News

Judge Waived Jail Sentence for Daughter's Boyfriend

Court records show Nashville General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland waived a 10-day jail sentence for his future son-in-law, the Tennessean reports. Chris Plattenburg spent just three hours in jail after an October 2015 DUI charge, which was later reduced to reckless endangerment. A jail commitment order with Plattenburg’s 10-day sentence was rescinded and marked “time served per Judge Moreland.”
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Mistrial Declared in Former Deputy’s Child Rape Case

A Knox County Criminal Court jury announced today that it was deadlocked in the case of Dennis Mills Jr., a former sheriff’s deputy accused of child rape, Knoxnews reports. Judge Scott Green was forced to declare a mistrial, setting an April 21 status hearing to see if Assistant District Attorney General Joanie Stewart wishes to try Mills again.
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Volunteers Needed for Jackson Expungement Clinic

West Tennessee Legal Services and the TBA YLD will be hosting a free expungement clinic in Jackson on Friday, April 7. The clinic will be held as an event for the Help4Tn project. The clinic will run from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Criminal Justice Complex, 3rd Floor Conference Room. Those who are able to volunteer should contact Amber Floyd or Kathryn Tucker.
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Officer Accused of Concealing Evidence to Protect Relationship

Prosecutors are arguing former Chattanooga police officer Karl Fields concealed potentially exonerating evidence against a man facing rape charges to preserve a relationship he was having with the alleged victim, the Times Free Press reports. Fields, as an investigator with the major crimes division, allegedly had access to cellphone videos of the woman appearing to have consensual sex with the accused, but never turned them over to the DA’s office. He faces one count of tampering with evidence and one count of official misconduct.
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SCOTUS: Jury Deliberations Not Guaranteed Secret if Bias Involved

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that courts must make an exception to jury deliberation secrecy if evidence shows that those discussions involved racial bias, the New York Times reports. The case stems from a 2010 sexual assault trial in which a juror reportedly said of the defendant, “I think he did it because he’s Mexican.” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that jury selection and reports from jurors alone are not always effective in determining racial bias. 
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SCOTUS: Jury Deliberations Not Guaranteed Secret if Bias Involved

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that courts must make an exception to jury deliberation secrecy if evidence shows that those discussions involved racial bias, the New York Times reports. The case stems from a 2010 sexual assault trial in which a juror reportedly said of the defendant, “I think he did it because he’s Mexican.” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that jury selection and reports from jurors alone are not always effective in determining racial bias. 
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State Lacks Drugs for Lethal Injections

The Tennessee prison system doesn’t have the necessary drugs needed to carry out a lethal injection, the Tennessean reports. Currently executions are stalled as state judges weigh a challenge to protocol. Were executions to return without the drugs, Tennessee is one of only two states that could fall back on its backup plan – the electric chair.
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State Lacks Drugs for Lethal Injections

The Tennessee prison system doesn’t have the necessary drugs needed to carry out a lethal injection, the Tennessean reports. Currently executions are stalled as state judges weigh a challenge to protocol. Were executions to return without the drugs, Tennessee is one of only two states that could fall back on its backup plan – the electric chair.
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State Lacks Drugs for Lethal Injections

The Tennessee prison system doesn’t have the necessary drugs needed to carry out a lethal injection, the Tennessean reports. Currently executions are stalled as state judges weigh a challenge to protocol. Were executions to return without the drugs, Tennessee is one of only two states that could fall back on its backup plan – the electric chair.
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Federal Review of Memphis Police to Continue

Despite a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice early Friday suggesting the opposite, a federal review of the Memphis Police Department (MPD) is still underway, the Commercial Appeal reports. After announcing that it would end the collaborative reform process, the DOJ reversed its decision Friday afternoon. The reason for the first announcement, according to a second statement by DOJ officials, was that the department had not received a signed memorandum of agreement (MOA) from the city of Memphis, which was required in order to proceed. After the MOA was confirmed to have arrived into federal hands, the decision was changed.
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Tenn. Among 16 States With Anti-Protesting Bills

Tennessee is one of 16 states with bills seeking to regulate protestors and public demonstrations, the ABA Journal reports. Tennessee’s bill removes liability from drivers who hit protestors with their car if the demonstrator was blocking the road. The bills, HB0668/SB0944, are sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough. Other states have legislation that allows lawsuits against protestors to cover the cost of police response, increases penalties for rioting, and makes committing a crime while wearing a hoodie an extra misdemeanor charge.
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Bivins Sees Both Sides of Death Penalty Legislation

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins told WCYB that there are pros and cons to the legislation that has been proposed that would take death penalty appeals directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the court of appeals. "It would probably speed up the process by six months or so," Bivins said. "But it also is helpful to have the court of criminal appeals review it because they are able to narrow down the issues and it's another set of eyes on that." Shortening the time spent on the process is one goal, but Bivins points out that something may be overlooked in the rush. "It's an incredibly important decision. It's a critical decision," he said. "It's a life or death decision, literally."

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Bivins Sees Both Sides of Death Penalty Legislation

Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeff Bivins told WCYB that there are pros and cons to the legislation that has been proposed that would take death penalty appeals directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the court of appeals. "It would probably speed up the process by six months or so," Bivins said. "But it also is helpful to have the court of criminal appeals review it because they are able to narrow down the issues and it's another set of eyes on that." Shortening the time spent on the process is one goal, but Bivins points out that something may be overlooked in the rush. "It's an incredibly important decision. It's a critical decision," he said. "It's a life or death decision, literally."

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Former Rep. Armstrong Will Not Appeal Conviction

Former State Rep. Joe Armstrong will not appeal his felony conviction in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, according to Knoxnews. Armstrong, who represented East Knoxville for 28 years, faced three felonies for hiding a $321,000 windfall from a sin tax hike on which he voted from the IRS. At a trial last year, a jury acquitted him of the two most serious counts and convicted him of filing a false tax return. In January, Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips set him free with house arrest, probation and community service. He leaves with no jail time, but will pay the IRS its money. He retired from the legislature and kept his pension.

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Former Rep. Armstrong Will Not Appeal Conviction

Former State Rep. Joe Armstrong will not appeal his felony conviction in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, according to Knoxnews. Armstrong, who represented East Knoxville for 28 years, faced three felonies for hiding a $321,000 windfall from a sin tax hike on which he voted from the IRS. At a trial last year, a jury acquitted him of the two most serious counts and convicted him of filing a false tax return. In January, Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Phillips set him free with house arrest, probation and community service. He leaves with no jail time, but will pay the IRS its money. He retired from the legislature and kept his pension.

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Federal Appeals Court Rules in Death Penalty Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of Andrew Thomas in his death penalty appeal for the 1997 killing of an armored truck guard, the Commercial Appeal reports. The court agreed with Thomas’s claim that the state of Maryland violated his rights and suppressed evidence in his case. Thomas is currently incarcerated at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, where he still maintains his innocence in the crime.
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Federal Appeals Court Rules in Death Penalty Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled in favor of Andrew Thomas in his death penalty appeal for the 1997 killing of an armored truck guard, the Commercial Appeal reports. The court agreed with Thomas’s claim that the state of Maryland violated his rights and suppressed evidence in his case. Thomas is currently incarcerated at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville, where he still maintains his innocence in the crime.
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Death Penalty Off the Table in Dobson Case

Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty or life without parole for the two men accused of murdering Knoxville 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson, Knoxnews reports. A December deadline to file an intent to seek enhanced punishment passed without response from the Knox County district attorney's office, a fact the office confirmed this week. Richard Gregory Williams III and Christopher Drone face a 27-count indictment for killing the young Fulton High football star, who who died after shielding his friends from gunfire.
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Death Penalty Off the Table in Dobson Case

Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty or life without parole for the two men accused of murdering Knoxville 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson, Knoxnews reports. A December deadline to file an intent to seek enhanced punishment passed without response from the Knox County district attorney's office, a fact the office confirmed this week. Richard Gregory Williams III and Christopher Drone face a 27-count indictment for killing the young Fulton High football star, who who died after shielding his friends from gunfire.
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Death Penalty Off the Table in Dobson Case

Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty or life without parole for the two men accused of murdering Knoxville 15-year-old Zaevion Dobson, Knoxnews reports. A December deadline to file an intent to seek enhanced punishment passed without response from the Knox County district attorney's office, a fact the office confirmed this week. Richard Gregory Williams III and Christopher Drone face a 27-count indictment for killing the young Fulton High football star, who who died after shielding his friends from gunfire.
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Supreme Court Comes Down Against Race-Based Testimony

The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled in favor of a death-row inmate whose expert witness testified he is more likely to be dangerous in the future because he is black, the ABA Journal reports. The inmate had been convicted in Texas in 1995 during a time in which a death sentence couldn’t be imposed unless jurors believed the convicted presented a future danger. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 6-2 majority opinion.
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Knox County DA’s Opioid-Fighting Pilot Program to Begin

Opioid addicts facing criminal charges in Knox County will begin receiving injections to help them stay clean thanks to a new pilot program, Knoxnews reports. The program is called “Shot at Life” and is being overseen by Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen’s office in cooperation with local law enforcement. The injections will be of the drug Vivitrol, which blocks the brain’s ability to feel pleasure from opioids.
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Family of Man Who Died in Custody Sues for $30 Million

The family of a man who died while in the custody of the Bradley County Jail is suing for $30 million, the Times Free Press reports. Hershel Dover died after being arrested for a probation violation and falling ill. The lawsuit is against Bradley County government and Gabe Thomas, the captain of the jail at the time. The suit claims Dover required insulin three times a day, but doctors at the hospital where he was treated found elevated amounts of glucose in his blood and no food or medications in his stomach.
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Nashville DA: TBI to Investigate All Officer-Involved Shootings

Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk said today that all future officer involved fatal shootings in Nashville will be investigated by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Tennessean reports. The new policy comes after the shooting death of Jocques Clemmons by a Metro police officer last week. Funk said that Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson was aware of this plan, though he was not in attendance at the press conference announcing the change.
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Convicted Killer Perry March Sues Over Prison Food

Perry March, the Nashville man serving a 56-year prison term for multiple crimes including the murder of his wife and the plot to kill her parents, filed a more than 200-page lawsuit this month over the quality of his prison food, the Tennessean reports. March claims that the quality of the kosher diet he receives is poor and is a veiled attempt to force him to break from his Jewish faith. He is currently incarcerated at Morgan County Correctional Complex in Oak Ridge.
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