by Sharon Rondeau
(Jun. 5, 2022) — Quite unexpectedly, Tennessee inmate Jason Lamar White, who has been housed in New Mexico for the last three years, was late last week transported back to Tennessee, where a long-sought post-conviction petition hearing is scheduled to take place one month from today on July 5, 2022 in Shelby County.
As The Post & Email has reported over many months, White’s hearing on the petition, which was filed in April 2020, was originally scheduled for August 27, 2021 but never took place, instead undergoing five postponements ordered by Judge Robert “Bobby” Carter of the 30th Judicial District‘s Criminal Division III.
Through his mother Kimberly, White has reported that in New Mexico, he is not provided access to Tennessee law, hampering him in his efforts to petition the courts for redress of what he claims is an unjust 2017 conviction on two drug-related charges. On three occasions White petitioned the courts to compel Carter to recuse himself, claiming he is compromised as a result of a May 2016 ex parte discussion he had with the prosecutor of the case, Assistant District Attorney General Christopher Scruggs.
Thus far, Carter has not granted White’s request.
Recently, however, Scruggs’s role appears to have been assumed by Assistant District Attorney General Leslie Byrd, although Scruggs did not formally recuse himself. In addition to Carter and Scruggs, White has requested that the entire 30th Judicial District recuse itself for alleged conflict of interest.
White is representing himself in the matter but was appointed “elbow counsel” in the person of J. Shae Atkinson, a criminal defense attorney with the firm Ganguli & Hall. Atkinson has not responded to multiple emails over a period of months from this publication.
As The Post & Email has documented and White cited in his post-conviction petition, the original charges against him alleging his participation in a conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in a drug-free zone were mysteriously upgraded prior to sentencing without a new grand-jury indictment or any documentation explaining the change. The initial charges were then removed from his electronic record.
Upon his October 2017 conviction, Carter sentenced White to the maximum possible under the law, 60 years without the possibility of parole, making White, now 41, a prisoner for life.
On May 20, Carter issued transfer orders for White and another man convicted in the same case, Montez Mullins, who has been housed at the West Tennessee State Prison in Wartburg and is serving concurrent sentences for convictions on other crimes.
White wishes Mullins to testify as a defense witness, along with a host of others to whom Atkinson issued subpoenas on White’s behalf.
According to Kimberly White on Saturday afternoon, her son has not yet been sent to Shelby County and is housed in conditions reflective of the Tennessee Department of Correction’s (TDOC) apparent view that he requires “maximum security” treatment. “He is convicted of a non violent drug charge and he doesn’t have a violent history in the prison system,” Kimberly told us.
Kimberly also said the TDOC “interstate compact” coordinator, Douglas Stephens, said he was unaware White had been transported back to Tennessee and further, that “no one from New Mexico contacted him.”
Rather than air transportation, as Atkinson said he understood would occur, White arrived in Tennessee by land in a convoy of “security vehicles,’ Kimberly said.
Beginning in late March, Jason White began protesting his presence in New Mexico by filing a grievance against the prison warden, claiming that he has not been receiving legal mail in accordance with written procedures, which require such materials to be handed to the inmate in the presence of a prison employee rather than routine mail, which is delivered electronically by a Florida contractor and printed by prison staff in an arrangement commenced in January.
Dissatisfied with the warden’s response, White filed a habeas corpus petition with the U.S. District Court in the fourth district of New Mexico, the first copy of which was reportedly not received by the court. In the petition, White contended that an emergency interlocutory appeal he filed with Tennessee was delivered late, resulting in its rejection by the court and stemming, he said, from the New Mexico Correction Department’s failure to handle outgoing legal mail properly.
White also asked to “have New Mexico Department to have Petitioner send back to the State of Tennessee Department for his appeals or that the New Mexico Department to provide Petitioner with all access to what he would be able to access in the Tennessee Department.”
Whether or not White will be provided access to Tennessee law as he awaits the hearing is yet to be seen, as well as whether his return to TDOC custody is temporary or permanent.
Such transfer orders have been issued and revoked in keeping with the court’s decisions to postpone the hearing.