Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

May 15, 2013

Judge's daughter working for DA questioned

By Michael R. Moser

CROSSVILLE — An assistant public defender failed in his attempt to have a Criminal Court judge removed from cases he was representing because the judge's daughter works for the district attorney's office.

A brief hearing was held Wednesday about whether Judge David Patterson should step down from hearing cases represented by Assistant Public Defender John Nisbet because the judge's daughter is employed as a victim/witness coordinator in District Attorney Randy York's office.

Nisbet argued that some of his defendants felt at a disadvantage by having the judge's daughter in the courtroom on the other side of their case. He added that some felt victims "have a leg up."

Deputy District Attorney Gary McKenzie countered that the daughter was never introduced to juries or in open court, who she sits in the back of the courtroom and brings in witnesses. In fact, she has assisted in bringing witnesses for the defense as well as the state so that the witnesses could give their testimony.

She also sends letters to victims, advising them of the status of their cases, and makes appointments for the DA's office.

The only witness to testify was Assistant District Attorney Amanda Worley, who was called by Nisbet as he attempted to establish the victim/witness coordinator's duties for the record.

Judge Patterson stated he had sought advice from the state's judicial ethics committee and had received an advisory opinion if his disqualification was required.

He noted that in accordance with that opinion, his daughter was not a lawyer or a partner in a public law firm (the DA's office) and has no monetary gain in the outcome of cases. Based on those findings and with advice from the state judicial regulatory agencies, he ruled that no conflict exists and that there was no reason to excuse himself from hearing cases presented by the the Public Defender's Office.

In other cases on the docket, the following took place:

Wesley Robert McGhee, 25, charged with criminal simulation (passing of three $20 counterfeit bills), pleaded guilty and received a two-year suspended sentence to be served on probation, is to pay $60 in retitution and court costs.

•Kevin Paul Proffitt, on probation because of burglary and theft charges, in an early hearing was granted a suspended sentence on condition he complete the Teen Challenge in-house rehab program. Proffitt left the program early and was ordered to serve the balance of his prison sentence.

Stephen Robert Stults, attempted theft of less than $10,000, theft of less than $500 and simple possession/casual exchange, it was a agreed that city police provide the state and the defense attorney the same video used as evidence with a motion to suppress the search hearing continued to June 26.

Christopher Allen Taylor, initiation of the process to manufacture methamphetamine and attempted first-degree murder, set for trial July 30.

•Timothy James Debord, burglary and theft of less than $10,000, motion hearing continued to June 26.

•Scottie Joe Eastwood, rape, motion hearing continued to June 26.

•Edna Faye Melton, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment with a weapon and assault with bodily injury, continued to July 1 for motion hearing and July 19 for trial.

•Robert Paul Wankel, attempted theft of less than $10,000, indictment was dismissed because General Sessions Judge Larry Warner had thrown out Wankel's guilty plea to the same charge in General Sessions Court.