by Sharon Rondeau
(May 19, 2022) — On April 6, 2022, a post-conviction petition hearing in Shelby County, TN in the case of Jason Lamar White scheduled for the following day was “reset” to May 19, 2022, reportedly for the last time.
In a last-minute twist, the hearing has been postponed and is now set for Friday, May 20, 2022.
White submitted his post-conviction petition in January 2020 and has been awaiting a hearing ever since. Initially scheduled for August 27, 2021, the court date has been postponed four times prior to today.
Though technically representing himself, White was appointed “elbow counsel” in the person of J. Shae Atkinson, whose website states he “has succeeded in having post-conviction petitions granted, both at the trial courts and at the Court of Criminal Appeals.”
On April 7, Atkinson wrote in an email to White’s mother, Kimberly White:
Judge Carter set Jason’s hearing for May 19. The judge said that he wouldn’t reset the hearing and the hearing will happen on that day. I know that has been the mindset in the past, that the hearing will go forward, but it appears the hearing will in fact happen on May 19. I will start contacting all the witnesses again, informing them of the new date, and follow back up [sic]
A letter Atkinson sent that day to Jason White reported the same information, with Atkinson adding:
It is my understanding that you will be flown back to Memphis for your hearing. I am not exactly sure how that process will work, but I doubt you will be able to bring documents with you. Please let me or your mother know what all you will need at your hearing so we can be sure to have everything together for May 19.
In an April 22 email to Kimberly, Atkinson said he was in the process of contacting “the witnesses to make sure everyone was available on that date,” although reporting that Assistant District Attorney Leslie Byrd had “indicated she will be in a murder trial on May 19 and cant do the hearing on that date.”
As on previous occasions, Atkinson did not respond to a request for comment.
As of Wednesday morning, the second-to-last and last pages of White’s electronic record showed that a “hearing” was “reset” from April 7 to May 19 at 9:00 AM:
Kimberly, who arrived at the courthouse before 9:00 a.m. Thursday, told The Post & Email she was not surprised there was no hearing given that transfer orders for her son and a key subpoenaed inmate witness, Montez Mullins, were never issued by Judge Robert Carter for May 19. On May 5, Kimberly told The Post & Email that Carter’s clerk “advised May 19 will be a report date” rather than an actual “hearing.”
At 2:05 p.m. EDT (1:05 p.m. local time), Kimberly informed The Post & Email of the rescheduling of the hearing for Friday and its appearance in her son’s record at the SCCJS portal.
Although a Tennessee inmate, White remains in prison in New Mexico, where he was transferred three years ago without a hearing. At present, wildfires threaten to turn toward the prison, Kimberly said, should the winds change direction. Communication with her son has been spotty at best, Kimberly told us, although she did hear from him Wednesday.
Her son’s rendition to New Mexico has caused him great difficulty in accessing Tennessee law to mount a defense, Kimberly said, and in recent weeks his legal mail has not always been delivered properly, if at all. Under a new policy implemented over the winter, most New Mexico inmate mail is scanned and delivered electronically, then printed out by prison staff for each inmate. “Privileged mail — defined as correspondence from attorneys, judges and court clerks — will be opened in the presence of the inmate and checked for contraband,” the Santa Fe New Mexican reported on January 9 of the new arrangement.
In a related case to White’s, on April 8 The Post & Email reported that a Tennessee appellate court reversed Carter’s denial of relief on a post-conviction petition from White’s co-defendant and then-girlfriend, Kristina Cole, for what the court said was Carter’s failure to conduct “required” “findings of fact.”
Carter had presided over both White and Cole’s 2017 trials. He is expected to retire this year, Kimberly has reported.
As The Post & Email has related, White was initially facing two Class “E” felony charges which were mysteriously upgraded to Class “A” charges without explanation. The two lesser charges were purged from his record, we discovered, sometime after July 30, 2021.
Following conviction, Carter meted out the harshest sentence possible under state law: 60 years in prison without the possibility of parole. Now 41 years of age, White is a prisoner for life; moreover, the appellate and Tennessee Supreme Courts have denied his appeals, which have included motions for Carter to recuse himself.