Shelby County Judge Overturns Conviction and Death Sentence

On Friday, Shelby County Judge James. C. Beasley, Jr. overturned the conviction and death sentence of Michael Dale Rimmer, who has spent 14 years on death row for the 1997 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Ricci Ellsworth.

Judge Beasley wrote in a 212-page order that the lead prosecutor in the case made “blatantly false, inappropriate and ethically questionable” statements to Rimmer’s defense lawyers denying that evidence existed, even though an eyewitness had told police that two different men were inside the office of a Memphis motel where Ellsworth worked around the time that she disappeared and that both men had blood on their hands. One of the men that this witness identified, Billy Wayne Voyles, was already wanted in connection with an unrelated stabbing.

Beasley added that the prosecution’s misconduct alone wasn’t enough to overturn Rimmer’s conviction and death sentence but that it was also the “seriously deficient” investigation by his “overburdened” defense lawyers that required that Rimmer be given a new trial.

It is not yet clear whether Shelby County prosecutors will appeal Beasley’s decision or re-try Rimmer. Although there are troubling facts in this case, we are hopeful that Beasley’s ruling will lead to a fair trial in which all of the evidence is presented so that a new jury will be able to make an informed decision.

(Photo via The Atlantic)

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