Criminal

Suspect on Trial in Knox Craigslist Murder

A man who answered a Craigslist advertisement for a roommate is on trial this week in Knox County Criminal Court on charges of first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse, Knox News reports. Ryan Monroe Allen is accused of killing 42-year-old Kelly Shay Cozart inside the bedroom he rented and dumping her body in a creek in Monroe County just weeks after answering the online post. Prosecutors contend Allen beat Cozart to death inside the residence, but defense attorney Keith Lowe contends that all prosecutors can prove is that Cozart’s blood was in a bedroom where Allen once paid to sleep.

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ACLU of Tennessee Sues Mt. Juliet Over Civil Forfeiture

The ACLU of Tennessee on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Mt. Juliet, claiming that police there violated the U.S. Constitution when they seized a man's car during a criminal investigation of his son, The Tennessean reports. Officers took Lewis Cain's BMW after coming to his home with a warrant for his son. The ACLU-TN said the seizure was made without a search warrant or notice of a hearing, violating Cain’s Fourth Amendment rights. Police have defended seizing the car, saying they had spotted Cain's son selling drugs out of the BMW. You can read the complaint here.

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Legal Practice Tip: Prosecutor’s Ethical Duty to Disclose Broader than Brady

The Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility issued an ethics opinion explaining that a prosecuting attorney’s ethical duty to disclose favorable information to the defense is broader than that required under federal constitutional law.“Tennessee Rule of Professional Conduct 3.8(d)" is a separate ethical obligation of prosecutors and was not meant to be coextensive with a prosecutor's legal disclosure obligations.  This ethical duty is separate from disclosure obligations imposed under the Constitution, statutes, procedural rules, court rules, or court orders. A prosecutor’s ethical duty to disclose information favorable to the defense is broader than and extends beyond Brady.  Once a prosecutor knows of evidence and information that tends to negate the guilt of the accused, or mitigates the offense, or falls within RPC 3.8( d)’s disclosure requirement, the prosecutor ordinarily must disclose it as soon as reasonably practicable.” Formal Ethics Opinion 2017-F-163.

Roger E. Nell is the District Public Defender at 19th Judicial District of Tennessee and current Chair-Elect of TBA's Criminal Justice Section.
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Haslam Comments on Issues Surrounding Finalists for TBI Director Position

Gov. Bill Haslam says he understands issues that have been raised about the candidates he is considering to lead the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and will be mindful of these concerns when personally interviewing each, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Among the nominees are Acting TBI Director Jason Locke; former Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble and Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch.
 
Some of the issues raised regarding the nominees include a lawsuit brought against Gobble alleging violation of first amendment rights by his former finance director, the hiring of Locke’s son — a recent college graduate with no law enforcement experience — by the agency, sparking concerns of nepotism, and "professional courtesy" calls made by Rausch to then University of Tennessee head football coach Butch Jones about a rape investigation involving two players. Each candidate was approved by the independent TBI Nominating Commission for Haslam and will be subject to vetting by a retired FBI special agent to conduct background investigations on the nominees.
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New Bill Would Offer Police Federal Hate Crime Protections

A new bill in front of Congress would make it a crime to intentionally target a law enforcement officer based on his "actual or perceived status" as one, CNN reports. The Protect and Serve Act of 2018 intends to protect law enforcement officers from violence for simply being a police officer. The bill, modeled on federal hate crime statute, has the support of major law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police, National Association of Police Organizations and the National Sheriffs' Association, which say law enforcement is facing increased attacks. 
 
Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, say the bill wrongly extends protections to a group that does not need them because they are not vulnerable to bias or discrimination in the same manner as people of color and other historically marginalized communities. You can read the bill in its entirety here.
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Prevailing Party at PCR Must Ensure the Trial Court’s Order Actually Contains Findings of Fact

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has again admonished trial courts to include actual findings of fact for each and every ground relied upon and to make explicit credibility determinations. TCCA reminds trial courts that they “shall set forth in the order or a written memorandum of the case all grounds presented and shall state the findings of fact and conclusions of law with regard to each such ground. Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-30-111(b)....  [Making] findings of fact is mandatory. Donald Mays v. State, [2004 WL 2439255, *6 (Tenn. Crim. App. No. W2003-02761-CCA-R3-PC, Oct. 28, 2004)].”
 
TCCA further wrote, “We take this opportunity to point out again that a mere recitation or summary of the testimony of the witnesses at a hearing is not a ‘finding of fact’ as is required. Such a summary only sets forth the testimony, which is usually contradictory. A ‘finding of fact’ is the post-conviction court’s opportunity to fulfill its responsibility to sort through all the evidence and set forth what actually happened, as opposed to just each witness’s version of what happened. See Charles Bradford Stewart v. State, [2017 WL 2645651, *14 (Tenn. Crim. App. No. M2015-02449-CCA-R3-PC, June 20, 2017)], perm. app. denied (Tenn. Oct. 4, 2017).” Nabi v. State, 2018 WL 1721869, *6 (Tenn. Crim. App. Apr. 9, 2018).
 
Prevailing parties, either the state or petitioner, must ensure the trial court’s order complies with these requirements in order to facilitate appellate review of the decision.

Roger E. Nell is the District Public Defender at 19th Judicial District of Tennessee and current Chair-Elect of TBA's Criminal Justice Section.

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Federal Judge Chides Counsel on Manafort Investigation

A federal judge in Virginia on Friday grilled lawyers from the office of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about their motivations and authorization for bringing a fraud case against former President Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is accused of crimes related to his work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, The Washington Post Reports. Manafort was seeking to have bank and tax fraud charges against him dismissed, with his lawyers arguing that the alleged crimes have nothing to do with the election or with President Trump. “You don’t really care about Mr. Manafort’s bank fraud… You really care about getting information Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment,” Judge T.S. Ellis III said during a morning hearing. Ellis also requested an un-redacted version of an August 2017 memo from the Deputy Attorney General for the USDOJ Rod Rosenstein authorizing to investigate whether Manafort illegally coordinated with Russia in 2016.
 
Michael Dreeben, a prosecutor with the special counsel’s office, responded that the Manafort investigation has expanded significantly since it was taken over by Mueller and the specific parameters of the special counsel investigation have not been publicly revealed because to do so would jeopardize ongoing probes and sensitive national security information. Manafort’s attorneys have requested the judge address a motion alleging leaks to reporters that conversations were intercepted between their client and Russian officials and other issues in a hearing on May 25.
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Tennessee’s ‘Fresh Start Act’ Signed into Law

Last Friday, Gov. Bill Haslam signed Tennessee SB2465, relative to occupational licenses, into law. The bill, known as the "Fresh Start Act," creates a uniform process that all licensing authorities must follow and requires that denials and refusals to renew occupational and professional licenses based on a criminal conviction must only occur when the offense relates to the offender's ability to perform the occupation or profession. This bill Amends TCA Title 62, Chapter 76, Part 1 and Title 63, Chapter 1.

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Next Week: Criminal Law Basics

The Tennessee Bar Association will offer a Criminal Law Basics CLE program at the Bar Center in Nashville. This program will feature intangibles such as what to do when you get a new client (from opening a file to getting paid), the life cycle of the attorney-client relationship, obtaining the charging instruments and filing requests, notices, motions and more. Don’t miss this chance to learn from seasoned practitioners while networking with professionals who have a similar focus. Here is the key info:
 
When: Monday, May 21, 12 p.m., CDT
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 4th Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37217
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Chattanooga Racketeering Indictment Raises Concerns of Overreach

Most of the 54 people charged in last month's racketeering indictment against a Chattanooga street gang don't know what they're specifically accused of doing, reports The Chattanooga Times Free Press. Criminal defense attorneys who've previously represented many of the accused are seeking as much information as possible before April 27, when all 54 defendants are set to appear in Hamilton County Criminal Court to plead guilty or not guilty.
 
Critics say these cases can be an overreach, creating collateral damage for those who may not have committed serious crimes, yet can be punished for their previous affiliation with gang members. Prosecutors declined to comment on this case, so the extent of their evidence is unknown. You can read the full presentment here.
 
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