Attorney John Harris Talks Timelines, Twists, and Turns on the Covenant Killer Manifesto Court Case

Jul 11, 2023

Attorney John Harris joined host Michael Patrick Leahy in studio on Tuesday’s edition of The Tennessee Star Report to discuss the state of the court case to release the Covenant Killer Manifesto between Tennessee Firearms Association, Metro Nashville, the Covenant School, and many others.


Michael Patrick Leahy: 6:06 AM broadcasting live from our studios on Music Crow in Nashville, Tennessee. We’ll be joined in-studio at 6:30 AM by the official guest host of The Tennessee Star Report, Aaron Gulbransen. We’ll talk about the Sound of Freedom movie and, and also what the Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition is up to these days.

In-studio right now, our very good friend for many years, the executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, John Harris.

John, we left a hanging chad and the hanging chad which I looked at you with a bit of incredulity.

You like that word?

John Harris: I do.

Michael Patrick Leahy: The word of the day. “Incredulity.”

You said that the state case where a number of plaintiffs including the Tennessee Firearms Association, which you represent as an attorney, and me individually and The Tennessee Star represented by America First Legal – that state case may not be resolved until 2026.

Are you kidding me?

John Harris: No, not really. I mean, look at where we are right now. The Covenant parties have, let’s just round it off and say approximately 20 attorneys involved. Four other schools have asked to be heard. In the case they filed amicus briefs.

Michael Patrick Leahy: Yeah. And I think Montgomery Bell Academy was one of those schools, right?

John Harris:  Montgomery Bell, Franklin Road, Oak Hill, and St. Paul, I think are the four schools that have asked to be heard.

But the case is currently on appeal, first round, in the Tennessee Court of Appeals on the issue of whether or not they should have even been allowed to intervene in the case.

Michael Patrick Leahy: The Covenant parties.

John Harris: Right now, regardless of what the Court of Appeals rules, it is likely that somebody is gonna ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to look at the decision by the court of Appeals. Now that would be a discretionary petition. So the court may or may not take it up – the Supreme Court – at that time.

If they do, we add months, again, to the calendar. If they don’t, then the case likely goes back down to the trial court for a trial of some type.

That path takes us into probably the fall, November, December timeframe. And my bet is given, again, the number of attorneys involved in the issues that are at play, whatever the trial court does with it, when it finally comes back to her, we’ll then go to the court of appeals yet again.

And the typical path in the court of appeals, unless they decide to expedite stuff, is easily gonna be, you know, a year’s additional time to brief it, get it scheduled for argument, let the court take it under advisement, and then issue an opinion.

And then once again, regardless of what the court does at that level, at the appellate level, there’s still the Tennessee Supreme Court, which, I think ultimately, if either the trial court or the court of appeals lets the intervenors stay in the case, the Tennessee Supreme Court’s gonna be asked to consider that.

If the trial court and the court of appeals ultimately decide that the intervenors never should have been involved in the case, then, that, again, is an issue that a lot of pressure will be applied to get that legal question to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Michael Patrick Leahy: So, you know, the Tennessee Public Records Act is pretty clear that this is a document which, you know, media outlets and the public has the right to see.

To me, this is very clear.

John Harris: Absolutely.

Michael Patrick Leahy: So the question, then, comes to mind – and this is sort of un unexpected – the intensity with which, shall we say, the Covenant parties are working to resist the disclosure of this document, which if you just look at the black letter of the law should easily be disclosed and we should have it, we should be able to publish it – the redacted versions of it – raises a question to me.

Why are these the Covenant parties, the Covenant School, Covenant Church, and the majority of the parents – not all, because we’ve talked to at The Tennessee Star, some that said not. Why do, why are they resisting it so badly?

We’ve got a minute for you to answer that question.

John Harris: Yeah, that’s a hard question and it calls for just sheer speculation.

You look at the numbers of attorneys involved and you go, ‘Why? Why so much attention and effort and investment of time to permanently seal records when even Metro was saying we don’t want them made public until we’ve concluded our criminal investigation?’

Even Metro doesn’t assert that these need to be permanently sealed.

But when you look at what the request is, permanent sealing of these records, and then the number of attorneys and effort and financial expense involved. It’s completely strange.

Michael Patrick Leahy: Well, and then, you said something very important, the resistance to having the Covenant Killer Manifesto document – again, Audrey Hale, on March 27th, 28 year old woman who self-identified as a transgender male – self-identified as male – shot and killed six innocent Nashville Covenant School.

Three of them were children. Nine years old. Three of them were staff members.

A horrific crime.

But what’s interesting about this is, why do they not want it released?

And the problem is it yields to speculation. And speculation is not based on fact. And that’s why these records need to be made available because speculation leads to all sorts of weird thoughts or ideas that aren’t necessarily based on facts and could lead to bad public policy, for instance, it could very easily.

And with that segue, speaking of bad public policy, Governor Lee, are you listening?

Governor Lee, which he has the constitutional right to do, said he’s going to call a special session of the general assembly to address “public safety,” but really he’s gonna try to jam down red flag laws that violate the second Amendment.

And on that note, we’ll talk about that when we get back.

This is The Tennessee Star Report.

He’s John Harris; I’m Michael Patrick Leahy.

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Audrey Hale” by Metro Nashville Police Department.