All Content

Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Jan 7, 2015

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Dawn Deaner, District Public Defender; and Joan Lawson and Michael Engle (at hearing), and Jeffrey A. DeVasher and Emma Rae Tennent (on appeal), Assistant District Public Defenders, for the appellant, William Darelle Smith.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Brent C. Cherry, Senior Counsel; Victor S. Johnson, III, District Attorney General; and Katrin Miller, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): WILLIAMS

A jury convicted the defendant, William Darelle Smith, of first degree (premeditated) murder, and he was sentenced to life in prison. On appeal, this court affirmed the denial of the motion for a new trial. The defendant appealed a single issue to the Tennessee Supreme Court: that his right to an impartial jury was compromised because the trial court did not hold a hearing after the discovery, during jury deliberations, that a juror was not only acquainted with one of the State’s witnesses but had sent the witness a communication through Facebook complimenting her on her testimony. The Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that the trial court had erred in refusing to hold a hearing and remanded the case. After a hearing during which the juror and the witness testified regarding the nature of both their relationship and the communication, the trial court again denied the defendant a new trial. The defendant appeals. We conclude that the State sufficiently rebutted any presumption of prejudice raised by the juror’s extrajudicial communication or by his concealment of his acquaintance with the witness, and accordingly we affirm the judgment of the trial court.