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AND GETS NOTHING BUT DENIAL
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 18, 2012) — On Thursday, June 14, 2012, an article was published in the Knoxville News Sentinel about Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood’s refusal to recuse himself from a case by the “Knox County District Attorney General,” Randy Nichols, who claimed that Blackwood was compromised. There was reportedly a sharp exchange between Blackwood and Nichols, with Nichols accusing Blackwood of misconduct and communicating by email to “avoid media scrutiny.”
Blackwood later said that he had planned to issue a response to be “like the Jerry Springer Show” by naming Knox County officials who might have had knowledge of the misconduct of Judge Richard Baumgartner, who was forced into retirement after admitting that he took drugs while on the bench and engaged in other unlawful activities. Blackwood evidently rethought his actions but stated that the court hearing had turned into a “circus.”
Baumgartner had presided over a particularly gruesome case wherein two young people were tortured and killed in 2007. Blackwood ordered that the cases be held again because of Baumgartner’s condition at the time of the verdicts and the possibility that the defendants had not received a “constitutionally sound trial.” Baumgartner received “judicial diversion” but is now under federal investigation. He had been described by a Knoxville attorney as “a man of stature.” One federal judge has recused himself from hearing the case against Baumgartner without explanation.
Upon his retirement in 2004, Blackwood had told a reporter that “A judge does not have the wide discretionary roles that are so often visualized by the public. We are constrained by guidelines and rules of evidence and procedure that the public does not understand. We play a very small role in the outcome of any case.”
Blackwood has also presided over cases in Roane and Monroe Counties. He was the judge in several hearings involving Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III after Fitzpatrick attempted to carry out a citizen’s arrest of the acting grand jury foreman on April 1, 2012 for over-serving his term. Blackwood had told the court that although there was evidence that a juror was serving two consecutive terms in violation of TCA 22-2-314, he would allow the indictments issued from the grand jury on which she served to stand because there was “no proof” that she was the same person.
Last month, Fitzpatrick was researching Tennessee Code in his defense of himself against a charge of “tampering with government records” and found laws passed in 1984 which had ordered criminal matters to be handled in district courts, not county courts. Fitzpatrick contacted the office of Randy Nichols, the object of Blackwood’s angry comments last Thursday, and informed Nichols, to whom he spoke personally, about the laws. Instead of thanking Fitzpatrick for the new information, Nichols stated that “county court” and “district court” were synonymous and dismissed it.
Fitzpatrick told us:
I told him the information I have about disqualifying Blackwood and he said, “OK, I’m moving on. That’s not really critical to me.” I told him about Angela Davis being in the grand jury in 2010 after having served on the trial jury in 2009, and he said, “That’s not a problem.” He said, “The judges can pick the foreman from wherever they want whenever they want.” I read TCA 22-2-314 to him, but he said, “Ehhhh…judges can pick whoever they want.” It was like bouncing beads off this man’s forehead.
So then I said, “Do you have a district grand jury in Knox County in the Sixth Judicial District?” and he said, “No, we don’t.” I told him how that all played out, but he wasn’t concerned. “That doesn’t bother me,” he said. “We call county courts circuit courts; the words are interchangeable.” And I said, “No, actually, they’re not.” He said because in Knox County, the county and the district are one and the same, he’s never had to deal with this and he’s not really concerned about it. He’s not sure how it’s working in the other districts that have more than one county, but he said, “Hey, thanks. Best of luck to you. Godspeed.”
I don’t know what’s going to happen on the 28th; that’s how things are working here. A judge or a district attorney says that that’s not the law; “that’s not what it says; it says something else. We can interchange ‘district’ and ‘county.’ We can pick jurors from wherever we want.”
I told him, “This murder trial that you’re advancing through the courts right now can be challenged on appeal because it did not go through a district grand jury in the Sixth District.” No response. “It can be challenged because you’re using a county court.” And he said, “No, we’re not; we’re using a circuit court.” And I said, “Well, I’ve been reading in the newspaper with the caption “Knox County Criminal Court.” I asked him how his pleadings and filings were styled and he didn’t answer my question.” “Are they ‘Knox County Criminal Court?'” and he said, “It’s truly a Circuit Court.” But you can’t do that!
The Post & Email mentioned that a similar exchange occurred via email on June 15, 2012 between a commenter and this writer.
I said, “Did this murder trial case go through a county grand jury or a district grand jury” and of course it went through a county grand jury. You don’t find county grand juries in the statutes at all. They’re not found in law! Again, the whole issue has popped up because of the way the judges are running things right now; they get to pick their own people wherever they want; it’s stacking juries. That’s how they’re running things right now. So why was I surprised that the District Attorney General would say, “This is fine; there’s no problem here.” But he knows it; he’s not going to admit it on the phone. They don’t know the law!
One of the significant points that was made in my conversation with Randy Nichols is that there is no defense for what we’ve found. He doesn’t even know his own state laws, for goodness’s sake! When you pull them out and read them to him, his only response was, “I don’t know about this; I don’t know about that.”
The Post & Email observed, “The laws are in the book and online.”
This is what judges have been doing around here for 28 years. When prosecutors get done prosecuting – they either came from the bench or go to the bench – prosecutors and judges are tied at the hip. I gave Nichols an opportunity here, but if he goes down that path, then he has to take a look at what he’s been doing. He could be undone.
We have no response from the government as of today to the challenges that we’ve made as to the issue of a county court. They may come in today or tomorrow. The first filing date for any kind of motions was 24 May. They filed one about the uniform, but so far, that’s it.
Fitzpatrick told The Post & Email that Judge Walter C. Kurtz dismissed 15 of his 25 motions without comment last week in the case of the government records. A status hearing was held on May 4, 2012, after which Kurtz set a subsequent court date of June 28, 2012.
They’re running for the hills. Nichols is the prosecuting attorney for the Sixth District and doesn’t know the laws! And when they’re read to him, it’s as if they’re of no consequence. This is the world we live in right now. Then they give you the oral history as they understand it and it has no place in the law.
A state representative has refused to respond to his constituent about the redistricting laws, discarding an email without even reading it.
I’m looking for them to find the problem with what I’m telling them, and then we can see if we are, in fact, wrong. We have gone to people who are in a position to know as a matter of their profession, and they’re saying the judge can pick the foreman from wherever they want!
I told him that we’re going to put this out about Blackwood, who had me arrested in an ambush. Blackwood set up a court date which I didn’t know about, and he knew I didn’t know about it, and then he said, “You didn’t show up,” and then when I didn’t show up, he said, “Go arrest him” for failing to appear. And I was never charged with failing to appear. So from the 27th of October to the first of December 2010, I was locked up without bond by this man. He knew I didn’t have an attorney; he knew I was representing myself. He did that with malice of forethought knowing that I had dismissed Steve Pidgeon, and then he called me back on November 9, qualified me as an attorney, and then sent me back to jail. He never explained why he didn’t set bond for me or released me as a misunderstanding. He never went into the complaint…”Did we ever notify him, Ms. Cook? Did we ever actually get in touch with him?” And he didn’t give time enough for me to be notified.
The other day, just as an example, Paul Rush, with his counter-filing on the uniform, called three times. He came out to the house with two armed sheriff’s deputies to deliver that thing in person. The deputies were there to witness the delivery of that document. Blackwood did not do that or did not take enough care or caution to make sure that I was properly informed of the court date back in October 2010. It was a setup, an ambush. They had every way to make that notification with witnesses just as Paul Rush did a couple of weeks ago, but Blackwood didn’t do that. So when I wasn’t there, the first question should have been, “Did we tell him? Does he know?”
And then the thing about Angela Davis. I told the District Attorney General for the Sixth District, Randy Nichols, that Angela Davis wasn’t allowed to be there in 2010. But he said, “It’s OK for her to have been there.” This also gets into Blackwood’s criminal conduct: the law that says that if you’re in a jury last year, you can’t be in a jury this year. He ignored the law on October 5, 2010 when it involved Angela Davis. But several weeks later, on December 1, when there was a juror who had served the year before and was in the trial jury, Blackwood dismissed him. So on the fifth of October, the law didn’t apply, but on the first of December, it did? You can’t have it both ways. I told Randy Nichols about that today, and it was bouncing BBs off his forehead.
Blackwood is a criminal. But the bigger question is: How do these people get into these juries year after year after year? The judges are stacking the juries.
At 4:15 p.m. EDT, The Post & Email contacted the office of Randy Nichols. The telephone greeting said, “Thank you for calling the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office. Please hold and your call will be answered as soon as possible.” There was then silence. After about a minute, the same recording played again. We waited again, but no one answered. The recording did not replay. Altogether we waited four minutes, then hung up.