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Notes from the cops and courts beat

By by Suzanne Monk / managing editor
Aug. 4, 2002
It must be tradition alone that keeps three grand juries a year inspecting buildings owned by Lauderdale County the courthouse, the sheriff's department, the jail, the juvenile detention facility, the crime lab.
All their final reports say pretty much the same thing, and none of the problems they point out are ever solved. It's not that anyone disagrees with them. There just isn't enough money to go around.
Grand jurors usually remark that the juvenile detention facility is not fit for human habitation, that the sheriff's investigators and/or the district attorney's staff are crowded into office space too small to hold them, and that more cameras are needed at the jail.
The grand jury that met last week made pretty much the same observations, with a few twists. The panel also recommended:
That jail cells be bugged so correctional officers can hear conversations about possible escapes. Good idea, sounds illegal.
That there should be a public restroom on the first floor of the courthouse. Another good idea. The only public restrooms are on the second floor.
That the television in the boys' dorm at the juvenile detention facility be placed so that all of the children can watch. I wondered about that when I toured the building earlier this year. The TV is on a table at one end of a long row of cells. It appears to be a problem that could be solved with an extension cord.
The last grand jury in March likened the juvenile detention center to a kennel. It does look like a kennel something that could only exist in a Third World country. It makes me feel ashamed to know that it's just down the road in Lauderdale County, U.S.A.
Quick takes:
Indictments: Over the course of its five-day session, the grand jury listened to 72 witnesses and issued 469 indictments. The panel declined to indict in 32 cases. The indictment list will be released into the public record after Arraignment Day on Aug. 23.
Sex offender: On Thursday, Circuit Judge Larry Roberts sentenced Leon McCoy to 30 years without the possibility of parole. McCoy was convicted in June of sexual battery against a 15-year-old girl.
Assistant District Attorney Dan Angero had hoped for more under Mississippi's "three strikes" law for habitual offenders.
McCoy was convicted of aggravated assault in Lauderdale County in 1994, and voluntary manslaughter in Ohio in 1983. The problem was that Ohio prison officials destroy records after 10 years and could not produce the right paperwork.
Former fire captain: Richard Mackey's hearing before the Civil Service Commission, scheduled for Tuesday, was canceled when the opposing sides reached an agreement.
A 19-year veteran of the Meridian Fire Department, Mackey was fired last year after an arrest for aggravated assault. He was later indicted, but the charges were dismissed as the trial date approached because District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell couldn't find his witnesses.
Mackey appealed his termination to the CSC, and city attorney Lee Thaggard had the same problem finding the witnesses. I assume this is the reason the hearing was ultimately canceled.
Hopefully, the terms of the settlement between Mackey and the city will be made public at the CSC's August meeting.
Former police officer: Also expected at the next CSC meeting is the commission's decision in Rita Jack's appeal. Jack was fired from the Meridian Police Department amid allegations that she and a civilian employee stole money and checks from the station's front desk.
She denies it. The police officers I've spoken with are convinced of her guilt.
During a two-part hearing, commissioners seemed concerned that the only witness against Jack was the civilian employee who admitted her guilt and perjured herself in two written statements before finally fingering Jack in a third.
This one could go either way.