News

Supreme Court Comes Down Against Race-Based Testimony

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of a death-row inmate whose expert witness testified he is more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black, the ABA Journal reports. The inmate had been convicted in Texas in 1995 during a time in which a death sentence couldn’t be imposed unless jurors believed the convicted presented a future danger. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 6-2 majority opinion.
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Knox County DA’s Opioid-Fighting Pilot Program to Begin

Opioid addicts facing criminal charges in Knox County will begin receiving injections to help them stay clean thanks to a new pilot program, Knoxnews reports. The program is called “Shot at Life” and is being overseen by Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen’s office in cooperation with local law enforcement. The injections will be of the drug Vivitrol, which blocks the brain’s ability to feel pleasure from opioids.
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Family of Man Who Died in Custody Sues for $30 Million

The family of a man who died while in the custody of the Bradley County Jail is suing for $30 million, the Times Free Press reports. Hershel Dover died after being arrested for a probation violation and falling ill. The lawsuit is against Bradley County government and Gabe Thomas, the captain of the jail at the time. The suit claims Dover required insulin three times a day, but doctors at the hospital where he was treated found elevated amounts of glucose in his blood and no food or medications in his stomach.
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Nashville DA: TBI to Investigate All Officer-Involved Shootings

Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk said today that all future officer involved fatal shootings in Nashville will be investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessean reports. The new policy comes after the shooting death of Jocques Clemmons by a Metro police officer last week. Funk said that Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson was aware of this plan, though he was not in attendance at the press conference announcing the change.
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Convicted Killer Perry March Sues Over Prison Food

Perry March, the Nashville man serving a 56-year prison term for multiple crimes including the murder of his wife and the plot to kill her parents, filed a more than 200-page lawsuit this month over the quality of his prison food, the Tennessean reports. March claims that the quality of the kosher diet he receives is poor and is a veiled attempt to force him to break from his Jewish faith. He is currently incarcerated at Morgan County Correctional Complex in Oak Ridge.
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Jurors Struggle with Doggart Deliberation

Jurors deciding the case of Robert Doggart, a Tennessee man accused of planning to attack a Muslim community in New York, sent a note to U.S. District Court Judge Curtis Collier yesterday asking for clarification on the defendant's two charges of "threat in interstate commerce," the Times Free Press reports. Federal prosecutors have argued Doggart made two threats over the telephone, and a telephone counts and as instrument of interstate commerce. The defense countered that Doggart was goaded by the government informant he spoke with when he made the threats, and only wanted to conduct “recon” on the town of Islamberg after begin convinced by Fox News broadcasts that its residents wanted to attack New York City.
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Man Gets 25 Years for Killing Memphis Student

A man charged with the 2015 murder of a Memphis University School student was sentenced to 25 years today, the Commercial Appeal reports. Andrae Tewari previously pleaded guilty of second degree murder for the shooting death of Frank Whitington just two weeks after the victim’s graduation. Tewari also pleaded guilty to two unrelated charges, which increased the time he will serve.
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Killer Ordered to Pay $2M for Murdering Former Lover

A former Knoxville insurance agent who was convicted of the slaying of Brooke Nicole Morris in 2011 was ordered today to pay $2 million to Morris’s family for her wrongful death, Knoxnews reports. Shawn Smoot still maintains that he is innocent of murdering Morris, with whom he’d had an affair that turned violent when she broke it off. He is currently serving a life sentence without parole.
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FBI to Monitor Investigation of Nashville Police Shooting

The FBI will monitor the Metro Nashville Police Department’s investigation into the fatal police shooting of Jocques Clemmons, the Nashville Scene reports. Clemmons was killed following a traffic stop at a public housing complex on Friday. Police Chief Steve Anderson said that he welcomes the federal agents’ involvement and promises a “full, complete and accountable investigation.”
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TBA Mashup and Mini Legal Hackathon this Friday

In conjunction with the Law Tech UnConference CLE this Friday, the TBA is also offering a variety of free events and programs for lawyers we’re calling a Mashup. One program will teach you about Legal Hackathons and see one in action. A Legal Hackathon is a collaborative effort of experts in the legal profession collaborating with a computer programmer to find a technology assisted solution to a problem in the legal industry. Join the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market for a mini legal hackathon that will demonstrate the power of collaborative minds at work. We will have tasty beverages and snacks to help you get your collaborative juices flowing.  
 
Other programs that will be a part of the Mashup include Pro Bono In Action which will show you various pro bono programs you can participate in to help your fellow Tennesseans and Member Benefit Programs that will provide you information on  Fastcase 7, health insurance options for small firms, ABA retirement funds and professional liability insurance.
 
Please sign up now to let us know you are coming.

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Crime Victims’ Private Records, Elder and Labor Law in This Issue

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s majority opinion in The Tennessean v. Metro last year was a victory for law enforcement and a significant setback for the state’s news media, writes Daniel Horwitz in this month's Tennessee Bar Journal. How the ruling will affect crime victims’ ability to protect their private records from public disclosure after criminal proceedings have concluded is uncertain. Also in the February Journal, Monica Franklin writes about The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2016, Edward G. Phillips and Brandon L. Morrow’s column discusses times when protected activities provide a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for termination, while Bill Haltom enumerates the reasons why your valentine should be a lawyer. Read the entire issue.

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Death Penalty Bill Heads to Committee This Week

A bill that would remove appellate review from death penalty cases, sending them straight to the Tennessee Supreme Court, will head to committee tomorrow, according to the Tennessean. The legislation is scheduled to be taken up in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee at 1:30 p.m. and the Senate Judiciary Committee at 3:30 p.m.

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Judge Has Personal Connection in Fight Against Opioid Crisis

A Tennessean profile of Dandridge judge Duane Sloane highlights how the circuit judge came to fight for recovery over harsh sentences for addicts. His methods have been deemed controversial by some, especially ones aimed at pregnant mothers with addiction, but he cites his family’s adoption of a baby born with withdrawal symptoms as his motivation to fight for solutions to the crisis.
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Story Examines State Funding for Indigent Defense

The Nashville Scene today examines claims that a lack of funding has left the Nashville Public Defender’s Office understaffed to the point its case load is unmanageable, and it will no longer take on misdemeanor cases in which the defendant has made bond. The article also touches on similar problems in Shelby County, additional funding for public defense proposed by Gov. Haslam, the Indigent Defense Representation Task Force and more.

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Democrats Counter Anti-Decriminalization Bill

Legislation filed this week by state Democrats seeks to ease punishments for those found with small amounts of marijuana, the Nashville Scene reports. The bill would still classify possession of up to one-eighth of an ounce of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor, but offenders could only be punished by a fine up to $50. Rep. Harold Love, D-Nashville, said that the bill aims to establish statewide consistency and eliminate jail time and massive fines for possession of a very small amount of the drug, but not to make it legal. The legislation comes after Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown filed a bill this week that would override local ordinances that partially decriminalize marijuana.
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Grand Jury to Hear Thanksgiving Double-Murder Case

A grand jury will review charges against Joel Michael Guy Jr., a Knoxville man accused of killing his parents over Thanksgiving weekend, according to Knoxnews. Guy is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Joel Guy Sr. and Lisa Guy, after their remains were discovered dismembered and placed in an acid-based solution in their home. Guy was found and arrested in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Nov. 28 and extradited to Knoxville earlier this month.
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Campbell Found Guilty in MPD Shooting

A Shelby County jury found Treveno Campbell guilty of second-degree murder today in the killing of Memphis police Officer Martoiya Lang in 2012, the Commercial Appeal reports. Lang was shot while attempting to serve a warrant in a narcotics investigation. She became the first female officer killed in the line of duty in the history of the Memphis Police Department. 
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Third Defendant Pleads Guilty in JailCigs Case

Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold’s uncle pleaded guilty today in the JailCigs case, according to the Daily New Journal. John Vanderveer pleaded guilty to one count of witness tampering. Under the terms of the agreement, he faces a $250,000 fine and a recommended prison sentence of 18 to 24 months. Arnold and Joe Rusell also previously pleaded guilty in the case
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Former Memphis Transit CEO Arrested in Human Trafficking Sting

The CEO of the Memphis Area Transit Authority who resigned on Thursday was among 42 people arrested in a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation human trafficking sting, the Commercial Appeal reports. Ron Garrison was arrested Wednesday and faces a misdemeanor charge of patronizing prostitution near a church or school. The TBI sting involved targeting individuals responding to ads on Backpage.com.
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Harwell Launches Opioid Taskforce

A new legislative task force will tackle Tennessee’s growing opioid and painkiller abuse crisis, the Tennessean reports. House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, formed the task force to identify strategies to address addition, abuse and misuse of illegal and prescription drugs. The bi-partisan group will be chaired by Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville.
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Judge’s Rulings in Cannon Murder Case Remain Sealed

In the criminal case against Caleb J. Cannon, accused of murdering his wife in 2014, details about what pieces of evidence deemed relevant for the jury to consider remain sealed and secret to the public, the Tennessean reports. Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, said it is odd that the case remains sealed since  much of the evidence in question has already been presented in public hearings. "When a judge decides to keep her ruling confidential, it would help the public’s understanding of the courts to explain why," Fisher said.
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Memphis, Shelby Leadership Create Legislative Wish List

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell will push the state legislature this year on a range of topics via a wish list presented to the Memphis City Council on Saturday. The list includes reducing expungement fees, stiffer sentences for convicted felons illegally in possession of firearms, equitable funding for the housing of state inmates in local jails and more. Read the full list at the Commercial Appeal.
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Shelby County Jail Riot Caused $7,000 in Damages

A riot among inmates at the Shelby County Jail on Jan. 16 caused more than $7,000 in damages, according to an affidavit that came to light Tuesday. The Commercial Appeal reports that the incident happened after 1 p.m. Inmates barricaded themselves inside a pod, tied the door shut with sheets and stacked furniture up in front of the entrance. A television, computer station, several phones and at least two security cameras were destroyed.
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Washington County Man Found Guilty of Aggravated Child Abuse

A Washington County jury has found a Telford man guilty of aggravated child abuse, reports the Johnson City Press. Joe Whitaker, 44, was accused of injuring his 7-month-old son so severely that his brain bled. Medical professionals testified that the child’s injuries were indicative of abuse, although Whitaker maintained his innocence throughout the trial. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 21, where he will face 15 to 25 years in prison and will serve 100 percent of his sentence. 
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Trial Begins in Memphis Police Murder

The trial of a man accused of the 2012 killing of Memphis police officer Martoiya Lang began today, reports the Commercial Appeal. Treveno Campbell, 25, is charged with killing the nine-year veteran and mother of four while she was attempting to serve a search warrant. Campbell pleaded not guilty to the crime.
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