A 20-year-old man recently sentenced to eight years in a 2014 sexual assault case is asking for a new trial.
Diontae Smartt's public defenders say Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Don Poole let prosecutors play only a portion of Smartt's police interview during his trial in April. As a result, attorney Christian Coder wrote in a motion Thursday, jurors didn't hear "the complete statement in context." That goes against a Tennessee rule designed to let defendants play a full statement if it's being used against them, Coder wrote.
Smartt was convicted of aggravated sexual battery and sentenced last month to eight years in prison. The April proceeding was the second time prosecutors brought Smartt to trial for allegedly raping a then-69-year-old neighborhood jogger near Normal Park Elementary School on Sept. 29, 2014. For proof, they called the alleged victim to the witness stand to detail his injuries and used a police statement in which Smartt admitted that he penetrated the jogger.
Though prosecutors could not be reached for comment Monday, all parties are scheduled to appear July 9 before Judge Poole.
Public defenders have argued the jogger asked to have sex with Smartt, who was then 17, and Smartt agreed but later lashed out when the consensual encounter started to fray. In his motion, Coder said Smartt also is entitled to a new trial because Poole never gave a self-defense instruction for the jury to consider during deliberations.
Originally, prosecutors secured indictments for aggravated rape, a severe Class A felony that carries more prison time than aggravated sexual battery. But in August 2017, jurors couldn't unanimously agree on whether Smartt should be convicted of that charge, ultimately resulting in a mistrial. During that trial, jurors saw the full interview Smartt gave to police officers.
When the state re-brought the charges in 2018, prosecutors and defenders argued in April outside of the jury's presence about whether jurors should hear the interview. Poole ultimately ruled jurors could hear the introduction of the statement, and jurors convicted Smartt of aggravated sexual battery, a lesser Class B felony.
At Smartt's sentencing, family members and a presentence investigation report described him as a young man with a stuttering problem who resorted to fighting to fend off bullies at Red Bank High School.
At that time, defenders Erinn O'Leary and Coder also asked Judge Poole to give Smartt jail credit for the nearly three years he spent on an ankle monitor before trial. During that time, O'Leary said, Smartt had to live with other relatives and couldn't return to his home or neighborhood.
In a separate order from June 6, Poole rejected that request.
"It is not appropriate under the law that the defendant be granted pretrial jail credits for time he served on bond with certain restrictions," Poole concluded.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.