District Attorney hosts press conference

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy said Tuesday that Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland got the facts wrong when he publicly blasted the DA’s office in a newsletter last week.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland strongly criticized the DA’s office for dismissing charges against a woman caught on video firing shots at a police officer in front of a Whitehaven police station last year. A police officer was following the vehicle, which he believed to be stolen.

“If this is not a clear example that we have a problem in our criminal justice system, I do not know what one is,” Strickland wrote in his weekly newsletter. “This is yet another frustrating example of the ‘Revolving Door’ that is 201 Poplar.”

But there is another side to the story that Strickland left out, Mulroy said in a press conference Tuesday. It’s misleading, and Mulroy says it’s not the first time he’s been the target of incomplete narratives in the mayor’s newsletter.

“Up until now I have declined to respond publicly to the emails because I don’t think it’s productive to have the DA and the city mayor to get into a public tit-for-tat,” Mulroy said. “But in this case, three strikes and you’re out, and I have to respond to this one.”

The facts as Mulroy described them: A police officer driving an unmarked black Dodge Charger with lights off began following a woman in Whitehaven, believing her car to be stolen, back in November.

Three days earlier, the woman’s boyfriend had been murdered by a man in a black Dodge Charger.

After she was followed for two miles, the woman — whose car was not stolen — fired shots out of an open window of her car toward the Charger, then pulled into a police precinct parking lot for her safety. No one was hurt and nothing was hit.

Once she realized the man she shot at was an officer, Mulroy said she immediately cooperated. She surrendered her weapon, went through a firearms safety training program and counseling and never missed a court date.

“We don’t condone the shooting. I think there are far more responsible ways that she could’ve handled that situation.” Mulroy said. “But at the same time, we understand that her fear was understandable, and that this was not the typical aggravated assault case. There were unusual mitigating factors that warranted a slower, more careful response.”

WREG tried to access records on the case to confirm details and add information to the mayor’s account, but MPD Central Records said they were unable to pull up a police report in the case Monday.

Mulroy then pointed the criticism back at Mayor Strickland, saying local agencies need to be working together to solve the crime crisis, not sniping at each other.

“It does a disservice to the public to be cavalier with the facts in service of some sort of political narrative,” he said. “We need to join hands, not point fingers.”

To that end, Mulroy said his office will host a crime summit with other agencies and local leaders in August, and try to agree on at least three to five priorities to curb the crime wave.

The tentative date is Aug. 31. Participants would include Memphis Police, the Shelby County Sheriff, U.S. Marshalls, state lawmakers and city and county lawmakers, among others.

“I think that if all of do work together on this, we”ll get a handle on this,” Mulroy said, noting skyrocketing auto burglary and theft rates. “It won’t happen overnight. The problem rose over the course of a decade … but over the long term, we’ll be bending the curve on violent crime, and it will go down.”

Lastly, Mulroy addressed recent criticisms over cases resulting in plea bargains, rather than trials.

“There’s a fundamental misunderstanding about that, I think,” Mulroy said. “If the plea dea results in a just sentence, if it results in adequate punishment for the crime, then we ought not want it to go to trial, because it’s a waste of resources.”

Mulroy said nationwide, over 90% to 95% of criminal cases are resolved through plea bargains.

“If every one of them went to trial, we would never be able to do them. We just don’t have the resources to try every one of those cases,” he said. “So I’m OK with the plea bargain as long as it’s a fair plea bargain.”


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