Left to right: Professor Lucy Jewel, Jack Smith, Professor Wade Davies, Michael Deel, Grant Mitchell, Daniel Bihrle and Machen Picard prepared a case that was argued before the U.S. Sixth District Court of Appeals on March 9, 2018.

Students argue case before federal appeals court

Two University of Tennessee students argued a case in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati on March 9.

After several months of preparation through their work in the College of Law Appellate Litigation Clinic, Danny Bihrle and Grant Mitchell traveled to Ohio to argue on behalf of client, Tyrone Dexter Christian. In July 2017, Christian was convicted of crimes related to trafficking drugs and possessing illegal firearms and sentenced to serve 17½ years in prison.

The students argued that Christian was entitled to a new trial because there was no probable cause to support law enforcement officers’ search of his home in Grand Rapids, Mich. prior to his arrest in September 2015. The students also argued that hearsay evidence was improperly admitted during the trial.

Bihrle and Mitchell presented their arguments to Judges Jane Branstetter Stranch, Ronald Lee Gilman and John M. Rogers during a hearing that lasted less than one hour. At the conclusion of the students’ remarks, Rogers praised their efforts.

“Good luck,” he said. “You all did great, and we appreciate everybody’s argument.”

The court will likely take several months to issue a ruling on the case.

Bihrle and Mitchell worked alongside students Michael Deel, Wesley Love, Machen Picard, and Jack Smith to prepare their brief and arguments. Professor Lucy Jewel, one of two supervising attorneys in the Appellate Litigation Clinic who traveled to Cincinnati along with the students, said the students “were exceptional advocates in this high-pressure oral argument.”

“This was a challenging case and the judges were highly engaged,” Jewel said. “The students displayed impressive confidence and poise, seamlessly referring to case law and legal principles in a persuasive way.”

An audio recording of the hearing can be heard here. Learn more about the work of the students in the College of Law Appellate Litigation Clinic here.