For the few that didn't, that's Stevie Ray Vaughan on the right.
Now, in his zeal to expose defects in the special election to replace John Ford, John Harvey hit really hard on ex-felons voting without first having had their rights restored under Tennessee law. In my view, as a defense attorney, once a convict has done his time and paid his debt to society, he or she should be entitled to regain the right to vote according to sound and reasonable law. In fact, for many ex-felons, regaining voting rights is an important step in going straight and putting their mistakes behind them.
Tennessee law in this area has changed several times in the last few decades. A felony conviction in Tennessee automatically renders the defendant "infamous." This infamy can be removed in a Tennessee Circuit Court by filing a petition and presenting evidence of good character in a hearing, with the U.S. Attorney for the District and the State District Attorney given a chance well in advance to respond with any negative information and objections. One might reasonably maintain that a felon ceases to be a felon and becomes an ex-felon after serving the sentence or at least after any parole and/or probation term is successfully completed; but surely after official restoration of rights, an ex-convict deserves no worse a descriptor than ex-felon.
This year in the Tennessee General Assembly, Senator Steve Cohen was successful in getting restoration of the right to vote streamlined for most ex-felons, except those convicted of a few named offenses (new law in .pdf); but on a subject Steve and I discussed previously, he also got passed in that law a prohibition on anyone committing malfeasance in public office ever being able to regain the right to vote -- and consequently to be able to run for office again -- in Tennessee. This supplements the 1989 law providing for a permanent exclusion from public office for bribery and a 10-year bar for official misconduct. Permanently taking away the right to vote from all ex-felons is something no other democracy does. Taking the right to vote away in the United States was specifically enabled by the post-Civil War Amendment XIV to our Constitution, Section 2, in pertinent part:
But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.Now I believe John Harvey has accepted this new legislation for restoration of voting rights and in fact has respect for its principal sponsor Senator Cohen.
John has raised some issues against the incumbent Sheriff Mark Luttrell regarding priorities in running the Department and regarding selective enforcement of department policy about associating with convicted felons.
I recognize Sheriff Luttrell's success in getting the Shelby County Jail re-accredited; and we've not heard about any more Thunderdome games inside. The Sheriff and his PR man, former TV newsman Steve Shular, have assisted me in getting one of my clients released from the women's Jail East when her paperwork had been misplaced; and they helped me get a family member into the main jail's attorney visitation area to try to convince a relative to accept a plea bargain.
With the current post-Katrina gang-related crime wave in the Memphis region, I am ready for our leadership to make crime-fighting our #1 priority now. That goes for Memphis Mayor W.W. Herenton, his police director Larry Godwin, Shelby County Mayor A.C. Wharton, and -- necessarily -- Sheriff Mark Luttrell. I do think the personnel policy regarding associations that John Harvey recites paints with too broad a brush. Rehabilitated people not committing crimes should not be deprived of the friendship and support of law enforcement officers, nor should such people be blackballed from supporting candidates of their choice, as long as that support does not get them any unethical paybacks.
As a practicing attorney, I feel lucky to be able to access court records over the Internet from my office. I know John Harvey has had much to do with getting databases of law enforcement information online; and I thank him for that. I don't know why he was reassigned from that duty to the Fugitive Squad; but he seems to improve performance wherever he's working. John should have filed as an independent rather than a write-in if he was going to make a serious effort; but he has cited reasons why he didn't. It's very hard for a write-in to win in a race with a big turnout; but regardless of the outcome in this election, I think we will be hearing more from John Harvey. He's still young enough to render his best performance as an innovator, even four years from now, if a new Mayor doesn't distract him with a great job at the Memphis Police Department first.
I stand on my right to cast my ballot in secret; and, as I said, I have received great service from Mark Luttrell on the jail side of his job. I do hope that -- mission accomplished there -- he will strive for like success on the enforcement side; but I felt like writing this post for John Harvey. Now as for this Reginald French person, I just can't see a tire-slasher as my Sheriff.
Good luck John, and happy trails!
Readers might want to follow John's crime blog below: