Lawyers representing a man charged with setting a fire that killed two young Macon boys are asking a judge to compel CrimeStoppers to give up a tipster’s identity.
Macon Regional CrimeStoppers awarded $4,000 to a tipster for information that led to the July 2008 arrest of 37-year-old Anthony Desean Braswell, 35-year-old Shauntrice Murry and 28-year-old Latoshia Yvette Wyche in connection with the fire.
Braswell is accused of pouring gasoline from a plastic sports-drink bottle onto the porch at 417 Moseley Ave., in the Unionville neighborhood, to start the fire July 14, 2008. He could face the death penalty if convicted of killing 2-year-old Hezekiah Harris and 4-year-old Tydarious Harris.
Warren Selby, the CrimeStoppers board chairman, said the $4,000 reward was one of the largest ever awarded in Middle Georgia.
But CrimeStoppers won’t be able to reveal the identity of the tipster, he said, even if ordered to do so by the court.
“We don’t have any way of knowing who the tipsters are,” he said. People who call the crime tip line are given identifying numbers to use when collecting their rewards. The program promises anonymity for the callers, and their names are never recorded.
“All we do is take the call with the information,” Selby said.
All records pertaining to tips are destroyed after 90 days, said Macon police Sgt. Zac Self, CrimeStoppers’ executive director.
The employee who probably talked with the tipster who called in information about Braswell’s case no longer works for CrimeStoppers, he said.
Braswell’s lawyers also are requesting that a police informant be identified, according to a motion filed in Bibb County Superior Court.
The lawyers contend that the identity of the tipster and the police informant should be disclosed so that they can be interviewed as witnesses, helping the defense prepare Braswell’s case.
If allowed to speak to the tipster and informant, the lawyers would be better prepared to challenge statements at trial and could discover witnesses who might testify on Braswell’s behalf. Also, the disclosure may shed light on the prosecution’s case, according to the motion.
Charles Nester, one of two Georgia Capital Defenders representing Braswell, declined to comment Wednesday.
Richard Carter, director of legal services for CrimeStoppers USA, said CrimeStoppers offices across the country have fielded thousands of similar requests in recent years. As in Macon, there’s typically no information to divulge, he said.
In some instances, a judge has reviewed CrimeStoppers records in private to determine if there was anything that should be disclosed, Carter said.
Selby said he can remember only one other time when Macon Regional CrimeStoppers has been subpoenaed about a tipster’s identity.
A CrimeStoppers representative testified that he remembered something about the tip, but he didn’t know the tipster’s identity, Selby said.
“It was short testimony,” he said. “There was nothing more to tell.”
Selby said he credits the program’s success in large part to its record of protecting tipsters’ identities and ensuring that tipsters are paid.
The program has fielded more than a thousand calls this year alone, he said.
“Only the tipsters know who they are,” Selby said.
Murry and Wyche also are charged with arson and two counts of murder. The prosecution also is seeking the death penalty against Murry.
Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.