Notes from the courts beat
Nov. 18, 2001
A Lauderdale County grand jury completed its deliberations Friday. According to District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell's office, the 18-member panel considered 276 cases. Of those, about 36 percent were drug-related; about 29 percent were felony bad check cases.
A complete list of indictments issued by the November grand jury will be available after the defendants are arraigned and the Circuit Court staff processes the paperwork.
Grand jury makes
The grand jurors did issue their final report, which is based on their inspection of county-owned buildings. Their major recommendations included:
A digital camera surveillance system for the Lauderdale County Detention Facility. The grand jury specifically noted that the isolation cell used for inmates who might try to harm themselves should be included in the areas monitored by a new system.
Relocation of the Bad Check Unit, part of the district attorney's office, from a small office on the second floor (and adjoining hallway space) to the mostly vacant law library on the third floor.
Ten additional cells for the juvenile detention facility. They said better lighting, bedding and sanitation are needed, as well as some kind of daily outside exercise program. They also said the young defendants being held there should have access to a library and tutors to help them keep up with their schoolwork.
It should be noted that every grand jury report issued over the last several years has made similar recommendations about the juvenile detention facility. County supervisors say they are between a rock and a hard place on the issue realizing that improvements are needed, but not having the money for radical changes or new construction.
Habitual offenders and
Supreme Court appeals
Simeon Hughes has been turned down on appeal again. In 1995, he was convicted of armed robbery by a Lauderdale County jury.
The jury agreed that Hughes robbed his victim of $21 in April 1994, and that he threatened his victim with a gun during the commission of the crime.
Hughes had prior convictions for burglary, burglary of a dwelling and felony shoplifting. Circuit Judge Robert Bailey sentenced him as a habitual offender under the "three strikes" law to 34 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
Hughes has filed several appeals. In the first, the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the Lauderdale County Circuit Court decision. In the second, Hughes made a direct appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans; that court referred the matter back to Mississippi.
On Thursday, the Mississippi Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the jury's decision. Meridian attorney Jim Williams, who represents the defendant, said Friday that he will ask the Mississippi Supreme Court for another hearing.
Meanwhile, there is no word yet about whether the Mississippi Supreme Court will hear Jonathan Fulcher's appeal. Fulcher was convicted in 1998 of the attempted robbery of the Sunglass Hut at Bonita Lakes Mall.
As a violent habitual offender, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The conviction has been affirmed by the Mississippi Court of Appeals. Fulcher's attorney, Leslie Gates of Meridian, has asked for a hearing before the high court.
Civil Service Commission
An appeals hearing scheduled for last Thursday before the Civil Service Commission has been delayed until some point in the future.
The hearing had been requested by former Meridian police officer Rita Jack, who was fired in September amid allegations that she stole money and checks from the Meridian Police Department's front desk.
The hearing date was requested by Jack and her attorney, Felicia Perkins of Jackson. Its timing two days after a Lauderdale County grand jury was scheduled to begin deliberations and well before its decisions were expected to be made public surprised the commission.
At a regular meeting Tuesday, the Civil Service Commission consented to a request from Jack's attorney to delay the hearing until after the grand jury session.
The appeal of Richard Mackey, a former captain with the Meridian Fire Department, is also on hold pending grand jury action. Mackey was charged with aggravated assault in August; sheriff's investigators said the victim has signed a request to drop the charges.
In other news, longtime commissioner Rae Ellen Gordon announced that she will retire in December.
Suzanne Monk is managing editor of The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3229, or e-mail her at email@example.com.