Attorney For Justin Whaley Says State Failed To Turn Over Internal Affairs Report; Asks Bond, New Trial

  • Friday, April 12, 2024
Justin Whaley
Justin Whaley

The attorney for Justin Whaley said the state failed to turn over an Internal Affairs report about a key state witness in the recent vehicular homicide trial of the former EMT. Attorney Lee Davis said Whaley should get a new trial. He will also ask that he be allowed bond at a hearing on Monday before Judge Boyd Patterson.

Whaley was sentenced to serve nine years in state prison for the wrong-way traffic death of James Brumlow on July 2, 2018.

He had faced 8-12 years in prison after a Criminal Court jury found him guilty of vehicular homicide by intoxication and other charges.

Attorney Davis said on March 20, the DA's office disclosed that the "arresting officer and key state witness" Jeremy Wright "was subject to an internal affairs investigation in May of 2023 and found to be untruthful - just prior to the October trial."

The attorney said, "According to the Internal Affairs report, dated July 6, 2023, the District Attorney's Office was aware of this investigation before trial and did not disclose such information to the defense."

He said the information "qualifies as newly discovered evidence that may have affected the outcome in this case, had it been disclosed before trial."

Attorney Davis said Officer Wright was investigated by the Soddy Daisy Police Department after a complainant alleged that in 2018 he had shown her an inappropriate nude photograph of himself to her and a juvenile at a Planet Fitness gym.

He said an investigating officer with the Soddy Daisy Police Department contacted District Attorney Coty Wamp and provided the details of the accusation on May 25, 2023.

The attorney said Officer Wright denied having or showing any such photograph. However, "he later admitted to another superior officer that he did possess the photograph."

Attorney Davis said Officer Wright "allegedly showed a picture of his penis to a minor and her mother in 2018." 

The attorney said it was found that Officer Wright "had potentially engaged in off-duty misconduct and had been untruthful."

Attorney Davis said, "The credibility of Officer Wright was a significant issue both at trial and at pre-trial hearings. Had this newly discovered evidence of Officer Wright's untruthfulness been introduced, key blood alcohol evidence may have been suppressed, and the jury may have further questioned the officer's testimony related to impairment."

Judge Boyd Patterson said he agreed with several witnesses who said Whaley, of all people, should have known the dangers of drinking and driving after working many tragic wrecks in the very section where the accident happened on Highway 111.

Whaley was taken into custody after his conviction in late October of last year and has been in jail since.

Attorney Lee Davis said the defense is almost ready to file a motion for a new trial. A March 11 hearing date was set.

He said he believes the appeal has merit and asked that Whaley be allowed bond during the appeal. He said the appeal is expected to go to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals and could take a lengthy time. He said perhaps Whaley would have served the time prior to a final appeal ruling.

Whaley is eligible for parole consideration after serving 30 percent of the term.

Judge Patterson denied the bond request, but said Whaley would be kept in a local jail until the March 11 hearing.

Several Brumlow family members blasted Whaley and said they did not want to hear an apology from him. However, a sobbing Whaley said, "I am sorry from the bottom of my heart."

He said he had "spent my life helping people" only to make a mistake in judgment that took a life.

Whaley, who operates a shooting range in Van Buren County with 14 employees, said he thinks of the victim every day. He said, "I was the one who messed up. I know that. I have known that from the beginning. I should have been the one who died."

He said he plans to serve his sentence "with honor and dignity," then return to a career "of service to others."

His wife, Heather, said both families have been "devastated" by the tragedy. She said as soon as her husband learned the address of the victim's family he wrote them a letter of apology.

She said her husband "has told me many times that he wishes he was the one who was killed."

Brumlow family members described the victim as a loving family man with a sense of humor. His oldest son said his father was on his way to work a new job when he hit the Whaley vehicle head on at the bottom of Highway 111 just before the merger with U.S. 27.

He said he and other family members cannot get the vision of seeing the victim after the wreck out of their minds.

Of an apology, he said, "We could care less. We don't want to hear it."

Another son said he was away in the military when "I was pulled aside and told by a stranger that my father was dead."

He told the defendant, "You know better than anybody else what drinking and driving can do."

On the night prior to the wreck, Whaley had been with a friend tasting bourbon samples at the top of Retro Hughes Road. His plan was to sleep it off at the friend's house, but he woke up early and left the house shortly after 5 a.m. when it was still dark.

The victim's mother-in-law told Whaley, "I hope the rest of your life is a living hell.'

The baby sister of the victim said she was stocking at the Soddy Daisy Walmart when she encountered Whaley in the store. She said she went to the family bathroom "and I screamed." She said she saw him several times afterward and has suffered bouts of depression since.

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