After reports last week that a convicted rapist who killed his wife was supposed to be on lifetime supervision, state corrections authorities have named a courts liaison to make sure such monitoring actually happens.
From the Chattanooga Times-Free Press: The liaison will work with judges and courts across the states to provide appropriate supervision for offenders, Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield said in a June 3 letter to department employees.
The liaison’s job will be “to lead education and implementation of our justice reinvestment initiative,” the letter stated. It described “justice reinvestment” as “our ongoing effort to ensure we do our part to manage the offender population through evidence-based practices and community alternatives.”
Mickie Daughtery, program director of the Davidson County Community Corrections Program, will fill the position June 17, the letter states.
— Terry Releford served most of a 17-year sentence on violent rape and assault charges before his release in 2012. Authorities knew he was mentally ill, and though state law said he should have been supervised for life by the Department of Correction, there was a paperwork slip-up, the Times Free Press reported last week.
No one was watching on May 19 when Releford, 34, beat his pregnant wife to death at their home near Soddy-Daisy and raped a teen girl before eluding authorities and shooting himself in a North Georgia motel room.
Sumner County Assistant District Attorney William Lamberth, who is campaigning for the 44th District seat on the State House of Representatives, is fuming over accusations from opponent Steven Glaser that he exchanged a reduced sentence in the Kenneth Lame murder case for campaign contributions, reports the Portland Leader.
“This is the type of made-up, political mud-slinging that turns people off to politics,” Lamberth said Tuesday evening after learning of a press release Glaser sent out to the media. “An open discussion of the issues that can strenghten our communities — like better, high-paying jobs, schools, and keeping taxes low — those are the things that I want to focus on as a candidate and a member of this community.”
Glaser, who refers to himself as a Judge, even though he is no longer the Judge for the City of Portland, has accused Lamberth of accepting $1,500 from a “convicted killer’s father and attorney before sentencing.”
Glaser states in his press release: “In November 2010, Kenneth Lame was arrested on the charge of shooting his wife on June 10, 2010. His trial was set for April 9, 2012 on charges of second degree murder…..On March 10th and 28th in 2012, donations were made to Mr. Lamberth from both Kenneth’s father and attorney. A week later, on April 5, 2012, the District Attorney’s office agreed to lessen Kenneth’s charge to criminal negligence….After nearly two years of preparing the evidence proving Kenneth’s guilt for second degree murder, the District Attorney’s office decided there was not enough to prove he intended to kill his wife. This was less than one week after a donation of $1,000 from Kenneth’s attorney was made to the Assistant District Attorney, William Lamberth. There is an appearance of impropriety that must be addressed.”
…Kenneth Lame was indicted in Nov. 2010 on charges of second degree murder in the death of his wife, Wendy White Lame, in June 2010; however, in a settlement plea, Lame pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and was sentenced to two years with a minimum of seven months to serve. He is currently serving his sentence in Morgan County Correctional Complex in Wartburg, Tenn.
“I think it’s reprehensible that Steve Glaser tried to score political points from a tragedy that destroyed two families,” Lamberth said. “There are nine assistant district attorneys in our office. I have cases that are assigned to me and I was never involved in the Lame case at any point. Furthermore, ADA Ron Blanton, who was assigned to the case, has no knowledge of who gives to my campaign or the day-to-day workings of my campaign. The two are entirely separate.”
— Note: The article doesn’t mention it, but Lamberth is the Republican nominee; Glaser the Democrat.
MADISONVILLE, Tenn. — Jessica Kennedy may not have killed Jim Miller, but she helped someone else do it.
That was the decision a jury reached Monday night in the case of the 2010 slaying of the 60-year-old chairman of the Monroe County Election Commission.
More from the News Sentinel: The jury deliberated for a little more than seven hours before returning verdicts of facilitation of felony murder, facilitation of aggravated robbery, facilitation of arson and facilitation of abuse of a corpse, all lesser included offenses of the original charges against her.
Miller was shot in the head three times, and his body stuffed into the trunk of his car, which was then set ablaze. The verdicts mean that Kennedy will not be facing life in prison, which she would have been had she been convicted of felony murder. The murder facilitation conviction carries a sentence of 15 to 25 years.
Kennedy burst into tears and hugged her attorney, John Eldridge, and other members of her defense team.
“Those were tears of relief,” Eldridge said.
Senior Judge Walter Kurtz set sentencing for Oct. 3 at 9 a.m.
Miller’s widow, Vickie Miller, left the courtroom without comment.
“This is not everything we wanted, but I feel they came back with as fair a verdict as they could,” said Miller’s daughter by a previous marriage, Mechelle Miller. “We want everybody responsible in this to pay, and we also want the truth.”
Authorities say other people were involved in the crime.
“Maybe this will give us an opportunity to find out who,” prosecutor Jim Stutts said.
Red Bank police now are investigating Red Bank’s first homicide of the year after a state representative’s father-in-law was gunned down in a robbery over the weekend and died this morning, said Chief Tim Christol.
More from the Chattanooga TFP: Winston Gant, who is Republican Rep. Gerald McCormick’s father-in-law, died at a local hospital.
Gant was shot one time outside his front door at his home and business, Gant’s Towing, at 2401 Briggs Ave. just before 1 a.m. on Saturday.
Gant was the father of McCormick’s wife, Kim G. McCormick, who is associate vice president academic support services for Chattanooga State.
“Our family is dealing with the tragic personal consequences of an apparent armed robbery perpetrated against my father-in-law that led to his death,” McCormick said in a statement.
…A woman, who was an employee and family friend, was also robbed of cash during the robbery. She was uninjured, Christol said.
The suspects are described as wearing dark clothing and leaving in a dark sedan. Outside of a robbery, it’s unclear what the motive was in the shooting.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in the shooting death of a man in east Knoxville.
Haslam announced the reward on Friday evening in the slaying of 40-year-old Robert “Ernie” Reno last November, WVLT-TV reported (http://bit.ly/xEthAP ).
Police said Reno was found dead from several bullet wounds outside a home on Selma Avenue just after midnight on Nov. 11.
Anyone with information should contact the Knoxville Police Department’s crime information line at 865-215-7212.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A former death row inmate may get a new trial after a state appeals court overturned his murder conviction 10 years after his death sentence was thrown out.
A panel of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, at Jackson, ruled on Friday that Erskine Johnson deserved a new trial after he presented new evidence that cast doubt on testimony of a key witness against him. Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich has asked the state attorney general’s office to appeal the ruling. That office still is reviewing the opinion.
Johnson was convicted in 1985 of killing Memphis grocery store manager Joe Belenchia during a robbery.
At trial, Johnson and several witnesses testified that he was in St. Louis attending a birthday party for his mother on the night of Oct. 1, 1983, and the morning of Oct. 2, when the shooting occurred.
In his appeal, Johnson presented evidence that his cousin, Elizabeth Starks, may have had reason to lie when she placed him at the crime scene in testimony. That is because Starks had strong connections to people who at one time were considered suspects in the case.
During previous appeals, Johnson presented other evidence that poked holes in the prosecution’s theory of the case and pointed to a different set of suspects. That included police reports showing that Johnson’s palm print may not have been in the getaway car, as argued at trial.
According to court records of a previous appeal, Johnson introduced “a police report showing that the Petitioner’s (Johnson’s) fingerprints did not match any of the fingerprints removed from the vehicle” and “a police report listing the places in the getaway car from which the prints were lifted, on which the location from where the Petitioner’s palm print was alleged to have been taken was not listed.”
The police reports had not been given to Johnson and his attorneys at the time of the original trial, as required by law.
The appeals court considered this evidence in 1999 but did not grant Johnson a new trial at that time. It concluded there was enough other evidence against him that it was unlikely the jury would have come up with a different verdict.
On Friday, the court ruled that the evidence previously presented, along with the new information of Starks’ relationship with other suspects in the case, was sufficient to merit a new trial.
The appeals court in 1999 did overturn Johnson’s death sentence. That ruling was based on another police report that was withheld from Johnson and his attorneys at the time of the original trial. The report found that Johnson could not have fired a bullet that grazed a 16-year-old bystander during the robbery.
The injury to the girl was used by prosecutors to establish one of the aggravating circumstances needed to sentence Johnson to death — that “the defendant knowingly created a great risk of death to two or more persons, other than the victim murdered, during his act of murder.”
In 2001, the state Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling on appeal, and Johnson was later resentenced to life in prison.
The decision Thursday to award new trials in one of Knoxville’s most horrific crimes has opened the floodgates for hundreds, maybe even thousands, of criminals to challenge their cases, reports Jamie Satterfield. Special Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood acknowledged as much when he ordered up new trials for the four defendants convicted in the January 2007 torture-slayings of University of Tennessee student Channon Christian, 21, and her boyfriend, Christopher Newsom, 23.
Referring to prosecutor Leland Price’s warning that overturning the cases based on “structural error” created by former Knox County Criminal Court Judge Richard Baumgartner’s own criminal behavior would put “thousands” of cases in jeopardy, Blackwood said in a hearing, “We’re going to have to fight that battle.”
Blackwood said a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probe of Baumgartner revealed the former judge confessed to a doctor in 2008 that he was a pill addict and had been committing crimes almost daily until that investigation forced him off the bench earlier this year.
News release from TBI:
Chattanooga, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation yesterday arrested the Meigs County Litter Control Officer after he paid an undercover TBI Special Agent to commit a murder. The investigation was worked over the last week by TBI, the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office and the 9th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office.
Jack “Jackie” Scroggins, 52, of Georgetown, Tenn. was charged with solicitation to commit first degree murder and booked into the Meigs County Jail without bond. Scroggins met with an undercover TBI agent twice to discuss details of the murder plot and paid him $1,000 as an advance payment and $100 for a gun to commit the murder. Scroggins was contracting to have his girlfriend’s ex-husband killed.
Scroggins has been employed with the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office for six years and was hired under the previous administration. He in is jail awaiting arraignment.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the state will issue a $5,000 reward to the person or persons providing information leading to the apprehension, arrest and conviction of any person who committed, attempted to commit or conspired to commit the homicide of Lorenzen Wright.
Additionally, the governor announced that the state will match up to $5,000 if any other organization offers a reward for a potential total of $10,000.
Haslam offered the reward in response to requests made by Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich and Memphis Mayor A. C. Wharton.
“It is my hope that this reward leads to information about who committed this crime,” Haslam said. “Lorenzen Wright’s family has been through a lot, and they deserve answers.”
Tennessee Code Section 40-8-101 authorizes the Governor to offer a reward for information leading to the apprehension, arrest and conviction of person involved in certain criminal activity.
Wright’s body was discovered on July 28, 2010 in southeast Shelby County. He played college basketball at the University of Memphis and was a former NBA player who played for the Memphis Grizzlies.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is offering three rewards in three separate cases for information leading to the apprehension, arrest and conviction of the person or persons who are criminally responsible in each case.
Haslam is offering a $10,000 reward in the case of Shelley Mook who was last seen on February 28 at the home of her ex-husband in Bedford County where she had taken her child. Several hours later, her car was discovered burning in Rutherford County. Authorities believe Mook is the victim of an aggravated kidnapping and/or intentional homicide. The governor is making the reward available at the request of District Attorney General for the 17th District Charles Crawford and the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office.
The second reward is for $10,000 in the case of Lydia Naomi Gutierrez who was stabbed and strangled in her apartment in Gallatin on August 12, 2010 while her two sons, ages 1 and 2, were there. Her third son, who was 8, found his mother’s body when he got home from school. Haslam is making the reward available at the request of District Attorney General for the 18th District Ray Whitley.
The third reward is for $5,000 for information leading to the whereabouts of Zaylee Grace Fryer, who was 4 months old at the time of her disappearance. The baby and her mother, Shauna Fryar, were reported missing from their home in Millersville on May 5. On May 7, the mother’s body was recovered from the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville around the area of the Shelby Street Bridge. Zaylee has not been seen since May 1, 2011. An Amber Alert was issued for her on May 10. The governor is making the reward available at the request of District Attorney General for the 18th District Ray Whitley.
“These are terrible crimes against women and children, and I hope these rewards will encourage anyone with information about any of these cases to contact the appropriate authorities immediately,” Haslam said.
Anyone with information on any of these cases is urged to call the TBI at 1-800-TBI-FIND.