Following the recent news of long-time ADA Thomas Henderson’s public censure by the Tennessee Supreme Court for his suppression of exculpatory evidence in the Michael Rimmer case, the editorial board of The Commercial Appeal has written a scathing comment on District Attorney General Amy Weirich’s defense of Henderson as a “dedicated public servant.”
In an editorial titled, “Prosecutor violated justice system precepts of honesty, integrity and strict adherence to the rules,” published January 14, 2014, (requires a paid subscription to view online), The Commercial Appeal condemns Weirich’s comments in the paper’s January 10 coverage of the censure for downplaying the impact of Henderson’s misconduct:
“It is true that Shelby County Asst. Dist. Atty. Thomas Henderson “has been a dedicated public servant his entire career and has handled many of Shelby County’s most difficult and heinous criminal cases over the past three decades,” as his boss, Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich, said in a statement Friday.
It is also true that Henderson, who joined the DA’s office in 1976, has been censured by the Tennessee Supreme Court for lying in a death-penalty case. Actually, he has been cited twice for lying, regarding the same case.
Because of that, Henderson has tainted the credibility of the District Attorney General’s Office to handle the retrial of Michael Dale Rimmer, and Weirich should voluntarily remove her office from the case. “
Weirich has tried to sidestep the issue of Henderson’s credibility by relying on the fact that Rimmer’s new trial was granted due to the ineffectiveness of defense counsel (for failing to dig deep enough to find evidence being illegally suppressed by Henderson) rather than on grounds of prosecutorial misconduct. But as The Commercial Appeal points out, it is not a question of whether it was the defense or the prosecution who failed their constitutional duties in greater measure – it’s not even a question of whether Michael Rimmer is innocent or guilty — this is a question about the integrity of those individuals charged with seeking justice on behalf of the state. Henderson plead guilty to violating the Tennessee Supreme Court Rule and the Rules of Professional Misconduct by failing to disclose exculpatory evidence, and District Court Judge James Beasley found Henderson unfit to continue prosecuting the Rimmer case, citing a “substantial question as to (Henderson’s) honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer.”
Henderson has tainted far more than Michael Rimmer’s conviction. And because of that, The Commercial Appeal says, Weirich ought to voluntarily remove her office from the case.
Update 1.17.2014: The Commercial Appeal reports that Weirich has scheduled a 2:30pm CST news conference where she will announce that her office is stepping aside from prosecuting Michael Rimmer and will be replaced by a special prosecutor.
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