Taking Back Our Neighborhoods
Thank you for the coverage of Action News 5's "Taking Back Our Neighborhoods" initiative (Fly on the Wall, April 19th issue). This is an effort to broadcast strategies that help reduce crime in the neighborhoods of Memphis and the Mid-South. We're also telling stories generated by our viewers, including the report about the tent at Preston and Waldorf where 50 burglaries took place in a one-mile radius in the 30 days before our televised report on April 4th.
Action News 5's top brass meets weekly with our new general manager Lee Meredith to talk about solution-oriented crime-fighting stories. I personally research and report the stories you see each Wednesday night on the 10 o'clock broadcast. My colleagues report other "Taking Back Our Neighborhoods" stories as we learn of them throughout the week. In addition, we presented the first of our quarterly "Taking Back Our Neighborhoods" town-hall meetings on April 10th at Rhodes College.
I am also sending a new photo taken last week. I appreciate the circa-1991 photograph you ran in the Flyer, but as you'll note, I have made it to the barber's chair since that snapshot. Joe Birch, WMC Channel 5
We also had a post-dated bill from MLGW (Letters, April 12th issue). We manage a few rental properties in Midtown. Our monthly MLGW water bill is usually less than $120. Last fall, we received a water bill from MLGW for $1,300! We pay our bills every month on time, so how could this have happened? MLGW said they did not bill us enough for the water our tenants used in the past, so here is a new bill, and if we didn't pay, they would cut off MLGW services to our tenants. MLGW representatives said you don't get to dispute the bill, just pay up!
MLGW is absolutely the worst run company in Memphis. Period.
I was surprised and disappointed at the Flyer's editorial (April 12th issue) on the state criminal case against Dale Mardis for the killing of Mickey Wright. The editorial was filled with false assumptions and misinformation.
We based our decision on 1) the evidence available to us and 2) state law. Based on the evidence and state law, we could not ethically proceed with a trial for first-degree murder because we could not prove Mardis' act was premeditated. Had we gone to trial, we would have sought conviction for second-degree murder, which was in fact the disposition of the case. Simply put, the case was resolved in accordance with the proof and the applicable law. In return for Mardis' guilty plea, we avoided any appeals and the possibility at trial of a verdict for a lesser offense such as voluntary manslaughter or even acquittal.
The editorial states that Mardis was a known racist. Key witnesses in the case would have been Mardis' African-American business partners. The editorial states that Mardis made explicit threats against Wright. There is no clear indication of that. The editorial assumes a certain sequence of events after Wright was killed. There is no evidence to support this assumption. The editorial states that "unquestionably" the prosecution knew "all the unsavory details" regarding the mutilation of Wright's corpse. This is not correct. We obtained these details in return for Mardis' guilty plea.
The editorial states that our no-plea-bargaining policy states that we will "never, never ever — so help us, God — entertain a plea bargain in the case of a capital crime." In fact, the policy states that we will always reduce or dismiss a case covered by the policy when factual and/or ethical circumstances obligate us to do so. That is exactly what occurred in the Mardis case.
The editorial implies that no prior consultation with Wright's family occurred. That is not correct. The family did not agree with our conclusions as to our obligations. I understand their frustrations. It is frustrating to us as well — admittedly at a different level — when we cannot proceed as we had hoped. We will continue to make our decisions based on the evidence and the law, without regard to whether or not those decisions are popular.
William L. Gibbons
District Attorney General
Editor's note: See "Victims: Wrights?" for more on this story and a response from Mickey Wright's family.