courts

TN Supreme Court rejects AG request for eight early executions; schedules two for later this year

The Tennessee Supreme Court has denied the state attorney general’s request to move up eight execution dates before June 1, reports the Associated Press. Attorney General Herbert Slatery filed the requests Feb. 5 and cited “ongoing difficulty” getting lethal injection drugs.

The court on Thursday did set execution dates for two of the inmates, Oct. 11 for Edmund Zagorski, who was convicted of two murders, and Dec. 6 for David Earl Miller, who was convicted of murdering a mentally disabled woman.

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Judge rules special Nashville mayor election should be held Aug. 2

A judge Wednesday dismissed two lawsuits that sought to force an expedited special election for mayor in May, instead sticking with Aug. 2 as the date for choosing a successor to Megan Barry, who resigned in disgrace after pleading guilty to a felony.

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New TN courtroom security standards include ‘panic button,’ bullet proofing

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. ­– The Tennessee Judicial Conference and the Tennessee General Sessions Judges Conference have adopted new minimum courtroom security standards to promote the security and safety of the members of the judiciary, court personnel, and the public. The standards were last updated in the 1990s.

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Jury finds former Pilot Flying J president guilty of fraud, conspiracy and witness tampering

A federal jury Thursday convicted the former president Pilot Flying J, the nation’s largest diesel fuel retailer, in a plot to rip off truckers to boost both his own bottom line and that of the company, reports the News Sentinel.

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Former TVA manager gets probation in plot to provide nuclear info to China

A former senior manager for the Tennessee Valley Authority, recruited by an operative for the Chinese government seeking to buy information on American nuclear information, will avoid any time in prison for his activity, reports the News Sentinel.

Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan on Thursday turned aside a bid by federal prosecutors to have nuclear scientist Ching Ning Guey, 63, imprisoned and instead sentenced the former TVA executive to a three-year probationary term.

Guey was among a half dozen nuclear engineering experts working in the American nuclear power production industry who were recruited by operative Szuhsiung “Allen” Ho, 67, as part of what Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Atchley Jr., has called a plot by China to garner nuclear technological know-how the country was not allowed to access.

But Guey appears to be the only one of those experts who was charged, and court records indicate it was Guey who agreed to help prosecutors snare Ho, who has since confessed guilt and provided the U.S. government with intelligence on China’s nuclear production capabilities.Ho was sentenced last year to a two-year prison term.

Court records show Ho recruited Guey in 2013 to travel to the People’s Republic of China and, on China’s dime, speak at a “technological exchange” at which he disclosed three reports on nuclear safety analysis. He was paid $15,500, which he has since forfeited to the federal government, according to statements in court.

The reports he provided were not classified but fell under the regulatory auspices of a law that bars certain countries considered nuclear bad actors, including China, from gleaning without permission of the federal government.

Appeals court finds $250 DUI fine — used in financing TBI — unconstitutional

An appeals court has ruled unconstitutional a state law that requires every person convicted of DUI through a blood or breath test pay a fee that that helps fund the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, reports the Associated Press.

Tuesday’s ruling by the Court of Criminal Appeals in Knoxville says the $250 fee violates due process and calls into question the trustworthiness of test results obtained by the bureau’s forensic scientists. State law requires the money to go to the bureau’s intoxicant testing fund.

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TN Supreme Court rejects refund of liquor stores’ overpaid taxes

Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts

Nashville, Tenn. – In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that a taxpayer must pay disputed municipal taxes under protest before suing for a refund.

The city of Morristown, based on a state statute, adopted an ordinance imposing an inspection fee on licensed alcoholic beverage retailers. The city set the fee at 8 percent of the wholesale price based on the county’s population. By 2011, the county’s population increased, and under the ordinance, the inspection fee should have decreased to a maximum fee of 5 percent of the wholesale price. However, from 2011–2014, the city of Morristown continued to charge alcoholic beverage retailers 8 percent inspection fees instead of the authorized 5 percent fees.  Continue reading

New idea for AG selection: Supreme Court nominates, subject to General Assembly confirmation

A Republican senator said Monday he is revising his resolution that would change the Tennessee Constitution and put the General Assembly in charge of naming the state’s next attorney general, reports the Times Free Press.

Senate State and Local Committee Chairman Ken Yager, R-Kingston, said the move came after discussions with Sen. Art Swann, R-Maryville, who has an amendment to alter Yager’s proposed Senate Joint Resolution 88.

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Judge issues temporary injunction in Confederate statues lawsuit

An injunction issued by a judge Monday was “a partial, if unsurprising, win for the Sons of Confederate Veterans” in a lawsuit filed against Memphis Greenspace Inc., the nonprofit that recently removed Confederate statues from two former city parks, reports the Commercial Appeal.

 Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle barred the nonprofit from selling, gifting or moving the statues of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, President Jefferson Davis, and Capt. J. Harvey Mathes pending a “contested case hearing” before the Tennessee Historical Commission sometime within the next 60 days.

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U.S. Supreme Court rejects appeals of nine TN death row inmates; one execution set for Aug. 9

Press release from Administrative Office of the Courts

The Tennessee Supreme Court set an execution date of August 9, 2018, for Billy Ray Irick, who was convicted of the 1985 murder and rape of Paula Kay Dyer, age 7, in Knox County, Tennessee. The Court received notice from the State Attorney General on January 11, 2018, that the United States Supreme Court had denied the defendant’s appeal challenging the constitutionality of Tennessee’s lethal injection protocol. Under Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 12.4(E), the Court, on its own, may set a new execution date when a case with a previous execution date had stays or reprieves lifted or dissolved. Mr. Irick has had multiple previous execution dates.

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