Memphis Bar Association to host deep dive into Darrius Stewart police shooting case

The Memphis Bar Association is hosting “Covering Police-Involved Shootings: A Deep Dive into the Darrius Stewart Case” on Sept. 28 as part of a daylong program bringing together journalists, lawyers and policymakers.

Participants will have an opportunity to hear and interact with lawyers, judges, prosecutors and reporters who were involved in the Stewart case or covered it.

Roy L. Austin Jr.

Roy L. Austin Jr.

Roy Austin Jr., deputy assistant to President Obama and Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity, will be the keynote speaker at lunch and share a national and policy perspective on police shootings.

Later in the day, veteran reporters and lawyers will review Tennessee law protecting access to public records and open meetings, as well as constitutional law on access to court proceedings and records.

The event at the University of Memphis law school is free for journalists, including breakfast and lunch, and $90 for CLE credit for attorneys.

To register, visit the Memphis Bar Association Law, School for Journalists page.

Other sponsors of the event include the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, the U.S. District Court from the Western District of Tennessee, the University of Memphis School of Law and Law Alumni Association, and Just City.

From the program:

On July 17, 2015, after a traffic stop, Memphis police officer Connor Schilling, who is white, shot and killed unarmed 19-year-old Darrius Stewart, who was black. According to police, Stewart was a passenger in a car that was pulled over for a minor violation, and during the stop, Schilling learned Stewart had outstanding warrants. Schilling then tried to arrest Stewart, but the two struggled.

Darrius Stewart news coverage

Darrius Stewart news coverage

According to police, during this struggle, Schilling shot Stewart.  On the other hand, the investigative file includes witnesses who reported Stewart was fleeing or turning away when he was shot.  In the aftermath of an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, a Shelby County grand jury decided in November 2015 not to indict Schilling, despite the recommendation of Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich. On General Weirich’s request, the Chancery Court later released the TBI investigative file as a public record.

This year, the Law School for Journalists returns with an in-depth look at how the media has covered, can cover, and should cover police-involved shootings by reviewing an important actual Memphis case, in detail and with a number of those actually involved (or lawyers who represent them) participating. It will be a truly unique opportunity to hear and interact with lawyers, judges, prosecutors, and reporters who were involved in the case or covered it.

After the morning’s deep dive into the Darrius Stewart case, one of the nation’s leading policymakers on policing and community-police relations will speak, be interviewed before our audience, and engage in a discussion with the audience. Roy Austin Jr., a veteran federal prosecutor, is now Deputy Assistant to President Obama and Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity. A veteran federal prosecutor who directly handled numerous federal investigations and prosecutions arising from police-involved shootings, Mr. Austin will be interviewed by WHBQ-TV Fox13 Anchor Mearl Purvis, with the audience included in the discussion.

After the lunch program, this year’s Law School for Journalists will present a 90-minute interactive discussion aimed at informing working journalists about the tools Tennessee and federal law provides for their reporting, especially for coverage of the legal and judicial system. These laws include Tennessee and federal laws protecting access to public records and open meetings, as well as federal and state constitutional law on access to court proceedings and records. A panel of veteran reporters and lawyers will lay out the basics of these laws and discuss how reporters can most effectively use these laws for their daily and investigative reporting.

THE PROGRAM

8:45 am – 9:00 am Introduction and Welcome

9:00 am – 9:30 am An Overview of the Facts

Veteran former federal prosecutor Stephen Parker, who has not been involved in the Darrius Stewart matter, will offer a detailed guided tour of the facts of the Darrius Stewart case, using the publicly-available TBI investigation file and other publicly-available information.

Stephen Parker, Butler Snow, LLP, Memphis

A video timeline of the media coverage of the case will be shown. It was created through a partnership with the Commercial Appeal and WMC-TV.

9:30 am – 10:30 am The Judicial Process So Far: The View from the Participants

Moderated by a veteran local journalist, the key participants in the judicial proceedings surrounding the death of Darrius Stewart will discuss how the process unfolded. Panelists will include the Shelby County District Attorney, Officer Schilling’s lawyer, a lawyer for the Stewart Family, and the judge who authorized release of the TBA file as a public record.

Moderator: Eric Barnes, Publisher and CEO, The Daily News

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich

Arthur E. Horne, III, Horne & Wells, PLLC, Memphis
Chancellor James R. Newsom, III, Memphis
Arthur E. Quinn, Attorney, Memphis
Amy Weirich, Shelby County District Attorney

10:30 am – 10:45 am Break

10:45 am – 11:45 am Covering the Case: The Reporters’ View

Local reporters who have covered the Darrius Stewart case and its aftermath will discuss how they and others reported on the case, including the reporting techniques they used and the challenges they faced.

Moderator: Brandon Artiles, Co-Anchor, Local 24, Memphis

Karanja A. Ajanaku, Executive Editor, The Tri-State Defender
Greg Coy, Anchor, WHBQ Fox13, Memphis
Yolanda Jones, Reporter, The Commercial Appeal
Bruce Moore, News Director, WREG-TV

12:00 noon – 1:15pm Lunch Program: A National and Policy Perspective on Police-Involved Shootings

One of the nation’s leading policymakers on policing and community-police relations will speak, be interviewed before our audience, and engage in a discussion with the audience.

Keynote speaker: Roy L. Austin Jr., Deputy Assistant to President Obama and Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity

Interviewer: Mearl Purvis, Anchor, WHBQ Fox13, Memphis

Lucian Pera

Lucian Pera

1:30 pm – 3:00 pm Access Law 101: Using the Law to Report

A panel of veteran reporters and lawyers will review how reporters can most effectively use Tennessee law protecting access to public records and open meetings, as well as federal and state constitutional law on access to court proceedings and records, in their reporting.

Moderator: Lucian T. Pera, Adams and Reese LLP, Memphis

Deborah Fisher, Executive Director, Tennessee Coalition for Open Government, Nashville
Robb S. Harvey, Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP, Nashville
Zaneta Lowe, Chief Consumer Investigative Reporter, WREG-TV, MemphisMarc Perrusquia, Projects Reporter, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis
Andy Wise, Consumer Reporter, WMC-TV, Memphis
Matt Gerien, Fox13/WHBQ-TV, Managing Editor/Investigative Reporter

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