Justice

Matthew Charles Interviewed by NBC Nightly News After Second Release from Prison

Matthew Charles — the man who was released from prison, then sent back pending appeal of his case  — was interviewed by NBC Nightly News on Tuesday, making his first public remarks since being re-released, NBC News reports. Charles was convicted in 1996 for selling crack and illegal possession of a firearm, labeled a “career offender” because of prior criminal convictions, then sentenced to 35 years in prison. A federal judge granted Charles early release in 2016; however, prosecutors appealed that decision and he was subsequently returned to prison around two years later. His case became part of the national discourse on criminal justice reform after attention from members of Congress and celebrities including Kim Kardashian West, and is believed to be the first person released because of the First Step Act.

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Kentucky City Clerk Wanted for Embezzlement Arrested in Sevier County

A former Kuttawa city clerk, wanted for stealing money from the Kentucky town’s coffers, was arrested in Sevier County last week after being on the run for months, the Kentucky New Era reports. Katie Harrison stopped showing up for work in July after financial irregularities were discovered in the office's bookkeeping. Harrison surrendered after her husband, Clayton Harrison was pulled over for an inoperable brake light and arrested for fraud. Both husband and wife are being held in the Sevier County Jail awaiting extradition.

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Man Credits Blount County Recovery Court for Saving His Life

A Blount County man credits the county’s innovative recovery court program for saving his life, according to an article in the Citizen Tribune. Daniel McQueen said that he was using from $400 – $500 of heroin a day, stealing credit cards, cars, or anything else of value to feed his habit. A judge at the Blount County Recovery Court sentenced McQueen to complete the court’s strictly regimented addiction treatment program, offered as an alternative to incarceration and he has been sober since. The program has been successful in Blount County, which plans to build a new “transition center,” to house hundreds more entering recovery through the criminal justice system. Recovery Court Judge Tammy Harrington said that she has seen hardened, long-term offenders complete the program and achieve sobriety.

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TBA Criminal Justice Section to Host Lunch Following Forum

The TBA Criminal Justice Section will host a networking luncheon following the Dec. 7 Criminal Justice Forum. This lunch will provide the opportunity for Criminal Justice Section members, judges, law students and attendees of the program to meet section leadership and attorneys who share a similar focus. There is no charge for this luncheon and parking will be validated. Attendance of the program is not required. Please RSVP to jword@tnbar.org to reserve your spot.

When: Friday, Dec. 7, 12:45 p.m., CST
Where:  Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
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Senate Republicans Discuss Changes to Criminal Justice Reform Bill

Senate Republicans are discussing changes to the FIRST STEP Act, the initial bill regarding a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. criminal justice system, The Washington Post reports. Among the changes being discussed are narrowing fentanyl-related crimes to ameliorate mandatory minimum sentences in some cases, narrowing the “safety valve” provision, which provides more discretion to judges when issuing sentences and nixing the “stacking” regulation, which would add more penalties to those who commit a drug-related crime while possessing a gun, even if the firearm wasn’t used. President Trump has made criminal justice reform one of his top legislative priorities, a measure that has to date received bipartisan support.

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Tennessee Death Row Inmate Must Choose Execution Method This Afternoon

Tennessee death row inmate David Earl Miller must choose death by lethal injection or electric chair by this afternoon, The Times Free Press reports. Miller was convicted and sentenced to death for the gruesome murder of Lee Standifer, a mentally handicapped woman he had been dating at the time. Though lethal injection is the preferred method of execution in Tennessee, those convicted prior to 1999 can still opt for the chair. Miller's execution is set for Dec. 6.

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Save the Date: TBA Criminal Law Forum

The TBA Criminal Justice Section will present its annual Criminal Law Forum on Dec. 7 at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville. This year's program will feature timely topics such as DNA forensics, the interplay between criminal and immigration law, attorney well-being and more. Following the program we will have a reception, providing networking opportunities for attendees and Criminal Justice Section members. Stay tuned for more details.

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TBI Public Information Officer Accused of Destroying Government Record Resigns

A public information officer with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) in West Tennessee has resigned following an internal investigation into former acting TBI director Jason Locke, The Tennessean reports. Micheal Jones is accused of improperly destroying a government record after deleting a private Facebook message sent to TBI from Locke's wife, alleging the misuse of state funds. Jones, who had been on the job for less than a year was placed on administrative leave on June 26, oversaw public affairs for 21 counties in the West Tennessee region.

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White Supremacy was Possible Motive in Murder of Murfreesboro Man

Rutherford County jail intercepted a letter from an inmate charged with the fatal burning of a black man earlier this year that details white supremacy as a possible motive, the Daily News Journal reports. Prosecutors are investigating the case to determine if hate crime sentencing enhancement could be applied to the first-degree murder charge against John Daniel Carothers for the killing of 40-year-old Robert Miller in March. A Murfreesboro police detective testified at an Aug. 8 court hearing that jailers decided to intercept and read Carothers' letter after Googling the organization — the American Institute of Theology — to which the mail was addressed. Carothers was previously convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 and later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in 2011 after allegations of second-degree murder in another case. 

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Brian Benczkowski Confirmed to Lead the Justice Department’s Criminal Division

The Senate on Wednesday voted 51 to 48 to confirm President Trump’s nominee Brian Benczkowski to lead the Justice Department’s criminal division, amidst the objection of Democrats who expressed concern regarding his representation of a Russian bank and lack of prosecutorial experience, reports The Washington Post. Benczkowski once represented Alfa Bank — a Russian firm that was referenced in a dossier containing allegations about Trump, his advisers and their possible Russian connections — at the request of a partner in his firm, Kirkland & Ellis. Benczkowski told lawmakers he would recuse himself from any matters involving the bank for two years and would permanently step aside from any matters that touched on his work for the institution.

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