News

ABA Annual Meeting Includes FBI Director, Marcia Clark as Speakers

The American Bar Association (ABA) annual meeting in San Francisco continues today. Offerings at the meeting include updates about the legal implications of electronic devices such as home security systems, cellphones and fitness trackers that collect and exchange data, and the Zika virus. Today, FBI Director James Comey was among experts who examined the use of emerging technology by criminals and terrorists to evade detection, and Marcia Clark, who was the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson case, was on tap to discuss her new work of fiction.

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Batey Changes Lawyers, Strianse to Take on Appeal

Convicted rapist and former Vanderbilt University football player Cory Batey has hired Nashville lawyer Peter Strianse to handle the appeal of his conviction, where he was sentenced to 15 years. Worrick Robinson, who represented Batey in his trial, told reporters he believed it was unfair that two other men charged in the case were playing college football while awaiting trial. Each man also is charged with five counts of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. Batey and another football player, Brandon Vandenburg, who faced the same charges, have gone to trial and were found guilty.

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Hargrove Elected VP of Public Defender Conference

The Tennessee District Public Defenders Conference has elected Donna Orr Hargrove to serve as the vice president of the conference for fiscal year 2016-2017. Hargrove is the district public defender for the 17th Judicial District, which includes Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall and Moore counties. The Public Defenders Conference is a statewide system of elected public defenders from each judicial district. The Elk Valley Times has the story.

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8 Tennesseans Among Obama’s 214 Commutations

Eight Tennesseans are among 214 drug offenders whose prison sentences were shortened today by President Barack Obama in the largest single-day grant of commutations in the nation’s history, the Tennessean reports. Deborah Lucille Blue of Alcoa, Debra Brown of Nashville, Thomas Duncan of Columbia, Steve Gillespie of Greeneville, Robert L. Matthews of Memphis, Kenneth Smith of Nashville, Jimmy Walden Jr. of Morristown and Byron Willis of Knoxville will see their sentences shortened as a result of Obama’s actions. All sentences will expire Dec. 1, except for Gillespie and Walden, whose sentences will expire Aug. 3, 2018, if they enroll in a drug treatment program.

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Shelby Mental Health Court Seeks to Grow

In January, Shelby County launched a new mental health court as a way to handle individuals with mental illnesses who chronically end up in jail. In just a few months, the court has reached capacity and is asking the state for additional funding, the Commercial Appeal reports. The court is seeking $78,000 to pay a full-time case worker so it can double the number of people served to 50 participants. The program requires defendants to plead guilty to their crimes but arrests are expunged if they finish the year-long program. Participants are given mental and physical health care, help with alcohol and drug abuse, housing assistance and employment assistance.

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Advisory Panel on Court Rules to Meet Next Friday

The Advisory Commission to the Supreme Court on Rules of Practice and Procedure will meet Aug. 12 to consider comments and proposed revisions to a number of rules and other proposals, including Tenn. R. Crim. P. regarding preliminary hearings, the 2016 Senate Bill 1618 regarding courthouse facility dogs, and Tenn. R. Civ. P. regarding appellate briefs and preliminary hearings. Review the full agenda.

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Batey Lawyer Asks to be Removed from Appeal

The primary lawyer for Cory Batey, a former Vanderbilt University football player convicted of raping an unconscious woman, is asking to be removed from the case, the Tennessean reports. Worrick Robinson said he made the request because he does not handle appeals. A hearing in the matter has been scheduled for Wednesday. Batey, 22, was found guilty after a trial in April and sentenced last month to 15 years in prison.

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New TBJ Looks at Clemency, Medical Battery

Nashville lawyer Ben Raybin researched recent clemency statistics in Tennessee and found some interesting trends. Read his article, “How Executive Clemency Works (and How It Doesn’t)” in the August Tennessee Bar Journal. Also in this issue, Hendersonville lawyer Clint Kelly details the rise of medical battery and informed consent and Tennessee Bar Association President Jason Long explains how meeting up with fellow lawyers helps with overall civil discourse and civility in the profession. Read the August TBJ.

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Suit Filed in Bradley County Police Shooting

A suit has been filed in the case of a 23-year-old man shot by a Bradley County Sheriff’s Deputy last July, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The family of Allan F. Light III filed a lawsuit in Bradley County Court in Tuesday, stating that Deputy Tiffany Oakley needlessly killed Light and that the sheriff’s office covered up the incident. In Oakley’s statement given when the shooting occurred, Oakley said she was assaulted by a stranger outside of her home and used deadly force to defend herself. The lawsuit claims Light and Oakley were familiar, and that Light was unarmed and attempting to get away.
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Criminally Insane Killer to be Freed After Appellate Court Ruling

A Morristown man who believed Jesus commanded him to murder his family will be set free after 26 years, following an appellate court ruling on Wednesday. David Cloar, a Vietnam veteran who was found not guilty of killing his father and stepmother by reason of insanity, was sent to the Middle Tennessee Health Institute in Murfreesboro in 1992, and has been there ever since. Officials at the facility have been trying to free Cloar for 15 years, saying his illness was in remission with medication. Prosecutors have 60 days to ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to review the decision. The Knoxville News Sentinel has more.
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Volunteers Needed for Upcoming Expungement Clinic

Following the Diversity Leadership Institute and Young Lawyers Division’s involvement with a very successful expungement clinic in Nashville, General Sessions Judge Rachel Bell is again seeking volunteers for a similar event on Aug. 6. The clinic will take place at the New Covenant Christian Church in Nashville from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. June’s clinic served more than 100 clients and Judge Bell expects 300 for this session, so TBA members are encouraged to spread the word and participate. Anyone interested in volunteering should contact YLD Diversity Committee Chair Amber Floyd.

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Volunteer Meeting Tomorrow for Expungement Clinic

The Davidson County General Sessions Court will hold its annual expungement clinic Aug. 6 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at New Covenant Christian Church, 2201 Osage St., Nashville 37208. Attorney volunteers are needed and a meeting for prospective volunteers is set for tomorrow at 3 p.m. in the General Sessions Judges Library on the fourth floor of the Justice A. A. Birch Building. Judge Rachel Bell, presiding judge of the court, is organizing the meeting and the clinic. Bell reports that more than 300 people usually attend the clinic.

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Law School Externships, Misconduct Rules on ABA Annual Meeting Agenda

The ABA House of Delegates will meet Aug. 8-9 in San Francisco for its annual meeting. Items on the agenda include a proposal that would permit law school students to earn academic credit and compensation for externships at the same time; an amendment to the model rules of conduct to add anti-discrimination and anti-harassment provisions; a proposal urging states to abolish probation systems supervised by private, for-profit firms; and initiatives that expand ABA efforts to diversify the legal profession and the judiciary.

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Inmate Found Hiding in Clarksville Courthouse

The Montgomery County Courts Center was evacuated Tuesday morning after an inmate escaped from a holding cell and hid out in lower level of the building, the Leaf Chronicle reports. Jose Luis Garcia, 45, left his holding cell at about 10:45 a.m. At 12:10 p.m., a deputy and his K-9 dog found Garcia in the duct work above the holding area. Garcia was awaiting a 1:30 p.m. court hearing on charges of auto theft, property theft, fugitive from justice and two counts of driving on a revoked license. He will face additional charges for his escape attempt as well as vandalism, officials said.

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TBA Director to Speak on Indigent Pay Issues

TBA Executive Director Allan Ramsaur is among those who will address the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Indigent Representation Task Force when it meets Friday in Nashville for the next stop on its listening tour. The hearing will take place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Nashville School of Law, Room 200, 4013 Armory Oaks Dr., Nashville 37204. The TBA has long supported an increase in the compensation rate for those who handle court-appointed cases. After Friday's session, the task force will hold one last hearing in Franklin on Aug.11.

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Report Alleges Little Has Changed for Memphis Juveniles

An in-depth profile of the Shelby County Juvenile Court system published by the nonprofit organization Next City argues that four years after the Department of Justice found that Memphis treated black juvenile offenders more harshly than white peers “little has changed.” The piece acknowledges that there has been progress, but alleges there is still “a serious lack of movement” to address racial disparities. The report also found “across-the-board deterioration … since the transfer of the [juvenile] facility to the sheriff” and continued patterns of trying black juveniles as adults.

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ACLU Sues State for Lack of Hep-C Treatment in Prisons

The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee has filed a federal lawsuit against the Tennessee Department of Corrections alleging that its “systematic denial of treatment to inmates affected with Hepatitis C” is cruel and unusual, Fox 17 reports. The ACLU brought the suit on behalf of inmates at Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville and Hardeman County Correctional Facility in Whiteville, who were diagnosed with the disease years ago but were never treated. Read the complaint here.

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Judge Rules Bitcoin Not Money, Tosses Laundering Case

A Miami judge has found that bitcoin is not the same as money and therefore tossed criminal charges against a man accused of selling $1,500 worth of the virtual currency to undercover agents. The case is believed to be the first money-laundering prosecution involving bitcoin and was “closely watched in tech, financial and legal circles,” according to the Miami Herald. Nashville lawyer Kathryn Edge wrote about bitcoin in the August 2014 issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. She says the decision may prompt lawmakers to figure out how to regulate bitcoin and similar means of exchange. The ABA Journal has a synopsis.

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Arkansas Execution Drug May Be From Pfizer Subsidiary

An execution drug obtained by the Arkansas prison system this month appears to have been made by a subsidiary of Pfizer, even though the pharmaceutical giant says it does not want its drugs to be used in executions. The Associated Press reports that because Arkansas has an execution secrecy law, it may be difficult for the manufacturer to find out who sold the drug to the state. A comparison of the labels, however, suggests that the drug may have come from Hospira Inc., which Pfizer bought last year. WRCB-TV has the story.

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Computer Forensics for Lawyers

On Aug. 2, Lars Daniel with Guardian Digital Forensics in Raleigh will present a special CLE webcast on computer forensics. He will use real life examples to show how forensic artifacts recovered from computers are used in legal cases. Other topics will include best practices in data collection, understanding deleted data, challenging digital evidence and expert testimony. If you cannot join the webcast live, the program will be available on the website for up to one year. Learn more or register here.

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Attorneys Argue Self-Defense, Poor Policing in Mills Case

Attorneys for Christopher M. Ferrell, the man convicted of killing country musician Wayne Mills, asked the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals this week to grant their client a new trial, arguing that erroneous jury instructions and a botched police investigation tainted his conviction. They also argued that Ferrell acted out of fear and shot Mills in self-defense, the Tennessean reports. Ferrell was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2015 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing Mills after a tribute concert to music legend George Jones. The two were drinking in a downtown Nashville bar when they got into an argument and Ferrell shot Mills.

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Drug Task Force Gets Grant to Fight Meth

Tennessee’s Third Judicial District Drug Task Force has received a $153,000 grant to help get drugs off the streets, WJHL reports. Task force director Adam Arrington says the agency spends 95 percent of its resources fighting methamphetamine in Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, and Hancock counties and the new funding will go a long way to help in those efforts. The money comes from the federal Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. Arrington says the agency will receive payouts over a three-year period.

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TAJ Takes Back Trial Lawyers Name, Elects New Board

The Tennessee Association for Justice (TAJ) changed its name back to the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association during its annual convention last week. The group also elected new officers and board members. Memphis attorney Thomas Greer was named president for the 2016-2017 year. He replaces Eric Buchanan of Chattanooga. Bruce Fox of Clinton moved into the position of president-elect. See a complete list of board members in this Chattanoogan.com story.

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Washington County Family Justice Center Opens

Thursday marked the grand opening of the Family Justice Center in Johnson City, News Channel 11 reports. The center serves victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and abuse, bringing victims’ services together under one roof, site coordinator Heather Brack said. Agencies with representatives at the center include the Johnson City Police, Washington County Sheriff, Safe Passage, a local domestic violence shelter, Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee, Legal Aid of East Tennessee and the First Judicial District Attorney General’s office.

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Inmate Charged for Threatening Judges, Supreme Court Justice

An inmate at the Maury County Jail is facing terrorism charges after allegedly sending threatening letters to government officials in Tennessee and North Carolina, including judges, district attorneys and a Tennessee Supreme Court justice, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. James Earl Dillehay of Mt. Pleasant was in the jail on unrelated charges when he began mailing the letters, 22nd District Attorney General Brent Cooper said. The letters revealed he was upset because he was not going to be transferred to North Carolina, where he has a previous criminal record. The Columbia Daily Herald has the story.

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