NASHVILLE, Tenn. -
Davidson County’s General Sessions Judges are changing the way they handle domestic violence cases and who can lift a mandatory 12-hour “cooling off” period in the wake of a controversial move by Judge Casey Moreland.
The judges met during a special meeting and agreed on an order called the “Bail Reform Act.” The act states that conditions of bail will not be altered unless a judge and all the interested parties are given an opportunity to be heard on the matter.
Furthermore, it limits the power to lift the 12-hour “cooling off” period to just three judges. Judges Gale Robinson, Angelita Blackshear Dalton and Gloria Dumas are the only judges who can lift the hold. They also must hear from all interested parties before lifting the hold and allowing the defendant to be released.
The 12-hour mandatory hold is state law in domestic assault cases. It was created to ensure the victim has a safe period time to make a plan and or find shelter. The current law allows a judge to lift the hold if it is deemed the victim is no longer in danger.
“The meeting was to reassure the people of Nashville-Davidson County that we are aware of their concerns,” presiding Judge Bill Higgins said. “We re-committed to the people of Nashville that we are committed to follow the law and live up to the cannons of ethics.”
The meeting came after a week of strong criticism about the arrests of David Chase.
Chase was arrested June 8 after an altercation with his ex-girlfriend at his apartment. He was charged with misdemeanor domestic assault with bodily injury.
As part of his bond conditions, he was ordered to be held for 12 hours. Before that period was up, General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland called the magistrate and told the magistrate to lift the 12-hour hold.
Chase, who was booked between 6:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. was then released around 10:30 a.m. According to his ex-girlfriend, he then returned to the apartment they shared and attacked her again.
“I thought he was going to kill me,” she said during a bond revocation hearing Thursday.
Chase was rearrested on charges of felony aggravated assault, vandalism over $1,000 and interference with a 911 call.
His ex-girlfriend told police he smashed her cell phone and her computer tablet.
After his second, arrest the 12-hour “cooling off” period was waived again by Commissioner Thomas Nelson.
Criticism for Moreland grew to a fever pitch when it was revealed that Chase’s defense attorney, Bryan Lewis, called Moreland. Moreland and Lewis are good friends. They have also vacationed in Costa Rica together with other friends.
A number of people, including Councilwoman Megan Barry, and other council members have called for Moreland to resign.
Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson sent a letter to presiding Judge Higgins blasting Moreland’s behavior and calling on the judges to review their treatment of domestic violence cases.
In addition to the changes to which judges can lift the 12-hour “cooling off” period, the General Sessions Courts will rearrange its dockets to create a domestic violence court. Judges Gale Robinson and Angelita Blackshear Dalton will hear only domestic violence cases beginning September 1, 2014.
“We are glad that the General Sessions Judges are taking action to address the very real problem of domestic violence and stalking offenders being released inappropriately.” Kathy England Walsh, Executive Director Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence said. “Clearly, when 40% of defendants are released in less than 12 hours after arrest, as found by the recent Metro report on the handling of domestic violence cases, something needs to be done.
When it comes to limiting the number of judges who can release domestic assault defendants early the coalition would like order to go further.
“Our concern is that the order, while limiting the number of judges who can release a domestic violence or stalking defendant early, does not make clear that such decisions should only be made in the context of what is going to make the victim safer,” Walsh said. “The statute clearly states that a domestic violence or stalking defendant should only be released in less than 12 hours "if the official determines that sufficient time has or will have elapsed for the victim to be protected. All we are asking is that the judges make clear that in the future they intend to follow the law.”
Click here to read the new bond orders in Davidson County.