News

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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Gov. Lee Announces Criminal Justice Task Force

Gov. Bill Lee has announced the team that will lead his criminal justice task force, the Tennessean reports. Lee made the issue a focal point of his campaign, later appointing Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Brandon Gibson to his Senior Advisor role and tasking her with leading the charge on the initiative. The plan includes cooperation with the courts, former inmates and various agencies, such as the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland, Department of Children’s Services, Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. In a statement regarding the plan, Lee said he intends to “improve public safety and reentry in our state.”
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U.S. Supreme Court Issues Decision Regarding Application of CAFA

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday handed down a 5-4 decision in the case of Home Depot v. Jackson regarding application of the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) and an alleged scam by the company in cooperation with Citibank, and Carolina Water Systems Inc. (CWSI) over questionable credit lines used to push water purification systems. One customer who purchased the system, George W. Jackson, was sued by Citibank for unpaid debt. Jackson then filed a counterclaim against Citibank asserting class-action consumer-protection claims, further naming Home Depot and CWSI as respondents. Citibank then tried to remove the case to federal court citing the CAFA, when the lower courts and the Fourth Circuit held that a party named in a counterclaim is not a “defendant” that is entitled to remove the case under the law. Justice Thomas joined with Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan to form the majority in affirming the Fourth Circuit judgment.

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U.S. Supreme Court Issues Partial Ruling Regarding Indiana Abortion Law

The Supreme Court today came to a compromise regarding facets of an Indiana abortion law that requires controlled disposal of “remains” but declined to take a position on a provision prohibiting women to opt for a procedure because of the sex, race, or prospective disability of the fetus, The Washington Post reports. Justices cited a previous ruling from 1983 maintaining that a state has a “legitimate interest in proper disposal of fetal remains,” determining that Indiana’s law is rationally related “even if it is not perfectly tailored to that end.” The court determined that it would not weigh in on the second issue until it is properly adjudicated by lower courts, noting that the 7th Circuit is the only appeals court to have considered the matter. The 7th Circuit previously ruled that provision is unconstitutional based on the fact that “nothing in the Fourteenth Amendment [of the Constitution] or Supreme Court precedent allows the state to invade this privacy realm to examine the underlying basis for a woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy.” Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor said that they would have upheld the 7th Circuit’s decision; however, Justice Clarence Thomas dissented calling the practice “eugenic abortions.”

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Juror in Pastor Rape Case Defends Judge Who Issued Ruling

A juror is defending Knox County Criminal Court Judge Steve Sword, who has come under fire for the 12-year sentence he handed out to a pastor convicted of rape and incest, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports.The juror, Bill Quillen, says that he was surprised by the backlash and wrote a letter to the News Sentinel stating "(Sword's) conduct of the trial and handling of the jury was impressive … his knowledge and experience are far deeper in what a proper sentence should be than the uninformed on social media where outrage seems to be the norm." Prosecutors in the case had sought the maximum for each charge to be served consecutively, amounting to 72 years. A petition calling for Sword's removal from the bench has garnered more than 14,000 signatures.
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Court to Consider Whether Shoplifting from Walmart Can be Considered Burglary

The Tennessee Supreme Court will consider whether shoplifting from Walmart stores more than once can be considered felony burglary instead of a shoplifting misdemeanor, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. This comes after a policy instituted by Knox County District Attorney General Charme Allen in 2016, which seeks to curb multiple offenses and was adopted by several other counties in the state. The Court of Criminal Appeals recently ruled that Allen’s policy is sound, further stating that once a shoplifter has been banned from the store in writing, consent of public patronage has been revoked. Criminals Appeals Judge Camille R. McMullen wrote a dissension saying: “Unlike an individual who owns a building closed to the public, a retail store such as Walmart does not have its privacy invaded and is not terrorized or personally violated when a banned individual commits the offense of shoplifting or theft within one of its stores … by charging individuals in this way, prosecutors are creating an enhanced penalty for shoplifters and petty thieves. The court has not yet set a hearing date.

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2019 Elder Law Forum, July 12

The 2019 Elder Law Forum on July 12 offers essential and practical material for elder law attorneys and those interested in the focus. This years program will feature timely topics such as updates in TennCare, uniform powers of attorney, recent changes to VA benefits, annuities, ethics and more. Don't miss this opportunity to connect with colleagues from across the state and catch up on the latest developments in the practice area.
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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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