An “innocent” man is on his way to prison

The Post & Email ‘reports‘ that Walt Fitzpatrick will spend another period of time in prison. While the prisons are full with ‘innocent’ people, the P&E asks a good question: What on earth did Walt do, to deserve another prison sentence? The full article by Laurie Roth can be read here.

Let’s see if I can help add some light onto these matters as there appears to be some confusions:

Walt was indicted by the McMinn County Grand Jury of four criminal counts on 05/13/2014 and arrested in the Courthouse while he was waiting to hear about his sixth(?) petition to have his complaints to be presented in front of the full Grand Jury.

The charges were:

Aggravated perjury, harassment, stalking and extortion

The stalking charge was dropped in the pre-trial hearing by the Judge and the Jury found Walt guilty of aggravated perjury and extortion and not guilty of harassment.

The aggravated perjury charge involved Walt’s attempts to file a protection order against the foreperson of the Grand Jury, Jeff Cunningham. Walt had tried, unsuccessfully, to have his complaints heard by the full grand jury, for at least six times and believed that Jeff Cunningham was block Walt from being heard by the Grand Jury, even though the evidence suggests that Walt’s petition was heard and rejected by the full Grand Jury, not just the statutory group of three.

Jeff had informed Walt that he believed that some of the statements made by Walt may have exposed him to criminal charges, however Walt, undeterred sent letters to the Supreme Court and the TN Bar to have Jeff Cunningham’s law license revoked. In addition, Walt also filed for a protection order against Jeff, which was rejected by the Court after observing that Jeff was not a relative of Walt.

Jeff, as the foreperson of the Grand Jury, appears to have reported his interactions with Mr Fitzpatrick to the presiding Judge as well as to the prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor apparently decided to bring the charges in front of a Grand Jury to have Walt indicted. The Grand Jury returned the indictment and Walt was arrested. During his trial, evidence was presented to the Jury who returned a guilty verdict on two counts and a not-guilty verdict on one count.

Walt is now awaiting sentencing and his case may be appealed. Walt continues to insist that he has done nothing wrong and that the evidence does not support his convictions. However, 12 sworn jurors apparently disagreed with Walt’s interpretation.

Roth apparently is unfamiliar with the full history of Walt’s efforts which appear to have been fueled by flawed interpretations and understanding of the Tennessee Statutes. In Tennessee, the foreperson of the Grand Jury has been, since at least 1919, appointed by the presiding Judge from the population at large. The foreperson is appointed for a two year term and may be re-appointed for consecutive terms. Various courts have confirmed these facts.

During Walt’s attempts to have his claims of “treason” against President Obama heard by a Tennessee Grand Jury, Walt believed that the foreperson of said Grand Jury was ‘illegally’ appointed. When Walt interrupted a Grand Jury proceeding to try to “arrest” said foreperson, he was subsequently charged and convicted. Although claims of “systemic corruption” in the Tennessee Court system have been leveled, little supporting evidence has been presented beyond the flawed understanding of Rule 6 of the TN Rules of Criminal Procedure and a few other confusions, such as the impact of a 1984 statute on the nature of the TN Court System.

More recently, Walt was convicted after he walked out of a court room with confidential papers, believing that they showed evidence of a crime. Walt had been observing how the Judge selected and swore in the two Grand Juries and the jury pool for the petite jury. Walt believed that he had witnessed illegal acts by the Judge and believed that the papers supported his claims. See also this TPM article for more background.

More recently, Walt has been filing petitions to be heard by the McMinn County Grand Jury, however his petitions were repeatedly rejected. Citing a recent statute which limits the summoning of Jurors, Walt believed that the foreperson of the Grand Jury was serving illegally, even though, as had been pointed out to Walt, the statute is limited to those jurors who are summoned, and does not apply to the foreperson who is appointed by the Judge.

While the Tennessee process is different from other states and the Federal Grand Jury process, history shows that the Courts have been appointing forepersons of the Grand Jury, even for consecutive periods of time.

I have been reporting on this elsewhere, so let me cut and paste some fragments:

Rule 6 of the TN Rules of Criminal Procedure states:

The foreperson and the twelve qualified jurors whose names are first drawn constitute the grand jury for the term and shall attend the court until dismissed by the judge or until the next term.

Walt actually quoted from Rule 6 in a recorded conversation with a court official and had interpreted the above phrase to mean that the foreperson and the twelve qualified jurors are drawn from the randomly selected pool. The court official laughed and pointed out Walt’s misunderstanding, with limited success apparently.

g) Appointment, Qualifications, Term, Compensation, Vote, and Duties of Foreperson.

(1) Appointment of Foreperson. The judge of the court authorized by law to charge–and receive the report of–the grand jury shall appoint the grand jury foreperson. When concurrent grand juries are impaneled, the court shall appoint a foreperson for each grand jury.

It’s so clearly explained by the Rules…

The Advocate and Democrat explains

In 1983 the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled there is no language in Tennessee Criminal Court Rules of Procedure stating a grand jury foreperson is limited in how many terms they can serve.

So we have the US Supreme Court observing

HOBBY v. UNITED STATES, 468 U.S. 339 (1984)

Moreover, Rose must be read in light of the method used in Tennessee to select a grand jury and its foreman. Under that system, 12 members of the grand jury were selected at random by the jury commissioners from a list of qualified potential jurors. The foreman, however, was separately appointed by a judge from the general eligible population at large. The foreman then served as “`the thirteenth member of each grand jury organized during his term of office, having equal power and authority in all matters coming before the grand jury with the other members thereof.’” Rose [468 U.S. 339, 348] v. Mitchell, supra, at 548, n. 2 (quoting Tenn. Code Ann. 40-1506 (Supp. 1978)).

And in

ROSE v. MITCHELL, 443 U.S. 545 (1979)

Given the fact that any foreman was not limited in the number of 2-year terms he could serve, and given the inclination on the part of the judge to reappoint, it is likely that during the period in question only a few persons in actual number served as foremen of the grand jury.

It’s all there…

Advocate and Democrat

“As I understand this ruling,” Melson said, “the Tennessee rules concerning the service of a grand jury foreman contains no term limits.”

Exactly…

I have also documented how the TN legislature has attempted to change the rules on various occasions.