Supreme Court upholds Schmeiderer's sentence

Friday, October 1, 2010

NASHVILLE -- An execution date has been set for a man sentenced to death for first-degree premeditated murder.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence of Joel Richard Schmeiderer, 30, for the murder of Tom Harris, a fellow inmate at the South Central Correctional Center in Clifton. The Court set September 13, 2011, as Schmeiderer's execution date.

On July 11, 2001, Schmeiderer used a sock to strangle Harris to death in the victim's cell. Schmeiderer admitted to killing Harris because he felt the victim's sentence wasn't long enough and because the murder would get him back into court, providing an opportunity to escape.

Schmeiderer's co-defendant, Charles Sanderson, was also convicted of the first-degree premeditated murder of Harris, but Sanderson was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Sanderson's previous crimes included burglary, theft, and armed robbery.

Schmeiderer, however, already had a murder conviction on his record. In August 1999 a Bedford County jury convicted him of first-degree premeditated murder and two counts of attempted first-degree premeditated murder.

Testimony showed that on Oct. 9, 1998, when the defendant was 18 years old, he argued with two men at Belfast Market. When the two men left, Schmeiderer and his companions gave chase, shooting at the men's truck.

The chase continued for 20 miles, at speeds up to 85 mph, and ended on Pickle Road, in Bedford County, when Schmeiderer's car rammed the truck. The two men got out of the truck and ran behind a nearby house.

The defendant approached the owner of the house and tried to shoot him, but the gun misfired. When the two men returned to the truck, the defendant fired the gun at them. One of the men, Jamie Helmick, was fatally shot.