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Cooper blasts Rumsfeld
Dec 10, 2004 12:00 am
Attorneys for an East Tennessee woman serving back-to-back life prison sentences in the deaths of two local law officers have widened their effort to win a new trial for their client.
Attorneys for Fallon Tallent, 22, of Maryville, filed an amendment to their motion requesting a new trial on behalf of their client, this one citing media coverage of her highly publicized, weeklong trial.
The amendment specifically names a Nashville television station's cable outlet and requests videotaped copies of its reports on the trial, though it does not specify how the nightly broadcasts could have impacted the proceedings.
Tallent was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder by a sequestered, out-of-town jury for the July 2003 deaths of Mt. Juliet Police Sgt. Jerry Mundy and Wilson County Sheriff's Department Deputy John Musice.
Testimony in the trial last June showed Tallent was speeding down Interstate 40 at 120 mph when she struck the two moments after they placed a device across the roadway intended to puncture her tires and end her flight from the law.
At her sentencing hearing a month later, Judge John Wootten Jr. imposed Tallent's two life prison sentences consecutively, meaning she will in all likelihood die behind bars. Under current State Department of Corrections guidelines she will not become eligible for early release for 80 years – until she is 102.
The motion for a new trial on behalf of Tallent – filed about a month after her sentencing – is scheduled to go before Wootten on Monday, according to Wilson County Circuit Court Clerk Linda Neal.
District Attorney General Tommy Thompson and Assistant District Attorney Bobby Hibbett have expressed confidence about Monday's hearing, saying they believe efforts to overturn the trial will prove futile.
In the motion, defense attorneys David Boyd and Craig Garrett charged Wootten erred in denying a defense motion for a change of venue prior to the trial.
The motion also claims jurors were "severely prejudiced" by "close up and prejudicial photos" of the bodies of the two victims which were introduced as evidence by prosecutors.
The defense motion also charges Wootten was wrong in allowing prosecutors to present testimony about a "prior chase and arrest of the defendant in Knox County," where the long, ultimately deadly chase began.
The motion also addresses what may have been the single key issue of the trial – whether Tallent intended to strike the two in the seconds after they placed a so-called "spike strip" across the roadway.
If prosecutors failed to prove intent – a key element in first-degree murder cases – Tallent would have likely been convicted on a lesser charge carrying a much lighter sentence.
In the motion, the defense maintains the state did not prove intent against their client.
"The verdict was against the weight of the evidence and should be set aside by the court," the motion states.
The verdict against Tallent and subsequent consecutive life sentences closed the book on what became known as the deadliest day in the annals of local law enforcement.
The widows of both officers – surrounded by tearful relatives – praised the jury's decision as well as the work of prosecutors while continuing to lash out at Tallent, a self-professed crack addict with an arrest record dating to her early teens.
"We're very satisfied," Mundy's widow, Trish Mundy, said moments after Tallent received the consecutive life prison terms.
"I don't feel sorry for her at all," said Musice's stepson, James Avery. "She hasn't shown one bit of remorse for what she did."
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.On Thursday, Fifth District Congressman Jim Cooper chastised Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, referring to Rumsfeld's recent remarks on the shortage of armored vehicles in Iraq as "neither accurate nor complete."
In response to a question posed by a Tennessee Air National Guard member in Kuwait regarding the lack of up-armored military vehicles, Rumsfeld reportedly said "you go to war with the Army you have" and that the rate of armor production "is all that can be accomplished at this moment."
Not so, said Coooper, who stated in a letter to Rumsfeld Thursday that Armor Holdings Inc. – the sole supplier of armor for Humvees in Iraq – maintains they could boost production by 22 percent if requested by the U.S. Army.
"Since the beginning of this conflict, Republican and Democratic members of the Armed Services Committees have asked you and the service chiefs repeatedly whether or not the (Department of Defense) had all the funding, personnel and equipment needed to win the war and protect our troops," Cooper wrote. "Each time we are told that everything possible is being done. However, 21 months into the war in Iraq, we continue to hear about vital shortages."
Spc. Thomas Wilson on Wednesday had asked the defense secretary, "Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" Shouts of approval and applause arose from the estimated 2,300 soldiers who had assembled to see Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld hesitated and asked Wilson to repeat his question.
"We do not have proper armored vehicles to carry with us north," Wilson, 31, of Ringgold, Ga., concluded after asking again.
Wilson, an airplane mechanic whose unit, the 278th Regimental Combat Team of the Tennessee Army National Guard, is about to drive north into Iraq for a one-year tour of duty, put his finger on a problem that has bedeviled the Pentagon for more than a year. Rarely, though, is it put so bluntly in a public forum.
Cooper told The Lebanon Democrat Thursday the House Armed Service Committee has been asking the same question for the better part of a year.
"This is an issue our committee demanded an answer to for a year," Cooper said. "It looks like a solider finally got an answer. ...One of my pet peeves has been we have not been allowed to hear from any rank and file soldiers."
Associated Press reports contributed to this story.