Earley Story AKA Earlie Story is a soft-spoken gentleman in his mid sixties with a narrative straight out of a mid-20th century crime drama.
He is a former Sheriff’s Department sergeant and jailer at 201 Poplar, who blew the whistle on abuses at the jail. He reported a murder and a rape to the NAACP and the FBI, and the job turned on him.
This narrative is long, complicated and has lots of documentation. I’m going to provide the summary here without comment, and go back over the details later.
In 1997, a confidential informant (CI) working for the Shelby County Sheriffs Dept (SCSD) falsely reported that Earley Story had sold him a pound, of marijuana. Story was first acquitted, then indicted and found guilty of one of the three charges. He was fired from his job and eventually given a one-year suspended sentence. A long series of appeals and related litigation followed, in Shelby County general sessions, State Appeals Court and in the Federal courts.
In 2017, he was sent evidence discovered in an unrelated case, which showed that the CI who testified against him had no transactions on the date in question, Jan 22nd 1997.
In October 2017, Earley Story filed a Writ of Error Coram Nobis in General Sessions court, seeking to have his 1999 conviction overturned in the light of new exculpatory evidence.
At February 11th 2019 hearing in Shelby County General Sessions court, Division VIII, the presiding Judge, Chris Craft, threatened to jail Earley Story for contempt within seconds of Mr Story speaking. Judge Craft is the jurist who denied Mr Story’s 2003 appeal and he was also named by Mr. Story as a defendant in two Federal Civil Rights cases. Judge Craft also found Mr Story guilty of contempt during a 2003 appeal. Judge Craft is a former prosecutor in the Tennessee District 30 (Shelby Co.) District Attorney’s office.
Sharon Rondeau’s The Post and Email blog has been covering Mr Story’s case for some time.
The Post and Email took up the narrative in November 2018, and followed up in January 2019, on February 11th 2019 and February 12th 2019.
This reporter made video of Mr Story recounting his narrative on February 4th 2019.
Mr Story as a Jailer
Earley Story began his law-enforcement career in the Memphis city jail in 1979 and moved to the Shelby County Jail in 1981. He described how the jail became very violent in the 1980s, and oversight was lax or non-existent. His account of the violence at the jail was confirmed by the U.S. Justice Department, which, in 2000, investigated the jail after a federal judge ruled many aspects of its operation unconstitutional. The Justice Department documented excessive use of force; inadequate mental health and medical care; a lack of disciplinary procedures; security concerns; and incomplete intake evaluations. This 2001 Salon.com piece, “The Jail from Hell” illustrates the same sort of problems which triggered the Federal action. The jail was decertified in 2001.
Earley Story became concerned at the problems in the jail, and leaked several documents to the FBI, Federal courts and the NAACP. Here is one of the documents he leaked, which depicts a March 1995 murder in the jail. Other leaked jail documents included reports of rapes, beatings, understaffing, gang activity and other inhumane conditions,
Mr Story feels that the Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s office and at least one judge conspired to invent a bogus crime with which he was accused, in retaliation for his whistle-blowing activities.
Framed for Marijuana
Early Story, along with two deputies, Victor Campbell and Bernard Kimmons and three civilians, were arrested on January 31st, 1997. Mr Story was alleged to have sold marijuana on three occasions to a Sheriff’s Department confidential informant, Alfredo Shaw. Shaw had been arrested for armed robbery and never convicted. Of Mr Story’s three alleged marijuana sales, two were thrown out in court by the jury and the third was revealed in 2017 to be bogus after the disclosure of the Sheriff Department Confidential Informant ledger, which showed there was no CI activity on January 22nd, 1997.
Earley Story’s Trials and Tribulations
The first time Mr Story came to court, in 1997, the case was dismissed for lack of probable cause by Judge Ann Pugh on April 3rd, 1997. This means that there was not even sufficient reason to arrest him.
Mr Story was indicted on the same charge on August 7th, 1997, which would have been an action initiated by the District Attorney’s office. The jury acquitted on two of the marijuana sales offences for January 9th and 15th 1997. This left an alleged sale of one pound or marijuana on January 22nd 1997 to confidential informant Alfredo Shaw. On December 9th, 1999 Mr Story was convicted of the Class E felony and eventually sentenced to one year, which was suspended.
On September 13, 2002, the Tennessee Court of Appeals at Jackson rejected Earley Story’s appeal, after a hearing in which Mr Story fired two defense attorneys, for alleged ineffective representation, and where Mr. Story ended up representing himself.
On March 4th, 2003, Mr Story filed a petition for post-conviction relief. The judge, Chris Craft, denied the petition on June 1st, 2004 and also the appeal on February 2nd, 2005. Judge Chris Craft added a charge of contempt of court, for which Mr Story served ten days in his own jail.
In 1997, Mr Story went to Federal court for an unsuccessful employment discrimination case.
On February 6th 2004, Mr Story filed an unsuccessful Federal suit against John Herbison and Janet Boone, dismissed on 10/5/2004.
On September 28th 2006, Mr Story filed a Federal suit against a number of defendants, who were judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and sheriff’s department officials. One of the defendants was Judge Chris Craft. On March 30th 2007, Federal Judge Jon McCalla dismissed the case and permission to appeal was denied in 2008.
On November 1st 2010, Mr Story filed a pro-se Federal suit against a number of people associated with the probation services company who managed his probation, including Judge Chris Craft. Judge James Todd dismissed the case in November 2013.
The Blue Cadillac.
Mr Story presented evidence, in his 2003 post-conviction hearing, that the blue Cadillac cited in his trial as being present on January 22nd 1997 was, in fact, impounded after a robbery on January 5th and was in the police impound lot on the 22nd.
The Confidential Informant Ledger
Mr Story asked for discovery all information relating to the confidential informant in the case, and an important document in the possession of the Sheriff’s Department was withheld. The prosecution withheld the name of the CI, which was revealed when Alfredo Shaw contacted the Memphis Flyer and Mr. Story.
In December 2017 Mr Story received information from an attorney names Paul Bottei, who represents a death row inmate named Tony Carruthers. He had received this letter from the Sheriff’s Department in response to a request for information. His request was for all information relating to the CI Alfredo Shaw, the same one who had allegedly bought weed from Mr. Story.
Among the documents received was this one:
It’s hard to read, but it shows all transactions made by informant Alfredo Shaw between September 23rd 1991 and September 13th 1998. There are marijuana buys on January 21st and 23rd 1997 but none on January 22nd, the date he testified he bought a pound of weed from Mr Story. This is exculpatory evidence requested by Mr Story’s counsel in 1999 and withheld by the prosecution.
The Shelby County DA’s office also withheld exculpatory evidence in the case of Nora Jackson and others.
Error Coram Nobis Case, 2019
On receiving the above exculpatory evidence, Mr Story filed, per-se, a Writ of Error Coram Nobis in order to clear his 1999 wrongful conviction.
Strangely, Judge Chris Craft, who was twice sued by Mr Story, who refused his post-conviction appeal and who convicted Mr Story for contempt of court, has been assigned to the case. Judge Chris Craft has not recused himself.
This Motion for Summary Judgement was heard on February 11th 2019 in Division VIII of Shelby Criminal Court.
Notes from February 11 Court Appearance
I was present in court and made the following notes. I am not qualified in shorthand, so only the items in “quotes” are verbatim.
The courtroom, on the 6th floor of 201 Poplar, was full of about 30 petitioners and defendants.
Judge Chris Craft was about ten minutes late and quickly ran through his docket. Earley, who was accompanied by his wife and son, was called to the microphone at around 09:30
The previous defendant had not been audible on the PA system. Earley Storey answered in a loud voice which was audible on the PA.
“Judge Chris Craft: Do you have an attorney?
Earley Story: No
Judge Chris Craft: No What?
Earley Story: No Sir
Judge Chris Craft: No What?
Earley Story: No Sir Your Honor.
Judge Chris Craft: No What? Are you answering “is it raining”.
Earley Story: You asked if I have an attorney.
Judge Chris Craft: Sit down. (mumbles something) I’ll find you in contempt of court.”
Earley Story went back to his seat in the back row and sat down.
The judge called Earley Story back to the microphone about five minutes later, after dealing with a couple more cases and scheduling them for later.
The judge said there was no need for Earley Story to yell. “When you came to the microphone you started yelling.” The judge said that Earley is not supposed to interrupt the judge, and he is in a court of law and must behave himself. “Did you file a petition of Error Corum Nobis?”
“Do you have an attorney, or are you appearing pro se, or do you need time to hire an attorney”.
Earley Story waited a second or two, presumably to make sure he was not interrupting, and said he was representing himself. The judge asked “What date do you want” and Earley suggested two weeks from today. (2/25/2019). The judge said he had something that day and suggested March 4th 2019, to which Earley Story concurred. The judge asked if Earley Story had a motion and Earley replied that he had submitted a motion for default judgement the previous week.
Early Story inquired who was the prosecutor assigned to the case, to which the judge replied that no-one was on it. Earley replied that the writ had been filed October 29th and should have had a response. The judge said that the writ did not ask a question so no response was due. “Absolutely you haven’t had a response”. The judge said he wanted to make sure that Earley would appear and that Earley Story has asked for a hearing, not a State response.
The judge asked if Earley Story wanted a hearing on March 4th or a state response and Earey replied he wanted the hearing and was told to sit down.
This was all done by a little before 10:00 AM.
Early was talking quite loudly but I would not describe it as shouting. The judge’s tone sounded hectoring at times.
National Police Defense Foundation founder Joseph Occhipinti wrote this letter of support in 1997 and is again actively supporting Mr Storey in his current petition.
Follow the case on this blog or on ThePostEmail.com.