Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich speaks about the dismissal of the disciplinary charges against her during a news conference Monday, March 20, 2017, in Memphis, Tennessee. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz) (Photo: via Associated Press)
Republican District Attorney Amy Weirich, whose hard-line approach to crime has generated controversy in the Memphis area for more than a decade, lost her bid for re-election as Shelby County’s chief prosecutor.
Democrat Steven Mulroy, a University of Memphis law professor who ran on a reform platform that included bail reforms, won with more than 55% of the vote starting Thursday night.
Mulroy said Weirich conceded in the race in a post on twitter.
Mulroy’s candidacy was endorsed by local progressives in the area seeking change in the county’s criminal justice system, primarily in the county seat of Memphis.
Weirich presided over a sharp rise in violent crime in recent years; Memphis had the country ninth highest murder rate in 2019 and set a homicide record in 2020. This may have swayed voters who were put off by the lack of results, even if they accepted his punitive approach to prosecution.
During her campaign, Weirich said she did not “apologize for being tough on crime.” Over the years, Weirich refused to press criminal charges against police officers in severalhigh profileshootings — even in cases where officers were fired and reprimanded for violating department policies.
On the contrary, Weirich engaged in overzealous prosecution of Pam Moses, a black activist in Memphis, for trying to register to vote despite having a criminal record. (Moses says local election officials told her she could register.) Moses was initially sentenced to six years in prison, but Tthe Guardian revealed earlier this year that the Tennessee Department of Correction improperly withheld evidence in the case. Weirich dropped the charges shortly after.
Weirich has also promoted “Truth in Sentencing” laws that would increase prison time for certain violent crimes, which became a major problem in the campaign
Mulroy ran ads attempting to link Weirich to former President Donald Trump, likely helping his campaign in a heavily Democratic city. Weirich ran ads that sought to portray Mulroy as an extreme liberal; one included footage of Mulroy meeting with unionized Starbucks workers and accused him of favoring the “defund the police” movement.
Mulroy rejected the “defund” tag in a recent debate, but he didn’t shy away from his support for Starbucks workers.
“It is absolutely correct that the TV commercial crops and manipulates a photo of me at the Starbucks rally where I was demonstrating to defend workers who had been fired for unionizing,” he said. said. “Contrary to what you just heard, I have never advocated for [defunding police]what I’ve advocated for… is hiring more police, spending more money on training or money on recruiting, because that’s what helps with real crime.”
a recent report HuffPost described how former prosecutors in his office were upset by the sheer volume of work and angered by his tough approach to crime. Mulroy will become district attorney after Weirich’s term ends on September 1. Shelby County holds a rare general election in late summer.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.