Democrat defeats incumbent Republican in race for Memphis district attorney

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Democratic attorney who vowed to make abortion trials under Tennessee’s “activation law” an extremely low priority in the county that includes Memphis has defeated the current prosecutor Republican district leader who declined to say whether he would go after the doctors. who performs the process.

Steve Mulroy scored a decisive victory over Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich in thursday election after a contentious run that featured clashes over abortion lawsuits, as well as a new state law requiring strict sentences for violent crimes and other issues.

Mulroy takes office on September 1. He said his top priority is consulting with staff to develop strategies to combat violent crime, which is a persistent problem in Memphis.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting the people at the district attorney’s office, both the leaders and the front line attorneys,” he said Friday.

Weirich, a longtime prosecutor, has been a district attorney in Shelby County since 2011. He oversaw successful prosecutions of high-profile cases, such as the murder of NBA player Lorenzen Wright, and developed a program that uses a panel of community members to conduct low-level trials. criminals are held accountable without sending them to jail.

Weirich has also been the center of criticism. She was criticized for the prosecution of Black Lives Matter activist Pamela Moses, who was accused of trying to register to vote illegally. Moses, who had a criminal record, was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison. At the time, legal experts said the sentence was excessive.

In February, a judge vacated the sentence and ordered a new trial after the Tennessee Department of Correction was found to have failed to provide a necessary document in the case. Weirich decided not to proceed with a second trial “in the interests of judicial economy,” he said at the time.

Weirich also accepted a private reprimand for his actions as lead prosecutor in the 2009 trial of Noura Jackson, who was convicted of fatally stabbing her mother more than 50 times.

Weirich had faced a recommendation of public censure on charges that he did not release a key witness statement to the defense until after the trial and that he improperly commented on Jackson’s right to remain silent.

Jackson was eventually released from prison after pleading guilty to Alford, allowing the defendant to avoid admitting guilt but acknowledging that there is enough evidence to convict him.

Mulroy, a law professor, civil rights attorney and former federal prosecutor, and Weirich discussed Tennessee’s new “truth in sentencing” law, which requires serving full sentences for several serious crimes, including attempted first-degree murder, manslaughter vehicular traffic resulting from driver intoxication. and car theft.

In an Associated Press interview, Weirich said the law helps ensure justice for victims of violent crime and makes those who break the law more accountable.

In a separate interview with the AP, Mulroy said the law does not reduce crime or provide incentives for incarcerated people to rehabilitate themselves and get credit for work done in prison. The law increases Tennessee’s prison population and budgets, using funds that could be better spent on youth intervention and community re-entry programs, she said.

The candidates also fought for Tennessee’s pending abortion activation law, which could go into effect later this month.

Tennessee’s trigger law would essentially ban all abortions statewide, except in cases where the procedure is necessary to prevent the pregnant person’s death or serious impairment “of a major bodily function.”

The law would make performing an abortion a felony and subject doctors to up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

In the AP interview, Mulroy said the criminal justice system is not the appropriate forum to “handle issues of reproductive choice” and that abortion trials would be an “extremely low priority” for him.

Weirich never said outright whether or not he would prosecute doctors who perform abortions. She said it would be a violation of Tennessee code for her office to “issue a broad, hypothetical statement without an actual charge or case.”

The DA contest is an example of abortion becoming an issue in minor ticket races, including battles for state attorney general. Democrats in Arizona, California, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio and elsewhere cast themselves as endorsements against potentially further restrictions on abortion rights, while many Republicans seeking to win or retain seats as top advocates for their states promise to support stricter laws. .

Weirich told supporters Thursday night that he would continue to fight for crime victims and that “it has been a great honor to serve.”


Associated Press reporter Julie Smyth contributed to this report from Columbus, Ohio.

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