Does a Tennessee District Attorney Have the Right to Influence the Board of Parole?

“THEY DON’T CARE AND THEY WON’T CORRECT IT”

by Sharon Rondeau

Atty. Steven D. Crump ran unopposed for the position of Tenth Judicial District chief prosecutor in August 2014

(Jul. 22, 2016) — Over the past 30 days, The Post & Email received two letters from TDOC inmate Jimmy Newell claiming that despite his agreement to take a plea deal in a 2014 case involving theft of property and having served twice the amount of time agreed to, the Tennessee Board of Parole has not granted him parole.

After receipt of the first letter last month, The Post & Email contacted the Board of Parole and spoke for approximately 20 minutes with its media spokesperson, Melissa McDonald.  During the conversation, McDonald stated that the Board of Parole does not base its decisions on recommendations from the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC), but the issue of a district attorney general’s attempt to influence a decision remains an open question.

In Tennessee, the head prosecutor for each judicial district is termed the “district attorney general” (DAG).

In both of his letters to The Post & Email, Newell included a copy of correspondence written by Tenth Judicial District DAG Steven D. Crump in which Crump wrote that “this office strongly objects to any early release of Jimmy Newell” with the explanation of “Allowing the early release of Jimmy Newell would free an individual who has shown nothing but contempt for the laws of this State and an absolute disregard for the safety of his fellow citizens.  As such, this office strongly objects to the early release of Jimmy Newell and asks that the Board deny his parole…”

Tennessee’s Tenth Judicial District is where in 2009, Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III attempted to approach a grand jury with a treason charge against Barack Hussein Obama.  During the process of obtaining an appointment to speak to the Monroe County grand jury, Fitzpatrick discovered that Tennessee grand juries are directed by judicially-selected foremen who serve at the pleasure of the judge making the appointment.  Further, the foremen are virtually always chosen from outside of the jury pool, which is mandated by law (TCA 22-2-314) to be chosen by random means.

Crump did not respond to a letter sent by The Post & Email after he appeared on a local radio show in December 2014 to speak about the power of the grand jury to act as a check on government against its citizens.  During the interview, Crump stated that “The grand jury is open to any citizen who wants to come and appear” in accordance with state law.

Fitzpatrick, however, was never granted a hearing with either the full Monroe County grand jury on his treason complaint.  In February 2012, he moved to McMinn County and approached the foreman, Jeffrey L. Cunningham, on a number of occasions with a request to air evidence he believed demonstrated systemic corruption on the part of judges, grand jury foremen, prosecutors, sheriffs, their deputies, and court personnel carrying out judges’ orders.

Following our letter to Crump, the article featuring his interview disappeared from the web, with only the url remaining.  An article in the Monroe County Advocate & Democrat which had quoted Monroe County chief court clerk Martha M. Cook as having said that judges can select the grand jury foreman “from wherever they choose” has also been removed.

On Friday, The Post & Email discovered that the retooled Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference website has been updated such that links to the definition of a grand jury as containing 13 members, one of whom is selected from the jury pool to be the foreman, now result in “Error 404” messages.  The new website, updated last month, does not appear to discuss the grand jury nor have a search tool to seek specific terms.

A screenshot of the grand jury definition as it appeared on the TNDAGC website prior to its update reads:

An 1883 Tennessee Supreme Court case indicates that grand jury foremen were at that time chosen from “the venire,” or jury pool, rather than the community at large at the whim of a judge.

In the letter received on Thursday, in referring to Crump’s letter of opposition to his parole, Newell wrote that “This is a blatant and direct violation of my understanding that I received a 14.4 month prison sentence. I’ve been incarcerated for 28 months. Twice what I pleaded to serve.  This is unethical and exemplary of the corrupt attorneys in the District Attorneys Office of the 10th Judicial District in Tennessee. They don’t care and they won’t correct it.”

Fitzpatrick and other inmates have frequently reported on what they have noted to be “prisoners-for-profit” schemes operating from both outside and inside prison walls.

The judge who presided over Newell’s case was now-retired Judge Carroll Lee Ross, whose multiple statements about having appointed grand jury foremen in the Tenth Judicial District over many years were not included in one of Fitzpatrick’s transcripts.  Ross additionally ejected Fitzpatrick from a Monroe County hearing for Christian missionary George Raudenbush based on his possession of a writing implement and his use of it to take notes on the proceedings.

The result of the hearing Fitzpatrick attempted to attend was that Raudenbush was not allowed a defense attorney and spent more than two years in state prison, with Ross’s decision reversed by an appellate court early in 2014, a rare occurrence in Tennessee.

Newell’s letter and documentation follow.

On June 22, The Post & Email sent Newell’s initial eight-page letter to McDonald after she agreed to review them and optimally, refer them to the proper party at the Board of Parole. On Friday, the documents appearing above were sent to her attention as a matter of follow-up.

A letter received on Friday from an inmate new to The Post & Email anecdotally supports Newell’s claim that the Board of Parole does not necessarily grant parole when an inmate serves the agreed sentence and anticipates release based on that parameter.

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