Candidate for Public Defender

Martesha L. Johnson has a heart for serving people. She was determined to be a public defender since interning with the Nashville Public Defender’s office in 2007. She has devoted her entire career to public defense work, interning with the Knoxville Public Defender Community Law Office and volunteering at the Nashville office after graduation in 2008. Martesha was officially hired in 2009 and has served in many capacities during her tenure in the office. She currently serves as the training director and member of the special litigation unit, primarily focusing on serious felony representation. She has been the team leader in two criminal courts, summer intern coordinator, member of the hiring committee and member of several committees designed to review office policies and make recommendations for improvement.

Martesha has been privileged to stand with thousands of people accused of crimes. She has told their stories and relentlessly advocated for fairness and equality in the justice system. She has handled a wide array of complex criminal cases-representing people from arrest to jury trial. Martesha ensures her clients are educated about their Constitutional rights and the criminal justice process. She has partnered with community agencies to secure housing, mental health and recovery assistance for those who are experiencing homelessness and co-occurring disorders. Martesha passionately serves her clients. Her experience exemplifies commitment to the work she does, the people she represents and the community she loves. She is also an active participant in DEFEND Nashville, an initiative from the public defender’s office designed to partner with the larger Nashville community in the fight for equal justice for ALL.


Martesha is a proud Nashville native! She was raised by a strong, single mother who through her struggles to provide a better life for her family, taught Martesha to work hard and see the value in all people. Because of her upbringing, Martesha’s character is deeply rooted in community, equality and justice. Martesha graduated summa cum laude from Tennessee State University where she was a majorette in the world renowned “Aristocrat of Bands.” She graduated from The University of Tennessee Knoxville College of Law, was recognized as the Julian Blackshear, Jr. outstanding student and honored for completing over 50 hours of pro bono service.

Martesha currently teaches trial advocacy at Vanderbilt Law School. She is a member of the Nashville Bar Association, the Napier-Looby Bar Association, the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association, the National Association of Public Defenders, and the Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Johnson was a member of the 2016-2017 Nashville Bar Foundation Leadership Fellows Class and is a graduate of Gideon’s Promise. She was appointed to the Community Corrections Advisory Board by former Mayor Karl Dean. Additionally, she was a member of the inaugural class of Emerge Tennessee, the premier campaign training program for Democratic women, a nominee for the ATHENA Young Professionals Leadership Award in 2012-2013, and has accomplished many other awards, memberships and community involvements.

Martesha loves spending time with her 7 year old daughter, Jacari. They enjoy traveling, reading, and spending time with family and friends.



 Primary Election Day is Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Early voting is April 11 through 26.

Paid for by Friends of Martesha Johnson
John Spragens, Treasurer.