Shelby DA fights censure petition

By Adrian Sainz, Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich said Friday she is fighting an attempt by a state board to censure her in connection with a murder case she handled as a prosecutor.

The Board of Professional Responsibility of the Supreme Court of Tennessee filed a petition for discipline on Monday against Weirich. The petition says Weirich should be disciplined for actions during the February 2009 trial of Noura Jackson, who was accused of fatally stabbing her mother more than 50 times in June 2005.

The petition says Weirich improperly commented on Jackson’s right to remain silent and refrain from testifying. During closing arguments, Weirich said: “Just tell us where you were! That’s all we are asking, Noura!”

Weirich was walking across the courtroom toward Jackson and addressing the jury when she made the statements, the petition said. Weirich also “gesticulated by raising both arms to point and gesture” at Jackson, the petition said.

“It is a well-settled principle that a prosecutor may not comment upon a defendant’s exercise of the Fifth Amendment right not to testify,” the petition states.

The petition requests that a panel hear testimony, receive evidence and order appropriate disciplinary action.

In a statement released by her office, Weirich said the initial complaint against her was filed by a friend of Jackson’s, not an attorney or judge who reviewed the case. She said the complaint sets a “bad precedent” for prosecutors, defense lawyers and trial judges.

“Nothing done by myself or by my co-counsel in this trial should warrant disciplinary action,” the statement said.

Jackson was originally convicted in the death of Jennifer Jackson and sentenced to more than 20 years in prison. Last year, the Tennessee Supreme Court ordered a new trial, citing two constitutional errors made by Weirich.

In May, Jackson entered a plea and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.