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Hector Sanchez appointed first Hispanic trial court judge in Tennessee

Sanchez is taking the place of Kyle Hixson, who has been elevated to an appellate position.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Hector Sanchez has been sworn in as a Knox County Criminal Court judge, becoming the first Hispanic trial court judge in the state.

It's a distinction Sanchez said he's conscious of and respects.

“I am honored to serve in this role with that designation. I believe that inclusion is important. I believe diversity on the bench is important. And I’m thrilled that I can serve the citizens of Knox County," Sanchez told WBIR on Monday.

Sanchez said it's his understanding he's the first Hispanic person to be a trial court judge in the state. Ana Escobar has previously been elected to the bench as a General Sessions Court judge in Davidson County.

Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee swore Sanchez in over the weekend so he could proceed with his duties. He'll likely face a formal swearing-in ceremony Friday.

Sanchez said he anticipates taking over his own docket for Criminal Court's Division 2 on Oct. 17.

He was appointed last week by Gov. Bill Lee.

A former prosecutor, Sanchez told 10News he’s always had thoughts of being a judge. He's the first lawyer in his family

Sanchez takes the place of Kyle Hixson, who has become a state appeals court judge.

Sanchez had been in the Knox County District Attorney General's Office since 2014. He's a graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law.

He served as a U.S. Marine. He has prosecuted violent crimes in Knox County.

Among the cases he has prosecuted -- the murder trial of Joel Guy, convicted of murdering and dismembering his mother and father over Thanksgiving weekend in 2016.

Credit: Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel
Knox County Assistant District Attorney Hector Sanchez holds a plastic container found at the crime scene that held severed human remains during Joel Michael Guy Jr.’s trial in Knox County Criminal Court on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. Guy is accused of killing and dismembering his parents in Hardin Valley in 2016.

Criminal Court judges are elected to the bench unless a vacancy occurs, creating an opportunity for the governor to appoint someone to the position. Criminal Court judges oversee trials of people charged with a crime.

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