Death penalty study committee begins work today

The Committee to Study Administration of the Death Penalty began its one-year study today. The committee, which is co-chaired by Sen. Doug Jackson, D-Dickson, and Rep. Kent Coleman, D-Murfreesboro, began its review with testimony from several experts. First up was Associate Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Smith, who outlined the process from charge to execution. Then Bill Ramsey, a member of the American Bar Association death penalty assessment team, gave an overview of the team's report. Areas for reform cited include defense services, investigatory services, qualification of counsel race and geographical disparity, procedures for claims of innocence, mental illness, juror confusion, clemency process and proportionality review. Finally, David Raybin testified on the history of the death penalty statute in Tennessee.

For more on the committee read the Tennessean's editorial, and related opinion pieces from U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Gil Merritt and former Tennessee Attorney General W.J. Michael Cody.
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Court: TCA


H. Wayne Graves, Johnson City, Tennessee, for appellant.

Raymond C. Conkin, Jr., Kingsport, Tennessee, for appellee.


In this divorce action the Trial Court designated the mother as the primary residential parent of the parties' minor child. On appeal, we affirm.


Court: TCA


M.J. Hoover, III, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the Appellants, Kirk Wenzel and Janice Wenzel.

Jason C. Rose, Maryville, Tennessee, for the Appellees, Mark Orren and Alesia Orren.


In this action for fraud and breach of contract, Kirk and Janice Wenzel ("Buyers") agreed to purchase a house from Mark and Alesia Orren ("Sellers"), subject to a satisfactory inspection. During a pre- closing walk-through of the property, Buyers noticed a puddle of water on the basement floor. The parties executed an "Inspection Letter," which included a clause requiring Sellers to repair the water leak at their expense. The closing occurred and Sellers repaired a leak on the water heater, which they contended was the source of the water in the basement. Buyers later experienced drainage and water problems, and Sellers refused to make further repairs. Buyers filed suit seeking $12,665.86 in compensatory damages, $10,000 in punitive damages, and costs. Despite receiving notice of the trial setting from opposing counsel, Sellers failed to appear at the trial, and the Trial Court entered a judgment against the Sellers for $30,000 in compensatory damages and $3,642.29 for discretionary costs. The Trial Court declined to award punitive damages. On appeal, Sellers raise multiple issues regarding the Trial Court's findings, the denial of Sellers' motion for summary judgment, and the denial of Seller's motion to vacate the judgment. We find no error with the Trial Court's rulings on these issues. However, the Trial Court awarded damages in excess of the ad damnum clause in Buyers' complaint, and, therefore, we modify the judgment to $12,665.86 in compensatory damages plus $3,642.29 for costs. We affirm as modified.


Court: TCCA


J. Liddell Kirk, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Steve Lawson.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Jennifer L. Bledsoe, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Kenneth F. Irvine, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The petitioner, Steve Lawson, pled guilty in Knox County Criminal Court to aggravated assault, a class C felony, and was sentenced as a Range II, multiple offender to eight years in confinement. He seeks post-conviction relief, contending that his trial counsel's ineffectiveness led to an unknowing and involuntary guilty plea. The trial court denied relief, and the petitioner appeals. We affirm the trial court's judgment.


Court: TCCA


Omowale A. Shabazz, Petros, Tennessee, pro se.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General; Cameron L. Hyder and John H. Bledsoe, Assistant Attorneys General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.


In 1995, a Sullivan County jury convicted the Petitioner, Omowale A. Shabazz, of second degree murder and attempted second degree murder and the trial court sentenced him to consecutive thirty and fifteen year sentences. The conviction for attempted second degree murder and its fifteen year sentence were subsequently vacated in a post-conviction proceeding. The Petitioner filed a pro se petition and "supplemental petition" for writ of habeas corpus, which the habeas court dismissed without a hearing. On appeal, the Petitioner argues that (1) the trial court erred by dismissing his petition for writ of habeas corpus for failure to attach the appropriate judgments; (2) the prosecutor abused his discretion by bringing charges for first degree murder and attempted first degree murder when the Petitioner was bound over from the General Sessions Court for second degree murder and attempted second degree murder; and (3) the Tennessee courts have misconstrued and misapplied Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-21-101 and exceeded their judiciary power by interpreting the statute too narrowly. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the habeas corpus court.


Court: TCCA


Kristi M. Davis, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Richard Yarbrough.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; and Ta Kisha Fitzgerald and Marsha Mitchell, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, Richard Yarbrough, was convicted by a Knox County jury of the sale of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine, the delivery of less than 0.5 grams of cocaine, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The convictions for sale and delivery were merged, and the defendant was subsequently sentenced to eleven years for that conviction and eleven months and twenty-nine days for the paraphernalia conviction, with the sentences to run concurrently. On appeal, he contends that: the evidence was insufficient to convict him for the sale and delivery of cocaine because the sale was incomplete; the trial court erred in allowing a bag containing rock cocaine-like pieces of evidence to be introduced during trial; and the trial court erred in sentencing. After review, we conclude that no error exists and affirm the judgment from the trial court.

Restrictions on the Immediate Family of Registry Members

TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2007-10-15

Opinion Number: 07-142

Soil Conservation Committee's and Districts' Status as State Agencies

TN Attorney General Opinions

Date: 2007-10-15

Opinion Number: 07-143


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Irvine recommended by commission
The Judicial Selection Commission met today in Knoxville to fill the vacancy created by the death of Criminal Court Judge Ray Jenkins in the 6th Judicial District Criminal Court. Special Judge Kenneth F. Irvine Jr., the only applicant, has been recommended to the governor by the commission.

Sweeney in running for Court of Appeals
Nashville lawyer Matthew J. Sweeney has added his name to the growing list of applicants for the Court of Appeals vacancy created by the death of Judge Cain. The deadline for applications is Oct. 23.

Fate of old Supreme Court site not decided yet
A decision on redevelopment of the former Tennessee Supreme Court site in Knoxville is still months away, since the deadline is Dec. 21 for developers to submit proposals and the evaluation committee is not expected to give a recommendation to Mayor Bill Haslam until Jan. 18, according to the city's request for proposals. The winner will not be declared, however, until a development agreement is hammered out and presented for City Council approval.
The News Sentinel reports
Grundy considering new jail
Grundy County Sheriff Brent Myers said the old jail is overcrowded, has safety and maintenance problems and doesn't meet state standards put in place over its 34-year history. The county commission is beginning to study the options for designs and financing for a new facility. "We're still in the 'study' stage," Commissioner Charles Rollins said.
The Times Free-Press has more
Subprime crisis could mean tough times for some lawyers
For lawyers who work on private equity deals or mortgage-backed securities, business fears due to the subprime crisis may be well justified, warns in a article today. The total values of private-label mortgage securitization issuances and private equity deals have been sinking rapidly, meaning some attorneys may be in for a tough year. But where structured finance and private equity lawyers might find themselves struggling to meet their billable hours targets, litigators might be in high demand by financial companies.
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