News

New Trial Scheduled After Juror's Objection on Race

Is it a true jury of peers if a person’s race is not represented? The Tennessean explores a Nashville case in which a juror’s objections to two black men facing a jury with no black jurors led to a trial delay earlier this month. The case involves two men accused of attacking two people during a 2014 fight in Madison. Defense attorneys accused the state of rejecting jurors based on race, a claim the state denied. The pair’s trial has been rescheduled for May 23. The article highlights the national precedent for jury selection and race set by the U.S. Supreme Court case Batson v. Kentucky

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State Drops Sex Offender Charges Against Batey

Prosecutors dropped charges against former Vanderbilt University football player Cory Batey that accused him of violating the sex offender registry law. The Tennessean reports General Sessions Judge Rachel Bell today granted Assistant District Attorney General Addie Askew’s request to dismiss the charges. Batey’s sentencing for aggravated rape and other charges is set for May 20. 

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Confidential Settlement Reached in Erin Andrews Case

Television personality Erin Andrews reached a settlement today in her lawsuit against West End Hotel Partners and Windsor Capital Group, the hotel owner and operator that allowed a stalker to secretly record her naked though a peephole. The Tennessean reports the terms of the agreement are confidential. A Nashville jury awarded Andrews $55 million in March and said Andrews’ stalker, Michael David Barrett, was responsible for $28 million of that. Attorney Randall Kinnard, who represented Andrews, had asked the judge to hold the hotel responsible for the full $55 million. 

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Doctors Fight Prosecution as 'Street Dealers' for Pill-Mill

When do prescribers of medicine become drug dealers under federal law? The Knoxville News Sentinel says the question has emerged following the first federal prosecution in East Tennessee of doctors on pill-mill charges. Prosecutors say two doctors made roughly $2.5 million in 17 months from giving out thousands of prescriptions without "a legitimate medical purpose.” The pair faces trial later this year under a section of drug-trafficking laws that put them in the same category as "street dealers." U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley ruled, "The court discerns no due process violation in permitting the government to prosecute registered medical professionals." The doctors are appealing Shirley’s ruling. 

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Fitbit Exposes Lies in Rape Case

A Fitbit fitness tracker recently provided crucial evidence when data pulled from the device contradicted the claims of an alleged rape victim. A Pennsylvania woman claimed an intruder raped her in the middle of the night, but according to the affidavit, data from the Fitbit showed “she was awake and walking around the entire night prior to the incident and did not go to bed as reported." The woman was ordered to two years of probation and community service. Read more from The Wall Street Journal

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Attorneys Spar Over Constitutionality of Memphis Gang Injunction

A debate over the constitutionality of injunctions that restrict alleged Memphis gang members from publicly associating with each other in court-ordered zones landed in front of Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter on Tuesday. Assistant Public Defender Barbara Sidelnik argued the injunctions are “overly broad” and violated her client's constitutional rights. Assistant District Attorney Colin Campbell said the orders are “a way for citizens to take back their communities from gangs,” The Commercial Appeal reports. Potter said he will deliberate before issuing a ruling at a later date. 

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Batey Refused to Register as Sex Offender

Cory Batey was charged with two felony counts of violating the state's sex offender registration law. Court records show Batey refused to register as a sex offender in Davidson County after sheriff’s officials and police asked him to do so multiple times, The Tennessean reports. Batey, a former Vanderbilt football player, is facing 15 to 25 years for his convictions earlier this month for rape. Nashville lawyer Jim Todd told The Tennessean that prosecutors could use the additional charges to argue Batey should get more prison time. 

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First Latino ADA Appointed in Davidson County

District Attorney Glenn Funk appointed Lody Limbird to Division VI Criminal Court, WKRN reports. Limbard is the first Latino Assistant District Attorney to serve in Davidson County Criminal Court. “In order to understand the needs of the people we serve, it is important for public servants to also reflect the diversity of the community,” she said. The court handles prosecution of domestic violence cases with a special interest in aggravated assault by strangulation.

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Annual Crime Report Shows Decrease in Reported Crime

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today released its 2015 ‘Crime in Tennessee’ report, which revealed an overall decrease in reported instances of crime in the most recent reporting year. The annual study, however, did show forcible rape cases and reported homicides both increased. Read more from Humphrey on the Hill

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Prosecutors Continue to Use Gang Law Deemed 'Unconstitutional'

Knox County prosecutors will continue to use a gang enhancement sentencing law despite the statute having been deemed unconstitutional. The Tennessee Court of Appeals struck down the law last week after ruling it was poorly drafted and too broad. Deputy District Attorney General Kyle Hixson said prosecutors will neither dismiss current charges or stop applying the law. "We are not flouting (the appellate court's) opinion. We're just preserving our rights," he said. The Knoxville News Sentinel reports the state Attorney General’s office is considering whether to ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to review the ruling. 

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No Warrant Required for Phone Location Records, Court Rules

A Cincinnati-based federal appeals court yesterday ruled federal agents can obtain cell phone records that reveal a caller’s location without a warrant. The decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals follows an attempt from two Detroit men, sentenced to prison for multiple robberies, who argued the cell records linking them to the location of the robberies should be excluded under Fourth Amendment protection. Judge Raymond Kethledge said the government’s collection of the records did not constitute a search. Read more from The Wall Street Journal Law Blog

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Jury Negotiated Compromise in Batey Verdict, Newspaper Reports

Jurors in the trial of former Vanderbilt football player Cory Batey revealed to The Tennessean that one juror was a "holdout," resulting in a compromise after a nearly three-hour deliberation. While all other jurors were in favor of convicting Batey on all seven counts as charged for rape, "One juror refused to see the evidence that was so obvious to everyone else," juror Bobby Lewis said. The jury found Batey guilty Friday of three of those charges.

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Police 'Courtesy Calls' to UT Coach Jones Revealed

The Tennessean reports Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch and a detective made “professional courtesy” calls to University of Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones about the investigation of rape allegations against team members A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams. The calls may have violated state law, according to a statement issued by the Knox County district attorney.  “A pre-arrest disclosure of sensitive information that is not made for the purpose of advancing the criminal investigation potentially could violate state law regarding the misuse of official information,” the statement said. 

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Legal Community Promotes Access to Expungements

Sen. Steven Dickerson, R-Nashville, and Rep. Harold M. Love Jr., D-Nashville, along with leaders in the judicial and legal communities, today announced an initiative to improve awareness of and access to expungements in Tennessee. Under the initiative, a webpage has been launched to provide details on eligibility for expungements, links to local information and resources to help people get started. The initiative will include training for judges and court clerks as well as providing resources for them and the legal community.

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'Justice System Fails Victims in Tennessee,' Author Writes

Verna Wyatt, executive director of Tennessee Voices for Victims, explains in The Tennessean how she believes the justice system fails victims in Tennessee. Wyatt references “the sensational trial of the former Vanderbilt football players accused of raping a Vanderbilt coed.” The article is published during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 10-16.

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Sentencing Reform Measures Advance in U.S. Senate, House

The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act and the Sentencing Reform Act of 2015 passed out of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees respectively. The measures, according to Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), address “legitimate over-incarceration concerns while targeting violent criminals and masterminds in the drug trade.” Brookings shares data on the U.S. prison population in areas the bill would impact.

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Knox Cases Prosecuted Under Gang Law Now Ruled Unconstitutional

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports at least 60 cases have been prosecuted in Knox County under the state’s “gang enhancement statute,” now deemed unconstitutional. The Tennessee Court of Appeals last week struck down the 2012 law that enabled harsher penalties for crime-committing gang members; the court said the measure's language was overly broad. Attorneys said the court’s decision could lead to new sentencing hearings for defendants whose penalties were enhanced. 

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Former Nashville Airport Official Sentenced in Fraud Case

The Tennessean reports former Metro Nashville Airport Authority official John T. Howard was sentenced today to two years in federal prison stemming from charges of money laundering, wire fraud and accepting a bribe. Howard was also ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution. According to the information filed by the government, Howard filed work orders and approved payments for airport contractors to do work that was never performed. The U.S. Attorney’s Office sought between 57 and 71 years in prison for Howard based on the federal sentencing guidelines.

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Jury Finds Batey Guilty of Most Serious Charge

A jury late Friday found former Vanderbilt football player Cory Batey guilty as charged of aggravated rape and two counts of aggravated sexual battery. Defense attorney Courtney Teasley said she believes there is grounds to appeal the verdict, The Tennessean reports. Batey, along with Brandon Vandenburg, were both found guilty of charges against them after a trial in 2015; a mistrial led to a second trial. The jury in the mistrial found Batey and Vandenburg guilty of more severe charges. Vandenburg’s trial is scheduled for June. 

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Court Denies Hearing Request from Death Row Inmate

The Tennessee Supreme Court today denied a request by death row inmate Pervis Tyrone Payne for a hearing to determine whether he is eligible to be executed because he is intellectually disabled. In a unanimous decision, the court concluded that the procedural avenues he sought to use do not entitle him to such a hearing. Read the full opinion

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Committee Releases Plan to Handle Unprocessed Evidence

A committee of former prosecutors, assembled by District Attorney General Neal Pinkston, released its protocol today on how to handle years of unprocessed evidence discovered in the Medical Examiner’s Office. The Times Free Press shares the multi-step plan, which involves examining every autopsy envelop between 1986 and 2002. The process should be completed by the end of 2016. 

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Cory Batey Retrial Underway in Nashville

The retrial of former Vanderbilt football player Cory Batey began today in Nashville, WSMV reports. Batey’s trial has been severed from Brandon Vandenburg, who is also facing charges for an alleged rape inside a campus dorm room in 2013. Courtney Teasley, a new member of Batey’s defense team, told the jury that Batey was drunk and acted “as a puppet following commands from his teammates” during the incident. Batey and Vandenburg were found guilty in 2014 on multiple charges including aggravated rape. 

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Sen. Dickerson Writes About Evidence Preservation Bill

Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville wrote an op-ed for The Tennessean about his bill, SB 2342, which would preserve biologic evidence until the defendant is executed, dies or is released from prison. “…The cost and effort to maintain biologic evidence is minimal when compared with our duty to ensure that our criminal justice system provides every possible safeguard when dealing with issues of life and death," he writes. 

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UT Files More Reasons to Dimiss Title IX Suit

WATE reports a judge allowed the University of Tennessee to file additional documents on a motion to dismiss a sweeping federal lawsuit against the school. The university says the plaintiffs have failed to articulate any “official policy” leading to the sexual assault cases. The move is in response to the plaintiffs citing a sexual assault case against the University of Colorado that claims the university had an “official policy” to provide women and alcohol to the high school football recruits. The UT filings also request that the university is not required to answer to “the nearly 100 paragraphs accusing unrelated individuals of crimes and other misconduct over a period of more than twenty years.” UT President Joe DiPietro today defended the safety of the campus during a board meeting, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports

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Register Today for the 135th Annual TBA Convention

Join us on June 15-18 in Nashville for the 135th Annual Convention! Registration for the 2016 TBA Convention includes:

  • free access to all TBA CLE programming;
  • the Opening Reception;
  • the Bench Bar Programming and Luncheon;
  • Law School and general breakfasts;
  • the Lawyers Luncheon;
  • the Thursday evening Joint (TBA/TLAW/TABL) Reception;
  • the Thursday night dinner and entertainment at the George Jones Museum;
  • and the Friday night Dance Party.

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