Sixth Circuit upholds state's lethal injection process

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today vacated a lower court's ruling that Tennessee's lethal injection process is unconstitutional. In 2007, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee supported a claim by death row inmate Edward Jerome Harbison that the state's lethal injection process violated his Eighth Amendment right. In overturning the decision, the appeals court also vacated an injunction against Harbison's execution. One judge departed from the majority's opinion arguing that the court relied on a recent Supreme Court decision upholding Kentucky's lethal injection process without investigating what differences might exist between Kentucky and Tennessee procedures.

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Court: TSC


J. Mark Johnson, Trenton, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lee Hayes.

Floyd S. Flippin and Terri Smith Crider, Humboldt, Tennessee, for the appellee, Gibson County, Tennessee.

Judge: LEE

The issue presented in this declaratory judgment action brought by Lee Hayes, the Gibson County juvenile court clerk, is whether he should be compensated pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 8-24-102, as amended in 2001, which sets the Gibson County juvenile court clerk's salary at a minimum of $50,805 per year, or pursuant to a 2000 private act that sets the salary at $32,000 per year. Gibson County argues, and the Court of Appeals agreed, that the private act of 2000 creating the office of Gibson County Juvenile Court Clerk and establishing his salary at $32,000 per year, controls. Mr. Hayes argues that the General Assembly's 2001 amendment to Tennessee Code Annotated section 8-24-102, establishing statewide salaries for county officers, including juvenile court clerks, supersedes the 2000 private act and that his annual salary should be $50,805 in accordance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 8-24-102, as amended. We hold that there is an irreconcilable conflict between the 2000 private act and the 2001 public act, and that the 2001 public act, a general statutory scheme of statewide application, supersedes and repeals by implication the earlier private act. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the case remanded to the trial court.


Court: TSC


Tracy L. Schweitzer, Nashville, Tennessee, for the movant, Henry E. Hildebrand III, Trustee.

Steven L. Lefkovitz, Nashville, Tennessee, for the respondents, Milburn LaFayette Hogue and Melanie Starr Hogue.

Judge: LEE

The certified question from the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Middle District of Tennessee that we address in this case is: what amount may each member of a married couple with custody of a minor child claim as a homestead exemption, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated section 26-2- 301(f), in a joint petition for bankruptcy? We hold that the statute allows each individual debtor spouse with custody of a minor child to claim a $25,000 exemption for a combined exemption of $50,000, based upon the plain and ordinary meaning of the statutory language.


Court: TSC


H. Owen Maddux (pro se) and Mike A. Little, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellant, Hudson Owen Maddux.

Krisann Hodges, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee.

Judge: LEE

This is a direct appeal of a trial court judgment affirming a hearing panel's order which found that an attorney had violated the Rules of Professional Conduct and suspended him from the practice of law for five months. The attorney argues on appeal that the suspension should be reduced to a public censure or a suspension of lesser duration. After careful review of the record, we find no error in the ruling of the hearing panel and, accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

IN THE MATTER OF: J.R.L.-D (d.o.b. 9/1/06), A Child Under Eighteen Years of Age

Court: TCA


Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General and Elizabeth C. Driver, Senior Counsel, for the appellant, State of Tennessee, Department of Children's Services.

No attorney on record for appellee.


This appeal arises from an action to terminate Mother's parental rights. The sole issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred in awarding fees to Mother's attorney and the guardian ad litem. We reverse.


Court: TCA


Eric J. Yow, Clarksville, TN, for the Appellant, L.B.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, and Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General, Lindsey O. Appiah, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee, State of Tennessee, Department of Children's Services.


This is a termination of parental rights case. Mother appeals the trial court's termination of her parental rights on grounds of abandonment for willful failure to visit and failure to provide suitable housing, failure to substantially comply with the requirements of the permanency plans, and persistence of conditions. Finding that the grounds for termination of Mothers's parental rights are established by clear and convincing evidence, and that termination is in the best interest of the minor child, we affirm.


Court: TCA


Carl R. Moore, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the appellant, F.F.K.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter, Michael E. Moore, Solicitor General, and Amy T. McConnell, Assistant Attorney General, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Tennessee Department of Children's Services.


The trial court terminated Mother's parental rights to her two minor children upon a finding by clear and convincing evidence that grounds for termination existed and that termination was in the best interest of the children. Mother appeals; we modify and affirm the judgment of the trial court.


Court: TCCA


Robert W. Jones, Shelby County Public Defender; Phyllis Aluko, Assistant Public Defender, Memphis, Tennessee (on appeal); Jennifer Johnson and Glenda Adams, Assistant Public Defenders, Memphis, Tennessee (at trial), for the defendant-appellant, Darrin Bonner.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel E. Willis, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Corliss Shaw, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The Defendant-Appellant, Darrin Bonner ("Bonner"), was convicted by a Shelby County Criminal Court jury of intentionally evading arrest in a motor vehicle, a Class D felony, and was later sentenced to six years in confinement. On appeal, Bonner argues that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court erred in admitting hearsay testimony; and (3) the cumulative effect of the errors at trial deprived him of his federal and state constitutional rights. Following our review, the judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

With Concurring and Dissenting Opinion

Court: TCCA


Paul J. Morrow, Jr., and Sara Willingham, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Perry Anthony Cribbs.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General & Reporter; Michael Moore Solicitor General; James E. Gaylord, Assistant Attorney General; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and John Campbell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge: OGLE

The petitioner, Perry Anthony Cribbs, appeals the Shelby County Criminal Court's denial of his petition for post-conviction relief from his convictions for first degree felony murder, attempted first degree murder, and aggravated burglary, and resulting sentences of death, forty years, and ten years, respectively. On appeal, the petitioner presents a number of claims that can be characterized in the following categories: (1) he is actually innocent of murder; (2) he was denied a fair post-conviction evidentiary hearing; (3) the post-conviction court's failure to conclude that he was mentally retarded was contrary to the proof presented by the psychological experts; (4) he was denied the effective assistance of counsel at trial and on direct appeal; and (5) Tennessee's death penalty statute violates the United States and Tennessee Constitutions. Following a thorough and exhaustive review of the record and the applicable law, we conclude that the petitioner received the ineffective assistance of counsel at sentencing. Therefore, the petitioner's death sentence is reversed, and the case is remanded to the trial court for a new capital sentencing hearing. The judge who presided over this post-conviction proceeding is disqualified from any subsequent proceedings in this case.

WOODALL concurring and dissenting


Court: TCCA


Randy G. Rogers, Athens, Tennessee, for the appellant, Hubert Ray.

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; John H. Bledsoe, Senior Counsel; Robert Steve Bebb, District Attorney General; and Andrew Freiberg, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.


The defendant, Hubert Ray, was convicted of aggravated sexual battery, a Class B felony, and was sentenced as a Range I, standard offender to ten years in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, he argues that: the evidence was insufficient to establish venue; the trial court did not properly instruct the jury; and he was sentenced improperly. After careful review, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient to establish venue and that the jury was properly instructed. However, the defendant's sentence was enhanced by applying enhancement factors not determined by a jury. In view of Blakely, the defendant's sentence of ten years is reduced to eight years. We affirm the conviction and modify the sentence to eight years.


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