Thomas v. Westbrooks, No. 15-5399 (6th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
In 1997, Day, a Memphis armored truck driver, was shot on the job. The shooter took the cash and left in a getaway car. Day died two years later, of complications from his injuries. Authorities identified Thomas as the shooter and Bond as the getaway car driver. In a federal trial before Day’s death, Thomas was convicted of interfering with interstate commerce, carrying a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, and being a felon in possession of a firearm, and was sentenced to life in prison. After Day died, Thomas was convicted of felony murder in state court and was sentenced to death. Thomas exhausted his Tennessee post-conviction remedies. Jackson, Thomas’s girlfriend, was the pivotal witness in both trials, placing Thomas at the scene of the shooting. After the federal trial, but before the state prosecution, the FBI paid Jackson $750 on behalf of the Safe Streets Task Force. Jackson testified that she did not receive any “reward” money and that she testified because it was the “right thing to do.” Thomas was never notified of this payment and discovered it years later during his federal habeas hearing. State prosecutors were provided with evidence of the payment, but later argued that they lacked “actual” knowledge. The district court denied Thomas habeas relief in the death penalty case, reasoning that the payment was not sufficiently “material.” The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the prosecutor had a duty to disclose the payment rather than allow Jackson to commit perjury.