“EYEWITNESSES WERE NOT ALLOWED TO TESTIFY”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Dec. 15, 2010) — Mr. Dennis Burnett, whose story we published earlier in the week as it was told to us by a relative, contacted The Post & Email directly regarding the appeals hearing which was held on December 14, 2010, in Madisonville, TN by Judge Carroll Ross, who had sentenced him to 18 years in prison in 2005.
Because the telephone connection from the cell in which Mr. Burnett is staying is very poor, we are not able to transcribe the conversation word-for-word. However, to summarize, Mr. Burnett told us that the lawyer who had handled his trial in 2003, Charles Currier, “admitted that he really messed up my case.” Burnett also stated, “I attacked Charles Currier for being an ineffective counsel” and claimed that a compromised juror “was never removed from the panel.”
Burnett also reported that the brother of a jury member told him after the trial that his brother claimed he was instructed by another jury member to return a verdict of “guilty.”
In describing Tuesday’s hearing, Burnett contended that Charles Currier, his former lawyer, “admitted 107 times” that he made errors in Burnett’s original trial. Regarding the jury, Burnett said, “I tried yesterday to challenge them, to bring up the fact of the jury tampering in my case, and they told me that I couldn’t bring it up now. They said I would have had to have brought it up then.”
Burnett claimed that he was present when Thomas Ratti was struck with a baseball bat but that he did not participate in the crime. He was arrested in 2003 for the murder and sentenced to 18 years in state prison in June 2005. He also reported that when he was arrested, he was charged with “manufacturing meth” in his truck, but that a year and a half later, the test results came back negative for meth. He stated that his truck was seized at the time of the arrest and impounded, then auctioned off.
When The Post & Email asked Burnett if he had had any involvement in drugs at that time, his answer was, “No. I owned my own company, and at the time this happened, I had eight employees.” He added that his business insurance carrier, The Hartford, randomly tested his employees and him for drug use. He said, “I got 20% off my annual rate” by proving that no one working for the company was a drug-user.
Burnett claimed that eyewitnesses he had produced were forbidden to testify at his 2003 trial. The judge is expected to issue a written opinion within 45 days as to whether or not to grant a new trial.