News

Killer Ordered to Pay $2M for Murdering Former Lover

A former Knoxville insurance agent who was convicted of the slaying of Brooke Nicole Morris in 2011 was ordered today to pay $2 million to Morris’s family for her wrongful death, Knoxnews reports. Shawn Smoot still maintains that he is innocent of murdering Morris, with whom he’d had an affair that turned violent when she broke it off. He is currently serving a life sentence without parole.
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FBI to Monitor Investigation of Nashville Police Shooting

The FBI will monitor the Metro Nashville Police Department’s investigation into the fatal police shooting of Jocques Clemmons, the Nashville Scene reports. Clemmons was killed following a traffic stop at a public housing complex on Friday. Police Chief Steve Anderson said that he welcomes the federal agents’ involvement and promises a “full, complete and accountable investigation.”
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TBA Mashup and Mini Legal Hackathon this Friday

In conjunction with the Law Tech UnConference CLE this Friday, the TBA is also offering a variety of free events and programs for lawyers we’re calling a Mashup. One program will teach you about Legal Hackathons and see one in action. A Legal Hackathon is a collaborative effort of experts in the legal profession collaborating with a computer programmer to find a technology assisted solution to a problem in the legal industry. Join the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market for a mini legal hackathon that will demonstrate the power of collaborative minds at work. We will have tasty beverages and snacks to help you get your collaborative juices flowing.  
 
Other programs that will be a part of the Mashup include Pro Bono In Action which will show you various pro bono programs you can participate in to help your fellow Tennesseans and Member Benefit Programs that will provide you information on  Fastcase 7, health insurance options for small firms, ABA retirement funds and professional liability insurance.
 
Please sign up now to let us know you are coming.

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Crime Victims’ Private Records, Elder and Labor Law in This Issue

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s majority opinion in The Tennessean v. Metro last year was a victory for law enforcement and a significant setback for the state’s news media, writes Daniel Horwitz in this month's Tennessee Bar Journal. How the ruling will affect crime victims’ ability to protect their private records from public disclosure after criminal proceedings have concluded is uncertain. Also in the February Journal, Monica Franklin writes about The Special Needs Trust Fairness Act of 2016, Edward G. Phillips and Brandon L. Morrow’s column discusses times when protected activities provide a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for termination, while Bill Haltom enumerates the reasons why your valentine should be a lawyer. Read the entire issue.

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Death Penalty Bill Heads to Committee This Week

A bill that would remove appellate review from death penalty cases, sending them straight to the Tennessee Supreme Court, will head to committee tomorrow, according to the Tennessean. The legislation is scheduled to be taken up in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee at 1:30 p.m. and the Senate Judiciary Committee at 3:30 p.m.

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Judge Has Personal Connection in Fight Against Opioid Crisis

A Tennessean profile of Dandridge judge Duane Sloane highlights how the circuit judge came to fight for recovery over harsh sentences for addicts. His methods have been deemed controversial by some, especially ones aimed at pregnant mothers with addiction, but he cites his family’s adoption of a baby born with withdrawal symptoms as his motivation to fight for solutions to the crisis.
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Story Examines State Funding for Indigent Defense

The Nashville Scene today examines claims that a lack of funding has left the Nashville Public Defender’s Office understaffed to the point its case load is unmanageable, and it will no longer take on misdemeanor cases in which the defendant has made bond. The article also touches on similar problems in Shelby County, additional funding for public defense proposed by Gov. Haslam, the Indigent Defense Representation Task Force and more.

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Democrats Counter Anti-Decriminalization Bill

Legislation filed this week by state Democrats seeks to ease punishments for those found with small amounts of marijuana, the Nashville Scene reports. The bill would still classify possession of up to one-eighth of an ounce of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor, but offenders could only be punished by a fine up to $50. Rep. Harold Love, D-Nashville, said that the bill aims to establish statewide consistency and eliminate jail time and massive fines for possession of a very small amount of the drug, but not to make it legal. The legislation comes after Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown filed a bill this week that would override local ordinances that partially decriminalize marijuana.
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Learn About Immigration Issues That Affect Your Practice at Forum

Dear Section Member,
 
I would like to tell you about the Immigration Law Forum 2017, a program our Executive Council designed in order to assist your practice. The Forum will be held on April 7 at the TBA Bar Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., divided into two separate portions.

The morning program is titled “Immigration Benefits, Court, Enforcement and Removal."  Presentations will focus on family immigration and court issues facing both new and experienced immigration attorneys, family law and criminal law attorneys.  
 
The afternoon program is titled “Investment Immigration Government, Company, and Global Perspectives."  Sessions will focus on U.S. and international business investment immigration issues facing both immigration and non-immigration attorneys such as corporate counsel, employment law attorneys and technology law attorneys.
 
Here is a list of the speakers/panels for this year’s Forum:
 
Lynuel Dennis, Field Office Director for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
 
Catherine Chargualaf, Assistant Field Office Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Enforcement and Removal Operations
 
Brandon Josephsen, Deputy Chief Counsel of the Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement
 
Clay Banks, Southern Middle Tennessee Regional Director of Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development (Nashville)
                                                                 
Dale Carroll, CEO of Appalachian EB-5 Regional Center (Asheville, N.C.)
                                                                 
Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford, Consul General of British Consulate General Atlanta (Atlanta)
 
Fadi Abou-Ghantous, Executive and Global Sales Leader of General Electric Power (Chattanooga)
                                                                 
Tom Przybojewski, Owner of Astra Inc. (Miami)
 
Scott Jones, Financial Advisor at Merrill Edge of Bank America (Chattanooga)
                                               
John Anthony Castro, International Tax Attorney & Managing Partner of Castro & Co. LLC (Washington D.C.)
                                               
Marco Scanu, Managing Partner of Visa Business Plans (Miami)
 
Overall, this year will be a very dynamic year for immigration/global law issues, and it is very important that we as attorneys keep aware of the ever changing law environment and assist ourselves in remaining relevant with the changing times, and markets.
 
Sincerely,
 
Terry Olsen, Immigration Section Chair

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Grand Jury to Hear Thanksgiving Double-Murder Case

A grand jury will review charges against Joel Michael Guy Jr., a Knoxville man accused of killing his parents over Thanksgiving weekend, according to Knoxnews. Guy is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Joel Guy Sr. and Lisa Guy, after their remains were discovered dismembered and placed in an acid-based solution in their home. Guy was found and arrested in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Nov. 28 and extradited to Knoxville earlier this month.
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Campbell Found Guilty in MPD Shooting

A Shelby County jury found Treveno Campbell guilty of second-degree murder today in the killing of Memphis police Officer Martoiya Lang in 2012, the Commercial Appeal reports. Lang was shot while attempting to serve a warrant in a narcotics investigation. She became the first female officer killed in the line of duty in the history of the Memphis Police Department. 
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Third Defendant Pleads Guilty in JailCigs Case

Former Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold’s uncle pleaded guilty today in the JailCigs case, according to the Daily New Journal. John Vanderveer pleaded guilty to one count of witness tampering. Under the terms of the agreement, he faces a $250,000 fine and a recommended prison sentence of 18 to 24 months. Arnold and Joe Rusell also previously pleaded guilty in the case
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Former Memphis Transit CEO Arrested in Human Trafficking Sting

The CEO of the Memphis Area Transit Authority who resigned on Thursday was among 42 people arrested in a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation human trafficking sting, the Commercial Appeal reports. Ron Garrison was arrested Wednesday and faces a misdemeanor charge of patronizing prostitution near a church or school. The TBI sting involved targeting individuals responding to ads on Backpage.com.
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Harwell Launches Opioid Taskforce

A new legislative task force will tackle Tennessee’s growing opioid and painkiller abuse crisis, the Tennessean reports. House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, formed the task force to identify strategies to address addition, abuse and misuse of illegal and prescription drugs. The bi-partisan group will be chaired by Rep. Curtis Johnson, R-Clarksville.
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Judge’s Rulings in Cannon Murder Case Remain Sealed

In the criminal case against Caleb J. Cannon, accused of murdering his wife in 2014, details about what pieces of evidence deemed relevant for the jury to consider remain sealed and secret to the public, the Tennessean reports. Deborah Fisher, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, said it is odd that the case remains sealed since  much of the evidence in question has already been presented in public hearings. "When a judge decides to keep her ruling confidential, it would help the public’s understanding of the courts to explain why," Fisher said.
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Memphis, Shelby Leadership Create Legislative Wish List

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell will push the state legislature this year on a range of topics via a wish list presented to the Memphis City Council on Saturday. The list includes reducing expungement fees, stiffer sentences for convicted felons illegally in possession of firearms, equitable funding for the housing of state inmates in local jails and more. Read the full list at the Commercial Appeal.
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Shelby County Jail Riot Caused $7,000 in Damages

A riot among inmates at the Shelby County Jail on Jan. 16 caused more than $7,000 in damages, according to an affidavit that came to light Tuesday. The Commercial Appeal reports that the incident happened after 1 p.m. Inmates barricaded themselves inside a pod, tied the door shut with sheets and stacked furniture up in front of the entrance. A television, computer station, several phones and at least two security cameras were destroyed.
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Washington County Man Found Guilty of Aggravated Child Abuse

A Washington County jury has found a Telford man guilty of aggravated child abuse, reports the Johnson City Press. Joe Whitaker, 44, was accused of injuring his 7-month-old son so severely that his brain bled. Medical professionals testified that the child’s injuries were indicative of abuse, although Whitaker maintained his innocence throughout the trial. His sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 21, where he will face 15 to 25 years in prison and will serve 100 percent of his sentence. 
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Trial Begins in Memphis Police Murder

The trial of a man accused of the 2012 killing of Memphis police officer Martoiya Lang began today, reports the Commercial Appeal. Treveno Campbell, 25, is charged with killing the nine-year veteran and mother of four while she was attempting to serve a search warrant. Campbell pleaded not guilty to the crime.
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Inmates Graduate Higher Ed Program

Eighteen Tennessee inmates graduated on Thursday from a program run by Tennessee High Education Initiative, a nonprofit that works with the Tennessee Department of Corrections to bring higher education to prisoners. The Jackson Sun reports the graduates completed their 41-Hour General Education certificates, which denotes the completion of the core requirements of an associate’s and bachelor’s degree in Tennessee. The program currently includes 115 men at two prisons, Turney Center Industrial Complex and Northwest Correctional Complex, and boasts more than 300 graduates. 
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Life in Prison for Defendant in Jackson Murders

A Jackson man was convicted yesterday in the 2014 slayings of Arkansas State football player Markel Owens and his stepfather, Johnny Shivers, reports the Jackson Sun. A jury found Johnny Wade guilty of first-degree murder, two counts of felony murder, two counts of especially aggravated robbery, and aggravated assault, and decided that Wade will serve life in prison. Wade will return to court on March 2 for a sentencing hearing on additional charges.

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Suspect in Dobson Killing Appointed New Attorney

During a status hearing in a Knox County court today, one of the two men accused of killing Knoxville teenager Zaevion Dobson has been appointed a new lawyer, Knoxnews reports. Criminal Judge Steve Sword granted the request of Richard Gregory Williams for a new attorney, appointing Kit Rogers to the case. Williams offered no explanation for the request. Williams and co-defendant Christopher Drone Bassett face a 27-count indictment, including charges of first-degree murder, in the shooting of the 15-year-old Fulton High School football star.
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Nashville Woman Gets 15 Years for Murder of Teen

Antwana Smith today pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 14-year-old Treyonta Burleson, and was sentenced to 15 years by a Nashville court, the Tennessean reports. Burleson was the youngest victim of gun violence in 2015, a year that was notable for the highest death rate among young people in a decade. Burleson's death was one of the catalysts for Nashville Mayor Megan Barry's youth violence initiative.
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ABA Forms Task Force to Study College Sexual Assault

The American Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section has formed a Task Force on College Due Process Rights and Victim Protections, which will research and develop best practices to ensure due process for victims and the accused in sexual misconduct cases on college campuses. The findings will be drafted into a report along with recommendations and submitted to the section and ABA House of Delegates.
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Obama Cuts Sentences for Hundreds More

President Barack Obama today reduced or eliminated the sentences of hundreds more drug offenders, CNN reports. The move brings his total commutations to 1,385 individuals, the vast majority of whom have been serving mandatory minimum sentences for crimes related to distribution or production of narcotics. The group approved today also included Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of passing classified information to WikiLeaks, and James Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was convicted of making false statements to investigators when questioned about leaking classified information to two journalists. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Justice Department officials have been working nonstop to complete their review of more than 16,000 clemency petitions filed by federal prisoners.

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