News briefs from around Tennessee

News briefs from around Tennessee

Posted: Friday, January 13, 2012 8:00 pm

Memphis federal drug trial delayed three weeks
MEMPHIS (AP) — A federal judge on Thursday delayed the start of the trial of two men accused of being members of a drug ring led by Craig Petties that moved narcotics from Mexico into several U.S. states.
The judge also is limiting the number of people allowed to know the name of jurors in the case. U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton has said it will be one of the largest federal drug trials in the history of West Tennessee.
Judge Samuel Mays decided to push the start date back for three weeks for the trial of Clinton Lewis and Martin Lewis. It will now start Feb. 6 because one of the defense attorneys is ill.
Jim Simmons has been hospitalized after undergoing emergency surgery and will not be able to handle the rigors of trial. Simmons, who represented Clinton Lewis along with Anne Tipton, will be replaced by Howard Manis.
Mays also ruled that only six people — the defense lawyers and the federal prosecutors — will be allowed to know the names of potential jurors to protect them.
The lawyers will check the identifies in order to determine if they have a conflict of interest with jury members, such as whether they know each other, Mays said.
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Tenn. House approves
GOP redistricting plan
NASHVILLE (AP) — The state House on Thursday approved a Republican plan to redraw the chamber’s 99 districts, overriding Democrats’ objections that it placed five African-American incumbents into three seats, ensuring that at least two of them would be forced out of office.
The chamber voted 67-25 to approve the map that ultimately included changes from the original map to spare three other Democrats from having to face other incumbents this year.
House Speaker Beth Harwell praised the final result as representing that fellow Republicans had “drawn these lines fairly, and that there’s proper representation for each district.”
Democrats, who had several proposals to redraw the Republican maps rejected on the House floor, said they wouldn’t rule out a legal challenge.
“We’re going to talk to the Democratic Party, we’re’ going to talk to our Black Caucus and to the different interested parties, and we’ll make that decisions,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville.
Turner said he was one of seven Democrats who voted for final version as part of a deal with Republican leaders to step back from plans to draw Democratic Reps. Mike Stewart and Sherry Jones into the same Nashville district, and to put Democratic Rep. Eddie Bass of Prospect into the same seat as Republican Rep. Vance Dennis of Savannah.
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Tennessee business tax
revenue up in December
NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee revenue collections in December were $965.7 million, more than $123 million more than the budgeted estimate, but the state finance commissioner said revenue in future months may not show the same growth.
Finance and Administration commissioner Mark Emkes said in a news release Thursday that business tax collections were $114.5 million above the budgeted estimate in December. But he said typically a quarter of all franchise and excise tax collections are realized in the month of April, so future months could be negatively impacted.
State tax collections were $12.9 million more than the estimate for December and the year-to-date growth rate is 6.29 percent.
Emkes also said while sales tax revenues reflect renewed consumer confidence, Tennessee is still not back to pre-2008 collection levels on sales taxes.
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Board approves naming Memphis street for MLK
MEMPHIS (AP) — Memphis officials on Thursday approved naming a city street after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., nearly 44 years after the civil rights leader was killed in the city.
The 10 members of the Memphis and Shelby County Land Use Control Board voted unanimously to re-name a nine-block downtown stretch as Dr. Martin Luther King Avenue. Previously called Linden Avenue, it runs in front of the FedExForum, where the Memphis Grizzlies play their home games, and parallel to Beale Street, the famous tourist drag.
The street also runs near the Clayborn Temple, where King rallied with striking sanitation workers days before he was assassinated by James Earl Ray on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. King also led a march on Linden Avenue during the strike.
The city already had a section of Interstate 240 dedicated to King, but the naming of a prominent street in the city’s tourist district is being seen as a symbol that the city is finally taking steps to heal the wound caused by the assassination
A ceremony is planned for April 4 to honor King and unveil the new street signs. About 900 U.S. cities already have city streets named for King.
“The world was looking at Memphis to make its mark,” said Berlin Boyd, a former city councilman who made the proposal to rename Linden Avenue.

Published in The Messenger 1.13.12

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