Internet Sleuths, Can You Solve the Case of the Sealed Envelope?

October 22, 2020

How smart are you really?

Help us figure out:

1) What was in the envelope that prosecutors withheld and

2) What happened to it?

"The two attorneys met, as they'd agreed. They sat side by side and hefted the two large, accordion file folders onto the desk before them and began pulling out stacks of documents. It was not the showy legal work of television dramas; it was the inescapable tedium of reviewing the state's evidence in a murder trial that had ended five years before."

"The work dragged on. Nothing surprised them, until something did..."

The “Brady Bunch” from the Memphis Flyer:

In the U.S. Supreme Court case Arizona v. Youngblood, the court said when potentially helpful evidence disappears or is destroyed while in the prosecutor’s possession, in order to get relief, the defendant only has to show that the prosecutors acted in bad faith.

The Supreme Court said the worse the behavior in concealing the evidence then presumably the more helpful the evidence would have been in establishing the defendant's innocence.

With this in mind, in the Braswell case the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals said the following:

- Some of the most disturbing circumstantial evidence from the post-conviction hearing is Ms. Eskridge’s testimony that the State failed for more than one year to schedule an opportunity for her to review the State’s file as discovery in the post-conviction case. She was told that no one knew where the file was located; she was given different reasons why she could not have access to the file; and she was even told by General Davis that the file was in California. It was not until General Carriker was assigned the post-conviction case that Ms. Eskridge was granted access to the State’s file. The olfactory perception of the missing sealed manila envelope is not pleasant.

We don't know about you, but this sounds a lot like bad faith to us. Notwithstanding, the Criminal Court of Appeals took a it's not her fault but it's kinda her fault when the Court said:

- Ms. Eskridge testified that she trusted General Carriker to obtain permission to unseal the envelope and show her the contents. From the record, there is absolutely nothing to indicate that her trust was misplaced. It is unfortunate to conclude that, in retrospect, Ms. Eskridge should have taken additional steps, such as taking multiple photographs with a cellular phone of the now missing sealed manila envelope and the note and attaching the photographs to a promptly filed motion for a protective order requiring the State to preserve the sealed envelope in its then current condition.

It was widely known that the Shelby County DA’s Office was in hot water over a number of murder cases where withholding evidence seemed to be the general theme. With that in mind perhaps the “better alternative” was to get rid of the contents of the envelope, the same contents that Amy Weirich said she could not recall. During a November 2014 interview she also (in true Trump fashion) said the envelope was a conspiracy theory. At another point when it was brought to her attention that her initials were on the envelope, she seemed to indicate that she didn't know who else in the DA's office had those same initials.

Nonetheless, as the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals concluded:

- We are left with evidence that a sealed manila envelope, which was approximately one-half-inch thick and had a yellow note with language that it should not be turned over to the defense, was discovered in the State’s file and that the sealed envelope went missing from the State’s file while in the State’s possession without the State ever revealing the contents of the envelope to the Petitioner or the post-conviction court.

However, the Petitioner bears the burden of proof in this post-conviction case. Through absolutely no fault of the Petitioner or his post-conviction counsel, there is no evidence that any Brady material was inside the now missing sealed envelope. Accordingly, we must conclude that the Petitioner is not entitled to relief.

BUT what happened to it? And more importantly, what did it contain so important that it warranted hiding it for almost two more years and then it vanishing altogether? We are supplying all of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals sections dealing with the envelope so that you can have a bird's eye view of the inconsistencies prosecutors had to advance and that the all White courts accepted to keep this one big secret.

We would love to hear your thoughts on who's lying about the envelope as well as if you can figure out its contents and where it went.

We've included the following thought provoking questions to mull over as you dive into the mystery of the vaporized envelope of evidence. 

1. Why would Carricker be afraid he‘d get in trouble if it was the case that all documents in the file were supposed to be shown to the defense so they could copy them as a part of open file discovery?

2. What type of stuff would make Carricker would make him say “There4 is some of this stuff that I am not comfortable just handing over in Court“? Does this imply that he had already looked at or examined the contentsof the envelope?

3. Why was the envelope sealed?

4. If Carriker's supervisor Baity said “make an open file discovery“ why didn‘t he just give the contents to the defense attorney? Why was he reluctant? And why would he be getting “in trouble with the state” if he did turn the contents over to the defense attorney?

5. Does the following suggest that he didn’t want to turn over something that might get Weirich in trouble? At the April 20, 201 l bench conference Carricker says “I'll need someone else to review it, too. And that is partly because [District Attorney General Amy] Weirich had things marked as. "not exculpatory," in bold letters in an envelope and it is sealed And I want to make sure that before I hand something over that I am not going to(get in trouble). 

6. Is it unusual that by July of 2011 (three months later) Carricker stil hadn’t met with Weirich about the envelop?

7. Why didn’t Carriker unseal the envelope? Is that some sort of department code or signal in the DA's office?

8. What kinda of things would Amy Weirich “say (Carricker) shouldn't be turning over?”

9. How is it that not a single prosecutor in charge of the tile ever saw the envelope again yet it disappeared and no body knows why? Did it walk out of the case tile all by itself?

10. When Post-conviction counsel reported that she and General Young reviewed the State's file and were unable to locate the envelope, should an investigation have been launched into its disappearance?

11. Why is it that for 2 years “none of the prosecutors who had previously been assigned the case allowed defense counsel to see the State's file”?

12. What does finding a sealed manila envelope in a file with "not turned over or do not turn over to defense.” signify? 

13. General Caniker testified that he never unsealed the envelope and never looked inside it He explained that he did not want to open the seal until he had a chance to speak to someone about it. How did he know not to open it or why he shouldn’t open it? Was this common practice in the DA’s ofiice? Did he go speak to his superiors as he said he would? Did he ever look again after the meeting with Eskridge to see if was still there? If it came up missing while in his office, is he suggesting some one stole it without his knowledge?

14. Do you find the following credible? General Carriker said that while he recalled speaking to General Wiseman about the case, he did not recall whether he had the envelope with him or whether they had a chance to look at the envelope. He also did not recall reviewing the State's file with her. This is allegedly the only time in his career that something this extraordinary happened and he does not remember if he talked to his supervisor or if they had a chance to look at the envelope?

15. *** The Most Important Question of All *** When Ms. Eskridge testified that she and General Carriker informed the post-conviction court that General Carriker planned to seek approval and then allow her to view the contents of the envelope, why did the post-conviction court go along with this? Why didn’t the postconviction court say HELL NO, bring me that envelope now or you’ll be placed in contempt of court?

16. Do you find it credible that Melanie Cox testified that she represented the State in the Petitioner's post-conviction case while assigned to the post-conviction court's courtroom from January 2012 until August 2012. General Cox did not review the State's file to a great extent while the case was assigned to her and never came across a sealed manila envelope with a note stating, "Do not show defense." And she never really looked at the file?

17. General Weirich testified that evidence is not supposed to be removed from the State's file at the post-conviction stage and that post-conviction counsel is allowed to review all of the evidence in the State’s file. Do you find this to be credible? Why or why not?

18. Does she remind anyone of Jack Nicholson from “A Few Good Men”? Maybe we should have screamed at her, “Did you order the code red?”

19. Do you find this credible? She said she and General Carriker met on a prior occasion and discussed the envelope. She told General Carriker that she had no knowledge of the envelope (bearing her initials). She could not recall when she met with Carriker She could not recall attaching a note stating, "Do not show Defense" to a file in any case.

20. How credible How credible do you find Carricker’s supervisor? General Baity did not recall General Carriker infomting him of locating a folder or an envelope marked "not turned over to defense." He also did not recall a defense attorney approaching him about an envelope or a discussion in open court about a problem with discovery in a post-conviction case. General Baity testified that he did not recall any conversations with General Carriker about the Petitioner's case. 

21. How credible do you find Assistant District Attorney General Betsy Wiseman? She did not recall any conversations with General Carriker about the Petitioner's postconviction case and did not recall him approaching her with any problems with the case. She denied hiding or destroying information in the file and said that if she wanted to hide something from the defense, she would not have placed it in an envelope in the file with a note that said, "do not give to defense.

22. If Carriker had not allegedly seen the envelope in two years, how would he know that the contents of the folder were some of the contents from the sealed envelope?

23. What's your assessment of the Petitioner's argument?

24. What's your assessment of the State's argument?

25. What's your assessment of the Court's decision?

To download the Court excerpts from The Court of Criminal Appeals concerning the envelope click here:

God bless you.

Justice For Vern Braswell
& Black Defendants Matter

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