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“IT IS THE WAY IT IS DONE IN TENNESSEE”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Dec. 8, 2010) — The Post & Email has obtained the list of charges and fines levied against Mr. Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III as a result of his conviction on two misdemeanor charges on December 1, 2010.
The following emails were exchanged between Monroe County Chief Court Clerk Martha M. Cook and The Post & Email:
From: Sharon Rondeau
Sent: Fri 12/03/10 7:59 PM
To: Martha Cook
Subj: COURT COSTS
Ms. Cook, is there a report from the court on how much the fees will be? I am aware of the $3,000 in fines, but the court costs do not seem to be posted anywhere yet.
Also, by which date do they need to be paid?
The Post & Email, Inc.
to which Ms. Cook replied on December 8, 2010:
Apologize for the delay have been very busy this week. Total amount due on fine & costs on Mr. Fitzpatrick’s convictions is $4776.00 and should be paid within the time frame of his suspended sentence.
If he wants to appeal, he would need to file a motion for bond pending appeal and the Court would set the bond. He can buy a transcript from the court reporter, Denise Barnes, and her number is 423-435-8501.
Martha M Cook
and our response was:
I would like to buy the transcript. Just for the record, I will call Ms. Barnes, but the last time I did so, she was very rude and hung up on me, even though I called during business hours. Where do I send the money?
So the $4776 is due before Mr. Fitzpatrick is released, or can it be paid afterward? May I have something on official letterhead confirming the amount and terms?
How does Mr. Fitzpatrick file a motion for bond pending an appeal from the jail?
The Post & Email, Inc.
The Post & Email was referring to the previous conversation with Ms. Barnes detailed here.
We contacted Ms. Barnes at the number provided by Ms. Cook, and she was courteous but said that she did not know what the cost of the transcript would be. She promised to contact us tomorrow with that information. When we asked if there was an audio of the trial rather than a typed transcript, she said, “We don’t do CDs.” We then advised Ms. Barnes that Ms. Cook had sent us a CD of the November 9 preliminary hearing for Mr. Fitzpatrick which had cost $10.00, and Ms. Barnes replied, “I’ll have to talk to Ms. Cook.”
Ms. Cook’s next response to us was:
The transcript will be expensive due to the fact that she must type all of the trial and court reporters are paid by the page, it will not be on a disc and she will advise you where to send the money. The costs being paid has nothing to do with the time he is in jail. He received a suspended sentence and the fine and costs are to be paid before his suspended sentence expires. I can fax you a copy of the Bill of Costs in his case and will also send a copy to him at the jail.
Mr. Fitzpatrick would just file the motion pro se.
Below is a link to the Court of Appeals.
We then asked Ms. Cook:
OK. You can fax the Bill of Costs to 203-987-7948.
Is there any video of the proceedings?
If the transcript is going to be several hundred dollars or something in that area, I would rather put the money toward something else. Do you know where in the Tennessee Code it says that a defendant is charged for obtaining a transcript of his own hearing? I never heard of such a thing before. Isn’t it the court reporter’s job to produce the reports of hearings and trials, as her salary is paid for by the county and/or state?
If she is already being paid to produce these documents, where does the additional money collected from the defendants go? Wouldn’t the “court costs” cover the transcript as well? Isn’t that double-dipping, so to speak?
Also, Mr. Fitzpatrick never received a copy of the transcript from his June 28 arraignment. When he went to Atty. Randy Rogers’s office, he was turned away empty-handed. Is that transcript available? Why was it supposedly given to Atty. Rogers and why couldn’t Mr. Fitzpatrick obtain a copy as he was promised in a phone message and in writing from Atty. Rogers?
Thank you very much.
The Post & Email, Inc.
Ms. Cook then replied:
There is no video. I don’t know where it is in the code, it is the way it is done in Tennessee. The court reporter is employed by the state and types the record and bills the party requesting the record. Costs of transcript is not included in court costs, 2 separate issues. If I’m not mistaken, Mr. Fitzpatrick went to Mr. Rogers office to obtain a copy of the transcript and refused to pay $33.00 for said copy so Mr. Rogers did not give it to him. If a defendant is indigent the state pays for transcript. Will fox bill of costs today.
The Post & Email was referring to the incident described in a previous report in which Walter Fitzpatrick had stated that he had gone to the law office of Randy and Matthew Rogers but had been refused the transcript which had been promised. He did not mention that there was any issue over the cost of the transcript.
Ms. Cook was true to her word and faxed us the following list of fines and charges.
The document bears a “file date” of June 3, 2010, when Angela Davis, a juror who is listed as having served on a jury in 2009, served as grand jury foreman, appointed by Judge Amy Reedy. On Fitzpatrick’s June 28, 2010 arraignment hearing, that point was reportedly brought up by both Fitzpatrick and his attorney at the time, Stephen Pidgeon, but Judge Blackwood refused to concede that the grand jury had been compromised because there was “no proof” that the same “Angela Davis” had served in both 2009 and 2010..
However, during the December 1, 2010 trial, eyewitnesses reported that at the beginning of the trial when Fitzpatrick was allowed to ask questions of the jury, Blackwood dismissed a juror who admitted to having served on a jury within the past 24 months. Blackwood reportedly dismissed the juror. Why was that juror dismissed but the indictments of the grand jury from June 3 allowed to stand?
The Post & Email has the name of the dismissed juror from December 1 but will keep it confidential until the proper time. Were there any other jurors on the jury that day who had served within the past 24 months but didn’t admit to it?
The Post & Email will be checking the Tennessee Code Annotated to see if the fines and charges being brought against Fitzpatrick are unusually high. Perhaps a call to Rep. John Duncan’s office will yield some useful information, but perhaps not. The Tennessee constitution states, in Section 16:
Section 16. That excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments be inflicted.
Are the fines totaling $4,776 for two misdemeanor charges stemming from an arguably compromised grand jury unconstitutional? Is there an attorney anywhere in the state of Tennessee, or anywhere at all, who could effectively argue that? If not, why not?
If a citizen is attempting to correct a situation which violates state law, why is he then the one arrested and imprisoned?
If juries have been “stacked” for years or even decades, how many trials would have to be reheard? If the visitor is correct, how many people are paying their way out of convictions?
The Post & Email also called and left a message for Ms. Peggy Sawyer, Assistant Director of the Tennessee Corrections Institute, regarding our complaint filed last week about the conditions at the Monroe County detention facility. While it is our understanding that there is now consistent heat, we do not believe that the plumbing leaking raw sewage has been repaired. Ms. Sawyer had represented that as “a problem” when we spoke with her last week and had promised to assign an investigator to inspect the jail.
It is reported that in 1946, the “Battle of Athens” in McMinn County “restored lawful government” by putting an end to election fraud. Soldiers returning from World War II took action, “cleaned up county government and fixed the jail.”
Editor’s Note: Thank you for your generous donations to the Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III Legal Defense Fund. We have raised about $2,300, but between collect phone calls and the $200 repair to the broken door which the sheriff’s deputies caused on October 27, there is about $1,000 left.
Thank you also for your support of The Post & Email through our general fund.