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  1. #1
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    Michael Dale Rimmer - Tennessee Death Row

    Ricci Lynn Ellsworth, 45

    Summary of Offense:

    Michael Dale Rimmer was convicted and sentenced to death for the first-degree murder and aggravated robbery of Ricci Ellsworth, a night worker at a Memphis hotel. Rimmer pleaded guilty to raping Ellsworth in 1989 and, while serving a term in prison, made threats to kill her upon his release in October 1996. In the early morning of February 8, 1997, three months after completing his sentence, Rimmer robbed and murdered Ellsworth at the Memphis Inn. He also stole cash from the register. Although the police found blood at the crime scene, the body of the victim never was recovered.

  2. #2
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    January 30, 2009

    Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence of Michael Rimmer

    The Tennessee Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the death sentence jurors imposed on Michael Dale Rimmer for the first degree murder and aggravated robbery of Ricci Ellsworth, a night worker at a Memphis hotel.

    Rimmer pleaded guilty to raping Ellsworth in 1989 and, while serving a term in prison, made threats to kill her upon his release in October 1996. In the early morning of February 8, 1997, three months after completing his sentence, Rimmer robbed and murdered Ellsworth at the Memphis Inn. He also stole cash from the register. Although the police found blood at the crime scene, the body of the victim never was recovered.

    A month after the murder, Rimmer was arrested in Indiana for driving a stolen car. Police found blood stains in the back seat of the car. DNA testing confirmed the blood matched the victim's and also the blood found at the hotel. Rimmer escaped from Indiana authorities as he was being returned to Tennessee, but was captured after a car chase.

    A jury found Rimmer guilty of first degree murder and sentenced him to death. The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed his conviction, but remanded for re-sentencing because of irregularities in the jury's verdict. At a second sentencing hearing, a different jury again returned a sentence of death, a judgment upheld by the Court of Criminal Appeals.

    In an opinion authored by Justice Gary R. Wade, the Tennessee Supreme Court rejected Rimmer's appeal for a third sentencing hearing and found the evidence sufficient to support the jury's verdict. The court ruled that the sentence was in proportion to previous cases where the death penalty has been imposed in Tennessee.

    The court set Rimmer's execution date for April 7, 2009. He has state and federal appeals remaining.


  3. #3
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    Sister of victim talks about Christmas Eve double murder

    A Christmas Eve double murder left a Mid-South family heartbroken and asking for answers.

    In 1998, Donny Ellsworth and his family were relieved after Michael Rimmer received the death penalty for the murder of Ellsworth's wife, Ricci Lynn Ellsworth.

    Now, Donny Ellsworth is also a murder victim.

    In November of 1998, Ellsworth said his wife's killer was a dangerous man.

    "He has no business being on the street," he said. "If he got away with this, there'd be another family going through what we went through."

    Sunday night, the killer of Ellsworth and his longtime girlfriend Jerri Meister was still on the street.

    "He was always my protective big brother," said Brenda Cline, Ellsworth's sister. "He was always there for me no matter what."

    Cline said she had no idea who would have the motive to kill her brother and Meister, who was battling cancer.

    "They were always there for anybody that needed them," said Cline.

    Cline said Ellsworth's 19-year-old son Keith Collins lived with him on Bower Street. She said Collins had been out of town for a couple of days with his girlfriend to see her family.

    "He came back home, and that's when he found them," said Cline.

    Neighbors who went in the house with Collins said Ellsworth's body was covered halfway with a blanket. Meister's body was wrapped in a comforter.

    Police said an ax was lying beside their bodies.

    "It's hard on him," Cline said. "Real hard on him."

    Ellsworth's other two children were teenagers when their mother was murdered in 1997. But even at the sentencing of Rimmer, there was an unanswered question in her murder. Ricci Lynn Ellsworth was killed while on duty at the Memphis Inn in East Memphis, but her body was never found.

    Blood tied Ricci Lynn Ellsworth's ex-boyfriend Rimmer to the scene. Rimmer is still on death row.


  4. #4
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    Highlighted text leads to court documents

    Did prosecutors taint Memphis murder trial?

    Detectives found puddles of it in the office of the run-down motel where she worked the overnight shift, checking in guests and keeping the books. They found droplets and smudges leading through the office and out the door to the parking lot. There, the trail — and Ellsworth — disappeared.

    Even so, authorities here say they have no doubt about what happened to Ellsworth: She was attacked in the office bathroom one night in February 1997. And they have no doubt who killed her: her former boyfriend, Michael Rimmer, an ex-con who had threatened her before. The police found her blood in his car, and their case proved so powerful that jurors convicted Rimmer in a few hours. He was sentenced to die.

    What those jurors never learned — and what Rimmer's attorneys say they were never told — was that a witness saw a different man in the motel office about the time Ellsworth disappeared. The man seen in the office already was wanted in connection with a stabbing and, the witness said, literally had blood on his hands.

    Now, 14 years after Ellsworth vanished, Rimmer's attorneys are pursuing an extraordinary strategy to try to save his life. They want a Tennessee appeals court to find that misconduct by prosecutors and police here was so pervasive that the entire Shelby County District Attorney General's Office should be disqualified from the case, and that a new prosecutor should be brought in to review the evidence.

    An investigation last year by USA TODAY documented 201 cases in which judges found that federal prosecutors violated laws or ethics rules. Those violations put innocent people in jail and set guilty people free, and Attorney General Eric Holder subsequently announced a new office to punish wrongdoing by federal prosecutors.

    The effort in Tennessee involves local — not federal — prosecutors, but it has opened a window into the nation's justice system and its bedrock promise of ensuring a fair trial.

    In Shelby County, prosecutors have sent three times as many people to death row as prosecutors in any other county in the state. And already, the judge in charge of Rimmer's case has found that the lead detective "provided false testimony" that may have misled jurors — a ruling that raises new questions about the conduct of prosecutors in one of the nation's most violent big cities.

    Such criticisms aren't new. In 2008, a federal appeals court judge blasted the office in another death penalty case for a "set of falsehoods" that was "typical of the conduct of the Memphis district attorney's office." The next year, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a federal court to take a new look at another death penalty case the office prosecuted — 27 years after that trial ended.

    Cases handled by the attorney who prosecuted Rimmer also have faced scrutiny, court records show. Four years ago, another death penalty case led by prosecutor Thomas Henderson— who now supervises all criminal cases in Memphis — ended in a mistrial after a judge concluded the prosecution had failed to turn over evidence to the defense. The retrial ended in an acquittal. Years before that, in another case Henderson helped handle, a judge faulted prosecutors for not turning over statements by a shooting victim that contradicted the victim's trial testimony.

    Prosecutors here are adamant that Henderson did nothing wrong in Rimmer's case or any of the others he has handled. They say Rimmer is where he belongs: on death row, for a murder he committed.

    Not surprisingly, Rimmer's court-appointed attorney disagrees.

    "In my 20 years of doing this, I've never seen such outrageous misconduct," says Kelly Gleason, Rimmer's attorney. "I'm absolutely certain that he did not get a fair trial."

    The vanishing

    Ricci Ellsworth, a mother of two, was 45 when she vanished during her overnight shift at the Memphis Inn. The motel, just off Interstate 40 on the east side of the city, sometimes rented rooms by the hour.

    A railroad employee was the first to notice something was wrong. According to police reports and court documents, he heard a faucet running in a bathroom in the clerk's office and looked inside. There was blood on the floor, and bloody towels lying against the wall. The toilet seat had been ripped off; the bathroom sink was cracked. About $600 in cash was missing from the office.

    To police, what had happened seemed clear enough: Someone had attacked Ellsworth inside the office and hauled her to the parking lot before driving away.

    Rimmer, then 30, was the obvious suspect.

    A ninth-grade dropout who worked as a mechanic, Rimmer had dated Ellsworth in the 1980s after she split from her husband. But their relationship soured. Ellsworth's daughter, Tracye, said she recalled Rimmer hitting her mother. In 1989, Rimmer went to prison for raping Ellsworth after she started dating a friend of his, according to court records. She later visited him in prison.

    Fellow inmates said Rimmer obsessed over Ellsworth.

    "He'd get spit in the corners of his mouth like a salivating dog when he talked about her," said William Conaley, who served time with Rimmer in 1993 and knew some of Ellsworth's relatives. Rimmer boasted that he could dump Ellsworth's body in a Mississippi lake, Conaley said in an interview with USA TODAY.

    That winter, he said, Rimmer asked him to deliver a message to Ellsworth's family during a holiday furlough: "Tell them I'm going to kill Ricci."

    Based on what witnesses said, Ellsworth disappeared sometime between 1:30 and 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 8, 1997.

    One guest at the motel testified that Ellsworth was behind the counter when the guest checked in about 1:15 a.m. A dentist staying at the motel testified Ellsworth was still there at 1:40 a.m., when he saw her open the locked door to the clerk's office for a man he could not identify. He said he thought he saw another man outside the office. An hour later, Ellsworth was gone.

    Some time during that hour, an Army sergeant named James Darnell pulled into the motel's parking lot. He later gave detectives a detailed account of what he saw : As he got out of his car, he noticed a man standing next to a dark-colored sedan. The car was backed into a space in front of the motel office, and its trunk was open. Darnell held the motel's door for the man as they entered the night reception area. The man seemed intoxicated, Darnell told the police.

    Darnell said he saw no sign of Ellsworth. Instead, Darnell saw a second man in the clerk's office, handing cash out through the security window to the man who had followed Darnell inside. Both were bleeding from the knuckles. The cuts looked so bad that Darnell said he thought one of the men would need stitches.

    At first, Darnell thought the two men had been in a fight. He called the police only after seeing a television report about Ellsworth's disappearance. Weeks later, an FBI agent showed Darnell sets of photographs. He couldn't identify the man who was inside the clerk's office, but he had no trouble picking out the man who had followed him into the motel.

    It wasn't Michael Rimmer.

    The witness

    The man Darnell picked out was Billy Wayne Voyles. He has no apparent connection to Rimmer — at least none that USA TODAY could find. He does, however, have a criminal record in Tennessee and Arkansas for drug violations and other offenses.

    "Every time he gets out, he gets into something else," his sister, Terry Voyles, told USA TODAY. The night Ellsworth disappeared, police already were looking for him. He had been convicted of attempted manslaughter after stabbing someone outside a Memphis bar during a robbery and had stopped checking in with his probation officer. That led a court to issue a warrant for his arrest.

    After Darnell identified Voyles, detectives asked Arkansas police to arrest Voyles for violating his probation and had him returned to Memphis. They then interviewed him for a little more than an hour about Ellsworth's slaying, according to court records . Voyles said he didn't recognize Ellsworth's picture, or Rimmer's. He said he hadn't been to Tennessee in two years because of the warrant for his arrest — although the home address he gave to detectives was in Memphis. He also gave detectives names and telephone numbers of people he said could back up his story.

    Voyles was not charged in Ellsworth's disappearance. After he was arrested in Arkansas, he spent a year and a half in jail for violating his probation.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has said since 1963 that the government has a constitutional duty to tell defendants about evidence that could help them prove their innocence or challenge their accusers. A different attorney, Gleason, is now handling Rimmer's case. She said in court filings that although Rimmer's lawyers knew the police had interviewed Voyles, they never were told that a witness had identified him.

    Indeed, records show prosecutor Henderson told defense lawyers at least twice that investigators had no exculpatory evidence. Rimmer's attorney in his first trial, Ronald Johnson, said he would not comment on the case.

    Having information about Voyles "would have been huge," said Paul Springer, who represented Rimmer at his second trial in 2004. He said he didn't know that Darnell had identified a suspect until USA TODAY told him last month.

    "It's huge," he said, "because our citizens in this country are really hesitant to convict someone of murder when there's no body and when somebody else has been identified by an eyewitness."

    One of the jurors who found Rimmer guilty agreed.

    After the trial, Teresa Ciarloni said, she had no doubt that Rimmer was guilty. Would she have reached the same conclusion if she'd known about Voyles?

    "It would have put some doubt in our minds, I'm sure," she said.

    Misleading testimony

    Deputy District Attorney General John Campbell, who was not involved in Rimmer's trials, disputes the contention that prosecutors withheld evidence that Darnell had identified a different man.

    Even though prosecutors denied having any exculpatory evidence, Campbell said the prosecution met its legal obligation by sending Rimmer's defense a copy of a receipt showing that "signed photospreads" had been checked into the police department's evidence room. The receipt did not say what was in the photospreads or give any hint of their significance, and a judge ultimately will have to decide whether turning over a receipt — rather than the reports themselves — was sufficient.

    Beyond that, during the sentencing trial that put Rimmer on death row, defense attorneys specifically asked the lead detective on the case, Robert Shemwell, whether Darnell had been able to identify anyone. Shemwell said — incorrectly —that Darnell had recognized Rimmer. The judge gave Shemwell and Henderson a break to look over their files to be sure. Shemwell then testified that Darnell had not identified anyone.

    Darnell never testified.

    Even if it hadn't been turned over, Campbell said the identification wouldn't matter. Witnesses make mistakes, he said. That Darnell identified someone else hasn't shaken his belief that Rimmer is guilty, and he doesn't think it would have convinced a jury, either. He said Memphis police checked Voyles' alibi and were confident that he wasn't at the motel.

    But one of Voyles' alibi witnesses told USA TODAY he never was contacted by the police. Bobby Green was Voyles' boss at a house framing company in Arkansas, and he was the first person on the list of people Voyles said could vouch for his whereabouts the night Ellsworth disappeared.

    "I never talked to the police in Memphis," Green said. He said he doesn't remember whether he knew where Voyles was on the night Ellsworth disappeared.

    Voyles, 47, is now in prison in Arkansas on an unrelated drug charge. Through a prison spokeswoman, he declined to be interviewed.

    The witness, Darnell, didn't want to comment about the case, either. He said he stands by the report he gave to police and the identification he made to FBI agents.

    A damning case

    Rimmer had been out of prison about four months when Ellsworth disappeared.

    The next morning, he disappeared, too. He left behind his clothes and his last paycheck, according to court records. He stopped at his brother's house only long enough to ask how to get blood stains out of his car's upholstery, according to court records. And he asked his brother to get rid of a shovel for him. He drove south to Florida, then across the country to Arizona and California. Then back. He didn't stay in one place long.

    Rimmer was arrested a month later in Indiana.

    A police technician there told detectives that a stain on the back seat of the stolen car he had been driving tested positive for blood, but the test he did couldn't say whose it was.

    Detectives had the car towed back to Memphis, where an FBI analysis confirmed that the blood was consistent with what the police had found at the Memphis Inn, and with a sample taken from Ellsworth's mother.

    It was powerful evidence. But Rimmer's attorneys never had a chance to look at it. Prosecutors saved the cracked bathroom sink to show to the jury, but the car was released from the police impound lot less than three weeks after Rimmer was arrested and before he was returned to Tennessee.

    Police reports show Rimmer kept trying to run. Guards in Indiana caught him trying to cut through a jail fence with nail clippers. And he stole the van that was taking him back to Tennessee, leading authorities on a four-hour chase before he was arrested after he stopped in Ohio to buy beer.

    Rimmer insists he did not kill Ellsworth. "We had our ups and downs and stuff, but we were friends, and we really cared about each other," he told USA TODAY during a brief telephone conversation.

    His first trial in 1997 lasted a week but it took jurors less than four hours to find him guilty of killing Ellsworth — including an hour break for lunch. They sentenced him to death, but a court later threw the sentence out because of a procedural violation. In 2004, Rimmer was tried again. That jury sent him back to death row.

    "I know 100% that he is the guy who killed my mom," said Ellsworth's daughter, Tracye. "And he deserves to be in jail on death row. He's an evil person."

    Tracye Ellsworth is no stranger to tragedy. She lost her father last year after he and another woman were slain with an ax. She never had the chance to bury her mother.

    "He won't even say what he did with the body," she said.

    Disqualifying the DA

    Removing one prosecutor from a case is unusual. Disqualifying an entire office is rarer still. One court here has already said it's unnecessary in Rimmer's case.

    Shelby County Judge James Beasley found in May that it was "likely" that the government had improperly suppressed evidence favorable to Rimmer during the trial that sent him to death row. He wrote that the lead detective on the case, Shemwell, "provided false testimony," and that lead prosecutor Henderson "knew, or at the very least, should have known" that it was false. The lapses, however, were "apparently inadvertent," he concluded.

    The judge ruled that Henderson couldn't participate in the case anymore because he is likely to be called as a witness. But, he wrote, there was no reason other prosecutors in the office couldn't handle the case.

    Disqualifying an entire office for misconduct might be justified in some circumstances, Vanderbilt University law professor Terry Maroney said.

    "If it looks like something that implicates the culture of the office in some deeper way than one bad apple, you want a fresh set of eyes," she said. "Defending a conviction sometimes serves justice and sometimes it doesn't. But it can't just be because you want to preserve your self-image or preserve your conviction record."

    Rimmer's attorneys want an appeals court to overturn Judge Beasley's decision .

    In court papers, Gleason argues that prosecutors' interest in defending their office against allegations of wrongdoing conflicts with their duty to make sure that they have the right man on death row. The court has not said whether it will hear the appeal.

    Henderson has been a prosecutor in Memphis for 35 years. He gets high marks from his bosses — and some of his courtroom opponents — for his work handling some of the city's most difficult and complicated criminal cases. His personnel file is jammed with thankful letters from crime victims and their families. He has sent at least eight people to death row.

    "I was meant to be a prosecutor and probably won't ever do anything else," he told The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal. He did not respond to inquries from USA TODAY.

    "The other side does what they think they have to do, but I feel very strongly about Tom's integrity. People don't like him because sometimes he's insulting, but I've never known him to do something that I considered unethical," Campbell said.

    He said he hasn't seen evidence that Henderson did anything wrong in this case, either. "It's one thing to make allegations. It's another thing to actually put on proof and have the court decide certain issues," he said.

    Former District Attorney General Bill Gibbons said in a deposition that he didn't see a need to investigate what had happened in prior cases because none of the judges said that Henderson withheld evidence deliberately.

    Gibbons — who ran the office until he was appointed the state's Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner — declined to be interviewed. He testified that he never asked Henderson why the witness identification wasn't turned over in Rimmer's case.

    A Memphis police spokeswoman, Sgt. Karen Rudolph, said she could not comment on a pending case. She said the department was unaware of Judge Beasley's criticism of Shemwell until USA TODAY asked about it. Shemwell, who has since left the department, could not be reached.

    Campbell said there is no reason to remove his entire office from the case. Prosecutors face misconduct allegations on a regular basis, and almost all of them turn out to be false, he said.

    Despite the previous complaints against his office, Campbell said those cases amount to a tiny fraction of the million or more cases the office filed in recent decades.

    "I don't see how that establishes a culture of violations," he said. "If that's all they can point to, I think our office is doing pretty well."


  5. #5
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    Defense on attack in Memphis death row case

    Death row inmate Michael Dale Rimmer has been convicted once and sentenced twice for the 1997 murder of former girlfriend Ricci Lynn Ellsworth.

    His case, however, is far from over.

    Although the former Southaven resident's conviction and second death sentence have been upheld by the Tennessee Supreme Court, the next stage -- Rimmer's post-conviction appeal set for December -- promises to be every bit as contentious as the original trial.

    On Friday, the state's Court of Criminal Appeals ordered the Attorney General's Office to respond to defense claims that prosecutors purposely withheld information favorable to the defense and that a police officer gave false testimony in the second sentencing hearing in 2003.

    Prosecutors deny the claim, but in May a judge ruled that prosecutor Tom Henderson could no longer be on the case since he likely will be called as a witness in the post-conviction hearing.

    Criminal Court Judge James Beasley Jr. made no finding of wrongdoing, but said there was "the potential appearance of impropriety" for the veteran prosecutor to remain on the case.

    Beasley, however, denied the defense request to disqualify the entire Shelby County District Attorney's Office and to have a special prosecutor appointed.

    The judge added that the missing evidence was of "minimal" importance in the resentencing of Rimmer.

    The defense will appeal.

    "This case raises serious issues regarding the integrity of the judicial process in a capital murder case," wrote Kelly Gleason, an assistant with the Office of the Tennessee Post-Conviction Defender in Nashville. "Under the facts presented and those found by the post-conviction court (Beasley), the Shelby County District Attorney's Office must be disqualified from this case."

    Henderson said he could not comment, but Deputy Dist. Atty. Gen. John Campbell said there has been no misconduct on the part of Henderson or anyone else in the office in the Rimmer case.

    "I'm still on it and the office is still on it," said Campbell, who handles post-conviction appeals in capital cases. "There has been no ruling of misconduct. We say the evidence was very clearly turned over to the defense. We intend to vigorously oppose any allegation that says Tom intentionally committed misconduct."

    Although Ellsworth's body was never found, prosecutors built a strong circumstantial case against Rimmer, now 45 and in his 13th year on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution in Nashville.

    While serving prison time for beating and raping Ellsworth, Rimmer told another inmate he was going to kill her when he was released, according to testimony in the trial.

    Four weeks after Ellsworth's disappearance on Feb. 8, 1997, from her night clerk job at an East Memphis motel, Rimmer -- the prime suspect in the case -- was arrested in Indiana driving a stolen car with a large stain of blood in the back seat.

    DNA tests showed the blood was consistent with a female offspring of Ellsworth's mother and with blood found in the motel office.

    When accused by police of killing Ellsworth, Rimmer replied: "She can't be dead, because you don't have a body."

    Rimmer, who made at least three escape attempts, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1998. Three years later an appeals court awarded him a news sentencing trial because of irregularities in the jury's verdict form.

    In 2003, and with a new jury, Rimmer again was sentenced to death, a finding affirmed in 2008 by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

    The following year, Rimmer's defense sought to disqualify the Shelby County DA's office from post-conviction appeals claiming Henderson failed to turn over evidence that a witness identified someone other than Rimmer at the motel crime scene.

    At the second sentencing, the defense said, police Sgt. Robert Shemwell falsely testified that the witness, James Darnell, had not identified anyone from a photo spread.

    Darnell, in fact, said he saw two men at the motel office that night, with blood on their knuckles, and picked a convicted criminal, Billy Wayne Voyles, from a series of police mugshots.

    Beasley ruled that since the resentencing hearing occurred several years after Rimmer's conviction and since the hearing was not about guilt or innocence, Shemwell and Henderson may have simply forgotten that Darnell identified Voyles.

    "Subsequent investigation revealed that Voyles could not be linked to the crime and substantial evidence was developed linking (Rimmer) to the murder of the victim," the judge continued. "Thus it is possible that both Shemwell and Henderson found Darnell's photo identification of Voyles to be of little consequence to the case."

    Nevertheless, Rimmer's defense team argues the District Attorney's Office must be disqualified.

    "Now the prosecutors are faced with a competing duty of loyalty to their office and defense of the conviction, regardless of whether it was a just conviction," Gleason wrote in court papers. "Furthermore, prosecutors confronted with allegations of misconduct also have personal interests of vindication from the allegations. It is this divided loyalty that creates an actual conflict of interest."


  6. #6
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    Tennessee death-row inmate's conviction overturned

    A Tennessee judge on Friday overturned the conviction and death sentence of a man who has spent 14 years on death row over the killing of an ex-girlfriend whose body was never found.

    A USA TODAY investigation last year showed that Memphis prosecutors responsible for the case never told the man, Michael Dale Rimmer, or his lawyers, about an eyewitness who had told the police that two different men were inside the office around the time she disappeared, and that both had blood on their hands. One of the men that the witness identified was already wanted in connection with a stabbing.

    Shelby County Judge James C. Beasley Jr. wrote in a 212-page order released late Friday afternoon that Rimmer's trial lawyers repeatedly failed to unearth that evidence, a "devastating" blow to his contention that someone else committed the crime. That problem was compounded, the judge wrote, because the lead prosecutor in the case, Thomas Henderson, made "blatantly false, inappropriate and ethically questionable" statements to defense lawyers denying that the evidence existed.

    The case is the latest black eye for prosecutors in Memphis, who have been faulted repeatedly for failing to disclose evidence that could be helpful to defendants. In 2008, for example, a federal appeals court blasted the office in another death penalty case for a "set of falsehoods" that was "typical of the conduct of the Memphis district attorney's office." At least two other cases handled by Henderson ?? who went on to supervise all of Memphis' criminal prosecutions ?? have come under scrutiny over similar lapses.
    Beasley on Friday accused Henderson of "purposefully" misleading Rimmer's lawyers, and making "comments to counsel and the court were both intellectually dishonest and may have been designed to gain a tactical advantage."

    Still, Beasley wrote, that conduct alone wasn't enough to overturn Rimmer's conviction and death sentence, because his lawyers could have discovered the evidence on their own if they had looked more carefully. Instead, he said, it was the "seriously deficient" investigation by Rimmer's "overburdened" lawyers that required him to order a new trial.

    John Campbell, Shelby County's deputy district attorney general, said Friday he had not read the entire order and could not comment on specific findings. But he said prosecutors would either appeal the decision or re-try Rimmer for Ricci Ellsworth's murder. "I can't imagine ever not re-prosecuting the case," he said.
    Rimmer's new lawyer, Kelly Gleason, said she "happy and relieved that the court has set aside this unjust conviction."

    Ellsworth, Rimmer's former girlfriend, disappeared from the office of a seedy Memphis motel where she worked as an overnight clerk in February 1997, leaving behind only an office and bathroom soaked with blood. Her body has never been located.

    Rimmer, then 30, was the obvious suspect. The two had dated, but the relationship soured, and Rimmer eventually went to prison for raping her. There, other prisoners said, he repeatedly threatened to kill Ellsworth, suggesting that he could make sure she was not found. Rimmer was arrested in Indiana a month after Ellsworth disappeared; police there found blood on the back seat of the car he was driving that they later said was consistent with samples taken from the motel office and from Ellsworth's mother.

    Still, a witness who visited the motel office around the time Ellsworth disappeared told the police that he had seen two different men inside, both with blood on their hands. When FBI agents showed him photographs of possible suspects that included a photo of Rimmer, he picked out a different man, Billy Wayne Voyles, who was already wanted in connection with an unrelated stabbing.

    Rimmer's lawyers, Beasley wrote, were unaware of those facts, though they could have learned of the witness' identification if they had reviewed the "residual" evidence in the court clerk's vault. Instead, he wrote, they relied on Henderson's repeated representations that no such evidence existed. As a result, he wrote, the jurors who found Rimmer guilty of the murder and sentenced him to die never heard about it.

    That witness, James Darnell, told a court for the first time that he had seen one of the men carry what looked like a heavy object wrapped in a comforter out of the motel office and load it into the trunk of a car.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  7. #7
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    Michael Rimmer v. Eric Holder, Jr.

    In today's opinions, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals AFFIRMED the District Court's denial of Rimmer's request for a complete record of the allegedly exculpatory evidence obtained by the Federal Government and the Memphis Police Department during the joint investigation concerning the murder of Ricci Ellsworth.
    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  8. #8
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    And the article...

    Death row inmate loses FOIA lawsuit against FBI

    A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of the FBI's decision to redact information from records sought under the Freedom of Information Act by a Tennessee death row inmate.

    Inmate Michael Dale Rimmer sued the agency over records relating to an investigation they conducted into the death of a Memphis motel clerk in 1997. Rimmer was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of the clerk, Ricci Lynn Ellsworth, in 1998.

    During the joint investigation by the FBI and Memphis police into Ellsworth's death, a witness told the FBI that he had seen two white males taking money from the motel cash register with blood on their hands on the night that Ellsworth disappeared, according to court records.

    The descriptions of the men did not match Rimmer's physical appearance. FBI agents twice showed the witness a photo lineup with Rimmer's picture, but the witness twice identified another man that he said he saw at the motel that night, according to court records.

    According to the opinion, the FBI turned this information on the photo lineups to the Memphis police, but Rimmer said he only learned of this information after his conviction.

    He filed a FOIA request for the FBI's files and the FBI eventually released 786 pages, but Rimmer disputes redactions made on a majority of the pages. The FBI cited exemptions that included records that if disclosed would be an invasion of personal privacy and law enforcement records that would disclose the identity of a confidential source.

    A district court judge viewed unredacted versions of the FBI's records and granted a summary judgment in favor of the FBI.

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit said in an opinion released Wednesday that the redacted information is protected under FOIA exemptions.

    The three-judge panel of the federal appeals court said that Rimmer didn't prove there was a significant public interest that would outweigh invasion of privacy of the people who were involved in the FBI investigation.

    "Rimmer acknowledges that he is already in possession of most of the information that he now seeks," the opinion said. "Even in the few isolated instances where Rimmer might not know exactly to whom a redaction referred, exposure of this information would not help the public to discern whether the FBI was acting corruptly."

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  9. #9
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Former death row inmate wants to represent himself in new trial in Memphis

    The retrial of a capital murder case with no body also may have no defense attorney.Former death row inmate Michael Dale Rimmer, who won a new trial last fall because his lawyers were inadequate, said Thursday he does not want his appointed attorney and that he wants to represent himself.Rimmer told Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft that a conflict of interest existed between him the attorney the judge appointed, Robert Parris.

    Rimmer said he helped fellow death-row prisoner Henry Lee Jones file complaints against Parris, who represented Jones in 2009 when he was convicted and sentenced to death for the murders of an elderly Bartlett couple.

    Defendants convicted of crimes frequently file complaints against their attorneys.

    "I'll be glad to let you represent yourself if you qualify," the judge told Rimmer. "I'll just have some questions for you."

    Craft set a hearing on the matter next week.

    Rimmer, 46, was convicted and sentenced to death for the presumed murder of his former girlfriend, Ricci Lynn Ellsworth, who disappeared Feb. 8, 1997, from her job as night clerk at the Memphis Inn at I-40 and Sycamore View.

    Signs of a violent struggle were left behind, with blood in the office bathroom, a broken commode and a cracked sink. Her body was never found.

    Rimmer, who served prison time for assaulting and raping her in 1989, was arrested a month later driving a stolen car with her blood in the back seat. Jailhouse informants said he had vowed to kill her and that he later boasted of doing so.

    He was convicted and sentenced to death in 1998, but later won a new sentencing trial because of improper jury forms.

    Rimmer again was sentenced to death, but last October his conviction and death sentence were overturned by a judge who ruled that his defense attorneys were deficient and that prosecutors and police acted improperly.

    On Thursday Rimmer said he did not want Parris to represent him and that, "I want to invoke my Sixth Amendment right to represent myself."

    Craft told Rimmer that he has a constitutional right to represent himself, but that the judge must be sure that the defendant's decision is an intelligent and knowing waiver of that right and that he understands the consequences.

    Defendants in capital murder trials are entitled to two attorneys.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

  10. #10
    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Former Memphis death row prisoner reconsiders, won't represent himself in retrial

    A former death row prisoner from Memphis told a judge Wednesday that he has scrapped his plan to represent himself in his capital murder retrial.

    Michael Dale Rimmer, who won a new trial last year when an appeals court said his attorneys in 1998 were inadequate, said he is no longer opposed to having appointed attorneys represent him.

    "A wise decision," said Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft, who appointed Robert Parris of Memphis and Paul Bruno of Nashville to represent Rimmer.

    No trial date has been set.

    Rimmer, 46, was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of former girlfriend Ricci Lynn Ellsworth, who disappeared Feb. 8, 1997, from the Memphis Inn at Interstate 40 and Sycamore View where she was the night clerk.

    The office showed signs of a violent struggle, with blood and broken bathroom facilities, but her body was never found.

    Rimmer, who served prison time for assaulting and raping her, was arrested a month later in Indiana driving a stolen car with her blood in the back seat.

    He said last week he wanted to represent himself because he had a conflict with Parris, but on Wednesday Rimmer said the conflict had been resolved.

    Rimmer was convicted and sentenced to death in 1998, but later won a new sentencing trial because of improper jury forms.

    He was returned to death row after a new sentencing trial, but last October a judge awarded him a new trial after ruling that defense attorneys did not represent him adequately and that prosecutors and police acted improperly.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

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