Friday, April 02, 2010

April 2, 2010 Mitchell's Conviction after Arrest at Anti-Illegal Immigration Rally Overturned

The Criminal Court of Appeals has overturned the Hamblen County conviction of Teddy Ray Mitchell for disorderly conduct. It is unusual for a criminal conviction to be overturned. A video of the arrest submitted with the appeal made the difference. The majority opinion (Thomas and Witt) is here.  The dissenting opinion (Ogle) is here
Mitchell was tasered and arrested just prior to the start of an anti-illegal immigration rally in June 2006 as he argued with officers who refused to allow him to carry an American Flag on a metal pole onto the Hamblen County Courthouse grounds where the anti-illegal immigration rally was to take place.

Pictures taken at the rally are posted on my blog here and here.  Due to overwhelming numbers of law enforcement officers called in from across the state, there may have been almost as many law enforcement officers at the rally as there were participants.

The majority opinion first recounts the trial testimony of several officers about events leading up to the arrest. Next, the opinion quotes the testimony of several citizens who observed the arrest.

Finally, the Court's review of the video leads the majority to state that "the video recording of this incident belies the officers' testimony in very significant ways."

While there is no doubt that Mitchell's voice was raised and that he was belligerently arguing with the officers about his right to carry his American Flag into the rally, the majority found that there was no evidence or testimony that an officer was verbally threatened nor was there any video evidence to support an officer's trial testimony that he was poked by the metal flagpole.

Click here to read the 7-page opinion.  Page 5 has the standard of review on appeal and discussion of the disorderly conduct statute under which Mitchell was convicted.  Page 6 has the court's review of the video recording of the incident as contrasted to the trial testimony of the prosecution's witnesses. Page 7 is reversal of the conviction and dismissal of the case.

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