On December 30, 2013 the Tennessee Supreme Court issued a public censure against long-time Shelby County prosecutor Thomas Henderson for suppressing exculpatory evidence in Michael Rimmer’s capital murder case, violating his ethical obligations under the Tennessee Rules of Professional Conduct. We didn’t think the punishment fit the crime.
Now you have a chance to view the evidence and decide.
Below, we have compiled all the filings that were submitted to the Board of Professional Responsibility and Tennessee Supreme Court in Henderson’s disciplinary case, as well as court findings related to Henderson’s misconduct in the Rimmer case. They are listed in chronological order below.
On October 12, 2012, Tennessee District Court Judge James C. Beasley overturned Michael Rimmer’s death penalty conviction and sentence, saying Henderson made “”blatantly false, inappropriate and ethically questionable” statements to defense lawyers denying that any of the evidence he had suppressed existed, making “comments to counsel and the court were both intellectually dishonest and may have been designed to gain a tactical advantage.” Judge Beasley notes in the order a “substantial question as to (Henderson’s) honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer.”
On November 13, 2012, the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility received a bar complaint from Kelly Gleason, attorney for Mr. Rimmer, against Henderson which alleged the suppression of evidence and the eliciting of false testimony of a witness, as well as a pattern of misconduct in other high profile cases.
On November 26, 2012, the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility received a response to Gleason’s bar complaint from Henderson, in which he asserted a “failure of recollection” to explain his withholding of a positive identification of an alternative suspect by a witness.
On May 14, 2013, Gleason filed a reply to Henderson’s response letter disputing that Henderson merely failed in his recollection of the eyewitness identification, pointing to notes he made immediately before trial which showed his cognizance of the evidence.
On July 1, 2013, the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility filed a Petition for Discipline with the Tennessee Supreme Court alleging that Henderson had committed the following violations:
- Engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation;
- Engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice; and
- Failed to make timely disclosure of exculpatory evidence.
The Board found that Henderson’s self-interest, pattern of misconduct and many years in practice were aggravating circumstances justifying an increase in discipline, and found no mitigating circumstances.
On August 6, 2013, the Tennessee Supreme Court received an Answer to the Petition for Discipline from Henderson which argued, among other things, that the passage of time rendered a full and fair hearing on the question of his misconduct “impossible”.
On December 30, 2013, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued a public censure against Henderson, finding in somewhat vague terms that Henderson “responded to discovery in a manner that did not make timely disclosure of all exculpatory evidence.”
Henderson plead guilty and was ordered to pay costs in the amount of $1745.07 in addition to his own legal fees. He continues to practice law as an Assistant District Attorney in Shelby County.