A 28-year-old man serving a life sentence in a Tennessee prison for the March 2, 2005 murder of his school bus driver, awaits a decision on his future. Whether he will remain incarcerated for at least the next 38 years, or be released immediately, will be decided at a new juvenile court hearing.
Jason Clinard was tried as an adult and convicted of premeditated, first-degree murder for shooting Joyce Gregory three times as she sat behind the wheel of her school bus at Clinard’s morning pick-up location. The boy was returning from a bus suspension for using chewing tobacco. He reportedly had other run-ins with Gregory and said in court documents that she hated him.
Those who knew Gregory told School Transportation News at the time that she was tough but fair, and she was well-liked and respected throughout Stewart County, west of Nashville.
At issue is the decision to try Clinard as an adult. He argues that his attorney at the time, Worth Lovett, inexplicably agreed to a transfer from juvenile court and ignored witnesses who were set to testify to Clinard’s mental health. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Clinard’s new defense team last year and granted him a new juvenile hearing. The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and remanded.
Juvenile court jurisdiction ends when a defendant turns 19. If Clinard wins the hearing, held April 8 and 9, he would be released from prison with time served.
Michael Stahl, an assistant state attorney general, told STN that it may take another six months before a final ruling is handed down. The defense and prosecution still must complete a post-hearing briefing, he explained. That briefing won’t occur earlier than 28 days after the hearing transcript is filed with the court, excluding any requested extensions.
The court will then issue its final report and recommendation to the presiding judge, with both the defense and prosecution then having 30 days to file any objections. One to two months later, the judge is expected to issue an opinion.
“All in all, we’re probably looking at around 6 months to get a final ruling on this one,” he concluded.