by Sharon Rondeau

(Jun. 15, 2022) — The Post & Email has confirmed that following our report on Saturday in the case of Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) inmate Jason Lamar White, White has been transferred out of the “iron-bar” cell to which he was confined after arriving in Tennessee for a court hearing next month in Shelby County.

On or about June 1, White was unexpectedly told he would be traveling to Tennessee when two TDOC corrections officers arrived in New Mexico, where White has been housed for the last three years, to escort him back.

White has been seeking a hearing on a post-conviction petition filed in April 2020 claiming, as to his 2017 trial, ineffectiveness of counsel; constitutional violations; ex parte communications between Judge Robert “Bobby” Carter and the prosecutor, Christopher Scruggs; and the unexplained alteration of the two charges on which he was indicted resulting in a harsher penalty.

At sentencing under Carter in October 2017, White was given the maximum possible sentence on non-violent drug charges of six decades in prison without the possibility of parole.

White and a co-defendant, Kristina Cole, maintain their innocence in the plot to allegedly distribute methamphetamine in a “drug-free” zone, with Cole recently awarded a reversal and remanding of Carter’s denial of her post-conviction petition on the grounds that the necessary “due diligence” was not conducted by the court.

Beginning last August, each time a hearing on White’s petition was scheduled, Carter issued the necessary transfer orders for White and another co-defendant in the case, TDOC inmate Montez Mullins, only to learn that the orders were canceled because the hearing was postponed.

On May 20, after four postponements, Carter reset the date for July 5 and again issued transfer orders for White and Mullins.

White considers Mullins a witness, and White’s “elbow” counsel, J. Shae Atkinson, has issued a subpoena for him and eight others on White’s witness list to appear on July 5.

The lone witness who cannot be located, Atkinson wrote in an email to another party, is former Shelby County grand jury foreman Pat Vincent, who The Post & Email was previously informed served for many years under Tennessee’s system of judicially-handpicked grand-jury forepersons who serve indefinitely at the pleasure of the judge.

Last Thursday, White described to The Post & Email an abnormally uncomfortable trip east given that he was not allowed to exit the vehicle to use a bathroom facility, but rather, was told to relieve himself “in a plastic bag.” He was provided three sandwiches on the 15-hour trip, he said, and “a bottle of water.”

Such conditions were not employed during his trip from Tennessee to New Mexico in May 2019, he said, and would be considered unusually harsh, even by prison standards.

The Post & Email raised that issue and others with TDOC General Counsel Bryce Coatney last Thursday in a conversation spanning about 20 minutes, asking Coatney to look into White’s report and situation once he arrived in Tennessee to include solitary confinement in the “iron-bar” cell and isolation from the general population without justification.

On Tuesday we learned White had been transferred to a different cell and that he was expecting to receive a “PIN” number to make prepaid calls to relatives, as is permitted for other inmates not classified as maximum-security.

In early May, White filed a federal habeas corpus petition with the New Mexico Fourth District Court, claiming his incarceration in the state violated his rights and ability to defend himself as a result of having no access to Tennessee law while there.

On Tuesday, The Post & Email contacted Guadalupe County Correctional Facility (GCCF), the institution where White most recently stayed and from which he filed the habeas, in an attempt to discover the whereabouts of a grievance appeal White provided May 25 to a mailroom clerk for dispatching to the proper party. As of press time, we have not received a response from Warden David Gonzales, to whom our call was ultimately redirected by two mailroom staff.

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