BIZARRE PROSECUTION THEORY NEVER BEFORE RAISED IN A TENNESSEE STATE OR FEDERAL CASE
by Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III
On the threshold of a murder trial beginning in just hours, Prosecutor James H. Stutts argued a never-tested legal theory today that people with past federal convictions can’t legally use a firearm in self-defense against a murderous attacker.
Jury selection in the trial of Michael Dewy Ellington begins tomorrow morning (Tuesday, May 17, 2011) in the Monroe County, Tennessee Courthouse at 9:00 a.m. EDT. Ellington is charged with the March 17, 2009 murder of Julia Ann Kinsey of Lenoir City, Tennessee.
Ellington maintains he acted in self-defense. Ellington has been locked up in the Monroe County Jail for two years waiting for his day in court.
Amy Armstrong Reedy is the presiding Judge.
Senior Public Defender Richard Hughes for Tennessee’s 10th Judicial District, assisted by associate Public Defender Jeanne Wiggins, represented Mr. Ellington today in court.
In a marathon hearing that ran off-and-on into the evening dinner hour, prosecutors and defense attorneys battled over the question of whether a man not legally permitted to own a firearm was legally permitted to use any firearm in self-defense of an attack feared mortal.
Mr. Ellington is burdened by convictions regarding criminal episodes occurring in 1988 and in 1999. His convictions include past violations of firearms possession.
Prosecutor Stutts gave Ellington’s attorney notice for the first time Sunday night (8:40 p.m. EDT) that Stutts intended to use Ellington’s prior bad acts in a motion today to negate Ellington’s ability to raise the issue of self-defense at trial.
Stutts has known for fully two years that Ellington protests his innocence based on self-defense.
Stutts argues at the eleventh hour in a unheard-of prosecution theory that because Ellington wasn’t lawfully allowed to possess a firearm, Ellington wasn’t legally allowed to use an available firearm in defense of what Ellington perceived to be a life-threatening attacker.
Attorney Wiggins described Stutts’ legal theory as “inventive.” There exists no Tennessee law supporting Stutts’ invention. Wiggins reported that federal law allows all men and women, regardless of past felony convictions, to use a firearm weapon when necessary in self-defense.
Judge Reedy denied Stutts’ motion. Ellington can use the argument of self-defense during trial.
In an attempt to unfairly prejudice Ellington’s jury, it’s expected that Stutts will try to bring up Ellington’s prior bad acts again once the trial gets under way tomorrow (Tuesday, May 17).
On a related note, Judge Reedy took Carl Swensson’s case first thing this morning.
Mr. Swensson faces misdemeanor and felony charges stemming from the April 1, 2010 Citizen’s Arrest of Gary Pettway, recognized at the time as unlawfully standing as Foreman to the Monroe County Grand Jury.
Swensson appeared last in the Monroe County Courthouse last month, March 25th. Judge Reedy announced at that time the appointment of Tennessee Senior Judge Donald P. Harris to Carl’s criminal trial.
Reedy scheduled today’s hearing as a placeholder in the event Judge Harris took no action.
Reedy said today Judge Harris is still the assigned trial judge, but gave no further information. No one has heard from Harris.
Reedy sent Carl out of the Courtroom without announcing either a status or giving a date for Carl’s next required court appearance.
Article VI, Section 6 of the constitution discusses removal of judges and attorneys from office by the legislature.
Mr. Fitzpatrick reported that one reporter from a local newspaper, The Buzz, was present in the courtroom for “moments only in the late afternoon. He came and went.”