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BUT ARE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS BEING UPHELD?
by Sharon Rondeau
On May 1, 2014, with the last digit in the year changed by hand on the indictment, the Union County, TN grand jury found probable cause to indict Waggoner for Second Degree Murder in the death of Michael Andrew Woodby, his neighbor of three years in the small town of Luttrell. The prosecution had asked for a charge of premeditated murder.
The grand jury foreman serving on that day appears to have been an individual with the last name of “Muncey” who indicated that he or she was a “sub for Amber Hill.”
Waggoner told The Post & Email that he is not sure how the temporary foreman was chosen or appointed. In Tennessee, criminal court judges hand-pick the grand jury foreman, who sometimes serves for decades, from outside of the grand jury “venire,” to which the grand jury pool is referred in the U.S. Supreme Court case opinions of Hobby v. United States and Rose v. Mitchell.
An 1883 Tennessee Supreme Court case, Tennessee v. John Gouge, stated that the grand jury foreman at that time was chosen from the group of 13 grand jurors comprising “the venire.” The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference supports that definition of a grand jury, yet judges continue to personally select the foreman “from wherever they choose.”
Waggoner’s case went through a “special grand jury” following the first trial which resulted in a hung trial jury.
Woodby and his wife Theresa were living across the road from the Waggoners for approximately three years when trouble arose. For the first nine months, according to Waggoner, there were no issues between the two families. After Waggoner successfully passed all state and federal FBI background checks, he opened a gun store on his property called “The Gun Shack.” Waggoner reported that not long afterward, Michael Woodby asked to buy a gun, which Waggoner had to refuse based on Woodby’s history of domestic violence.
Enmity and aggression then developed which was openly displayed, captured on home video cameras by both the Waggoners and the Woodbys. Numerous police reports and two requests for protective orders filed by the Woodbys failed to diffuse the growing tension, exhibited by obscenities and clear threats made by Michael Woodby toward Waggoner’s son, Kolton.
A number of videos of Michael and Theresa Woodby’s behavior prior to Michael’s death have been posted on YouTube. Waggoner contacted several press outlets, including the Knoxville News Sentinel, with an open letter describing the volatile situation prior to September 16, 2013, when Waggoner fatally shot Michael Woodby while taking a walk with Kolton.
Waggoner claims that Woodby was the aggressor, coming after Kolton with a fence railing and striking him without provocation. Waggoner said he put himself between Woodby and his son, then shot Woodby.
Waggoner told The Post & Email that both he and Kolton were armed that evening because bears were known to have been sighted in the area.
Following the incident, Waggoner voluntarily agreed to answer more questions for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), who he reported questioned him for five minutes before reading him his Miranda rights. He also told The Post & Email that the interview was not recorded.
After he was first charged, Waggoner was able to retain private defense counsel who withdrew from the case after Waggoner’s life savings were exhausted. An August 2015 trial resulted in a “hung” jury.
Waggoner said that the ADA had told the judge that Waggoner’s attorney planned to remove himself from the case.
An October 5 hearing resulted in the District Attorney General’s office’s decision to retry the case, and Waggoner’s case has been assigned to a public defender.
On December 2, The Post & Email submitted a Public Records request to the Eighth Judicial District chief prosecutor, currently Jared Effler, in Waggoner’s case.
On December 7, the request was denied. A letter received by email and standard mail from Assistant District Attorney General Tyler K.L. Hurst stated two reasons for the denial:
As the investigation and prosecution of this matter is on-going, these documents are not public record. In addition, from your listed address it appears that you are not a citizen of the State of Tennessee. As the Tennessee Public Records Act authorizes requests from Tennessee residents only, your request is not covered by the Act.
We accepted Hurst’s offer to contact his office by telephone with questions but did not receive a response. The TBI’s media representative also did not respond to our request for information on the case.
Waggoner has told The Post & Email that certain police reports subpoenaed by his former defense attorney were never released, nor has the audio from the preliminary hearing on September 27, 2013 been made available. Knoxville News Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield was reportedly “tweeting” about the hearing as it progressed, but the article she wrote has apparently been removed from the web. The same reporter once blocked The Post & Email from an online discussion of Tennessee judicial procedure and conduct and may have shown bias in her coverage of the federal case against Darren Wesley Huff in a tweet. “I am the queen of crime writing,” Satterfield states on her Twitter profile.
Satterfield published her article on August 31, 2015, but the judgment rendered by the Criminal/Circuit Court for Union County, TN declaring the case “Dismissed/Nolle Prosequi” is dated August 24, 2015. While Satterfield reported that the Waggoners left Indiana in “the mid-200os,” Waggoner told The Post & Email that his family moved from Indiana to Tennessee in 2009.
Satterfield appears to believe that Obama is the “coolest POTUS ever.” A journalist is not expected to render personal opinions on political figures one way or another.
Waggoner told The Post & Email that neither Woodby’s toxicology report nor his criminal history were disclosed to the jury. The toxicology report showed that at the time of his death, Woodby had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.109: Michael Woodby Toxicology Report
On October 5, 2015, a hearing took place to determine whether or not the case would be retried resulting in a new trial having been scheduled for April 25, 2016.
In his own defense, Waggoner told us:
There’s a police report where one of the things the Woodbys continued to claim was that we stalked them and followed her to work every day. There’s a police report here that states my son followed her to work for the last three days. She took that information and went to court and tried to get a protective order against us with it. I have my son’s time card that proves that he was at work and that it was absolutely impossible for him to have done what she says he did for two of those three days.
Waggoner’s statement contradicted reportage from Satterfield, who wrote on August 31, 2015 that “Waggoner family recordings confirmed they even followed widow Theresa Woodby when she went to work.”
Waggoner related further information on the worsening relationship between the two families:
They applied twice for a protective order under false premises. We can prove that she’s lied on many multiple occasions. We actually had in court their video; they were taking video of us as well, which is perfectly legal. One of the protective orders says “every time” she lets her grandson out to play, I would go outside to the road and start shooting. I don’t know about you, but if that happened every time, wouldn’t you have some proof of that?
We have a video from them – their video, with her taking it – where she and her husband are talking about going to the mailbox to try to cause issues with us. The mailboxes were on the their side of the road. We walked against traffic following traffic laws, which put us on their side of the road from time to time. Their front porch is approximately 40 yards off the road. Their video clearly shows them talking about the fact that it is 6:00 at night. “Let me know when they’re coming back, and I’ll check the mail again” is heard on the video. “If they get close enough to me, I’m going to cut them.”
Waggoner said that that particular video was played in court, which he believes should have convinced the jury that the Woodbys meant his family harm.
Further, Waggoner told us:
The DA actually had a friend on the jury. I can prove that they are friends on Facebook, and I’ve been told that this particular juror, who is an insurance agent, is the DA’s insurance agent. When the juror was asked, “Do you know anybody in this courtroom?” his answer was, “I pretty-much know everyone in here.” His wife works in the same building; she’s the Union County trustee.”
They did not allow family in the courtroom while the jury was being selected. That’s already been to the U.S. Supreme Court in another case, and it was decided that that violated the First and Sixth Amendments. When they selected the jury, they didn’t put the names in a bag or a box. They put the names of prospective jurors right in front of the judge.
Waggoner also said that testimony from a former Indiana neighbor disallowed by the judge from being presented to the jury as evidence was heard and reported by local media.
A fundraising campaign was launched for Waggoner to hire a private attorney for his upcoming trial.