Reedy asked to recuse herself from hearing
by GREG KAYLOR Banner Staff Writer
Dec 01, 2013 | 1733 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered Judge Amy Reedy to recuse herself from a planned post-conviction relief hearing of Maurice Johnson, the man who was convicted in the 1999 Valentine’s Day murders of three people.

Reedy was the trial judge who presided over Johnson’s trial that led to his conviction.

She would have presided over a post-conviction relief hearing.

Johnson’s attorney, pubic defender Richard Hughes, filed a motion to have Reedy removed from the case because of allegedly inappropriate telephone communications between the judge and the case’s lead detective.

In an order filed by the Court of Appeals in Knoxville on Nov. 18, Judges James Curwood Witt Jr., Joseph M. Tipton and D. Kelly Thomas Jr. expressed their findings.

“On Oct. 7, 2013, this court directed the State to file a response to the petition addressing the trial judge's recusal. The court also directed the State to address ‘the petitioner's continued representation by counsel’ who, based upon attachments to the petition, the court determined represented the petitioner at the original trial court proceedings. The State has filed a response, agreeing that the trial judge should recuse herself because her ‘impartiality might reasonably be questioned’ due to her ‘personal knowledge of facts that are in dispute in the proceeding.’ Although the petitioner asserts that he does not intend to call the trial judge as a witness at the evidentiary hearing, the State contends that ‘to defend against the petitioner's specific allegations in this case, the State intends to call [the trial judge] to testify as a witness at the post-conviction proceeding," according to the ruling.

Johnson was convicted in 2009, in the shooting deaths of Cayci Higgins, O.J. Blair and Dawn Rogers, at their apartment near off 20th Street NE.

Their bodies were found on Feb. 14, 1999, after a fourth person inside the apartment, Blair’s cousin, Twanna “Tart” Blair, notified 911 that there had been a shooting and she was also an alleged victim.

Twanna Blair was also arrested later and charged with capital murder but was acquitted. A mistrial occurred when a jury couldn’t reach a decision on lesser-included offenses.

Credibility factors of former Cleveland Police Department Detective Duff Brumley led prosecutors to dismiss their case against a third person, Michael Younger, who was alleged to have involvement in the homicides.

Brumley was terminated from CPD for alleged policy violations.

It was during the course of the trials when issues began to surface regarding Brumley’s credibility and prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss charges against Younger.

Also contained in the documents was a question regarding 171 telephone calls between Reedy and Brumley.

“While the state believes firmly that defendant Younger is responsible for the deaths of the victims in this case, Mr. Younger is entitled to due process and a fair trial. No matter what reasons are given for the telephone calls between the prosecution officer and the presiding judge, it does not absolve the state of its responsibility to see that Mr. Younger receives the due process afforded to him by the law. The absolute appearance of impropriety in these telephone calls is such that the state cannot in good faith subject Mr. Younger to further criminal prosecution in this matter. There is no remedy in the law that will remove the taint that has been placed on this case as a result of these telephone calls. Any verdict, for or against conviction, would be viewed with suspicion,” the motion stated.

During a phone interview Saturday, special Assistant District Attorney General Richard Fisher said a judge will have to be appointed in the post-conviction case and a date has not been set for hearings.

He also added he was confident the Johnson trial was handled correctly.

Attempts to reach Reedy for comment Saturday were unsuccessful.