McCroskey apologizes, fails to address reported problems

Embattled Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Joy McCroskey on Monday apologized to county leaders for errors made in her office, but failed to address what officials say is a systemic problem that has led to defendants wrongly taken into custody or kept in jail longer than their scheduled release dates.

"We strive for professionalism in all our court and mistakes unfortunately happen," said McCroskey, whose office keeps the officials records for the Fourth Circuit Court, General Sessions and Criminal Court. "I apologize for my mistakes, and any that my offices have made."

She added that the courts her office oversees handled roughly 70,000 cases last year, and "I would like to point out that we've had problems in far less than 1 percent of those cases."

McCroskey delivered her comments to the Knox County Commission during its monthly voting session.

They come in the wake of numerous media reports that have detailed problems inside her office.

"For me, the clerk's office is not just a job. Even though I am the elected clerk, the work of that office has been my life's work for 45 years and I'm proud of that," she said. "I feel very fortunate to be a public servant of Knox County."

She also said she was proud of her employees "and the good work that they do."

Officials, though, say her office workers are entering wrong data into the records management system, losing crucial paperwork, and providing defendants with bad information, according to a series of emails, memos and documents obtained by 10News under the state's open records law.

The emails, put together mostly by the Knox County District Attorney General's Office, detail a number of wrongful arrests and cases that prosecutors have asked the general session court judges to set aside due to errors.

McCroskey on Monday gave each commissioner a small packet of information that contained her notes and some documents that she said would exonerate her from claims that errors in her office led to wrongful arrests.

McCroskey wouldn't elaborate on what the documents intended to illustrate, but they appear to be personal narratives responding to various specific cases the district attorney's office contends were flawed.

In addition, the packet also contradicts some other data released by the county's Information Technology Department, and accounts from the district attorney's office.

For example, in one case, Andjuan Macon was allegedly arrested despite fulfilling his court obligations.

McCroskey's narrative indicated that he had not paid his court costs in full by February of last year, which resulted in the warrant issued for his arrest. Authorities then took Macon into custody in February this year.

However, the district attorney's office contends that Macon had paid his court costs in full almost a year prior to his arrest. At that point, the district attorney's office writes, the case should have been set aside for dismissal. Instead Macon was issued a new court date.

McCroskey did acknowledge that her office was responsible for one defendant staying in jail three days longer than his release date, but did not say how the error occurred.

McCroskey also backtracked, saying that the Knox County Sheriff's Office was not responsible for any wrongful arrests – something she claimed last week.

She declined to answer any questions after she spoke.

Sheriff Jimmy "J.J." Jones declined to comment Monday.

Knox County Commissioner Chairman Brad Anders asked commissioners not to discuss the individual cases publicly, until the Justice Committee meets.

The committee is an advisory board comprised of a number of county leaders and officials in the legal arena to discuss issues pertaining to the justice system in Knox County. It has no legislative power.

"I think that she owned up to some of the mistakes and apologized to us for some," Anders said. "I think we need to find out where we have room for human error, and find ways to remedy those and safeguard them from reoccurring."

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, who oversees the Justice Committee, said he hasn't yet set a date for when officials will meet.


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