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.


Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: AKINS, JAMIE ALISON  3906 MURRAY HILL DRIVE CHATTANOOGA, 37416  Age at Arrest: 50 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County VIOLATION OF PROBATION ( DOMESTIC ASSAULT) VIOLATION OF PROBATION (DOMESTIC ASSAULT ) VIOLATION OF PROBATION ( DOMESTIC ASSAULT ) --- BENNINGTON, MICHELLE DEANNE  ... (click for more)

Sevier County Couple Charged In Child's Death

A joint investigation by s pecial agents with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Gatlinburg Police Department has resulted in the indictment of a Sevier County couple in connection with the death of their child. On July 14, at the request of 4th District Attorney General James Dunn, TBI special agents joined the Gatlinburg Police Department in investigating the circumstances ... (click for more)

Do Something To Protect Our Children

It is unconscionable in this day and age that these children had to exist in such deplorable conditions and that an innocent baby suffered and died alone in a locked car.  Yes, there is blame and accountability considering this family had child neglect charges filed a few years ago (that were apparently dropped and expunged) and a large part of the responsibility should ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Chik-fil-A Commits To East Ridge And Camp Jordan Development

In less than three weeks after a plan that could enhance Camp Jordan in East Ridge was announced, it has been learned that a Chik-fil-A restaurant will break ground at Jordan Crossing this fall. While developers John Healy, Matt Woods and Ethan Woods cannot make a public comment, the news is every bit as profound as James Earl Jones saying, “If you build it, they will come,” in ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Team Wins 17U Division I AAU National Championship

Team NLP(TN) from Chattanooga won the 17U Division I AAU National Championship on Sunday with a 61-56 victory over the Miami Runnin' Rebels. The game was televised on ESPN. Team NLP(TN) program is coached by Brainerd High School Assistant Coach, Steve Cook Jr (Chattanooga Christian High School graduate), while E'Jay Ward (Brainerd High School graduate) serves as his assistant ... (click for more)

Lookouts Rally Falls Short In Sunday's 6-4 Loss At Mobile

MOBILE, Ala.  -- Sherman Johnson hit a two-run double in the second inning, and Alberto Triunfel singled three times as the Mobile BayBears topped the Chattanooga Lookouts 6-4 on Sunday.  Trailing 6-1, the Lookouts rallied for three runs in the eighth inning but that would be all for the night. Lookouts starting pitcher Felix Jorge (8-2) was shelled for the second ... (click for more)