Group of advocates call for racial equity audit for Shelby County DA

Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 9:56 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A group of advocates are calling for a racial equity audit of Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich and the district attorney’s office.

A letter from the group of advocates claims Weirich and the DA’s office discriminate against Black people. So far, at least two Shelby County commissioners support an audit.

In the letter, the group of advocates mention widely discussed cases the DA’s office recently prosecuted.

Executive Director of Just City, Josh Spickler, says the cases are examples of how the legal system in Shelby County treats Black people differently.

“We think it’s long past time this District Attorney General’s Office answer to outcomes like the ones we mention in our letter,” said Just City Executive Director Josh Spickler.

Pamela Moses was granted a new trial after she was convicted of illegally registering to vote and sentenced to six years in prison. A letter from the Tennessee Department of Correction claiming her rights had been restored was never presented at trial. The district attorney says that error is on TDOC for not turning over the document.

Advocates compare that case to one where a white former Shelby County deputy accepted a plea deal after being convicted of raping a teenager. Brian Beck is now out on probation after pleading guilty to aggravated assault. The district attorney’s office says this deal spared the victim from testifying “in a difficult case to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“There may be perfectly good reasons for both of these outcomes but they are emblematic of a system of a community that consistently treats Black people differently,” said Spickler.

Two Shelby County commissioners support an audit. Commissioner and President of the National Association of Black County Elected Officials Eddie Jones and President of the NAACP Memphis Branch, Commissioner Van Turner.

“I support any alleged injustices to be investigated,” said Jones.

“If there is to be an audit regarding how citizens in this city and county are treated, how African-American citizens in this city and county are treated, I think that’s something that should be applied city and county wide,” said Turner.

Spickler says they are hoping for a proposal and vote from the county commission soon.

District Attorney General Amy Weirich sent Action News 5 this statement in response to the audit request:

“These are divisive and inflammatory statements meant for a political goal and not policy change. This organization and the people listed are clearly out of touch with the people I talk to everyday, in every community in Shelby County, who believe criminals should be held accountable. I hardly think the local leaders of ‘defund the police’ have any clue about the real problems with crime that real people face every day.”

View the full letter sent by the group of advocates here:

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