Gov. Lee Discusses Faith, Execution in Recent Interview

In an interview with the Associated Press, Gov. Bill Lee discussed his Christian faith and how it has affected him in the recent spate of Tennessee executions, The Washington Post reports. Lee told the AP that weighing the fate of the three death row inmates executed in his first year as governor has led to the most difficult decisions he has made; however, he believes that the death penalty is “appropriate for those most heinous of crimes.” Lee said that he discusses execution decisions with his wife, pastor and close friends, also taking the scheduled execution day off to spend it alone in thought and prayer. Six inmates have been put to death since the state resumed executions last year, with Attorney General Herbert Slatery asking the Tennessee Supreme Court to set a date for nine more death row prisoners. Lee told the AP that Slatery didn’t consult with him about the request but said he had no plans to involve himself in the future.

read more »

Defense Attorneys Seek Sealed Juvenile Court Records Regarding Phil Trenary Murder

Defense attorneys for two men charged with first-degree murder for the shooting death of Greater Memphis Chamber CEO Phil Trenary are seeking the juvenile court records of an alleged accomplice, the Commercial Appeal reports. Lawyers for Quandarius Richardson and McKinney Wright say that information from the closed-door juvenile court hearing of the 16-year-old girl, who was with them at the time of the slaying, could benefit their clients and asked Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft to issue an order allowing them to review the transcripts, orders, recordings and other materials sealed by a juvenile court magistrate. Richardson’s attorney, Paul Guibao, said he had spoken to prosecutor Ray Lepone who maintains the state plans to provide much of the information, including video from the teen girl's juvenile court hearing, in discovery. Richardson and Wright are due back in court on Jan. 16, 2020.

read more »

Hamilton Co. Deputy Facing 44 Criminal Charges Sees First Day in Court

The Hamilton County sheriff's deputy facing a litany of charges for his conduct while acting as a law enforcement officer saw his first day in court on Friday, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. Daniel Wilkey was indicted on 44 criminal charges, including six counts of sexual battery, two counts of rape and nine counts of official oppression. Attorney Ben McGowan appeared with Wilkey, asking Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman to postpone arraignment until Wilkey could officially retain him, with Steelman agreeing to a Jan. 24 date. In addition to the criminal charges, Wilkey faces 11 civil lawsuits, including one alleging the wrongful death of a Rhea County man and accusations by five underage girls who say he groped them and made another boy strip during a traffic stop.

read more »

Tennessee at the Forefront in Response to Human Trafficking

A new study from Shared Hope International, an organization that advocates for victims of human trafficking, has Tennessee at the top of the list regarding its response to the epidemic, The Tennessean reports. The study grades and ranks every state, assessing law enforcement approaches, legislation and survivor services. Senior Assistant Attorney General for the State of Tennessee Caitlin Smith said of the study: "This is probably the most important report of this nature that's out there. ... It's an important marker of how we've been doing and how we're addressing the issues." This was the second year Tennessee topped the list.

read more »

John Ford Files Petition to Run for General Sessions Court Clerk

Former Tennessee lawmaker John Ford on Monday filed a petition to run for Shelby County General Sessions Court Clerk; however, some experts say he faces an uphill battle in pursuit of the position, Local Memphis reports. Ford previously served as clerk from 1992 through 1996, and as a state Senator for more than 30 years before becoming ensnared in the Operation Tennessee Waltz scandal, for which he was convicted of accepting $55,000 in bribes. Though Ford’s citizenship rights have been restored, an order by a circuit court judge barred him from seeking political office, which will have to be overturned for him to be allowed on the ballot. Another hurdle is a law passed in 2017 stating that anyone who is convicted of a felony while holding public office will be forever disqualified from holding public office again, but that law arguably does not apply to Ford because it was enacted after his conviction.

read more »

Annual General-Solo FastTrack Series a Success

The TBA General–Solo Section last week wrapped up its yearly FastTrack series to a packed house at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. This annual favorite of general solo attorneys travels the state, allowing lawyers from each grand division the opportunity to obtain CLE hours on their home turf. The forums were a huge success, seeing record attendance and receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback. The TBA would like to thank program producers Chasity Grice, Frank Johnstone, Jane Powers, Jim Romer and Tim Chinaris; along with the General–Solo Section Executive Council for their hard work in producing this staple for Tennessee attorneys!
General-Solo-Small Firm Practitioners Executive Council
Section Chair: Tim Chinaris, Belmont University College of Law
Chair-Elect: Samantha Parris, Law Office of Samantha Parris
Immediate Past Chair: Jane Powers, The Powers Law Firm
East TN Delegates
Frank Johnstone, Wilson Worley, PC
Greta Locklear, Midtown Law & Mediation
Jim Romer, Attorney at Law
Samuel Gowin, Law Office of Samuel J. Gowin
Middle Tennessee Delegates
Margaret Johnson, Jackson Kweller McKinney Hayes Lewis & Garret
Sean Martin, Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard
West TN Delegates
Abi Salu, Salu & Salu Law Firm, PLLC
Chasity Grice, Peppel, Grice & Palazzolo, P.C.
read more »

Registry of Election Finance Questions Ruling to Reduce Fines for Expelled Lawmaker Durham

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance (TREF) recently said it disagrees with an administrative law judge's recent ruling to reduce the fine levied against expelled former lawmaker Jeremy Durham regarding campaign finance law violations, The Tennessean reports. Durham was fined $465,000 in 2017 after investigations found that he misused donors’ money by making personal purchases of custom suits and sunglasses, among other allegations. Administrative Law Judge Steve Darnell said the initial fine was excessive and reduced it to $110,000. The registry agreed with the opinion of Executive Director of the Bureau of Ethics and Finance Bill Young, who recommended TREF hold another hearing to determine whether Darnell was correct in reducing the fines and to determine if TREF agreed with Darnell's decision to reconsider the case using a de novo judicial review. TREF member Hank Fincher said of the issue, “I think (Darnell) gave far too much benefit of the doubt to Mr. Durham … He didn't just do wrong, he did awful wrong.”

read more »

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.

read more »

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. 

read more »

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.

read more »