Braden waives his right to appeal

Friday, June 7, 2013

By Karen Hall

Editor

A young Lewisburg man's days in the courtroom ended Wednesday, less than a year after the grand jury indicted him.

Jerron Braden, 19, was charged with the first degree murder of Penny Blackwell Coyle on Nov. 21, 2011. In March this year a jury convicted him of the lesser included charge of facilitation of first-degree murder. In May Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler sentenced Braden to 23 years in prison, of which he must serve 30 percent before being eligible for a parole board hearing.

Braden's court appearance Wednesday could have been for his appointed attorney David McKenzie to argue in favor of a motion for a new trial.

Instead, McKenzie announced his client was waiving his right to appeal.

The attorney made sure the record showed Braden made this decision against his advice, and stated they had discussed it for a long time.

Crigler questioned Braden to make sure he had not been forced into this decision.

"You are entitled to appeal the verdict and the sentence, but you have decided to accept them, is that right?" the judge asked.

"Yes, sir," Braden answered.

"He understands this is it," McKenzie said. "This is the last time we'll be in court."

"All cases come to a conclusion some time," added Crigler.

"I don't know what to say," said McKenzie after court was adjourned. "I prefer to fight until the bitter end, but I've got to respect his decision. He (Braden) was happy with the outcome, and now he wants to put it all behind him. The psychiatrist said he was competent to make such decisions."

Reading Braden's pre-sentence report, prepared by Crystal Gray of the Board of Probation and Parole, one can see why McKenzie thought he had grounds for a new trial motion.

"I told a detective that I had something to do with the crime when I really didn't," Braden stated to Gray. "I told them that I was one of the ones that fired a shot, but I really didn't."

The pre-sentence report also states two Lincoln County jail inmates reported Jeffrey "Pookie" Mitchell admitted he and another man killed a white female drug informant in Lewisburg, a clear reference to Coyle's murder. Mitchell is serving time on drug charges, but his name has never been officially linked to Coyle's death.

Crigler, whose retirement date was May 31, was in Circuit Court for the last time as its regular judge. He may be back some time in the future for post-conviction hearings in cases he presided over. Judge Lee Russell has taken over Crigler's seat until Gov. Bill Haslam announces his choice of judge from the three names presented to him.

"It's been great working with everybody," Crigler said. "Time sure goes by in a hurry."

"It's been good working with you," said Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard, who later added, "You probably won't find a nicer man in any profession. He cares about people."