Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Assassination in Middle Tennessee

Judge Daniel

The state court administrator announced that the Honorable J. Steve Daniel of Murfreesburo would preside over Looper's murder trial.

Daniel, a 15-year veteran of the Tennessee bench, was a former president of the Tennessee Judicial Conference and the Tennessee Trial Judges Association.

Daniel was about as serious as a heart attack, having spent 28 years in the U.S. Army, serving as the Reserve Military Judge for Kentucky and Tennessee and holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. The Crossville Herald-Citizen reported that Daniel had been awarded the Outstanding Service Award by the Tennessee Judicial Conference in 1995.

Loopers new defense attorney, Doug Trant, responded to Daniel's appointment by submitting more than three dozen motions and requests - including a request to the state Supreme Court to remove Daniel - when Looper appeared in court on February 5, 1999 to enter a plea.

"There were 40 motions before I got here," said Daniel, looking through the contents of a thick manila envelope, "One was for me to 'take judicial notice' of something - I don't understand what."

Daniel set a second hearing date to rule on a bulk of the motions, and Gibson told the court his office would announce then whether he would ask that Looper face the death penalty.

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