After Decade In Jail, Woman Freed Because Prosecutor Withheld Evidence

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The prosecutor had withheld an important piece of evidence that could have ensured the suspect wouldn't have been convicted. But will justice ever prevail?

Scales of justice.

Noura Jackson was 18 when she was convicted of killing her mother — a crime she did not commit. After being robbed of a decade of her life, the prosecutor who allegedly withheld evidence that could have proven Jackson's innocence was never brought to justice.

In 2005, Jackson called 911 begging the dispatcher to send an ambulance to her house in a nice Memphis neighborhood, The New York Times reports. Her mother, Jennifer Jackson, had been fatally stabbed 50 times.

“Someone broke into my house,” she told officials.

When the police arrived, the 39-year-old woman was dead.

The late investment banker had been brutally attacked and killed, making headlines across the country.

But things got even more interesting when lawyer Amy Weirich, the former chief of narcotics and gangs unit, was given the Jackson case to prosecute.

According to Weirich, Jackson had killed her mother so she could get her hands on money from a life insurance policy. She also alleged Jackson wanted to sell cars they had inherited through her father and that Jackson and her mother had been fighting over selling them or not prior to her death.

She then put the last nail on Jackson's coffin by saying that the teen wanted to gain access to her mother's estate of $1.5 million.

Seeking a maximum life sentence, Weirich invested hard in portraying Jackson as a party animal. So, Judge Chris Craft set her bail at $500,000. Unable to pay, Jackson spent three and a half years in prison until it was time for her trial. Because she displaying a frail emotional and mental state, her attorney decided not to let her testify, afraid of how she would act.

After Jackson was convicted of second-­degree murder and sentenced to a prison term of 20 years and nine months, Weirich told reporters that it had been “a great verdict.”

In no time, Weirich had used her victory to launch her political career. She became the first woman to be appointed as district attorney in Shelby County. And in 2012 and 2014, she was elected for the same post with 65 percent of the vote.

But nine years after Weirich successfully put Jackson in jail, it became known that the ambitious attorney had withheld evidence that could have proven Jackson's innocence.

A note from Jackson's friend, Andrew Hammack, showed that he lad left his phone with a friend at the time of the incident and that he had been “rolling on XTC,” a term used to refer to Ecstasy or Molly. But this information was never brought up by Hammack himself during the trial, even though he had been the only witness who placed Jackson at the scene of the crime. After the note raised questions about Hammack's credibility, Jackson's lawyer, Valerie Corder, appealed the conviction to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

In August 2014, the state's Supreme Court unanimously overturned Jackson's conviction, calling Weirich's failure to disclose the note before the court a “flagrant violation” of Jackson's constitutional rights.

While Weirich faced misconduct charges related to the Jackson case in 2016, she accepted a private reprimand so that the accusations were all formally dropped, meaning she never got to legally pay for withholding evidence that could have freed Jackson 10 years prior.

Unfortunately, cases like this are all too common, and yet only a small fraction of prosecutors guilty of withholding evidence have been disbarred or arrested. While we hope Jackson is able to live a normal life from now on, we also hope justice is finally served — somehow.

Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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