News

Cory Batey to Stand Trial Alone, Set for Monday

Judge Monte Watkins today ruled that Corey Batey, one of four men charged with raping an unconscious woman at Vanderbilt University in 2013, will stand trial alone. Worrick Robinson, Batey’s attorney, said today that a judge granted a request to delay Brandon Vandenburg’s trial because of “personal issues.” Robinson then filed an emergency motion to delay the trial for Batey, but Deputy District Attorney General Tom Thurman argued the trial “would not be significantly different for Batey alone.” The Tennessean reports jury selection will begin Wednesday in Chattanooga and Batey’s trial is expected to start Monday. Judge Watkins last year granted a mistrial for Batey and Vandenburg due to a juror’s conduct.

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PD Group Seeks to Fill Retiring Executive Director Position

The Tennessee Public Defender’s Conference announces an upcoming vacancy for executive director. The position is currently held by Jeff Henry, who in February announced his retirement effective at the end of his current term in June. Interested parties should address resumes and any other documents to search committee chair Tom Marshall at 127 N. Main Street, Clinton, TN 37716, and to conference president Jeff Harmon at P.O. Box 220, Jasper, TN 37347. The deadline to apply is April 22.

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Pardon Attorney's Resignation Letter Describes 'Broken System'

Former Pardon Attorney Deborah Leff said the Obama administration instructed Justice Department attorneys to “neglect applications for president pardons to give priority to the Justice Department’s initiative to release low-level offenders from prison.” The information was revealed in Leff’s resignation letter, obtained by USA Today. Leff added the initiative “means that the requests of thousands of petitioners seeking justice will lie unheard.”

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Bill Would Declare 'Moratorium' on Police Bodycam Videos

The House State Government Subcommittee last week approved a bill (HB0876 / SB0910) that would prohibit public disclosure of most body camera recordings made by Tennessee law enforcement officers for at least a year, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, would allow the public release of the recordings after “any investigation” into the case, trial or disciplinary proceeding involving the recordings. Casada said he is currently working on revisions to the bill.

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HIGHway Driving in Tennessee, 1 Hour of CLE

Statistics show Tennessee has four of the top five counties in the United States for most traffic fatalities by depressant drug-impaired drivers. Judge Thomas Wright and District Attorney General Thomas Kimball address drugged driving, non-prescription drugs and DUI investigations in HIGHway Driving in Tennessee. The webcast, available March 30 and also in archived video, is approved for one credit of CLE.

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Attorneys for Erin Andrews Seek Full $55M

Attorneys for TV personality Erin Andrews asked in a new filing that Nashville Circuit Judge Hamilton Gayden require the owners of a Nashville hotel and its management company to award Andrews the full $55 million awarded to her earlier this month. The attorneys say the companies should not split the payment with Michael David Barrett, the man who secretly recorded nude videos of Andrews at the hotel. The Tennessean reports jurors held that Barrett was 51 percent responsible, and that the hotel owner and operator 49 percent responsible for the harm Andrews suffered.

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Ex-Bailiff Says Baumgartner Acted 'Impaired' During Leath Trial

Former court bailiff Meredith Driskell testified yesterday that Former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner appeared to “nod off” during the January 2010 trial of Raynella Dossett Leath. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports attorneys Rebecca Legrand and Joshua Hedrick, who represent Leath, are attempting to win Leath a new trial and claim Baumgartner robbed her of a constitutionally sound trial. Baumgartner was later sentenced to prison for lying to cover up a drug conspiracy in which he was buying pills. 

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New Trial Date Set for Man Accused of Shooting Neighbor

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports a new trial date has been set for Aug. 2 for former Knox County Schools security officer Kevin Waggoner, who is accused in a 2013 deadly shooting. Attorneys Tommy Hindman and Scott Lanzon will represent Waggoner; the pair previously represented Waggoner when a judge last year declared a mistrial due to a deadlocked jury. Waggoner is accused of shooting his neighbor in Union County following a three-year feud.

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Bill Requiring Biologic Evidence Preservation Advances

The Senate Judiciary Committee today passed a bill (SB 2342 / HB 2377) that would require biologic evidence collected in cases involving a death sentence to be preserved for the duration of defendant's life or incarceration, Nashville Scene reports. Senate committee members previously heard testimony from a man who was sentenced to death and spent more than 10 years in an Arizona prison for murder before biological evidence proved his innocence. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, is scheduled for a vote in a House subcommittee today.

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Leath Asks Judge to Overturn 2010 Conviction for Killing Husband

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Raynella Dossett Leath is attempting to convince Senior Judge Paul Summers to overturn her 2010 conviction in the death of her second husband. Leath’s argument for a new trial focuses on former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner, who presided over her trial before he was convicted in a prescription drug abuse probe. Leath’s attorney, Rebecca Legrand, told Summers on Monday that Baumgartner's “drive to feed his addiction infected every aspect of her case." Leath was also accused in the 1992 killing of her first husband. 

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Court Reinstates Charges in Memphis Criminal Case

The Tennessee Supreme Court today reinstated convictions for especially aggravated kidnapping charges and affirmed multiple other convictions arising out of a 1999 home invasion in Memphis and offered clarification on requesting lesser-included offenses. Rashe Moore, one of the men charged in the crime, had appealed his 99-year sentence because he said that he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to his trial counsel’s failure to file written requests for lesser-included offense instructions at trial. In a decision authored by Chief Justice Sharon Lee, the court overturned a Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that Moore was due a new trial on the aggravated kidnapping convictions, saying that the counsel’s failure to appropriately request lesser-included offense instructions requires reviewing courts to conduct a thorough examination of the record. In its review, the court determined that there was no reasonable probability that a jury would have convicted Moore of any lesser offense if given the chance. 

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Memphis, Shelby County Seek to Dismiss Rape Kit Testing Suit

Circuit Court Judge Gina C. Higgins has yet to grant a motion filed by the city of Memphis and Shelby County seeking to dismiss a suit against the city and county regarding thousands of untested rape kits. Three plaintiffs say Memphis and the county failed to responsibly handle testing of the kits. Virginia Bozeman, attorney for the county, argued Tuesday in court that the county is immune because the people involved were not county employees. Higgins said she will rule at a later date on the motions, The Commercial Appeal reports.

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Join Us May 17 for Criminal Law Update CLE

Please make plans to join the TBA Criminal Law Section on May 17 for the Criminal Law Update. This informative 4-hour CLE will be presented at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville.

The constant change in criminal practice is what keeps criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges on their toes. From a misdemeanor in General Sessions to a death penalty appeal before the Supreme Court, practitioners must stay on top of the latest changes in the law. This program will help you get up to speed on recent developments in criminal law.

You may register online or by phone by contacting TBA at 615-383-7421.

Don't forget that you can save money when you register for this program by using your three hours of prepaid CLE credits that come with your TBA Complete Membership! 

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Mentors in Criminal Law Needed

The TBA Mentoring Program is looking for volunteer mentors that practice criminal defense law in Davidson County. Mentoring is the most effective way to pass along skills, knowledge and wisdom and it is critical to a new lawyer’s success. There are many new attorneys signed up for this program, but there is a shortage of mentors to match them with. 

To qualify as a mentor, you must have a minimum of eight years of experience with no formal BPR investigation pending or disciplinary action imposed in the last 10 years. For more information on the program, visit: http://www.tba.org/programs/the-tba-mentoring-program.

If you’re interested in signing up, please contact Kate Prince at 615-277-3202.

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Probation Companies Face Scrutiny, Lawsuits

As an investigation continues against Rutherford County and a former probation company, The Tennessean reports on lawsuits in a number of states that have “spotlighted tensions between companies and offenders.” Jack Long, a Georgia attorney who has brought 18 suits against a probation company, said, "We still have a system in which there is a profit motive to keep people on probation and to keep them there for as long as possible.”

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Judge Upholds Death Sentence for Christa Pike

U.S. District Judge Sandy Mattice today upheld the conviction and death sentence of Christa Pike, who was convicted of the 1995 torture murder of a fellow Job Corps worker in Knoxville. Pike was 20 when she was sentenced to death, making her the youngest woman to be sentenced to death in the United States since the U.S. Supreme Court's Furman ruling in 1972. Mattice said he did not see “valid grounds” for the appeal to proceed, the Chattanoogan reports. Pike was also convicted in 2004 for nearly strangling a fellow inmate with a shoestring.

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Women Leaving Criminal Practice, Canadian Study Finds

A new report commissioned in Canada by the Criminal Lawyers' Association revealed that women are leaving criminal practice at a higher rate than men, CBCNews reports. The study attributes low pay, lack of financial support for maternity leave and being treated differently than male peers by judges as reasons. "We need diverse perspectives to make sure the law develops in step with social values,” said Breese Davies, vice-president of the CLA.

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State Did Not Purposefully Delay Indictment in Rape Case, ADA Says

Assistant District Attorney Abby Wallace said Thursday that a man charged nearly 14 years after an alleged rape failed to present evidence showing that the delay in testing a rape kit harmed his right to a fair trial. Wallace added Maurice Summerall must prove that the state purposely delayed his indictment. "The reason for the delay … was systematic bureaucratic indifference and incompetence,” Wallace said. Attorney Charles Mitchell last month filed a motion to dismiss the indictment against Summerall. Read more from The Commercial Appeal.

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Bill Could Help Defendants Work Off Court Costs

State lawmakers are expected to vote today on a bill that would allow Knox County judges to offer chronic offenders community service to pay off their court costs. A WBIR investigation last year found that some indigent defendants were responsible for court debts of more than $750,000. Gov. Bill Haslam is expected to sign off on the bill, which will serve as a pilot program before potentially moving into other counties. 

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Compassionate Release Program Criteria Debated

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has been tasked with developing criteria that courts and prisons will use to determine inmates eligible for the Bureau of Prisons' compassionate release program. The program allows for early release of certain inmates for "extraordinary and compelling" reasons. The Justice Department’s inspector general has criticized the program for lacking clear and consistent standards. Read more from the Associated Press.

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Nominees Sent to Haslam for Court of Criminal Appeals

The Governor’s Council for Judicial Appointments today selected three nominees for the Court of Criminal Appeals vacancy created when Judge Roger A. Page was appointed to the state Supreme Court. The nominees, chosen from eight applicants following a public hearing today in Jackson, are J. Robert Carter Jr. of Memphis, J. Ross Dyer of Memphis and Bobby Gene Gray Jr. of Adamsville. The nominee selected by Haslam will be subject to confirmation by the General Assembly.

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All About Trials: Evidence, Tactics and Being Challenged to a Duel

Journal columns this month touch on trial-related cases and personalities. Wade Davies discusses public records as evidence in criminal cases. Russell Fowler writes about a lawyer known for sensational trial tactics, which brought him fame but eventually ruined him. Bill Haltom writes about Nashville's John Jay Hooker, who died Jan. 24. Haltom's column, “When John Jay Hooker Almost Shot Me" explores the long-time and respectful relationship -- if filled with threats of duels and law suits -- the two shared. Read the March issue.

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High Court Ruling Could Impact Career Criminals Behind Bars

Steve Cook, assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Tennessee, said 256 East Tennessee defendants behind bars as armed career criminals could have their sentences reduced by a recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. The court in June struck down a section of the federal Armed Career Criminal Act, which boosts penalties for criminals caught with guns who already have three convictions for either serious drug offenses or certain crimes. The decision means inmates who have already served a decade will go free, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel

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Tentative Trial Date Set in Holly Bobo Murder Case

The trial date in the Holly Bobo case has been tentatively set for April 3, 2017. Judge Creed McGinley described the case as "like none other,” on Wednesday. WTVF reports it is unclear who will be tried in April; the state has filed a motion to sever the cases of Zach Adams, Dylan Adams and Jason Autry for the 2011 murder of Bobo. A new attorney was appointed to Autry after his previous attorney, John Herbison, was suspended last month from practicing law.

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Court Permits Social Media Appeal in Rape Case

A three-judge panel of the Tennessee Court of Appeals today granted an interlocutory appeal to permit access to social media accounts in the case of former Vols football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Knox County Criminal Court Judge Bob McGee earlier denied the request from attorneys in the case to subpoena digital conversations from the woman who accused Johnson and Williams of rape in 2014 and three witnesses. The court’s decision today now puts the pair's separate trials on hold.

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