by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 7, 2022) — On Thursday Shelby County, TN Criminal Court Judge Robert “Bobby” Carter, Jr. again rescheduled a post-conviction petition hearing for inmate Jason Lamar White, this time for May 19, 2022.
As The Post & Email reported Wednesday, the hearing was scheduled for April 7 following two previous postponements but put off a third time based on an alleged report from an unidentified court employee that White wished the hearing rescheduled as a result of a witness’s evasion of service of a subpoena.
The witness, former Bartlett Police Department Detective Mark Gaia, was noted as White’s “prosecutor” on the grand-jury indictment and implicated White in the alleged crime of distributing methamphetamine within a “drug free zone” after searching the home of White’s girlfriend, Kristina Cole, in early February 2016.
The following year White and Cole were tried, convicted and sentenced, Cole to 13.5 years in prison and White to 60 years without the possibility of parole. Both have appealed their cases directly and through post-conviction petitions.
Filed in early 2020, White’s post-conviction petition alleges ineffective assistance of counsel; ex parte communications between Carter and the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Scruggs, about White’s background after he was indicted; and other constitutional violations.
According to White’s mother Kimberly, last month her son stated during a three-way phone call in which she participated that he did not wish the hearing to be rescheduled under any circumstances.
White is representing himself but was assigned “elbow counsel” Shae Atkinson, whose March 22 email to Kimberly related the report he received that White had asked the hearing be postponed. Attached to Atkinson’s email was a revocation of White’s transfer order signed by Carter.
Carter said he would reschedule the hearing “one more time,” Atkinson wrote in his email.
In order to attend the hearing in person, White will require a new transfer order authorizing his travel from New Mexico, where he has been housed since May 2019, to Shelby County.
White was sent out of state after allegedly issuing a threat against his former defense counsel, Claiborne Ferguson, and Scruggs, according to 30th Judicial District chief prosecutor Amy Weirich. Ferguson also alleged that White had assaulted him during a courtroom consultation, a claim White denied and a deputy sheriff supervising the encounter disputed. Neither allegation resulted in an additional prosecution.
In a new development Thursday, an appeals court reviewing Cole’s appeal of the denial of her post-conviction petition opined that the “post-conviction court” erred through its failure to perform the necessary “finding of fact,” remanding the case back to the lower court to “conduct further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”
As is noted in the three-judge appellate order, the “post-conviction court” and “trial court” are one and the same, presided over by Carter.