Lee Davis: Supreme Court Upholds Trial Court’s Dismissal Of DUI Charges After Video Of Arrest Lost

Saturday, August 17, 2013
Lee Davis
Lee Davis
This was posted today on the TN Courts website.

The Tennessee Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, today upheld a trial court’s dismissal of DUI and other charges against a McMinnville woman because a video recording of the woman’s stop and arrest was lost.

In November 2010, a McMinnville police officer pulled over Angela M. Merriman because she veered into his lane of traffic from a center turn lane. After attempting to conduct several field sobriety tests, the officer placed Ms. Merriman under arrest. She told the officer she had taken a Valium and hydrocodone earlier that day. A camera in the police officer’s vehicle captured video of the traffic stop, the attempted field sobriety tests, and the arrest.


The officer referred to the video during his testimony at Ms. Merriman’s preliminary hearing. When defense lawyers sought access to the recording, however, they were told that the video was missing. Subsequently, Ms. Merriman filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that the State failed to preserve evidence that potentially could exonerate her.

The trial court granted the dismissal at a pre-trial hearing, applying a 1999 Tennessee case that sets forth the procedure for determining whether a trial conducted without the lost evidence would be fundamentally fair to the defendant. In this case, the trial court first determined that the State had an obligation to preserve the video of Ms. Merriman’s stop and arrest, applied the three remaining factors from the 1999 case, and concluded that it would not be fair to continue to trial without the video.

The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed, concluding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the charges.

In its Opinion released today, the Supreme Court upheld the dismissal, concluding that the State had a duty to preserve the video recording and failed in that duty when the video recording was lost. Because of the obligation to preserve evidence that could possibly clear Ms. Merriman of wrongdoing or assist in her defense, the Court then looked at the other three factors outlined in the 1999 case. It determined that the loss of the video recording resulted from simple negligence; the lost evidence had significance when considered in light of all the other evidence, and its loss prevented viewing the event as it had occurred; and the sufficiency of the other evidence was inconclusive. The Court determined that the loss of the evidence deprived Ms. Merriman of her right to a fair trial.

To read the majority opinion in State of Tennessee v. Angela Merriman, authored by Justice Janice M. Holder, visit the Opinionssection of TNCourts.gov.

(Lee Davis is a Chattanooga attorney who can be reached at lee@davis-hoss.com or at 266-0605.)


Covenant Transportation Has Increased Revenue For First Quarter

Covenant Transportation Group, Inc. announced Thursday financial and operating results for the first quarter ended March 31. Highlights for the quarter included the following: Total revenue of $167.2 million, an increase of 3.9 percent compared with the first quarter of 2014. Freight revenue of $143.3 million (excludes revenue from fuel surcharges), an increase of 13.5 ... (click for more)

Yoga East Wellness Center To Open Second Studio At Cambridge Square

Yoga East Wellness Center (Yoga East) will open a second location in Cambridge Square, a mixed-use community located at the corner of Ooltewah-Georgetown Road and Lee Hwy. in Ooltewah. Yoga East will be locating in what is now the 2500 square foot Beyoga Ooltewah studio. The proprietors of both studios worked together to facilitate the transition "We would first like to thank ... (click for more)

State Attorney General Says City Council Cannot Make Taxis Not Registered In Hamilton County Go Through Emissions Testing

The state attorney general's office has ruled that the City Council cannot require that taxis not registered in Hamilton County go through emissions testing. The city is dealing with the new Uber taxi service that has an out-of-town owner. Locally-owned cabs have to go through the annual emissions testing. The opinion says that local taxi owners cannot get around the emissions ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Area Bracing For Possibility Of Isolated Severe Storms, Tornadoes Not Ruled Out

The National Weather Service is feeling uncertain about today's weather pattern and has not ruled out the possibility of isolated, severe thunderstorms or an isolated tornado in our area. The greatest threat seems to be between 4 and 7 p.m. this evening. Below is the latest update: HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK...UPDATED NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MORRISTOWN TN 127 PM EDT SAT ... (click for more)

The Heart Of A Teacher Makes A Difference - And Response (2)

In less than four weeks, I expect to be one of 216 graduating seniors from East Hamilton School. One could say all possible variables help a student rise to the highest levels in school; but a student is more than his environment or genetic code. He is a mixture of his own propensity and dedication to academics, coupled with a systemic team of mentors who give their all as a student’s ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: FBI To Study ‘Lickers’

About 25 years ago there was a terrifying movie called “The Silence of the Lambs.” It was so good it won the Academy Awards in all five categories – Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Adapted Screenplay. Further, Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster were brilliant, but do you remember the third “star?” Scott Glenn played a character named “Jack Crawford,” the ... (click for more)