News

ABA Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Require Funds for Post-Conviction Investigation in Capital Cases

The American Bar Association filed an amicus brief today, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a decision by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals setting a “substantial need” rule for funding for investigation of claims in post-conviction capital cases. In a Texas death penalty case, the Fifth Circuit set a rule that effectively requires counsel for a capital defendant to establish a viable claim before the circuit will authorize funding for an investigation in the post-conviction phase. The ABA brief argues that indigent capital defendants are entitled to qualified legal counsel in order to “conduct an independent and adequate investigation of the facts.”
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Trial Starts Monday for 3rd Former Vandy Football Player

Former Vanderbilt Univeristy football player Brandon E. Banks' trial on aggravated rape and other charges begins Monday, nearly four years to the day after the rape that rocked that school, The Tennessean reports. Since the rape and while his charges were pending, Banks, who has pleaded not guilty, moved from Nashville and has been playing football at Lane College in Jackson. Brandon Vandenburg and Cory Batey, who have already been tried and convicted in the same incident, are serving 17- and 15-year sentences, respectively. Jaborian "Tip" McKenzie, who also was charged in the case, has pleaded not guilty and has testified against his former teammates in each trial. He's expected to return and testify against Banks.

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Website Shows America's Brutal Lynching History

Two years ago, a groundbreaking study on lynching documented the brutal mob violence that forced many African Americans to flee the south. With help from Google, now the Equal Justice Initiative that published the study has transformed Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror into an interactive digital platform that combines historical data and personal stories so people can explore one of the darkest passages in the nation's history. Knoxnews.com has the USAToday story.

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Memphis DA Tries a New Approach to Lowering Crime

The Shelby County District Attorney's Office has begun a new tactic to lower crime -- by sending letters to people convicted of multiple crimes and simply asking them to stop. District Attorney Amy Weirich told WREG she couldn't say how many letters she plans to send or how effective they might be, but she said this new approach is worth a try. "The message in the letter from me to this defendant was, ‘Stop! Stop committing crime,'" said Weirich. "You are a drain on our community." However, one advocacy group doesn't like the approach, saying that the "tone of shame" the letter takes is not helpful.

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Man Mistakenly Arrested, Jailed for 4 Days

After a grand jury declined to indict him, authorities arrested Quentin Brown and booked him into Shelby County Jail and held him for four days, The Commercial Appeal reports. A grand jury returned a “not true bill” on May 18, but Brown was still arrested and booked on a charge of aggravated child abuse on June 8. Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Bobby Carter ordered Brown’s release after attorney Blake Ballin showed the court Brown hadn’t been charged. Brown will speak with civil lawyers before speaking publicly, his lawyer said.  
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TSC: Defendant Has No Appeal From Denial of Motion for Return of Property

The Tennessee Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that a defendant in a criminal case has no right to appeal a decision denying his request for the return of property that was seized during a criminal investigation when the defendant failed to file a pretrial motion to suppress the evidence. Ray Rowland of Memphis had property, including firearms, seized from him and he later pleaded guilty to aggravated assault by use or display of a deadly weapon. Rowland filed a motion for return of the firearms three years later. That motion was denied, but was granted on appeal. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Criminal Appeals and dismissed the appeal.
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Defending Trade Secrets, Jason Long's Last President's Column and More in June Bar Journal

Read about the Federal Defend Trade Secrets Act from Nashville lawyer Andrew B. Campbell in the June issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal, out today. Jason R. Smith explains the dangers of plea agreements that provide for concurrent Tennessee and federal sentences. In his last column of his term, Tennessee Bar Association President Jason Long tells the secret of his presidential success as he thanks the TBA staff members who have been instrumental to his year.

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Sentencing in Murder Conviction Delayed Over Alleged Attorney Misrepresentation

Attorneys for a man convicted of murder asked to withdraw from his case after their client alleged he was not represented properly, the Times Free Press reports. A judge granted the motion and rescheduled Cortez Sims’ sentencing to Aug. 2. Sims said that he “was done incredibly wrong” because his attorneys did not put on a closing argument during his trial. Sims has since filed for a new trial.
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Haslam Signs Law to Cheapen Price Tag of Expungements

Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law legislation that will lessen the costs of expunging criminal conviction records, NewsChannel 5 reports. Effective immediately, the cost of expunging records will be $270, down from $450. The law was backed by a bipartisan coalition and was sponsored in the state legislature by Rep. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, and Sen. Mark Norris, R-Collierville. 
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Judge Writes Murder Mystery Set in Northwest Tennessee

A new book, Reelfoot Killins', is out from Dog Ear Publishing. By retired Judge Joe G. Riley, it is about "a gruesome double murder and the trial of a suspect who might be headed to death row." Riley was a trial judge for 18 years near Reelfoot Lake in Lake and Dyer counties in Tennessee, trying several capital cases and imposing the death penalty in murder cases. Readers follow the action through the perspective of a judge, starting from an anonymous tip and progressing through the process of justice. Watch for an upcoming review in the Tennessee Bar Journal.

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Burchett Confesses, Gets 4 Years Probation in Cyber-Attacks

Knox County’s former first lady confessed Thursday to cyber-harassing the cancer-stricken estranged wife of her millionaire beau, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. Allison Burchett, 35, pleaded guilty in Knox County Criminal Court to six misdemeanor charges of unlawful access to computer accounts. She will serve no jail time, but will spend four years on probation.

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Opinion: Racial Bias Is Not Just a 'Perception'

In an opinion piece in today's Tennessean, Nashville-Davidson County Public Defender Dawn Deaner writes about bias and the decision by District Attorney General Glenn Funk that his office would not be pressing charges against Officer Josh Lippert after review by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for the killing of Jocques Clemmons. "When people of privilege talk about the distrust people of color have for police and courts as a 'perception,' they send the message that’s all they think it is — a problem of perception. It says they believe our criminal justice system today operates fairly and equitably for everyone, and those who see it otherwise simply do not appreciate that," she writes. "It belies the truth, which is that those who do not see the injustice are the ones with the perception problem. Until we start acknowledging the existence of racial injustice, nothing will change. And those experiencing the injustice will continue to suffer the most."

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National Show: Defendants Struggle to Find Justice in Tennessee

A national radio show looks at Tennessee's criminal justice system, the "difficulties in Tennessee's appeals process," and how appointed lawyers deal with mandated caps on payments from the state. "The Takeaway," a show hosted by WNYC, focused a recent segment on a 2007 case in which Thomas Edward Clardy was convicted of murder and given a life sentence for killing a man and wounding a woman at an auto body shop in Madison, Tennessee. Andrew Cohen, senior editor at The Marshall Project who's been covering Clardy's case, and Nashville lawyer Jessica Van Dyke, who currently represents Clardy, discuss the case, Tennessee's criminal justice system and how the Tennessee Supreme Court has addressed the issue.

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Execution Proceeds, Lawyer Denied Phone Access

Alabama inmate Thomas “Tommy” Arthur, 75, was executed early today, the eighth time an execution had been scheduled for him. The U.S. Supreme Court had initially stayed Arthur’s execution on Thursday, then allowed it to proceed, writes the ABA Journal. In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressed concern about use of the execution sedative midazolam, and that the state denied Arthur’s counsel access to a phone "through which to seek legal relief if the execution fails to proceed as planned.” The state's action, she wrote, "means that when Thomas Arthur enters the execution chamber tonight, he will leave his constitutional rights at the door.”

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Sessions Praises Law Enforcement, Promises to Address Violent Crime in Memphis

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Memphis today and addressed a crowd of law enforcement officials at the U.S. District courthouse, The Commercial Appeal reports. He spoke about families living “every day as hostages in their own homes” in violent neighborhoods and promised to reverse the recent trend of reduced federal gun and drug prosecutions. Congressman David Kustoff welcomed him, and joined Sessions in praising the law enforcement of West Tennessee.

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Sessions to Visit Memphis Tomorrow

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will pay a visit to Memphis tomorrow to speak with law enforcement, Action News 5 reports. He will talk to federal, state and local law enforcement about efforts to combat violent crime in the city. Sessions has cited Memphis in the past when discussing cities with rising opioid addiction and violent crime rates, alongside Chicago and Baltimore.
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Turn Your Expertise into a Magazine Article

It’s no surprise that some of the best articles in the Tennessee Bar Journal have come from TBA section members. Your membership in this section shows that you have a keen interest in trends, developments and case law in this practice area. Sharing this knowledge with your colleagues is one of the best traits of the profession.

How can you become a Journal author? Think of and refine your topic. It should be of interest to Tennessee lawyers, which is a broad criteria. This could mean you might explain a new state law, explain a complicated area of law, or take a larger issue and connect it to what it means for Tennessee attorneys and the justice system. Find a global issue within your particular experience or knowledge and tell about it and how it affects Tennessee law. Then take a look at the writer’s guidelines at http://www.tba.org/submit-an-article, which will tell you about length, notes and other details. Once it’s in the proper format, send it in! It goes to the editor, Suzanne Craig Robertson, who will then get it to the seven members of the Editorial Board for review.

If you are published, you may apply for CLE credit for your work under Supreme Court Rule 21 Section 4.07(b). For details on claiming the credit, check with the Commission on CLE & Specialization at http://www.cletn.com/.

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DA’s Comments on Police Shooting Could Open the Door to Lawsuits

When Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk said they found aspects of the police’s investigation into the deadly shooting of Jocques Clemmons by an officer that could be perceived as bias, he opened the door to potential legal fallout, an analysis published by The Tennessean suggests. Subodh Chandra, the Ohio attorney who represents the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy killed by police in 2014, said that Funk’s comments could be helpful to the Clemmons family as well as potential plaintiffs in the future. The Clemmons family has not filed a lawsuit yet, but it has hired representation and is weighing its options.
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Prosecutors Push Back Against Sessions Order to Pursue Most Serious Penalties

Thirty current and former state and local prosecutors have signed an open letter expressing concern over a recent order from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense,” The Washington Post reports. The letter was released today by the nonprofit Fair and Just Prosecution, and it calls Sessions’ directive “an unnecessary and unfortunate return to past ‘tough on crime’ practices” that will do more harm than good. The letter cites increased federal spending on incarceration, higher prison populations, and a lack of true rehabilitation for low-level drug offenders as likely results of the order.
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DA Encourages Nashville to Move Towards Restorative Justice

Davidson County District Attorney General Glenn Funk said last week that he wants Nashville leaders to fund a restorative justice program, the Tennessean reports. Funk said such a program “can create a more fair justice system and better serve the community of Nashville." Currently, the city has plans for a pilot program in Juvenile Court.
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Sessions to Toughen Rules on Prosecuting Drug Crimes

In a rollback of Obama-era policies, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is expected to toughen rules on prosecuting drug crimes, the New York Times reports. Sessions has been reviewing memos issued by former AG Eric Holder, who favored prosecutors using their discretion in what criminal charges are filed, particularly when those charges carried mandatory minimums. Sessions could return the Justice Department to George W. Bush-era mandates issued by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Those orders called for the nation’s prosecutors to bring the most serious charges possible in the majority of cases.
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TBA Convention in Kingsport is Just Around the Corner

Registration is open for the 2017 TBA Annual Convention. This years programming offers plenty of opportunities to make new friends and renew acquaintances with colleagues from across the state. The highlight comes Thursday night with the Kingsport Karnival at the downtown Farmers Market. Along with fabulous food and drink, there will be live music from two bands, an aerialist, juggler, magician, body and face painters, caricaturist and more. Plus, you'll have access to the fabulous Kingsport Carousel, the delightful project of community artisans. Special thanks to Eastman for support of this event! 

This years convention also offers 12 hours of CLE programming, highlighted by sessions on the Hatfields and McCoys, The Neuroscience of Decision-Making, and the popular Better Right Now wellness program. It is all set at the beautiful MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort & Convention Center. To receive the TBA $129 room rate, you must book your reservation by May 23. Book your room online now or call 423-578-6600.

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Call For Submissions — Law Practice Pointers

One of the benefits of being a TBA Section Member is having access to information from experienced practitioners to assist in your day-to-day practice. The sharing of this information amongst colleagues is one of the best traits of the profession. It is also a way of helping each other to maneuver the evolving legal market and strengthen your legal practice.

How can you help your fellow Section Members?  If you have some Law Practice Pointers you would like to share with your fellow section members, write an article between 300-500 words and submit it to the Section Coordinator for review and approval. These Law Practice Pointers can be related to a court opinion, piece of legislation, or current event or industry trend that affects the practice of law as it relates to the specific Section. The main requirement is to make sure the article gives lawyers practical tips, based on experience, to include in their day-to-day practice.

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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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