In what sounded like a fairly strong defense of beleaguered Shelby County medical examiner O.C. Smith, District Attorney General Bill Gibbons said Saturday that the Phillip Workman defense teams efforts to impugn Smiths judgment constituted a red herring.
Going further, Gibbons said he never had any reason to doubt the findings of Smith in any case in which the county medical examiner testified. The D.A. noted that Smith had never offered testimony in any legal proceeding involving Workman that required a verdict. His only involvement was to testify in a clemency hearing for the convicted murderer of a Memphis policeman.
Workman, currently on a four-month reprieve of his death sentence ordered by Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, was convicted of the 1981 fatal shooting of Memphis Police Lt. Ronald Oliver. His legal team has attempted a number of challenges to his conviction and his death sentence, most recently challenging the states contention that it was Workmans gun -- not that of Olivers partner -- that fired the fatal round during a shootout following a holdup attempt by Workman.
When former governor Don Sundquist was reviewing the conviction at a clemency hearing two years ago, Smith corroborated prior findings that the fatal round came from Workmans weapon. Bredesens stay order was apparently related to the Workman teams challenge of Smiths testimony.
Gibbons, who was interviewed during his annual fundraising Fish Fry at the Catholic Club in Southeast Memphis, reiterated that he would not rule out using Smiths testimony in future cases. Spokespersons for Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton had alleged that the mayors current efforts to replace Smith were in part based on Gibbons unwillingness to employ Smith, but Gibbons has said those allegations were in error.
Smith is apparently under investigation by federal authorities in the wake of a bizarre incident last year in which he was found outside his office bound in barbed wire, with a bomb attached to him, claiming that he was the victim of an attack.