News

Third Alleged Attacker in Vandy Rape Case in Court Today

One of the four men charged in the Vanderbilt rape case was in court today for a motions hearing, indicating that his case will likely head to trial, the Tennessean reports. Brandon Banks and his attorney Mark Scruggs made arguments in the hearing that some case evidence should not be used against him in trial. Two others accused in the case, Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, have already been convicted. The trial is set for June 19.
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Rutherford Sheriff Sentenced to 4 Years

Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold was sentenced today to nearly four years behind bars for illegally selling e-cigarettes to inmates, the Tennessean reports. Arnold, his uncle John Vanderveer, and former sheriff's administration chief Joe Russell, were indicted in May 2016 for illegally profiting off inmates through their JailCigs business. Vanderveer and Russell will be sentenced in September. "Public corruption is a very serious offense," U.S. Judge Marvin Aspen said, adding that such crimes are even worse when involving law enforcement.
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Nashville DA to Investigate Judicial Influence

Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk has pledged to investigate when judges attempt to influence police officers, the Tennessean reports. The move comes after local leaders have raised concerns about Police Chief Steve Anderson’s decision not to discipline officers who let one of then-Judge Casey Moreland’s paramours leave a traffic stop after receiving a call from Moreland. "No judge should ever call a Metro officer in the middle of a traffic stop and instruct the officer not to issue a citation or make an arrest," Funk said.
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Shelby County DA Investigates Fired Sex Crimes Detective

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich’s office confirmed that it is involved in a probe into a decorated Memphis Police Department sex crimes detective who was relieved of duty last week, the Commercial Appeal reports. Ouita Knowlton was fired last week for unspecified reasons, and the City of Memphis decided to withhold records related to her release, citing “an open and ongoing law enforcement investigation.” The investigation highlights frustrations felt by rape victims like Meaghan Ybos, whose rape kit was not tested until nine years after her attack.

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Knox Mayor's Ex-wife Asks for Trial Relocation

Attorneys for Allison Burchett, the ex-wife of Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, plan to argue that it will be impossible for their client to get a fair trial from Knox County residents, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reports. Her lawyers will ask Special Judge Don R. Ash on Thursday to either use residents from outside of Knox County as jurors or hold the trial in Nashville. Allison Burchett is charged with identity theft and computer fraud for attacks against Nicole Strickland, the estranged wife of the defendant's current boyfriend.
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Asset Forfeiture Bill Delayed in House, Moves Forward in Senate

A bill which would change state law to require a conviction before a criminal’s assets are seized has moved forward with amendments in the Tennessee Senate, but was taken off-notice in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, effectively delaying it until next year. The bill was taken off-notice without discussion by its sponsor, Rep. Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville). In the Senate, the bill will head to the floor with an amendment that requires the seizing law enforcement officer to mail a Notice of Forfeiture Warrant Hearing to the owner within five days of the seizure and allows the property owner to be present at the probable cause hearing.
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Motorist Faces Murder Charges in Knox Case

A case in Knox County asks the question of whether a motorist who causes a death can be charged with murder under state law, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Ralpheal Cameron Coffey of Oak Ridge is accused of killing an innocent motorist and his own passenger while behind the wheel trying to outrun law enforcement in May 2016. Prosecutors convinced a grand jury to charge Coffey with two counts of second-degree murder, a charge that hasn’t been used for a case like this one since 1989.
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Recidivism in Tennessee High, But Improving

Nearly half of all people released from prison will return within three years, according to data released by the Tennessee Department of Correction on Thursday, the Tennessean reports. However, recidivism has gone down by 3.4 percent, from 50.5 percent in 2010 to 47.1 percent in 2016. "These encouraging numbers demonstrate that we're on the right track," said TDOC Commissioner Tony Parker.
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Moreland Case Leads to Calls for Reforms

The investigation of former Nashville Judge Casey Moreland is leading some city officials to question the systems used for tracking cases in the city’s 11 General Sessions courts, The Tennessean reports. Vice Mayor David Briley is among those calling for more oversight of when and how cases are moved between judges. Today, there's no official documentation to show when a case is transferred.

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Community Foundation Grant Provides Van to Drug Court

The 23rd Judicial District Drug Court received a grant from the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee for a 15-passenger van to transport participants to work, counseling, community service and mandatory court sessions.

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Gov. Signs Law to Overturn Nashville, Memphis Marijuana Acts

Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday approved legislation that repeals separate Nashville and Memphis laws that had allowed partial marijuana decriminalization in those communities, the Tennessean reports. The signing ends the short-lived policies adopted last fall that gave police the power to reduce penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

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Court Allows Social Media History as Evidence in UT Rape Case

The defense of two former University of Tennessee football players will be allowed to go after the social media history of the woman they allegedly raped, a state appellate court ruled today. Knoxnews reports that the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision may aid the case of A.J. Johnson and Michael William, and also open the door for defense attorneys to directly seek social media history from witnesses without relying on prosecutors or police to do so.
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Bill Setting Deadline for Parole Cases Heads to Governor

A bill that creates a deadline for the Board of Parole to reconsider cases when a person has returned to prison after criminal charges have been dismissed is headed to Gov. Bill Haslam, the Tennessean reports. The measure, which passed the House unanimously on Monday, was proposed after a Tennessee man was imprisoned for a year after his case was dismissed.
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Attorney General to End Forensic Science Commission

Attorney General Jeff Sessions will put an end to the National Commission on Forensic Science, a 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers that were working to raise forensic science standards, the Washington Post reports. Sessions said that instead, an in-house team of law enforcement advisers will be used. The Justice Department has decided to suspend work on setting uniform standards for forensic testimony.
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Suspect in Zaevion Dobson Case Found Guilty of Shooting Informant

A suspect in the death of Knoxville high school football player Zaevion Dobson was found guilty today of attempting to murder his friend for talking to police, Knoxnews reports. A Knox County Criminal Court jury convicted Richard Gregory Williams III of trying to kill Larry Eugene North, a friend of Williams’ who had talked to police investigators about the shooting death of Dobson. Williams and another suspect, Christopher Drone Bassett, are still awaiting trial in that case.

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Suspect in Zaevion Dobson Case Found Guilty of Shooting Informant

A suspect in the death of Knoxville high school football player Zaevion Dobson was found guilty today of attempting to murder his friend for talking to police, Knoxnews reports. A Knox County Criminal Court jury convicted Richard Gregory Williams III of trying to kill Larry Eugene North, a friend of Williams’ who had talked to police investigators about the shooting death of Dobson. Williams and another suspect, Christopher Drone Bassett, are still awaiting trial in that case.

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Learn About the Latest in Criminal Law and DUI Cases

CLE on criminal law will be held at the Bar Center in Nashville on May 3. Attendees will learn about the latest in Tennessee DUI law and best practices for handling criminal cases. Sessions will touch on the technical and legal aspects of criminal defense and provide tips on how to best advise clients. Additional topics will cover client communication, general guidelines for handling criminal cases and field sobriety testing.

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Court Overrules State v. Jacumin on Sufficiency of Affidavit to Issue Search Warrant

The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a 2012 search warrant in the case of Jerry Lewis Tuttle, overruling State v. Jacumin and adopting the totality-of-the-circumstances approach for determining whether an affidavit sufficiently establishes probable cause for issuance of a search warrant. Tuttle had moved to suppress evidence seized from the search, but the trial court denied the motion and admitted the evidence at trial. The Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the decision, leading to the state's appeal to the Supreme Court. Nashville defense attorney David Raybin was critical of the ruling, saying "This decision is another instance where the Court is eliminating independent Tennessee Constitutional oversight over police searches."
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New N.C. Rule Requires Lawyers to Reveal Innocence Evidence

North Carolina will require all attorneys to reveal any evidence of innocence they become aware of after a conviction, the Associated Press reports. It is the first state in the union to pass such a law, though 16 other states have applied this rule to prosecutors. 
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CLE Outlines How to Change Your Practice to Meet Market Demands

The fourth and final CLE in the “Modern Law Practice Series” will explore emerging trends in the delivery of legal services and how focusing on consumer behavior could benefit your law firm. This session will examine the ways in which consumer-facing companies like Avvo and LegalZoom have capitalized on tailoring services to the needs of the modern legal client and how you can adjust your practice to meet those same demands. The program will be held April 13, and will be available in person and on-demand.

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How to Deal With Bullying, Threats and Physical Violence in the Workplace

Violence in the workplace is a growing threat. Read in the April Journal about its many forms -- including bullying, intimidation, and of course, physical harm -- and what to do about them. Chattanooga lawyer Bob Lype details the issue. And read Nashville lawyer David Hudson's article about the “jailhouse lawyer” case that significantly changed the legal landscape in the state regarding prisoner rights and access to the courts. Also in this issue, TBA President Jason Long thanks the Young Lawyers Division on its many accomplishments. Read the entire issue online.

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Moreland Resigns; Granted Release from Jail

Nashville General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland today resigned his post, effective April 4, the Tennessean reports. The announcement was made in federal court where U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Brown ruled there was probable cause to sustain charges against him. New details of the FBI inquiry also were revealed, including the fact that Moreland kept a list of people on his iPhone labeled “witnesses.” Brown also decided to release the judge from jail pending trial on the charges, but with certain conditions.
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Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection Protocols

The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld state lethal injection protocols in a unanimous opinion, potentially allowing executions to resume, the Tennessean reports. Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins wrote the opinion, in which the court states that the more than 30 condemned inmates bringing the case failed to show that current protocols violate constitutional provisions against cruel and unusual punishment. 
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Supreme Court: Indigent Prisoner’s Case Properly Dismissed

The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that an indigent prisoner’s petition for parole was properly dismissed when the court found he had outstanding unpaid court costs. Reginald Dion Hughes is serving a 60-year sentence for two 1987 murder convictions, and appealed to the Chancery Court after being denied parole for the third time. In Justice Sharon Lee’s dissenting opinion on the decision, she noted that Hughes’ petition was denied based on only $49.50 in unpaid court costs that a clerk had not attempted to collect.
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Man Accused of Murdering Parents Indicted in Knoxville

A Louisiana man charge with brutally murdering his parents was indicted yesterday by a Knox County grand jury on five counts, Knoxnews reports. Joel Michael Guy Jr. faces two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of abusing a corpse and one count of felony murder. He is currently being held in the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility on a $2 million bond.
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