DODGES QUERIES ON CONSTITUTIONALITY, OBSERVANCE OF COURT RULES
by Sharon Rondeau
(Aug. 2, 2015) — In a hearing on Friday at the “Tipton County Circuit Court,” Mike Parsons, who was indicted in March on two charges of firearms possession as a convicted felon, asked Judge Joe Walker to identify in which type of court the hearing was taking place.
Walker first responded that it was a “Circuit Court.”
An observer of the proceedings told The Post & Email that there were two armed bailiffs on either side of Walker when the session commenced. Parsons was the first person called to the stand.
At his last hearing on June 26, Walker told Parsons to find an attorney to represent him on the charges stemming from a raid conducted on Parsons’ farm on February 11, 2014, after which he was incarcerated for 16 months for an alleged parole violation.
Tennessee uses the county grand jury system to issue “True Bills” or “No True Bills” in response to reports of a possible crime. However, evidence exists of undue influence from prosecutors over the grand jury, which always meets in secret.
Parsons’ trouble with Tipton County government began after he sought the county executive position in 2006. After leading in early election returns, he was told the following day that he was not the victor and that he finished the race with fewer votes than those which had been reported by a local television station the evening before. Parsons challenged the results at the trial and appellate levels, both of which dismissed the case.
In September 2007, Barry Laxton, a friend or supporter of Jeff Huffman, the current County Executive, attacked the Parsonses without provocation, shooting 29 times, nearly hitting both Mike and his wife and hitting and killing their pet wolf-hybrid, Brandi. Parsons’ command of the shooter to stop shooting and that he was under citizen’s arrest was ignored by Laxton, who just walked away. Parsons was then ordered arrested by Judge William A. Peeler. Parsons reported that when sheriff’s deputies asked Peeler what the charges would be, Peeler responded, “I don’t know; I’ll think of something.”
In regard to the current charges, Parsons filed a Motion to Dismiss as a result of the lack of a probable cause hearing after the grand jury indictments were issued in March. The motion has not been addressed by the court, which prompted Parsons’ query to Walker as to which type of court he was presiding over. “It’s not an option; they have to dismiss it,” Parsons told The Post & Email, according to the rules of the court.
During Friday’s hearing, he was observed to have asked Walker, “Is it an Admiralty Court? an Equity Court? a Common Law Court? a constitutional court?” After Walker answered, “It’s a Circuit Court,” Parsons said, “Yes, it is a Circuit Court, but are you operating in admiralty?” “Admiralty has to do with the water,” Walker replied. “OK, is this a constitutional court?” Parsons asked, to which Walker responded, “This is a court of record.”
“What type of law were they practicing? Were they following the Constitution? Were they following the Rules of Court? What rules are you guys operating under? Obviously, my motion, which is under the Rules of Court, was ignored, so what rules were they following?” Parsons was said to have asked the judge, who responded, “Look it up on Google,” according to the observer.
On June 26, Walker had appeared to an observer to “smolder” after Parsons reminded Walker that Walker had declared Parsons indigent, rendering him entitled to a transcript at the state’s expense. Walker then denied Parsons the transcript.
Parsons told Walker that several attorneys he had contacted chose not to work in Tipton County because of “the corruption.”
Friday’s observer told The Post & Email that Walker impatiently stated that it was the second time Parsons had been in court without an attorney. Walker was reported to have said to Parsons, “You need to get an attorney licensed in the state of Tennessee, a bar-card attorney.”
“What does the bar stand for?” Parsons asked, to which Walker responded, “I don’t know. That’s just an organization that licenses and establishes all the attorneys in the area, like a club.”
“But the problem is that their loyalty is to the Bar, not to me,” Parsons said. “The last time I was in here, I was shoe-horned into prison by a bar-card attorney, and I’m not looking to do that again.”
Walker then said, “You have ten days; come back with an attorney.”
The observer said that Walker did not punctuate his response with “or else,” but that it could be inferred that there could be negative consequences if Parsons is unable to find a Tennessee licensed BAR member Attorney within the specified time frame.
Parsons’ next hearing is on August 10.
Like other counties in Tennessee, Tipton County is reportedly deeply corrupt, from the sheriff’s department, to the judiciary, to defense attorneys, to the grand jury foreman, who has been serving for more than 20 years after being hand-picked by a judge. The mainstream media has failed to address the practice of judges’ hand-selection of the grand jury foreman, which was approved by the Tennessee legislature in 1919. Although the law was repealed in 1979, criminal court judges have continued to bring in the foreman “from wherever they choose.”
On a number of occasions, Tennessee government employees, including the spokesman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, have denied The Post & Email copies of documents based on the wording of the state’s Public Records Act, which reads that “any citizen of this state” may obtain public documents, recordings and other data held by the government. However, when a Public Records request we made in 2012 was estimated at $750, it was approved, with an exception made to us in writing as a “member of the media.”
Recent mainstream media reports have described a crisis within the Tennessee prison system, where Parsons was incarcerated first for two and one-half years from 2009 to 2012, then for the subsequent 15-month period. During his first incarceration, Parsons was struck on the head in his ear and subsequently lost his hearing on that side. Both Parsons and current inmates have told The Post & Email of the dangerous conditions within state-run prisons in which gang members determine inmates’ activities, privileges, and whether or not an inmate or staff member is assaulted. An exodus of corrections officers following a plan by the state to save $1.4 million in overtime has been accompanied by pay raises to Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) executives, including Commissioner Derrick Schofield.
The system by which local citizens are charged with crimes by county grand juries based on little or no evidence has victimized untold tens of thousands of Tennesseeans over at least a century, feeding a slave-labor operation termed “prisoners-for-profit” by many. As of June 30, 2015, all Tennessee prisons, except for a special needs facility, were more than 90% full, and the state is spending $277 million to expand a privately-run prison operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), based in Nashville.
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.