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Cases delayed because of defender’s illness

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By Damon Lawrence

Criminal court cases in the 9th Judicial District are being continued due to the absence of Assistant Public Defender Walter Johnson.

District Attorney General Russell Johnson, no relation, said Walter Johnson has undergone heart bypass surgery.

“(Criminal Court) Judge (Eugene) Eblen’s decision has been to continue everything,” Russell Johnson said.

Roane, Loudon, Morgan and Meigs counties make up the 9th Judicial District. Russell Johnson said the cases being impacted are the ones where Walter Johnson is the opposing attorney.

“He’s the only criminal court attorney in the PD’s (public defender’s) office for all four counties,” Russell Johnson said. “ My Meigs County docket got continued. All his Roane County cases have been postponed, too. We start back Jan. 6 in Loudon County, so any of the public defender cases there that can’t easily be handled will all have to be continued as well.”

Russell Johnson said he’s not sure when Walter Johnson is supposed to return to work.

Phone calls to Public Defender Joe Walker went unanswered and a computer message said the office voicemail system was full and could not take anymore messages.

Russell Johnson said the continuances have upset some victims, but there is nothing his office can do about it.

“You just have to explain it to them,” he said. “That’s who the attorney is, and if the judge appointed a new attorney, that new attorney would say, ‘Hey, I just got this case. I need more time,’ so appointing other lawyers isn’t going to help speed things up.”