News

Georgetown Law Prof to Deliver Annual UT Lecture

Paul Butler, a nationally recognized expert on issues of race and criminal justice, will deliver the 2015 Charles H. Miller Lecture in Professional Responsibility at the University of Tennessee College of Law on April 13. The lecture, “Criminal Justice after Ferguson: Five Amazing Facts about Race and Crime, with Complete Proof,” will take place at noon in Room 132.

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Amended 12-Hour Hold Bill Preserves Judicial Discretion

A bill that would place a mandatory 12-hour hold on defendants charged with a domestic violence offense (SB610/HB41) was amended today to preserve judicial discretion in such cases. The original legislation left no opportunity for a judge to waive the hold. The amendment provides that a judge may waive the 12-hour hold under certain circumstances, including if more than 48 hours have elapsed from the time the offense occurred or if the defendant has turned himself or herself in to proper authorities. The measure was amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee and forwarded to the full Senate for consideration.

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Nashville DA Bans Sterilization as Bargaining Tool

Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk has banned his staff from using sterilization of women as part of any future plea negotiations. The option has been offered in at least four cases in the last five years – often in exchange for no prison time – WKRN reports. But for many, the practice evokes a dark time in America when minorities, the poor and those deemed mentally unfit or “deficient” were forced to undergo such procedures. “The bottom line is the government can’t be ordering a forced sterilization,” Funk said in announcing the change.

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Vandy Rape Sentencing Delayed to Mid-June

The sentencing hearing of two former Vanderbilt University football players convicted of raping an unconscious woman has again been pushed back, the Tennessean reports. Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, both 21, are now scheduled to be sentenced June 15. A sentencing set for late April was delayed to give attorneys time to review court transcripts, court officials said.

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State Asks Lower Court to Halt Execution Case Proceedings

The Tennessee Department of Corrections will not say if it has the chemicals needed to execute inmates via lethal injection, WBIR reports. Lawyers for the group were poised to ask prison supervisors about the drug supply at a hearing Friday but did not get a chance to do so after the state asked the presiding judge to halt proceedings related to electrocutions. In related news, Davidson County Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman ordered documents revealing the name of pharmacists supplying lethal injection drugs be returned to the Tennessee Department of Corrections after federal public defenders got the documents, with one of the names poorly redacted, through a public records request.

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Public Defender Seeks Judge’s Recusal

Dickson City Judge Reese Holley, who already is being investigated for questionable judicial practices involving indigent defendants, is being asked to recuse himself from hundreds of cases, WKRN News 2 reports. Jake Lockert, the public defender for the 23rd Judicial District, filed a motion Thursday asking Holley to recuse himself from hundreds of cases represented by the public defender’s office. “I’m asking him to recognize there’s an appearance of bias on his part,” Lockert said.

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Rutherford Veterans' Court to Open Soon

A court tailored to serving veterans who run into trouble with the law could be available in the next few months, Rutherford County officials report. In February, commissioners endorsed the pilot launch of the court, which would begin by serving those participating in the county’s Drug Court and DUI Court. Courts coordinator Trey King and General Sessions Court Judge Ben Hall MacFarlin will lead the effort, the Daily News Journal reports.

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Court: Sex Offender Can Challenge Monitoring

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that a North Carolina sex offender should have a chance to challenge a requirement that he wear a GPS monitoring bracelet for the rest of his life, SCOTUSblog reports. The justices found that North Carolina’s highest court should have considered Torrey Dale Grady’s argument that having to wear the device violated his constitutional rights. It also directed the state court to determined whether the requirement in this case was an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment.

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Shelby County Jericho Project Wins Innovation Award

The Shelby County Jericho Project has been chosen as one of eight recipients of the 2015 “Innovations in Criminal Justice Award.” Winners were selected by the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Center for Court Innovation. The Jericho Project was launched more than a decade ago by the Shelby County Public Defender’s Office to better serve people living with serious mental illness and substance use disorders who were cycling through the criminal justice system. Bartlett Express has the story.

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State High Court Amends Rules Governing Executions

Amendments to Tennessee Supreme Court Rules announced today will establish new procedures for capital cases. The Order amending Rule 12 sets out a number of changes, the most significant involving the setting of execution dates, and, once set, the ability of an inmate to receive a temporary stay of execution. TBA Criminal Justice Section Co-chair Andy Roskind analyzes the changes.

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State High Court Amends Rules Governing Executions

The Court announced earlier today amendments to Rule 12, Rules of the Tennessee Supreme Court, which establish the procedures used in capital cases. Although the amendments cover several items within Rule 12, the most significant changes affect the setting of execution dates, and, once set, the ability of an inmate to receive a temporary stay of execution. Of note, both of these items are additions to the Rule rather than amending prior language.

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Justices to Review Old Sentences for Young Convicts

The Supreme Court is adding a new case to decide whether its 3-year-old ruling throwing out mandatory life in prison without parole for juveniles should apply to older cases. The justices yesterday said they would consider a new Louisiana case involving a man who has been held since 1963 for killing a sheriff's deputy in Baton Rouge. WRCB has more from the Associated Press.

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Attorney Blasts Court Levy Proposal

Legislation proposing a $5 fee for criminal court cases in Knox County is under fire from defense attorney Mike Whalen, who said it hurts the poor. Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Mike Hammond said the fee would generate at least $100,000 a years and cover the cost of court services for which his office can't bill, particularly in the 4th Circuit Court. Knoxnews has more.

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Rutherford Circuit Court Returns to Previous Software System

The Rutherford County Circuit Court has returned to a previous software system after a series of glitches occurred when a new system from New Dawn Technology went live, the Daily News Journal reports. The county extended its agreement for the old court-management system weeks before its 25-year-old agreement was set to expire, though officials say it is not a long-term solution for the court.

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Bradley County Broadens Misdemeanor Services

Bradley County has agreed to provide misdemeanor probation services to Polk County and has approved a plan to build a 128-bed workhouse facility for misdemeanor offenders. Bradley County probation officers will take on an estimated 200 to 250 Polk County misdemeanor cases. Polk County Attorney James Logan praised the agreement and expressed hope that it would evolve into similar agreements across the 10th Judicial District -- which encompasses Bradley, Polk, Monroe and McMinn counties -- along with Meigs County in the 9th Judicial District. The Chattanooga Times Free Press has more.

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Supreme Court Uholds Death Sentence After Delayed Appeal

The Tennessee Supreme Court has upheld a death sentence for a man who was convicted of first degree felony murder in 1991. In 2009, the Supreme Court denied post-conviction relief for Derrick Quintero but granted relief for William Eugene Hall, finding that his attorneys had simply copied the original appellate brief filed by Quintero’s attorneys. After reviewing claims filed by Hall’s new attorneys, the Supreme Court affirmed Hall’s convictions and sentence of death. Chief Justice Sharon G. Lee filed a separate concurring opinion, in which she agreed that Hall’s death sentence is proportionate to the sentences imposed in similar cases, but reiterated her disagreement with the manner in which this Court reviews the proportionality of death sentences. The AOC has more

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Rape Victims Reluctant to Cooperate Years Later

The wheels of justice have rolled slowly for rape victims who submitted to examinations only to have their rape kits sit untested for years. Now that prosecutors are going after suspects years later, victims may find it difficult to cooperate, WREG reports. “Many of them may have tried to put this incident out of their mind and forget it and when they are notified that more information has been gathered, then it brings it back to the surface,” Anna Whalley of the Shelby County Rape Crisis Center says.

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Pay Raise for Court Appointed Work Set for Committee

The TBA bill calling for an increase in pay for court appointed attorney will go before the House Civil Justice Subcommittee next week. Sponsored by Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, HB1025 would raise compensation to a minimum of $100 per hour. The companion bill in the Senate, SB1009, is sponsored by Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis. It has been referred to the Judiciary Committee and is expected to be considered in the coming weeks. Court appointed attorneys have been working at the same rate since 1994 and have the lowest compensation rate in the nation. Use TBAImpact or contact subcommittee members directly to express your views.

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House Panel Kills Guns-on-Campus Bill

A House subcommittee on Wednesday killed a bill that would have allowed students to keep guns in their cars on public college campuses in Tennessee, the Commercial Appeal reports. The subcommittee killed the bill on voice vote after members spoke against an amendment that was added by sponsor Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown. The addition would have allowed an employee or student to transport and store a firearm or ammunition “in compliance with” handgun-carry permit law while using a parking area owned, used or operated by a school of higher education. The original bill limited the protection to “non-student adults” and only if the weapon was not being handled.

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Funk to Return Salary, Adjust Retirement Plan

Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk will return state money and adjust his retirement plan in an effort to curtail the controversy surrounding a job he accepted before taking office in August. In a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, Funk said he would enroll in the current retirement system, which requires an employee contribution, and return any money he was paid in insurance claims or for doing work at the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference between the time he won the primary and took office as district attorney, the Tennessean reports.

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Bill Targets Repeat DUI Offenders

A person convicted of three or more DUI offenses would be prohibited from buying alcohol under a new bill introduced by Sen. Frank Nicely, R-Strawberry Plains. If passed, the Department of Safety would print “NO ALCOHOL SALES” on the license or photo ID issued to a person who has been convicted of three or more DUI’s. WATE has more.

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Initiative Provides $41 Million for Rape Kit Testing

Vice President Joe Biden announced a new "Sexual Assault Kit Initiative," aimed at lowering the number of untested rape kits in the U.S. The initiative will invest $41 million in cities across the U.S. that face a backlog of untested kits. An estimated 400,000 rape kits remain untested, the Vice President said. In Memphis, investigators say 6,988 remain untested. Local Memphis has the story.

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Days of Deals: Life as a Public Defender

With funding for public defenders coming under fire in the General Assembly, the Memphis Commercial Appeal shadows an assistant public defender on a typical day in the Shelby County courts. Providing defense attorneys isn’t just fair, a spokesman says, it makes the criminal justice system move faster. “Without that, you would have a jail that is fuller, takes longer to move through.”

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Transcripts in Vandy Rape Case to be Ready This Month

Defense attorneys seeking transcripts they say could lead to a new trial for two former Vanderbilt University football players convicted of rape should have the documents in less than two weeks, Judge Monte Watkins said today. Attorneys reviewing the case for appeal say they have concerns that one juror did not disclose that he was a victim of a sex crime and could have been biased. The Tennessean has more.

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Torture Slaying Ringleader Loses Death Penalty Appeal

The first death sentence appeal was denied for Lemaricus Davidson, who was convicted in the 2007 torture slaying of Knoxville couple Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom. Although Davidson has many appeals left, this first appellate loss shows the odds of a reversal are pretty slim, Knoxnews court reporter Jamie Satterfield writes in her blog "Lady Justice Unmasked". Satterfield goes on to praise the efforts of attorneys originally appointed to defend Davidson. "(David) Eldridge and (Doug) Trant weren’t just competent," Satterfield writes, "they were fearless advocates for the most reviled defendant in modern Tennessee court history, and that kind of advocacy leaves no room for a legal mistake that would force an appellate court to give Davidson a second bite of the judicial apple."

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