Tennessee Prosecutor Accused of Telling Deputies to Destroy Pictures of Brutal Beating

A very disturbing case of alleged police brutality just got far worse after defense counsel for Jim Jones, 62, alleged in open court that a prosecutor with the District Attorney for Lawrence County, Tennessee told a deputy sheriff to delete pictures of the beaten Jones.  The prosecutor “has been terminated” but the question is whether the disclosure will feature in a trial for civil damages.

Two Lawrence County deputies with the 22nd Judicial Drug Task Force, Eric Caperton and Zach Ferguson, arrested Jones on a rural road. They reported that, after they first tried to pull over Jones in his truck, he took off and triggered a police chase. They claim that he threw drugs from the truck but there is no dash camera recording of the chase. They also say that, while he first put his hand outside of the truck as instructed, he pulled them back inside as they approached. He is then accused of resisting arrest.

The family insists that Jones is disabled after breaking his back and that he would not be able to resist, even if he was inclined to do so. According to the complaint, Jones suffered extensive damage to his eye sockets, his sinus cavity and his nose — requiring multiple surgical procedures to reconstruct his face.

Lawrence County Sheriff John Myers issued the following statement:

“With regards to the incident that happened last October involving two of our deputies obviously, this matter is the subject of an ongoing investigation. The Sheriff’s Department has and will continue to cooperate with that investigation. The deputies have been placed on administrative leave pending that investigation in accordance with departmental policy. However, the facts currently understood by the County differs from those alleged by Mr. Jones and the County has no reason to doubt the details reported by either deputy. It is our belief that both of our deputies acted within their scope as certified law enforcement officers and used the minimal amount of force necessary to effect the arrest of Jones. Based upon the information reported by the deputies and the level and nature of the resistance exhibited by Mr. Jones, the deputies involved responded appropriately and acted in accordance with the policy and training of the Sheriff’s Department.”

In court, his counsel told the court that officers took pictures of Jones’ beaten face and “Deputy Ferguson texted photographs of Mr. Jones injuries to” a prosecutor in District Attorney Brent Cooper’s Office. The prosecutor then allegedly instructed “Ferguson to delete the photos.”

District Attorney Brent Cooper released a statement saying “[t]he prosecutor referenced in this article has been terminated and no longer works for this office.”

The family filed a civil lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deprivation of civil rights secured by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. It alleges a “savage, willful, malicious, sadistic assault of Mr. Jones.”  [Warning the complaint contain very disturbing photos of the injuries to Jones). The complaint describes not just an unwarranted and unjustified beating but part of a pattern for the officers:

For no apparent reason, and certainly no legitimate law enforcement purpose, the officers jerked Mr. Jones from the vehicle, and commenced a savage attack. Together, they slammed him to the ground face first. Defendant Caperton then placed his knee in the back of Mr. Jones and then Defendant Ferguson viciously punched Mr. Jones in the face and head multiple times.

Upon information and belief, this was not the first time, nor would it be the last that Caperton and Ferguson engaged in behavior of this sort- specifically the unjustified use of excessive force, a fact well known to the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department.

The complaint seeks punitive damages.

The question is how the alleged attempted cover up would play in such a case. Instructions to destroy the evidence violate both police regulations as well as ethical rules. Indeed, the prosecutor could face bar proceedings. Under Tennessee bar rules (and those of other states):

RULE 3.4: FAIRNESS TO OPPOSING PARTY AND COUNSEL

A lawyer shall not:

(a) unlawfully obstruct another party’s access to evidence or unlawfully alter, destroy, or conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value. A lawyer shall not counsel or assist another person to do any such act; …

In a trial, it would be clearly relevant if the officer destroyed pictures of the abuse. The disclosure would also be highly damaging for the defense. One question is whether the unnamed prosecutor could now be added as a party in an amended complaint as part of a post-incident conspiracy.

If admitted, the officers’ counsel is likely to say that he was doing the right thing by sharing the photos with the District Attorney’s office. Rather than hide the incident, he was disclosing it. Moreover, they could argue that he was following legal instructions if he did in fact delete the photos. As for the prosecutor, we have not heard his or her reasoning. It could be argued that they did not want such photos circulating for privacy reasons but one would expect that the advice would be to preserve but not share such photos.

Conversely, the destruction of the photos could be alleged as evidence that the officers and prosecutor understood that they conduct violated Section 1983. Moreover, the destruction could be cited as adding to the need for punitive damages to deter future such misconduct.

The case also highlights the need for all police departments, even small departments, to have dash cameras and body cameras for officers.

 

16 thoughts on “Tennessee Prosecutor Accused of Telling Deputies to Destroy Pictures of Brutal Beating”

  1. This article tangentially touches on issues in the January 6 prosecutions WHICH I HOPE THE PROFESSOR WILL ADDRESS:
    1) after the Capitol Police determined that their barricades and police line would not hold, DID THE CAPITOL POLICE use EXCESSIVE FORCE, including but not limited to the Ashley Babbitt shooting???
    2) Is the withholding of the 14,000 hours of video tape and the failure to investigate that alleged police misconduct a breach of the Disciplinary Rules for both DC and Federal prosecutors???

  2. Wait!

    The fraud and deception of this lone prosecutor is serious and material among the many multiple episodes of malevolence and treason such as the entire unconstitutional “Reign of Terror” of “Crazy Abe” Lincoln and successors, the inception of the imposition of anti-American communism by the Wilson Progressives, the perpetuation of said imposition of communism and the scheme of Pearl Harbor by Roosevelt, the forcible removal of JFK, MLK, and RFK, the comprehensive imposition of communism as the “Great Society” by LBJ, the gambit of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the phantom WMD of W. Bush, Flight 800, 9/11, etc., up to and including the Obama Coup D’etat in America?

    Geez! Penny wise and pound foolish. One questions your priorities.

  3. Wow. Looking at the comments so far I am thinking it is fascist bootlicker field day at JT blog.

  4. I regret that the good professor did not mention that “victim” Jim Jones appears to be White/Caucasian.

  5. I correct myself, upon rereading Prof. Turley’s post, it appears that the officer texting the photos is the one who took them (Ferguson?)

  6. The photographs destroyed from a cell-phone would likely fail the “best evidence” rule, and their circulation on the Internet could have caused tremendous harm and reactive violence. While queries into the prosecutor’s intentions are fair game, the deleted text message, along with photos, may have had plausible, if not good, intentions.

    1. Did or did not the prosecutor and police violate the rule listed below? When the rules and law enforcers violate the law which they swore to and are paid and given superb benefits to enforce and uphold, they deserve twice the punishment of non-enforcers.

      RULE 3.4: FAIRNESS TO OPPOSING PARTY AND COUNSEL

      A lawyer shall not:

      (a) unlawfully obstruct another party’s access to evidence or unlawfully alter, destroy, or conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value. A lawyer shall not counsel or assist another person to do any such act; …

    2. Right you are. That’s why there are judicial pleadings in front of a judge to make the determination of what evidence is allowed at trial. Or the GOVERNMENT can just guess in real time and use the massive overwhelming power of government to persecute innocent citizens; Somebody should write some hard rules outlining actions the government cannot take in order to protect the freedoms of the people.

  7. In spite of the tendency of many of us to push back against BLM, there are many bad cops out there.

    Why do police (both departments and individuals) tolerate these bad apples?

    Why do prosecutors whitewash these crimes?

    The Loveland PD here in Colorado has had a number of recent incidents revealed, to the detriment of the department, and the anger of the community.

    The killer of Ashley Babbitt has escaped scott free and is now touting his own heroism on the media.

    (I know the Lefties support him because of Trump, but that is precisely the attitude that encourages police abuse.)

    People are riled up and while most of us recognize the value of police, our patience is not unlimited.

    1. Scumbag criminals fleeing from the police, putting innocent people at risk, and resisting arrest to boot… there are repercussions. Thank you officers for making us safe.

        1. “When Police Lie, the Innocent Pay. Some Are Fighting Back.”

          Now square your disdain for bad cops and inaccurate written reports with the FBI refusing to record interviews, ever. Instead rely exclusively on written 302’s. If that’s not bad enough, allowing those 302’s to be edited by people not present at the interview.
          Then you have the DoJ/FBI shifting “investigations” from criminal investigations to counter-intel operations negating a whole collection of BoR protections designed to protect, us from the Government.

      1. Some brain dead bigots like you are just crying out to God for a good hard beat down by the police.

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