Soon-to-be Shelby County district attorney Amy Weirich has made county history twice in less than six months.
The veteran prosecutor was named the county's first female deputy district attorney, the D.A.'s second-in-command, in August after former deputy district attorney James Challen retired. Last week, Shelby County D.A. Bill Gibbons announced that Weirich will take his place in January when he leaves to serve in Governor-elect Bill Haslam's cabinet. Weirich will be the first female to hold that office.
Despite her quick rise to the top, the 45-year-old mother of four has certainly paid her dues. Weirich celebrates 20 years in the Shelby County D.A.'s office in April. She's worked as a prosecutor in numerous high-profile cases, including last year's trial of Noura Jackson, an East Memphis woman convicted of stabbing her mother to death. — by Bianca Phillips
Flyer: What inspired you to go into this field?
Weirich: As a child, I wanted to be a veterinarian. But when I went to college and took the required chemistry classes, I realized that my brain doesn't work that way. My next choice was to be a prosecutor. I don't really know what led me there. I think it was the public-service aspect that appealed to me. I've always enjoyed fighting the good fight.
How do you feel about being the first female district attorney in Shelby County?
I think about doing the best job as an individual, whether I'm female or not. I just want to be the best prosecutor I can be and represent the citizens of Shelby County.
Gibbons has focused on preventing juvenile crime. Will that also be one of your priorities?
Under Gibbons' leadership, this office has done wonderful things for the community. Our focus will be to continue that great work. We've got to do something to make juvenile crime go down. We have to figure out why it's such a big problem and look at it through a different lens. I certainly won't undo any progress that Gibbons has made.
Gibbons has closed numerous businesses under the public nuisance law. Do you think that's an effective strategy?
We just closed down [strip club] Babes of Babylon this weekend. When a location continues to be a hotbed for criminal activity, it makes good sense for the D.A.'s office to do something about it.
What are your biggest challenges as the new D.A.?
Domestic violence is an area that we really need to work on. Not only do we need to punish those who violate the domestic violence laws, we need to look at the root of the problem and determine why we have such high numbers. But we can't do it by ourselves.
Gibbons wanted the D.A.'s office to have across-the-board vertical prosecution, where one prosecutor handles a case from beginning to end. Will you push to implement that?
We do have vertical prosecution now in some areas, like gangs and the special victims unit. It is a big comfort to victims to be with the same prosecutor until the end, but even in cases where we don't have that, our citizens should know that we are always doing the best we can. If we are ever blessed with enough resources to make the entire office vertical, that would be great. But the citizens are still getting the best representation from the D.A.'s office that we can give.
Your appointment is over in 2012. Do you think you'll run for the office then?
I hope to stay in this position. I'll have to run and hopefully be elected by the citizens of Shelby County. I'd like to guide the office effectively for the next 20 to 30 years. I never saw myself doing this, but things have a funny way of working