Disciplinary charges dropped against Tennessee prosecutor
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A state board on Monday dropped disciplinary charges against the top prosecutor in Memphis arising from a murder case she handled.
Tennessee’s Board of Professional Responsibility voluntarily dismissed a petition for discipline against Shelby County district attorney Amy Weirich. In a news conference, Weirich said she has accepted a private reprimand from the board for her actions in the 2009 murder trial of Noura Jackson.
The board did not say in its ruling why it dropped the charges, and it cannot discuss the decision publicly, said Krisann Hodges, deputy chief disciplinary counsel for the board. Hodges described a private reprimand as a “non-public form of discipline.”
Weirich faced a recommendation of public censure on charges that she did not turn over a key witness statement to the defense until after the trial and that she improperly commented on Jackson’s right to remain silent during a rebuttal closing argument. She had said she would fight the misconduct charges.
A private reprimand acknowledges an attorney error has occurred, but it does not “unnecessarily stigmatize a lawyer,” Weirich said.
“It has been a long and hard year for my family,” Weirich said. “Today is a validation.”
Weirich was the lead prosecutor in the trial of Jackson, who was convicted of fatally stabbing her mother, Jennifer Jackson, more than 50 times in June 2005.
Jackson appealed on several grounds, and the Tennessee Supreme Court later ordered a new trial. Jackson entered an Alford plea to voluntary manslaughter in May 2015 and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. She has since been released from prison.
Under an Alford plea, a defendant doesn’t admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence to convict.
The petition said Weirich improperly commented on Jackson’s right to remain silent and refrain from testifying during trial. During closing arguments, Weirich said: “Just tell us where you were! That’s all we are asking, Noura!”
Weirich was walking across the courtroom toward Jackson and addressing the jury when she made the statements, the petition said. Weirich also “gesticulated by raising both arms to point and gesture” at Jackson, the petition said.
The petition had requested that a panel hear testimony, receive evidence and order appropriate disciplinary action. Weirich had been scheduled to appear before the board this week. She was elected to an eight-year term in 2014.
Her co-prosecutor has been cleared of disciplinary charges.