Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said she had no knowledge of any payment made to a witness as she prosecuted Andrew Thomas.
Weirch issued the statement below on Wednesday afternoon. Her office also issued a timeline of events in the Thomas case (at the bottom of this post).
Here's what Weirich said about the payment:
“The case file I received from the federal government had no record or mention of such a payment," Weirich said. "The first I heard of this payment was after the 2011 federal proceeding, 10 years after our prosecution of Thomas in criminal court.
"Finally, let’s all remember that the person being forgotten in all of this discussion of convicted defendant Andrew Thomas is the victim, James Day, who suffered for two years before dying of his injuries.”
Shelby County District Attorney General (SCDAG) Amy Weirich had no knowledge of or involvement with a secret payment made to a key witness in a murder trial that’s now under federal review, according to Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery.
Slatery’s statement came Wednesday in a letter to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the court that is now hearing arguments in the case of Andrew Thomas. Thomas was convicted in 2001 of the 1997 shooting death of James Day, an armored truck driver.
Thomas’ attorneys discovered that law enforcement agents paid a witness, Angela Jackson, $750 for her statement during the federal trial of the case. That case preceded the murder trial in Memphis, of which Weirich was the lead prosecutor.
Weirich did not disclose the fact that Jackson had been paid to Thomas’ attorneys or to jury members during the trial. Thomas’ attorney are arguing to the appeals court, that if the jury did know about the payment, it may have changed their view of the witness statement and, perhaps, changed the outcome of the trial altogether.
But Slatery’s statement Wednesday said Weirich could not have turned over the evidence because she simply didn’t know about it.
Here’s Slatery’s letter in full:
“The $750 payment to Ms. Jackson was made by the federal government without the knowledge of or involvement by District Attorney General Amy Weirich.
“The payment to Ms. Jackson was made three years prior to the state’s successful prosecution of Mr. Thomas for the murder of James Day. There has been no finding whatsoever that state prosecutors in this case had actual knowledge of the payment at the time of the state trial.
“The briefs in the case describe knowledge that may be imputed to a prosecuting office under a legal concept, but that is a far, far cry from actually knowing of or concealing a payment like this.
“Prosecuting these cases is never easy; our office will continue to confidently work with General Weirich and her office.”
Thomas now sits on death row but has maintained his innocence through the years. He has appealed his case through the Tennessee Supreme Court and to a lower-level federal court, though all of his appeals have, so far, been denied.
The review by the federal appeals court began in Memphis last week.
Here's the timeline of events in the case, according to Weirich's office:
April 21, 1997 – Armored truck driver James Day was shot in the head and robbed.
Nov. 13, 1998 – Andrew Thomas is convicted in federal court of robbery and use of a gun.
Dec. 18, 1998 – Angela Jackson is given $750 by Deputy U.S. Marshall Scott Sanders with approval of FBI and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tony Arvin.
Oct. 2, 1999 - James Day dies of complications from the shooting.
Mar. 21, 2000 - Shelby County Grand Jury indicts Thomas for the murder of James Day
Sept. 25, 2001 – Thomas is convicted of felony murder in state court. Sentenced to death.
Oct. 12-13, 2011 – In a hearing in federal court, Deputy U.S. Marshall Sanders acknowledges $750 payment.