Fri
Dec 30 2011
08:46 pm

The image above speaks for itself, but the News Sentinel tonight needs a serious spanking. Since KNS reporter Jamie Satterfield tweeted the offensive commentary above, it has since been deleted from her twitter feed.

Why am I posting this? First, a couple of disclosures, after the flip.

1. I am a former professional journalist. I worked YEARS AGO for the Asheville Citizen Times, and I was also a reporter on Farragut municipal government for the original Knoxville Journal until Persis Corporation chopped it up and spit it out. The tweet above pisses me off.

2. I have known the Granju family for almost 18 years. My wife has known them even longer, having been a NACEL foreign exchange student back in the 80s, when Henry Granju's grandfather Jean Pierre ran the program. We are family friends. When we hosted a student for a summer in 1996, Katie Granju did the interview to decide if we were acceptable hosts. That's how long I have known Katie.

We are not, nor have we ever been, cult followers, sycophants, apologists, or any other such descriptor over Katie's persistence in pursuing justice for Henry. The case has hurt, and pained, many of the Granju family's friends. Many of us not only seek justice for Henry, but also take any opportunity to talk to our kids and their peers about these subjects. Henry's case, unfortunately, has one glimmering up-side. Conversations about drugs are now much more frequent among parents and teens in Knox County than they were. That may be Henry's greatest legacy. Much of this is due to, quite frankly, Katie's pain in the ass persistence. By the way, "Katie's persistence" is a pre-existing Topic keyword here on Knoxviews. Persistence, I have found, especially in this town, often comes at great personal sacrifice.

Now then. I am not a big fan of Twitter. I had lapsed for sometime, but loaded Tweetcaster on my phone this week, hoping to synch with my Facebook posts, and feeling naggingly that Facebook was becoming increasingly intrusive.

I created my Twitter account in 2008, and had not been active in some time. I had clicked "follow" News Sentinel reporter Jamie Satterfield during the Christian Newsom trial (@jamiescoop.)

Today, I looked at my phone, and the following appeared.

"@jamiescoop: How ironic is it that a blogger uses docs I obtained after court fight to trash my reporting as inept and her cult followers eat it up?"

I blinked. I re-read it. I thought, "wait. this is the officially promoted twitter feed from Jamie Satterfield that the News Sentinel regularly tags at the bottom of Satterfield's stories." Like this one, from Dec 17.

At the bottom, it reads "Follow Jamie Satterfield on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jamiescoop."

Again, former journalist. 20 years ago. My high school senior term paper was on newspaper law and libel." As a reporter, I would have been fired on the spot for publicly slamming a subject I had done extensive reporting on.

Back in my day, a reporter's opinions did not enter the discussion. Apparently, Satterfield has decided that her tweets are far more important than her reporting. Her articles and her tweets are published by the EW Scripps Company, and the company encourages its readers to follow her tweets.

So is she a journalist, or a tweeter? Can she be both? Can she be the Glenn Beck of Knoxville news coverage, where her every opinion is mushed together with personal ramblings, like this one, about voucher recipients four days ago?

"@jamiescoop: Stuck in line behind family that has massive buggy but doing 6 zillion separate orders w/ vouchers. Ugh!"

Now, to the rest of her tweet. Again blurring the lines between news and opinion, she states, "How ironic is it that a blogger uses docs I obtained after court fight to trash my reporting as inept..."

Satterfield did not obtain these documents. It is my understanding that EW Scripps attorney Rick Hollow did the heavy lifting on the Baumgartner documents. In fact, Satterfield was subpoenaed, but the KNS, through Hollow, successfully quashed her subpoena, so for Satterfield to claim (not we...not my company...but "I obtained (the docs) after a court fight") is factually, materially WRONG.

Satterfield was apparently lashing out after Katie's blog post today over at JusticeforHenry.com, which Katie posted earlier today on Knoxviews. Katie at least twice cites the KNS's fight for the documents. She's not taking credit for anyone else's work. She is not trashing anyone else's reporting. She's not calling anyone names. Lost in Satterfield's snark is that Katie didn't slam anyone. In her blog post today, she raises legitimate questions as a citizen journalist, did original reporting, and brought light to the Aug 5 WBIR story pointing out that Baumgartner admitted at the Metropolitan Drug Commission that others knew about his addiction. That right there folks, is a bombshell, buried in an August video.

The KNS, through crap like this, continues to disparage Katie as some rogue blogger. She's not. She has been a professional journalist, appearing in such publications as the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Salon, and the Knoxville News Sentinel. She was also a producer at WBIR for five years.

The News Sentinel laid off 33 employees right before Christmas. Satterfield was one of the lucky ones. She's apparently not very grateful.

Tonight, she tweeted, "@jamiescoop: First day back at work after long, welcome break and it's the nite edit desk. Ugh!"

Tell that to the KNS employees that just lost their jobs. Many of them would probably willingly take the night edit desk.

I am reminded of something I often tell my 13 year old. "Just because it crosses your brain, doesn't mean it needs to come out of your mouth."

So, just as Mark Harmon is a University Twit, I am, apparently, part of a cult…of personality.

There. I said it.

305
like
RealHouseWifeoftheBluegrass's picture

Hooray!

Thank you for this! You wrote exactly what I was thinking and feeling. Maybe that makes me part of the cult. ;)

Kim Griffin's picture

Thank you Doug

Thank you so much for putting into such eloquent words what needed to be said. I was shocked when I saw what Satterfield tweeted. Completely unprofessional and unfounded. I do not like being accused of being part of a cult because I am part of an intelligent group of readers that happen to follow Katie's blog, and care about the truth. Thank you again, Doug, well said.

DeAnn in Texas's picture

Well done! Thank you for

Well done! Thank you for speaking out for such a wonderful person. If Katie Granju does nothing more in Henry's memory (which we all know she'll do more) than to get parents talking to their children about the dangers of drug use, then her horrible journey will not be in vain. There have been many "Katie bashing" articles that I have read and it really is disgusting to think that journalism has become so personally opinionated rather than factual. Thank you for shedding light on the actual facts.

Brian A.'s picture

Huh?

Huh?

Pam Strickland's picture

Well, said. I have already

Well, said. I have already communicated my disappointed regarding the tweet directly to Jamie Satterfield and Jack McElroy. I'll keep the details of the communication with Ms. Satterfield private. I haven't heard from Mr. McElroy.

Peg p's picture

Thank goodness for some

Thank goodness for some common sense and common decency. I've been following Henry Granju's story and now Judge Baumgartner's tale of woe through Katie's excellent posts and the one thing That stays with me is why Jamie Satterfield still has a job. From the lax reporting to the twitter vendetta, can't the Sentinel do better than this?

kag's picture

Hey y'all, I need somebody to

Hey y'all, I need somebody to clue me in on the secret cult handshake.

Thanks, Doug and Pam. And thanks to the other nice commenters who preceded me in this thread, some of whom are likely visiting KnoxViews for the 1st time because I posted a link to Doug' post on my Facebook page.

-Katie

Rachel's picture

Ms. Satterfield has now

Ms. Satterfield has now apologized via tweet. On KnoxBlab she admitted she "screwed up."

Everybody makes mistakes. So I do believe it's time for everybody to cool off and accept her apology. Hope everybody's learned something from this incident.

kag's picture

Rachel, what am I supposed to

Rachel, what am I supposed to have learned? I legitimately don't understand what youre getting at there.

- Katie

rocketsquirrel's picture

Yeah, I don't think a late

Yeah, I don't think a late night apology/tweet (apolotweet?) begins to address the broader issue here.

Questions still looming large:

Exactly what does that officially promoted Twitter feed contribute to the mission of our local daily newspaper of record?

When can readers expect clear lines of delineation between news and opinion in the media published by the KNS, whether articles, blog posts, or tweets?

What is the KNS doing to address the published bias of one of its main reporters?

Why can't the KNS dig out who else knew of Baumgartner's addiction, especially public officials?

michael kaplan's picture

When can readers expect clear

When can readers expect clear lines of delineation between news and opinion in the media published by the KNS, whether articles, blog posts, or tweets?

that's a good question. satterfield has, for years, offered her readers sensationalist lead-in sentences that ridicule the cases/people she's writing about, and, by extension, demean the entire judicial system.

i remember her comment on WUOT's Dialogue about prison conditions, that public money shouldn't be spent improving conditions because prisoners get what they deserve.

Average Guy's picture

Couldn't give a tweet

The problem isn't the tweet or re-tweet. A perceived tension or competiveness shouldn't negate legitimate questions raised by anybody seeking information from their paper of record.

Ms. Satterfield was right in that Gibson was a felon and likely trying to save his skin when he tried to tell his side. Tell his side to the same people who plucked him from local existence via a lengthy prison term, while ensuring Baumgartner's taxpayer funded pension.

But was he lying? What we have from the 90% redacted TBI report corroborates his story.

Who knew, when did they know it and is "law enforcement" selling drugs in Knox County?

Those questions won't be answered by the local judiciary. If so, we'd have them. And they won't gain traction from local "bloggers", because the entrenched can point to the local "liberal" publication and say; "Heck, even the reporters at the Sentinel think that the people out there asking questions about this are "cult" like."

The Sentinel's own poll shows that 50% of their readers think the "Baumgartner saga" was the year's biggest. They're kidding themselves if they think they've reported even half of it.

fischbobber's picture

The story

is not the addict, but the enablers. It always is.

Average Guy's picture

+1 while pointing out these

+1 while pointing out these aren't your typical "enablers".

mom2fishboy's picture

WELL SAID!

I am not a writer so this will not be a poised but I want to respond.
The way that a hurting Mother has been treated by our Community, online, hiding behind tweets & posts, is abhorent! I would only hope that I, like Katie could stir & di to encur necessary change so that no other family might have to experience such pain & sheer agony. Do the folks that constantly call her names realize she is a Mother of 4 other bright productive children? Do you folks care that when you spew your name calling wrath & bias that her children may be reading? Do you actually justify your vile remarks by saying "she put herself out there she gets what she gets"? Furthermore, might I add that having a teenage son, I am thankful for Katie's firm stand & desire to get to the real corruption!

A cult follower? Sorry, I think not. (JSatterfield I take offense at that remark) However, I am a Mother who has followed Katie's painful journey offering their family pray and reading & becoming more educated about what actually happens in our Town when our youth make mistakes. Thanks to Katie I have open discussions with my child about Henry and as horriffic & sadly tragic as his death was I honestly feel that other children have a chance because his death wasn't hidden away & covered up! His precious Mother made sure if that! KUDOS KATIE....keep on keepin' on!

Bbeanster's picture

Uhhh, Mom, nobody on this

Uhhh, Mom, nobody on this forum has ridiculed Katie.

kag's picture

Betty, My impression is that

Betty, My impression is that she's referring to Ms. Satterfield's tweet being representative of the way the local newspaper has approached coverage that has anything to do with me since my child died. And frankly, I appreciate the kind words.

As I said, I posted a link to this specific KnoxViews post on my Facebook page, so some commenters who clicked over may be new to Knoxviews.

I can certainly understand how folks who've been interested in my advocacy for justice in my son's case, and supportive, would be insulted when the reporter who has covered the story for the local newspaper suggests that those people are stupid or mindless on the basis of their belief that the points I've attempted to raise over the past 18 months have more validity than that reporter believes them to have.

I appreciate and certainly accept Ms. Satterfield's personal apology, but really, her *motivation* for posting something like that (she said on another local forum that she felt angry and frustrated by the post I published yesterday at JusticeforHenry.com) is ultimately not the point. The point is that the content of her tweet reveals bias regarding a subject of her own news reporting. Additionally, if this were an isolated thing, it would be less problematic. But it's not. Within the last month or two, Ms. Satterfield also used the KNS promoted twitter feed to make a snide remark about a photo of my baby that I posted on my personal blog, and she's also commented on a local message board about her personal opinion of my credibility (she later apologized to me for that, which I appreciated and accepted).

As far as what I wrote yesterday that apparently prompted Ms. Satterfield's upset, I absolutely did engage in some critical analysis of the way the Baumgartner story has been covered (although that was a minor point among much larger ones), and I am able and willing to be challenged on he substance of what I had to say. But petty personal attacks that reveal an underlying bias are just not cool, and I appreciate the fact that Doug McDaniel took time away from his family during the holiday season to write the post above.

If KNS reporters are going to tweet about what I published yesterday regarding the Baumgartner case,I wish they would question the substance of the blog post, and engage publicly with those issues that I raised because they are important - way more important than some snarky tweet .

Questions I raised include:

1 - What substantive investigation has taken place to determine whether there's any truth whatsoever to Gibson's allegation that law enforcement might have been facilitating Baumgartner's crimes?

2 - Why isn't Baumgartner's August 5 taped statement on WBIR in which he states very clearly that people knew he was a drug addict being raised as an issue?

3- Are other community members in agreement with me that the gravity and impact of the Baumgartner scandal, along with the many, many important questions that remain unanswered, call for a federal investigation.

Further, I believe Doug has raised a very important question that really has nothing to do with me; is it appropriate or ethical for reporters handling "straight" news coverage of a particular story to simultaneously be providing newspaper-promoted color commentary on Twitter. For example, when Ms. Satterfield covered a recent criminal case, she also tweeted from the courtroom with the enthusiastic encouragement of KNS management. But what does it reveal about the reporter's personal views when she dismissively refers on Twitter to an incarcerated informant whose testimony is being raised in the trial as "the jailbird?" And in another trial, one of her tweets informed readers that one of her "favorite" local police officers was about to take the stand. I just don't think this kind of mixing of live streamed color commentary by the same person who will later that day write the "straight" news story covering the day's events in court serves anyone well. But I'm admittedly kind of traditional in that way.

I will now endeavor to bite my tongue and not engage further on this topic.

Thanks -

Katie

EDITED for clarity and to remove typos because I typed comment on iPhone first time. - kag

Bbeanster's picture

Sorry, Katie, but this

Sorry, Katie, but this invective:

Do you folks care that when you spew your name calling wrath & bias that her children may be reading? Do you actually justify your vile remarks by saying "she put herself out there she gets what she gets"? Furthermore, might I add that having a teenage son, I am thankful for Katie's firm stand & desire to get to the real corruption!

wasn't aimed at Satterfield.

That being said, I'm on the record as believing that there has been an institutionalized effort to minimize and discredit you, led by Sheriff Jones, who is laying the groundwork to thumb his nose at the term limits law so he can run for a third term.

kag's picture

Betty, I have no idea who

Betty, I have no idea who that commenter is, but as I said, my impression is that she was referring to KNS newsroom leadership, and given that she might have found knoxviews via a link on my Facebook page, she might have been confused as to the audience/platform connection. Again, though, don't know commenter so can't say for sure. -kag

mom2fishboy's picture

not political just a Mom

Please know I was not being invective - I was referencing what Katie had had to endure through unkind individuals who can in no way understand what she has been through - I was referencing KNS online jabs in the past. This is the readon I rarely post, however I wanted her family to know just an average "Joe" without an agenda supports her! Sorry for misunderstanding

Sue's picture

Tweet

First, I am Kate's mother and Henry's "Nanny." But for many years I was also a journalist working for newspapers and a wire service as an editor and reporter. During my career, I never so much as put a bumper sticker on my car or a political sign in my yard because it was understood and expected that journalists kept their personal views to themselves regarding anything or anyone they might be covering. I cannot fathom Tweeting my opinions or posting them anywhere on issues and people I covered. I always said I knew I was objective in my reporting when both sides of a controversy were mad at me. It saddens me to see those professional barriers coming down. It also explains why there is little regard anymore for the profession I loved and of which I was so proud. I was, frankly, horrified by the Tweet and also by the unkind Tweet about grocery shoppers using what I assume we're food stamps or newspaper coupons. There but by the grace of God, Jamie.

mom2fishboy's picture

told u I am not a writer

Katie I was referencing what I have read by posters in all Knox News sites - certainly only mean support for you...sorry if I wasn't clear....
I have read so many unnecessary & childish "digs" toward you....a mother I support who is seeking justice! I don't respond often, but I pray for your journey almost daily Katie!

kag's picture

There is truly no way to

There is truly no way to convey how much the kind words, gestures and outreach of others - friends and strangers alike - have meant to our family since Henry died. Please know how much youe willingness to reach out to me and simply say something kind means. Many, many thanks - Katie

Rachel's picture

I certainly support Katie,

I certainly support Katie, but it seems to me that the major problem wrt to Henry's case is the KCSO, not the KNS. Since indignity isn't infinite, I'd like to see folks pushing for reform there.

I also think that the first reporter who wrote about Henry wrote a very hurtful story, and I think he's basically a nasty guy (he's the one who pointed out to us where Ivan graduated in his class).

Looking even broader, it's clear from the entire Baumgartner matter that the Knox County justice system is pretty messed up.

Having said all of that, I also think that when someone apologizes, it's usually best to accept it and stop piling on. That makes you look like a big person. It also keeps you from kinda looking like what you were being accused of.

(And Katie, when I said we ALL could learn something, I meant something along the lines of thinking before we speak - in any format - and remembering that the folks we are speaking about are real human beings with real human feelings. It was directed at, well, ALL of us - including Ms. Satterfield).

kag's picture

Rachel, we will have to

Rachel, we will have to respectfully agree to disagree on whether the KNS has on the whole covered my son's case fairly, competently, accurately or compassionately at any point along the way. I hold the view that the newspaper has NOT done so, as do a great many other people locally and around the country. And the pain and damage that has been caused by the newspaper's multiple failures in this regard have been hugely consequential in my life, so this is not simply a matter of one ugly tweet one time from one reporter who then apologized. It's part of a pattern that should concern everyone served by our EW Scripps newspaper of record.

And while I have already noted that I will accept Ms. Satterfield's personal apology regarding her most recent public comments about me (again), the larger question here really is one of newsroom ethics and guidance as they relate to every story the News Sentinel covers, every single day.

And now, even if it requires me to have Jon tie my hands down for the remainder of the day, or hide my iPhone from me, I really will hush up on this topic.

But thank you again VERY MUCH to everyone (and that absolutely includes you, Rachel, and Betty and so many others) who has been kind and supportive of me and my family over the past 18 months, a period of time that has been the most painful, challenging experience to endure that I ever could have imagined.

Happy New Year to all. I have every expectation that 2012 will be full of great things for this whole community, and for our family too.

Warmly,
Katie

PS: Just to be clear, my mother posted her comment BEFORE Ms. Satterfield apologized on Twitter and deleted the tweet, but because she's a first time commenter on KnoxViews, her comment was held for moderation til this morning.

Rachel's picture

we will have to respectfully

we will have to respectfully agree to disagree on whether the KNS has on the whole covered my son's case fairly, competently, accurately or compassionately at any point along the way.

Umm, I didn't say I disagreed with you (in fact, I specifically said the first story was NOT compassionate). I just said that the KCSO's behavior was a bigger problem.

kag's picture

You're right Rachel. That is

You're right Rachel. That is what you said, and I should have read more carefully before responding. Mea culpa (and Happy New Year!)

50 cents wasted's picture

KNS continues to struggle for relevance in the community

They've whiffed on big story after big story and they had reporters following every part of the trials being conducted by Baumgartner and they completely refuse to ask the hard questions, preferring to soft pedal everything while perhaps the largest judicial scandal in the history of the state unfolds DAILY, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEIR ASSIGNED REPORTER.

The KNS reporters, the ones retained and the one's jettisoned earlier this year, have completely abrogated their first amendment duties and the corresponding protections afforded them by the first amendment, preferring to reach out to a spokesperson or spin person rather than diving in and asking the appropriate official the difficult questions with real sustance and meaning to the community.

They've got no sources, no inside information, and they continue to show up several days late and several news cycles short for breaking news. Let a UT student get into trouble, the KNS is all over that like stink on s4!T, but a public official/judiciary member/elected office stray off track, something of substance that matters in the community, the KNS is nowhere to be found.

Average Guy's picture

The mayors

With the paper of record's reporter seemingly otherwise preoccupied and a tight lipped local judiciary, who do Knox residents have representing them on this matter?

Could the two Mayors somehow demand the TBI report so they could at least tell their constituents whether or not they have local "law enforcement" dealing drugs and what exactly the elected person responsible for prosecuting crime on behalf of local government "knew" about a drug addled judge presiding over local cases?

If the electorate is going to have no recourse other than an election, it should at least be informed.

Average Guy's picture

"There can be no dispute that

"There can be no dispute that former Judge Baumgartner failed to live up to the high standards required of judges," prosecutor Leland Price wrote. "However, no proof was offered to show how this general misconduct outside of court had any impact on their respective trials." (link...)

Knoxville’s prosecutorial darlings are starting to sound as credible as their boss.

But at least Isaacs is getting somewhere. Why is his low life maggot any different than the C-N maggots as it relates to Baumgartner?

From the story, do the C-N defense attorneys now have the full TBI file or the redacted file? And what the hell is a “mini-trial”?

Hildegard's picture

Blow out your torches (for now, anyway)

The State is appealing Blackwood's ruling in the Christian/Newsom case. Despite whatever concessions were made in that case, the Blair case is a separate case. The only thing Blair's case has in common with the C/N case is procedural: the fact that both cases were pending Motions for New Trial when the TBI investigation called into question Judge Baumgartner's fitness as a judge. It makes sense that the State not only wants to protect the verdict in the Blair case, but that they also, in protecting that verdict, take the position that the TBI file is irrelevant. Unless the State is willing to stipulate the contents of the TBI file, then Isaacs has to subpoena key figures in the TBI investigation in order to establish his assertion that the judge was incompetent to preside as 13th juror. That's why the term "mini-trial," which is really just a hearing on the Motion for New Trial. The DA is supposed to make it hard for the defense to get a new trial. Their resistance does not signal a dark conspiracy at the root of everything. It signals that they want to avoid a new trial or the overturning of the guilty verdict in that case.

To expand a bit on the significance of Motions for New Trial, which happen in every single case in which an accused is ever convicted, and which must be filed in order for any appeal to a higher court to be filed (failing to file a Motion for New Trial is grounds for ineffective assistance of counsel). The reason the Isaacs case is more like the C/N case than many others who will be seeking similar relief is that Isaacs' client's Motion for New Trial is still pending. The C/N lawyers raised the 13th Juror issue on the New Trial motion; so did Isaacs on behalf of Blair. That is the time to raise the issue, on Motion for New Trial, so that the issue can be raised on appeal. If the issue wasn't raised on appeal, the issue is waived. That's why the 13th Juror issue will be harder for lawyers to argue post-conviction, if it wasn't also raised on appeal. And that's why the widespread public panic that is going on is premature.

There is a high likelihood of new trials for the C/N defendants and Blair, but again, the State is appealing the issue, word around the campfire is the appellate court is eager to consider the matter, and notions of massive conspiracies are, again, premature at this point.

In other words, the lawyers on all sides are just being lawyers, doing what the Constitution says they are supposed to do.

While I hope I may be clearing up some confusion and fanning some smoke out of the room, there were two findings made by Blackwood in the C/N Motion for New Trial: 1) that the judge was unfit as 13th juror, and 2) that the error was structural. The second issue is even more subjective than the first, and will be tougher to win on appeal (I think, anyway). If the appellate court disagrees with Blackwood's finding of structural error, and agrees with the 13th juror finding, the only people getting any relief in this deal are those defendants whose appeals had not yet been perfected by preserving the issue on Motion for New Trial. Much more limited pool of contenders. Still harsh for the public and personally involved in the C/N, Blair, and a few other cases, but not as apocalyptic in scope as the overturning of every verdict in the history of Baumgartner's court since he began abusing drugs, whenever that was (which was also a subjective finding made by Blackwood, which the appeals court can also review).

Average Guy's picture

Thanks and you obviously know

Thanks and you obviously know the appellate process better than I, so as a layman, I’ll acquiesce.

Still, I don’t understand with the “13th juror” standard, and with Blackwood entering the findings he did, how can any trials he presided over during this period not be tainted?

In his actions with Castleman at the hospital, Chattanooga, her connections house and in his chambers, we know he was either drugged out of his mind or just out of his mind. Either way, not the kind of “juror” anyone should want or get.

The latest KNS story covers a bit of this: (link...)

It’s funny to think any of the potential “State” controlled witnesses would provide anything. With Baumgartner there will be a lot of “I don’t recall” and with Castleman and Gibson now in prison, one could probably get them to say whatever for a pack of smokes and a new cell mate other than Bubba.

Hildegard's picture

13th juror is kind of hard to

13th juror is kind of hard to explain in brief, but basically the judge in any jury trial has to, at least tacitly, approve a jury's finding of guilt. If a judge believes the evidence does not support a guilty verdict, s/he can essentially reject it and order a new trial. The judge does not have to explicitly approve the jury's verdict, but if the judge subsequently denies a defendant's motion for new trial, that denial creates a presumption that the judge has approved the jury's verdict, and has acted as 13th juror. He's not literally a juror, he's just the last word on the sufficiency of the proof. It's another safeguard against unfair verdicts based on things like bias, emotion, hysteria, or anything else that compromises an objective evaluation of the evidence. I have not read any briefs or motions in these Baumgartner cases that are in the news, but my understanding is the lawyers have asserted that the judge was too incapacitated by drug use to fairly conclude that the proof supported the verdicts. And since the Motions for New Trial are still pending in those cases, it was up to Blackwood in the C/N cases, and now Leibowitz in the Blair case, to act as 13th juror based on their review of the trial proceedings and the proof leading up to the juries' verdicts. That's why Blackwood, in a very emotionally charged announcement of his findings, explicitly recalled going into his review of the proof thinking, "I've GOT to protect those verdicts!" He said that over and over again. Believe me this guy is an old-school, conservative judge who had no intention of thwarting any jury findings in the C/N cases. But his review of the TBI record led him to what he publicly acknowledged was the most difficult decision of his career: that Baumgartner's conduct and condition put him out of any capacity to preside over those murder trials or evaluate the evidence being presented in a coherent manner.

And fwiw the State calls convicted felons and prison inmates as witnesses with regular frequency. It is not the least bit unusual; it happens all the time. Very often the victims in cases have to be transported from prison. In this case, it will be defense lawyers who call them unless the State decides to stipulate the TBI file. I don't know why the DA's can't just stipulate the content of the files and simply argue that they are irrelevant; that's one way to avoid dragging the proceedings out. But again there are probably no dark machinations at work; it's just different DA's with different tactics, or it could be an administrative decision to avoid any further concessions while the C/N cases are on appeal. There are lots of rational explanations.

As far as "other trials" that could have been tainted: I would be willing to bet that depends on where they stand in terms of appeal or post-conviction, as far as how they get treated by the appeals court. I will be extremely surprised if the appellate justices don't find a way to preserve as many of these verdicts as they possibly can. If possession is 9/10s of the law, politics is 9/10s of the justice system, and none of the guys (or women) want to piss off an already pissed-off electorate. (Appeals justices are not elected, but they are retained by popular vote every 8 years.)

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