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Published on June 18, 2024
Shelby County DA Steve Mulroy Faces Ouster Effort Despite Dropping Diversion Program Amid Political Showdown in MemphisSource: Wikipedia/Barryfordmemphis, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The tides of political ambition and policy reform often collide, but rarely with such clear consequence as in the case of Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, whose proposed diversion program sparked a firestorm, leading to a Republican-led effort to remove him from office. According to WREG, State Sen. Brent Taylor has announced plans for an ouster effort against Mulroy, which will move forward regardless of Mulroy's recent decision to drop the contentious program designed to address racial disparities in weapon possession cases.

This confrontation comes after Mulroy, facing stark opposition, rescinded his initiative for a program that would have allowed non-violent felons charged with weapon possession to qualify for alternative rehabilitative interventions rather than imprisonment. "After taking a look at the actual number of cases which would qualify, I realize it would only be a handful of cases ― not enough to really help with racial disparities," Mulroy conceded in a release, as reported by The Commercial Appeal. Nonetheless, Taylor remains unyielding in his pursuit, aiming to introduce a resolution after the November elections, asserting it is not merely about the diversion program, but about how Mulroy attempts to redefine the legal landscape.

The legislative route to ouster requires a supermajority, and Taylor has expressed confidence in the likelihood of assembly support, contrary to the due process provided in impeachment proceedings. The crux of the issue, according to Taylor, lies in Mulroy's perceived dereliction of duty, specifically regarding the prosecution of felons in possession of firearms. Details of the resolution are set to be disclosed following the November electoral window, as noted in a letter mentioned by Local Memphis.

In response to the evolving scenario, Mulroy has taken a step back from the policy that precipitated such opposition. "Asked about racial disparities at a forum last week," he explains, "I said we were considering an as-yet-unformed alternative approach for non-violent felons charged with possession of a weapon. However, after looking at the number of cases that qualify, I realize it would only be a handful of cases — not enough to help with racial disparities," Mulroy told The Commercial Appeal. And yet, Taylor stood firm at a press conference, "This ouster resolution was never about the diversion program... It was about the D.A.'s attempt to redefine what crime and punishment is in the state," as he himself conveyed to the press gathered at the Memphis Police Association office, determined to redefine the terms of the prosecutorial role in Shelby County.

Taylor's prospective ouster motion suggests an intense scrutiny of prosecutorial discretion, and with Mulroy's acknowledgement of the reduced scope of his proposed program, the stage is set for a political showdown that will unfold as the year marches toward November's legislative deadlines and electoral reckonings. According to Taylor, it seems Mulroy's decision to abandon the diversion strategy has not alleviated lawmakers' concerns, which pivot on his broader approach to justice in Shelby County, continuing to garner attention on both sides of the aisle, with no signs of abating.