WITNESS IN TONY CARRUTHERS CASE RECANTED TESTIMONY
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 26, 2019) — On Tuesday, The Tennessean reported that Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III filed motions with the state Supreme Court that the death sentences of nine inmates be carried through to execution.
Slatery had announced the motions on the official website the same day.
One of the nine is Tony V. Carruthers, against whom a Memphis man, Alfredo Shaw, testified but later recanted his testimony, claiming he was pressured by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) to make the false statements in exchange for leniency in his own case.
Shaw also testified against former SCSO Sgt. Earley Story, who was convicted in late 1999 of one count of selling marijuana to an undercover police officer and Shaw, who was acting as an SCSO informant at the time.
Story believes he was retaliated against by the SCSO for having gone to local, state and federal authorities about the conditions he observed as a jailer in the Shelby County jail. The conditions were found credible by a federal judge in the case of Little v. Shelby County, and in 2000, the U.S. Justice Department conducted an inspection as part of a formal investigation of the facility.
As a result of its probe, the Justice Department reported multiple areas of substandard care and inadequate operational protocols which endangered the safety of both jail personnel and those incarcerated.
As The Post & Email has reported, Story has been attempting to clear his name for nearly 20 years and has acquired the support of the National Police Defense Foundation (NPDF) in the process.
In December 2017, Carruthers sent to Story a copy of the confidential informant’s activity log from the 1990s which had been supplied to Carruthers’s federal public defender for his own case. Along with a letter signed by Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Chief Policy and Statutory Compliance Officer Debra Fessenden, the document shows that there were no interactions between any drug dealers and the SCSO on the date for which Story’s jury determined him to have sold the marijuana.
The jury acquitted Story on allegations that he sold marijuana to the SCSO on two other dates. In an initial hearing before the late Judge Ann Pugh in April 1997, Pugh dismissed the SCSO’s charges against Story on the grounds that there was a lack of probable cause.
As with most other states, felony indictments in the State of Tennessee are issued by a county grand jury which is expected to review evidence against a potential defendant in an unbiased manner. However, Tennessee criminal court judges are permitted to hand-pick the grand jury foreman without the customary vetting process mandated for all jurors by state statute. Additionally, Tennessee grand jury foremen often serve for years or even decades at the pleasure of the judge, acquiring court-employee status.
In 2017, Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich was determined to rank the highest in reversals and for prosecutorial misconduct in a study encompassing the years 2010 to 2015 among the states of Tennessee, Missouri, California, an Louisiana.
The report revealed, in part:
Weirich committed two different types of misconduct in a case involving a defendant named Noura Jackson, who was accused of killing her mother. The misconduct was so egregious that the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned Jackson’s conviction in 2014, and chided Weirich for attempting to sway the jury by making inflammatory comments about Jackson’s constitutionally protected decision not to testify:
Given that the impropriety of any comment upon a defendant’s exercise of the Fifth Amendment right not to testify is so well settled as to require little discussion, it is not at all clear why any prosecutor would venture into this forbidden territory.
Three years ago today, WREG in Memphis reported that Carruthers’s co-defendant, James Montgomery, was freed from prison after successfully arguing to an appellate court that his case should have been tried separately from Carruthers’s. The outlet reported, in part:
The Tennessee Department of Corrections opened the doors and let Montgomery walk out of prison three days before Christmas last year.
He escaped death row when an appeals court ruled he should have been given a separate trial from co-defendant Carruthers. Montgomery plead guilty to a lighter sentence of three counts of second-degree murder.
He was released this past December with time served.
On Thursday evening, The Post & Email wrote the following to Tennessee Associate Solicitor General Amy Tarkington, whose name appears on the motions:
Hello, I am owner/editor of The Post & Email, an online newspaper which reports on government corruption. I have been covering corruption in Tennessee for approximately a decade and have done numerous stories on Shelby County prosecutorial and judicial corruption over the last several years.
In my research I found what could be exculpatory evidence relating to the death sentence of Tony V. Carruthers, who your Atty. Gen. has asked face execution in the near future along with eight others. Mr. Carruthers’s case closely ties in with another I have been following closely, that of former Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Earley Story, who was framed for a crime he did not commit and who the National Police Defense Foundation (NPDF) is currently seeking to exonerate in the court of public opinion since the Shelby County Criminal Court has refused to examine Mr. Story’s new evidence.
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