News

New Assault Definitions Announced for Tennessee Prisons

The Tennessee Department of Correction today released new definitions for assault following recommendations in October from the American Correctional Association, The Tennessean reports. The changes include the elimination of the "staff/inmate provocation" category and create new definitions for specific types of assault. Although Gov. Bill Haslam boasted a decrease in prison violence, the new definitions are likely to impact those statistics. "Of course, their numbers look better than what they should, because they're recording wrong." Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, said.

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New Assault Definitions Announced for Tennessee Prisons

The Tennessee Department of Correction today released new definitions for assault following recommendations in October from the American Correctional Association, The Tennessean reports. The changes include the elimination of the "staff/inmate provocation" category and create new definitions for specific types of assault. Although Gov. Bill Haslam boasted a decrease in prison violence, the new definitions are likely to impact those statistics. "Of course, their numbers look better than what they should, because they're recording wrong." Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, said.

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Inmates File Death with Dignity Requests

Three inmates at Turney Center Industrial Prison, none of whom are terminally ill, have filed death with dignity requests. The prisoners said they want to be euthanized and donate their organs. WSMV reports two of the letters refer to the case of John Jay Hooker, a terminally-ill attorney who is fighting for death with dignity legislation in Tennessee. “The Tennessee Department of Correction sees me as an animal, so I want to be afforded the same compassion that one’s pet would be afforded if they were suffering,” Michael Adams, an inmate currently serving a 32-year sentence, wrote in the request.

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Inmates File Death with Dignity Requests

Three inmates at Turney Center Industrial Prison, none of whom are terminally ill, have filed death with dignity requests. The prisoners said they want to be euthanized and donate their organs. WSMV reports two of the letters refer to the case of John Jay Hooker, a terminally-ill attorney who is fighting for death with dignity legislation in Tennessee. “The Tennessee Department of Correction sees me as an animal, so I want to be afforded the same compassion that one’s pet would be afforded if they were suffering,” Michael Adams, an inmate currently serving a 32-year sentence, wrote in the request.

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Inmates File Death with Dignity Requests

Three inmates at Turney Center Industrial Prison, none of whom are terminally ill, have filed death with dignity requests. The prisoners said they want to be euthanized and donate their organs. WSMV reports two of the letters refer to the case of John Jay Hooker, a terminally-ill attorney who is fighting for death with dignity legislation in Tennessee. “The Tennessee Department of Correction sees me as an animal, so I want to be afforded the same compassion that one’s pet would be afforded if they were suffering,” Michael Adams, an inmate currently serving a 32-year sentence, wrote in the request.

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State Prison to Split into 2 Facilities

The Tennessean reports the state plans to split West Tennessee State Penitentiary into a female facility and a maximum-security male facility. A memo by Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said the changes are expected this spring at the penitentiary, located roughly 50 miles east of Memphis. "This mission change will assist in managing the growing female population and provide instant relief to our partners operating county jails," Schofield said in the memo.

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State Prison to Split into 2 Facilities

The Tennessean reports the state plans to split West Tennessee State Penitentiary into a female facility and a maximum-security male facility. A memo by Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said the changes are expected this spring at the penitentiary, located roughly 50 miles east of Memphis. "This mission change will assist in managing the growing female population and provide instant relief to our partners operating county jails," Schofield said in the memo.

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State Prison to Split into 2 Facilities

The Tennessean reports the state plans to split West Tennessee State Penitentiary into a female facility and a maximum-security male facility. A memo by Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said the changes are expected this spring at the penitentiary, located roughly 50 miles east of Memphis. "This mission change will assist in managing the growing female population and provide instant relief to our partners operating county jails," Schofield said in the memo.

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A Look at Criminal Justice Reform in 2015

The Huffington Post reviews criminal justice reform in 2015 – an issue expected to continue as a significant topic in the presidential campaign. Policing reform, state reform and President Obama’s actions are among steps detailed.

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Cash Bail System Brings Harm, Magazine Asserts

The Economist asserts the cash-bail system in American highlights racial inequalities and brings harm to thousands of Americans every year. “(The system) undermines the very purpose of a criminal justice system: identifying criminals, and punishing them appropriately,” the author writes. The article details a case in San Francisco, filed in October by Equal Justice Under Law, that challenges the city’s bail system.

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New Policy for Agencies Responding to Reports of Sexual Assault

The Tennessee Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission approved a new model policy for officers responding to reports of sexual assault, Bartlett Express reports. The policy requires all state law enforcement agencies to use a specific protocol when conducting preliminary and continued investigations of rape or other sexually oriented crime. “(The policy) will also encourage more survivors to come forward and report the crime in the renewed hope that the perpetrator will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said. Agencies have until July 1, 2016, to adopt the model as written or create their own policy to meet the minimum standards outlined in the model.

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Court Adopts Proposed Rule Amendments; Packages Await Legislative OK

The Tennessee Supreme Court has adopted proposed amendments to the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure, Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules of Criminal Procedure and Rules of Juvenile Practice. The amendments are set to become effective July 1, 2016, but must first win approval by resolutions of the General Assembly.

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ABA Releases 10 Most Important Legal Stories of 2015

The American Bar Association Journal has compiled the 10 most important legal stories of 2015. Dropping bar exam passage rates, the decline of capital punishment and the landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges are included in the list.

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$6M Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed in Anderson County

Marcella “Marcy” Bunch, mother of a 23-year old man who was shot and killed while he was confined to his wheelchair, has filed a $6 million wrongful death lawsuit. The suit names Joseph McClane, who accidentally shot Bunch’s son in 2014, and the man who gave McClane the gun as defendants. Bunch also filed the suit against Robert and Melissa Kemp, whose Anderson County home is where the shooting occurred. According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, the lawsuit says the incidents "were negligently contrary to those honorable people who responsibly adhere to their Second Amendment right to bear arms for their own protection in a responsible manner."

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Knox County Inmate Lawsuit Attorney Fee Reduction Approved

Attorney fees and expenses from a federal excessive force lawsuit filed in 2014 against Knox County and Knox County Sheriff's Office Corrections Officer Kevin Potter have been approved by the court, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The Knox County Law Director's Office agreed earlier this year to pay Michael Craig Berger, whose nose was broken in the incident, $50,000 to settle the lawsuit. Attorneys Adam A. Edwards and Greg Coleman initially claimed $90,735 in fees for work in the case and $11,651 in expenses. U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley ruled the attorneys’ billing was “excessive,” and reduced their figures down to $72,198 and $3,170. U.S. District Judge Pamela Reeves last week approved Judge Shirley's decision, bringing the total awarded in the case to $144,000.

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Ford Remembered by Many as Hard Working

Judge Richard Ray Ford was remembered at his memorial service last week as "one of the hardest working Knox County Criminal Court judges in recent history." Ford died Dec. 20 at 93. Among the dignitaries speaking at his memorial were retired state Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Joe D. Duncan, who practiced law with Ford in the 1950s, and Duncan's brother, John J. Duncan Sr., the longtime Knoxville mayor and congressman. Knoxnews columnist Georgiana Vines has the details.

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Former Crossville Attorney Pleas No Contest in Arson Case

Former Crossville attorney Anthony Wayne Turner pleaded no contest to setting fire to personal property in an arson case. He is accused of being responsible for a fire that destroyed his sister's Cumberland County home, the Crossville Chronicle reports. Turner, whose law license was suspended in 2009 by the Tennessee Supreme Court, received a one-year suspended sentence to be served on supervised probation. 

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Protesters Attend Yocca's Hearing in Rutherford County

Security was increased at Circuit Court Judge Royce Taylor’s courtroom this morning after more than a dozen protesters from three states showed up for Anna Yocca’s remote arraignment hearing, The Daily News Journal reports. Yocca is charged with attempted first-degree murder after a failed attempt to end her pregnancy. No discussion hearing or plea date were set.

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Pennsylvania High Court Says Governor Can Delay Executions

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the governor's constitutional authority to postpone executions in the state, The Associated Press reports. Gov. Tom Wolf issued the moratorium after taking office last January, saying the death penalty system was "riddled with flaws, making it error prone, expensive and anything but infallible." Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams challenged Wolf’s decision. "We extend our condolences to the victims of these horrendous crimes, who will not soon see the justice that was imposed by the jury and upheld by the courts," Williams said.

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Judge Frees Man Convicted of Threatening Attorney

Leon Houston was freed Monday by U.S. District Judge Pamela Reeves after Houston spent 35 months in jail on a federal charge of being high on marijuana and possessing guns when he threatened to kill attorney Jim Logan. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Reeves sentenced Houston to time served on the conviction and placed Houston on supervised release for two years. Logan represented Houston in the 2006 shooting deaths of Roane County Sheriff's Office Deputy Bill Jones and Mike Brown.

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Former 3 Doors Down Bassist Sentenced to Prison

Nashville Criminal Court Judge Mark Fishburn sentenced former 3 Doors Down bassist Robert "Todd” Harrell to two years in prison following a fatal crash, The Tennessean reports. Police found alprazolam and oxycodone in his system on the night of the 2013 accident. The conditions of Harrell’s probation include speaking at six schools while he is on probation about drug addiction and he is required to work with the Governor’s Highway Safety Office on its new anti-DUI campaign.

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Some PCC Inmates to be Released in Rutherford County

Federal Judge Kevin Sharp ordered on Thursday the release of at least 14 inmates who are being held solely on the basis of a Pathways Community Corrections violation of probation warrant, the Daily News Journal reports. The probation company, formerly Providence Community Corrections, is named in a federal lawsuit filed that claims the company and Rutherford county profited by keeping people on probation for extra time and charging excessive fees. Sharp also ordered PCC to immediately stop violating probationers solely for non-payment of fees. “The ruling mandates significant immediate changes to how all misdemeanor probationers are treated by PCC, Inc. and Rutherford County,” Alec Karakatsanis, attorney for the plaintiffs in a class-action case brought against PCC, said in an update from the DNJ.

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Legitimacy of Facebook Posts Delay Rape Trial

Facebook posts from a 16-year-old rape victim paused day two of the trial of Jesus Martinez Wednesday in Murfreesboro, The Daily News Journal reports. The prosecution and defense both had concerns over the legitimacy of the posts, which would help in determining a timeline of events that took place in 2013. The trial continued today. 

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Attorney Seeks Video of Darrius Stewart Shooting

Attorney Carlos Moore announced a $2,500 reward for anyone who has video footage capturing the shooting of Darrius Stewart by Memphis police office Connor Schilling, the Memphis Flyer reports. Moore will hand the video footage to the Department of Justice and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. "As attorneys for this family, we want to leave no stone unturned," Moore said. The Department of Justice announced earlier this week it is reviewing the July shooting.

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Madison County Closer to Jail Expansion Project

The Madison County Correction Partnership Committee unanimously approved the beginning stages of collecting bids for a future expansion of the county jail, The Jackson Sun reports. The request for qualifications will allow architecture firms to submit plans for expanding the Jackson-Madison County Criminal Justice Complex.

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