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by Sharon Rondeau

Does Monroe County routinely make scapegoats out of its citizens?

(Sep. 16, 2011) — A young woman will be facing trial for the murder of an elections commissioner in Monroe County, TN last summer.

Mr. Jim Miller was found dead in the trunk of his car, which had been set on fire. Jessica Kennedy Powers was arrested for the murder last September and has been incarcerated ever since.

It has been reported to The Post & Email that Monroe County prosecutors have not investigated a crime scene which could have been related to the murder and that Mr. Miller’s death was a murder for hire.  One of those whom Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III reported that “It’s widely believed that a man named BRANDON STEELE murdered Jim Miller working with other men. BRANDON STEELE is believed to be (at least one) triggerman on Saturday, 17 July 2010.”  Brandon Steele is reportedly Powers’s boyfriend, and her arrest was not reported in the local newspapers at the time it was made.

No one else has been arrested for the crime.  A local news report from January 2011 quotes someone acquainted with Miller as having said, “I just don’t know how she done all of that, shot him in the head three times, put him in the trunk of his car, set him on fire. That just, I don’t know, seems like an awful lot for a woman. She must be pretty strong.”

Others in the community have expressed doubt as to Powers having committed the murder or having acted alone, including members of Miller’s family.  Kennedy Powers is reported to stand 5′, 7″ tall, and Miller “stood over 6 feet tall and was very strong.”  Powers was charged with “felony murder, aggravated robbery, arson and abuse of a corpse.”  Today’s report from Bill Poovey of the Associated Press includes a charge of robbery.

Powers’s trial was originally scheduled for October 11, 2011 but has been delayed until March 13, 2011 so that her new defense counsel, Atty. John E. Eldridge of Knoxville, has time to prepare the case.  Eldridge had asked for a change of venue due to publicity of the case, but Senior Judge Walter Kurtz denied the request unless “getting an impartial jury turns out to be a problem.”

Monroe County judges have been reported to the FBI and TBI for suborning perjury, presiding over rigged juries, accepting indictments from tainted grand juries, and sentencing defendants to prison without evidence or proper due process.

If a grand jury is rigged with ineligible jurors, are its indictments valid?  At least one judge has admitted that a grand jury was tainted but upheld its indictments anyway.

If the grand jury foreman was never sworn in, was he legitimate?  If not, how many illegitimate indictments have been issued, and how many people have gone to prison on the basis of false charges?

On September 14, 2011, Walter Fitzpatrick requested the appointing orders for grand jury foremen in Monroe County from 1985 to 2010. He reported that court clerk Darlene Moser responded, “Didn’t we already give that to you?” which was a similar response to Fitzpatrick’s request for the 2011 appointing order made on September 7.  The court had declared Gary Pettway the foreman on January 5, 2011, but the signature of a “Faye C. Tennyson” has appeared on indictments issued by the grand jury since that time.  When Fitzpatrick pointed out that Tennyson’s first name was misspelled, Moser responded, “We haven’t fixed it yet.”

Fitzpatrick had also subpoenaed the appointing orders in preparation for his trial held on June 23, 2011 but received nothing in response.  Several judges refused to sign for the subpoenas, which were sent by certified mail.  Faye C. Tennyson’s subpoena was returned unopened, as was that which was sent to Chief Court Clerk Martha M. Cook.  “When I went back yesterday, which was the 14th of September, I requested grand jury appointing orders from 1985 to 2010.  So those documents that I asked for yesterday did not include 2011.  In yesterday’s response to me, which is not recorded, Ms. Moser said the same thing:  ‘Didn’t we already give those to you?’ and because I had sent the subpoenas in, I said, ‘No, you haven’t.  I put in a subpoena request, and you didn’t answer it, and this is the first time I’ve asked for these documents as a public records request.’  She said to me yesterday, “I don’t know that we have those.’  When I asked her for the labor and cost estimate, she had no idea what that would be because she didn’t even know if the documents existed, and if they did exist, she didn’t know where to find them.

“Today when I went back, I was asking for documentation that they should have had readily at hand, which would have been the appointing orders for the last four years.  But maybe they would have had only last year’s available.  I said, ‘Let’s see if we can make this easier; let’s go back four years,’ and she said, ‘We can’t do that today; we’re too busy.’

So I went back to the subpoenas.  One was issued in February 2011.  There were three requests into the clerk’s office, and there were two subpoenas that went to the judges by way of the clerk’s office.  There are five requests on the street tonight since February for the production of a document with Mr. Pettway’s name on it as having taken an oath and been appointed foreman to the Monroe County, TN grand jury.

“This is what hit me tonight:  the documents don’t exist.

Page 1 of 2 of "Inspection/Duplication of Records Request" completed by Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III requesting "judicial appointing orders for foreman to the Monroe County Tennessee Grand Jury from 1985 to 2010"
Second page of inspection/duplication of records request for grand jury appointing orders from 1985-2010


Fitzpatrick's request for appointing orders for grand jury foreman for 2007-2010 which the clerk said couldn't be produced
Page 2 of request for appointing orders for 2007-2010

“I’ve been asking for six months, and we don’t have a single piece of paper that states that Mr. Pettway was placed under oath as the foreman in the Monroe County, TN grand jury or that he was even appointed.”  Pettway served as grand jury foreman for 20 years, which precipitated a citizen’s arrest by Fitzpatrick on April 1, 2010.

Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email that during his arraignment on June 28, 2010, Judge Carroll L. Ross had stated that he had “never appointed a grand jury foreman in Monroe County.”  While “McMinn County” is what appears in the transcript, Fitzpatrick has stated that that is not what Ross said, nor did the hearing take place in McMinn County.

As there appear to be no appointing orders for Gary Pettway for the last 20 years while he acted as grand jury foreman, could Judge Ross have been telling the truth?  Ross did appoint at least one grand jury foreman in McMinn County, so the transcript is proven inaccurate in any event.

If Ross stated the truth on June 28, 2010, who appointed Pettway?  Who administered the oath of office which the foreperson and grand jurors are required to take?  Why can no records of such appointing orders be produced by the court clerks?

Is it because they don’t exist?

If the foreman and grand jurors were never sworn in, why were they issuing indictments?

Pettway’s signature appears on indictments against Jessica Kennedy Powers, Walter Fitzpatrick, George Raudenbush, and others.  Are they valid?