Thursday, 01 August 2019 12:26

Career Criminal Pleads Guilty to 1997 Murder

Aug. 1, 2019 – A convicted armed career criminal already serving a life sentence for federal crimes pled guilty Thursday to killing an armored car courier in a 1997 robbery, said Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich.
Defendant Andrew Thomas was sentenced to 25 years in prison for second-degree murder in a settlement approved by the widow of the courier, James Day, who survived 29 months before dying of complications from the gunshot wound to his head. In court, she thanked Thomas for his plea and for “freeing me from my own cemetery.”
A federal appeals court two years ago overturned Thomas’s 2001 conviction and death sentence in the case, and awarded him a new trial.
Thomas, 46, was scheduled to be re-tried this week on capital murder charges, but entered his plea before the start of the trial before Criminal Court Judge W. Mark Ward.
He entered an Alford plea, or best interest plea, in which a defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges the likelihood of conviction if going to trial. An Alford plea has the same legal effect as a guilty plea.
A codefendant, Anthony Bond, pled guilty in federal court to being Thomas’s accomplice and identified Thomas as the man who shot Day in the head on April 21, 1997, during the holdup at Walgreen’s in the 5500 block of Summer Avenue. In 1998, both men were sentenced to life in federal prison for the armed robbery.
When Day died on Oct. 2, 1999, Thomas and Bond were indicted, tried and convicted in 2001 on state murder charges. Bond, now 41, was sentenced to life in state prison, while Thomas – who had 16 prior armed-robbery convictions - was sentenced to death.
The case this week was handled by Deputy Dist. Atty. Ray Lepone and by Asst. Dist. Attys. Tracye Jones and Holly Palmer.