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The Week That Was: Overton Park, Greensward, Michael Rimmer

Overton Park's "perfect storm" passes, Greensward mediation costs rise, and a Brady case defendant gets the death penalty again.


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Here's a rundown of some of this week's top stories:

• Shuttle buses, bicycles, pedestrians, and a new traffic pattern calmed the bluster of what Overton Park officials said was a "perfect storm" for the park, a weather-perfect Saturday packed with events that attracted thousands.

Latino Memphis celebrated Brazil with food, music, and a 5K run. Memphis College of Art students took exams and celebrated with an Art in the Park event. Beignets, chicory coffee, and more were served at Cafe Du Memphis, an annual fundraiser to benefit homeless families. The Memphis Zoo's new Zambezi River Hippo Camp drew thousands.

Overton Park Conservancy (OPC) officials worried that the events would jam the park, but they had a plan. One-way streets and off-site shuttles were launched in a traffic experiment.

"We were happy to see full buses and lots of cyclists and pedestrians, and the one-way configuration and closure of Old Forest Lane resulted in fewer cars having to turn around in traffic after being unable to find spaces," the OPC said.


• OPC said earlier in the week that costs for the mediation process were at $37,000 since January, noting that "those costs will only increase."

OPC and Memphis Zoo officials entered into mediation talks in January at the urging of Mayor Jim Strickland. The content of those talks are private, but Strickland announced last month that the zoo and OPC had agreed to a plan that would yield 325 new parking spaces without building a parking structure.

OPC's mediation costs are on top of the $75,000 it spent conducting its transportation and parking study earlier this year. Together, these costs have unexpectedly surged OPC's budget up by 14 percent.

• On Saturday, Michael Rimmer was convicted again of the 1997 death of his former girlfriend, Ricci Lynn Ellsworth, in a case previously overturned because of allegations that lawyers in the Shelby County District Attorney General's (SCDAG) office hid evidence from Rimmer's defense team.

District Attorney General Amy Weirich recused her office from the case. Special prosecutors from Nashville were brought in to handle the state's case against Rimmer.

Ellsworth disappeared from her job at the Memphis Inn in February 1997. Her body was never found, but there were blood spatters and signs of a struggle at her motel office. Rimmer and Ellsworth had dated, but he was later convicted for raping her.

After he was released and Ellsworth went missing, Rimmer was arrested in Indiana driving a stolen car with Ellsworth's blood in the back seat. However, during the investigation, SCDAG veteran prosecutor Thomas Henderson failed to give eyewitness identifications of other suspects to Rimmer's attorneys.

This broke Brady laws that govern criminal court cases, and Rimmer's conviction was overturned because of it. The Tennessee Supreme Court investigated the action.

The court ordered a public censure of Henderson. Weirich pulled Henderson from the Rimmer trial but did not order any further punishment for him.

Rimmer was sentenced to death by the jury Saturday. It was the third time he had received the death penalty in the case.

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