- Law Cases
by Sharon Rondeau
(Nov. 26, 2013) — The Post & Email can exclusively report that the Tennessee state attorney general’s office has stated on the record that the “foreperson” of all grand juries in Tennessee is IS NOT A JUROR as Tennessee state statutes require.
In December of last year, CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III was convicted in the Monroe County, TN Criminal Court of “tampering with government records,” with Judge Walter C. Kurtz presiding.
Defense Attorney Van Irion submitted an appeal in the case of State of Tennessee v. Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III protesting CDR Fitzpatrick’s innocence. One of Irion’s points was that the grand jury foreman had over-served her legal term of one year. Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) states that following their service on any jury in the state, jurors cannot be resummoned for a minimum of 24 months.
This past September, in his official capacity as Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Justice Division, Kyle Hixson responded to the Fitzpatrick appeal, writing a brief on the state’s behalf of which The Post & Email first came into possession last Thursday afternoon.
At the bottom of page 13 of his brief, Assistant Attorney General Hixson wrote:
“…the foreman of the grand jury is not ‘impaneled’ from the ‘summoned’ members of the ‘jury pool.’ See Tenn Code Ann. §§ 22-2-306, -307, and -310. The foreperson is ‘appoint[ed]’ by the trial court. Tenn. R. Crim. P. 6(g)(1). As such, section 314, by its terms, does not apply to the appointment process of the grand jury foreperson.”
The state’s entire argument can be read here: HIXSON BRIEF
Section 314 reads as follows:
“22-2-314. Limitation on jury service.
“A juror who has completed a jury service term shall not be summoned to serve another jury service term in any court of this state for a period of twenty-four (24) months following the last day of such service; however, the county legislative body of any county, may, by majority vote, extend the twenty-four-month period.”
Hixson clearly reports that grand jury forepersons do not come from the “jury pool,” are never “summoned” to jury duty, are never “impaneled” as a jurors, and never subject to state laws which deal with jurors and jury duty. Simply stated, Hixson affirms on behalf of the State of Tennessee that grand jury forepersons are never jurors.
However, Tennessee state law commands exactly the opposite: Tennessee statutes say that grand jury forepersons must always be jurors.
Tennessee state law, as tailored and refined by the Rules for Criminal Procedure, require that thirteen (13) jurors (or members) populate all state grand juries.
Hixson has now said, in clear terms in a statement against the state’s self-interest, that criminal court judges add a non-juror to the grand jury by their selection of the foreman. The 12 jurors plus one non-juror combination consequently leaves Tennessee grand juries one short of the lawfully-mandated requirement of thirteen (13) jurors. This has been and remains the case for decades.
Tennessee state law requires that all state residents, in the process of becoming jurors, must initially be randomly selected into the jury pool. From that pool, a smaller number of individuals are randomly selected to be issued summonses to report to the courtroom on a particular day, at which time jurors for the grand jury and trial juries are selected in but a third process of random selection.
In each of these three random selection rounds, the process used must be one that does not allow for the possibility of “human intervention.”
The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference describes the grand jury as:
…a group of thirteen citizens chosen from the jury panel. One of these thirteen is the fore person and will preside over the grand jury.
Assistant Attorney General Hixson now reports that criminal court judges have always been permitted to install a handpicked non-juror foreman, that is, to “appoint” the foreman from, as Monroe County Court Clerk Martha M. “Marty” Cook has said, “from wherever they choose because the state laws that apply to jurors do not apply to non-jurors.
As readers of The Post & Email are already aware, Fitzpatrick’s challenges to the scope and operation of Tennessee grand juries arose upon his discovery in 2010 that the Monroe County, Tennessee grand jury foreman, Gary Pettway, had held that position since 1982, a period of twenty-eight (28) consecutive years. Moreover, there was no appointing order or evidence that Pettway had ever been duly sworn in.
Fitzpatrick placed Pettway under citizen’s arrest in April 2010. State law enforcement officials ignored Fitzpatrick’s complaint and arrested Fitzpatrick instead. The Monroe County grand jury then indicted Fitzpatrick for attempting to intimidate a juror, Gary Pettway.
Fitzpatrick has demonstrated that the grand juries and trial juries in Tennessee are unduly influenced by prosecutors, grand jury foremen, and court personnel and contaminated by jurors serving consecutive terms in violation of state law (TCA 22-2-314). In one case in Davidson County, a grand jury foreman chosen by a judge was discovered to be a convicted felon, which violates Tennessee statute and required the review of approximately 800 cases over which the illegally-serving foreman had presided.
Grand jury foremen in Monroe County are reportedly “picked from wherever” the judge “chooses” by means of an unknown vetting process. Throughout Tennessee, grand jury foremen have served for decades or multiple times with occasional breaks in service.
Tennessee Code Annotated provides no special selection process for the grand jury foreman.
Grand jury tampering and judicial misconduct have been reported to The Post & Email in Campbell County, Roane County, Sevier County, and Madison County. Crimes against District Attorney General R. Steven Bebb of the Tenth Judicial District have been alleged but dismissed by Tennessee Attorney General Robert E. Cooper, Jr., although members of the Tennessee General Assembly are working to remove Bebb from his post.
Now, for the first time ever, Kyle Hixson explains that (1) Gary Pettway was never a juror, resulting in (2) the law limiting jury service does not apply to grand jury forepersons such as Pettway, and (3) judicially “appointed” Tennessee residents are allowed to serve in a career position as a county employee called the “grand jury foreman.”
Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) 40-12-206 is the only state statute which details the composition of every Tennessee state grand jury. The law commands that all grand juries be populated with thirteen (13) jurors (members) and up to five (5) alternates. The law does not provide for the judicial appointment of a “foreman” into a Tennessee grand jury.
The same law makes no distinction among the jurors (members). There is no distinction or separate-identity, non-juror “foreman.”
The process by which all jurors are to be selected is described as (1) Randomly populate the “jury pool,” (2) Randomly select potential jurors from the “jury pool,” (3) “Summon” the potential jurors to court for random selection into the grand and trial (petit) jurors for identified term dates, and (4) “Impanel” the grand juries and trial jurors.
Hixson, representing the state of Tennessee, publicly declared in his September 2013 appeals brief that, in Tennessee, grand jury foremen are not jurors.
Restating the state’s now first-time ever publicly pronounced policy position more clearly:
The Post & Email asks if the State of Tennessee is committing the same crime as that which the U.S. Navy continues to perpetrate after more than 23 years in which an honest person is sacrificed and condemned for the sake of preserving a criminal enterprise in which a judge’s personal appointee masquerades as a member of the grand jury, unduly influencing that body and often casting the decisive vote to indict.
Editor’s Note: More articles on Tennessee grand jury foremen and the law will be forthcoming in the near future.