News

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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Emails Reveal New Cases of Wrongful Arrest

New documents released yesterday by the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk’s Office reveal additional cases of wrongful arrest, as well as cases that were at risk of mishandling but were caught in time by an employee. The documents also show that at least one supervisor had no sympathy for those wrongfully arrested, Knoxnews reports. As charges of mismanagement continue to mount against the office, Clerk Joy McCroskey met with the county’s five general sessions judges yesterday to discuss the situation.

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Judge Durham Announces Retirement

Criminal Court Judge David Earl Durham will retire at the end of his term next August, The Tennessean reports. Durham, who serves the 15th Judicial District, has been criminal court judge since 2009. Prior to taking the bench, he was deputy district attorney general. The judicial district includes Wilson, Jackson, Macon, Smith and Trousdale counties.

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Police Director Says MPD has 12,000 Unprocessed Rape Kits

Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said yesterday that the total number of unprocessed rape kits in police possession will be about 12,000 — a number far higher than previously reported — even after an initial round of 2,226 kits are tested. Last month, Mayor AC Wharton issued an executive order directing city police to test all backlogged, unprocessed rape kits. Some of the untested kits date from the 1980s, a situation that has outraged advocates for rape victims. Armstrong told City Council members that clearing the entire backlog will cost more than $4.6 million, the Commercial Appeal reports.

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Copyright Infringement Awards, Increases for Appointed Counsel Covered in This Issue

Nashville lawyer Tim Warnock writes about the best ways to set an appropriate award of statutory damages in a copyright infringement case in the latest issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. In his regular column, Knoxville lawyer Wade Davies discusses policy changes on mandatory minimum sentences in federal court, rate increases for appointed counsel and more. The Tennessee Supreme Court has raised the caps on payment for counsel representing indigent defendnats in non-capital first-degree murder and Class A and B felonies, Davies writes.  "If anyone thinks people are getting wealthy from representing poor people at state expense, take a look at the rule. The rates have not changed since 1994. The state pays $40 per hour for out-of-court work and $50 for in-court, which does not include the time spent in court waiting."

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Sumner County Judge Recuses Himself from Murder Trial

Sumner County Criminal Court Judge Dee David Gay recused himself yesterday from a decade-old murder case, the Hendersonville Star reports. Gay acknowledged he did some minor work on the case while he was as assistant district attorney in the 18th Judicial District, which encompasses Sumner. Gay said he would refer the case to Sumner County Chancellor Tom Gray, who he expects will assign the case to another judge. The Tennessean has more.

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New Judicial Building Proposal Unveiled

Leaders in Rutherford County are considering a new justice center given the area’s explosive population growth, the Murfreesboro Post reports. The panel reviewing the plan will vote in November whether to move forward with the design phase. Officials predict the total cost of the new facility could run as much as $72 million. Under the proposal, the center would consist of a 200,000-square-foot courthouse, with 16 courtrooms and a secure underground parking garage. An additional free standing parking garage with 366 spaces would be constructed nearby. The new building would be located on Maple Street across from the Rutherford County Clerk’s Office.

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Senate Panel Considers Bebb’s TBI File in Closed Session

State Senate Judiciary Committee members voted to go into executive session yesterday as they began to review the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s file on 10th Judicial District Attorney Steve Bebb. The panel is considering whether there is sufficient evidence to go forward with a process to remove Bebb from office. Chair Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, directed committee members to keep the information confidential. In August, a special House investigative committee said there was sufficient evidence to move ahead with a recommendation to the full House in January. Lawmakers are looking at evidence presented in a series published by the Chattanooga Times Free Press and a subsequent investigation by the TBI and state Comptroller’s Office. Allegations against Bebb’s office include financial misconduct and civil rights violations in the handling of arrests and prosecutions.

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