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.


Walker County Arrest Report For Nov. 17-23

Here is the Walker County arrest report for Nov. 17-23: SLAUGHTER KANDICE SHAUNTA W/F 30 Officer SUMMERS *** BYRD BENJAMIN DAVID W/M 31 PROBATION PROBATION VIOLATION(F) PRUITT JENNIER LYNN W/F 24 Officer MILLER FAILURE TO APPEAR (F) CAL NAJEE MARIE B/F 25 Officer SUMMERS *** HOOPER KELLY DENISE W/F 36 Officer TAYLOR ... (click for more)

Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report - And Mug Shots

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: AGNEW, JOHN ROBERTSON 1717 WHITEOAK ROAD APARTMENT B5 CHATTANOOGA, 37415 21 Hamilton County DISORDERLY CONDUCT POSSESSION OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE BAGGETT, DREW ELI 10873 WARD ROAD SODDY DAISY, 37379 23 Hamilton County SEAT BELT LAW VIOLATION BONNER, JAMES ROBERT 116 SWEETLAND DRIVE ... (click for more)

Don't Be Quick To Discard Common Core

Let's not be too quick to discard Common Core. A recent article in the Tennessean on  Sunday detailed Common Core successes the Kingsport, Tennessee school system.  I encourage you to read it.  The article also noted that Tennessee was recently ranked as one of the fastest improving states in education after implementing portions of the Common Core curriculum ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: UVa --Time For Change

The University of Virginia is, by any measure, one of the finest universities in the world. I have long admired it, whether covering dozens of sports events, cavorting with countless friends, or benefitting repeatedly from the surgical skills of the late world-class humanitarian Frank McCue. But today there is a terrible pall over “Mr. Jefferson’s university” – no, make that a ... (click for more)

Football Mocs Receive No. 8 Seed For FCS Playoffs

The hugs, high fives and first pumps by the Tennessee at Chattanooga football players late Sunday morning let everyone know in Moc Nation that the Blue and Gold had received a highy-coveted seed and would be hosting a second round NCAA FCS playoff game Dec 6 at Finley Stadium at 1 p.m. "When the television announcers called our name as the No.8 seed (out of eight ... (click for more)

Missouri Hangs On, Turns Back Tennessee, 29-21

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Missouri pin-pricked Joshua Dobbs’ bubble of invincibility Saturday night at Neyland Stadium. The nationally ranked Tigers drove a stake in Tennessee’s heart with Maty Mauk’s 73-yard touchdown pass to Jimmie Hunt in the fourth quarter, held Dobbs in check most of the game and beat the Vols, 29-21, before 95,821 fans on a chilly night on the banks of the Tennessee ... (click for more)