News

Supreme Court Postpones Execution

The Tennessee Supreme Court has rescheduled the execution of convicted murderer Billy Ray Irick from Jan. 15 to Oct. 7 because of new legal challenges to the way Tennessee plans to put the condemned to death. According to the Tennessean, all executions had been put on hold for at least two years because a key lethal injection drug, sodium thiopental, became unavailable. The court said on Tuesday that legal challenges questioning the use of the new drug, pentobarbital, must be answered before it can be used in an execution.

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Alexander’s Chief of Staff Accused of Child Porn

Ryan Loskam, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s chief of staff for his Washington office, has been placed on leave without pay as a result of a child pornography investigation, the Tennessean reports. In a statement, Alexander said he was “stunned, shocked and disappointed by what I have learned. Based on this information, I immediately placed Mr. Loskarn on administrative leave without pay. The office is fully cooperating with the investigation.” David Cleary, former legislative director, has been named new chief of staff.

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Nashville PD: One More Capital Case is Too Much

As Tennessee pushes to carry out more executions, Nashville’s public defenders say they can’t take on any more capital punishment cases, and that includes the case of Lorenzo Jenkins who is accused of murdering three people in October, The Tennessean reports. Assistant Public Defender Mike Engle told Criminal Court Judge Randall Wyatt Jr. on Monday that the state should hire Jenkins a private attorney. Deputy District Attorney General Tom Thurman, who is prosecuting the case, disagreed. He said the public defender’s office should reassign cases to free up one of five attorneys qualified to handle death penalty cases. Besides, he said, he’s handling three cases. But Nashville’s elected public defender Dawn Deaner said it is unfair to compare the workload of her office with that of local prosecutors who have police officers, detectives, forensic experts and witnesses at their disposal.

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AG: Local Pseudoephedrine Rules Violate State Law

Cities and counties passing local ordinances to require a prescription for medications containing pseudoephedrine run afoul of existing state law, according to state Attorney General Bob Cooper, Humphrey on the Hill reports. In an opinion released Monday, Cooper said any local ordinance requiring a prescription would violate the “Meth-Free Tennessee Act of 2005” codified at Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-431. Several local governments have enacted such ordinances, though bills to require prescriptions have failed in the legislature. Read more from Knoxnews or download the opinion.

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Services Thursday for Former Federal Prosecutor

Former district attorney and federal prosecutor Carl K. Kirkpatrick died Nov. 26. He was 77. A 1962 graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School, Kirkpatrick attended the FBI’s National Law Institute at Quantico, Va., and was a graduate of the Executive Prosecutor Course at the Bates School of Law at the University of Houston. Kirkpatrick was the district attorney general in Tennessee’s Second Judicial District for 28 years and served as president of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference. In 1993, Kirkpatrick was appointed by then-President Bill Clinton to be U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee. He served in that capacity until 2000. A Celebration of Life will be held Dec. 12 at 11:30 a.m. at Christ Covenant Presbyterian Church, 12915 Kingston Pike, Knoxville 37934. The family will receive friends immediately following the service. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the church or to the Wounded Warrior Project, P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, KS 66675. Knoxnews has more on Kirkpatrick’s life.

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Police Chief Named Chair of Drug Task Force Board

Franklin Police Chief David Rahinsky was unanimously elected chairman of the board for the 21st Judicial District Drug Task Force. The board consists of District Attorney General Kim Helper and the police chiefs and sheriffs from the four counties in the district: Williamson, Hickman, Perry and Lewis. The board meets quarterly and oversees the overall operation of the task force. The Tennessean has more on the story.

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Fuller to Run for Criminal Court Judge

Wilson County Assistant District Attorney Brian Fuller will be a candidate for 15th Judicial District Criminal Court judge, the Hartsville Vidette reports. The post -- which covers Trousdale, Macon, Smith, Jackson and Wilson counties -- is being vacated by Judge David Durham, who is retiring. Fuller has been an assistant district attorney for 17 years, first in the 28th Judicial District and then in the 15th Judicial District. He also has served as the criminal court docket manager for cases in Smith County from 2002 to 2005, and for cases in Wilson County from 2005 to the present. Fuller is a 1996 graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law.

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Hughes Seeks 2nd Term As PD

Richard Hughes has announced he will run for a second term as 10th Judicial District public defender, Chattanoogan.com reports. Hughes, a Republican, has served in the position since 2005. Prior to being elected public defender, he served as an assistant public defender in the office for 15 years. The district covers Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties. Hughes touts his efforts to beef up investigative functions of the office by hiring lawyers for those roles and for opening a second office in Madisonville. He also cites his involvement in the creation of a district-wide drug court, his work adding juvenile court dockets in two counties and his interest in creating a workhouse program in Bradley County as examples of his leadership.

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State Makes Push to Set 10 Execution Dates

State officials have requested the Supreme Court to set execution dates for 10 death row inmates, the Tennessean reports. The state has executed six death row inmates since 1960 and none since 2009. Some, like attorney David Raybin, believe the push was caused in part by public backlash after mass murderer Paul Dennis Reid Jr. died of natural causes in a hospital. He had been on death row for over 15 years. Sharon Curtis-Flair, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, said “We filed all 10 motions at the same time because they were all ready to be set for execution, and TDOC was in a position to carry them out under a new protocol.”

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Prosecutor Announces Bid for Public Defender

Assistant District Attorney General Steve Smith has announced his intention to run in the Republican primary for Hamilton County public defender. Smith says his experience working with the criminally accused, victims, witnesses and law enforcement has impressed on him the need for a properly functioning criminal justice system. He also says a renewed commitment to the constitutional guarantees of a speedy and fair trial and the assistance of counsel are needed. Chattanoogan.com has more on his candidacy and background.

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Federal Prosecutor Dan Newsom Retires

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Newsom retired at the end of November after serving as a federal prosecutor in Memphis since 1983. After completing seven years with the Shelby County District Attorney’s office, Newsome joined the U.S. Attorney’s office and quickly became a pioneer in the prosecution of sex-based crimes, becoming the first to bring a national pornography case based on obscenity laws. He later earned a reputation as an expert in arson, fraud and computer crimes cases. At a recent retirement party, U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton said of Newsome, “There is no other prosecutor I aspire to be more like” and U.S. District Judge John Fowlkes called Newsom “the best of the best.” The Commercial Appeal has more on his life and career.

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Baumgartner Completes Home Detention

Former Knox County Criminal Judge Richard Baumgartner has officially completed his federal sentence after serving six months in prison and two weeks on home detention, reports WBIR. According to Baumgartner’s attorney Don Bosch, however, the former judge will remain under federal supervision for one year.

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ADA Calls for 2nd Criminal Court Judge

Rogersville Assistant District Attorney Alex Pearson told the Times-News that he believes the Third Judicial District needs more than one criminal court judge to address an increasing caseload. Pearson, who is a candidate for the circuit court judge seat currently held by Judge John Wilson, said one of his campaign platforms will be to utilize one of the district's circuit courts to handle both civil and criminal cases. The district, which encompasses Hawkins, Hamblen, Greene and Hancock counties, currently has four circuit judges, three of whom focus solely on civil cases and one who serves as a full-time criminal court judge.

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Former State Rep. Runs for First District DA

Elizabethton attorney and former state representative Jerome Cochran says he will seek the Republican nomination for First Judicial District Attorney General, the Elizabethton Star reports. Tony Clark is the current DA for Carter, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington counties. In making the announcement, Cochran cited “questionable decisions” by Clark in the charging of crimes and the prosecution of certain cases. The Carter County native also said he wants to aggressively target the methamphetamine “epidemic” by seeking substantial jail time for all-meth related crimes.

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Teen Seeks Damages For Being Jailed Due to Clerk’s Mistake

An attorney for a teenager arrested earlier this month on charges of driving with a revoked license is seeking $50,000 in damages for what he says is a wrongful arrest. The teen, Joshua Michael Kitts, was arrested Nov. 15 when Knox County Sheriff's deputies pulled him over and discovered his license was revoked in 2012 for drag racing. But Kitts and his lawyer say the drag racing charge was removed from his record when he agreed to attend driving school and that his license was never suspended. The situation, they say, is one of many resulting from mistakes made by the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk's office. In Kitts’ case, he spent eight hours in jail and had to pay to get his car back. Knoxnews has more.

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DA: Lawyer in Vanderbilt Rape Case Destroyed Evidence

The Nashville district attorney's office on Friday accused Albert Perez Jr. -- who is representing Vanderbilt football player Brandon Vandenburg on rape charges -- of destroying evidence in the case. As first reported in the Nashville Scene, the DA's motion alleges that two witnesses said the California attorney “was directly involved with the destruction or attempted destruction of evidence in this case." The DA also filed a motion to disqualify Perez as Vandenburg's lawyer. Last week, Perez accused the DA of withholding evidence needed to prepare for trial.

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Lawmakers Look at Reforming Drug Task Forces

At a hearing Tuesday in Nashville, members of a Senate Judiciary subcommittee learned more about the history and governance of the state's drug task forces. After hearing testimony from a district attorney, a drug task force director and the state comptroller's office, several subcommittee members said it was clear that current statutory authority, governance and oversight of the task forces is insufficient. Others said they expect to file legislation in January to impose tighter controls on the offices, the Times Free Press reports.

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Study: Inconsistent Rape Data Creates Confusion

Sexual assault incidents are badly underreported and poorly counted, a new national study concludes. The review, by the National Research Council, examined various methods of counting assaults and found conflicting results. These discrepancies, according to the researchers, create confusion among the public, law enforcement, policy makers and advocacy groups, and limit the ability of support service agencies to help victims. The study concluded that some 80 percent of sexual assaults go unreported, but recommended ways to improve data collection of these cases. The Tennessean has more.

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Advanced Analysis for Competency, Evaluations and Sex Crimes

The TBA Criminal Justice Section is presenting a program that offers an advanced analysis of the practice of criminal law. This Dec. 6 program in Nashville will provide insight into psychological evaluations and competency testing for juveniles and adults, with special consideration given to cases involving sex crimes. The program also will discuss how to deal with a handwriting expert during trial. Find out more or register now.

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Bradley Attorney Seeking 10th District Judicial Post

Longtime Bradley County attorney Bill Brown tells the Cleveland Daily Banner that he is running in the Republican primary for 10th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge, Part 3. The seat is currently held by Judge Carroll Ross, who is retiring on Aug. 31, 2014. The 10th Judicial District covers Bradley, McMinn, Polk and Monroe counties. The judicial post traditionally has heard only criminal cases.

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Former Knox County Judge Released from Prison

Former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner has been released from a federal work camp after serving most of the six-month sentence he received for lying to cover up his mistress’ involvement in a federal drug conspiracy. Attorney Donald A. Bosch said Tuesday that Baumgartner is on home detention for two weeks to finish out the remaining sentence and is barred from speaking to the media until his detention is complete. According to Knoxnews, Baumgartner is appealing his federal conviction.

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Weirich to Seek Re-election

Shelby County District Attroney General Amy Weirich opened her re-election campaign Sunday with a chilli cookoff judged by military veterans, the Memphis Daily News reports. Weirich ran in a special election in 2012 after being appointed the county’s chief prosecutor to replace Bill Gibbons, who had been named state commissioner of safety and homeland security. This time she is running for a full eight-year term.

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Hatchett Enters 10th District DA Race

McMinn County lawyer Stephen Hatchett has entered the race for district attorney general in the 10th Judicial District, the Cleveland Banner reports. He currently serves in the office as an assistant district attorney, handling cases in Bradley County. “It has been my distinct honor to serve the people of the 10th Judicial District for the past 7 1/2 years as a prosecutor, and I look forward to serving as district attorney general,” he said. Hatchett is a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law.

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Assistant Public Defender Sought in Memphis

The Office of the Federal Defender for the Western District of Tennessee is accepting applications for an assistant federal public defender in Memphis. The candidate must be committed to representing the indigent and have excellent writing, legal research, advocacy and communication skills. In addition, fluency in Spanish, experience in federal court, and knowledge of federal criminal law and sentencing guidelines is preferred. Those interested should send a cover letter, resume, references and writing sample by Dec. 15 to Doris Randle-Holt, Federal Public Defender, 200 Jefferson Ave., Suite 200, Memphis, TN 38103. Download a job description.

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Paine Explains Lay Opinion, Reviews Lindbergh Book

In the November issue, Tennessee Bar Journal columnist Donald F. Paine explains lay opinion, using as his example the trial of current death row inmate Jerry Ray Davidson. Paine also reviews the book The 16th Rail: The Evidence, the Scientist and the Lindbergh Kidnapping, by Adam J. Schrager, which Paine heartily recommends.

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