News

SCOTUS Will Not Hear Challenge to Tennessee's Lethal Injection Method

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to Tennessee's lethal injection method, officially ending a battle over the controversial drugs used to kill death row inmates here, the Tennessean reports. That decision came days before death row inmate Donnie Edward Johnson, 68, is scheduled to die. Had the high court agreed to hear the case, it might have delayed his execution. The challenge, brought by Johnson and 22 other death row inmates, argued that the state's three-drug protocol, led by the sedative midazolam, does not keep inmates from feeling excruciating pain as they die.
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ABA Issues Formal Ethics Opinion on Negotiating Plea Bargains for Misdemeanor Offenses

The American Bar Association has issued a formal ethics opinion regarding the obligations of prosecutors in negotiating plea bargains for misdemeanor offenses. The opinion addresses a prosecutor's obligations when negotiating with an unrepresented individual who is or may be entitled to counsel at the time the prosecutor initiates the plea bargaining process for a misdemeanor charge. The opinion also addresses a prosecutor’s duties when plea bargaining with an unrepresented accused on a misdemeanor charge irrespective of whether the accused has invoked the right to counsel. Read the full opinion here.
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Rutherford County Adult Detention Center Offers Parenting Program to Incarcerated Mothers

The Rutherford County Adult Detention Center has started a novel initiative to assist incarcerated mothers by offering parenting classes and increased visits with their children, the Daily News Journal reports. The program, incepted in January, is operated in cooperation with the Family Center, an organization that provides guidance and assistance to families coping with trauma. There are currently four moms enrolled in the program and the jail plans to offer participation to fathers in the future. Rutherford County Sheriff's Deputy Chief Chris Fly believes the resource will be beneficial to deputies as well by showing them a different side of inmates.

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Prosecutors Say Jackson Nurse Used Opioid Prescriptions to Coerce Women into Sex

A Tennessee nurse practitioner who was indicted last month on charges of trading opioid pills for sex and fame also kept video footage on his phone of him having sex with a “nearly unconscious woman,” the Tennessean reports. Jeffrey Young of Jackson is being called by prosecutors a "sexual predator" who coerced women into sex by “dangling opioid prescriptions over them.” Young also has continued to write dangerous prescriptions — including prescribing to patients who are "doctor shopping" — in the 2½ weeks since he was indicted and released pending trial, the prosecutors state. Federal prosecutors are attempting to use these details to revoke Young's bail.
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General Assembly Passes Bill for Stiffer Penalties When Children are Harmed in Drive-By Shootings

The General Assembly this week passed a law that will provide stiffer penalties when children are harmed in drive-by shootings, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The JuJuan Latham Act — HB0002, SB0010 — is named for a 12-year-old Knoxville boy who was killed in the crossfire of a gang-related attack while attending a birthday party in 2016. The shooting also claimed the life of an unborn child when the mother fell trying to escape the situation. To date, no one has been charged for either crime.

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Executor of Sedley Alley's Estate Says She Has the Right to Review Crime Scene Evidence

The daughter of Sedley Alley, who was convicted of raping and killing Lance Corporal Suzanne Collins in 1985 and ultimately executed for the crime, yesterday asked a judge in Memphis to allow review of evidence from the murder scene to provide closure on the crime once and for all, The New York Times reports. April Alley maintains that as executor of her father’s estate she is entitled to continue the pursuit of justice and asks that preserved evidence found at the scene — including the victim’s underwear, a pair of red briefs apparently worn by the attacker and a 31-inch tree branch — be tested for DNA and matched against her father’s that was harvested when he was still alive. Alley was initially denied review of the evidence for DNA material, a request prosecutors claimed was a stalling maneuver; however, five years after his execution, the Tennessee Supreme Court concluded the lower court’s denial was errant. 

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Former DA's Conference Executive Director Wally Kirby Dies at 72

Pleasant View lawyer James Wallace “Wally” Kirby died on April 22 at the age of 72. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, and raised in Macon County, he received his law degree from Nashville School of Law. Upon graduation he went to work for W. B. Lockert Jr., as an assistant district attorney for the 23rd Judicial District, covering Cheatham, Dickson, Humphreys, Stewart and Houston counties. While working for the 23rd Judicial District he served under three District Attorneys, Lockert, Kenneth Atkins, and Dan Alsobrooks. He became the Senior District Attorney in 1990, Deputy District Attorney in 1997 and remained until he was appointed as the Executive Director of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference in July 1999.
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Law Day Events Set for This Week

Law Day 2019 is Wednesday, and there are several events scheduled across Tennessee to celebrate. The Knoxville Bar Association will present "Leadership Lessons for An Angry Age, ‘Crossing the Aisle: How Bipartisanship Brought Tennessee to the 21st Century and Could Save America,’" featuring author and columnist Keel Hunt. The event will be Wednesday 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at the Knoxville Hilton Downtown. The Nashville Bar Association plans to celebrate with a luncheon on Friday. The event’s keynote speaker will be Judge Martha Craig “Cissy” Daughtrey, and the Jack Norman Sr. and Liberty Bell awards will be given to Mariah Wooten and Judge Joe P. Binkley Jr., respectively. This year’s theme is Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society
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Suspect in Infamous Knoxville Killing May See Trial in August

A suspect involved in the grim torture killings of Channon Christian and Chris Newsom in Knoxville 12 years ago is set to stand trial this August, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Eric Dewayne Boyd is currently serving an 18-year federal sentence for his role in carjacking the couple, however, he wasn’t charged in the abduction and murder until just last year. Boyd was in court April 18 rebutting a witness statement that placed him at the scene of the murder, when Knox County Criminal Court Judge Bob McGee rejected his argument, saying it's up to a jury to decide what the witness saw. Boyd’s lawyer has filed a motion to dismiss arguing violation of his right to a speedy trial. He has until June 27 to make his final objections.

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Chattanooga Councilman Byrd Fears for Safety After Altercation With Neighbor

Chattanooga city councilman Anthony Byrd filed a police report out of concern for his safety after a community activist suggested that men drive by his house to “provide protection” for his neighbor, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. The activist, Marie Mott, hosts a radio show that featured the neighbor who alleges Byrd threatened her when she was questioning him about her son’s killing, which was ruled as “justified” and why no one was charged in his death. Councilman Byrd later noticed a large amount of traffic driving on his street and became fearful for he and his family’s safety. Mott says that she did not threaten Byrd rather called him out "to hold him accountable” and that “if he's in danger, that falls into his own hands." No charges have been filed and the case was closed as "miscellaneous information."

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Legal and Ethical Concerns Surrounding Genetic Genealogy

Since the capture of the Golden State Killer a year ago, genetic genealogy has become a hot button issue that guarantees to drastically alter the landscape of criminal justice. The process has sparked both legal and ethical concerns regarding use of databases from private companies that initially did not notify customers their genetic information would be used for such measures, with one company in particular — FamilyTreeDNA — formerly working in secret with the FBI that is now marketing itself as a crime fighting tool. The New York Times examines these trends, offering both an overview of the process along with recent, specific cases in which the method was used.

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Raybin Hot List: Self Defense, Teacher Tenure, Parenting Plan Modifications and More

The Raybin Tennessee Supreme Court Hot List, produced by Raybin & Weissman PC, compiles and analyzes cases that have recently been granted review by the Tennessee Supreme Court. On the docket this month are two cases involving a post-divorce custody dispute, a case of an employee who was terminated after he was involved in a physical altercation at a political rally, a tenured teacher who was transferred after administration learned he lacked an administrator’s license, two plaintiffs alleging the filing of undiscounted hospital liens violated the law, a defendant seeking a self-defense argument in his murder trial, and more. Read the full list here.
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Rutherford County Considering Pretrial Release for Non-violent Offenders

Inmates awaiting court on some non-violent offense charges may soon be eligible for pretrial release from the overcrowded Rutherford County Jail, the Daily News Journal reports. A county commissioner said the county would save an estimated $55 to $60 per day for each inmate eligible for release from a jail that had 902 inmates Monday, including 619 awaiting trial. General Sessions Court Judge Lisa Eischeid said this plan also should reduce case loads to allow probation workers to focus on helping convicted misdemeanor offenders with addiction issues. 
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Tennessee General Assembly Moves to Ban Child-Like Sex Dolls

Tennessee lawmakers last week advanced legislation that would bar possession or distribution of child-like sex dolls, the Tennessean reports. The ban is part of an amendment to HB1168/SB0659, which defines the entities “a child-like sex doll is an obscene anatomically correct doll, mannequin, or robot that is intended for sexual stimulation,” making possession of the dolls a Class E felony and distribution a Class A misdemeanor. A similar ban, known as the CREEPER Act, was submitted to the U.S. House in its last session. The Tennessee ban now heads to Governor Lee for his signature.

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Criminal Law Forum & Prison Tour Moved to May 22

The Criminal Law Basics Forum has moved to a new date! This annual favorite features the intangibles for criminal law practitioners, including timely updates on both a state and federal level. It will cover appellate issues, attorney well-being and ethics, ending the day with a guided tour of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, presented by Warden Tony Mays and attorney David Raybin, who will discuss representing a death row inmate through execution. Don’t miss out on this unique, enriching CLE opportunity on May 22 in Nashville.
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Compromise Bill on Oversight Boards Heads to Governor's Desk

A bill placing restrictions on civilian police oversight boards around the state has passed both legislative chambers and is now headed to the governor's desk, The Tennessean reports. The rewritten legislation, recently crafted via a compromise in committee, now permits a community oversight board to seek a subpoena during an investigation into alleged police misconduct by doing so through the local city council, which has the authority under state law to issue subpoenas. It requires that a municipality's local legislative body approve the subpoena request by a majority vote, and that the request detail the specific documents and individuals being compelled. A council is not permitted to give "blanket authorization" for subpoenas, according to the bill.
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Shelby County Swears in First Female Chief Public Defender

Shelby County swore in its first female chief public defender yesterday, The Commercial Appeals reports. Phyllis Aluko has spent 25 years in the office where she began as a volunteer, then moving to the trial division for 10 years, later transferring to the appellate division. Judge Bernice Donald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said at the ceremony: "Phyllis Aluko is now, has been and will be an exceptional public defender … She understands the needs of the office, the needs of the community." Aluko replaces former Shelby County Public Defender Stephen Bush, who retired in February.
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Criminal Law Basics and Prison Tour Set for May 22

The annual Criminal Law Basics Forum is coming up on May 22 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. This annual favorite features the intangibles for criminal law practitioners, including timely updates on both a state and federal level. We will cover appellate issues, attorney well-being and ethics, ending the day with a guided tour of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, presented by Warden Tony Mays and attorney David Raybin who will discuss representing a death row inmate through execution. Don’t miss out on this unique, enriching CLE opportunity.
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5 New Job Postings on TBA’s Joblink

See who is hiring in Tennessee. Recent job postings this month offer opportunities in litigation, real estate, health law and more. See full listings or post positions in your firm on TBA’s Joblink.
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Convention Hotel Deadline THIS FRIDAY

The cut off to reserve your hotel room at the discounted rate is 5 p.m. on Friday, May 17. 

The Tennessee Bar Association returns to Downtown Nashville's Renaissance Hotel for its Annual Convention June 12-15, with even better programming, exhibits and fun! Register NOW and receive:

  • Free Access to ALL 9 Hours of CLE, including the Bench Bar Program, co-sponsored by the Tennessee Judicial Conference
  • Opening welcome reception
  • Bench Bar Luncheon (featuring keynote speaker, Ken Starr)
  • Law School and General Breakfasts
  • Lawyers Luncheon (featuring special honor for Sen. Lamar Alexander)
  • Thursday night joint reception sponsored with TLAW and TABL
  • Thursday night Dinner/Dance Party featuring My So-Called Band
  • Friday night TBALL/YLD Party
  • Access to activities and programming designed for well-being including massages, contemplative space and more.
  • Access to TBA's sponsorship hall to meet with exhibitors, participate in our special TBA Wellness Corner and win prizes.
• QUESTIONS: Just email convention@tnbar.org to get help.
 
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Man Sues Rutherford County Adult Detention Center After Fall From Bunk

A man who is paralyzed after falling off the top bunk while incarcerated in the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center is now suing the institution for negligence, The Daily News Journal reports. Nicholas Parks maintains that jail staff made him sleep on the top bunk despite his protestations and detailed medical history. Court filings show that Rutherford County plans to ask for dismissal of the lawsuit. Parks’ attorney, Tommy Santel, did not return the paper’s request for comment.

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Federal Agencies Break Up $1.2 Billion Medicare Fraud Scheme

Federal officials on Tuesday announced breaking up a $1.2 billion Medicare scheme that preyed on elderly and disabled patients, The New York Times reports. Investigators say the racket that involved the prescription of unnecessary support braces is one of the largest health care frauds in United States history. The defendants — made up of both medical professionals and telemarketers — would allegedly contact Medicare beneficiaries and coerce them into getting free or low-cost back, shoulder, wrist and knee braces that were then paid for by the organization. The defendants are also accused of laundering the money received through shell companies, then using it to buy items such as exotic cars, yachts and luxury real estate.

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Medical Professionals Stand Behind Nurse Charged With Reckless Homicide

Nurse’s around the country are rallying behind RaDonda Vaught, the former Vanderbilt University Medical Center employee charged with reckless homicide and abuse after she administered the wrong medication to a patient resulting in an elderly woman’s death, NPR reports. Vaught was to give the patient, Charlene Murphy, a dose of an anti-anxiety medication, however, injected her with an anesthetic that shared the first two letters of the intended drug. The American Nurses Association also came to Vaught’s defense saying: "the criminalization of medical errors could have a chilling effect” and expressed concerns that this may hamper future reporting of errors by medical professionals. DA spokesman Stephen Hayslip told NPR "the actions of this office will become more evident as the evidence is presented to the court,” but declined to comment further on the case. Vaught will be back in court for discussion on May 30.

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Tennesseans Largely Support Restoring Voting Rights to Former Felons

The Commercial Appeal reports a wide margin of Tennesseans support allowing people convicted of felonies to vote after they've served their time, according to a new poll released Thursday by a group called Secure Democracy, a nonpartisan national advocacy group that works on election issues. According to the poll, 60% of Tennessee Republicans and 78% of Democrats support restoring voting for felons who have fulfilled the requirements of their sentences, showing strong bipartisan support for the issue. Eligible felons already can restore their voting rights in Tennessee, but the process is complicated and expensive.
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Shelby County Adds 3rd Grand Jury to Address Case Backlog

Shelby County has added a third grand jury in hopes of reducing the length of time defendants wait in jail while also whittling down the case backlog, The Daily Memphian reports. The county's 10 criminal court judges earlier this month agreed unanimously to the addition. With the third panel, grand juries will now meet three days a week instead of two. The new Wednesday panel deals with misdemeanor cases, while felony cases will be heard Tuesdays and Thursdays.
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