Republican DA who championed voter suppression loses reelection

Republican DA who championed voter suppression loses reelection
Image via Creative Commons.

In Memphis, a Democratic city in a deep red southern state, Republican District Attorney Amy Weirich became the face of voter suppression when she aggressively prosecuted an African-American woman, Pamela Moss, for trying to register to vote after a felony conviction. But Weirich’s days as a prosecutor in Shelby County, Tennessee are coming to an end; on Thursday, August 4, Weirich lost the Shelby County DA’s race to Democrat Steve Mulroy, a University of Memphis law professor.

Weirich, earlier this year, pushed for a prison sentence for Moses, who had been convicted of a felony in 2015. When Moses tried to restore her voting rights, Weirich’s office accused her of knowingly breaking the law. But in fact, a probation officer — journalist Sam Levine notes in The Guardian — signed a form saying that Moses was eligible to vote again. Weirich’s office, however, claimed that Moses tricked the probation officer. Moses, a community activist, was sentenced to six years in prison.

Levine, reporting on Mulroy’s victory on August 5 — the day after the election — recalls, “After the trial, The Guardian published a document showing that the Tennessee Department of Corrections had investigated the error and made no mention of deception. Instead, the Department blamed the officer. Weirich’s office failed to turn over the document to Moses’ defense team before trial, leading a judge to take the extremely rare step of overturning her conviction and ordering a new trial. Weirich said her office was not to blame for the mistake because the Department of Corrections failed to give her office the document.”

READ MORE: This voter suppression group raised millions — but exactly how the money was spent remains a mystery: report

Levine adds, “It was not the first time Weirich had come under fire for failing to disclose evidence to a defendant. A 2017 study found her office had the most instances of misconduct out of any prosecutor in the state from 2010 to 2015. In 2017, she also accepted a private reprimand from the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility for casting aspersions on a defendant’s decision not to testify during a murder trial.”

The prosecution of Moses, Levine notes, “stirred national outrage.”

Reporter Daniel Nichanian covered the Shelby County DA’s race in an article published by Bolts Magazine on August 2. Tikeila Rucker of the group Memphis For All told Bolts, “Nobody, including Pam Moses, should ever face criminal charges for attempting to restore their voting rights. How or why DA Weirich sent a community activist, advocate and voting rights activist to jail for six years is incomprehensible.”

Rucker believes that Weirich’s decision to prosecute Moses was politically motivated, and that Weirich’s office targeted Moses because of her work with the Black Lives Matter movement.

READ MORE: Trump loyalists move ahead with 'sham' election project designed for voter intimidation: report

The Memphis For All activist told Bolts, “Moses is an example to the people: don’t you have the audacity to fight for change, to be the change, to step up against authority. That right there is the subliminal message.”

Linda Harris, a Memphis-based attorney, is also quite critical of Weirich’s decision to prosecute Moses.

Harris, who ran in the Democratic primary for Shelby County DA but lost to Mulroy, told Bolts, “It does instill fear in the citizens when harsh laws are passed that criminalize what could be innocent behavior. What we’re talking about is individuals.… who want to vote, they want a part of selecting other leaders. So, why is that a crime? Why is it a crime for people to want to vote? I don’t understand it.”

READ MORE: SCOTUS agrees to hear voting rights case that 'endangers the very fabric of our democracy'

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