DA Smith Should Recuse from Thomas Killing

The Jackson Free Press was disturbed, and confused, to discover this week that Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith has not publicly revealed that he is the cousin of Quardious Thomas, whom Jackson homeowner Eric Williams killed in July for breaking into his vehicles.

This newspaper has called in the past for Smith, who has not responded to requests for interviews about the case, to take the death of the unarmed 20-year-old to a grand jury and let them decide whether or not Williams should be charged in the case under Mississippi law.

Both the DA and Jackson police seem to be assuming that the killing would fall under the state's Castle Doctrine, but it is entirely unclear whether a grand jury would agree, considering that no evidence has emerged that Thomas intended violence against the people inside the house or had the means to commit it. It is entirely possible that he was indeed committing a property crime, but a grand jury should determine if Williams' response amounted to a justifiable homicide—and that decision should certainly not be left to officials with clear potential bias in the case in any direction.

During research for R.L. Nave's cover story about the Thomas death this week, we figured out that the DA is first cousin to Carlos Thomas, the young man's father and the son of Mat Thomas.

We cannot guess how this information might influence the DA's actions on this case—it certainly does not seem to have encouraged him to send it to a grand jury for a thorough look at his cousin's death so far—but we do know that it is the district attorney's responsibility to reveal such potential conflicts of interest to the public.

As is apparent in the cover story, there are unanswered questions in this case, including several the deceased's mother has had a hard time getting answered, even solid verification of the time of death. The bottom line is: Our community, and our law-enforcement officials, must honor the life of an unarmed young man enough to demand a thorough investigation of the facts and to allow a grand jury, and then potentially a jury, to determine if the young man presented a threat to anyone's life.

The Castle Doctrine leaves far too many gray areas that can easily obscure poor policing, insufficient prosecution or even cover-ups of what really happened in such cases. The idea of "self-defense" (and shooting to kill over property) cannot be allowed as an easy excuse for riddling unarmed people with bullets with no real investigation.

It is hypocritical to call for justice for a Trayvon Martin in other states and not for a Quardious Thomas in our own. The DA must recuse himself and allow other authorities—the attorney general, perhaps?—to step in and make sure that an injustice has not occurred.

Comments

Turtleread 10 months, 3 weeks ago

There is a cost and expense to convening a Grand Jury. Perhaps this is what the D.A. is trying to keep the country from having to spent the funds since it is such a clear-cut case. After all, Thomas was found inside Williams' car. And he did not surrender right away, but made a movement like he was going for a gun either in the car or on his person.

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donnaladd 10 months, 3 weeks ago

You don't automatically get to kill someone, even under state law, for being inside your car. And the cost issue is absurd; it's not like we have that many cases in Jackson—thankfully—of a man walking outside and unloading a gun into an unarmed person inside his car, and not trying to break in and harm the people inside. This is rather exactly the kind of thing a grand jury should look at -- after a thorough investigation. And if they found it justifiable under state law, then the proper process was followed.

Meantime, Smith doesn't even tell us it was his cousin. Huh.

Understand: No one thinks it was OK for Thomas to actually be breaking into the car, if that was proved true by a proper investigation (even his mother). He should have gone to jail for that, served his time and, with any luck, been rehabilitated.

In America, we don't execute people for breaking into a car, showing no immediate threat of violence (he was even unarmed and awfully skinny to boot). We arrest them and put them on trial and find out what really happened, and then convict him if warranted.

Refusing to do a proper investigation and putting it before a grand jury in this case is a travesty and sets a very difficult standard. Just wait til it happens to some white kid from north Jackson and police say there is no need to investigate it because he was obviously guilty of a crime, so it was OK for someone to walk outside and unload a gun into him ... with no investigation. That'll go over big.

It reminds me how much some north Jacksoners loved the idea of the youth curfew law until it snagged the white girl. Suddenly, it was a travesty. Take your blinders off and look at this straight on, folks. What you see ought to scare you.

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RLemery 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Funny, how does a normal case make it to a jury, oh thats right, the prosecuting attorney reviews the case on its merits of a succesful case. Just as any case is REVIEWED, including STAND YOUR GROUND!

The EVIDENCE they review is the exact same as that used in an actual trial, so explain exactly what ISNT done...hmmmm.

Do SYG laws change the criteria of what is or isnt a justifiable self defense, oh geez, they dont, amazing that!

Oh thats tight, what ISNT DONE is an arbitrary persecution of the victim that would cost them 10's of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands as felony defense starts at $50k and up.

It is just so HORRIBLE that prosecuting attorneys have to follow a STANDARD in adjudicating their decision to prosecute or not, instead of relying on political bias and prejudice instead of arbitrarily punishing a victim because they didnt ask big brothers permission to do so first!

It is even funnier how repeated evidence, as in Florida, the most recent focus of this incident shows minorities to be the majority beneficiary of SYG.

The Tampa Bay Times http //www tampabay com/stand-your-ground-law/nonf... has been assembling the details of all shooting cases that involved SYG since the law was inacted.

Some are fatalities, some are only woundings. The web site is interactive so you can set it to show whatever detail that you want to, including details of individual cases. Most shooting are between people of the same race. Setting the filter for black on white shootings, adding fatalities and woundings for total shootings we find:

Black on White - 4 convicted, 12 justified, 4 pending
White on Black - 3 convicted, 14 justified, 5 pending

Total of all SYG claims:
59 convicted, 143 justified, 35 pending

So SYG isn't used that often, is not a shoot anybody for free card, and is not for-Whites-only

Amazing how SYG isnt a get out of jail free card as you infer!

Amazing how when one digs into the details, we see all you are really upset about, is that a person legally and justifiably defended themself, and you dont like that!

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Rodramon 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Donna with all due respect if anyone is wearing blinders it is you...Michael Stivach type blinders to be exact. Like most progressives you are confusing what you feel ought to be law with what is in fact law. As the law is written it was not necessary for the homeowner to prove that the suspect had a weapon or that he would have caused physical harm to his family, the law clearly gives him the authority to defend his castle so to speak and his property, because the car was located on his property and given the time of day the perpetrator committed the crime it was entirely reasonable for the homeowner to believe that he and his family were in danger...should he had approached a stranger in the dead of night and asked him if he were armed? One of the purposes of the Castle law is to protect the homeowner from prosecution in these cases. If the authorities arrested every one in these type cases in spite of the law, then there would be no need for a castle law; which is really what your issue is, you simply don't want a castle law altogether, but most citizens do. Also just because this family claims that they are related to Smith does not mean that they are or that his judgment was compromised and a case never went to his office as no arrest was made, he cannot by pass the police to satisfy the JFP.

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Turtleread 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Ms. Ladd, You seem to go on and on about how skinny this young man was at the time of his demise. He was strong enough to survive apparently five shots of a pistol and for several hours afterward. As for your assertion of not getting to kill someone, even under state law, I beg to differ. I come from the Western states. There is a long tradition of handling law-breakers if they are on your property (or in it) and the car is treated as the horse was treated to someone in the Old West. A horse thief was either shot or hung! Perhaps the D.A. does not want to bring the case to a Grand Jury because of the pain it will bring the family as he knows that the result will be a finding of "death while in the act of a crime." But if you want that doubt removed, then by all means let's do so. Will you then change your opinions or resign your position at the paper?

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tellmesomething 10 months, 3 weeks ago

well i see people read but they don't comprehend over a 3 grade level. now i don't believe the half of you that are makeing comments, he got what he deserve, and thats that has realy analyzed what Jfp has printed. It's five months later and this case that falls under the castle doctrine has yet to reach the grand jury nor have the D A made at least one comment pretaing to it. Now surely if a man is retreating from you with his back turned than their's seen as no longer an threat, nor can bodily harm be seen as a result of them running away. But smith do i have to mention what his decision was in the case of the store owner who shot the man for $14 of beer he had stolen, as he tryed to flea. If people want to know the truth i say Jfp should put up the video you say thomas family gave you if it shows that Thomas suffered more than what the public has been lead to believe i think alot of people is going to have a change of heart and say shame on the D.A, and Jpd. But then all those that say he got what he had coming will now say it's a shame how they used the castle doctrine to cover up this young man murder and made me fill no remorse for the victim. If it sound like a duck, Quack like a duck, than its's a goat, thats how the response to this story has come back from those that believe in, shoot first and say what ever you want happened later

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Turtleread 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Today, I have contacted a number of people in state government and will be talking to people in our judiciary system in order to get a state level investigation of this matter. Obviously, we cannot have a cloud remain over our D.A. and his judgment while remaining a relative, so an outside agency must conduct this investigation and if needed, a Grand Jury can be called.

My reasons are thus: (1) the D.A. is a relative, (2) because the D.A. is a relative, to remove the cloud, a separate agency must do the investigation, (3) Q. Thomas was shot five times and survived--Did he have drugs in his system?, (4) Thomas had a monitoring device on him. We can tell exactly where he went. Did he go to the other streets? Was he at the sheriff's house?, (5) and finally, Why was the monitoring device buried with him? Is there no retrieval process at the hospital or funeral home where the police agency is notified so that they can quietly get their property? I have no doubt that Q. Thomas will be proved to be exactly what he was doing, just as I would have no doubt that D. Ladd placed in her own home with someone breaking in and a gun in her hand would not use it.

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tomhead1978 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Turtleread, I'm glad you're doing this, but let's be clear re your last sentence: Thomas was not breaking into the house. He was breaking into an unoccupied vehicle. If he had broken into the shooter's house while he was at home, shooting the stranger would have still been excessive but I would consider it legally justifiable given the reasonable concern for personal safety involved when you're already in your own dwelling and can't retreat further. There is no such reasonable concern when you're dealing with an unoccupied vehicle.

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tsmith 10 months, 2 weeks ago

mr tomhead it really doesn't matter whether YOU consider this shooting legally justifiable or not, state law defines that and in this case has determined it was.

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tellmesomething 10 months, 2 weeks ago

@turtleread now you talking ,just when I think I've heard the last about this case here comes another point. well you might be 100% right about the box but I got a hundred to one their not going to have any data. Not only will it track his ever move, but it will say when he exited the house, as well as when he stopped moving.

I tell you what made me believe this didn't happen that way, at 5;30 am in july there's light outside, so who would wait a little before day starting breaking, and have broke, and don't stop breaking into cars. If you did a criminal study they all will say for, 1. they wouldn't try breaking into that many cars in one hood, and 2. they would have stopped before day started breaking ,it's a work week day, and people have woke up getting ready for work, and headed out for work.

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tomhead1978 10 months, 2 weeks ago

tsmith: This may surprise you, but the Mississippi Code has never been known for its legally justifiable statutes. And since it's actually a collection of written laws, not a conscious entity, it lacks the capacity to "determine" things; that's one of the reasons why we need grand juries.

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Turtleread 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Tomhead, yes, I know that Mr. Thomas was not breaking into a house. The last sentence was intended for Ms. Ladd. Try to put yourself in Mr. Williams place. Your car is being vandalized. It is perhaps your only one. The one needed to get your family to work, to school, to the store for food, and one that you paid thousands of dollars of your hard-earned dollars over many years to afford. What are you saying? Abandon all property you have to the vandals and the wasters of society, the little sh*ts who think its funny or mean to take from their own and pull down honest, hard-working people? If you are in the midst of robbing a bank, you may be shot by the bank guard. Is it any different in this case? Mr. Q. Thomas was in the midst of committing a crime. Mr. Williams did not wildly shoot him. He tried to apprehend him. Be that as it may, I would certainly like to see a tox screen on Mr. Thomas, and what the tracker monitor information reveals.

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tomhead1978 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Turtleread, executing people because you think they're "little sh—ts" is premeditated murder; shooting somebody who poses an immediate physical threat to you or a third party is self-defense. The idea that you can merge the two by classifying the execution of "little sh—ts" as a long-term form of self-defense, whether you're doing it in 1918 or 2013, is a lynching doctrine. I would urge you to look at Southern legislators' arguments against the Dyer Anti-Lynching Law; they sound exactly like what you're saying here, and the argument is no less execrable now than it was then.

I'm glad you're suggesting that a full investigation be done, but your bizarre analogy about how Donna should forego defense of her own person because she doesn't believe in executing teenagers for breaking car windows is offensive nonsense. Contrary to what you and other lynching apologists have historically claimed, it is quite possible to keep self-defense itself legal without empowering every armed citizen to act like Judge Dredd.

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Turtleread 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Tomhead, my question to you. Where you there? NO. Only in this one special case would I suggest an investigation by the state for the reasons I have given. It is well established in law that even if you don't know the law, you will be held for violating it. As to the other assertion that he should not be killed because he was breaking windows. Well, he wasn't. He was killed because he refused to surrender, leave the car, and appeared to reach for a weapon. A citizen can apprehend a lawbreaker while he is committing a crime especially on his property and hold him until the police arrive. This is what Mr. Williams was attempting to do.

If I ever find you speaking to me again about lynching, I will not be as pleasant as I was above. I am partly black. I moved here about two decades ago and this state spends entirely too much time doing spiteful things to one another because of its racial past. I have black and white neighbors and I get along with all of them. You need to climb down off your white horse and bring to the table some reasonable suggestions to solve the problems. While I disagreed with Ms. Ladd, I offered to help and gave some reasonable suggestions.

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