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Posted by: Stacey Shrader Joslin on Aug 23, 2016

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrée S. Blumstein, Solicitor General; Nicholas W. Spangler, Assistant Attorney General; Randall E. Nichols, District Attorney General; Ashley McDermott, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

Attorneys 2:

Stephen Ross Johnson, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Gary Hamilton.

Judge(s): CLARK

This appeal is one of two similar appeals that were consolidated for oral argument because they involve related questions of law concerning Tennessee Code Annotated section 40-15-105 (2013) (“the pretrial diversion statute”), which allows a district attorney general to suspend prosecution of a qualified defendant for a period of up to two years. See State v. Stephens, No. M2014-01270-SC-R11-CD (Tenn. 2016). We granted review in this case to emphasize once again the process the district attorney general, trial court, and appellate courts must follow when reviewing a prosecutor's denial of pretrial diversion. The defendant was indicted for assault after he allegedly attacked a student at the school where he worked as a teacher's assistant, and the prosecutor denied his application for pretrial diversion. After the trial court refused to overturn the prosecutor's decision, the Court of Criminal Appeals granted the defendant's interlocutory appeal and held that the trial court failed to review properly the district attorney general's decision. Conducting its own review, the intermediate court concluded that the record lacked substantial evidence supporting the denial of pretrial diversion and remanded with instructions that the defendant be granted pretrial diversion. We granted review and conclude that the district attorney general considered all relevant factors. Although the trial court improperly reviewed the district attorney general's action, the trial court reached the correct result. Therefore, we vacate the Court of Criminal Appeals' judgment and reinstate the trial court's judgment affirming the denial of pretrial diversion.