Late Trial, Veto and Lynching

I suppose it is obvious to everyone that writers who are tired make a lot more mistakes than well rested people.  In this column, I have written some articles late at night.  On the next morning, I found every paragraph totally unintelligible.

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The Tennessean, on April 15, 2016,  carried three articles that seem appropriate for inclusion herein.

Cory Batey is one of the defendants in what the press calls, the “Vanderbilt Rape Case.”  There was so much media coverage that the judge brought in a jury from Chattanooga.

Batey was convicted in Nashville and the jury verdict was rendered at 11 p.m.  When a case goes on so late, it may be a good issue to raise on appeal.  Several convictions have been reversed and new trials awarded with regard to late night verdicts.

In an earlier trial of the same case, a new trial was granted by the trial judge because the jury foreman failed to respond when asked whether he had ever been a victim in a case involving sexual misconduct.

To be successful in a criminal defense appeal, the defendant must show that he or she objected to the trial court’s action of which he complains.  Otherwise the issue is considered waived.

I tried a case in 1976 in Perry County in which the appellate court held that for a court to stay in session until late hours required “unusual and compelling circumstances,” which were not present in the case.  My recollection is that the trial judge wanted to get the case over because he planned to attend a social event the next day.

Mine was an especially bad case, because the court finished trying the first issue at 1 a.m.  Then a second issue extended the proceedings until 3 a.m.  When such circumstances are present, neither the state nor the defendant can be at their best.  Actually, the impairment of wit, so necessary during a trial, makes it impossible for either party to perform intelligently.

I objected to the late hours and assigned the court’s failure to accept my position as a prime issue on appeal.  The case was reversed and a new trial awarded.  Upon return to the court below, a “plea bargain” settled the case.

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The bill passed by the General Assembly making the Holy Bible the State Book  was vetoed by Governor Bill Haslam.  That is a good thing, because the first judge who saw it on his bench would have declared it unconstitutional without any hesitation at all.  Unfortunately, the governor’s action did not come in time to prevent giving the late night television shows the biggest laughs of the night.  This is only one of several acts which brought ridicule on our state.  Remember the “Road Kill Act?”

During his six years in office, Governor Haslam has vetoed four bills and the first three withstood an effort to override.  It takes only a majority to override, but the veto gives a majority the chance to rethink the issue. The sponsors will try to override this time but I believe they will fail.

During the debate on the bill, sponsors contended that they wanted passage because the book was an important economic and history guide.  The legislators bought it, but the state attorney general and governor would have none of it.

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In 1918, in Lebanon, a young black man, pleading for his life, was lynched by hanging in the public square.  Officers at the jail tried to protect the prisoner by pushing him out the back door, but they were overcome and pushed aside.  The lynching was seen by about a thousand onlookers.  Many bystanders, including a local preacher, tried to stop the lynching, but to no avail.

The story is told by Sam McFarland, a retired professor at Western Kentucky University.  The short article was published in the Tennessee Voices section of the paper.

The Nashville Banner and the Mt. Juliet Weekly News opined that the lynching may have been caused, at least in part, by a recent act banning capital punishment.  The Tennessean said that, in Lebanon the lynching “is generally deplored by a majority of the citizens.”  Most wanted an investigation and prosecution of the lynchers.

Press reports said that the accused had shot and killed the police chief, and The Tennessean had reported that the chief was popular, both as a citizen and an officer.

There was practically no investigation and no one was ever identified or charged.

This column discusses legal issues of general interest and does not give legal advice on any reader’s personal situation.    The law is not a one-size-fits-all hat.    Consult a lawyer of your choice.

Landis Turner

About Landis Turner

Landis Turner is a graduate of the University of the South - Sewanee and Vanderbilt University School of Law. He is a former president of the Tennessee Bar Association.

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