Common law rightsGrand juryPersecutions

Don’t let sessions judge try you; ‘waive court,’ demand grand jury review per right

Police abuse victim Aaron Berry, arrested for complaining loudly about his credit union’s forcing him to get cash from a PTSD-creating cubicle in the Gunbarrel Road branch, enters general sessions court today on two criminal counts. (Photo David Tulis)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Monday, June 2, 2024 — Tennessee general sessions courts are, as some say, “Mickey Mouse” courts because they fool around, drag out proceedings and tend to not be careful about due process rights.

By David Tulis / Copperhead Radio 

What to do if you are criminally charged and commanded to appear in general sessions? I suggest you waive the court and put your case in criminal court.

Go to a real court, a court of record, where the quality of the judges is higher, their demeanor more judicial, and the results more just. Criminal court is past the plea bargain mill that is sessions.

Here in Hamilton County, and Chattanooga, lawyers and judges say that you are “sending your case upstairs” to criminal — by way of the county grand jury.

Waiving the court says you want your case heard in a court of record, with more respect of your rights, and you are serious about criminally defending yourself. 

Judges discourage people from “waiving” their courts. To get the message across, they say things such as, “Do you really want to do that?” or “Ooooo-K.” They would prefer that people think that “grand jury” and “indictment” are dangerous, and that one shouldn’t want to confront such a terrifying and dreadful thing.

Given that county arrest policy is illegal, cops and deputies generate many cases that should not exist. These are false imprison and false arrest cases, or ones that arrive at the sessions court with an illegal requirement to be jailed for booking before the first hearing. T.CA.40-7-118(f). (“By accepting the citation, the defendant agrees to appear at the arresting law enforcement agency prior to trial to be booked and processed. Failure to so appear is a Class A misdemeanor.” This provision is unconstitutional.)

I suggest “waiving” the court if yours is a badly conceived criminal misdemeanor because of the commitment steps the system must go through to bring you to trial. 

Demanding indictment makes officials do heavy lifting

  1. The district attorney’s office must decide how to handle State of Tennessee v. [insert your name here]. 
  1. If the answer is yes, the DA commits to reviewing the charge, arguing it before the grand jury, perhaps having an officer testify.
  1. The grand jury foremen Jimmy Anderson and Rose-Marie Hill don’t like “Mickey Mouse” cases because they clog the docket. They will unlikely issue a true bill if the level of the charge is petty and the facts inconsequential against public tranquility and safety. For them to issue a true bill is a labor they might — or might not — choose to pursue.
  1. If a true bill issues against you, the grand jury is saying the case is worth prosecuting in a trial heard by the petit jury of 12 citizens. Again, parties have to commit to issuing the true bill, signaling a jury trial — costly, time consuming — must be organized. That means more work for the DA.
  1. The DA’s office re-evaluates the charging instrument and obtains the case file — affidavits, bodycam, records, evidence. It may elect to drop the case before any evidence gathering commences, or sometime in the middle of the process. You’ll get an email or snail mail advising you the charges are being dismissed.
  1. To avoid trial — already a rarity — the DA may solicit the defendant personally, or the defendant’s lawyer. That is to avoid a trial and “settle.”
  2. On the day of the trial, the DA may opt to drop the cae — since you have been unwilling to. It doesn’t want to tie up half a day, or a full day for a petty conviction in a petty matter. DAs have been known to drop the case during voir dire, or selection of jury members. A case in which heavy investment is made before trial, however, is unlikely to be dropped.

Going on trial

Oh, no! You are on trial! You are facing trial, and you don’t have a lawyer. You don’t qualify with indigency for appointed counsel. You cannot afford an attorney. Do you bow down to these cops, deputies and shysters?

My answer is, “Heaven, forbid.” Stand your ground. Do the best you can. Connect with the jury members, Your fellow citizens. Make an opening argument. Question the witness. Decide whether you want to testify. Face cross-examination if you do. Make a final argument to each member of the jury personally by standing in front of them is very close proximity and make your case. In taking your seat to hear the judge’s instruction to the jury before they retire, you will feel that you have never done anything more exciting in your life.

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