News

Stanton to Address Domestic Violence Awareness Event

Men across Memphis were set to gather this evening to take a stand against domestic violence at the second annual Shine Your Light on Domestic Violence event. Mayor Jim Strickland, Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings and U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton were scheduled to address the group. Judicial Commissioner Kevin Reed, who was also on the agenda, told News 5 that it is the “silence of good men that allows domestic violence to persist.” Read more from station.

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Murfreesboro Lawyer Charged with Insider Trading

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Murfreesboro lawyer and former Pinnacle Financial Partners board member James C. Cope with insider trading related to the bank’s merger with Avenue Financial Holdings the Tennessean reports. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee also filed a parallel criminal case according to the SEC. Federal officials say Cope learned confidential details about the planned merger and then purchased 10,000 shares of Avenue stock prior to the public announcement, making more than $56,000. Cope resigned from Pinnacle’s board in April. He is a partner at Cope, Hudson, Reed & McCreary.

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ACLU to Hold Discussion on Race, Policing

ACLU of Tennessee is hosting a group discussion Saturday that will focus on the realities of race and policing in America and how law enforcement and community groups can work together for positive change. Broken Policing: Windows for Change will take place from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Nashville Public Library, 615 Church St. The discussion will be led by Jeff Robinson, deputy legal director of the national ACLU and director of the ACLU Center for Justice. The event is free and open to the public.

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Judge Denies Motion to Disqualify DA

A motion to disqualify Hamilton County District Attorney Neil Pinkston from a case involving a Gatlinburg investigator has been denied, News Channel 9 reports. Rodney Burns is facing aggravated perjury charges after testimony conflicted with his investigation into the Ooltewah rape case. Burns asked that Pinkston be disqualified from prosecuting this criminal case based on a pending civil case in which he claims Pinkston defamed him. Judge Tom Greenholtz denied the motion yesterday.

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DOJ to Webcast Juvenile Justice Event

The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs is convening a panel of experts and government officials on Friday to discuss recent research in developmental psychology, the current youth prison model and community-based programs that prioritize age-appropriate rehabilitation. The event will be held at the department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., but also will be available via web video. The event will run from 10 a.m. to noon Eastern time. News 5 has details.

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Federal Agency Extends Contract with CCA

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has extended its contract with Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) for the management of a 2,400-bed detention facility in Texas, the Nashville Business Journal reports. The contract, which was criticized by the Washington Post in August, now runs through September 2021. In reviewing the terms of the deal, the Post found that a public-bidding process was not held and the payment structure is more generous than industry norms. Just days after the Post report, the Department of Justice said it would end the use of private prisons.

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Drug Court Hosts Fundraising Breakfast

The 21st Judicial District Drug Court will host its sixth annual Community Breakfast next Monday from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. at Puckett’s Restaurant on Fourth Ave. S. in Franklin. The drug court provides non-violent offenders with addiction issues an opportunity to complete an extensive two-year, court-supervised program in lieu of traditional sentencing. Funds raised will support the work of the organization. To attend, RSVP to Connie Martin, 615-595-7868. Checks may be sent to the 21st Judicial District Drug Court, 100 Beat Dr., Franklin, TN 37064. The Williamson Herald has the story.

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Knoxville Judge Hits FBI Tactics in Porn Case

Senior U.S. District Judge Leon Jordan of Knoxville has joined at least six other federal judges in opposing the FBI’s tactics in a child pornography sting that allegedly violated the rights of more than 180 suspects, including a Tennessee funeral director. Jordan ruled that the FBI violated both the U.S. Constitution and federal rules of criminal procedure in its efforts to target suspects because it relied on a Virginia magistrate judge’s search warrant to launch the nationwide initiative. However, unlike other judges, Jordan is allowing the government to use the results of the illegal search in the Tennessee case under the so-called federal good-faith exception, according to Knoxnews.

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Nashville Sheriff Calls for Renaming Jail

A tweet by Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall urges city leaders to consider renaming the new jail, which is set to open in 2019. For 34 years, the downtown jail was called the Criminal Justice Center or CJC. “It’s unfair and unfortunate to say that they’re criminal,” Hall says. “I don’t have a magic name for it but I know that Criminal Justice Center doesn’t apply.” Detainees housed at the facility will be awaiting trial and therefore have not yet been convicted. Hall also notes that there will not be any courtrooms in the facility. News Channel 5 has more.

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DOJ Addresses Jailing of Domestic Violence Victims

The U.S. Department of Justice has had multiple conversations with state officials about the jailing of domestic violence victims in Washington County, according to  WJHL.com. The federal Office on Violence Against Women confirms that it has provided technical assistance to the state to help improve training. WJHL first brought the issue of jailing victims to light when it reported that the county arrested domestic violence victims more than 12 times last year.

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Florida Supreme Court Strikes State’s Death Penalty

The Florida Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a newly enacted law intended to fix issues with the state’s death penalty process is unconstitutional. The law would have required the support of 10 out of 12 jurors to recommend a death sentence – a more stringent standard than the majority of jurors required under the previous law. The court said that the decision of a jury to recommend capital punishment must be unanimous. It also concluded that a death row inmate convicted of a 1998 murder deserves a new sentencing hearing. Reuters has the story.

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Why Do You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Criminal convictions can change the direction of careers and lifetime opportunities. If you were sick, would you do your own surgery? If you are facing a legal issue, does it make sense to try to defend your criminal case? How many times have we heard, "I'll just go to court and see what 'they' offer me?" Time-and-time again, individuals go into court whether charged with driving under the influence (DUI), domestic assault or some other criminal offense, even a violation of probation, and trust his or her own judgment and opinion to know what is best when defending a criminal case. And, yes, DUI is a criminal case.

So, the question is, "why get a criminal defense attorney?" There are more reasons than can be listed in this article, but let's point out a few, just to attempt to stress the importance of being represented by a criminal defense attorney.

If you are pulled over and then arrested for DUI, do you know the reasons an officer must have in order to justify the traffic stop? Do you know what an officer is looking for when conducting field sobriety tests during a DUI investigation in order to justify an arrest? What about a traffic stop on the interstate? Do you know what information an officer needs in order to search a vehicle during a traffic stop? How about what information an officer must have in order to obtain a search warrant for your home, business, cell phone or electronic device?

Whether you are arrested for a felony or misdemeanor drug offense, domestic assault, DUI, theft, or any other criminal offense, whether felony or misdemeanor, it is very important to understand that the government must not only be able to prove specific elements of each criminal offense, but the government must also be able to prove that the evidence gathered during the course of the investigation, and even after the arrest, was obtained legally. This is because illegally obtained evidence is subject to being suppressed, or "thrown out," which could have a major impact on the government's ability to prosecute a criminal offense. Why is this so important? Without an experienced criminal defense attorney, how could illegally obtained evidence and a criminal conviction affect custodial rights with children, the ability to rent or lease a home or the ability to continue to pursue opportunities? Even the most insignificant criminal conviction can potentially have the most significant impact on employment opportunities, educational opportunities, travel restrictions, etc. There is no question, occasionally individuals plead guilty to criminal offenses the government cannot prove. Regardless of whether the criminal offense was committed, the government must still be able to prove the evidence and information was gathered lawfully.

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Tommy Santel is a Murfreesboro attorney with Parkerson | Santel PLLC. He is chair of the TBA Criminal Justice Section.

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Prosecutors Need Not Link Firearms Charges to Specific Felonies

In two unanimous opinions issued today, the Tennessee Supreme Court has determined that an indictment that includes a charge for employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony does not have to specifically state which underlying felony is tied to the firearms charge. The cases – State of Tennessee v. Rhakim Martin and State of Tennessee v. Willie Duncan – address a Tennessee law that created an additional crime if certain “dangerous” felonies are committed with a firearm. Read more about the cases from the AOC.

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DOJ Working on Database for Use-of-Force Data

The FBI is developing a database as part of the Justice Department’s efforts to gather information on interactions between law enforcement and civilians, WCYB reports. The agency began working on a system in 2015 and is now ready to launch a pilot study. In announcing the move, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said having good data is essential for the national discussion about police use-of-force, In related news, Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch spoke at a White House conference yesterday about the city’s Data Driven Justice Initiative, which uses data to divert low-level offenders with mental illness out of the criminal justice system, and the Police Data Initiative, which uses data to increase transparency and accountability among police officers. WBIR has more on that story.

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Knox County Judicial Magistrate Sought

Knox County is seeking to hire a judicial magistrate to issue arrest, search and forfeiture warrants and conduct jail arraignments through real-time video conferencing. Applicants must be a licensed attorneys and residents of the county. The position pays $92,330 plus benefits and will begin on Jan. 31, 2017. Resumes should be sent by Nov. 30 to Donna Corbitt, Judicial Court Administrator, Room M-70, City-County Building, P.O. Box 2404, Knoxville, TN 37901 or by email. The office may be reached at 865- 215-2370.

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Funk Testimony Differs from Interview, Editor Says

The Nashville Scene is challenging Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk's testimony in an ongoing defamation lawsuit brought by developer David Chase. In his testimony, Funk says that Scene reporter Stephen Hale revealed his news source during a phone conversation between the two. But Hale recorded his conversation with Funk, and according to the Scene, did not name his source. “When someone as powerful as the district attorney says we are offering up confidential sources at the drop of a hat, it harms the reputation of the paper, both with the public and with potential sources,” said Scene editor Steve Cavendish. Read the full statement from Scene editors.

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First Look at Nashville's New Justice Center

The first look at designs for Nashville’s new Criminal Justice Center became public today. Gone is the old brick look, replaced by a more contemporary aesthetic with a large lobby and many windows for natural lighting. Demolition on the old center is still underway but should conclude in about two months. WSMV-TV has pictures released by the mayor’s office.

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Court Upholds Method of Charging Lesser Offenses

The Tennessee Supreme Court has determined that the state legislature did not nullify a practice long used in state courts when it enacted a statute that outlines methods for determining lesser-included offenses for which a defendant can be convicted. The court’s decision means that a defendant can continue to be convicted of a lesser offense if it contains the same elements, but requires a lesser mental state or less risk of harm to others, than the offense being charged. Read more from the court.

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State: Don’t Jail Domestic Violence Victims

At a district attorney general’s conference this week in Pigeon Forge, state officials reminded Tennessee’s grant-funded domestic violence prosecutors that forcing victims to testify against their abusers and jailing those who do not cooperate will not be tolerated. WJHL-TV first reported on Washington County's use of the practice to punish victims who disobeyed subpoenas. It now reveals that the Tennessee Office of Criminal Justice Programs reported the situation to the U.S. Department of Justice in mid-September. The state agency emphasized that it had made the prohibition on use of funds clear in its grant materials and that the county agreed to the conditions in signing to accept the funds.

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Death Row Inmate Gets New Hearing

Nashville Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins has ordered a new hearing to determine if prosecutors discriminated against potential jurors based solely on race in the case of Abu-Ali Abdur'Rahman, who has been on death row since 1987. Abdur'Rahman was convicted of first-degree murder and other counts in the robbery, attack and stabbing of Patrick Daniels and Norma Jean Norman. Watkins cited a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, which potentially created a new precedent that warrants an evidentiary hearing. A date for the hearing has not yet been set, the Tennessean reports.

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Knox Court Adopts New Rule on Court Appointments

The Knox County General Sessions Court has adopted a new Rule 27 to govern the appointment of attorneys to represent indigent defendants. Beginning Nov. 30, the court will maintain a list of attorneys approved to accept criminal defense appointments. The list will be maintained by the judicial court administrator and will be revised annually. Each year by Dec. 31, attorneys desiring to remain on the list should provide written or email notice to the administrator. For more information, contact the court at 865-215-2370.

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Judge Sammons Wins Dismissal of 2 Charges

Campbell County General Sessions Court Judge Amanda Sammons may have lied under oath and abused her authority in a contempt case, but she did not commit the crime of which she is accused, Senior Judge Paul G. Summers ruled today. Summers dismissed two of the four counts filed against Sammons after hearing arguments from her defense that she had the authority to issue a contempt petition even if others did not ask her to do so as she claimed. That means she will not face charges for the petition she filed against Campbell County attorney Kristie Anderson. The two remaining charges relate to her handling of the case of Krista Leigh Smith, who alleges that Sammons caused her spend almost 48 hours in jail for a crime for which she was not accused. The Knoxnews has more on the story.

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No Details Yet in Courthouse Server Hack

More than a month after an urgent memo warned all current and former Anderson County employees that their personal information might have been stolen in a system-wide breach of the courthouse server, the county mayor says investigators have not provided information on what hackers may have accessed or how the breach happened. The Aug. 8 memo from County Law Director Jay Yeager warned that Social Security numbers, dates of birth, home addresses, payroll information, bank accounts and routing numbers might have been compromised, Knoxnews reports. Information related to pending court cases appears not to have been affected, officials said, as judicial system records are kept on a separate server.

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Federal Grants Fund DUI Programs in Tennessee

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has awarded $17.1 million to 384 law enforcement agencies in the state to bolster law enforcement programs and fight drunken driving. Some counties will use the funds for DUI prosecutions while others will focus on coordinating prevention efforts with members of their local judicial system, officials tell the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The paper has a breakdown of funding by county and project.

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GPS Monitors Required for Domestic Assailants

Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum has been tackling domestic assaults head-on since he took office two years ago, WRCB-TV reports. For the past 18 months, every suspect accused of domestic assault, aggravated domestic assault or stalking has been required to wear a GPS monitor as part of their bond conditions. Since beginning the practice, Shrum said the rate of suspects who are re-offending has dropped significantly. The program has also shed light on how common domestic assaults are in the county. Since it was implemented, the number of annual domestic assault calls has quadrupled according to Shrum.

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