Judge sounds off over custody case

This week, a judge granted custody of Anna Mae He to Jerry and Louise Baker, the child's foster parents. Some people in the community are upset by the ruling. Friday, the judge sounded off. In Circuit Court, Judge Robert Childers made the following statement:

"This case has generated a great deal of interest in this city, in this county, in this state, in this country, and internationally. At the beginning of this trial, the Court made the decision to allow a camera in the courtroom, to make this proceeding as transparent as possible within the bounds of the law. Tennessee Code Annotated §36-1-101 and following, make adoption proceedings confidential. This includes petitions to terminate parental rights, which are a part of the adoption law. Certain provisions of the adoption law require the Court to seal records pertaining to the adoption and related matters, such as a petition to terminate parental rights. Because of the interest in this case, however, the Court allowed a camera inside the courtroom. The Court put minimal restrictions on the parties and the attorneys prohibiting them from disclosing the minor child's name, publishing the photograph or likeness of the minor child, or disclosing the residence address or location, the school and church address or location. The news media agreed to abide by these restrictions.

"The Court feels it is very important that the public have confidence in the court system and that is why the court made the decision to allow a camera inside the courtroom. Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 30 allows cameras in the courtroom; however, the decision to allow cameras in the courtroom is within the sole discretion of the trial judge.

"This case has been the most difficult case this Court has been called upon to decide in the Court's 20 years on the bench. The Court has spent almost 250 hours in listening to the witnesses, the attorneys arguments, reviewing almost 10,000 pages of trial transcripts, 79 trial exhibits, reviewing hundreds of previous court decisions and the statutory law. As the Court instructs juries, in jury trials, a judgment must be rendered based on the law and the evidence. A judgment must be rendered without bias, prejudice or sympathy.

"The Court's opinion is available for reading, and the Court hopes that anyone interested will take the time to read the opinion so they will have a clearer understanding of the obligation that is imposed on the Court by the case law and statutory law. The Court made its decision in this case based on the law and the evidence presented in the case, without bias, prejudice or sympathy."