"We need to be able to look at old cases, especially where someone is claiming that they are wrongfully convicted," says Assistant District Attorney Robert Jones, who leads the Conviction Review Unit at the Nashville District Attorney's office.
In many states, the offense of reckless driving is limited to a few specific activities. In Tennessee, there are some specific activities that constitute reckless driving, but the overall definition is driving any vehicle "in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property."
As you probably know, Governor Bill Haslam granted clemency to Cyntoia Brown. Brown, 30, was sentenced to life in prison after she, a teenage sex trafficking victim, killed a man who paid to have sex with her. Brown had appealed her life sentence after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sentencing juveniles to life behind bars violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. That appeal ended her in becoming eligible for parole at age 69 -- after 51 years.
You may remember the plight of Matthew Charles. Convicted for a crack offense, Charles was lucky enough to be released from prison in 2016, nearly a decade before his term was up. He had been saved -- he thought -- by a reduction in the federal sentencing guidelines' mandatory sentences for crack offenses.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama that sentencing juvenile offenders to life in prison without the possibility of parole violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. The court had previously ruled that the death penalty is unconstitutional when applied to juvenile defendants.
In Tennessee as in many states, people can be convicted of DUI not because they were actually driving, but because they were in physical control of a motor vehicle. This can potentially lead to some troubling cases.
If you can't afford to pay your Tennessee traffic ticket, the state may have threatened to take away your driver's license -- or it may already have done so. If so, you probably thought that license revocation was a strikingly counterproductive way of getting people to pay debts. After all, most people in Tennessee need to drive to and from work. No license means no work, making it even more difficult to pay off that speeding ticket.
In 1992, 24-year-old Lorie Lee Lance was killed in a house fire in Old Hickory, Tennessee. Claude Francis Garrett, Lance's boyfriend, was accused of setting the fire. Although he swore he was innocent, an arson investigator claimed that a set of large, irregular burns in the living room represented a "pour pattern" indicating the use of a liquid accelerant. A large container of kerosene was found in the home, which Garrett claims was used in a kerosene heater.
There are certain rules law enforcement must follow when setting up sobriety checkpoints or DUI roadblocks, but the Tennessee highway patrol failed to follow them in a 2012 roadblock in Harris County. Therefore, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals found the roadblock unconstitutional and vacated the DUI conviction of a Chattanooga man who was caught up in it.
In the 1963 case of Brady v. Maryland, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Constitution requires prosecutors to hand over to the defense any evidence that tends to prove the defendant's innocence. When they do not and the defendant is convicted, their failure or refusal to do so can result in a new trial.