courts

Haslam goes against parole board, exonerates man in 1978 rape conviction

Press release from Gov. Bill Haslam

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today issued the following statement on the exoneration of Lawrence McKinney:

“Today I granted Lawrence McKinney’s request for gubernatorial exoneration from his 1978 convictions. Though the facts of this case are complex and reasonable minds may draw different conclusions from them, ultimately I respect the determinations of the Shelby County Criminal Court and District Attorney General that Mr. McKinney was not guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted and would not have been prosecuted if the DNA testing results had been available at the time of trial. Mr. McKinney was released after more than 30 years in prison when the court set aside his convictions in 2009.

“In the eyes of the judicial system, Mr. McKinney is innocent. While I appreciate the hard work and recommendations of the Board of Parole, in this case I defer to the finding of the court charged with determining Mr. McKinney’s guilt or innocence.”

McKinney, 61, was convicted of rape and burglary in Shelby County. had his record expunged after his release from prison where he spent 31 years.

Further, from The Tennessean:

Although he was out of prison and had his record expunged, McKinney still sought an executive exoneration from the governor to enable him to file for compensation with the Tennessee Board of Claims.

McKinney had the support from state Rep. Mark Pody, Pastor John Hunn of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lebanon and attorneys Jack Lowery and David Raybin in his efforts.

…The Tennessee Board of Parole voted unanimously against recommending exoneration for McKinney in 2016. At the time, at least one parole board member questioned the completeness of the DNA evidence that cleared McKinney. 

The governor is not bound to follow that recommendation and can either grant, deny or choose not to act on an executive clemency request.

TN Supremes give Dad custody of kids after Mom’s move to Moonlight Bunny Ranch

Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – In a case involving the custody of two minor children, the Tennessee Supreme Court determined that Father had established that a material change of circumstances had occurred and that it was in the children’s best interests for Father to be designated as the primary residential parent.  The Court also reviewed the Court of Appeals’ immediate issuance of the mandate and its order for custody to be transferred from Father to Mother within twenty days.

Continue reading

Judge’s law license suspended; legislator says no impeachment plans ‘at this time’

State Rep. Gary Hicks, R-Rogersville, tells the Kingsport Times News he has no plans “at this time” to launch impeachment proceedings against Hawkins County Juvenile Court Judge Daniel Boyd, whose license to practice law has been suspended because of acknowledged “dishonesty.”

Continue reading

Court of Appeals rules for TV station in DA’s libel lawsuit

The state Court of Appeals has unanimously overturned a lower court ruling that would have required  Nashville TV station WTVF and reporter Phil Williams to turn over documents related to reporting on Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk, who has filed a libel lawsuit.

Continue reading

TN Supreme Court: You can’t claim self-defense if ‘engaged in unlawful activity’

Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – The Supreme Court of Tennessee clarified the law of self-defense when the person making the claim is engaged in unlawful activity at the time the need for self-defense occurred. This clarification is important because some trial courts have not allowed defendants to assert self-defense when it appeared they were engaged in unlawful activity at the time they used force to defend themselves.

Continue reading

Judge gets reprimand for granting jail sentence reductions for vasectomies

White County General Sessions Jud Sam Benningfied has been reprimanded by the state Board of Judicial Conduct for offering jail inmates 30 days off their time behind bars for getting vasectomies or birth control implants, reports The Tennessean.

Bennifield’s order authorizing sentence reductions for long-term birth control measures was issued in May and rescinded in July after protests. It has led to at least two lawsuits against the judge and the White County sheriff, who oversees the jail in Sparta.

A letter posted on the Board’s public website (HERE) says the judge’s actions threatened confidence in the judicial system.

Continue reading

TN Supreme Court affirms death sentence in Memphis triple murder

Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Supreme Court has affirmed the convictions and sentences of death for Sedrick Clayton for the murders of Arithio, Patricia, and Pashea Fisher and the conviction for attempted murder of A’Reco Fisher in Memphis.

Continue reading

State Supreme Court considers using nationwide test for TN lawyers

Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Board of Law Examiners has filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Tennessee to adopt the Uniform Bar Examination (UBE), which would be a major change in the portability of bar exam results for aspiring Tennessee attorneys. The UBE is a nationwide test that has been adopted by 28 states and allows takers to transfer scores between states.

Continue reading

Court of Appeals upholds removal of Confederate names from Memphis parks

The state Court of Appeals in Jackson, affirming a February ruling by the Shelby County Chancery Court, has ruled that the City of Memphis had the legal authority to rename despite contentions to the contrary from the Sons of Confederate veterans, reports the Commercial Appeal.

In 2013, the city parks changed the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest Park to Health Sciences Park, renamed Confederate Park as Memphis Park and declared the former Jefferson Davis Park to be known as Mississippi River Park.

Lee Millar, a spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans Nathan Bedford Forrest Camp No. 215, said the group is a digesting the 18-page ruling it received Wednesday and has yet to decide whether to appeal the court’s decision to the state Supreme Court.

“They’ve been known for their history and historic naming for decades and decades,” Millar said of the parks. “They shouldn’t be frivolously renamed. They’re part of our history — Memphis’ history as well as America’s history.”

Wednesday’s ruling doesn’t affect the city’s legal efforts to remove a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest or the graves of he and his wife from Health Sciences Park. The city still plans to argue for the statue’s removal in Davidson County Chancery Court in November following the state Historical Commission’s Oct. 13 rejection of a waiver.

Note: The full Court of Appeals decision is HERE.

TN Supreme Court seeks pay raise for indigent attorneys

News release from Administrative Office of the  Courts

Nashville, Tenn. ­– The Tennessee Supreme Court, acting on recommendations from its Indigent Representation Task Force, is taking action to reform the state’s method for providing legal assistance to individuals who are unable to afford an attorney.

“The task force confirmed what many of us already suspected: The system needs major reforms,” said Chief Justice Jeff Bivins. “While no perfect solution exists, the Court believes the improvements we commit to today will move the state toward a more efficient, effective means of providing this representation that our federal and state constitutions guarantee.”

Continue reading