Tameka Rhodes, the sister of a confessed triple murderer Sedrick Clayton, said the Shelby County District Attorney's Office has some explaining to do after District Attorney General Amy Weirich rejected her brother's plea offer to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Rhodes said her brother has admitted his guilt in the 2012 murders of his girlfriend and her parents. But Rhodes is upset the DA's office will be pushing for the death penalty. Some Memphis defense attorneys are questioning the motivations of the prosecutor's office.
Who can judge the depth of one person's remorse when he's involved in taking the lives of others? Can only the public forum of a courtroom trial, the emotional baggage and the financial cost that comes with it be the best barometer to measure the true sorrow of a defendant?
Rhodes believes justice can prevail without a trial.
There is no argument over the heinous nature of the crime. There is no debate over who shot the three victims, not even from the man who admittedly pulled the trigger.
"He was just owning up to the crime," Rhodes said. "He wasn't trying to hide it and he wanted to sign for three life sentences."
So, why is Clayton, confessed murderer of his girlfriend Pashea Fisher and her parents Arithio and Patricia Fisher inside their home in January 2012, still facing the death penalty if convicted at his trial in June?
What's stopping the DAG Weirich's office from apparently even considering Clayton's life without parole plea offer? We tried to pose that question to DAG Weirich on Tuesday.
"I can't comment on that case," DAG Weirich said. "It's pending. The case is still pending, so I can't comment on that."
But, some Memphis defense attorneys FOX13 News talked to are openly questioning DAG Weirich's stance, not only with the Clayton case, but as they allege it reflects a perplexing unwillingness by the prosecutor's office to close cases through settlement.
"The DA's office has taken such a hardline stance on not settling cases and demanding cases go to trial that it's clogging up the courts," said Arthur Horne III, defense attorney.
"This office is free to make whatever policy they want to make," added Gerald Skahan, Clayton's defense attorney. "Many people just happen to disagree with it. The cost to attempt to seek the death penalty and then eventually seek to execute somebody is in the millions or in the multi-millions."
"Especially on these murder cases, you end up having a sequestered jury," said defense attorney Blake Ballin. "You've got to pay the deputies overtime. You got to pay all other courtroom staff overtime."
"It costs us money as taxpayers when you see the political side of it gets involved with the way somebody conducts business or runs an office," Horne said.
Clayton's plea offer comes just months after the DA's office did agree, after a six month negotiation, to accept a guilty plea and life sentences for convicted multiple murderer Alexander Haydel. If he'd gone to trial, Haydel, would have faced the death penalty for killing two people, including Memphis Police officer Tim Warren. At the time the acceptance of the plea, without a trial, was explained by prosecutors in terms of "pros and cons."
"There would be no appeal," said Jennifer Nichols, Shelby County Assistant District Attorney. "The fact that there wouldn't be the long post conviction hearings in the future and that it would be finished."
Granted, those in the criminal justice system assert every case is different. Yet, how "different" is Clayton's offer from Haydel's in his willingness to accept a severe punishment? In the process sparing two families the pain of a trial with a predictable outcome and avoiding years of potential taxpayer paid appeals.
"Why spend millions of millions of dollars trying to kill one person?,'" Skahan said. "In a case, when that money can be spent in other places?
"We just wish that she will accept the plea deal," Rhodes said. "He would never walk the streets again. I just wish in my heart that I could bring them back, but I can't! I can't bring them back!"
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