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COURT SAYS “NOT PRIVY” TO BACKGROUND OF JUDICIAL APPOINTEE
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 8, 2014) — On March 4, 2014, then-McMinn County, TN grand jury foreman Jeffrey Lane Cunningham resigned his position after having begun a third term, appointed by Criminal Court Judge Amy Armstrong Reedy.
In Tennessee, grand jury foremen are not chosen randomly as are the grand jurors, but rather, by an undisclosed vetting process, if one exists at all. Last year in Davidson County, it was discovered that a judicially-appointed foreman had a felony conviction on his record and was therefore prohibited from serving by state law. Subsequently, all of the cases over which he had presided had to be reviewed. At the time, the Davidson County District Attorney said during a prress conference that the background of the foreman, Eugene Grayer, “went unnoticed because in Tennessee grand jury foremen are not screened for eligibility the way other grand jurors and trial court jurors are. Regular jurors are selected randomly from eligible members of the public and compelled to serve, but grand jury foremen are appointed by criminal court judges and can chose whether to serve [sic].”
Johnson also said that “Typically judges appoint someone they are acquainted with” and that “They look for a responsible member of the community.”
If Wallace is the same person mentioned in a WorldNetDaily article of 14 years ago, it is alleged that he assisted former Vice President Al Gore in “taking care of criminal matters involving Gore’s family and friends.”
The Post & Email was told two weeks ago by Deputy Court Clerk Sherry Anderson that just after Cunningham resigned, Reedy appointed a new foreman, Larry Wallace, although a “temporary” foreman, Thomas Balkom, served for one day, March 18, the same day on which Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III was arrested for “aggravated perjury,” “stalking,” “harassment,” and “extortion.”
According to McMinn County Sheriff’s records, Fitzpatrick was arrested at 12:45 p.m. Balkom’s appointment was registered by the court at 12:15 p.m.
A Larry Wallace served as a member of the Athens, TN Police Department, on the Tennessee Highway Patrol, an agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), McMinn County Sheriff, Deputy Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety, and Director of the TBI from 1992 to 2003.
Wallace was then selected by then-Chattanooga Mayor Robert Cooker to serve as Chattanooga Police Chief after serving as a consultant engaged in identifying qualified persons to fill the position.
Corker is now a U.S. Senator for Tennessee.
If it is the same Larry Wallace, he is now grand jury foreman in McMinn County.
Just as Cunningham indicated an interest in “criminal law – prosecution” in his Tennessee Bar Association profile, Wallace, if he is the same person described above, has a 40-year background in law enforcement.
Tennessee code requires grand juries to have 13 individuals chosen by random, automated means, but the judges have defied the law and installed their own hand-picked foremen to do their bidding. At times, foremen have served for decades. While the county criminal courts, which should have disbanded after laws were passed in 1984 ordering them to amalgamate into district courts, characterize the foreman as a juror, the Tennessee Attorney General’s office clarified last fall in a case Fitzpatrick has on appeal that the foreman “is not a juror” and that the judge can select him or her to serve as a court employee.
Newly-empaneled grand jurors are not aware that the foreman represents the interests of the state rather than the people and routinely take orders from him or her, thereby bringing into question their ability to exercise free will as to whether or not enough evidence exists to issue an indictment.
Grand jurors have claimed undue influence from a foreman and deputy prosecutor, as reported by The Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Last Thursday, The Post & Email contacted the McMinn County courthouse to ask if the new foreman, Larry Wallace, was the same person who had served extensively in law enforcement in the state but was informed that we could no longer ask for information by telephone. We had previously called to obtain the March 18 indictments against Fitzpatrick but had no other contact with anyone before that time.
We therefore sent a fax but did not receive a response.
On Tuesday, we sent a follow-up facsimile:
TO: MCMINN COUNTY COURT CLERK
FROM: SHARON RONDEAU, EDITOR, THE POST & EMAIL
RE: MCMINN COUNTY GRAND JURY FOREMAN
DATE: APRIL 8, 2014
As I did not receive a response to my request of last Thursday, I am again requesting biographical information on the new grand jury foreman, Larry Wallace. The people of your county have a right to know the background of their judicially-appointed foreman, as there is no formal vetting process according to the Tennessee Attorney General. Specifically, is he the same Larry Wallace who was head of the TBI, a Tennessee Highway Patrolman, a police chief, and McMinn County Sheriff some years ago?
You may fax your response to 203-987-7948. If you prefer email, the address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are mailing the response, the address is:
The Post & Email
P.O. Box 195
Stafford Springs, CT 06076
As this article was going to publication, we received the following email from Anderson:
Bio information in regards to Larry Wallace
Dear Ms Rondeau,
The information you are requesting is information we are not privy to. Mr Wallace was appointed by Judge Amy Reedy. I would suggest you contact her office.
Reedy is running for re-election in November under the mantra, “Public Service Equal Justice.” “With Criminal Court Judge Amy Reedy, you have a Judge who’s dedicated to keeping the court system accountable, fair and efficient,” her campaign website states.
We responded to Anderson’s email with:
OK, thank you. What is her number?
We did not receive an immediate response, so we then performed an online search and found the number of the Bradley County Circuit Court. When we called there, we were told to call 423-559-3016. The person who answered the phone advised us to call 423-559-3016, which we did. The voice recording stated that it was the office of Judge Amy Reedy. We left our name, publication, email address, and phone number with our question and will report any response received.
To date, The Post & Email has received no response from key legislators or the Tennessee Supreme Court regarding the conflict between state law and the Tennessee Attorney General, who the court appoints every eight years, regarding the grand jury foreman. The District Attorneys General Conference agrees with state law that 13 randomly-selected county residents populate a grand jury, with one of the 13 chosen to act as foreman.