Death row inmate asks high court to intervene in execution

Associated Press • Dec 1, 2019 at 3:35 AM

NASHVILLE — A Tennessee death row inmate is asking the state’s highest court to pause his upcoming execution to allow more time to consider questions surrounding the possible bias of a juror who helped hand down the original death sentence decades ago.

Attorneys for 53-year-old Lee Hall made the request to the Tennessee Supreme Court this week. Hall’s scheduled execution is Dec. 5.

Hall’s attorneys contend he was deprived of his constitutional rights because the juror acknowledged she had failed to disclose during jury selection nearly 26 years ago that she had been raped and abused by her ex-husband.

The motion comes after a Tennessee judge ruled earlier this month that Hall failed to prove the juror was prejudiced against him.

Hall was convicted for the killing of his estranged girlfriend.


Input sought on state’s revised plan for TennCare

NASHVILLE — Federal officials are seeking the public’s input on Tennessee’s revised plan requesting to become the first state to receive funding in a lump sum for its Medicaid program, TennCare.

Block grant proposal comments can be submitted online through Dec. 27 with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

After an initial public comment period, Republican Gov. Bill Lee’s administration made changes to address concerns that the plan could compromise care for Tennessee’s most vulnerable low-income and disabled citizens.

Michele Johnson of the Tennessee Justice Center remains unconvinced the changes safeguard patients from cuts.

Federal officials are reviewing the $7.9 billion plan, which dangles the possibility of covering more people with potential savings.

If the parties negotiate a waiver agreement, state lawmakers get a vote. Legal challenges likely will follow.

 Doctor pleads guilty to trading opioids for sex

HENDERSONVILLE — A Tennessee doctor who admitted to trading opioids for sex with his patients has pleaded guilty to distributing controlled substances.

The Department of Justice says 50-year-old Dr. Lawrence J. Valdez pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful distribution of controlled substances. His sentencing is scheduled for April. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

The release says Valdez admitted to distributing oxymorphone to a patient without a legitimate medical purpose in 2017. He also admitted to giving four different patients “Schedule II opioids” on 16 occasions in exchange for sexual intercourse from June 2016 to February 2017.

The Tennessean reports the department announced in April that 32 Tennessee medical professionals, including Valdez, were a part of an “opioid crackdown,” a massive investigation into opioids and over-prescribing.

National Guard unit deploying to Guantanamo Bay

NASHVILLE  — A Tennessee National Guard unit is deploying more than 100 soldiers to the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba this winter.

The guard said the soldiers are assigned to the Dyersburg-based 168th Military Police Battalion. They have been training for a year to prepare for the yearlong deployment.

The guard said in a news release the soldiers will replace the Army Reserves’ 382nd Military Police Battalion from Westover, Massachusetts. The 168th will be supporting police and security operations.

The 168th plans to name the task force that it will lead after 1st Lt. James Gardner. He was a Dyersburg native and Medal of Honor recipient who was killed in action in 1966 in Vietnam.

Former ‘Survivor’ contestant indicted on rape charges

MEMPHIS — A former contestant on the CBS reality show “Survivor” has been indicted in Tennessee on charges of rape and aggravated assault.

Silas Gaither, 41, of Germantown, was indicted Nov. 13 and arrested Monday. He posted bail and was released from custody. The indictment says the assault happened in May 2018. Details about the allegations that led to the charges are unclear.

Gaither was on the third season of “Survivor” that started in 2001. He was voted off in the season’s sixth episode. He’s set to appear in court in January. It’s unclear if he has an attorney.

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