District Attorney Robert Carter and the Office of the District Attorney General for the 17th Judicial District, which includes Lincoln County, has advised The Times that a district attorney pro tempore will handle the investigation of the death of William Barnard Hawk.
Hawk is the Lincoln County Jail inmate who died last Sept. 15 after an altercation with corrections officers.
The Tennessee District Attorney General’s Conference has appointed the office of District Attorney Brent Cooper to serve as the pro tem prosecutor in the matter. Cooper serves as district attorney general for the 22nd Judicial District, which includes Giles, Lawrence, Maury and Wayne counties.
Under state law, a pro tem prosecutor shall be appointed to supply a district attorney general to temporarily serve in the place of the local district attorney’s office when it has a conflict. The actions of the temporary district attorney general shall be as valid as if done by the regular officer.
In this case, General Carter said that his office cannot be involved in the matter because a member of the immediate family of an employee of his office could potentially be called as a witness if the case were to proceed to court. The individual was present at the time of the incident, and as a result, has been questioned in the investigation.
Cooper, the pro tem prosecutor, is now responsible for all decisions related to the case and will handle any criminal proceedings, including grand jury proceedings, which the district attorney general is authorized by law to conduct in this district. With that, Carter’s office will have no further involvement. The measures were taken, the local district attorney general said, in an effort to comply with state law and to ensure that a fair and neutral review occurs.
As far as an update on the investigation, Carter explained that autopsy results are still pending, and, once those results are finalized, Cooper and his office will work with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to handle this matter however they deem appropriate.
When asked about the anticipated time of the autopsy results, Carter said autopsy results usually take anywhere between three to six months, depending on the workload at the state medical examiner’s office. Consequently, those results should be returned soon, possibly any day now.