Officials yield to temptation to ignore false arrest program in TN county

People falsely arrested and falsely imprisoned are put on trial in the courtrooms on the left, Hamilton County, Tenn., general sessions court, unless they “waive the court” and demand indictment for trial in Hamilton County criminal court. The best way to make a bogus case “go away” is to demand indictment and have the case heard in a court of record. (Photo David Tulis)

If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them.

Ecclesiastes 5:8

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Wednesday May 15 2024 — It’s easy to see why it is difficult to fix broken cisterns and illegal practices that come to take a life of their own, and God warns u not to “marvel at the matter.”

By David Tulis

Lorrie Miller, chief magistrate of Hamilton County

Officials all look at each other for affirmation that what is, is normative and proper. They know “higher officials are over them,” and to cause no offense to them — best not disturb the status quo, even if is violent and a “perversion of justice and righteousness.”

The temptation in face of a program of false imprisonment and false arrest in Hamilton County is great for public defender Steve Smith, district attorney Coty Wamp, general sessions judges Lila Statom, Larry Ables, Christie Sell, Gary Starnes and Alex McVeigh, and the county’s three criminal court judges, Barry Steelman, Boyd Patterson and Amanda Dunn.

It’s easy to see that chief magistrate Lorrie Miller’s policy of hearsay-only “doggie door” arrest warrants is here to stay — already two decades as “the way we do things here,” to quote a local official.

A doggie door is the little door for house pets operating inside a regular door useable by people. In Tennessee counties such as ours, the Tenn. const. Art. 1, sect. 17, promise that “all courts shall be open” — that’s the main door. But promise recognizing the people’s rights is abrogated. Crime victim citizens and fact witnesses to crimes are not allowed before the magistrate to swear out an arrest warrant, creating a criminal case.

Rather, access to the magistrate is limited to deputies and police officers, who alone are granted access to judicial authority. 

These creates of notable stature have in-and-out access to the courts through the Lorrie Miller doggie door.

Only cops, deputies get through the door of the courts, and that through a doggie door. The maindoor handle is locked against the public, denied access to the magistrate, who insists on arresting people on hearsay-only warrants.

Doggie door warrants emerge as news in Hamilton County from the aborted Great Dane dog sale case involving a falsely accused seller, Tamela Grace Massengale, 60, arrested after the “buyer” scammer called Chattanooga police with a fraud complaint to bully $200 extra in refund cash from the Venmo fraud mark, a divorcee and widow in government housing on an $804 monthly disability stipend.

The consequences of fraudulent arrest warrants overturn justice and the daily life of this woman. Her car was towed by police and held hostage by R&D Wrecker in Hixson, the fees of which Miss Grace could not afford. She is being evicted from Section 8 housing and is being told the criminal case sandbags her re-entry into government housing until it is settled. Mrs. Massengale is facing homelessness June 1.

Oppression becomes regularized, routine and custom, and if there is harm or evil in the oppression, it becomes invisible. It’s merely a situation. A commissioner or official might get a complaint, or an aggrieved phone call. Or a nasty letter. But these are from the margin only. Not from the center. And so the harms are temporized, accounted for as rounding errors.

Those men and women on the public payroll, especially those mid-career, are unwilling to destabilize the skein of relationships among those in government, and those dependent parties such as lawyers and drawers of water and hewers of wood in making government “work” for the people.

They tend to view claims about the constitution and the law as high ideas, noble concepts, worthy of protecteing. They view claims such as those I make about the law as naive, coming from an early era that has passed, hearkening to days in the early Republic, whether westward expansion or the early industrialization of the American capitalist economy. To their ears, claims about the necessities of the law and restoring “the rule under law” are to be lightly considered and dismissed. These ideals are unworkable.

One does not align oneself with any analysis or report – however true – that creates imbalance or disturbs familiar rhythms.

Reasons, beliefs trump facts

Steve Smith, elected public defender

The arrest warrant policy upheld by magistrate Lorrie Miller in Hamilton County — with apparent support of the office of public defender Steve Smith —rejects the legal requirement for fact witnesses to be the basis of an arrest.  She forbids members of the public from swearing out the warrant or the summons. Instead, she elevates cops and deputies, known for their honesty and reliability and truthfulness, to give their opinions, beliefs and reasons as to why an arrest warrant should issue against some member of the public about whom they have heard a negative report.

This has overturned thousands of lives in Hamilton County over the years. The policy continues one accepted by the Hamilton County commission, the county corporation, and prior magistrates in her office and the local judges. She and her predecessors have ruined thousands of lives with false arrest, which is always most deleterious to the poor and the weak.

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.

40-6-203.  Examination of affiant

“After the receipt of a legible facsimile copy of the affidavit of complaint, the examining official shall proceed with the examination upon taking the oath of the affiant.

The steps are that the fact witness or crime victim or accuser drafts the complaint containing all the essential elements of the crime (perhaps with help from an officer), inks his signature and swears under oath it is true. 

“The written examination shall set forth the facts stated by the affiant or affiants that establish that there is probable cause to believe an offense has been committed and that the defendant committed it,” the law states.

The law recognizes that, sometimes, hearsay is the best thing available to bring a person free in society to bar, for accusation and trial. Hearsay, or second-hand rumor and reputation are allowed. Even so, hearsay is hemmed in by requirement for fact bases – if possible.

The law squints at hearsay.

The finding of probable cause shall be based on evidence, which may be hearsay in whole or in part; provided, however, that there is a substantial basis for believing the source of the hearsay to be credible and for believing that there is a factual basis for the information furnished.

40-6-205.  Issuance of warrant

The filing of Miss Grace in criminal court asks the judge taking up her petition for writ of certiotrari to rule on the void criminal charges against her and investigate the magistrate due process violations that the county commission accepts.

Remonstrance, reform demand in bogus Massengale case

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