Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Merriman Roll Call video

This is a roll call video for law enforcement concerning the August 13 case of Tennessee v Merriman. The case resulted in the dismissal of a DUI due to a lost video and a lack of evidence. The video is 10 minutes long.

Monday, August 19, 2013

THP SGT Lowell Russell Forgives Trucker. Probation Granted.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports that Florida truck driver Eric D Lewis has recieved probation for reckless endangerment in a crash that nearly killed and changed the life of Sgt Lowell Russell. The story tells that Sgt Russell was a big reason for the award of probation. "I have no animosity or hard feelings toward Mr. Lewis and I do not believe that incarcerating him would accomplish anything," Russell wrote in a letter to Judge Steve Sword.
The trucker slammed into the patrol car after he had fallen asleep behind the wheel. To his credit the trucker joined with others to pull Sgt Russell from the burning car.
Read the full story at:

Lost Videos of Traffic Stops and tests

The Supreme Court of Tennessee has affirmed the suppression of evidence in a case with a lost video. The case, State v Merriman can be read at: http://www.tsc.state.tn.us/sites/default/files/merrimanopn.pdf

In its Opinion released today, the Supreme Court upheld the dismissal, concluding that the State had a duty to preserve the video recording and failed in that duty when the video recording was lost. Because of the obligation to preserve evidence that could possibly clear Ms. Merriman of wrongdoing or assist in her defense, the Court then looked at the other three factors outlined in
State v. Ferguson, 2 S.W.3d 912 (Tenn. 1999).
 It determined that the loss of the video recording resulted from simple negligence; the lost evidence had significance when considered in light of all the other evidence, and its loss prevented viewing the event as it had occurred; and the sufficiency of the other evidence was inconclusive. The Court determined that the loss of the evidence deprived Ms. Merriman of her right to a fair trial.

Note that the facts as stated by the Court were pretty sketchy! I do not know how the State would prove the case, if there was no video and the only facts available from testimony were those listed in the opinion. (Underline added for emphasis)

The facts noted in the opinion were:

"After Ms. Merriman exited the vehicle, Officer Hammond attempted to administer field sobriety tests to Ms. Merriman. Another officer, Sergeant Jones, arrived after the stop of Ms. Merriman’s vehicle and was present during her performance of the field sobriety tests. Ms. Merriman informed Officer Hammond that she had health problems but agreed to attempt the tests. Officer Hammond first conducted the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (“HGN”) test. A second, unspecified field sobriety test ended when Ms. Merriman indicated her knee was “going out.” Officer Hammond administered a final, unspecified test that he believed Ms. Merriman could attempt even with her health issues.
Officer Hammond placed Ms. Merriman under arrest and arranged for transportation of Ms. Merriman’s two minor children, who were passengers in her vehicle. While Officer Hammond was reading the implied consent form to Ms. Merriman, she advised him she had taken Valium and hydrocodone earlier in the day. Ms. Merriman signed the implied consent form acknowledging her refusal to submit to a blood test."

In almost all cases the sufficiency of the evidence without a video should be apparent. In those cases this decision should have no impact!
No conclusions about guilt or innocence could be reached in the Merriman case. We don't know what tests were given or what evidence came from the tests. From the description of the facts, there are no conclusions that would lead us to believe the driver had any indications of impairment from any field test. Perhaps there was more in the record that did not make it into the description of facts, but if these are the facts upon which the court relied, the need for the video is pretty obvious in this case.
This case emphasizes the need to have well written reports and testimony that is conclusive in any case in which a video disappears.
This does not mean the Court now places a higher emphasis on the video that testimony. However, if the testimony would not support proof of guilt, the video is going to be the evidence that is vital.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

1 in 6 Americans are binge drinkers!

A new study from the Center for Disease Control indicates that the cost to the nation for heavy and binge drinking is 80,000 deaths and 223.5 Billion Dollars per year.
Tennessee loses ove 4 billion dollars per year due to excessive drinking.
The cost to Tennessee government is about 1.6 billion.

From December 2011 to November 2012, an expert panel developed methods to allocate component costs from the 2006 national estimate to states for (1) total; (2) government; (3) binge drinking; and (4) underage drinking costs. Differences in average state wages were used to adjust productivity losses.

For prosecutors, this means that on average, statistically, 2 of your 12 jurors may be binge drinkers. Be aware of the numbers.

Read the CDC study and CDC recommendations published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine:

Monday, August 12, 2013

See the latest fatality report

So far this year, we have lost 571 people on our roadways. That is fewer than our losses this time last year. The Department of Safety keeps a daily fatality report on their website. It breaks down where, when, the type of vehicle and other data concerning our losses. Take a look at the daily fatality report at this link:


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

DUI Voodoo? Read about this one.

DUI is a Choice

Last weekend in Nashville extra duty officers arrested 23 offenders and the DUI unit arrested another 22. That's 45 people who got caught after making the choice to endanger every other person on the roadways. Why? DUI is a crime of selfishness committed by persons who do not care about others. This selfish behavior shows contempt for others. It's time we think about others and give them every chance to travel home safely.
Every DUI offender who kills regrets his/her act after the fact. No DUI offender who kills has regretted the possibility enough to get a ride home. It's time to think. If you drink and drive, you choose to endanger others. DUI is a choice.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Brain drain: Alcohol makes you stupid!

As if we don't have enough proof of alcohol effecting the ability to think, we now have this guy in Knoxville. He thought in his drunken condition that it was a good idea to steal a bobcat front loader from a nursery company to cover up the fact he was naked. He, of course, is presumed innocent of all charges, which include felony theft, DUI and indecent exposure.

Motorcyclist Killed On Highway 58 - 08/04/2013 - Chattanoogan.com

It was a tough weekend for motorcycles in Tennessee. In addition to this fatality in Hamilton County, another died on the Dragon while passing a slower bike and a third died in a head on crash in Monroe County.

Motorcyclist Killed On Highway 58 - 08/04/2013 - Chattanoogan.com