(T-G Photo by Clint Confehr)
Her release is possible because a fetus can't be a victim under state law on child abuse, according to a ruling by the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals in September last year, and yet child abuse is what Tammie Wynette Doss served time for since she pleaded guilty in 2003.
Doss gave birth to her fourth child on Jan. 8, 2003, according to her attorney, Liberti A. Snider. The girl was born with syphilis and addicted to cocaine. The baby was given up for adoption. A few days later, a warrant was sworn out and Doss surrendered to the Bedford County Sheriff's Department. She's been incarcerated ever since.
Assistant District Attorney Mike Randles said Doss' fourth child was taken from her home to a hospital where blood tests showed cocaine dependence and her infection with a sexually transmitted disease so the charge was filed. By the time the mother was being prosecuted in circuit court, the child was showing slow development of motor skills.
Now, more than three years and nine months later, Randles said Doss should be released because the Court of Criminal Appeals "has ruled that a child fetus can't be a victim" of child abuse.
"Our office does not agree with that, but it is the law," Randles said.
Snider says the mother's defense counsel in 2003 didn't raise either of the state attorney generals' opinions issued in 1995 and 2002 that say a fetus isn't a child so child abuse is an improper charge under such circumstances.
Now-former Judge Charles Lee denied Doss' petition to question her previous lawyer's work when Doss raised the issue of the attorney generals' opinions, Snider said. Lee denied the petition without a hearing. His decision was appealed to the state Court of Criminal Appeals and it sent the case back to Bedford County Circuit Court.
Snider said she and Randles were able to reach an agreement "because we would have been successful in the post conviction relief hearing."
Such hearings are typically seen as a late, desperate attempt by convicts trying to get released or have a new trial. In this case, it worked.
On Monday, Doss pleaded guilty to an amended charge of reckless aggravated assault and Bedford County Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler sanctioned the agreement by accepting Doss' new guilty plea and sentenced her to time served.
That was calculated at three years, nine months and eight days as of Monday and Snider reported she'd been advised the Tennessee Department of Corrections should be able to release Doss in time for her birthday.
"Her mom, sister and former husband are here," Snider said of people attending court in support of Doss. "She has three other kids."