recognition technology, prompting questions from civil liberties groups about whether or not police can use the new feature to access users' information. The ABA Journal reports that, while the Riley v. California decision established that police would need a warrant to search the contents of a phone, whether they can force you to unlock it is unclear. Read the full story here

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Knox Report Reveals Link With Overdose Deaths and Jail

Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen today released a new report on the county’s 2016 fatal overdose victims and their interaction with the criminal justice system. The report’s purpose, she says, is to try to identify points at which intervention might have prevent their deaths. Among the findings are that nearly half of the people who died of drug overdoses in Knox County last year had been arrested and/or jailed within the past five years – and most of those fatally overdosed soon after leaving jail. The News Sentinel has more.

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September Issue: Cumulative Error, Torts and 'It's Lawsuit Time in the SEC!'

"Errors in isolation may not be impactful," writes David L. Hudson, "but multiple errors together or cumulatively may require a finding that the defendant's trial does not comport with the due-process ideal of fundamental fairness." Hudson takes a detailed overview of the Cumulative Error Doctrine in this issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. Columns include John Day's torts, John Williams' book review on Lincoln’s Greatest Case, and in perfect timing for the start of football season, Bill Haltom takes a humorous look at a current lawsuit heating up in the Southeastern Conference.

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Tennessee Supreme Court Reviews ‘Good Faith’ in Law Enforcement

The Tennessee Supreme Court heard two cases yesterday that concern the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule, the Memphis Flyer reports. Defendants in both cases claim that police illegally gathered evidence by drawing their blood or searching their house. Both were convicted due to that evidence, and both want new trials because they claim police violated their rights to unreasonable searches and seizures. While the U.S. Supreme Court already allows such exclusions, the Tennessee Supreme Court only began allowing “limited” good faith exceptions last year.
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DeVos to Revamp Guidance on Campus Sex Assault Investigations

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced today changes to an Obama administration guidance on campus sexual assault, the ABA Journal reports. The announcement rolls back 2011 guidelines that added sexual violence to the offenses banned by Title IX, and instructed school officials to use a preponderance of the evidence standard when making determinations about sexual harassment. The system has “failed too many students,” DeVos said. “Washington has burdened schools with increasingly elaborate and confusing guidelines that even lawyers find difficult to understand and navigate.”
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