Supreme Court Rules Constitutional Protection Will Not Apply Retroactively To Guilty Plea

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Tennessee Supreme Court has declined to set aside a 13-year-old guilty plea in which the defendant was never told the full extent of his punishment. In doing so, the Court determined that a statute passed in 1995 severely limited the ability of prisoners and parolees to obtain the benefit of newly recognized constitutional rights.

Derrick Brandon Bush pleaded guilty to sexual attempt crimes in Sumner County in 2000. His plea bargain called for a sentence of one year of confinement followed by seven years of probation.

A Tennessee law also required that Mr. Bush be placed on lifetime community supervision, a type of parole. However, neither the trial judge nor Mr. Bush’s attorney informed him of this additional sentence. The sentence was added to judgment forms that Mr. Bush did not see until he finished his time in jail.

In 2010, the Supreme Court held in Ward v. State that a failure to inform a criminal defendant that his guilty plea would result in automatic lifetime supervision was a constitutional violation that could invalidate a guilty plea. Relying on this new ruling, Mr. Bush filed a petition for post-conviction relief in 2011 and asked the trial court to set aside his conviction. Under Tennessee’s post-conviction law, however, Mr. Bush could only receive the benefit of the Ward decision if the Ward decision applied retroactively to old convictions.

In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court held that its Ward decision did not apply retroactively. The Court pointed out that retroactivity decisions in post-conviction cases should be decided using a 1995 law that limited the types of cases that should be applied retroactively.  Because the Ward decision did not meet this law's standards, it should not be applied retroactively.

To read the Opinion in Derrick Brandon Bush v. State of Tennessee, authored by Justice William C. Koch Jr., visit the Opinions section of

Northwest Georgia’s Unemployment Rate Unchanged At 5.6 Percent In October

The Georgia Department of Labor announced on Thursday that the unemployment rate in the Northwest Georgia region in October was 5.6 percent, unchanged from September. The rate in October 2014 was 6.8 percent. While the rate was unchanged, the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance rose by 741, or 29.1 percent, to 3,291 in October. Most of the increase was due ... (click for more)

October 2015 County Unemployment Rates

County unemployment rates for October 2015, released Wedesday, show the rates decreased in 90 counties, increased in four, and remained the same in one county. Specific county information for October is available on the Internet .   Davidson County had the state’s lowest major metropolitan rate in October at 4.2 percent, down from September’s rate of 4.6 percent. Knox ... (click for more)

Shots Fired From Vehicle; Police Locate Car And Arrest 5 Youths With Guns

Chattanooga Police said shots were fired from a vehicle on Friday afternoon, then officers located the vehicle and arrested five youths with guns.   That comes after a spate of shooting violence in which two women were killed and several other people injured by bullets.   Just after 4 p.m. Friday,  officers with the Chattanooga Police Department responded ... (click for more)

City Considering Measure That Would Require City Employees To Be Tennessee Residents

The City Council is considering an ordinance that would require city employees to be residents of the state of Tennessee. The city has employees who live in North Georgia and North Alabama and that is allowed.  If the ordinance is approved by the City Council, it still would need to be okayed by a majority of city voters in an election. The measure will be considered ... (click for more)

An Extra Helping Of Gratitude

After being thankful for the grace of God, my family and good health, this year I have an extra helping of gratitude to live in a special place called Chattanooga.   We endured the trauma of terrorism on July 16 and emerged more united and stronger than ever before.  We claim our heritage and celebrate our diversity like no other city in America.  We honor our ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: We Can’t ‘Ban The Box’

I know a man who has over 20 former convicts from federal prisons who either work for him or who have retired with their dignity, pride, and self-worth restored. Better yet, I know some of them, men who have done “hard time” in prisons so wretched none of us would dare to go. So on the surface I applaud City Councilman Yusef Hakeem for seeing ways to get formerly incarcerated men ... (click for more)