August 26, 2005

Zero tolerance? Legal literalism? Petty bureaucracy?

It looks like just plain injustice to me. A man wrestles a gun away from two attackers, uses it to defend himself, but gets locked up because he was on paper at the time. His brainless parole officer contends he had "possessed a firearm" in violation of his paper.

I found this story on the Knoxville News sentinel's web site, Because that publication has an annoying 'registration' procedure, I have reprinted the entire story here, under their unusually permissive copyright policy. I think you will get a rise out of reading it.
Man remains in prison after judge says he's innocent

August 25, 2005

Ask any guy in prison blues, and he'll probably insist he is innocent.

But when Michael A. Neal says it, he's telling the truth.

For three months now, Neal has been sitting behind bars in a West Tennessee prison even though a Knox County judge has deemed him innocent of double murder charges.

That's because the state Board of Probation and Parole had accused Neal of violating his parole by possessing for a matter of minutes a gun he wrested from two intruders who broke into his East Knoxville home.

"It was politics," defense attorney Mike Whalen said Wednesday. "Two guys were dead."

Two bad guys, as it turned out.

Terry Dodson, 32, and Benjamin Pollard, 24, were linked to a Memphis gang and had a history of violence. On May 17, the pair stormed into Neal's apartment, threatened to shoot him and began looting his home, testimony has shown.

Neal didn't know either man. He tried to run but wound up in a struggle with the men. He disarmed one of the intruders, shot him and tried to flee again when the second intruder began to attack him. Neal shot him, dropped the gun and ran.

The first person he called was his parole officer, phoning her within hours to explain what happened. He then contacted Whalen to arrange his surrender to police.

His parole officer filed a warrant against him. Whalen said Neal had expected as much. After all, he was by then charged with two counts of murder.

But when Knox County General Sessions Court Judge Bob R. McGee ruled at a hearing in July that Neal had acted in self-defense and dropped both charges, Whalen said he expected Neal to go free.

He didn't.

His parole officer refused to dismiss the parole violation charge, which was based entirely on the double shooting of which Neal had been acquitted, Whalen said.

Whalen lost the first round of hearings on the issue. On Wednesday, he drove to the Brushy Mountain Correctional Complex for a second hearing.

"The parole hearing officer looks at the parole officer and said, 'What's the state's position?' " Whalen said.

The officer responded that supervisors in Nashville had decided to free Neal, who was on parole for a cocaine possession charge, Whalen said. Neal still isn't free, though. First, he must be returned to the West Tennessee prison where he has been housed and then processed for release.

"They've promised to expedite his release," Whalen said with a cynical chuckle.

The entire affair has Whalen wondering just how wisely his tax dollars are being spent.

"It would be of real interest to find out how much money was spent on this whole case," Whalen said. "It's ridiculous."

Jamie Satterfield may be reached at 865-342-6308.

Copyright 2005, Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Hat tip to the NRA-ILA.

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