by Sharon Rondeau
(Oct. 26, 2022) — On Tuesday afternoon, Tennessee convict Jason Lamar White spoke with “Shedding Light” host Leonna Abraham Brandao, whose show focuses on wrongful convictions and issues arising from incarceration.
“Blogtalk Radio Shedding Light was initiated to expose injustices in the Communities, Prisons, Government and beyond,” the show’s page states. “People have and continue, to suffer as a result of wrongful convictions, victims turned offenders, offenders and community members with untreated Mental Health and Addiction Issues, which eventually leads to incarceration.”
White provided the details of his case, which he maintains resulted in an “illegal” conviction, by phone from prison in New Mexico, where he has been housed since May 2019 after the State of Tennessee transferred him through an interstate compact. When Abraham Brandao asked the reason for his relocation, White responded that he believes then-30th Judicial District prosecutor Amy Weirich convinced the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) to arrange for the move by alleging that he planned to do harm to his attorney and the assistant prosecutor of his case, Christopher Scruggs.
He has not been charged with such crimes, White pointed out.
As The Post & Email has reported, while close to completing a 20-year sentence for an unrelated crime committed when he was 18, in 2016 White was accused of participating in a scheme to distribute methamphetamine in a “drug free zone.” Convicted in 2017, he was sentenced in October that year to six decades in prison without the possibility of parole, the harshest possible sentence for the alleged crime.
There have been numerous twists and turns in the case in which White has acted as his own attorney following conviction compounded by the difficulty in obtaining Tennessee law books in New Mexico.
“In Tennessee, there’s a procedure where a grand jury indicts you…,” White explained of the inception of a felony charge in the state, adding that grand jury foremen are handpicked by the criminal court judges in violation of state law.
The judge who sentenced him, Robert “Bobby” Carter, is now retired, White pointed out. However, two weeks after his retirement, Carter issued a negative ruling on White’s post-conviction appeal, after which White filed another appeal.
“The reason that I fight so hard,” White said, is that he believes his co-defendant, Kristina Cole, is not receiving adequate legal assistance in mounting appeals to her own incarceration. As with White, Carter denied Cole’s post-conviction appeal despite an order from a higher court to conduct a “finding of fact” responsive to Cole’s claims.
It has been necessary for him to “dig” into his case by obtaining and poring over transcripts because “I knew that I was innocent,” White said.
He chose to “rehabilitate himself,” White said, by “picking up books…to want to make a difference in my life.” Rather than opportunities for growth and self-improvement, White said, incarceration exacerbates “makes a person hate authority because of the way they’re being treated.”
While maintaining a transgressor should serve time in prison, White said there is a “lack of responsibility” on the part of “the institution” to provide rehabilitation. “I realize in life I was a failure by my choices,” he said, “so I chose to want to start having a different perception of life, to make better decisions, in order to come out a better person.”
Scruggs is no longer at the district attorney’s office, White said, along with Weirich, who was defeated in her re-election bid August 4 by Steve Mulroy.
“We need help now for Jason White,” Abraham Brandao said at the 44:00 mark.
Judges are not impartial in their decisions, White maintained, “especially in Tennessee,” where “corruption” is rife.
He gave credit to his mother, Kimberly White, who he said has helped him “discover so much” about his case, as well as to David Tulis of Noogaradio, Tawanna Murphy, Abraham Brandao and The Post & Email for their interest in his case and the criminal justice system in general.
Twice during the interview, White was cut off by the recording, “Thank you for using Securus,” the prison telephone service provider.
Resuming the call, White challenged anyone in the public to prove any of his statements false. “All I want is my life back. I have family that’s passing away that I’ve never seen…I’m losing my family, and I hate that because I’ve been in prison for 23 years of my life and I’m ready to come home.”