Tennessee's high court sent a 2006 Polk County murder case back to the appeals court, likely ensuring the defendant cannot claim that his due process rights were violated.
Bradley Waldroup Jr. was sentenced in 2009 to 32 years for the shooting and machete-slashing death of Meigs County resident Leslie Bradshaw and for nearly killing his estranged wife, Penny Waldroup.
Prosecutors sought a conviction of first-degree murder, but the jury found Bradley Waldroup guilty of voluntary manslaughter, especially aggravated kidnapping and attempted second-degree murder.
Tenth Judicial District Judge Carroll Ross sentenced Waldroup to 20 years for the kidnapping, 12 years for the attempted murder and six years on the manslaughter charge.
The Court of Criminal Appeals denied Waldroup's appeal in March 2011. He then sent his request to the Tennessee Supreme Court, which ruled in an opinion released Tuesday that a set of decisions earlier this year changed the rules on how juries should consider kidnapping when other felony charges are involved.
"As a practical matter, it's a legal exercise as to whether the Court of Appeals will follow the law articulated in the White case," said local criminal defense attorney Lee Davis, who is not involved in Waldroup's case.
The State v. White case was one of three criminal cases in which the state Supreme Court found that a "separate due process test is no longer necessary for determining whether convictions for kidnapping and an accompanying felony may be upheld."
Now the jury must decide "whether a defendant who detains a victim during a crime" can be convicted of kidnapping in addition to the other crime, according to a court news release.
The change is likely to make obtaining convictions on kidnappings with other felonies easier to prove for prosecutors, said Davis, a former prosecutor.