October 17, 2008
Clerk Was Crime Victim
The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed a conviction on a guilty plea to a number of serious offenses. The defendant was one of a group "knocking down mailboxes and otherwise enjoying themselves" who decided to burn down a barn.
A dissent would reverse the convictions because one of the victims was the Circuit Court Clerk in the county where the charges had been brought. The public defender withdrew from representation based on his professional relationship with the victim. The original trial judge recused himself, but the district attorney and the clerk's office remained in the case. A motion for venue change was denied.
The dissent notes that the plea likely waived the conflicts issue, but that "the record is notably silent regarding any waivers of the conflicts of interest." While court clerks "are not governed by a code of professional conduct...[t]here is nothing in the record that reveals a justification for the Circuit Court Clerk's participation in the case." (Mike Frisch)
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