News

New N.C. Rule Requires Lawyers to Reveal Innocence Evidence

North Carolina will require all attorneys to reveal any evidence of innocence they become aware of after a conviction, the Associated Press reports. It is the first state in the union to pass such a law, though 16 other states have applied this rule to prosecutors. 
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How to Deal With Bullying, Threats and Physical Violence in the Workplace

Violence in the workplace is a growing threat. Read in the April Journal about its many forms -- including bullying, intimidation, and of course, physical harm -- and what to do about them. Chattanooga lawyer Bob Lype details the issue. And read Nashville lawyer David Hudson's article about the “jailhouse lawyer” case that significantly changed the legal landscape in the state regarding prisoner rights and access to the courts. Also in this issue, TBA President Jason Long thanks the Young Lawyers Division on its many accomplishments. Read the entire issue online.

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Moreland Resigns; Granted Release from Jail

Nashville General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland today resigned his post, effective April 4, the Tennessean reports. The announcement was made in federal court where U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe Brown ruled there was probable cause to sustain charges against him. New details of the FBI inquiry also were revealed, including the fact that Moreland kept a list of people on his iPhone labeled “witnesses.” Brown also decided to release the judge from jail pending trial on the charges, but with certain conditions.
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Supreme Court Upholds Lethal Injection Protocols

The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld state lethal injection protocols in a unanimous opinion, potentially allowing executions to resume, the Tennessean reports. Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins wrote the opinion, in which the court states that the more than 30 condemned inmates bringing the case failed to show that current protocols violate constitutional provisions against cruel and unusual punishment. 
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Supreme Court: Indigent Prisoner’s Case Properly Dismissed

The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that an indigent prisoner’s petition for parole was properly dismissed when the court found he had outstanding unpaid court costs. Reginald Dion Hughes is serving a 60-year sentence for two 1987 murder convictions, and appealed to the Chancery Court after being denied parole for the third time. In Justice Sharon Lee’s dissenting opinion on the decision, she noted that Hughes’ petition was denied based on only $49.50 in unpaid court costs that a clerk had not attempted to collect.
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Man Accused of Murdering Parents Indicted in Knoxville

A Louisiana man charge with brutally murdering his parents was indicted yesterday by a Knox County grand jury on five counts, Knoxnews reports. Joel Michael Guy Jr. faces two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of abusing a corpse and one count of felony murder. He is currently being held in the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility on a $2 million bond.
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Fingerprint Helped Solve 1989 Cold Case

A fingerprint on a beer can helped solve the 30-year-old homicide cold case that Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston filed charges in earlier this week, the Times Free Press reports. At the scene of the crime of the 1989 stabbing death of James “Richard” Layne at the La Plaza motel in Chattanooga, a beer can with a fingerprint was discovered, but it wasn’t until 2016 that a match was found. A print taken from Samuel Edward Reeves during a DUI arrest connected him to the crime, which he later admitted to.
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Gatlinburg Detective Appears in Court in Connection to Ooltewah Rape Case

A Gatlinburg police detective appeared in Hamilton County Court today on perjury charges in connection with his 2016 testimony in the Ooltewah High School rape case, the Times Free Press reports. The case centers around a 15-year-old who was raped with a pool cue. Detective Rodney Burns referred to the incident as “something stupid kids do,” and when he testified he reported that “there was no rape or torture, no screams of anguish.” However, in a previous police report, he recorded that someone told him the victim “yelled out in pain” during the attack. Burns faces two counts of aggravated perjury.
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Nashville Police Unveil $50 million Officer Camera Plan

The Metro Nashville Police revealed plans to purchase body cameras for all 1,440 officers and new dashboard cameras for 880 department vehicles, the Tennessean reports. The plan, which was presented at the Metro Police Department’s budget hearing with Mayor Megan Barry today, is expected to cost $50.1 million. The request comes after the department faced scrutiny in the wake of the police killing of Jocques Clemmons.
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Nashville Public Defender Talks Racial Injustice

The Nashville Scene published an in-depth interview today with Metro Public Defender Dawn Deaner, who discusses racial injustice and what can be done about it. “If we're going to talk about racial injustice we have to recognize that our court system has never been a place where people of color have received legitimate equal treatment,” Deaner said. The interview was done in honor of Public Defense Week, which is being celebrated across the country.
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Ex-Deputy Pleads Not Guilty in Extortion Case

A former Shelby County Sheriff’s deputy pleaded not guilty today to federal charges alleging that he unlawfully took money while serving on the Narcotics Task Force, the Commercial Appeal reports. Jeremy Drewery is accused of threatening a person with arrest before taking $2,000.
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Bill That Would Exonerate McKinney Moves Forward

A bill that would eliminate the need for the Governor’s approval on certain exoneration requests has been approved by a subcommittee and is headed for the full Criminal Justice Committee, the Tennessean reports. If passed, the bill would include the exoneration application of Lawrence McKinney, the Wilson County man who spent 31 years in prison on a charge he was later cleared of through DNA evidence. McKinney was released from jail but so far has been unable to gain exoneration. 
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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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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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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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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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