(Memphis) Usually when investigators finish their case, their findings are public knowledge.
That’s not the case with the TBI.
The agency’s cases are unsealed only by a judge’s order or a legislator wanting to look at the information to form new laws. Legislators in Nashville are looking into one of the TBI’s cases but are staying silent themselves.
“The public has a right to know whose making these decisions and on what basis these decisions are made,” said Mark Renken, Memphis Attorney.
Attorney Mark Renken represents the mother of 15-year-old Justin Thompson, killed by an off duty Memphis police officer. The officer, Terrance Shaw, resigned and was never prosecuted, and we may never know why because the TBI handled the case.
Renken is filing a lawsuit to find out.
Renken said, “Whenever these decisions are being made behind closed doors especially on something as sensitive as this where this mother lost her child, she should at least have a right to find out what happened in her son's final moments.”
The district attorney's office decides which cases should be turned over to TBI.
They don't need to give a reason why.
Once TBI gets the case, it's almost like a shield, blocking the public from getting answers.
This week, a legislative criminal justice started looking into the law that lets TBI cases stay secret. However, that committee is now keeping secrets of its own.
Shelby County lawmakers we talked to aren’t discussing the meetings or if they’ve raised questions about local cases TBI looked into.
Renken said, “I would think something like this where it’s a police officer shooting a child that something like this should be a lightning rod for legislation like this.”
Another case recently involving a TBI sealed case is that of a Shelby County prosecutor who says she was attacked in her home. It was decided there would be no charges in the case but the details that lead to that finding are also a secret. She resigned after that investigation.