News

Sen. Dickerson Writes About Evidence Preservation Bill

Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville wrote an op-ed for The Tennessean about his bill, SB 2342, which would preserve biologic evidence until the defendant is executed, dies or is released from prison. “…The cost and effort to maintain biologic evidence is minimal when compared with our duty to ensure that our criminal justice system provides every possible safeguard when dealing with issues of life and death," he writes. 

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UT Files More Reasons to Dimiss Title IX Suit

WATE reports a judge allowed the University of Tennessee to file additional documents on a motion to dismiss a sweeping federal lawsuit against the school. The university says the plaintiffs have failed to articulate any “official policy” leading to the sexual assault cases. The move is in response to the plaintiffs citing a sexual assault case against the University of Colorado that claims the university had an “official policy” to provide women and alcohol to the high school football recruits. The UT filings also request that the university is not required to answer to “the nearly 100 paragraphs accusing unrelated individuals of crimes and other misconduct over a period of more than twenty years.” UT President Joe DiPietro today defended the safety of the campus during a board meeting, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports

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Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

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House Approves Changes to Drug, DUI Penalties

The state House yesterday approved a measure (HB 1478) that would lower the legal penalties for repeated drug possession, WPLN reports. Under the bill, sponsored by Rep. William Lambert, R-Cottontown, drug possession would become a misdemeanor. The legislation also heightens the penalties for driving drunk in an effort to make people with numerous DUIs serve more time behind bars. The state Senate could vote on the proposal next week.

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Court Rules Feds Cannot Seize Assets Not Tied to Crimes

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday ruled the government cannot, before trial, freeze assets needed to pay criminal defense lawyers if the assets are not linked to a crime. NPR reports the 5-3 ruling came in a Miami case where prosecutors received a court order to freeze assets of a woman who had fraudulently obtained $45 million. The woman challenged the asset-seizure order on grounds that she needed the untainted assets to hire a lawyer for trial.

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Officer in Darrius Stewart Shooting to Receive Disability Pay

Connor Schilling, the Memphis police officer who fatally shot 19-year-old Darrius Stewart last year, will receive line-of-duty disability payments of $1,138.19 twice a month beginning April 1. The Memphis Pension Board today approved the amount, along with 70 percent subsidy of his monthly health care premiums, after Schilling claimed he has post-traumatic stress disorder following the July 2015 incident. The case is now under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Read more from The Commercial Appeal.

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Judge Denies UT's Request to Move Suit to Knoxville

U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger this week denied the University of Tennessee’s request to move the Title IX lawsuit to Knoxville. "The entire state has an interest in the resolution of this case that has lodged serious allegations against the state’s premier higher education institution," Trauger said in the ruling. The eight plaintiffs in the suit argued it would be “traumatic” for the case to be considered in Knoxville. Read more from The Tennessean.

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Butch Jones Phone Records Released in Light of Title IX Suit

The Tennessean reports cell phone records released today from University of Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones reveal phone calls to police and players shortly after an alleged rape involving two members of the football team. The records do not reveal the content of the conversations, but do support a timeline outlined by former UT player Drae Bowles as part of a federal sexual assault suit against the school. Bowles said Jones told him he had “betrayed the team” by helping the woman who said she was sexually assaulted. 

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Spanish for Lawyers Series Available Online

The Tennessee Bar Association and the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute offer the Spanish for Lawyers Series, which focuses on communication skills for lawyers with Spanish-speaking clients. The online CLE courses include Basic Skills and Introductions, The Law Office and Client Interview, and Criminal Law. Each course offers one hour of dual credit.

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Obama Acts to Release 3 Tennessee Drug Offenders Early

President Barack Obama has reduced the prison sentences for 61 people serving time for drug-related offenses, the Associated Press reports. Most are non-violent offenders and more than a third of the inmates were serving life sentences. WBIR reports three of the inmates are from Tennessee. The majority of the inmates will be released July 28.

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Cory Batey to Stand Trial Alone, Set for Monday

Judge Monte Watkins today ruled that Corey Batey, one of four men charged with raping an unconscious woman at Vanderbilt University in 2013, will stand trial alone. Worrick Robinson, Batey’s attorney, said today that a judge granted a request to delay Brandon Vandenburg’s trial because of “personal issues.” Robinson then filed an emergency motion to delay the trial for Batey, but Deputy District Attorney General Tom Thurman argued the trial “would not be significantly different for Batey alone.” The Tennessean reports jury selection will begin Wednesday in Chattanooga and Batey’s trial is expected to start Monday. Judge Watkins last year granted a mistrial for Batey and Vandenburg due to a juror’s conduct.

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PD Group Seeks to Fill Retiring Executive Director Position

The Tennessee Public Defender’s Conference announces an upcoming vacancy for executive director. The position is currently held by Jeff Henry, who in February announced his retirement effective at the end of his current term in June. Interested parties should address resumes and any other documents to search committee chair Tom Marshall at 127 N. Main Street, Clinton, TN 37716, and to conference president Jeff Harmon at P.O. Box 220, Jasper, TN 37347. The deadline to apply is April 22.

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Pardon Attorney's Resignation Letter Describes 'Broken System'

Former Pardon Attorney Deborah Leff said the Obama administration instructed Justice Department attorneys to “neglect applications for president pardons to give priority to the Justice Department’s initiative to release low-level offenders from prison.” The information was revealed in Leff’s resignation letter, obtained by USA Today. Leff added the initiative “means that the requests of thousands of petitioners seeking justice will lie unheard.”

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Bill Would Declare 'Moratorium' on Police Bodycam Videos

The House State Government Subcommittee last week approved a bill (HB0876 / SB0910) that would prohibit public disclosure of most body camera recordings made by Tennessee law enforcement officers for at least a year, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, would allow the public release of the recordings after “any investigation” into the case, trial or disciplinary proceeding involving the recordings. Casada said he is currently working on revisions to the bill.

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HIGHway Driving in Tennessee, 1 Hour of CLE

Statistics show Tennessee has four of the top five counties in the United States for most traffic fatalities by depressant drug-impaired drivers. Judge Thomas Wright and District Attorney General Thomas Kimball address drugged driving, non-prescription drugs and DUI investigations in HIGHway Driving in Tennessee. The webcast, available March 30 and also in archived video, is approved for one credit of CLE.

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Attorneys for Erin Andrews Seek Full $55M

Attorneys for TV personality Erin Andrews asked in a new filing that Nashville Circuit Judge Hamilton Gayden require the owners of a Nashville hotel and its management company to award Andrews the full $55 million awarded to her earlier this month. The attorneys say the companies should not split the payment with Michael David Barrett, the man who secretly recorded nude videos of Andrews at the hotel. The Tennessean reports jurors held that Barrett was 51 percent responsible, and that the hotel owner and operator 49 percent responsible for the harm Andrews suffered.

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Ex-Bailiff Says Baumgartner Acted 'Impaired' During Leath Trial

Former court bailiff Meredith Driskell testified yesterday that Former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner appeared to “nod off” during the January 2010 trial of Raynella Dossett Leath. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports attorneys Rebecca Legrand and Joshua Hedrick, who represent Leath, are attempting to win Leath a new trial and claim Baumgartner robbed her of a constitutionally sound trial. Baumgartner was later sentenced to prison for lying to cover up a drug conspiracy in which he was buying pills. 

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New Trial Date Set for Man Accused of Shooting Neighbor

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports a new trial date has been set for Aug. 2 for former Knox County Schools security officer Kevin Waggoner, who is accused in a 2013 deadly shooting. Attorneys Tommy Hindman and Scott Lanzon will represent Waggoner; the pair previously represented Waggoner when a judge last year declared a mistrial due to a deadlocked jury. Waggoner is accused of shooting his neighbor in Union County following a three-year feud.

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Bill Requiring Biologic Evidence Preservation Advances

The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed a bill (SB 2342 / HB 2377) that would require biologic evidence collected in cases involving a death sentence to be preserved for the duration of defendant's life or incarceration, Nashville Scene reports. Senate committee members previously heard testimony from a man who was sentenced to death and spent more than 10 years in an Arizona prison for murder before biological evidence proved his innocence. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, is scheduled for a vote in a House subcommittee today.

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Leath Asks Judge to Overturn 2010 Conviction for Killing Husband

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Raynella Dossett Leath is attempting to convince Senior Judge Paul Summers to overturn her 2010 conviction in the death of her second husband. Leath’s argument for a new trial focuses on former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner, who presided over her trial before he was convicted in a prescription drug abuse probe. Leath’s attorney, Rebecca Legrand, told Summers on Monday that Baumgartner's “drive to feed his addiction infected every aspect of her case." Leath was also accused in the 1992 killing of her first husband. 

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Court Reinstates Charges in Memphis Criminal Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court today reinstated convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping charges and affirmed multiple other convictions arising out of a 1999 home invasion in Memphis and offered clarification on requesting lesser-included offenses. Rashe Moore, one of the men charged in the crime, had appealed his 99-year sentence because he said that he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to his trial counsel’s failure to file written requests for lesser-included offense instructions at trial. In a decision authored by Chief Justice Sharon Lee, the court overturned a Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that Moore was due a new trial on the aggravated kidnapping convictions, saying that the counsel’s failure to appropriately request lesser-included offense instructions requires reviewing courts to conduct a thorough examination of the record. In its review, the court determined that there was no reasonable probability that a jury would have convicted Moore of any lesser offense if given the chance. 

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Memphis, Shelby County Seek to Dismiss Rape Kit Testing Suit

Circuit Court Judge Gina C. Higgins has yet to grant a motion filed by the city of Memphis and Shelby County seeking to dismiss a suit against the city and county regarding thousands of untested rape kits. Three plaintiffs say Memphis and the county failed to responsibly handle testing of the kits. Virginia Bozeman, attorney for the county, argued Tuesday in court that the county is immune because the people involved were not county employees. Higgins said she will rule at a later date on the motions, The Commercial Appeal reports.

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Join Us May 17 for Criminal Law Update CLE

Please make plans to join the TBA Criminal Law Section on May 17 for the Criminal Law Update. This informative 4-hour CLE will be presented at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville.

The constant change in criminal practice is what keeps criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges on their toes. From a misdemeanor in General Sessions to a death penalty appeal before the Supreme Court, practitioners must stay on top of the latest changes in the law. This program will help you get up to speed on recent developments in criminal law.

You may register online or by phone by contacting TBA at 615-383-7421.

Don't forget that you can save money when you register for this program by using your three hours of prepaid CLE credits that come with your TBA Complete Membership! 

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Mentors in Criminal Law Needed

The TBA Mentoring Program is looking for volunteer mentors that practice criminal defense law in Davidson County. Mentoring is the most effective way to pass along skills, knowledge and wisdom and it is critical to a new lawyer’s success. There are many new attorneys signed up for this program, but there is a shortage of mentors to match them with. 

To qualify as a mentor, you must have a minimum of eight years of experience with no formal BPR investigation pending or disciplinary action imposed in the last 10 years. For more information on the program, visit: http://www.tba.org/programs/the-tba-mentoring-program.

If you’re interested in signing up, please contact Kate Prince at 615-277-3202.

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Probation Companies Face Scrutiny, Lawsuits

As an investigation continues against Rutherford County and a former probation company, The Tennessean reports on lawsuits in a number of states that have “spotlighted tensions between companies and offenders.” Jack Long, a Georgia attorney who has brought 18 suits against a probation company, said, "We still have a system in which there is a profit motive to keep people on probation and to keep them there for as long as possible.”

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