KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs issued a statement Thursday afternoon calling a Knoxville pastor and soon-to-be former Knox County deputy’s comments “extremely vile and reprehensible.”
Det. Grayson Fritts delivered two anti-LGBT sermons recently, one that calls for government and police to put homosexuals to death.
“Mr. Fritts is not my employee so I can only give my personal thoughts on the issue. I find his comments to be extremely vile and reprehensible and I strongly condemn threats of or calls for violence. On an official level, I have the utmost confidence that Sheriff Spangler along with District Attorney Allen will handle this issue in a professional and appropriate manner,” said Jacobs.
Sheriff Tom Spangler says Frtts is taking part in a voluntary buyout program and is on paid sick leave until the buyout takes effect in July.
The Knox County District Attorney’s Office is investigating whether there was any bias in any court cases Fritts was involved in.
Local law professor explains uproar from officials
Lincoln Memorial University law professor Stewart Harris believes there could be a legal uproar following comments by a longtime Knox County Detective, who is also a pastor.
Harris used the O.J. Simpson trial as an example. In the Simpson trial, the world remembers a key witness, Mark Fuhrman, being discredited for using the “n” work in the past. Harris believes that is exactly the route a good defense attorney would have taken, if their defendant were gay.
Sermons calling for police officers and government to kill homosexuals, weren’t publicly accessible for many cases Det. Grayson Fritts was involved with in the past, Harris thinks there may be lawsuits coming, with potentially significant consequences, including overturning verdicts.
Det. Fritts told us Wednesday, before church, he wasn’t surprised he lost his job. While he understands there’s a bad perception with holding these opinions and working in law enforcement, he maintained the two were totally separate.
“If I worked at Burger King,” he said, “and someone from the LGBT community came in, and they ordered a hamburger, I would make them a hamburger because that’s what my job would be…even if I felt differently toward that person and felt exactly the way I feel and believe, I would still do my job.”
Harris doesn’t believe that logic will hold up to a good defense attorney.
In fact, he believes some verdicts from the past could be overturned.
Harris said has that kind of talk been public during a case with a gay defendant, it would have been an element of the case.
“Yes, he can say or preach what he wants, but the state can discipline people who undermined the mission of the institution,” Harris added.
Harris believes this sparks concern of biased investigation, unfair treatment to a complainant, response times, and testimony.
“It’s easy to argue, isn’t it, that if there were a gay defendant, that is someone thought that defendant should be put to death, he could have told a lie, he could have shaded his testimony, and a good defense lawyer will recognize that and may move to reopen a case or to throw out an existing conviction,” Harris said.
Complaints about closed criminal cases can be made by emailing DAG@knoxcounty.org or calling 865-215-2515.