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Tennessee Prisoners Must Verify Truth of Petitions for Relief from Sentences

Daryl Holton and Paul Reid, Tennessee state prisoners, were sentenced to death on murder convictions. Neither appealed. Later, acting as "next friend," others filed petitions for relief on their behalf, claiming they were mentally incompetent. The petitions weren't signed or otherwise verified by Holton or Reid. The trial court stayed their executions pending disposition of the petitions. The state appealed, but the appellate court denied the appeal and the state sought review in the state Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court found that Tenn. Code Ann. § 40-30-104(e) expressly required petitioners to verify such petitions under oath. Thus, the Court found that both petitions were improperly filed for lack of verification. The Court also found that mental disease is a valid reason to allow a "next friend" petition, but only if the petitioner has been deemed incompetent by a court. Since neither Holton nor Reid had been so deemed, the petitions could not be filed by "next friends." The courts below were reversed and the petitions dismissed. See: Holton v. State and Reid v. State, 201 S.W.3d 626 (Tenn. 2006), as amended on denial of rehearing (consolidated cases).

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Related legal case

Holton v. State and Reid v. State