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“BY WHICH STATUTE IS IT PERMITTED?”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 27, 2014) — On Saturday evening, The Post & Email contacted Tenth Judicial District Criminal Court Judge Amy Armstrong Reedy and Seventh Judicial District Deputy Attorney General Sandra Donaghy through their respective campaign websites about the construction of grand juries in Tennessee.
Reedy has served as criminal court judge for slightly over six years, having been appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to fill a vacancy and then being elected in her own right in August 2006 for an eight-year term.
Donaghy is a Republican candidate facing Atty. Van Irion in a primary contest which began on Friday and ends on May 6.
Irion’s views on Tennessee grand juries are known, as he is representing Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III in two cases in which Fitzpatrick has sought to illustrate that grand juries in the Tenth Judicial District are not operating legally.
In a case which was appealed and heard last fall in Knoxville, the Tennessee Attorney General responded to Irion’s contention that the grand jury foreman had over-served her term by stating that grand jury foremen are not considered “jurors,” are chosen by the judges, and that the laws applying to limitations on jury service do not apply to foremen.
For decades prior to Attorney General’s statement on the matter, criminal court judges have been allowed to hand-pick grand jury foremen without transparency. Last year, a foreman in Davidson County was found to have been a convicted felon after serving in that capacity for several months, necessitating the review of hundreds of cases over which he had illegally presided, according to state statute. Also in Davidson County, foreman Stan Fossick served multiple, non-consecutive terms as grand jury foreman as an acquaintance of the judge because he allegedly “ran a tight ship.”
In December 2011, Fitzpatrick reported that he observed Reedy hand-picking slips of paper containing the visible personal information of potential jurors for the coming 2012 term. Additionally, Reedy hand-picked her own grand jury foreman, as she had on numerous other occasions. Claims of undue influence on grand jury members surfaced in August 2012 when The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported on those and other allegations of official misconduct in the Tenth District.
The Times Free Press has not, however, ventured forth to report on corruption within the courts themselves or the rigging of juries which The Post & Email has found is a routine practice in eastern Tennessee.
In a television broadcast from November 2011, retired Judge Andrew Napolitano asked, “What if the Constitution no longer applied?…What if the government could decide when you are and are not entitled to a jury trial?…What if the government could continue prosecuting you until it got the verdict it wanted?…What if government judges and government lawyers intimidated juries into convicting the innocent?…What if America’s prison population, the largest in the world, was a cruel and unusual way for a country to be free?…What if the people had no rights except those the government chose to let them have?”
The Post & Email has contacted Fox News on several occasions to advise that that is exactly what occurs in Tennessee courts on a routine basis but has received no response.
Our question to Reedy was as follows:
Grand juries in Tennessee are illegally-formed, according to TCA 40-12-206, because they comprise 12 individuals allegedly selected by automated means and a judicially-appointed foreman who is a county employee; in some cases, a career employee. How does this situation square with the statute, and what is your position on it?
On Sunday evening, Reedy sent a response to our query, which reads:
|From:||Judge Amy Reedy (email@example.com)|
|Sent:||Sun 4/27/14 5:54 PM|
You may want to seek legal advice.
Judges are prohibited from giving legal advice.
The Statute you refer ( 40-12-206) relates to Investigative Grand Juries. 40-12-201
Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure Rule 6
Your Statement is a sweeping statement that includes “Grand Juries in Tennessee.” I do not know of any 40-12-201 (a) (1) – (8) Investigative Grand Juries being illegally formed in the 10th Judicial District. I have no information about the formation of 40-12-201 (a) (1) – (8) Investigative Grand Juries in other Judicial Districts.
to which The Post & Email responded:
|From:||Sharon Rondeau (firstname.lastname@example.org)|
|Sent:||Sun 4/27/14 7:47 PM|
|To:||Judge Amy Reedy (email@example.com)|
Thank you for your response. I am a reporter and this is on the record, of course.
Why would regularly-impaneled grand juries not be constructed in the same manner as “investigative grand juries?”
The District Attorneys General Conference, while not quoting from a statute, describes a grand jury as:
a group of thirteen citizens chosen from the jury panel. One of these thirteen is the fore person and will preside over the grand jury.
Why, then, is the foreman chosen by the judge? Why is the foreman not chosen by the grand jurors themselves?
If a judge chose the foreman of a trial jury, there would be an obvious conflict of interest. Why is that not the same with the grand jury?
Does the foreman vote with the grand jurors? If so, it would seem that the state’s interests would be interjected into the deliberations of the grand jurors and could affect whether or not they issue an indictment.
What is the vetting process for a judicially-selected foreman, and by what statute is it permitted?
Sharon Rondeau, Editor
The Post & Email
The Post & Email will report if Reedy responds a second time or if a response is received from Donaghy.