The criminal case against a good-natured and harmless truck driver Michael James grinds toward a hearing on Sept. 4 Friday in sessions court before judge Gerald Webb.
The case is misbegotten and noteworthy because of all the typical abuses it reveals in a judicial system that slights the law, disregards black-letter directives and accepts repeated docket-clogging hearings when false matters should be dismissed on the spot.
Michael James, who fired lawyer Bill Speeks, believes he can handle the case himself and today is reading the law and court cases to determine how to target the claims imposed May 6 by arresting Chattanooga cop Lance Hughes.
He plans to ask the judge to throw out the case in a fourth hearing on grounds of lack of subject matter jurisdiction, a point not raised by his attorney, who kept him outside the courtroom while ostensibly representing his interests. Without a proper filing that respects the defendant’s rights, a court lacks any power even to notice the allegations. A lack of sworn affidavit from a proper party approved by a magistrate means the case has no substance that Judge Webb can perceive.
Judge Webb has no choice but to throw out the case ministerially.
That Judge Web is having Mr. James appear a fourth time indicates the laxity in clearing the docket and seeing obvious faults in a case best described as the “911 call from hell” or “another black caught calling 911.”
Mr. James sought to meet district attorney Neal Pinkston, and sent him an email requesting a meeting to get the case against him shut down as abusive.
Chattanooga police are notoriously sloppy and belligerent in their filing criminal cases. But magistrates and judges are the familiars of the officers, have longstanding personal and professional dealings with them in court, and so are willing to be partial to them.
That happened in the notorious Diana Watt case in which a senior, highly respected judge, Clarence Shattuck, dragged her before him six times, each time excusing the absent accusing cop involved in her notorious viral “traffic stop” arrest in 2018.
I analyze how judges fall prey to partiality and favor, forbidden by judicial ethics rules and, more importantly, by the Word of God. Their partiality is in favor of cops and DAs, in disfavor to the hoi polloi who appear at bar.
Officer Hughes signed the affidavit of complaint without being either victim or witness. Mr. James’ two alleged witnesses, Ella Peters and Kaliya Anderson, refused to swear or sign a complaint before the magistrate as required by Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-6-203. Informants; examination. Hence, no lawful complaint is before this court.
This gateway error of the judicial commissioner or magistrate gave life to the zombie case. The law forbids an officer from making such demands for a case, and forbids the magistrate from accepting his word as anything more than hearsay.
Hearsay is not evidence, yet magistrate Miller allows it.
Separately, magistrate Miller also defends the practice of converting the term “public offense” at Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-7-103, arrest by officer without warrant, into the term “misdemeanor offense,” meaning she turns a law limiting warrantless into a permission for promiscuous warrantless arrests. Her usage and custom creates essentially a system of general warrants, where people are arrested, seized, cuffed, caged and charged first, with the magistrate coming in afterward with a nod of its propriety. The constitution obliges accusers to get an arrest warrant first before laying hand on a citizen, with a felony and “public offense” exception in statute.
Vindictive process vs. innocent man
Mr. James placed the 911 call because the girls in the car were swerving and traveling dangerously, speeding, nearly pushing him onto the curb. They crashed their borrowed car, which he had been following so he could get a registration plate number. They opened the doors and bailed out, knocked at the door of a woman who lives near the crash scene, and developed their story of accusation — that Mr. James threatened them with a pistol.
Other errors pile up behind this gateway make-or-break hearsay fault in State of Tennessee vs. Michael James.
➤ Officer Hughes and other officers searched his car trunkwithout (a) a warrant based on probable cause based on oath or affirmation, and without (b) the owner’s consent. The morning of the encounter, Mr. James’ Beretta pistol was in a locked guncase in a knapsack in the locked trunk, according to Mr. James’ affidavit. The officer’s narrative contains perjured statements in its material on the weapon and his bullying questioning of Mr. James about it during the “investigation.” The search appears unconstitutional and a major violation of due process.
➤ The charging instrument contains perjury from Officer Hughes about his line of questioning about the firearm. “Officers asked Michael James if there were any weapons in his vehicle,” he states in his affidavit. “He stated no multiple times. Officers searched Michael’s vehicle and discovered a Beretta.” Bodycams will show this statement is perjured, Mr. James says, because the question they asked him was whether he pointed a gun, not whether he had a gun. And Mr. James is under no obligation to answer any questions whatever under his fifth amendment rights.
The charging instrument is perjured also in stating accused was standing outside his car when officers arrived. He was inside the car, on the phone with 911 when the officers first rolled up, Mr. James says. Officer Hughes evidently asked the girls leading questions about the gun, and claims the girl described it as “black or gray *** and had a long piece on it.” Leading questions bring a sought-after conclusion, and not necessarily the truth.
The soundfile from the 911 call by the girls strongly indicates they are concocting their story between them while on the phone with the dispatcher.
Guilty intent — why would a felon call cops on himself?
➤ The officer’s sworn statement is sufficiently accurate as to suggest the accused could not have had mens rea — or guilty intent — to have committed the alleged felony. He is a truck driver of good morals and clean record. The affidavit of accusation relates how he saw the two girls in the borrowed or stolen car careening down city streets and driving with seeming recklessness — and witnessed them crash the car into a building. His call to 911 to bring police and EMTs is not a call from a felon, who would not have called police nor waited in his car until officers came.
The 1st mistake
Control of the law by attorneys appears to have sharply reduced its power to obtain justice swiftly and render equitable ends to conflicts, fights, disputes and wrongs.
Chief Magistrate Miller, an attorney, has before her the law regarding swearings and probable cause to approve an arrest, approve an arrest warrant or approve a search warrant. She was skeptical enough about the case to let Mr. James “OR out,” which means to be released on “own recognizance,” an unusual move for a serious felony of aggravated assault. That may have been in his favor, not to have to post bond.
But to allow “the system” to hold on to the case created by officer Hughes, and give it life? Without a sworn warrant?
Tennessee Code Ann. § 40-6-203. Informants; examination, controls her job of giving judicial approval to the initiation of criminal cases.
(a) Upon information made to any magistrate of the commission of a public offense, the magistrate shall examine, on oath, the affiant or affiants, reduce the examination to writing, and cause the examination to be signed by the person making it.
This case by state of Tennessee is on behalf of two girls, Ella Peters and Kyaija Anderson, neither of whom on May 6 made appearance before the magistrate at the Hamilton County jail to be examined by Ms. Miller, give oath and have the cause “[reduced] *** to writing” by the magistrate.
The only party swearing an oath in the James case is Officer Hughes, who is neither eyewitness nor an aggrieved party capable of swearing to facts. And the writing appears to be by him.
The case is void from its inception, there being no actionable instrument to ignite prosecution or adjudication.
The Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that when a person is arrested without a warrant, he “shall be taken without unnecessary delay before the nearest appropriate magistrate” and that “[a]n affidavit of complaint shall be filed promptly.”
[A] statement alleging that a person has committed an offense. It must:
(a) be in writing;
(b) be made on oath before a magistrate or a neutral and detached court clerk authorized by Rule 4 to make a probable cause determination; and
(c) allege the essential facts constituting the offense charged.
The girls have not filed such complaints, according to Mr. James, which leaves the case to dangle across his calendar on a mere thread.