Unlike some of the criminal law commentators on the Internet , I actually try cases , represent clients , and go to court . The next series of posts are some important issues that came up while in the courtroom last week .
The use of jailhouse telephone calls continue to be used as evidence against the accused. The Nashville Davidson County Sheriff’s Office contracts with Global Tell Link for telephone calls for those housed in the Davidson County Jail. Once an inmate makes a call using Global Tell Link , the call is recorded and downloaded to a server . A warning is played that the calls are recorded , but no warning is given that anybody can have access to the phone calls.
As the case moves forward , the Assistant District Attorney that is handling the case may listen in on the taped recordings looking for confessions , the location of evidence , or other evidence that may help convict the defendant. I have seen these jailhouse recordings used in bond hearings as well as trial.
Does the State of Tennessee have to turn over these recordings ? I was unable to find any authority that the government must turn over the recordings. However , Rule 16 of the Tennessee Rules of Criminal Procedure requires the state to furnish any written or recorded statement of the accused.The rule encompasses the following ;
- Written , recorded and transcribed verbatim statements.
- Audio tape recordings between a defendant and a confidential informant.,
- Verbatim and contemporaneous statements,
- A memorandum which includes the substance of the statements even though not signed .
- Interpretations of the statements.
- Statements obtained by means of electronic surveillance.
Under this framework , it is my position the recordings of jailhouse recordings must be provided by the state.
The bottom line is never ever say anything on a phone call from or to jail unless you want to hear it at your trial later . The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled the First Admendment protects vile speech by protesters at a soldiers funeral but it does no extend to those in the Davidson County Jail.