JUST IN MONDAY: Key Witness Turns Self in to Melton | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

JUST IN MONDAY: Key Witness Turns Self in to Melton

*Web Exclusive*

Monday, 9:30 p.m.: According to Mayor Frank Melton tonight, Christopher "Smiley" Walker turned himself into the mayor tonight and is now in custody. Melton refuses to publicly disclose Walker's whereabouts, telling the JFP tonight, "I arrested him to protect him. They're trying to kill this kid." More details as they develop ...

On Sunday night, a subdued Mayor Frank Melton, along with several police officers and Jackson Police Department Chief Shirlene Anderson, were looking for Christopher "Smiley" Walker to take him in on an arrest warrant as an accessory to murder. Melton told the Jackson Free Press, in JPD's Mobile Command Center during a ride-along, that Walker had confessed to him earlier in the day to being the driver of the vehicle used in the murder of Harrison Hilliard. Walker is the witness that Melton wanted the district attorney to use as the key informant in the trial against Albert "Batman" Donelson, Terrell Donelson and James Benton for the murder of Aaron Crockett. The three men were acquitted Friday.

District Attorney Faye Peterson refused to put Walker on the stand due to conflicting testimony he had provided and because the defense planned to introduce evidence to show that Melton, and other agents from the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, had obtained his testimony through financial inducements and other promises. Melton denies that, saying that his financial help to Walker has been to protect him and get him back on his feet.

Walker stayed in Melton's home during the week or so leading up to the trial last week.

By midnight, Melton had not yet arrested Walker, but told the JFP that he had talked to him a couple of times throughout the evening.

More details in this week's print edition, out Wednesday.

Previous Comments

ID
121616
Comment

I expect the folks who castigated Faye Peterson for not calling Walker to the stand to sheepishly bow their heads and apologize now. Yeah, I know it won't happen, either. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-04-10T03:20:13-06:00
ID
121617
Comment

Rightly said. I am paraphrasing when I say that a blogger had written something to the effect that the DA can only work with the tools that she is given. Had she done any more than what she did, she would be a law bender/breaker just as Frank is. How much more will it take before Melton will be stopped? I cannot believe that the powers that be will allow this man to continue to play these dangerous games with peoples lives. Frank has tuned out the whole city except for these "gentlemen". Does he really think that a special presecutor will do any more than the county DA? He is running around in a vicious circle with the WSP. He has been plain ole lucky that no one has been hurt yet. I wonder what he is going to do if Batman hits the streets again..............I know...............he will probably will start arresting the women who now are legally allowed to breastfeed in public. We all know how he feels about this type of exposure. Look out women feeding your chidren, Frank is going to shut you down!

Author
lance
Date
2006-04-10T05:59:14-06:00
ID
121618
Comment

Frank Melton is a raving idiot. He's making Peterson look terrible. The lawyers are experienced and very capable. They would welcome these kind of cases all day long. Who could blame them. They didn't look like they broke a sweat in either case. Robert Smith also went to the right undergraduate school to become a very good trial lawyer.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-04-10T09:26:06-06:00
ID
121619
Comment

I heard Frank say what he was gonna do on the "Straight Talk" on WOAD-AM yesterday, so this isn't really news to me.

Author
golden eagle '97
Date
2006-04-10T09:33:32-06:00
ID
121620
Comment

golden boy, what else did he say on "Straight Talk" about this? I didn't hear it. This effort to arrest Mr. Walker last night came as a bit of a surprise to me because Mr. Melton told us the middle of last week that Mr. Walker had information on Mr. Hilliard's death and would be a witness against Donelson in that case—so this part wasn't new. Mr. Melton said before the trial ended that he was going to have Mr. Donelson "re-arrested" if he was acquitted because Mr. Walker, who was staying at his home through the trial for protection, was involved in that murder and could testify against Mr. Donelson. I was at Mr. Melton home for another interview after the press conference Friday night, and Mr. Melton talked to Mr. Walker on his cell phone, and he said he was on his way over there. He wanted me to talk to him again, but he couldn't get there right away due to family obligations. Thus, my surprise at going to look for him in the Mobile Command Center last night accompanied by TV cameras. Mr. Melton and Mr. Walker were both very open last week in interviews about the help that Mr. Melton has given Mr. Walker, which included giving him $200 as late as last week for expenses for his kids. Mr. Melton says it is very important to help protect Mr. Walker because the state has no Witness Protection Program to protect witnesses. On the other hand, the defense planned to use the assistance that Mr. Melton has given Mr. Walker to argue that he has paid for his testimony, without involving the district attorney in the "deal." We will have more on this in this week's issue.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-10T11:18:40-06:00
ID
121621
Comment

You know, this looks like one more example of Melton doing something that would be really noble if a private citizen did it but looks less than brilliant when a mayor does it. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-04-10T11:25:08-06:00
ID
121622
Comment

How could a private citizen do it? Most of Mr. Melton's "bringing in" was done with one badge or another. And now we're in a string of cases being lost because the evidence gathered by MBN seemingly isn't standing up before a jury. Smoke and mirrors about the prosecutors can't obscure the hard facts. And the question of how a mayor/police chief can make deals with--or pay for/provide protection of--witnesses unbeknownst to the prosecutors is intriguing to me. We're fleshing that out.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-10T11:28:37-06:00
ID
121623
Comment

Also, it is really too bad that this story is being reported without any context. I talked to two TV reporters last night who did not seem to understand that Mr. Walker was the *same* key witness that Mr. Melton took to Judge Delaughter's courtroom last week. I truly don't know how you could report this story without explaining that he is the witness that Mr. Melton is accused of "tampering" with. That's bizarre to me. But it doesn't sound like most of the media have even bothered asking for the court files that we have PDF'd here. Give the whole picture and let people decide.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-10T11:32:25-06:00
ID
121624
Comment

Sadly, Mr. Melton is probably trying to do a good thing by interfering. I can't believe he doesn't understand how important it is to get his dumb behind out of the way. Peterson is getting blind-sided in every way. Surely, she doesn't want to be involved in some of the things Frank is likely doing. Frand and Perterson both would probably be better off if Frank talked to Peterson before doing anything with the witnesses. I'm beginning to question whether Mrs. Anderson, the police chief, has any sense either. Frank is killing her image and the department, too. In all my years of living and travelling around the country I have never heard of a Mayor acting this way. Frank doesn't know jack about the rules of evidence or trying cases to win. He's giving the defense lots of ammunition to work with. He wil probably lose his own case. I'm not even mad at the governor for firing his ignorant butt anymore without giving him a chance. Imagine what that department would look like by now if he were still there.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-04-10T11:33:46-06:00
ID
121625
Comment

Donna writes: How could a private citizen do it? Most of Mr. Melton's "bringing in" was done with one badge or another. Well, I'm referring more to letting Walker stay in house and all that than anything else. It does begin to seem to me like Melton wants to have the same options as mayor that he had as a private citizen plus all the power he gets as mayor, which is not really feasible under our system of law, and shouldn't be. And agreed on the lousy local coverage. I used to think this represented a pro-Melton bias. Now I'm more inclined to believe that most local reporters just aren't much good at what they do. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2006-04-10T11:35:43-06:00
ID
121626
Comment

Ray, as a defense attorney of the highest order, perhaps you could give us a quick primer here on these rules of evidence as they apply to this situation—and especially what kinds of inducements/"protections (as in apartments and such) a police officer/mayor can offer without involving the prosecutors and/or the courts? And does MBN officers have any sort of special privileges on this front? Then once the case gets to court, what are the dangers to the prosecution of such inducements? And if the key witness perjured himself before the grand jury in any way, how does that affect the prosecutor's chances in the case? Or can the prosecutor even use a witness who is believed to have committed perjury?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-10T11:37:40-06:00
ID
121627
Comment

Donna, you ask harder questions than the bar examiners. Let me think about the qestions a a few hours and see what I can come up with. It took a whole year for my teacher to teach us evidence. One of the main things to remember about witnesses, their testimony, and evidence is that jurors have said in many surveys that thier favorite part of the trial is when the attorneys cross-examine the witnesses. This means they're trying to size up the witnesses and determine whether their testimony is credible, reliable or trustworthy, or instead conjecture, surmise, lies, paid for, etc.. A lawyer can destroy credibility by exposing lies, inducement (pay-offs, threats, et al), conflicts, weakness of the evidence, insufficency of evidence, and so on. Most jurors take the task very seriously, and are not only judging the testimony of the witnesses, but the talents and credibility of the lawyers, too. It is never a good or safe thing to offer any inducement except maybe leniency of the charges to a co-defendant for his testimony. Anytime you offer or pay money or give personal housing to a witness to testify you're on a rocky road that will probably come back to haunt you. In my opinion, you shouldn't offer any inducement that the prosecutor is unaware of, or without clearing it through the prosecutor. There is a debate in the legal community about when the case is won. Jerry Spence, probably my favorite trial lawyer, told me he wins in the opening statement. Personally, I try to set up the win in the opening statement but don't try to overwhelm the prosecutor until the closing argument, after I have shot numerous holes in the prosecution's case. At trial you argue the testimony isn't credible, reliable or trustworthy because of lies, insufficiency, inducements, tampering - lack of reliable and credible evidence. You argue your closing argument with a catchy theme, passion, conviction in your beliefs, and you use metphors, axioms, proverbs, literature and anything else you can to convince people to side with you. Consider "if it doesn't fit you must acquit."

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-04-10T12:29:46-06:00
ID
121628
Comment

I know of no rules giving MBN special privileges. They have to follow the same laws as everyone else. The abuse and misuse of informants, snitches, and the likes, to get convictions when there aren't any eye witnesses, or otherwise credible evidence, to a particular crime is so rampant that in some situations the judges will give the jury an instruction, more or less, saying that "the law looks upon with suspicion and distrust the testimony of a witness who has acted as an informant or snitch for the government." Couple this advisory with already freely gathered suspicions by jury based on payment or some other irregularities and likely guilty people will walk over and over again. I'm not saying these guys were guilty. I don't know whether they were or not. Any bias of a witness is never collateral, and can always be explored during the trial as effecting that person's testimony.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-04-10T15:32:23-06:00
ID
121629
Comment

That all makes perfect sense. Thanks! I've very curious, specifically, about whether there are rules or laws that govern who/how can offer such inducements to witnesses, and if there are rules about which witnesses can be presented after such inducements come to light. Same with perjury. Or, is this simply a question of the problem that such inducements contribute to the reassonable doubt, and as you say, allow guilty people to walk -- and, thus, prosecutors would want to stay away from tainting their cases by using such witnesses. Of course, it just strikes me as unethical for a prosecutor to present a witness that he/she feels strongly is lying or who they believe has been induced to testify. That would feel like a system run amuck, and certainly not one that is protecting the rights of the innocent until proven guilty. No pressure, though, Ray, for answers: We're exploring those questions off-blog as well. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-10T15:41:53-06:00
ID
121630
Comment

There aren't any evidentiary rules that specifically says who and how the offers of inducement are to be made in the Mississippi Rules of Evidence. I will find time to locate some cases that discuss this issue in more detail at some point. I will be out of the office Tuesday and Wednesday though. Inducements contribute to argument against reasonable doubt. Indeed, it is unethical to present a witness the prosecuter or defense lawyer know is lying or will lie. But this hasn't stopped many lawyers at all from doing so. A smart and really ethical prosecutor will also stay away from witnesses given impoper inducements by herself or others.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-04-10T15:55:50-06:00
ID
121631
Comment

Rule 616. Bias of a Witness. Mississippi Rules of Evidence says, "For the purpose of attacking the credibility of a witness, evidence of bias, prejudice, or interest of a witness for or against any party to the case is admissible."

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2006-04-10T16:29:20-06:00
ID
121632
Comment

I have a few questions open to anyone? Did you all witness Melton brandishing a rifle at the alleged home of "Batman's" relative on WJTV? The relative supposedly threatened Melton on camera. Is it legal for him to trespass onto private property without a search warrant of any kind? The person he was looking for, (a female by the way) didn't even live at the address. What kind of an example is he setting for young people? Technically, could he have been shot on the spot for trespassing? The Constitution gives Americans the right to defend himself or herself on private property. That situation could easily have turned into a bloodbath for both sides.

Author
Joerob
Date
2006-04-10T19:03:38-06:00
ID
121633
Comment

Did you all witness Melton brandishing a rifle at the alleged home of "Batman's" relative on WJTV? Yes, I saw him carrying it throughout the evening last night. Wait til you see this week's issue. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-10T19:30:41-06:00
ID
121634
Comment

WLBT has more on the story about Melton going to their house: here is the story. This is appalling! IF our City Council has any stones they will put the kibosh on this man immediately. This is really bad – even worst. What would you do if one of your employees showed up at a client’s house after a sale fell through? Or a reader blogged an article a reporter wrote sucked, so the reporter sends them a vulgar reply? Or if a waitperson called a customer at home asking why they stiffed them on the tip or complained to the manager about their service? They would all be fired! Bad judgment is bad judgment no matter who is it! That doesn't mean the customer is always right since exceptions abound in all areas of life. Those who "shake it off" tend to do better overall, then the Eddie Haskels of the world. I realize this woman made a weak threat with "he'll get his!" - But, that could be interpreted as "when we vote him out of office." Either way, that doesn't mean Melton can just waltz over to her house, brandish a weapon, then say he doesn’t give a damn. Better yet, ask yourself if you were in his shoes, what would you do in this situation? That should pretty much tell you what kind of person you are; and more so, what kind of person Melton is. When does this guy take his trip to Pakistan to go hunting with Dick?!? ;-) Uh oh, I see a White and Blue RV out my front window. I gotta go! BTW: Did you have fun on the “entrapment” ride the other night? ;-)

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-04-10T23:57:39-06:00
ID
121635
Comment

I bet riding around with Frank in the Tank is a far cry from the "Pride Rides" Mayor Johnson used to have!

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-04-11T00:00:06-06:00
ID
121636
Comment

golden boy, what else did he say on "Straight Talk" about this? I didn't hear it. He pretty much said the same things about serving arrest warrants for those who he's named, like "Batman" and his brother. I was driving when Frank was on the air, so I wasn't in too much of a position to process the whole thing.

Author
golden eagle '97
Date
2006-04-11T00:33:47-06:00
ID
121637
Comment

My favoriate part is the dog. Abby and I are buds. I promise, however, that that fact in no way impairs my judgment. ;-) Unfortunately (I guess), I missed the visit to the Donelson house. But I'm not big on the planned media spectacles such as he did by calling the TV cameras to go with him there, so I can't say I minded missing it. I'm not doing this for spectable and sensationalism. I'm doing it to try to understand this man better and impart that to my readers. We didn't join the Frank Tank until it was headed to Walker's mother's house at close to 8, and then stayed on board until midnight, well past the time the other media cut out, right after the photo-op (of nothing) at the Walker apartment.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-11T01:05:29-06:00
ID
121638
Comment

Oh, and I'm perfectly capable of going to Wood Street on my own, which I prefer.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-11T01:06:53-06:00
ID
121639
Comment

"When does this guy take his trip to Pakistan to go hunting with Dick?!? ;-)"- pikersam :) lol now that's funny!

Author
jan2006
Date
2006-04-11T10:05:29-06:00
ID
121640
Comment

Howdy- I am Albert Donelson's attorney and I appreciate at least some entity trying to disseminate the truth when all I have been inundated with since I took on his cause is Melton's unfounded allegations and tarnished witnesses- When I recall Frank's misleading the public about Vidal Sullivan's dangerousness ( a misdemeanor, right), coupled with his lies under oath in his Meridian court case, I should not be surprised that that character flaw of his reverberates around Batman's cases. Yet his latest on Chris Walker is astonishing. I took his recent comments to mean that Walker within the last two days confessed an active role in the killing of Harrison Hilliard. Walker actually first confessed to Frank that he drove the killers to the scene way back in 2004. In two statements Walker admitted to being an accesory to the Murder. But he could not be consistent with his role (at first he merely dropped them off and drove them away afterwards, then later said he actually got out of the vehicle and fired 5-6 shots at the scene). These are some of the many inconsistencies Fay Peterson had in mind when she finally called him a perjurer in Court a week ago Monday. Walker also admitted on a videotape that he shot two people dead (never prosecuted), bribed a city clerk two times to clean up his and his girlfriend's record (never prosecuted), possessed cocaine (5 ounces) with intent to distribute (never prosecuted) and another possession case. I think all in all that your subscribers have the correct assessment of Fay Peterson- that she was shackled with the evidence gathered by Frank while at the MBN and refuses, by her oath as D.A., to get 'slimed' by Frank's unprovable accusations.

Author
Randy Harris
Date
2006-04-11T13:48:03-06:00
ID
121641
Comment

I watched the news last night and they reported that walker had turned himself in, it was also reported that the hinds county correctional facility was contacted but they had no record of him being brought in. This reminds me of the last time that fm arrested, sullivan, i believe it was him( i might be wrong) but there was also no proof of his arrest. Is that illegal in any way? I mean from what I undertand if you are arrested, that means you go to jail and people can account for your whereabouts. Why does FM have the authority to ARREST people but no record of the arrest is documented and no one knows where the offender is taken?

Author
jan2006
Date
2006-04-11T14:20:51-06:00
ID
121642
Comment

Update all: Walker was taken to the Jefferson Davis county jail. I knew that last night, but it was off the record. I just talked to Melton and Sheriff McCullum, who said he just held him overnight to help protect. JPD has "custody" of him again and has moved him to an "undisclosed" location, and I don't know where that is. And at this moment, I've got other things to do than chase this rabbit. I will keep you posted as I hear updates, however.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-11T14:27:46-06:00
ID
121643
Comment

And there is no arrest warrant. I'm really not sure that anyone in the entire state of Mississippi cares what's legal or not when it comes to shuffling young black men around. But I'm tired and cranky, so excuse my sarcasm.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-11T14:28:43-06:00
ID
121644
Comment

So was the JFP kicked out of the news conference today? We are in a sorry state in this city. The man is sick and a flat out embarrassment to our city. I hope some Councilmen are proud that today they supported the right of the citizens to be blacked out from the business of our city. Not to mention the press being removed from a news conference. Free speech died a little in Jackson today! There seems to be a “thug” mindset with a few of the councilmember’s, damned what the people think or what is truly right in government. Every time the mayor says he doesn’t give a damn about us or a citizen it may as well be those councilpersons who support the mayor without supporting the facts or our rights saying it! Until our Council stands up and says that what is going on is BS when it comes to the way our city is being lead then it is y’all that are the root of our problems!

Author
pikersam
Date
2006-04-11T18:41:22-06:00
ID
121645
Comment

JFP wasn't there, yet. But I saw the thing with WAPT on the news. It's absurd. Melton needs to learn that he cannot control media coverage of him. We talk about that in next week's interview. Not this week's. He's just going to make it worse for himself with these stunts.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2006-04-11T19:04:51-06:00

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