Criminal Court Clerk documents continue to not add up

The Knox County Criminal Court Clerk's Office was responsible for a series of mistakes that led to wrongful arrests and defendants kept in jail past their release dates, according to a series of audit reports compiled by the county's Information Technology Department that trace the history of the arrest records.

The audit trails were put together after Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey last week gave the Knox County Commission a packet of information that was supposed to exonerate her from allegations that errors in her office led to a number of problems, including erroneous charges against defendants.

The file McCroskey turned over included her version of events for seven specific cases in which defendants were wrongly arrested or detained. She said her office was responsible for only one, and that the there were no problems with the others.

However, the informational packets McCroskey provided included errors, omitted data, and even admissions of guilt for some of the problems, according to a WBIR Channel 10 analysis. They were comprised mostly of narratives put together by her staff and contained few relevant supporting documents.

McCroskey's presentation to the County Commission came in the wake of a 10News investigation that detailed a systemic problem inside McCroskey's office that has led to wrongful arrests, cases set aside due to errors and residents temporarily losing their right to vote.

The mistakes appear tied to poor training, outdated information and her refusal to cooperate with other county departments. Her workers often enter the wrong data into the records management system, lose crucial paperwork and provide defendants, prosecutors, and authorities with bad information.

After commissioners received the information last Monday, a number of officials asked the county's IT Department to conduct an independent review on the seven cases McCroskey specifically noted. The office then put together the audit trails, which include timestamps that detail the chain of events leading up to a defendant's arrest or extended incarceration.

On Thursday, WBIR obtained audits connected to five of the cases, and first reported that the information McCroskey gave officials included admissions to the problems, avoids addressing the mistakes, or is in itself riddled with errors.

The complete report was then released this week to WBIR under the state's open records act.

The information it contains was culled from the Knox County Justice Information Management System, or JIMS, the recordkeeping system that officials use to make decisions on whether a defendant is up-to-date on payments, court appearances, or community service.

Each audit suggests that errors originating from the Criminal Court Clerk's Office caused the problems.

McCroskey on Monday declined to comment about the matter.

A number of top county leaders, including judges and officials from the law department, sheriff's office, district attorney general's office and the criminal court clerk's office are expected to meet in the next few weeks to go over the issues and find solutions.

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, who called the reports "troubling," said he also will attend.

The meetings, he said, will more than likely "cause some people some discomfort because there's (going to be) someone to blame."

Knox County Commission Chairman Brad Anders also said officials still "have more questions that need to be asked."

"This doesn't have to (be a case) of finger pointing, but we need to fix the problems in our justice system before anyone else is falsely arrested," he added.

STORY: Last Thursday's story, including case-by-case breakdowns

CASES: Click on the defendant's name to check out the narrative provided by the county's Information Technology Department (first page) and McCroskey's version of events (second page, which also includes notes and numerical notations by IT officials). Each case also includes supporting documents.

Johnny Edgar

Ricky Lynn Cole

Kimberly Agee

James Baker

Andjuan Macon

Jodi White

Edward Corts

The slideshow below summarizes what mistakes the criminal court clerk's office made for each defendant.


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