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.
Roger Nell, Section Chair, District Public Defender’s Office, Clarksville
Lynne Ingram, Ingram Law, Nashville
Andy Roskind, Pratt Aycock, Knoxville
Mark Fulks, Baker Donelson, Johnson City
Melanie Reid, LMU Duncan School of Law, Knoxville
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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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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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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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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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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