- Associated Press - Friday, February 24, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A federal appeals court on Friday reversed a death penalty case prosecuted by Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich because the FBI paid a key witness $750 but the witness lied about it under oath.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the prosecutor had a duty to disclose the payment instead of allowing the witness to commit perjury.

The court granted a new trial for Andrew Lee Thomas Jr., who in 2001 was convicted of the 1997 death of an armored truck driver in Memphis.

Weirich issued a statement saying she didn’t know about the payment to the witness until years after the trial.

“Our files contained no reference whatsoever to a payment made by the federal government to the witness,” the DA’s statement said. “The first we learned of this payment was 10 years after our state court trial.”

She has asked the state attorney general’s office to appeal the ruling.

“We’re happy with the result in this case,” said Robert Hutton, an attorney who represents Thomas.

Thomas is also serving a life sentence on a separate conviction in connection with the armored truck robbery. In a separate opinion Friday, the court kept that conviction in place.

The witness was Angela Jackson, Thomas’ girlfriend when he robbed and shot armored truck driver James Day. The court opinion said her testimony was pivotal.

“Indeed, Jackson provided the only reliable testimony placing Thomas at the scene of the shooting,” the court said.

What was not disclosed was that the FBI paid Jackson $750 on behalf of the Safe Streets Task force, which was a joint federal and state law enforcement group.

Jackson testified, court records show, that she did not receive any money or reward for her testimony.

The appeals court said the “prosecutor had a duty to disclose this payment rather than allow the witness to commit perjury by denying its existence.”

Weirich is facing disciplinary charges in connection with another murder case she prosecuted.

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