UPDATED: ‘Batman' and Gang Acquitted | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

UPDATED: ‘Batman' and Gang Acquitted

*Web Exclusive*

Alleged Wood Street Players gang members Albert "Batman" Donelson, Terrell Donelson and James Benton were acquitted on charges that Albert Donelson ordered the murder of Aaron Crockett on May 10, 2001, from the Hinds County jail, and that the two other men set about to carry out that murder. The jury deliberated for less than two hours. Immediately afterward, Mayor Frank Melton vowed that be would arrest "Batman" again—that he would not be going home.

As head of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, then MBN Chief (and current Jackson Mayor) Frank Melton arrested about a dozen associates of the Wood Street Players in 2003 for several crimes, including the murders of Crockett, Harrison Hilliard and Keon Perry. Melton says that Donelson ordered all three of the murders—which are part of a complicated and brutal trail of back-and-forth killings believed to be turf skirmishes over the drug trade in Jackson.

On his way out of the courtroom, Donelson told the media, "I thank the jury. They figured out the truth."

Immediately after the verdict, Melton expressed displeasure with the prosecution and reinterated that the district attorney should have called former Wood Street associate Christopher "Smiley" Walker to the stand. Walker, Melton said, picked up the phone when Albert Donelson called to order the hit and handed it to Terrell Donelson.

Melton had told the JFP prior to the verdict that he would arrest "Batman" Donelson in the courtroom the moment he was acquitted. Right before the verdict came down, he said he would arrest him at the sheriff's office next door. Five minutes after the verdict, he said that JPD Chiefs Shirlene Anderson and Roy Sandefer were headed to Melton's home to meet him; then they would go to the Hinds County Jail to arrest Donelson. Then he called back to say he was holding a press conference at his home.

At the press conference, he said that he was going to ask the attorney general for a special prosecutor to pursue the charges against Donelson in the death of Harrison Hilliard. Afterward, Sandefer confirmed that the police department would not be re-arresting Donelson because he is already under indictment.

DA Faye Peterson decided not to call Walker to the stand when it became clear that the defense would attempt to impugn his testimony by alleging that Melton and MBN had tampered with the witness, according to a motion filed in the case earlier this week. (See related story.)

More on this story as it develops.

Previous Comments

ID
121596
Comment

Turncoat witnesses aside, Faye Peterson just does not possess what this city desperately needs in a D.A.! When as D.A. you have now lost three high profile cases, the “buck” must stop with you!

Author
K RHODES
Date
2006-04-07T17:58:35-06:00
ID
121597
Comment

"Melton vowed that Donelson would be rearrested." Even though a jury acquitted Donelson, Melton all but stated that he would continue to harass this man and possibly rearrest this man?! What's the purpose of the judicial system if the mayor won't gracefully acquiesce to defeat and to the system? Is this the same guy who vowed to adhere to our constitution while under oath before he took office? Josef Stalin stated that "promises are like pie crusts. They are made to be broken." We could easily substitute Melton's name for Stalin's. Even Tom Head can't justify this insanity or can he?

Author
Joerob
Date
2006-04-07T18:04:33-06:00
ID
121598
Comment

Well, I can certainly try. Melton is not arresting Donelson for the same crime he's been acquitted of committing; that would be unconstitutional under the douple jeopardy standard. But police are free to arrest the man for a different murder, which is what he appears to have in mind. Whether this is justified or not is not for me to say. I simply don't know enough about the situation. I don't generally follow specific Jackson crime stories very closely; I had a vague notion that somebody nicknamed "Batman" had been arrested or was being tried or something, but I can't pretend to be an expert on the details. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-04-07T19:36:16-06:00
ID
121599
Comment

But let me put a devil's advocate idea out there: If I were in Melton's position and had heard enough inadmissible evidence to feel personally confident that someone was guilty of murder, I would certainly be willing to look like an idiot trying to get him prosecuted. Whether that's what's going on here or not, I can't really say. Is this showboating? A personal grudge? Or does Melton have good reason to want Donelson behind bars? Only his hairdresser knows for sure. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-04-07T19:38:25-06:00
ID
121600
Comment

OK, an update. Batman is already indicted in that murder, so Melton said tonight that he cannot, in fact, re-arrest him. He wants to ask for a special prosecutor, though — putting forth as the same witness Christopher Walker. Walker is the witness that Peterson withdrew in this case because defense produced evidence that he was paid by Mr. Melton. Thus, that same problem is going to follow Mr. Walker around to other cases he tries to testify in. So is the fact that he is believed to have perjured himself before the grand jury. Watch the framing on this issue. A prosecutor's case is only as good as the evidence -- and if the evidence is tainted in some way, it cannot be used, no matter what people say they "know" about defendants. And in this case and the other recent ones, questions are being asked about MBN's evidence-gathering habits. See our story this issue, "Batman and Melton Return," for more explanation, and PDFs, about the evidence problems in this case. Note that the *defense* planned to call Chief Sandefer, who was the MBN agent in charge of this investigation. The *defense.*

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-07T20:48:25-06:00
ID
121601
Comment

I think that one of the problems is in what Melton said after the verdict: Melton told the Jackson Free Press that he planned to rearrest Albert Donelson for the murder of Harrison Hilliard as early as tonight. Melton still dosen't get. He is not a police officer. He is the mayor, an administrator, a supervisor, the city's leader and not a police officer. He is trying to make himself right and everyone else wrong. This is so embarassing. The legal system has spoken over and over again about the cases he brings to court. I really hope that he will stand back and reflect. Let law enforcement do their jobs WITHOUT his help. If these people are guilty, he continues to give them a free pass. While he is out here hellbent on sending people to jail the city is falling apart around him and he can't even see it.

Author
lance
Date
2006-04-07T20:54:17-06:00
ID
121602
Comment

A prosecutor's case is only as good as the evidence ” And with that said, having known going in that the state’s cases relied chiefly on the testimony of convicted felons, as DA she should not have brought the cases to trail! Also the DA should have it abundantly clear that anyone (including Melton) found to have tampered with evidence will be charged with such. She could have saved the tax payers some dollars and herself some embarrassment.

Author
K RHODES
Date
2006-04-07T21:06:20-06:00
ID
121603
Comment

Rhetorical question..................is there any entity that would investigate a possible prosecution of witness tampering? It's crystal clear that there was some problems here. If only we could see what Frank would have said if this had been Harvey losing all of the cases instead of himself. He probably would have arrested Harvey on the spot and charged him with trying to influence a witness. IF...it's such a big word.

Author
lance
Date
2006-04-07T21:19:26-06:00
ID
121604
Comment

That's what she tried to do last week when she filed the motion to drop the charges. Then Melton planned to proffer Walker on Monday and force a showdown. I don't know why she reversed course and did it anyway. Maybe she'll talk about it on the record now, and I can find out for y'all. Will report back when I know something. But I agree: To my thinking, it's the most strange that she went forward with it this week, being that she didn't feel that Walker was a credible witness.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-07T21:23:24-06:00
ID
121605
Comment

Lance, I don't know. We're working on this story further now to sort it all out. So hang tight.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-07T21:24:35-06:00
ID
121606
Comment

As the guilt or innocence of these individuals, God knows for certain, we can only speculate. The jury certainly seemed to take a dim view of the tactics used to bring these witnesses to the stand, and appear to be even more skeptical of their testimony. If the DA really was concerned that the evidence and the witnesses wouldn't pass the smell test, she never should have proceeded with going to court. But I imagine there was a lot of pressure exerted on her office to proceed regardless, since Frank wasn't going to work with her directly or allow the process to unfold without interference. I don't doubt that these guys are guilty as sin, but w/o a solid case to present to the jury, and w/o confidence in the evidence by the DA's office, this outcome was inevitable.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2006-04-07T21:25:58-06:00
ID
121607
Comment

What is more troubling to me as a casual observer is that the DA is 0-3 in the most high profile murder cases in several years, and I have to wonder if she is either ill prepared and incompetent, or is she being manipulated into trying tainted cases at the risk of her credibility.

Author
Jeff Lucas
Date
2006-04-07T21:42:45-06:00
ID
121608
Comment

ejeff, what is more troubling is that Faye is 0-3 all because of unreliable or tainted witnesses. All the witnesses have connections in one way or another to Melton. If you ask me the casual observer should see that we have a person who is governing to and for the lowest common denominator of Jackson instead of the actual citizens who make this city turn. Turn while doing it honestly and while working hard. He's weaving a tangled web to me. She is not the best DA; but, Melton has made in impossible to try these guys fairly. Also, again WLBT reports on "Batman" Donelson with a whitewashed version of why the defendants were let off.

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-04-08T01:31:57-06:00
ID
121609
Comment

ejeff, I'd take into account the possibility that the factors that make a case high-profile are the same factors that make a case very hard to win. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-04-08T01:54:37-06:00
ID
121610
Comment

I still think that Faye Peterson is incompetent. She should avoid being pushed to prosecute folks she knows she can't convict. HDMatthias, MD

Author
HDMatthias, MD
Date
2006-04-08T05:45:10-06:00
ID
121611
Comment

Thanks Ladd for checking on this for me. I have gotten a couple of bites on why she went to trial, but no confirmation yet on the validity of what I have been told. This last loss makes Peterson look pretty bad even though she has to play the hand that she is dealt. Melton is crying for a Federal prosecutor but it dosen't change the facts if he is having such close contact with the witnesses. I think that it's called TAMPERING. I looked at Melton last night when he was interviewed after the verdict and he dosen't seem to have a clue about how his own interference probably affected the outcome of this trial. Donelson's family stated that Frank "will get what's coming to him". Melton responded by saying that he would take that comment as a physical threat and it will be dealt with. I interpret this as Melton believes that he was not wrong for call Donelson everything under the sun (but that's okay). He has taken months from his life because he was found innocent (but that's okay too). IMO these people said no more than he has said about Donelson and he calls what they said a physical threat? Go figure. And by Frank's own admission, he said that he DOES have a vendetta against Donelson. Batman may be guilty of everything that he has been accused of, but the legal system (thanks to Frank) has said different.

Author
lance
Date
2006-04-08T06:42:26-06:00
ID
121612
Comment

I still think that Faye Peterson is incompetent. She should avoid being pushed to prosecute folks she knows she can't convict. HDMatthias, MD It pains me to see things like this because it's obvious that politics probably played an important part in this trial coming forth. I would not want to be in such a spot as Peterson is in right now. It was stated in one of the earlier blogs that the DA knew what she was working with and should not have gone to trial. It funny how Melton has pushed and pushed to get his way not just at the DA's office, but also here at the municipal level, and with the city's police department as well. Unless we see a miracle on Peterson's side, I think that it's safe to say that she may be in for a pretty good fight come election time. Hopefully this will also roll over to Melton.

Author
lance
Date
2006-04-08T06:51:07-06:00
ID
121613
Comment

I am appalled at the reaction of Melton (once again) on media coverage. I am referencing the comment by one of the acquitted men's family member who stated (I quote in para-phrase) "I hope Frank get's what his a$$ deserves" while she was getting into her vehicle and leaving the court house. Understandably the family is upset as well as overjoyed that these men were acquited, however, Frank does make it appear that he is simply 'gunning' for these men. I was not present and cannot say whether I believe that they are actually guilty or not, nor did I hear court testimony, yet, if the jury acquited them, despite what the reality is or isn't, their considered innocent. Frank has used the media to rally support in essentially media lynching this entire group. He has made what could be seen as slanderous remarks against them, and as usual either the 'evidence' he says he has, or the witnesses HE can bring forth, are either non-confirmed or subject to scrutiny. Regarding this women's comment, Frank stated that he takes that as a threat and it will be dealt with! I personally take what HE said more as a threat than this woman's comment. After following this trial thru media and newspaper coverage, as well as the other recent 'gang affiliated trials' I see that Frank has his hand in all of them, yet he apparently does not have the grasp on it that he feels he does! It most assuredly is bringing about more and more questions regarding Franks actual 'interest' in this particular group, especially after written statements (which JFP provided) implied his (Franks) over-the-top interest in what comes across simply as 'buying' witnesses to achieve a goal HE has set regarding this group. Frank's affiliation with this group and/or other's like it are definently raising eyebrows and more questions!

Author
Katie D
Date
2006-04-08T07:12:46-06:00
ID
121614
Comment

Peterson's job is to do JUSTICE not just to prosecute people. Justice requires not prosecuting cases you know you don't have the evidence to prove. She knew this case was weak and didn't want to go forward with it. Surely, Melton forced her hand. Peterson is in a situation where she is damned if she does and damed if she doesn't. The public like Melton doesn't understand that practicing law is more complicated than it looks. If it was as simple as it appears, there wouldn't be any need for law schools and continuing education. I know people will call me arrogant for saying this but its true. Additionally, Peterson is not a prosecuting zealot or fanatic who will prosecute a person without any thoughts of fairness or the strength or credibility of the facts. Not everyone agrees with me on this. I know many defense lawyers who thinks she is a zealot but my experience with her hasn't shown that. If I were Peterson I would call a press conference to tell the public exactly what happened with all three of my latest losses, followed by publicly telling Melton to stay in his place and to kiss my a@*. "m wondering if she's a strong supporter of his. Why else has she taken this crap from him? You're not imcompetent for losing cases you don't have the evidence to prove. Hinds County is not a place where the citizen will convict somebody just because a prosecutor say they're guilty, but don't have evidence to prove it. We should be glad it's that way. You would be if you were a defendant.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-04-10T09:16:54-06:00

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