A woman who made front-page news over three years ago when she tried to hide meth in a washing machine had her charges dismissed by the Tennessee Supreme Court on Tuesday.
In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that evidence found during a search of Samantha Grissom Scott’s home on Cumberland Caverns Road was inadmissible due to an illegal search and her conviction for possession of meth with intent to deliver was dismissed.
According to facts of the case presented to the Tennessee Supreme Court, Warren County deputies went to Scott’s home to search for Ronald Dishman, who had outstanding warrants against him and was suspected of being armed. This occurred on Dec. 20, 2017.
Deputies approached Scott’s home and reported seeing a male on the porch. He entered the house after seeing deputies. Law enforcement then surrounded the house with weapons drawn. For about 30 minutes, officers yelled through a loudspeaker for occupants to come out of the house. Scott finally appeared.
She testified she was put on her knees with guns pointed at her and officers requested permission to search her house, which she denied. She told them Dishman was not in the house.
Later, a man identified as Scott Bell came out of the house. Deputies repeatedly requested permission from Scott to search the house and she continued to say no. Nearly an hour after the incident began, Scott gave written permission to search the house for Dishman.
Dishman was not found, but drugs were seen in plain view on a bedroom floor and a search warrant was then obtained. Additional meth was found in a washing machine.
After she was charged, Scott filed a motion to suppress the evidence found during the search, asserting her consent resulted from coercion and was not freely and voluntarily given. When she entered a guilty plea to the meth charge in September of 2018 in Warren County Circuit Court, she did so with the stipulation she was entering a “certified question of law” to dispute the legality of the search.
The trial court and appeals court both ruled against her, but the Supreme Court accepted her case and issued the opinion in her favor on Tuesday. Nashville attorney Benjamin K. Raybin argued Scott’s case before the Supreme Court.
“It’s been a long process and certainly she’s very pleased,” said Raybin in a phone interview with the Standard on Thursday. “Her conviction has been over overturned and she can move to have the charges dismissed from her record.”
Raybin said the fact officers arrived at her home with guns drawn and repeatedly asked for permission to search her home is what resulted in Scott giving permission after initial denials.
“Surrounding her home at gunpoint and ordering her out was the first part of it,” said Raybin. “When law enforcement continued to pressure her, that showed coercion. The initial show of force and the continuing harassment when she came out are two factors which served to undo her consent.”
District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis said officers believed an armed fugitive wanted on outstanding warrants was inside Scott’s home and they had guns drawn for their own protection.
“I respect the Supreme Court’s decision and they obviously felt she was under undue influence when granting consent for law enforcement to search,” said Zavogiannis. “We have good officers and I’m not saying they did anything wrong. The Supreme Court has ruled and we’ll deal with it.”