A Shelby County man sitting on death row will get a new trial. The federal court of appeals ruled Friday that Andrew Thomas didn’t get a fair trial after prosecutors failed to disclose that a key witness was paid $750.
The prosecutor, in that case, was now Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich.
This case was tried long before Weirich became district attorney. But as the prosecutor of the case, according to this court of appeals opinion, she had a duty to disclose payment to the defense.
According to the court of appeals ruling, the former estranged wife and girlfriend of Thomas was paid $750 by the Safe Streets Task Force. Thomas was accused of killing an armored car guard.
First, he was tried in federal court for robbery. After the victim had died, he was tried in state court for murder.
The appeals court said any competent prosecutor would have reviewed the case before and come across the document showing the witness had received a payment from the FBI.
“The payment was never disclosed to the lawyer, and so they weren’t able to cross-examine the witness about the money. ‘Why were you paid the $750,’ and those would have been questions that were raised,” says defense attorney Robert Hutton.
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.”