If Tennessee’s district attorneys looked like the state’s population, five of the 31 would be black and 16 would be women.

All are white. Four are white women. Tennessee is one of 14 states where all elected prosecutors are white.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who would have marked his 90th birthday today, had something to say about proportional representation.

“If a city has a 30 percent Negro population, then it is logical to assume that Negroes should have at least 30 percent of the jobs in any particular company, and jobs in all categories rather than only in menial areas.”

Shelby County

The district attorney is arguably a county’s most powerful elected official. Shelby County, which is 54 percent black, has never had a black DA.

The district attorney is Amy Weirich, who was rated as the most corrupt DA in the state, according to the Fair Punishment Project at Harvard University.

“Amy Weirich has been a prosecutor in the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office since 1991,[4] and she has been the Shelby County District Attorney since 2011.[5] In the time period we reviewed, the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Office had the highest number of misconduct findings — with more than a dozen — and the most reversals in Tennessee,” wrote Fair Punishment’s researchers in a 2017 report.

Fair Punishment Project’s 2017 report on corrupt prosecutors ranked Shelby County’s DA the worst in the state.

Where do we go from here?

Read more about Weirich’s most highly publicized reprimand in the Noura Jackson case. 
 Learn more about prosecutorial misconduct in this Huffington Post article, “The Untouchables: America’s Misbehaving Prosecutors, And The System That Protects Them” by Radley Balko.
 Read The Atlantic’s article “Most States Elect No Black Prosecutors” by David A. Graham.
 Check out the Reflective Democracy Project’s report “Who Prosecutes in America”. Among the findings: 95 percent of elected prosecutors are white. 
 Follow these folks on Twitter: Just City Memphis, Fair Punishment Project, and Who Leads Us?, a project of the Reflective Democracy Project.

This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit reporting project on economic justice in Memphis. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by the Surdna Foundation and Community Change.