Criminal

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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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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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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DCS to Reevaluate Policies After Shooting

The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) is reviewing its current policies regarding weekend home passes after a 16-year-old violent offender on furlough shot a man at a Nashville gas station, The Tennessean reports. David Earl Mays was charged with shooting the victim in the torso during an attempted carjacking as the man was getting gas. Mays — who was ordered into DCS custody for handgun possession, aggravated robbery and theft of $2,500 or more — had been cited for several infractions during his incarceration of just over six months, with the department noting he “continued to exhibit violent behavior” and transferring him to a more rigid facility  "due to disruptive behavior and involvement in several serious incidents.” Mays will be charged as an adult in the case of the shooting.

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House Passes Bill to Bypass CCA in Death Penalty Cases

The Tennessee State House last week passed legislation that removes the appeal to the Court of Criminal Appeals in death penalty cases, instead sending the cases straight to the Tennessee Supreme Court, The Commercial Appeal reports. The "Sgt. Daniel Baker Act" — named after a Dickson County sheriff's deputy killed in the line of duty — was proposed out of concerns that the current system drags out the death penalty process. Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge John Everett Williams said of the bill: "We are not the reason these cases are taking 30 years,” further stating that the cases are given priority and are normally handled in a three to five-month timeframe. The legislation is still being considered by the Senate.
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Grundy Co. Sheriff Advocates New Trial for Adam Braseel

Grundy County Sheriff Clint Shrum last week joined others in requesting a new trial for a man serving a life sentence for a 2006 murder, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Adam Braseel was convicted of killing Malcolm Burrows solely on witness testimony even though no physical evidence tied him to the scene of the crime. Attorneys for Braseel maintain that the eyewitnesses mistook him for another man, Kermit Bryson, who not only bears a striking resemblance to Braseel, but his fingerprints were found at the crime scene as well, a fact Sheriff Shrum said led him to press for a new trial. A judge previously threw out Braseel's conviction in 2015, however, the Court of Criminal Appeals overruled that decision and ordered Braseel back to prison.

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Man Arrested for 46-Year-Old Monroe County Murder Seeks Bond, Name of Accuser

The lawyer for a Monroe County man arrested last month for the 1973 killing of John Raymond Constant has asked that a bond is set for his client and that the state release the name of its secret witness, arguing that his client has the right to face his accuser, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. Max Benson Calhoun is accused of killing Constant — who was a rumored runner for the “Dixie Mafia" — leaving his truck riddled with bullet holes and shooting him at least 17 times with a high-powered rifle or machine gun. There was previously an arrest regarding the case in 1982 after a witness provided testimony under hypnosis, which did not materialize in court and the charges were subsequently dismissed. No trial date has yet been set in Calhoun’s case.

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Don't Sleep, Space is Limited: Criminal Law Basics 2019 and Prison Tour

The Tennessee Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section will hold its annual Criminal Law Basics Forum at the Tennessee Bar Center on May 22. 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. Here are the key details:
 
When: Wednesday, May 22, registration at 8 a.m., CDT; prison tour at 2 p.m., CDT
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave N.; Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, 7475 Cockrill Bend Blvd, Nashville
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