Weirich Says She's Not Guilty of Misconduct in Jackson Trial
By Toby Sells
on Tue, Feb 23, 2016 at 12:42 PM
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Weirich (right, standing) implores Noura Jackson (far left, seated) "Just tell us where you were!" during her closing argument.
An attorney for Shelby County District Attorney General (SCDAG) Amy Weirich said she is not guilty of any misconduct in the Noura Jackson trial and charges for discipline against her should be dropped.
These are the two of the biggest claims from Weirich’s attorney Jef Feibelman who filed a response for Weirich Friday to the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility (TBPR), the agency that oversees and disciplines attorneys in the state.
The TBPR filed a petition for discipline against Weirich last month. Its petition said during her closing argument against Jackson, Weirich improperly commented on Jackson’s Fifth Amendment right to remain silent at her trial by stating “in a loud tone of voice: ‘Just tell us where you were! That’s all we’re asking, Noura!’” (See video below.)
The TBPR also filed petition for discipline against Shelby County Assistant District Attorney Stephen P. Jones for not giving Jackson's attorneys evidence that could have helped her defense during the trial. The TBPR said Jones has not yet responded to the petition.
The petition against Weirich is listed in 34 separate statements ranging from mundane facts like Weirich’s current work address to the chief charge that her conduct “caused actual injury” to Jackson, to others who participated in the trial, judicial resources, “and to the administration of justice.”
The state's petition also asked that a hearing on Weirich’s case be convened and order discipline, if the hearing panel deems it fitting. The TBPR prescribed a censure of Weirich, which is a public rebuke of her actions that comes with a small fine but no suspension of her law license.
Weirich’s attorney responded to all 34 statements in the petition, admitting some of them (like her work address) but denying any that suggest wrongdoing on her part.
Feibelman says that opinions from the Tennessee Supreme Court, the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, and the rulings of the trial court “establish conclusively…that Ms. Weirich is not guilty of any misconduct as charged.”
At the suggestions that Weirich’s closing-argument statements were improper, Feibleman said, “It is Ms. Weirich’s belief that she did not improperly comment on the right of” Jackson to remain silent at the trial.
He said the trial court found that Weirich was not asking the question to Jackson at the time, therefore violating her Fifth Amendment right to silence, but that Weirich was simply quoting a witness, Jackson’s aunt, from earlier in the trial.
“No court has ever stated that Ms. Weirich acted with intent or was guilty of any ethical misconduct,” Feibelman said in his response. “Explicitly and implicitly they have found otherwise.”
As far as the TBPR saying Weirich spoke in a “loud tone of voice,” Feibelman said “the trial of Noura Jackson was very intense and every lawyer, in the course of the trial, engaged in vigorous advocacy.” But, he said, Weirich admits to speaking the words.
Weirich also denied that her closing-argument statement was not supported by relevant or admissible evidence, as the TBPR claimed. Weirich also denies that her statement caused actual injury to Jackson’s defense, the other parties in the case, judicial resources, or the administration of justice.
The TBPR’s petition for discipline for Weirich states that after her misconduct in the case has been established, aggravating factors could be considered to justify an increase in the degree of discipline given to her.
“Ms. Weirich has substantial experience in the practice of law which justifies an increase in the degree of discipline,” reads the state’s petition.
Weirich’s attorney denies this “inasmuch as there has been no misconduct.” As to her level of experience, Feibelman said, “In fact, Ms. Weirich’s contributions to the profession and to her community as well as her many years in public service all speak in her favor.”
To watch Weirich say "Just tell us where you were! That’s all we’re asking, Noura!" — the phrases at the center of her possible discipline — scroll to the 3:27 mark of the video below.