Escape trial held yesterday

Friday, November 1, 2013

By Karen Hall

Editor

A man who was convicted by a jury last year was back in court yesterday to be tried for attempting to escape from custody.

Jason Lee Fisher, 32, was tried in September 2012, and found guilty of four aggravated burglaries, four felony thefts, and three misdemeanor vandalisms. The next month Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler gave Fisher an effective sentence of 45 years, of which, as a career criminal, he must serve 60 percent before being eligible for a parole board hearing.

It was after a court appearance the following month that Fisher made his escape attempt.

"While taking Mr. Fisher out of the courthouse he got his cuffs off and when I turned around he had put both leg irons on one leg," reported Corrections Officer Terrence Howard, according to documents in the case file. "He said, 'You know what time it is,' and took off running. I tackled Mr. Fisher in the parking lot and I had to spray him with pepper spray to gain control of him."

Fisher was indicted on the escape charge by the grand jury in April and local attorney Michael Auffinger was appointed to represent him.

Attorneys from the Public Defender's Office represented Fisher at his trial, and at his appeal, which was ruled on by the Court of Appeals this week.

On appeal, Fisher challenged the sufficiency of the evidence used to convict him, and also challenged the length of the sentence. The appeals court upheld both, but found a clerical error on one of the judgment forms. The sentence was marked as six years, when it should have been 12 years, due to Fisher's career offender status. The court has been asked to correct this.

According to evidence presented at his trial, Fisher broke into four of his neighbors' houses on Woodbridge Drive between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2, 2011, and stole an assortment of items, ranging from a big-screen TV to used cowboy boots. Most of the stolen goods were found in his bedroom in the house where he lived with his mother.

"It's the state's position he's a career criminal," said Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard at Fisher's sentencing hearing. He enumerated Fisher's 12 felony convictions, all for theft and burglary.

"It only takes six to make him a career criminal," Barnard said.

When it was Fisher's turn to speak at his sentencing hearing, he stuck to the story he told at the trial: other men had done the burglaries and he had just been the lookout and stored the stolen goods for them.

At the trial it was revealed Fisher made several statements to Marshall County Sheriff's Detective Jimmy Oliver after his arrest, and accused two or three other people of committing the burglaries. Detectives followed up all leads, but only one led to a real person, Josh Johnson, who was thoroughly investigated, but nothing was found.

"I gave him the key to my house; let him put stuff in my room," Fisher said.

"You're telling the jury you're not guilty of these aggravated burglaries?" asked his attorney, Public Defender Michael Collins.

"Yes, sir," Fished replied. "I did not knowingly steal anything. I knew what they were up to and I did not want to be involved."

"What do you mean by 'they'?" asked Barnard.

"Josh Johnson and another guy, a friend of his," Fisher replied.

Fisher is currently confined in South Central Correctional Complex at Clifton in Wayne County. The Tennessee Department of Corrections website shows Fisher will be eligible for a parole board hearing in 2027, though bad behavior may keep Fisher from being paroled then: during his previous time in the Tennessee Department of Corrections, he was reported to have had 56 disciplinary infractions. His sentence ends in 2056, when he will be 75 years old.