MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Some local residents are concerned with what they say is a system of racial discrimination and other violations within the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office.
Now, those advocates have requested a racial equity audit for District Attorney Amy Weirich and the county’s District Attorney General’s Office.
Tikeila Rucker, with Memphis for All, said the audit is “a step for us in the right direction to identify if racism is taking place in the DA’s office.”
On Tuesday, Shelby County Commissioners received a letter requesting the audit; the document cites ‘discriminatory treatment of Black children, the senseless prosecution of a Black woman for trying to vote,” and other grievances.
The letter highlights the prosecution of Pamela Moses, a Black woman who received a six-year prison term for trying to vote with a felony record.
Before being sentenced Moses said information she received from the state confused her about the status of her voting rights due to a previous felony conviction.
A judge later overturned Moses’s conviction because Weirich’s office failed to disclose evidence showing that government officials made a mistake in approving Moses’s voting eligibility.
According to a release from the group calling for the audit, Black people are disproportionately harmed in Memphis and Shelby County by both the criminal legal system and violent crime.
They said that under Weirich, many gunmen in homicide cases are not successfully prosecuted.
The letter also cites “Weirich’s needlessly harsh and punitive tactics” against Black children.
“Weirich prosecutes children in adult court more than every other Tennessee District Attorney General combined, and she does so nearly exclusively with Black kids,” the letter says.
Racial Equity Audits are designed to provide an independent, objective, and holistic analysis of an organization’s policies and practices through a racial justice lens—identifying how the organization is exhibiting or exacerbating systemic racial discrimination, according to the release from the group.
The group is asking the Commission to compare Weirich’s accused treatment of Black people to the case of a white former SCSO deputy who was sentenced to probation just last week after the DA’s office dismissed multiple counts of rape against a 14-year-old victim.
Shelby County Commissioner Van Turner, who is also president of the local NAACP chapter, said he supports the audit.
“For the law enforcement officer to not serve any time for something as serious as rape is something that needs to be put on the table and responded to by Gen. Weirich,” he said.
It’s likely the audit will be discussed at a committee meeting today or in next week’s committee sessions.
Weirich responded to the allegations:
“These are divisive and inflammatory statements meant for a political goal and not policy change. This organization and the people listed are clearly out of touch with the people I talk to everyday, in every community in Shelby County, who believe criminals should be held accountable. I hardly think the local leaders of ‘defund the police’ have any clue the real problems with crime that real people face every day.”
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