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by Sharon Rondeau

Judge Andrew Freiberg was elected in August 2014 to replace retiring Judge Carroll Lee Ross.  Over his decades-long career, Ross deprived defendants of their constitutional right to representation and defended the handpicking of the grand jury foreman.

(Jan. 26, 2016) — On Sunday, The Post & Email reported that a trial for Monroe County, TN defendant Marvin William Young would likely be postponed after the prosecutor of the case last month became his public defender.

Former Assistant District Attorney General Paul D. Rush moved from his position as prosecutor to the office of the public defender after Atty. Steve Hatchett left his job as public defender in November to enter private practice.

Rush automatically assumed all of Hatchett’s cases, leading to a conflict of interest affecting at least a dozen cases he had been prosecuting, one of which was Young’s.

A hearing on Monday morning in front of Judge Andrew Freiberg resulted in Freiberg’s returning of Young’s case to Hatchett because of his familiarity with the case to date.  Freiberg agreed with public defender Jeannie Wiggins and the Board of Professional Responsibility (BOPR) that Rush’s potential representation of Young and the other defendants is a conflict of interest.

The county is responsible for paying Hatchett’s fees on Young’s behalf.

On Tuesday, a court-watcher told The Post & Email that Freiberg had raised the matter of the “constitutional rights” of at least one of the affected defendants.  Freiberg was said to have “greeted every single person – every last one of them, including attorneys – with a ‘good morning and best of luck,'” except for Young.

Once the conflict was confirmed by Freiberg, Hatchett raised the possibility of yet another conflict  because Rush’s wife is employed at Hatchett’s law firm.  It is expected that Hatchett will ask for an opinion from the BOPR on that matter.

The next hearing is scheduled for February 22 at 8:30 a.m. at the courthouse in Madisonville.

For more than six years, The Post & Email has reported on Tennessee’s practice of allowing criminal court judges to hand-pick the grand jury foreman and reappoint him or her as many times as desired.  An 1883 Tennessee Supreme Court case and two U.S. Supreme Court cases have stated that there can be no prejudice in the appointing of a grand jury foreman.

The Fifth Amendment contains a provision whereby “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger;…”


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