If there is any rhyme or reason to the investigation and prosecution of political corruption cases in Memphis and Shelby County, we cannot find it. On Tuesday, a state criminal case against former Juvenile Court clerk Shep Wilbun and former Shelby County Commission chief administrator Calvin Williams was suddenly dropped during the second day of jury selection. The explanation was that lawyers decided that a jury was unlikely to conclude that a crime had been committed. The indictments were handed up in October 2003. A special prosecutor from outside Shelby County was appointed because Shelby County district attorney general Bill Gibbons recused himself. A former Wilbun associate who was a key witness has already pleaded guilty to a federal charge of embezzlement.
We always thought prosecutors were supposed to prosecute, grand juries were supposed to indict, and trial juries were supposed to decide if a crime was committed by the defendant(s) after hearing the evidence. At this point, we don't know where we got it wrong, but we intend to find out. Meanwhile, we're beginning to suspect that state and federal prosecutors don't know either. The scary thing is that it's their job. •