The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit found District Attorney Amy Weirich did not turn over material evidence in a murder case. Now convicted killer Andrew Thomas is getting a new trial.
The latest blow to the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Amy Weirich is currently facing ethics charges of withholding evidence in another case, the Noura Jackson case, where the murder conviction was reversed, and this is at least the third time a court’s reversed a murder conviction on a case Weirich either worked on or oversaw.
Using words critical of Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed Andrew Thomas’ death sentence and murder conviction. Memphis Attorney Robert Hutton represents Thomas in the case.
“The defendant in a capital murder case is entitled to a fair trial and is entitled to have all of the evidence,” Hutton said.
The court said Thomas deserved a new trial because prosecutors never told his attorneys a key prosecution witness had been paid $750 dollars to testify.
“The payment was never disclosed to the lawyer so they were not able to cross examine the witness as to the motive,” Hutton said.
Weirich’s office stipulated it had legal “imputed” knowledge though she specifically denied she actually knew of the payment.
The appeals court said “any competent prosecutor would have carefully reviewed the case file,” but never reached a finding of misconduct.
This case is not the first time the District Attorney’s office has been criticized for causing the reversal of a murder conviction.
In 2014, the murder conviction of Noura Jackson was vacated after the Supreme Court ruled Jackson didn’t get a fair trial. The court ruled a key witness statement was withheld from the defense and Weirich made statements during closing arguments she shouldn’t have.
In 2012, Michael Rimmer’s murder conviction was overturned after an appeals court found the prosecutor made “blatantly false, inappropriate and ethically questionable” statements to defense lawyers denying of an inconsistent statement from a key witness existed. A statement from Weirich’s office says, in part, “we had no knowledge, no receipt or any other evidence of a payment to the witness.”
In March the Board of Professional Responsibility is expected to hear bar complaints against her in connection with her prosecution in the Jackson case.
Weirich’s office stated it plans to appeal today’s decision affecting the murder conviction. The same court also affirmed Thomas will remain in prison for robbery. He is currently serving a life sentence.
Statement from Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich:
“As I said before, and as both the State Attorney General and U.S. Attorney Stanton confirmed, we had no knowledge, no receipt or any other evidence of payment to the witness. Our files contained no reference whatsoever to a payment made by the federal government to the witness. The first we learned of this payment was ten years after our state court trial. This afternoon, I asked the State Attorney General’s office to appeal