by Sharon Rondeau

(Dec. 8, 2015) — On Monday, The Post & Email received a Christmas card from Tennessee state prison inmate Jerome L. Johnson, #150724, on whose pending in-house punishment for refusing to participate in the Pro-Social Life Skills course we have reported since last summer.

As did fellow inmate Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III, Johnson received a “Class A” disciplinary writeup for declining to take the class, which both men determined would have compelled self-incrimination.

Johnson’s “sentence” consisted of a $5.00 fine, the revocation of privileges earned for good behavior, the loss of his job working in the prison kitchen, and ten days in solitary confinement.

Both men appealed their punishments to Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) Commissioner Derrick Schofield.  To the best of The Post & Email’s knowledge, Haslam has not responded, but Schofield upheld Johnson’s conviction.

Fitzpatrick was asked to leave the room before his “jury” voted to find him guilty.

The Pro-Social Life Skills course is designed to assist in the rehabilitation of those convicted of drug- and alcohol-related violations.

Upon unsealing the envelope and removing the card therein, The Post & Email found a card containing a myriad of prisoners’ signatures, some with notes of appreciation for our reporting on the dangerous and violent conditions at the Northwest Correctional Complex (NWCX), where they are housed, as well as disciplinary issues and the constitutional violations which landed them there.

On November 28, The Post & Email published a Westlaw summary of any 1883 Tennessee Supreme Court Case which clearly indicated that at that time, the foreman of each county grand jury was chosen by the judge from the pool of impaneled jurors.

Tennessee judges today insist that they have the legal authority to select a foreman “from wherever they choose,” which Fitzpatrick and others have repeatedly challenged.

Unless a grand jury foreman was so appointed after having been impaneled in the same manner as the other grand jurors, no indictment can withstand constitutional and legal scrutiny.  The U.S. Supreme Court has also tangentially stated in the case of Rose v. Mitchell that a grand jury foreman must be chosen from “the venire.”

While vowing to protect the “civil rights” of Muslims in the United States, the US Department of Justice has failed to take action on the unconstitutional process by which Tennessee citizens are indicted for crimes, led by a judicially-selected grand jury foreman who is often a personal acquaintance of the criminal court judge.  The FBI has also refused to take action on numerous occasions.

The Post & Email has called upon the DOJ to also uphold the civil rights of Tennessee prisoners.

In a recent report, Fitzpatrick termed Tennessee “the land where the law went to die.”

Upon opening the card, The Post & Email editor found not one signature, but many signatures of NWCX prisoners, some of whom we recognized and others of which were new.

Johnson wrote at the top of the card, “Wishing you, and your Family the Best Christmas and New Year ever!”

The Post & Email is most appreciative of this gesture and will be responding to Johnson and the others this week.

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