Supporters of Tremaine Wilbourn raise money to hire attorney - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Supporters of Tremaine Wilbourn raise money to hire attorney

(Source: SCSO) (Source: SCSO)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

On what would have been MPD Officer Sean Bolton's 34th birthday, Memphis Police Association held a fundraiser in his honor. However, on the same day, supporters of the man accused of shooting and killing Officer Bolton raised funds to hire him an attorney.

Despite Tremaine Wilbourn's family saying he acted in self defense, legal experts have a lot to say about why that defense will not hold up in court.

When asked what they thought about the fact that some police officers find the fundraiser offensive, those involved in the rally had some choice words.

"Go to H---. That's what they do," said one participant. "They don't find it offensive when they shoot us. So, if you find it offensive that we trying to see, to make sure this guy gets proper representation. If you don't like it, go to h---.  Simple as that. We're not going to sugar coat it."

On the night Officer Bolton died, there were no dash cameras or body cameras available to record what happened. But, Wilbourn's family claims he was acting in self defense when he shot Officer Bolton.

The family teamed up with Operation Help Civil Rights Group in an effort to make sure Wilbourn gets a fair trial.

"Even though he was breaking the law again, it wasn't a felony. It's a misdemeanor." said Operation Help Civil Rights Group President Wendol Lee.  "Hard for me to believe that a man would shoot an officer over a misdemeanor."

Legal experts said the claim of self defense won't hold up in court.

"Legally, there is no self defense," said defense lawyer Juni Ganguli. "I say that because legally, as a convicted felon, a person cannot, under any circumstances, possess a firearm."

On Facebook, one organizer asked people to use SNAP benefits to purchase water, drinks and items for a fish fry being held this weekend to raise funds for Wilbourn's attorney.

Wilbourn's case could become a death penalty case.  He has a right to a public defender.

"In capital cases, the public defender's office has a special capital representation unit where you'd have more resources and more experienced attorneys working on the case," said law professor Steve Mulroy.

Wilbourn would get this defender free of charge. However, Mulroy explained that the fundraiser could bring in the necessary money to hire a private attorney who will have the resources and time to spend on the case.

"If you can afford private representation and your life is on the line, then I think most of the time you're better off spending the money for private representation."

Memphis Police Association said it is choosing to only focusing on honoring Officer Bolton.

"Right now, I think the majority of people on that side of the fence want to make it about a black or white thing, when it's really not a black or white thing" said MPA Vice President Essica Littlejohn. "It's a right or wrong thing."

"I'm not against his friends and family trying to support him," added MPA Board Member Marcus Tucker. "They have every right to do that. We'll just maintain to support Officer Bolton and his family, and allowing other people to express their feelings and their right as well."

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