Shelby County judge says 1998 murder trial may have been tainted - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby County judge says 1998 murder trial may have been tainted

(WMC-TV) - A man may get off death row after a judge ruled a Shelby County prosecutor may have tainted a 1998 murder trial.

Michael Rimmer has been on death row for more than 10 years.  According to a Shelby County Criminal Court judge, he may not have gotten a fair trial.

"For a judge to actually make findings that a detective provided false testimony and material evidence was withheld is not very common," said University of Memphis law professor Steve Mulroy.

Judge James Beasley did exactly that in May.  Beasley found the government under prosecutor Tom Henderson improperly suppressed evidence favorable to Rimmer.  Detective Robert Shemwell also provided false evidence.

Mulroy said this is not the usual case of a death row inmate looking for help.

"This is different," said Mulroy.  "You've got actual findings from a judge that there was misconduct."

Henderson told Action News 5 by phone that he cannot discuss anything about the case because it is ongoing.

A jury convicted Rimmer in the murder of Ricci Lynn Ellsworth.  Rimmer was her ex-boyfriend who had said more than once he would kill her.  Ellsworth vanished 14 years ago from a Memphis motel where she was workings.

Police found blood and a broken sink in the motel's office bathroom.  They even found blood in Rimmer's car.

What jurors never heard was that a witness saw a different man in the motel office around the time Ellsworth disappeared.  A witness said he had blood on his hands.

"I'd definitely say this is significant for the defense case," said Mulroy.

Beasley did not say the alleged misconduct was intentional.  He ruled that Henderson could not be involved in the Rimmer case anymore.

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