News

Rutherford Mayor Proposes County-Run Probation Company

Rutherford County Mayor Ernest Burgess said he wants the county to supervise its own probation company, WSMV reports. The announcement comes after the county recently ended its relationship with Providence Community Corrections, a company accused of running an extortion scheme. PCC and the county are named in a federal lawsuit as a result of the allegations. 

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Defend Nashville: Public Defender Launches New Campaign

“Public defenders toil with short staffs and shoestring budgets to uphold that last bit in your Miranda rights.” That's one of the messages from the Metro Nashville Public Defenders office, which launched a new campaign – Defend Nashville – to make its defenders a more prominent part of the judicial-reform debate. The Nashville Scene profiles the initiative, which includes Public Defender Dawn Deaner and her colleagues addressing crowds to share “about a city that few outside the halls of the downtown courthouse ever see.” The office has also launched a court watch program that allows citizens to spend a day in court with a public defender.

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Widow of Inmate Files Suit over Rutherford County Jail Suicide

The widow of an inmate who committed suicide Jan. 30 at the Rutherford County jail has filed a lawsuit accusing the county of negligence, the Daily News Journal reports. According to the suit filed Feb. 11 in Circuit Court, Jonothan E. Maxwell was intoxicated at the time of his arrest and did not go through the “normal intake process,” which includes “being assisted by a nurse.” He committed suicide shortly after his arrest. 

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Rutherford County Seeks to Solve Probation Company Problem

Rutherford County is seeking a new way to run its court probation program before its relationship with Pathways Community Corrections ends March 31, WSMV reports. County Mayor Ernest Burgess says choices include soliciting bids from the other private probation companies or starting its own probation program. PCC, which is currently under investigation by the Tennessee Department of Commerce, is closing April 1. The company is named in a federal lawsuit that claims the company and Rutherford County profited by keeping people on probation for extra time and charged excessive fees.

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Editorial: Haslam's Anti-Crime Plan to Reduce Recidivism

An editorial in The Commercial Appeal supports Gov. Bill Haslam’s 2016-2018 Public Safety Action Plan, which supports tougher penalties against serial domestic-violence offenders. The editorial says that the plan also offers a “common sense” approach for altered sanctions for parole and probation violators that would help reduce the state’s 48 percent recidivism rate.

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After Two Trials, Men Found Not Guilty of Antioch Murder

Two men – accused of a 2012 killing of a man in an Antioch drug house – are now free following two jury trials. Jurors last week determined there was not enough physical evidence to connect Terrance D. Brown and Terrence J. Clark to the crime. A trial last June resulted in a hung jury. Read more from The Tennessean.

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Brentwood Toddler Rape Case Moving Forward

Kathryn Barnett, attorney for the family of a 3-year old rape victim, said she is moving forward with discovery in the case following a judge's decision last week not to strike "offensive" allegations from the lawsuit. The alleged incident took place at Brentwood's Fellowship Baptist Church in 2014 while the toddler’s parents were attending a service. Barnett said the church failed to respond to discovery requests submitted Nov. 30 and she will now gather depositions from the church's leadership. In the suit, the parents say the church urged them not to pursue criminal charges and did not contact them about the incident until nearly a year after it occurred. The trial is planned for April 2017, Brentwood Home Page reports

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Judge Sends Ooltewah Case to Grand Jury

Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw today sent cases against two Ooltewah High basketball coaches and the athletic director to the Grand Jury after determining there was evidence to proceed on charges of not reporting child abuse. The men were charged after an alleged assault of an Ooletwah freshman during a basketball tournament. Philyaw said three other team members were victims as well. The three men will have to be booked at the County Jail within 30 days, The Chattanoogan reports. The three teens charged in the assault will appear in court next month.

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Attorney Asks for Dismissal, Cites Delay in Rape Kit Testing

After Maurice Summerall was indicted for rape nearly 14 years after the incident, his attorney Charles Mitchell argues a delay in testing the rape kit has harmed Summerall’s ability to defend himself at trial. This week Mitchell filed a motion asking for the dismissal of the charge because of the delay. The Commercial Appeal reports Memphis police did not send the rape kit to a forensic center for testing for more than 12 years. Memphis has more than 12,000 untested sexual assault kits that have accumulated since the 1980s.

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Man Convicted After Firing Shots at Memphis Police

Misael Chica-Arguenta was convicted yesterday of three counts of attempted voluntary manslaughter, but acquitted of seven other charges, after firing at Memphis police in 2014. The jury found him not guilty of attempting to kill two officers who were in the vehicle Chica-Arguenta fired on. Chica-Arguenta said he only intended to kill himself that night. Micah Gates, Chica-Arguenta’s attorney, argued "this was a suicide by cop.” Chica-Arguenta will be sentenced in March, The Commercial Appeal reports.

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Court Upholds Officers' Seizures in DUI Cases

The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld the constitutionality of officers’ seizures in two cases involving motorists crossing roadway markings. The cases involved a woman crossing the “fog line” in Williamson County and a man crossing a double-yellow line in Knox County. Both defendants were charged with DUI and sought to have evidence in those cases suppressed, claiming the officers’ basis for pulling them over was a violation of their constitutional rights prohibiting unlawful seizure. Read the unanimous opinions in State v. Linzey Danielle Smith and State v. William Whitlow Davis, Jr., both authored by Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins.

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Appeals Court Upholds Mississippi's Execution Method

The Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Wednesday upheld Mississippi’s method of lethal injection, striking down arguments from death row prisoners who claimed the state’s drugs were not specifically approved by state law. The inmates argued that they “faced risk of excruciating pain and torture during an execution because they might remain conscious” after midazolam, a new drug recommended by the state, was administered. The judge said inmates will have to take up their issues with the method in state court. Read more from the Associated Press.

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'Jane Does' File Sexual Assault Suit Against UT

Six women today filed a federal lawsuit claiming the University of Tennessee has created a student culture that enables sexual assaults by student-athletes, The Tennessean reports. The lawsuit, filed by plaintiffs identified only as "Jane Does," says the university uses an adjudication process that is “biased against victims" and also accuses five school athletes of sexual assault. “Athletes knew in advance that UT would support them even after a complaint of sexual assault (and) arrange for top quality legal representation”, plaintiffs say in the lawsuit.

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Attorney Says Judge's Fee is Unconstitutional

Criminal Court Judge Shayne Sexton yesterday dismissed charges against a Campbell County woman who had not been able to get her name cleared because of a controversial fee policy enacted by Campbell County General Sessions Court Judge Amanda Sammons, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Eighth Judicial District Assistant Public Defender William C. Jones argued that Sammons had no right to make an innocent woman pay a $50 public defender fee when she did not use the office’s services. "By denying the state's motion to dismiss, (Sammons) has continued a prosecution of a citizen for crimes she did not commit, knowing she didn't commit them, solely for the purpose of leverage in collecting a civil debt," Jones said.

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DA Funk Sues TV Reporter Following Investigation

Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk filed a $200 million lawsuit against NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams and Scripps Media Inc., the station's parent company, after the station aired a story Wednesday alleging Funk blackmailed David Chase. Funk disputes those claims in the lawsuit, but acknowledges that his office did dismiss criminal charges against Chase in exchange for Chase dropping his federal lawsuit against the Metro Police Department.  NewsChannel 5 says that it stands behind the story. Read more from The Tennessean

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Investigation Reveals DA Made a 'Secret Deal' with David Chase

Controversy surrounding David Chase, developer who was arrested in 2014 for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, has increased as a Nashville Scene investigation revealed consultant Bill Fletcher requested $2 million from Chase “to make it all go away.” Chase revealed the request in a civil lawsuit he filed against people he claims conspired against him. WTVF reports Chase's mother said that she never believed the money requested was for Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk, who eventually agreed to drop the charges against her son. Funk denies any wrongdoing, but WSMV reports Funk made a secret deal with Chase that required him to drop charges against the Metro Police Department in exchange for his (Chase's) charges being dropped. The public was never alerted about that deal. 

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11-year-old Found Guilty of First-Degree Murder

An 11-year-old White Pine boy was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2015 killing of an 8-year-old girl, the Citizen Tribune reports. Fourth Judicial District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn said the juvenile court “ordered the boy to be sent to the Department of Children’s Services for a determinate sentence until his 19th birthday."

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Greene Will Not be Prosecuted After Lying in Court

The Tennessean reports former Metro Nashville Councilman Loniel Greene will not be prosecuted after admitting that he lied in court last month when he said the $10,000 he paid to get his cousin out of jail was his own money. Greene said Nashville prosecutors granted him immunity from prosecution on charges of money laundering and perjury in exchange for his testimony and resignation from Metro Council.

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Restraint Chair Policy Change Included in $50K Settlement

The Knox County Law Director's Office and attorney Troy L. Bowlin II reached a $50,000 settlement last month in a federal civil-rights lawsuit filed on behalf of an inmate who was strapped into a controversial restraint chair. Convicted killer Lavonte Simmons was strapped to the chair – known as the “be sweet chair” – for nearly 48 hours in 2014. The settlement also brings a change in policy for the chair, which includes approval from a designated officer and time limits. Read more from the Knoxville News Sentinel.

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Senate Committee Approves Pot Prosecution Bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill that would make three or more convictions for simple possession or casual exchange of marijuana a misdemeanor rather than a felony, The Tennessean reports. The Republican-sponsored bill’s fiscal note says the changes to prosecution are expected to decrease the state’s incarceration costs by as much as $2 million. The changes are part of a bill package that includes enhancing Tennessee’s DUI laws.

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Delaware Judge Puts Death Penalty Decisions on Hold

Delaware Superior Court President Judge Jan Jurden announced Monday that all capital cases will be put on hold while the state supreme court discusses if the state’s capital punishment structure is constitutional. The decision follows a U.S. Supreme Court decision in January that struck down a Florida death-penalty sentencing law similar to Delaware’s. Read more from the ABA Journal.

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Knox County Seeks Sanctions Against Attorney in Jail Beating Case

A Knox County Sheriff’s Office deputy and jailer accused in the videotaped beating of a mentally ill inmate are demanding sanctions against the attorney who filed a $5 million civil-rights lawsuit, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The lawmen accuse attorney Lance Baker of violating federal court rules in interviews he granted with media regarding his client, Louis Flack Jr. They also accuse Baker of seeking publicity and putting his interests ahead of his client's.

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Court Date Set for Teens in Assault Case

The court date for three teens charged in the assault of an Ooltewah student is set for March 15, WTVC reports. The students were charged in Sevier County for an incident that occurred in Gatlinburg during a basketball tournament. It is unclear if Sevier County prosecutors will charge the teens as adults. Three Ooltewah school staff members have also been charged in the incident for failing to report abuse. 

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BPR Seeks Censure for DA Amy Weirich

The Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility is seeking the censure of Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich and prosecutor Stephen Jones following a complaint of ethical misconduct filed against both attorneys. Weirich said the complaint was initiated by a friend of convicted murderer Noura Jackson, WREG reports. The state Supreme Court ordered a new trial after the Court found Weirich failed to turn over a key witness’s statement to the defense. “A difference of judicial opinions is not uncommon with legal issues,” Weirich said. “Nothing done by myself or by my co-counsel in this trial should warrant disciplinary action.”

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Defendant Claims He Tried to Take Alleged Torture Victim to Hospital

A case in Knox County Criminal Court took another twist when the man who beat and tortured his friend claimed he also attempted to take the victim to the hospital, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Nehad Abdelnabi is accused of beating Naser Ferwanah with a baseball bat to get him to confess he made a sex tape with Abdelnabi’s wife. Ferwanah denied the allegation and refused to go to the hospital. 

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