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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Aug 16, 2013

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Gordon W. Smith, Associate Solicitor General; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Lisa S. Zavogiannis, District Attorney General; and Darrell Julian, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Attorneys 2:

Dan T. Bryant, District Public Defender, and L. Scott Grissom, Assistant Public Defender, McMinnville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Angela M. Merriman.

Judge(s): HOLDER

The defendant was arrested for driving under the influence, reckless endangerment with a motor vehicle, reckless driving, driving on a suspended license, and violation of the implied consent law. The arresting officer recorded his pursuit and stop of the defendant’s vehicle using video recording equipment installed in his patrol vehicle, but the video recording was subsequently lost. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss alleging that the State’s failure to preserve potentially exculpatory evidence would deprive her of a fair trial. Following a pre-trial evidentiary hearing, the trial court conducted an analysis under State v. Ferguson, 2 S.W.3d 912 (Tenn. 1999), and dismissed several of the charges. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment, concluding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the charges. State v. Merriman, No. M2011-01682-CCA-R3-CD, 2012 WL 524474, at *3 (Tenn. Crim. App. Feb. 17, 2012). We granted the State permission to appeal. We apply a de novo standard of review and determine that, based on this record, the trial court did not err by finding that it would be fundamentally unfair to require the defendant to go to trial without the video recording. We also conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in choosing dismissal as an appropriate remedy for the State’s loss of the video recording.