Criminal

Questions Surround Impartial Jurors in Two Death Penalty Cases, With Different Outcomes

After the Tennessee Supreme Court denied Leroy Hall Jr. a delay in execution to investigate a potentially biased juror, the Nashville Scene highlights a similar case where a death row inmate’s death sentence was vacated for a similar reason. Hubert Glenn Sexton was sentenced to die for killing Stanley and Terry Sue Goodman in 2001; however, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals just last week set aside his sentence because of improper striking of jurors, among other reasons. As in Hall’s case, jurors failed to disclose they had been victims of domestic abuse drawing questions of impartiality. Hall Jr. is scheduled for execution tonight.

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Federal Judge Certifies Class-action Against Privatized Corrections Company Regarding Inmate Labor Policies

A federal judge in California recently gave the green light to a class-action lawsuit filed against for-profit prison operator GEO Group surrounding its inmate labor practices, Mother Jones reports. Plaintiffs maintain the company’s voluntary labor policies are essentially a way for it to maximize profits by having detainees perform essential detention services for subminimum wages. The suit alleges coercive methods were used to elicit labor, such as withholding daily necessities, physically intimidating inmates and threats of solitary confinement.

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Criminal Law Forum 2020

When practicing criminal law, it is important to stay on top of trends and developments in this ever-changing arena. This annual staple for Tennessee lawyers will address essential, timely topics designed to enrich your practice and keep you at the forefront of the field. This program will feature instruction on preserving error and tips for appeals, a post-conviction relief Q&A panel, wellness for criminal law practitioners and more. Do not miss this chance to learn from seasoned experts, while cultivating relationships with colleagues of a similar focus. Here are the key details:

When: Wednesday, Jan. 8, registration begins at 8 a.m., CST
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville 37219
 
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Lawyer For Police Officer Charged With Murder Asks for Change of Venue

The lawyer for Nashville police officer Andrew Delke, who is charged with murder after shooting Daniel Hambrick during a foot chase, has asked the Davidson Co. Criminal Court to grant a change of venue, The Tennessean reports. Delke’s attorney, David Raybin, argues that publicity surrounding the case along with reports connecting the shooting with protests and racial tension all but guarantees that Delke will not receive a fair trial in Nashville. Raybin also says that prosecutors "poisoned the well" by publicly releasing surveillance video of the shooting. Deputy District Attorney Roger Moore responded to the request saying: “Fair and impartial jurors exist in Davidson County … Allow this case to proceed where the crime occurred." Criminal Court Judge Monte Watkins said he would decide on this request within the next couple of weeks.

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Court Denies Two Motions, Will Consider Post-Conviction Relief for Condemned Killer Leroy Hall Jr.

A Hamilton County Criminal Court judge has dismissed petitions intended to halt the execution of the Chattanooga man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend by burning her alive, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Criminal Court Judge Don Poole denied two of three motions filed on behalf of Leroy Hall Jr., saying the defense’s arguments didn't meet the standards of law or precedent. The court will today consider a third motion for post-conviction relief, with attorneys for Hall saying he deserves a new trial because a juror did not disclose that she was a victim of "severe domestic violence, including rape." Prosecutors argue the motion was filed well outside the statute of limitations, as he was convicted more than two decades ago and has already appealed that decision. Today’s hearing is focused on whether the one-year limit on filing a motion for post-conviction relief can be waived on grounds of due process. Hall's execution is scheduled for Dec. 5. 

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Attempted Murder Case Dismissed in Sessions, Headed to Knox Grand Jury

The prosecutor in an attempted murder case that was dismissed last week when the victim failed to appear in court said he plans to proceed despite the recent ruling, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Nicholas Walton Boggs is accused of ambushing and shooting at the alleged victim outside of a West Knox County senior living facility where she worked. Knox County Assistant District Attorney General Sean McDermott said the woman recently suffered serious injuries in an automobile wreck in Florida, and he could not guarantee when she might be available to testify. This led General Sessions Court Judge Geoffrey Emery to order dismissal of the charges and Boggs' release. McDermott said he now intends to seek charges from a Knox County grand jury.

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Man Accused of Murdering Memphis Chamber Exec Says His Confession Was Coerced

Lawyers for McKinney Wright, who is accused of murdering Greater Memphis Chamber executive Phil Trenary, say that detectives in the case coerced his confession, the Commercial Appeal reports. Attorneys William Massey and Lorna McClusky say in a filing that despite his claims of innocence, Wright was told “he was going to be locked up in prison and would not see his mother for a long time," but if he accepted some responsibility in the killing “would not have to stay so long and could see his mother.” The filing does not describe the statements made to police.

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Death Row Inmate Says AG Slatery Stands in Violation of Due Process

A death row inmate scheduled to die next April is accusing Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery of usurping the authority of a DA involved in his murder case, The Leaf Chronicle reports. This comes after Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk negotiated a plea deal with convicted murderer Abu-Alu Abdur'Rahman that acknowledged racial bias in the initial trial and commuted Abdur'Rahman's death sentence to life in prison. Slatery appealed the deal saying it improperly voided a death sentence, and that the trial court had no right to re-open the case. In a response, attorney’s for Abdur'Rahman said “The notion that a District Attorney cannot enter an agreed resolution based on his reasoned judgment is utterly alien to basic principles of due process … The Attorney General cannot manufacture a case or controversy when he disagrees with a resolution between the parties made by another independent actor for the State.”

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Company Disabled Ankle Monitoring Devices for Accused Criminals Over Unpaid Balances

Ankle monitors used to track accused criminals — including a murder suspect — awaiting trial or sentencing in Davidson County were recently shut off because of billing issues, WZTV Nashville reports. The company that provided the electronic surveillance equipment, Tennessee Recovery and Monitoring, said it decided to disable the devices because of outstanding balances owed. Current laws require that the accused foot the bill for this incarceration alternative, a cost that was previously covered by the county’s Indigency Fund. A representative of the company was ordered to meet with Davidson County Criminal Court judges yesterday to explain the actions.

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Man Who Pleaded Guilty to Murder Sues for Injunction Regarding 'Unprocessed Evidence'

A man who pleaded guilty to the 1996 murder of a woman during a home robbery is now suing the Hamilton County District Attorney’s Office and the county’s criminal court judges seeking due process protections, alleging that certain DNA evidence that could support his innocence was not tested and was intentionally excluded from his trial, WTVC Chattanooga reports. The lawsuit maintains that untested evidence regarding 284 homicides cases, including Tracey Vick’s, that was discovered by the Hamilton County Medical Examiner’s Office in 2015 "could reasonably support (the) Petitioner’s position that he is innocent of the crimes of which he stands convicted.’” 

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