Friend of MS inmate calls for release after changed forensics report

Published: Oct. 4, 2022 at 7:25 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 4, 2022 at 7:27 PM CDT
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RANKIN CO., Miss. (WLBT) - In 2000, 25-year-old Tasha Shelby was sentenced to life in prison without parole for murder. However, 18 years later, the death was changed to an accident. Despite that change, Shelby remains behind bars, something even prison volunteers question.

“How do you keep fighting after so many years? And if that doesn’t change her chance of getting out, what will?” said Renee Moore-Smith, a volunteer at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility.

After 22 years in a Mississippi state prison, the forensics report that landed Shelby behind bars for the death of her stepson turned out to be a mistake.

In 1997, the state medical examiner determined that 2-year-old Brian Thompson died of shaken baby syndrome. However, in 2018, the murder diagnosis was changed to an accident, yet Shelby remains in prison.

“There have been a lot of things that have gone wrong,” Moore-Smith said. “For years and years and years, it’s not that people haven’t been fighting for her.”

For over a decade, the Mississippi Innocence Project, along with family and volunteers from inside CMCF, have been fighting for Shelby’s release, but the judges are holding to their decisions.

Renee Moore-Smith said when she met Shelby, she knew something was different about her case. So when the report changed, there wasn’t a doubt that she would try to help.

“When there’s a death of a child, everyone wants to get even with someone,” said Moore-Smith. “And in this case, there was no crime. Yet he had seizures already. He was seeing a neurologist. So I don’t know how all of that can be tossed aside.”

Moore-Smith says she’s been sending letters to Governor Tate Reeves and the Attorney General’s office asking them to get involved.

“There are some states that have conviction integrity units, Mississippi does not have one,” Moore-Smith said. “Where we could go back and review cases that maybe were questionable or had extremely long sentences, or I just think that there are many things that we can be doing to improve our justice system.”

Moore-Smith says she thinks that public outcry might be what Shelby needs to be released, and her next step will be to speak with the District Attorney in Harrison County, where she was convicted.

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