Two lawyers representing one of the defendants in the Christian/Newsom carjacking and murder case want off the case because of death threats in comments at local media websites including the Knoxville News Sentinel and WBIR. They also ask that the media be barred from reporting on the pre-trial hearings.

In their motion, court-appointed attorneys G. Scott Green and Kimberly A. Parton say:

The media, especially in the age of instant access via the internet, has an enormous responsibility due to its influence over public opinion. The manner in which a story is reported, the editorial position of the media outlet, and public comment generated by that outlet's published content, all bear directly upon the attitude(s) and upon the prejudice(s) which society embrace. One need look no further than the tragedy which occurred on a quiet summer morning within a place of worship on Kingston Pike to understand the consequences of disseminated hatred. If the media cannot responsibly report, and/or monitor the public dissemination of its website content where such failure to monitor affects the effective representation of counsel for one or more defendants, it should not be allowed to further publicly disseminate information about this case. While the public has a right to be informed about these proceedings, that privilege will always be subservient to the constitutionally guaranteed right to receive effective assistance of counsel where one is charged with a capital crime.

They say they did not ask for the assignment but they took an oath and learned early in their careers they would have to take on unpopular cases. They argue that this duty does not obligate them to compromise their own safety or the safety of their families "simply for doing the job the law compels us to perform." They also remind those seeking justice for these crimes that anything less than a vigorous defense will result in reversal on appeal if there are convictions.

It was only a matter of time before these chickens came home to roost. Read the motion for more specifics about the threats and the media's lack of response to complaints. It's an interesting look at how internet hate speech affects the intersection of justice, the media, and the public interest.

Ragsdale2010's picture

Hmmmmm, wonder if they looked at the state's evidence here

Given the horrific nature of these crimes, the nature of the confessions, and the abundance of evidence associated with these crimes against kids who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, this prosecution is taking its toll on the court, the DA, the investigating officers, and will literally sicken the jury which is empanelled to hear these cases. No right minded lawyer would want any aspect of this case, although, the defendants are entitled to legal representation in these proceedings.

The court and juries which convict these animals (and they will be convicted)need to send as strong a message to the pubic that they can that this type thuggery and barbaric animalism will not be tolerated in our community. If our local authorities, our local prosecution, and our local judicial system cannot mete out justice fairly, firmly, and in a timely manner, we open ourselves up for more violence and the return of the racial hate groups who thrive on these types of issues and a local community's inability to resolve same.

R. Neal's picture

So your point is that they

So your point is that they just want to distance themselves from a sure loser?

What about their complaint re. death threats? Should this not be taken seriously, and discussed on its own merits?

R. Neal's picture

Yes, I am still trying to

Yes, I am still trying to figure out their double-standard policy. They let stuff on their website that they would never print on their letters to the editor page, even if it was signed and they could verify the writer's identity like they require for letters to the editor. Why have two standards? Why not go all the way and just say reporters can make stuff up as long as it only appears in the web version?

gonzone's picture

Yes

You nailed it! Thanks for the laugh.
"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Ragsdale2010's picture

The case is a loser, the threats are probably real, but this is

the environment they stepped into and agreed to when they accepted the court's appointment to participate in this case. Many criminal defense lawyers have been threatened at some point in time regarding the nature of their representation. Often times, with defendants who are turning state's evidence on various bad guys, the accused will travel separately from his counsel given the seriousness of the threats. This stuff is very real and if the attorneys, the judges, the prosecution, and the investigators are not up to the challenge, they need not get into the fray on the front end. Let's see how much these attorneys have billed the state for their services, the judge should excuse them only upon a complete surrender of all fees and costs paid by the state.

Ask herb moncier if he has ever been threatened (in criminal prosecutions, not the civic civil stuff of late). Once you get past the bright lights, the cameras, the headlines, the news reporters, and the public scrutiny which accompanies these types of cases, it's not always bill it stout and plead'em out like we've seen time and time again.

For comparison,look at the toll taken in Roane County with the Houston boys, they're about to get their third judge, we're on the second or third prosecutors, the attorneys are essentially the same, they've tried each of them once to a hung jury, you've got a dead officer and a dead civilian, with the accused to be tried again at a tremendous cost to the county.

The dispensing of justice through the court system is not for the timid, the fearful, or the DUI - I'm your guy type lawyers anymore.

R. Neal's picture

So what you're saying is

So what you're saying is that this is nothing new, and that the internet and media websites just expose more of it to the light of day?

First let's kill the lawyers's picture

Careful . . . your ignorance is showing!

Appointed representation is undertaken for the most part by folks who actually care about the system. They're the attorneys you don't see in the media day after day who quietly go about doing their jobs representing the indigent accused. Our oaths as attorneys actually mean something to most of us, and many undertake appointed representation because they have sympathy for the underdog in life, those spit upon by "normal" society. Steve Green isn't a media hog and hasn't ever been in the 10+ years I've watched him work as both as prosecutor and defense attorney. The man genuinely cares about the system of justice we have and fights to make it work. You don't get to hang folks on the public square with the testimony of JoeBob and Earl any more, and justice is supposed to be provided to those accused of even the most heinous crimes. This doesn't mean the public gets to kill the lawyers if they don't like the clients!

Defense attorneys are vital to making the system work, and the public should view them more as referees instead of dog crap. If the police have followed the law and obtained enough evidence which is relevant and have obtained such evidence in a legal manner which makes it admissible in a court of law under the rules of evidence, then the trial is essentially a long guilty plea However, the right to trial by jury is guaranteed under our Constitutions, both U.S. and Tennessee. If the police failed to do their job correctly, how is this the defense attorney's fault if he/she brings it to the attention of the trial court? If the police do their jobs correctly and the evidence is legally sufficient, relevant, and legally-obtained, well it's a slam-dunk for the prosecution. If not, why should someone be convicted? Based on what the media says happened? Based on what the public thinks it knows? How would you enjoy being found guilty on what your neighbor thinks happened?

And folks, regardless of what you've seen, read, or heard in the media, these defendants remain accused only. They are considered innocent until proven guilty, and you can be thankful you live in a country which provides such a protection. Yes, the evidence the State may eventually present against them could lead to a guilty verdict by a duly-empaneled jury, but John Q. Public spitting venom and vitriol on public media outlets doesn't get to choose the verdict. This is the issue underlying the difficulty faced by attorneys who are willing to provide zealous representation in unpopular cases. Does the 1st amendment or freedom of the press cover everything and anything? The answer is "no" at times and has been "no" in many different situations. An individual's right to shout "fire" must yield to the public's safety. An individual's right to be a racist is limited also when it comes to speech, and the rights of the press have similarly been restricted especially in instances regarding the public good.

On the News Sentinel's website, I've read the hate garbage being spewed repeatedly by those who believe they have the only opinion which matters and must be expressed regarding crime, criminals, and the those who dare to defend them. I no longer look down at the comments for the most part, well, except for the good news stories. I prefer a hearty "atta-boy" to a hate-filled diatribe any day. And the question remains, why let folks poison the well here in Knox County by permitting sometimes nonsensical, hate-filled garbage reach our jury pool on local cases?

One must also face the fact that news readership is down in this day and age of instantaneous information overload. Reporters skew stories to catch readers, and juicy murders with lawyers everyone loves to hate are great targets. Heavens, attorneys were great targets in the days of Elizabeth I when Shakespeare was writing and most of the public had no clue what attorneys actually did. Unfortunately, the appointed attorney has received a bad rap in the media because they fight for those who are disliked by the majority. Wouldn't you hate to be part of the minority and accused of a crime? Perhaps even [gasp] an innocent person accused of a crime?

These attorneys who are willing to put up with the public hatred and garbage for doing their jobs in defending the citizen accused should be applauded. They should also be valued for the services they render to the justice system as well as the indigent accused. They assuredly should not be chastised nor threatened for doing the very job called upon to do, and being afraid for your life after anonymous threats are posted is not being timid. It's being smart to recognize how the public is out of control.

knoxrebel's picture

Kim and Scott were appointed

Kim and Scott were appointed by Judge B to represent this guy, they didn't seek the appointment. I'm sure they understand their ethical responsibilities, as both of them routinely take appointed cases and pro bono cases as well. Both of these lawyers have represented some pretty awful clients, I'm sure. But Knoxville may not have seen anything quite like these crimes before and the toll the exposure is taking on the public is unlike anything we've seen. The fact is, most of the time in cases such as this, the threats originate from the other direction. Lawyers may decline appointment for a number of reasons, including the fact that the crime or accused is repugnant to them. But the Supreme Court's rules on this point are not exclusive and appointed cpunsel may offer other reasons, e.g. their safety and their families' safety.

And insofar as waiving what they've billed goes, that's ridiculous. They've done the work, I'm sure at great expense to their private practices over the past couple of years. Why should they waive what is a paltry fee for the market value of their work? And I've known Herb for years, and I'm sure he's had to deal with similar stuff, but if he actually believed that his family's safety was threatened . . . .

Finally, as far as the Houston's go, "Let Justice Be Done Though the Heavens May Fall" . . . . Lucious Calpurnious Piso Caesoninus. They will never convict those two guys . . . for this set of facts.

KC's picture

This is the media's own

This is the media's own making. They have got to know that a good deal of their web traffic is based on the nut cases who write such obscene, racist, and threatening comments.

It's like the class where the students love the teacher, because she let's them get away with everything and anything in the classroom.

I'm sure in the past, before the Internet, defense attorneys, and probably prosecuting attorneys as well, received death threats.

But due to the inter-connectedness of the web, I think it feeds on itself, and allows opportunities for associations to form and perhaps take action that before the Internet age would have been harder to implement.

Andy Axel's picture

It's an interesting look at

It's an interesting look at how internet hate speech affects the intersection of justice, the media, and the public interest.

...which raises interesting questions regarding the publication of the Adkisson Manifesto in the KNS.

On the one hand, I can appreciate that people would want to know for sure that the guy was a nutcase - and it puts forever to bed the notion that people were simply jumping to conclusions about his motivations.

On the other, knowing the sort of "audience" that crawls the KNS comments section, you have to raise an eyebrow. Doesn't it also seem like sending unencoded messages to those sympathetic to the "take some goddamned liberals with you" vibe?

____________________________

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap! Special holidays, Sundays and rates!

R. Neal's picture

The way those parts were

The way those parts were highlighted in the front page article was even more troubling. The article even suggested the guy was acting out of "patriotism," which wasn't exactly mentioned anywhere in the "manifesto."

If you only read the PDF of the "manifesto" it just sounds like the incoherent ramblings of a nut. The article seemed to elevate it to something more, and pulled out the "call to action" for special attention. Some of the comments on the article were as shocking as the "manifesto," especially the ones who think the guy is some kind of cult hero.

McElroy had a blog post and editorial justifying the article. It has some pretty good arguments, but I don't know. I was especially confused by the part where he seems to say yeah, it might inspire a copycat, but the public good of exposing it outweighs that. I'm sure that's not what he meant, but that's how it sounds the way it's written.

Anyway, I expect there will be another blog post/editorial responding to this pre-trial motion.

reform4's picture

Criminal Cases and Comments

I'm a big believer in freedom of the press and of expression. And if these comments weren't on the KNS site, they'd be on a hundred other local blogs.

That being said, I think the responsible thing would be for KNS to turn off comments on crime stories. It's really inappropriate.

Bbeanster's picture

One of the more disturbing

One of the more disturbing events on the NS site is the arrival of someone who appears to be a full-blown, professional race-agitator. He arrived via the Christian/Newsome case, and has stayed to set up camp there. He has, apparently, been booted a time or two, but comes back with a new screen name -- some version of Humpty Dumpty or CrackerJack. He is smooth as butter and is an excellent writer -- he has been accepted warmly by many, even when he refers them to David Duke's website.
He is challenged, occasionally, but not near e-damn-nough.

His tribe will multiply when the murder trials get here. This case has become iconic to hardcore racists all over the country.

Ragsdale2010's picture

Beanster seen what's on the horizon and our judiciary

by fumbling through these sensational cases encourage these types of hate mongers and race baiters to set up camp on these issues.

Notice how quickly the federal case was tried, concluded, and I do believe that the guy was already sentenced. Rather than sit there and cogitate on what a horrible case these are and everybody get boofed for the Court TV cameras, the court systems needs to put these cases through the system get them over with and move on to more tranquil matters.

It's like a three ring circus when the court TV trailer is allowed to park right in front of the city county building and everybody in the courthouse wants to go rubbernecking on the criminal court floor to see "who's on TV" If only they knew how rubish this is and what a horrible price our commity pays for such publicity and the food we leave out there for the maggots to feast on with these types of issues we cannot resolve.

You won't see the court TV truck at the federal court and the sooner our goons in the city county building realize how useless those productions, interviews, and publicity services really are, the better off we will all be

MDB's picture

I, for one, have regularly

I, for one, have regularly challenged the slimeball. I will grant, he is very well-spoken and not the stereotypical racist redneck who can barely form a coherent sentence.

There's another one named Prestonbrooks1987 who is equally vile.

If you don't recognize the origin of the name, here is the only claim to fame of his namesake. Charming, huh?

Voting is like driving. If you want to go backwards, select R. If you want to go forward, select D.

Hildegard's picture

Anybody who thinks the

Anybody who thinks the lawyers want out because the case is a loser has no idea what they are talking about. Scott Green and Kim Parton are seasoned, experienced criminal trial lawyers, and they knew they were walking into a case that is as tough as they come. But it is beyond the beyonds to expect them to put up with death threats from flame-throwing web trolls. Kim has tried a number of death cases in the very deep hollers in East Tennessee. She is sought out by judges who want to make sure the defendants get effective counsel, and the fact that Scott Green agreed to take this case? Scott doesn't have to take anything. He was a whip-smart DA and he is a formidable defense lawyer who does well in private practice. He also carries a sorta Atticus Finch-type demeanor that juries love. If these lawyers stay on the case their client will be getting as good a defense as he could expect. And whatever you think about this case - as horrible as its facts are - the accused perps have a right to a fair trial whether you like it or not. It's in the Constitution - remember the Constitution?

But you know race-baiting dickheads bring traffic to news web sites, so I'm not holding my breath for much in the way of restraint in the way this trial gets discussed online. And I don't blame the lawyers for saying enough is enough. They've got families and they don't need this crap.

KC's picture

Perhaps it is a clear

Perhaps it is a clear warning then that these experienced lawyers either sense or know that there may be something more seriously alarming in those comments than what most of us noticed.

As for KNS, it is simply continuing and justifying those standard practices that were begun with the advent of the penny newspapers.

JosephMBailey's picture

There is as much "Internet

There is as much "Internet hate speech" on this site and every liberal site in the nation as anywhere (after all, our new AG says that we are all cowards). Where those lawyers half as smart as they should be they would seek a court order to track down were those actual message were posted and have those served with a Restraining Order and the cops arresting them for terroristic threatening.

It is a shame that those suspects are maybe going to walk because everything was not done right the first time around. The best thing that could happen in regards to these murder cases is for all Internet sites in this area to monitor anything that is posted and delete it until after the trials. Then post all of it. This may get a death threat issued to me but like it or not those suspects are just that, suspects, NOT yet convicts and as such they do deserve a fair trial. I, for one, am very interested in what will come out in those trials.

knoxrebel's picture

Ditto

Ditto

Bbeanster's picture

You're the same guy who

You're the same guy who claims that the Southern Poverty Law Center is the moral equivalent of the KKK, right?

And you think these suspects are going to walk, right?

And now you say there's "as much hate speech" here as, say on various racist sites that feature people whose avatars show Barack Obama with a bloody bullet hole in his forehead, right?

You are a loon.

S Carpenter's picture

FYI They're defense lawyers

You say: "...Where those lawyers half as smart as they should be they would seek a court order to track down were those actual message were posted and have those served ..."

This is the job of prosecutors and executive branch type lawyers.

R. Neal's picture

Civil discourse in the 21st

Civil discourse in the 21st Century:

(link...)

KC's picture

You are a loon. Let's not

You are a loon.

Let's not insult our animal friends now.

gonzone's picture

Good point

That is unfair to the loons. They don't deserve to be lumped with that kind.

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

StaceyDiamond's picture

KNS comments

Part of what fuels the comments is the sensationalism used by the court reporters and their silly coined phrases like "the rape torture killings."

Tess's picture

?

Why is that silly?

KC's picture

the rape torture

the rape torture killings

Why is that silly?

I agree. I don't think that's a silly coined phrase; it's a general descriptive phrase.

The details are horrific, whoever committed the actual crime.

The problem is with the media's use of comment sections to attract traffic. They don't really seem to care who is attracted by what kinds of discussion.

After all, the media can claim it's innocent as long as others are making the comments. The easiest and honorable thing to do would be to remove the comments section from the stories about this case.

Don Williams's picture

Death threats and hate speech--my experience

Just over two years ago I was involved in a highly publicized disagreement with The News-Sentinel.

One of the issues that wasn't much talked about at the time was the presence of thinly veiled death threats that were allowed to run in response to opinions in my online column, and letters to the editor containing lies and innuendos about my politics, my character and also at blog-sites debating my resignation as a columnist.

This practice of allowing readers to agitate for violence, engage in character smears that dehumanize, and generally whip up hysteria, was and evidently remains a practice at The News-Sentinel website.

The problem with allowing such hate speech, especially anonymously, is that it becomes an invitation to violence and creates a climate that distorts due process, and in my case, public dialogue. I'm reminded of the cartoon that ran in the New York Post showing policemen who'd just shot dead a chimp, implicitly representing President Obama. Such a cartoon is nothing short of an invitation to assassinate the president, who is characterized as subhuman. Similarly, allowing death threats and dehumanizing remarks on the News-Sentinel website should be regarded as the NS tacitly encouraging such practices.

You can't pretend to be a bastion of respectability on Main Street (figuratively) while operating a disreputable back-alley website operation and remain anything short of a pandering hypocrite.

Sadly, that double standard is what the News-Sentinel has long engaged in. Those responsible have had ample time to clean up their acts before now. At one point, the NS website allowed people to post the street address of a fellow columnist who shall remain nameless, but who had taken a controversial stand. Eventually, he was able to get the post taken down, but the NS online policies remain bush league. You don't see death threats and dishonest character smears at websites of other major newspapers.

These are despicable practices, and the webmaster should resign, along with the editor, for allowing such hate speech and incitements to violence.

If you wouldn't allow it in the newspaper, you shouldn't allow it online in your paper's name. Classy papers don't.

Don Williams

butler's picture

This is serious and

This is serious and shouldn't be allowed. With the internet anyone can place death threats. We have to find a way to control this, internet needs better monitoring for such specific cases. As for those two lawyers they are right in their decision, they could make a motion to file document under seal, this would actually be recommended.

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