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BREAKING NEWS: State appeals to Tennessee Supreme Court in Koulis case to uphold conviction

Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper has appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court a decision by the state's Criminal Court of Appeals dismissing the criminally negligent homicide conviction of the late Dr. Christ Koulis, convicted in 2007 in the death of his girlfriend.

Koulis, represented by Nashville attorney David Raybin, was in the midst of an appeal of his conviction when he died of an apparent heart attack in April 2010. Since Koulis death, Raybin has been fighting to have Koulis appeal dismissed and his conviction abated, in effect clearing the former plastic surgeon's name after his death.

The state had first fought the dismissal of both the appeal and the conviction, but in the latest filing with the Tennessee Supreme Court, the state has dropped its opposition to dismissal of the appeal, but appeals the Tennessee Criminal Court of Appeals' decision which dismissed the appeal and abated Koulis' conviction.

"Although the State agrees that the appeal should be dismissed, the State is opposed to abatment of the case from its inception because the abatement ab initio rule is inconsistent with our modern conception of justic and, in any event, has been abrogated by Article 1, section 35 of the Tennessee Constitution," Cooper writes in his appeal to the Supreme Court. "More particularly, abatement ab initio violates the victim's right to "a prompt and final conclusion of the case after the conviction or sentence."

Cooper further argues the Supreme Court should "grant review in this case to settle an improtant question of law, to settle a question of public interest, to exercise this Court's supervisory authority, and to direct the development of the law concerning the constitutional rights of crime victims," Cooper wrote.

In his answer, Raybin again asserts, "Abatement of the appeal and vacation of the conviction is appropriate and is dictated by Tennessee law. Although the State notes several statutory and constitutional rights that have been recently promulgated, none of them in any way mandate or suggest the remedy the State seeks here.

"If the legislature wanted to change the abatement rule, it could have made such an alteration along with the other victim rights statutes. It did not," Raybin writes. "Presumably, the State asks this Court to indluge in the supposition that the legislature simply 'forgot' about the abatement doctrine when enacting the victim rights law, and when our constitution was amended to afford victims a 'bill of rights.'"

Raybin said there is no reason to adopt the State's suggestion of dismissing the appeal but retaining the conviction because if this were the case, the Supreme Court "could just as easily direct that the Court of Criminal Appeals decide the merits of the appeal as that is one of the options to the common law abatement rule."

"That might be appropriate here to allow Koulis' family to seek vindication and to avoid the fine assessed as part of the conviction as well as the judgment of permanent infamy. The state might re-assess what it asks for; it might get more than it desires," Raybin writes.

In the initial appeal, Raybin said the fundamental issue "was the State's wholly circumstantial case failed to establish any of the necessary elements to convict Dr. Koulis of the offense of criminally negligent homicide."

Buchanan and Koulis had maintained a long-distance relationship for a number of years, Koulis said, and were spending the holiday weekend of July 4, 2005, together. Buchanan died on July 4, 2005.

"The proof established that, during this weekend, the couple engaged in extended periods of sexual activity, and that Lesa Buchanan abused drugs by crusing pills containing controlled substances and injecting them into the veins of her groin area, so that she could experience a rapid 'high.' She injected herself, on at least three occasions, and this drug abused subsequently led to her sudden, untimely death," Raybin wrote.

Raybin also asserts the "State's willingness to dismiss the appeal without dismissing the underlying conviction despite the particular facts of this case is contrary to the strict guarantee of a right to appeal in all cases in the Tennessee code, as well as principles of fundamental fairness. The interest of justice and the law in our State favors the abatement of the conviction here."

Posted on: 7/2/2010


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