The misadventures of Christopher McCoy

By By Suzanne Monk/managing editor
March 3, 2002
As I begin this story, let me tell you that Christopher McCoy is going to jail for 10 years but there is a large dose of irony in how that came to pass.
I have followed his case because it involved an indictment for DUI maiming and a $1 million lawsuit against police officer Steven Early and the city of Meridian.
Events were set in motion on Feb. 11, 2000, when McCoy and Shirley Logan were involved in a traffic accident at the intersection of 20th Avenue and 18th Street. At the time, Early was either chasing McCoy or had just broken off the pursuit.
Logan was seriously injured and spent two weeks in the hospital.
McCoy was indicted in July 2001 for "DUI maiming"; the grand jury's indictment charged him with being under the influence of cocaine at the time of the accident.
In October, McCoy was arrested during a series of undercover stings conducted by the East Mississippi Drug Task Force. The charge? Possession of cocaine. He was indicted for that charge in November, and pleaded guilty this week.
Circuit Judge Robert Bailey sentenced him to 10 years on the drug charge, with no time suspended. McCoy received credit for 94 days already served at the Lauderdale County jail. He was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.
So he is going to jail for a long time.
Double jeopardy
But, the DUI maiming indictment was dismissed on Wednesday. It seems he had already pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DUI charge, for the same accident, in Meridian Municipal Court. A defendant cannot be tried twice for the same crime; the legal concept is called "double jeopardy."
I caught up with Assistant District Attorney Lisa Howell late this week and asked her how the case ended up in both courts.
When a police officer makes a DUI arrest, he doesn't necessarily know what the defendant's prior arrest record entails. Sometimes, the person is arrested for "plain" DUI, and then the officer checks his arrest record. If it's the third DUI arrest within five years, the charge is upgraded to felony DUI and passed along to the district attorney's office.
The charge against McCoy was upgraded to a felony, DUI maiming, for a different reason the seriousness of the injuries sustained by Shirley Logan.
The timeline is a little murky, but the problem arose because, for some reason, the original municipal court charge was never dismissed as the case was transferred to Circuit Court. The municipal court process continued, and misdemeanors move through court faster than felonies. McCoy pleaded guilty, attended "drunk driving school" and began paying his fine.
The district attorney's office didn't realize this, and neither did the defense attorney until McCoy brought him a diploma from the classes he was required to attend.
After Howell checked the municipal court records, there was no choice but to dismiss the felony indictment.
That's not the end of the story
Meanwhile, the legal battle over the accident is not over.
In August 2001, Shirley Logan filed a $1 million lawsuit against Officer Early and the city of Meridian. Logan alleges that Early's decision to pursue McCoy in a residential area was reckless and that it caused the collision.
Several meetings had been scheduled so that Logan's attorney in the lawsuit, Will Parker, could ask McCoy questions about the accident. They did not happen apparently because McCoy could not be found. McCoy's bail bondsman eventually surrendered him back to the custody of the sheriff's department in December.
Parker's meeting with McCoy is now set for March 8 at the jail. Well, at least they know where to find him.

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