“IF THE COURT FOLLOWS THE LAW”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 6, 2014) — On Tuesday, Atty. Van Irion filed a request for subpoenas in the case of State of Tennessee v. Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III which arose from the defendant’s arrest at the McMinn County courthouse while sitting on a bench reading a book awaiting an opportunity to submit information to the grand jury.
On March 18, 2014, Fitzpatrick was arrested and charged with harassment, stalking, aggravated perjury, and extortion of the former McMinn County grand jury foreman, Jeffrey Cunningham, over a period of more than two years.
Irion is seeking to subpoena Monroe County, TN Chief Court Clerk Martha M. Cook; Thomas Balkom, who was appointed grand jury foreman by Judge Amy Reedy just minutes before Fitzpatrick’s arrest; Larry Wallace, who served as grand jury foreman directly before Balkom, having replaced Cunningham earlier that month; Tenth Judicial District Detective Calvin Rockholdt; and Cunningham, among others.
The State of Tennessee has moved to quash the subpoenas.
Judge Jon Kerry Blackwood, who denied Fitzpatrick a restraining order against Cunningham in February after Cunningham threatened to have him arrested for attempting to advance a criminal complaint to the grand jury, scheduled a hearing on the state’s motion to quash Irion’s requested subpoenas for Monday, June 9 at 2:00 p.m. EDT in the Chancery Courtroom of the McMinn County courthouse.
On Wednesday, Tenth Judicial District deputy prosecutor A. Wayne Carter filed a motion to quash Irion’s subpoenas, objecting to some of those subpoenaed as having been members of the McMinn County grand jury and citing a Tennessee appellate court decision from 1982 dealing with “post conviction proceedings.”
Over the last five years, Fitzpatrick has demonstrated that grand juries in Tennessee, and particularly within the Tenth Judicial District, operate outside of the law by their composition of 12 individuals allegedly chosen randomly and a foreman who is hand-picked by the criminal court judges “from wherever they choose.” The lack of any kind of vetting process led one judge to “choose” a convicted felon to serve in Davidson County, after which all of the cases he influenced had to be reviewed and in some cases, reheard.
State law requires that jurors be chosen by “automated means” and makes no special provisions for the foreman. The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference describes a grand jury as 13 qualified people chosen randomly from a jury pool, from which one becomes the foreman. However, Fitzpatrick discovered in the fall of 2009 that grand jury foremen in Tennessee serve at the pleasure of the judge, sometimes for decades, therefore acquiring significant sway over the decisions of the grand jury as to whether or not to issue indictments.
In one of numerous visits to the Knoxville FBI, Fitzpatrick was told by a special agent that they “wouldn’t know where to start” in delving into the judicial corruption in eastern Tennessee. Another agent advised him to gather hard evidence of jury-rigging, which he did on December 7, 2011, after which he was arrested by Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies and his home invaded by a SWAT team, including FBI agents.
In December 2012, after Irion was denied the opportunity to present a defense for his client, Fitzpatrick was convicted of “tampering with government documents” following jury deliberations of approximately five minutes. The Sixth Amendment to the Bill of Rights guarantees criminal defendants “the right to an impartial jury.”
Appointing orders dating back approximately 30 years from various counties in Tennessee which Blackwood and other judges signed show that the grand jury foreman was given the title “Hon.” upon his or her appointment, like a judge. Fitzpatrick has long described the existing grand jury foreman as “a patronage position” rather than one of a community member screened in the same process as the other grand jurors but given slightly more responsibility during the grand jury’s session.
Despite state law and the District Attorneys General Conference description, the Tennessee attorney general’s office officially stated last fall that the foreman “is not a juror.”
When Irion asked for a Bill of Particulars against his client in the latest case, he was provided with a two-page document which appeared to indicate that one charge against Fitzpatrick had been dropped. There were no specifics as to the other three charges.
Prosecutor Carter claimed in his Motion to Quash that Irion’s request for subpoenas amounted to “a fishing expedition.”
On Friday, The Post & Email contacted Irion for comment about Carter’s motion to quash, to which he replied, “He cannot establish the grounds he asserts. The motion SHOULD be denied, if the court follows the law.”
Our attempt to reach Carter was unsuccessful, as we called during the noon lunch hour and no answering system was available. Carter is a former Army colonel, having attained the rank of O-6, and is a current church pastor.
Irion is a veteran of the Air Force, and Fitzpatrick served 24 years in the U.S. Navy.
In a filing on May 30, Irion also requested that the Tenth Judicial District recuse itself from prosecuting the case due to what he sees as a “vindictive prosecution.” Blackwood scheduled a hearing on that motion for June 16 in the Chancery Courtroom at 10:00 a.m. EDT.
Trial of the case is scheduled for June 23.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.