News

Jury Finds Coons Guilty of 2nd Degree Murder of 12-Year-Old

A Nashville jury yesterday found Roy Coons Jr. guilty of strangling and killing 12-year-old Yhoana Arteaga inside her Goodlettsville home, the Tennessean reports. Prosecutors argued for the more severe charge of premeditated first-degree murder, but jurors settled on second-degree. Coons also was found guilty of felony murder, attempted child rape and aggravated criminal trespassing. Assistant District Attorney Pam Anderson said in her closing arguments that while "there are maybes and, yes, there are guesses” involved in the prosecution's theory of what happened that day, there was enough evidence to prove Coons had done it.
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Fastcase 7 New Features

A new Fastcase 7 update provides highlighting for your search terms when viewing the full text of a document. Each term is highlighted with a different color so that you can see the occurrence of each item separately. You can also turn off the highlighting function for both, and each term individually by choosing the highlight dropdown option, then selecting the ‘x’ across from the term. See this and all new features of TBA’s member benefit Fastcase 7 here.

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Report: CoreCivic Facilities Have Twice as Many Homicides as State-Run Prisons

A new report shows that Tennessee’s CoreCivic-run prisons have twice as many homicides as state-run facilities, the Nashville Scene reports. CoreCivic currently houses 30 percent of Tennessee’s prisoners, and the for-profit prison operator also runs the state’s largest prison, Trousdale Turner Correctional Center, which has faced increased scrutiny in recent months.
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Monitoring Team Aims to Keep Public Informed About MPD Surveillance Case

The public will have a chance to ask questions about a court-ordered plan to bring reform to the Memphis Police Department after officers were found conducting illegal surveillance of protesters, violating a 40-year-old consent decree barring such surveillance, The Daily Memphian reports. In addition to the public meeting on July 11, former U.S. attorney and independent monitor Ed Stanton announced that his team has launched a website, memphispdmonitor.com, to provide updates to the public about the progress of reform efforts involving the city police department.
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TBA House of Delegates Seeks to Fill 13 Open Positions

In accordance with Article 29 of the TBA Bylaws, the officers of the House of Delegates will fill 13 open positions in the House. If you would like to be considered for one of these positions, please submit a declaration of candidacy that includes your name, principal place of law practice, district of interest and contact information to TBA Executive Director Joycelyn Stevenson by July 15. Read a list of open positions here.
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Sports Gambling Act, Insanity Defense Top July TBJ

Starting this month you can place legal bets in Tennessee, thanks to the new Sports Gaming Act. Read about its ramifications in an article by Alexander J. Hall in this new issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal. Also, those questions you must have about what goes into an insanity defense will be answered in this fascinating guide by Jason R. Smith. Newly installed TBA President Sarah Y. Sheppeard outlines many of the association's terrific benefits, including a sneak peek at its revamped website, out later this summer. In "Spark!" this month, read about the growing number of women in leadership positions in Tennessee's legal community — including the top spots of our own TBA. Read the July issue.

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Men File Lawsuit Over New Law Prohibiting Sex Offenders From Living With Their Children

Three unidentified men filed a federal lawsuit this week against Gov. Bill Lee over a soon-to-be enacted law that will prohibit convicted sex offenders from staying overnight in the presence of their children, the Tennessean reports. The law will take effect July 1. The three unnamed plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, are all fathers of minor children and convicted sex offenders who have completed their punishments and treatment programs. The victims in each case were under 12 years old. The plaintiffs were seeking a temporary restraining order, which was granted by Judge William Campbell Jr., and are also seeking a preliminary injunction.
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SCOTUS: Warrant Not Necessary to Draw Blood from Unconscious Person Suspected of DUI

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer joined with conservatives Thursday in a decision that allows police in most circumstances to obtain a blood draw from an unconscious motorist without getting a warrant, the ABA Journal reports. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote the plurality opinion, saying the blood draw is generally permitted under the “exigent circumstances” exception to the Fourth Amendment’s general requirement of a warrant. The exception allows warrantless searches to prevent the dissipation of evidence, which consists of the dissipation of blood alcohol from metabolic processes in drunken-driving cases.
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TBA Debuts New Podcast Network

The Tennessee Bar Association Podcast Network launched today with the premiere of two shows-- Sidebar and BarBuzz. Sidebar is a magazine podcast featuring compelling stories from attorneys across the state. BarBuzz is a monthly rundown of TBA news and upcoming events at the local and state bar levels. Both shows are now available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn and the TBA's website. Simply search the show title or "Tennessee Bar Association" wherever you listen to podcasts. Do you have a story lead you'd like to submit for a future episode? Submit your ideas here!

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Lee Talks Criminal Justice Reform at Tennessee Judicial Conference

Gov. Bill Lee was recently welcomed to the 66th Tennessee Judicial Conference where he spoke on criminal justice reform, one the signature issues of his administration. At the conference, Lee explored why he feels reform is so crucial and emphasized that state judges have a huge role to play in helping to plan and implement that reform. Lee spoke about how his perspective on criminal justice reform was influenced by his experience volunteering in a men’s prisoner reentry program, and he floated the idea of seeking alternatives to imprisonment for some offenders.
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FBI Details Process of Civil Forfeiture for Animals that are Victims in Crimes

A recent piece by the FBI details the civil forfeiture process regarding animals that are victims of crime. The story highlights cross-agency efforts between U.S. Marshals Service, animal rescue organizations, federal agents and Department of Justice prosecutors and federal forfeiture attorneys, particularly in the case of breaking up dog fighting rings. Previously, most dogs found in fighting operations were euthanized; however, application of civil asset forfeiture laws allow the agencies to provide services while the criminal trial is underway. FBI operations involving animal seizures are conducted with animal rescue organization that are notified in advance, so they be prepared to care for the animals.

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Use Your Prepaid TBA CLE Credits Before Monday!

TBA members have until June 30 to use the 2018-2019 CLE credits that come with their memberships. Use the credits now to register for any TBA course taking place this summer or fall, or any online course, as long as you register by June 30. Don’t let these valuable credits go to waste! Find more information on how to use your credits, and if you haven’t done so already, remember to renew your TBA membership for the upcoming year to get more CLE credits.
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DOJ Launches Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) this month introduced a new initiative that will incorporate law enforcement efforts with other federal agencies to address fraud schemes that target the elderly. The Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force will feature an amalgamation between the DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for six federal districts, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and several other organizations. In addition to this partnership, each U.S. Attorney’s Office will have an Elder Justice Coordinator to assist with operations. FBI Director Christopher Wray said of the strike force: “We’re committed to keeping our elderly citizens safe, whether they’re being targeted door-to-door, over the phone, or online … Our new Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force will give us additional resources and tools to identify and stop those who are targeting our senior communities.”

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SCOTUS Shoots Down Tougher Sentences for Gun Crimes

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch sided with the high court’s liberals to strike down a law that calls for longer sentencing when a person uses a firearm in connection with a “crime of violence,” Fox News reports. Writing the majority opinion, Gorsuch said the stated definition of a “crime of violence” – that is, a felony “that by its nature, involves a substantial risk that physical force against the person or property of another may be used in the course of committing the offense” – was confusing and vague.
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Senior Advisor Gibson Discusses Plans on Tennessee Criminal Justice Reform

Former Tennessee Court of Appeals and current Senior Advisor to the governor Brandon Gibson shared details regarding the state’s initiative on criminal justice reform to a group in Bradley County, the Cleveland Daily Banner reports. Gibson emphasized the need for such reform, pointing out that Tennessee’s current recidivism rate is just over 46 percent. Among the plans highlighted was the governor’s Tennessee Volunteer Mentorship Initiative, which will partner with existing non-profits to pair inmates with mentors in an effort to prepare them for life following incarceration. "Ninety percent of those in our prisons will come out at some point," said Gibson. "It is up to us to do what we can to ensure their success."
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Suicide and Incarceration

An article in The Washington Post last week examines suicides in detention facilities and whether the deaths can be prevented through additional safeguards and training. Among those listed is the case of Anthony Weaver, a man incarcerated in Knox County’s Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility (RDWDF) that took his own life using a jail issued razor blade to slit his throat. Weaver — who suffered from depression and addiction — had expressed to his attorney thoughts of suicide that were relayed to employees of the facility but were not acted upon. In addition, he was given a razor by guards then left unsupervised even though he had previously tried to end his life by cutting his wrists while incarcerated. Weaver was at least the second inmate to commit suicide in RDWDF that same year. 

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ACLU Weighs In on Knox Detective's Anti-LGBT Sermon, First Amendment Rights

The ACLU this week weighed in on the matter of a Knox County detective and pastor who maligned members of the LGBTQ community, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Detective Grayson Fritts gave a sermon to the All Scripture Baptist Church in Knoxville saying the government should arrest and execute members of the LGBTQ community. Sheriff Tom Spangler said he would not fire Fritts to protect taxpayers from a lawsuit that could cost the county millions. "You can look for the ACLU to look for a lawsuit," Spangler said. In response, Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee Hedy Weinberg said the government can regulate its employees’ speech if there is a reason that outweighs the employee’s interest in exercising constitutional rights. Fritts is currently on sick leave until a buyout goes into effect on July 19.
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First Jury Trial to Use Family Tree DNA Begins in Washington State

Jurors this week heard during opening statements about the mysterious final days of a young Canadian couple killed in 1987 — as well as the novel method authorities used to finally make an arrest three decades later, the Associated Press reports. William Earl Talbott II was arrested last year and charged with aggravated murder after authorities said they used genetic genealogy to identify him as the person who left his DNA on the clothing of one of the victims. The practice involves identifying suspects by entering crime-scene DNA profiles into public databases that people have used for years to fill out their family trees.
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Full Upgrade to Fastcase 7 Coming July 22

The TBA will be upgrading to Fastcase 7 — the latest in legal research technology — on July 22. Start the transition by reviewing the helpful resource page to learn new and advanced research tools and view training videos and reference guides. Did you know that as a member benefit Fastcase also offers research assistance? Use the LiveChat feature located on the Fastcase website, email support@fastcase.com or call 866-773-2782, Option 2, to speak with a research attorney. 
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Knox County DA Reviewing Cases Involving Sheriff's Detective Who Called for LGBT Executions

Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen said yesterday that prosecutors will review all pending cases involving a Sheriff's Office detective who delivered a hate-laced sermon at a Knoxville church earlier this month, calling for the execution of LGBTQ people, Knoxnews reports. Allen also said she will assign an assistant district attorney to take complaints about any past cases involving the detective, Grayson Fritts, a 30-year veteran of the Knox County Sheriff's Office.
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Criminal Law Basics Program a Success

The TBA Criminal Justice Section held its annual Criminal Law Basics program on May 22, receiving stellar feedback from those in attendance. Lawyers and judges were treated to topnotch programming at the Tennessee Bar Center, then toured Riverbend Maximum Security Institution and its death chambers while given a guided presentation on representing a condemned prisoner. The TBA would like to thank the Criminal Justice Section Executive Council for their hard work on this forum. Stay tuned for more innovative programming to come from this section.
 
OFFICERS
Roger Nell, Section Chair, District Public Defender’s Office, Clarksville
Lynne Ingram, Ingram Law, Nashville
 
EASTERN DELEGATES
Andy Roskind, Pratt Aycock, Knoxville
Mark Fulks, Baker Donelson, Johnson City
Melanie Reid, LMU Duncan School of Law, Knoxville
 
MIDDLE DELEGATES
David Veile, Schell & Oglesby, Franklin
Alex Little, Burr & Forman, Nashville
Bill Goodman, Circuit Court Judge, Clarksville
Elizabeth Russell, Johnston and Street, Franklin
John Partin, District Public Defender, McMinville
Leslie Price, Tennessee Attorney General's Office, Nashville
Patrick Frogge, Tennessee District Public Defender's Conference, Nashville
Robert Wedemeyer, Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, Nashville
Thomas Santel, Parkerson Santel, Murfreesboro
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Woman Reportedly Raped by a Chattanooga Police Officer Alleges Fourth Amendment Violations, Coverup

Attorneys representing a woman in a lawsuit against the city of Chattanooga who alleges former Chattanooga police officer Desmond Logan raped her filed an amended complaint on Wednesday alleging a coverup and Fourth Amendment violations, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The updated filing contends that Logan has a history of “inappropriate sexual misconduct, including a previous rape incident” and that Chattanooga Assistant Police Chief Edwin McPherson conspired with retired Capt. Pedro Bacon to suppress records of that misconduct. At least three women maintain that they were raped by Logan since he began his law enforcement career in 2015. The city has not filed a response to the complaint and has declined to comment on the matter.

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Johnson City Mother Receives Probation for Placing Infant in Freezer

A Johnson City woman who placed her infant son inside of an old freezer located in the backyard of an unrelated party was given probation this week, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. Washington County Judge Stacy Street sentenced Brittany C. Smith to two years of probation after she pleaded guilty to a charge of child neglect. Residents say they saw Smith standing next to the unused freezer with the infant. After going outside to check on her, they found Smith hiding under the crawlspace of their house without the baby. The homeowners told authorities that Smith appeared to be under the influence of something and left her son with them, returning 12 hours later to pick him up. Law enforcement was eventually notified after Smith refused a request by the residents to have the child’s grandmother involved before returning the child to her.

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Knox Jail Alternative Seeks Additional Funding

The Knox County program that offers an alternative to jail for nonviolent, misdemeanor offenders is seeking additional funding from the municipality, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The Helen Ross McNabb Center opened last year and signed a three-year contract with Knox County to operate a 16-bed center where law enforcement can place qualifying offenders, who can then be held for up to 72 hours before being given referrals to assistance and a case manager upon release. The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse provided the center with $3.4 million for renovations and pay for startup costs; however, that money only covered three-quarters of the initial funds needed. McNabb Center CEO Jerry Vagnier has asked Knox County commissioners for $840,000 and the city for $560,000 to cover operation costs for the fiscal year.

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Investigation Highlights Concerns Over Tennessee's Parole System

Nashville reporter Dennis Ferrier highlights concerns regarding the way parole boards operate in Tennessee discovered in a year-long investigation into the matter by WZTV Nashville. Among the issues raised are decisions made that are contrary to court decisions and the payrate of board members — at least $102,000 a year. The parole board did not cooperate with the news team through the investigation.
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