State Supreme Court Sends Case Back To Trial Court After Facebook Interaction

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Tennessee Supreme Court has held that a trial court erred by failing to follow appropriate procedures after learning that a juror contacted a witness via Facebook during a murder trial.

William Darelle Smith was charged with the 2007 shooting death of Zurisaday Villanueva. During Smith’s trial in 2010, Dr. Adele Lewis, an assistant medical examiner, testified about the cause of death. Following her testimony, one of the jurors, Glenn Scott Mitchell, communicated with Dr. Lewis through her Facebook account. Mr. Mitchell and Dr. Lewis were acquaintances, and Mr. Mitchell complimented Dr. Lewis on her testimony.

Dr. Lewis informed the trial judge of these communications while the trial was still underway. Rather than taking immediate action, the trial judge informed the attorneys of the communication and sentenced Smith after the jury returned a guilty verdict. The trial court also denied Smith’s request to question the jury before they it the courthouse and later denied Smith’s request for a new trial because of these communications. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Smith’s conviction and life sentence.

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the trial court and the Court of Criminal Appeals regarding the communications between Dr. Lewis and Mr. Mitchell. The Court decided that when communications between a juror and a third party are brought to a trial court’s attention, the trial court must immediately inform the parties and conduct a hearing on the record to establish the nature and extent of the improper communications and to determine whether the communications affected the outcome of the trial. The Court sent the case back to the trial court to conduct a proper hearing.

To read the State v. William Darelle Smith  Opinion, authored by Justice William C. Koch, Jr., visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov.



Hixson Burglary Suspect Tries To Swim Away; Deputies Catch Him In Borrowed Boat

A Hixson burglary suspect on Wednesday tried to swim away from deputies, but to no avail.   The proprietor of Chattanooga Fish and Fun was notified when his camera system was triggered by an individual attempting to break into his business. The owner immediately contacted the Sheriff's Office and drove to the business location.   As deputies arrived on scene, ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: AGNEW, JOHN ROBERTSON  209 Old Mountain Rd Chattanooga, 37409  Age at Arrest: 23 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga DOMESTIC ASSAULT/AGGRAVATED --- ANGUS, WILLIAM DEAN  7 CENTRAL AVENUE TULLAHOMA, 37388  Age at Arrest: 35 years old Arresting Agency: Chattanooga Booked for ... (click for more)

Stormwater Fiasco And East Ridge Camping

When did the Chattanooga City Council get replaced by members of the East Ridge City Council? I don't recall a time in Chattanooga where they've voted to shoot the city in the foot more than they have lately.  If this goes through despite the environmental impact warnings and then Camp Jordan has increased flooding after spending millions on sports ball fields, ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Why I Am Thankful

You would think that after 40 years of publishing an annual list of things for which I am thankful, I’d be getting to the bottom of it, but it seems the older I get I have found I appreciate so much more around me. I take absolute delight in planting a flower, feeding the birds and throwing a ball for my dog. I find that the more people who I come to know the more who I come to ... (click for more)

Vandy Offers Vols Last Chance To Wipe Some Misery From 2017

Tennessee’s football season from hell comes to a mind-numbing conclusion on Saturday when the limping Vols take on a crippled Vanderbilt at Neyland Stadium at 4 p.m. in a game some network boob in a dark, smokey room in Birmingham, Alabama, decided was good enough to be televised by the SEC Network. Each of the longtime bitter rivals is 4-7 overall and a dismal 0-7 in conference ... (click for more)

JOHN HUNT: Thanksgiving 2017 Special As Always

I can’t believe it’s that time again.  Another year has come and gone and where did it all go? My father once told me that time really flies as you get older and I’m starting to believe him. But we’re back to one of my favorite holidays of the year – Thanksgiving – and I’m looking forward to spending quality time with family and friends.  I’m sure that I’ll eat too ... (click for more)