News

Heritage Law Group to Host Elder Care Expo on May 23

The Heritage Law Group will host the third annual Elder Care Expo on May 23 at Gallatin First United Methodist Church. The program provides older adults with information on healthy aging, dementia, general primary care for seniors and understanding the continuum of care. Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet local exhibitors specializing in senior concerns and enjoy complimentary breakfast and lunch. There is no charge for this event. Here is the key info:

When: Thursday, May 23, Registration at 8 a.m., CDT
Where: Gallatin First United Methodist Church, 149 West Main St., Gallatin
 

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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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Battle for Prince's Estate Has No End in Sight

The fight surrounding the estate of late musician, Prince, is still making its way through the courts three years after the rock icon’s death, Forbes reports. The artist died without a will, sparking a heated battle between family members over the estimated $200 million estate, which to date has reportedly spent around $45 million in administrative costs and legal fees. You can view the case history using this link.

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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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Memphis Judge Under Fire for Facebook Post

Shelby County Criminal Court Judge Jim Lammey is facing criticism for a Facebook post, in which he shared an article by a Holocaust denier calling Muslim immigrants “foreign mud,” the Commercial Appeal reports. Lammey faces immigrant felons in court and is the only Criminal Court judge in the county to regularly order some immigrants seeking probation to register with federal immigration authorities or stay in jail. When asked about the post, Lammey said, “I see where I said, ‘Interesting read. Some four-letter words, though.' I don’t know if that meant that I agreed with it all or if it was just a reason to have a good conversation."
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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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Volunteers Needed for Thursday Evening Clinic in Franklin

Mercy Health Clinic and Legal Aid Society are partnering to host their monthly Legal Help Clinic at St. Andrew Lutheran Church. The clinic will be Thursday from 5 to 7 p.m. at 908 Murfreesboro Road, Franklin, Tennessee, 37064. All lawyers are invited to help at this advice-only clinic. Plenty of materials will be available to assist volunteers. To volunteer or for more information please contact Jorge Salles Diaz, 615-780-7131.
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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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School Voucher Plan May Fall Short of Tuition Costs in Urban Areas

Governor Lee’s controversial school voucher program may fall short in its goal to provide alternative options for children of failing schools, particularly those from low-income families in urban districts, the Tennessean reports. The governor’s plan would provide families with up to $7,300 to fund private school tuition, however, that sum falls well short of the average cost of attending most private schools in urban areas. Detractors of the program argue that under its current iteration, the voucher program will do little to assist these children and would only take money away from public schools that desperately need funding. Proponents of the plan say that the funding disparity will be bridged with tuition assistance from the schools, or financial assistance from a third party. According to the plan, families would be required to make less than double the federal guidelines to qualify for free lunch, approximately $54,000 annually for a family of three or $65,000 annually for a family of four.

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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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Juvenile Court Judge Speaks Out Against Bill Allowing Exemptions for Adoption Agencies

Nashville Juvenile Court Judge Sheila Calloway recently spoke out against proposed adoption legislation in an opinion piece in the Tennessean. The bill would allow adoption agencies to deny placement to LGBT families based on religious grounds. She references one bill in particular — HB0836/SB1304, sponsored by Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, and Sen. Paul Rose, R-Shelby, Tipton counties — that has passed the House by a 67-22 vote. Calloway expresses concerns that this legislation could serve as a jumping point for discrimination and could have a ripple effect, affecting children who may not share common religious beliefs with agencies or those who themselves identify as LGBT. She further cites a case in Philadelphia where a federal judge upheld the city's non-discrimination policies for adoption agencies that sought denials for LGBT families and legal challenges for several states that have attempted to instill similar legislation. The Senate bill will be considered by its Judiciary Committee today.

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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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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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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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CCA Raises Issue Regarding State-Federal Concurrent Sentences

Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Camille R. McMullen last week issued an opinion regarding state-federal concurrent sentences. In the opinion, the court sua sponte raised this issue and remanded the case to the trial court:
 
“We are constrained to note that the state judgments in this case show that the Petitioner’s . . . sentences . . . are to be served concurrently with a previously imposed federal sentence . . . .  There are two ways in which the federal sentence may be made concurrent with the state sentence (1) the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) may designate the state prison as the place of confinement for the federal term of imprisonment or (2) the BOP, in its discretion, may accept a state prisoner into federal custody when state officials offer to transfer a prisoner who has not fulfilled the state term of imprisonment.  . . .  [T]here was no testimony at the guilty-plea hearing or the post-conviction hearing as to how the Petitioner settled his federal case, the extent to which there was coordination between federal and state counsel to resolve the matters, or whether the federal court agreed to allow the Petitioner to serve his anticipated state sentence in a federal facility.  While serving a concurrent state and federal sentence is not prohibited by our law, . . . [it] has been roundly criticized by this court for its pitfalls. . . .  Accordingly, we must remand this matter to the post-conviction court for a hearing to determine whether the Petitioner was advised of the consequences of entering a guilty plea based upon the agreement that his state sentence be served concurrently with a prior federal sentence.”  Marty Holland v. State, Tenn. Crim. App. No. W2018-01517-CCA-R3-PC (Mar. 27, 2019).
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Former Montgomery Co. Reserve Deputy Found Guilty of Attempted Reckless Homicide

A former Montgomery County Sheriff's Office reserve deputy was found guilty on Monday regarding an incident where he shot a man after a fender bender, the Leaf Chronicle reports. Samson Peltier fired on the man who claims that he was moving his car as to not block traffic; however, Peltier maintains that the man attempted to hit him with his jeep then flee the scene. The officer was accused of attempted second-degree murder for the incident but was ultimately found guilty of attempted reckless homicide along with aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. The first trial ended in a hung jury, with one juror when polled saying he would not consider convicting Peltier because he had been in law enforcement. Peltier’s sentencing date is set for July 11, when he is facing 3 to 10 years in prison.

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Job Fair in Chattanooga Will Offer Assistance to Ex-Felons

The city of Chattanooga and American Job Center Tennessee will host a free job fair this week that aims to give convicted felons a second chance by assisting them with career placement, the Times Free Press reports. Attendees will also learn important skills to aid in their search, such as how to prepare resumes, dress professionally and how to interview effectively. Staff at the fair will also assist with guidance on the expungement process. For more information and to register, call 423-643-6705 or email dmaddox@chattanooga.gov.
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House Passes Bill Making Aggravated Rape of Child Punishable by Life Imprisonment

Legislation that seeks to increase the punishment for a conviction of aggravated rape of a child, amending TCA Title 39, Chapter 13 and Title 40, Chapter 35, easily passed in the Tennessee House with only one vote in opposition. HB0283/SB0290 would increase the penalty for such a crime from 15 to 60 years in prison to a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The legislation was recommended for passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.

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April TBJ: Celebrating 20 Years of Help from TLAP

Help us celebrate with the Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program (TLAP) its 20 years of helping those in the legal profession who have experienced substance use disorders, stress or emotional health issues. Former Justice Janice Holder writes in the April Tennessee Bar Journal about the program’s history and how it continues to provide a lifeline. Russell Fowler explains how a case from 1615 pitted Chancery and Equity against each other, and TBA President Jason Pannu explains two new programs, the Reporters Workshop and one to help solo and small firm lawyers. Read all this and more in the April Journal.
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Knox Prosecutors File RICO Charges Against Accused Gang Members

Knox County prosecutors have filed RICO charges against at least 10 men accused of running a cocaine operation through a gang, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. A grand jury delivered the 12-count presentment that maintains the men conspired with the Tree Top Piru Bloods to deliver 26 grams or more of cocaine, with several of the defendants also standing accused of killing a man last year. The case, set for trial Nov. 4 in Knox County Criminal Court, is just the second time the Knox County District Attorney General’s office has used racketeering laws to disrupt gang activity.

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