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AND HIS PERSONAL SECRETARY IS NONE OTHER THAN THE COURT REPORTER
by Sharon Rondeau
(Aug. 17, 2011) — A Christian missionary and reporter arrested on December 30, 2010 for allegedly failing to wear a seat belt, assaulting a police officer and other charges has discovered that the court reporter responsible for preparing the transcripts arising from trials at the Madisonville Courthouse is also personal secretary to the judge by her own admission. DS400292(1)
Denise Barnes answered the telephone in Judge Carroll L. Ross’s office at the Monroe County courthouse but had told The Post & Email last December that she “works at home.” She made a point of stating that she didn’t “want to give out my home address” when we asked where to mail payment for a court transcript.
George Raudenbush had spent from December 30, 2010 through February 18, 2011 in the Monroe County jail, during which time he became very ill and required medical attention which he did not receive until after his release. A trial date has been set for August 24, but Raudenbush has been denied access to defense counsel by Judge Carroll Ross.
Ms. Denise Barnes is a licensed court reporter with the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts. She cited the fee for a transcript as $4.00/page for a defendant, which the Office of the Courts did not find objectionable nor show any evidence that it had investigated and found the fee to be reasonable as compared to other court reporters’ charges. The TAOC has also failed to investigate claims of jury-rigging and foremen who serve for decades at the behest of a judge or judges.
Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III and others have reported that the transcripts produced by Barnes are not accurate reflections of court proceedings in that potentially incriminating statements made by Judge Carroll Ross are omitted from the record. Fitzpatrick has also said that Ross acted as his accuser when he was jailed and later charged by the Monroe County Grand Jury with “riot” and other offenses following a citizen’s arrest.
The Post & Email received a transcript from Ms. Barnes which was different from that which had been posted on the internet by another party concerning the same trial.
Raudenbush told The Post & Email that on Monday, August 15, 2011, he found out by accident that he was scheduled to appear at a hearing on the same day. He stated that he received no notification by phone or by mail and happened to go into the clerk’s office “because I was trying to get some transcripts.”
Fitzpatrick had stated that he also had not received notification of a hearing date: “I’m facing two more criminal charges here in a week, and we’ll see how that’s going to go. It needs to be said: The reason I am facing these additional two charges is that I was set up in an ambush. Marty Cook was part of that, and as an elected official, she refused to be served to appear as a witness, to explain how she believes I was notified of the hearing on October 22, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. She said she notified me, but she didn’t. And then the judge ordered my arrest. That was an ambush.”
Mr. Raudenbush reported that when he went into court, Judge Carroll Ross asked him to fill out a form indicating indigency, but he did not sign it for two reasons: (1) he did not have counsel and therefore would have waived his rights without an attorney being present, and (2) the form required the applicant to swear an oath. Raudenbush cited the case Gordon v. Idaho, in which it was determined that the court cannot compel an individual to swear based upon his religious beliefs. “You cannot sign anything without counsel present, or you waive your rights. I didn’t want to waive my rights, so I didn’t sign it.,” Raudenbush said. However, he told the judge that everything on the form was truthful.
Raudenbush reported that after his refusal to sign the document, an attorney who was in the courtroom volunteered to provide assistance but that at that point, Judge Carroll Ross became “unglued.” He described Ross’s reaction:
His face turned red, he gritted his teeth, he got up from his chair, his hand went straight out over the bench, and he said, “You get out of here! I didn’t ask for your help!” to a defense attorney.
Then he looked over at Mr. Stutts, the prosecutor. Mr. Stutts asked the judge a question…mind you, Mr. Stutts is the prosecutor; he’s supposed to be coming against me. He said to Judge Ross, “Your Honor, under Rule 9, Mr. Raudenbush’s interlocutory appeal has been dismissed. Can this go to court if Mr. Raudenbush has already filed his appeal to the Supreme Court?”
Boy, the judge got mad at Mr. Stutts. The information that Mr. Stutts was giving to the judge was information that I think Mr. Stutts wanted me to know to avoid going to trial on Wednesday. But I had already known that; I already had that information. So the judge got mad at Mr. Stutts for spilling the beans.
The Post & Email had reported that Prosecutor Jim Stutts had introduced a new theory during the closing arguments phase of the murder trial for Mr. Michael Ellington and achieved a conviction without objection from Ellington’s defense attorneys. No evidence was introduced to substantiate Stutts’s theory.
Raudenbush said that he had also visited the clerk’s office on August 12 to obtain “discovery” information pertinent to his case, and that while there, Martha Cook, the court clerk, refused to give him the information because he would not sign away his rights. “This is unbelievable,” Raudenbush said.
“On Tuesday, I had just called the judge’s office, and Denise (Barnes) answered the phone. I said, “Denise?” I’m looking for Denise Barnes, the court reporter. It sounded as though Denise was the judge’s secretary and the court reporter. So do you know what I did? She recognized me right away, and said, “Oh, Mr. Raudenbush…”. I said, “Yes, ma’am. I’m calling to find out if I can get the transcript of yesterday’s hearing.” She said, “Well , I have it right here; it’s $125.00.” I said, “Do you realize that I’m indigent?” and she said, “Everybody has to pay.”
However, in response to a question which The Post & Email had asked about court costs and transcript fees associated with Walter Fitzpatrick’s case, on December 8, 2010, Court Clerk Martha Cook told us that indigent persons do not have to pay for transcripts:
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.
Raudenbush said that he planned to inform Barnes that he would be filing a complaint against Judge Ross and her for the fee which she attempted to charge him for the transcript in question because of his indigency.
“What got me was when I called the bail bondsman this morning to let him know that I attended a hearing, he said, ‘I was never notified of that. The court told me that I was to be notified and you were to be notified. They were supposed to notify me and they never did.’ He was little upset because he signed my bond; that means that he could have lost $25,000. In other words, the court would make $25,000 off of him,” said Raudenbush.
Mr. Raudenbush stated that now he is going in to the court “every other day” so as not to miss anything regarding his case. “The judge scheduled me for trial for August 24 but has denied me counsel; he’s denied me everything. He’s operating in either his own jurisdiction that he has created or one outside the system that exists. He’s not following the state constitution, and he’s not following the rules of the judiciary.”