BRADY MATERIAL WITHHELD AGAIN
By Marty Carlson
On Sunday, June 5, 2005 Noura Jackson came home from being out all night. She had gone to a couple of parties with friends and drove around by herself, stopping at a gas station and a fast food restaurant drive-through.
Her 911 call to the police she stated someone had broken into her house and her mom is on the floor bleeding. She continued to tell them that her mother is not breathing.
When the police arrived, Jennifer Jackson’s bodies lay on the bedroom floor of her Memphis home. The mother who was a successful investment banker had been stabbed 50 times.
The investigation by the police started with few leads, and Jackson lived alone with their only child, Noura, who was 18 years old at the time. Investigators found broken glass on the kitchen floor, which was from a windowpane in the door to the garage into the kitchen. But they said the window seem to have been broken from the inside. And no witnesses in the area had seen an intruder. Jackson’s on again off again boyfriend was interviewed and stated he had called around midnight that night but he had hung up before she answered and then immediate went to sleep at his home. That home also was more than an hour from Memphis.
Amy Weirich was the prosecutor appointed the case. She was considered a highly skilled trial lawyer and developed a theory that Noura was tired of living under her mother’s rules and killed her for money that she could use to keep partying with her friends. Jackson’s estate was valued at $1.5 million, in addition to life insurance policies.
The police arrested Noura the next September, she had no history of violence, and the case quickly became a local high-profile case.
The District Attorney’s Office was asking for a life sentence, the judge, Chris Craft, set the bond at $500,000. Nora unable to pay the bill spent a total of 3 ½ years in jail awaiting trial.
Noura’s attorney, Valerie quarter, but the District Attorney’s Office case was weak at the time of indictment as the police were still awaiting DNA results from samples taken from the blood splattered around the Jackson bedroom.
Eventually Nora’s DNA was excluded as a match from any of the three DNA profiles, but the District Attorney’s Office dismiss the absence of Noura’s DNA saying the results did not point to anything as DNA often doesn’t. No other physical evidence linked Noura to the killing.
In February 2009, over two weeks, the trial aired live on court TV. Witnesses were called to portray Noura as rebellious and angry, one neighbor said that in the weeks before the murder, she overheard Noura demanding money from her mother in a fit of rage. Even some of Noura’s relatives testified against her.
Several witnesses described Noura’s partying, sex life and drug use, which included alcohol, marijuana and the opioid Lortab which was prescribed for extreme pain. Much of the testimony was not directly related to Jackson’s death, but the judge made the decision to allow it giving the District Attorney’s Office the chance to paint a picture of a teenager spinning out of control.
The prosecution presented a great deal of testimony about a small cut on Noura’s left hand that was covered with adhesive tape between her thumb and forefinger, this was assumed to occurred the morning Jackson was killed. Noura gave differing explanations to friends and family how that cut occurred. And the jury saw a grainy video footage of her buying bandages and scaring care products at 4 AM at Walgreens.
Andrew Hamrick, a friend of Noura’s, testified that she called him between 4 AM and 5 AM and asked him to meet her at the house. He stated he had never received a call from her at that time ever before. He refused to respond.
Defense attorney quarter called no witnesses, stressing instead to the jury that the forensic evidence pointed away from Noura to unknown suspects. In her final argument, the district attorney stood facing Noura and raised a question of why she did not testify and just say where she was.
The jury deliberated for nine hours and came back with a verdict of guilty of second-degree murder.
Noura was sentenced to a prison term of 20 years and nine months, and district attorney Weiriches political career took off. In January 2011, she was elected as district attorney of Shelby County.
Friends and family of the district attorney began talking about moving the family to the governor’s mansion one day.
Five days after the jury found Nora guilty in 2009, Stephen Jones, the assistant prosecutor in the case, filed a motion to submit an omitted statement, which was a handwritten note that Andrew Hamm make it given to the police in the early days of the murder investigation. Joan stated he received the note from the police in the middle of the trial, had tucked it away into a flap of his notebook intending to turn it over to the defense and then promptly forgot about it until he was putting away his notebook after the case ended.
In the note Hamrick wrote on the night of Jackson’s death, he left his cell phone with a friend and later was high on ecstasy.
Defense attorney quarter had asked repeatedly before and during the trial if they’d given her all the states information related to hamming. That no would have raised questions about Hamrick’s credibility during the trial. Based on that newly disclosed evidence, Nora’s conviction was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court.
On August 22, 2014, the Tennessee Supreme Court unanimously overturned Nora’s conviction, to read ruling CLICK HERE.
The justices wrote there was no DNA evidence linking the defendant to the crime scene and there was blood of unknown individual present in the victim’s bed. The note suggested he might not have told the truth when he testified about being asked to meet her at the house. The court also ruled that defense attorney could have used a note to argue that Mr. Hammack’s himself with a plausible suspect, as it contradicted Hammack’s alibi. Hammack’s friends reported they didn’t know where he was that night and had been acting strangely since then. The police did not pursue the lead.
The Supreme Court called Jones and Weiriches failure to disclose the note before trial as a flagrant violation of the defendant’s constitutional rights. They also overturned a verdict against Noura for another reason-the district attorney’s closing exclamation in front of the jury demanding that the defendant just tell us where you were that’s all we are asking! The Constitution’s protection of the right to remain silent means that a defendant’s decision not to testify should be off-limits to any conscientious prosecutor. They also wrote that the prosecutor was well aware of the rule, citing three previous cases in which the appellate judges criticized her and her office for making pre-judicial statements to the jury.
In 1963 ruling in what is famously now known as the Brady rule, it was Brady versus Maryland in an appeal of John Leo Brady who was sent to death row murder. Brady’s lawyers argued that prosecutors should have disclosed a codefendant had confessed to the killing and in response the Warren court decreed that before trial, prosecutors must turn over evidence that is favorable to the fence if it is material to either guilt or to punishment.
The Brady rule attempted rebalance the scales of justice between the defense and the prosecution. And in the 1990s with the advent of DNA testing defense lawyers gained insight into how often prosecutors broke the rules by failing to disclose.
DNA evidence continually reopened old cases, and sometimes it revealed telltale evidence of innocence. But one of the systems most disturbing aspects is that they may never know the number of hidden evidence cases because you have to find out there hiding something to have a claim, according to the northern California innocence Project.
In essence, the Brady rule is done on an honor system.
Shelby counties Amy Weirich learn to try cases in an office that had a tradition called the Hammer award: a commendation with a picture of a hammer, which supervisors are section chiefs typically taped on the office door but trial prosecutors who want big convictions or long sentences. That tradition continued under the Weirichs watch. Several former Shelby County prosecutors have stated that that reward structure fostered a when it at all costs mindset, fueled by the belief that everyone is guilty all the time. The measure of your worth in that office came down the number cases you try and the outcomes.
After a long period of legal wrangling and deal making Noura was finally released from prison last summer after serving about 10 years.
Sad story but what’s even more sad that these stories are becoming more and more common and there does not seem to be any type of accountability when these things occur.