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April 17, 2014

National HQ Closes Ole Miss Fraternity Embroiled in Meredith Statue Scandal

By Donna Ladd

VERBATIM RELEASE

OXFORD, Miss. – After a review of the Mississippi Alpha Chapter, the board of directors of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity has decided to close the chapter on the University of Mississippi campus.

"We are disappointed that a pattern of bad behavior and serious, inexcusable hazing occurred within the chapter," UM Dean of Students Sparky Reardon said. "Periodic reports from and meetings with local alumni and national headquarters led us to believe that the chapter was improving. Based on regular visits by representatives from the University of Mississippi Office of Greek Life with current Sigma Phi Epsilon members, chapter officers, local and regional volunteers, and national headquarters, the university had no reason to believe this type of behavior and conduct was happening."

At the university's request, the national headquarters conducted an internal review of the fraternity that uncovered conduct violating both fraternity and university policies. This conduct included underage drinking and hazing incidents.

The university's Office of Greek Life educates fraternities and sororities on its hazing policy and alcohol policies each semester. Greek Life policy dictates that leadership throughout all Interfraternity Council organizations complete and sign anti-hazing contracts.

Furthermore, all incoming UM students are required to complete an alcohol education course. Officials make it clear to all IFC leadership that the university prohibits hazing in any form and expects organizations to initiate dialogue on hazing and alcohol policies.

"We are surprised and extremely disappointed that these activities occurred, and we are committed to providing a safe, educational environment for all students," said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs.

The university has a zero-tolerance policy for hazing. If any student experiences hazing or knows of a hazing incident, they may anonymously report the situation to the Office of the Dean of Students.

April 9, 2014

Why is a Canton PAC Interested in Jackson's Mayoral Election?

By R.L. Nave

ENI, a Canton, Miss.-based political-action committee formed in late March.

But that's about all we know so far.

The statement of organization, filed with the Jackson city clerk's office April 2, indicates the committee is not authorized by any particular candidate and its purpose is "to raise money in relation to the City of Jackson Mayoral Special Election."

The form lists Alance McKinney of Jackson as ENI's president/director and Fletcher Shaw of Canton as secretary/treasurer. State records also show a south Jackson address for two dissolved companies. Reached by phone, Shaw said the PAC was set up to back a candidate in the mayor's race, but referred a Jackson Free Press reporter to attorney John P. Martin, who prepared ENI's paperwork, for particulars.

"It's a political-action committee set up and established based upon the guidelines the election commission set up — no less or no more," Shaw told JFP.

Martin, of the Canton firm of Montgomery McGraw PLLC, called the JFP back Thursday to say that his firm's role in the PAC is only to serve as its agent.

Employees of Montgomery McGraw, including partner Bob Montgomery, a former Mississippi state senator and chief of staff to former Democratic U.S. Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery, have contributed to several political candidate campaigns over the years.

Most recently, Bob Montgomery gave to Republicans Gov. Phil Bryant, transportation Commissioner Dick Hall and Lucien Smith, a 2011 state treasurer candidate who now serves as Bryant's chief-of-staff. In past elections, Montgomery also gave to Republicans former Gov. Haley Barbour, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and Tate Reeves when he was state treasurer.

In addition, Montgomery has contributed to former Democratic Insurance Commissioner George Dale as well as several state supreme court candidates, races that are officially nonpartisan.

Fletcher Shaw said the ENI would be in compliance with state financial disclosure rules; runoff candidates—Chokwe A. Lumumba and Tony Yarber—will be required to file reports on Tuesday, April 15.

April 9, 2014

City Warns of Sewer Overflows in Parts of Jackson

By R.L. Nave

Verbatim release from the city of Jackson:

The City of Jackson is issuing an alert to all individuals in areas within the City of Jackson that may be affected by flooding from the Pearl River and any of its tributaries. All of these areas are likely to be affected by Sanitary Sewer Overflows (“SSO’s”) resulting from ground water and standing flood water overwhelming the sanitary sewer collection system and pump stations. The water in these flooded areas is likely to be contaminated with raw sewage.

Sanitary Sewer Overflows are also likely to happen beyond the areas that are underwater. If you see any water overflowing from a manhole, first stay away from the water and then report the overflow to the City of Jackson at (601) 960-1875.

The following streets within the City of Jackson can expect to be affected by flood waters:

 Annie Street  Beasley Street  Cypress Trail  Deer Trail  Foxboro Drive  Galilee Street - LOW AREAS ONLY  Greenwood at Hardy Creek  Harrow Drive and Riverwood - Intersection  Hudson Street - East End  Juienne Street - LOW AREAS ONLY  Martin Street  McNutt Street  Moncure Rd - HINDS COUNTY  Nichols Street  Offutt Street  Old Brandon Rd Closed  President Street from Silias Brown South - South End  River Cove  River Glenn  River Road North  Riverwood And Harrow Drive - Intersection  Rollingwood At Yuca Drive - South End  Rosmary Rd - HINDS COUNTY  Sidney Street  Southwest (Between Rankin and Highway 80) - One Lane Closed  Southwest Street - 900 Block - North Bound Lane Closed  Southwest Street - 900 Block - South Bound Lane Closed  South Congress Street from Silas Brown Street - South  South President Street at Beasley Street - Intersection  Sproles Street  Village Park Mobil Homes (Off I-55 E. Frontage Rd) Water under trailers  Westbrook Road from Harrow Drive East  Yucca Drive - South End

Overflows pose hazards similar to those in public restrooms or even your own bathroom. If you, your family, or your pets have contact with flood waters or an overflow, wash thoroughly with soap and water. Remember: Washing your hands carefully and often is the best defense against illness carried by animals or human waste.

April 8, 2014

Jackson Preps for High Water as Rez Opens Floodgates

By R.L. Nave

Press release from the city of Jackson on the flooding of the Pearl River:

Today, the City of Jackson officials, along with Hinds County officials, met to solidify their plan to respond to potential flooding.

“Due to a significant amount of rainfall, there now exist a need to release waters from the reservoir in order to increase its holding capacity”, said Warren Miller the City of Jackson’s Emergency Management Coordinator.

“This release into the Pearl River will increase the water flows on several of the tributaries in and around Jackson which creates a high possibility that adjacent streets and communities will be inundated.”

City Officials are asking citizens to report any flooding on streets to the City’s 311System, so crews can properly block these streets.

“Public Works crews are currently out, assessing the low-lying areas for flooding, and are monitoring river levels,” said Miller. “Public Works, along with the assistance of our Police and Fire Departments will continue to monitor flood-prone areas throughout the night to ensure the safety of citizens.”

City Officials will continue to monitor weather conditions and provide up-to-date information as they become available.

Visit the City’s website at www.jacksonms.gov for a map of flood prone areas in Jackson. For tips on how to prepare for possible flooding or other weather-related preparedness tips, visit the MEMA website at www.msema.org.

April 8, 2014

Candidate Post-Election Parties

By HaleyFerretti

Candidates running in Jackson's Special Election today are hosting election watch parties this evening. Information for the individual events is listed below.

John Horhn Election Watch Party 7:30 p.m. Central City Complex 609 Woodrow Wilson Ave. Food and refreshments will be provided.

Harvey Johnson Pre-Election Tailgate -- Fish Fry and concert 4-8 p.m. Smith-Wills Stadium Lakeland Drive

Chokwe Antar Lumumba 7 p.m. Jackson State eCenter 1230 Raymond Rd.

Tony Yarber Classics Bar and Lounge 5571 Robinson Rd Ext.

Margaret Barrett-Simon Her home 1322 Hazel St.

Regina Quinn 7:30 p.m. Lakeover Center 6531 Dogwood View Parkway

Melvin Priester Priester Law Firm 5375 Executive Place

April 6, 2014

Flood Warning for Pearl River at Jackson

By Todd Stauffer

The National Weather services is reporting a flood warning for the Pearl River in Jackson; the river is already assumed to be above flood stage (at 28 feet) and could continue to rise throughout the week to reach high levels on Wednesday and Thursday.

Verbatim report: THE FLOOD WARNING CONTINUES FOR THE PEARL RIVER AT JACKSON FROM THIS AFTERNOON UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.

  • AT 10:30 AM SUNDAY THE STAGE WAS 27.2 FEET.

  • MINOR FLOODING IS FORECAST.

  • FLOOD STAGE IS 28.0 FEET.

  • FORECAST...THE RIVER WILL RISE ABOVE FLOOD STAGE BY LATE THIS AFTERNOON AND WILL CONTINUE TO RISE TO NEAR 32.5 FEET BY EARLY THURSDAY AFTERNOON. KEEP UP WITH THE LATEST FORECAST THROUGHOUT THE DAY. THERE IS A POTENTIAL FOR A HIGHER CREST.

  • IMPACT...AT 32.0 FEET...WATER BEGINS TO AFFECT BUSINESSES ON SOUTH PRESIDENT AND SOUTH FARISH STREETS. SIDNEY STREET IS FLOODED.

  • IMPACT...AT 31.0 FEET...WATER BEGINS TO IMPACT APPROACHES TO ADDITIONAL HOMES AND BUSINESSES IN THE BYRAM AREA.

  • IMPACT...AT 30.0 FEET...WATER BACKS UP INTO SEVERAL CREEKS AND STREAMS IN THE JACKSON AREA. WATER IS UNDER SOME HOMES NEAR THE RIVER IN THE BYRAM AREA.

April 4, 2014

Tillman: Removed Lumumba Mural Not 'Authorized' or 'Permitted'

By R.L. Nave

Acting Jackson Mayor Charles Tillman issued the following statement on the removal Thursday of a mural honoring late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba:

“On behalf of the Administration, employees, and citizens of the City of Jackson, we reiterate our honor, our respect, and our love for the late Honorable Mayor Chokwe Lumumba. The past few weeks have been difficult on all of us, yet the business of the City of Jackson has demanded that we move forward.”

“It came to our attention that one of our City-owned parks had been painted with certain words, slogans, and designs that had not been authorized or permitted by the City. Consistent with our policies and City ordinances, the painting was removed.”

“In continuing our quest to honor the memory and legacy of our late Mayor, our actions, in this instance, were in keeping with Mayor Lumumba’s high moral and ethical standards that we were fortunate to experience.”

April 4, 2014

Rukia Lumumba Shocked, Hurt by Removal of Mural Honoring Her Father

By R.L. Nave

Rukia Lumumba, daughter of late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and sister of mayoral candidate Chokwe A. Lumumba, wrote the following letter about the removal of a mural honoring her father. It is published here verbatim:

Open Letter to Jackson, Mississippi on the Painting Over of the Mural in Tribute to My Father, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba

I am both saddened and disappointed to hear of the decision to paint over the mural that was created in tribute to my father, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba. The mural was created by Derrick Perkins & several young artists to honor my father by displaying his mantra " One City, One Aim, One Destiny" on a city park's wall. The mural was painted prior to my brother’s decision to run for Mayor and absent my family’s request or knowledge. That is why it was especially hurtful and came as a shock to learn that the mural was painted over due to complaints, by a few, that the message of the mural was too close to my brother, Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s platform. When my father passed away on February 25th, the number of people who said publicly that he had done more for the city of Jackson in eight months than many had done in years, was innumerable. My father’s mission and vision was to ensure a city that was made ever stronger, economically, spiritually and ethically. That my brother, Chokwe Antar, has, after deep consultation, chosen to carry forward that mission, should not be disparaged.

For me and many residents of Jackson, MS that mural served as memorial and a reminder of the love my father had for the City of Jackson. It served as a constant call to Jacksonians, near and far, that we must work together to help Jackson RISE! The mural embodied my father's vision - a vision rooted in growth, unity, democracy and cultural diversity. I am sincerely grateful to Derrick Perkins & the many young artists who took the initiative to put their creative genius to work, and created such a beautiful and fitting tribute to the man I knew as Daddy and whom many others knew as friend and Mayor Lumumba. Although this is disappointing, my family and I remain encouraged and steadfast in our commitment to walk in his memory. As my father often said, "God, plus love, plus people's power equals progress."

Thank you all for your prayers and continued support.

One City, One Aim, One Destiny!

Rukia Lumumba

April 1, 2014 | 2 comments

ACLU: Miss. Passes Law That Could Open Door to Discrimination

By R.L. Nave

The ACLU of Mississippi released the following statement on the passage of Senate Bill 2681, adopted this afternoon by both houses of the Legislature and is heading to the desk of Gov. Phil Bryant for approval:

JACKSON, Miss – The Mississippi legislature passed a controversial law today that could open the door to discrimination against any group based on religious objections. If Governor Phil Bryant signs, the law will go into effect on July 1, 2014.

“We remain hopeful that courts throughout the state will reject any attempts to use religion to justify discrimination,” said Jennifer Riley-Collins, executive director of the ACLU of Mississippi. “Nobody should be refused service because of who they are.”

The law could allow individuals and businesses to bring challenges against what they view as substantial government burdens against religion, including challenging existing nondiscrimination laws. Legislatures across the country, including in Georgia, Idaho, Maine, and Ohio, have rejected similar measures. On February 26, 2014, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona’s version. Bills are still pending in Missouri and Oklahoma.

“Even though the Mississippi legislature removed some of the egregious language from Arizona’s infamous SB 1062, we are disappointed that it passed this unnecessary law and ignored the national, public outcry against laws of this nature,” said Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel with the ACLU. “We will continue to fight in state legislatures across the country to ensure that religious freedom remains a shield, not a sword.”

April 1, 2014

AG Hood Wants Explanation in Byrom Death-Sentence Reversal

By R.L. Nave

The office of state Attorney General Jim Hood is asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to "enter a reasoned opinion stating the basis the reversal of the conviction of capital murder and sentence" of Michelle Byrom.

Byrom was convicted and sentenced to death for allegedly conspiring to hire a hit man to kill her husband in 1999. However, after several pieces of information Byrom's jury never saw came to light, including several alleged confessions from Byrom's son who stated his mother was not involved with the murder, the state's high court this week reversed her sentenced and gave her a new trial with a new judge.

In the motion, special assistant to the AG Marvin White Jr. writes that state and federal courts have already dispensed with each of Byrom's claims.

"Each and every claim that Byrom presented to this Court had been addressed on the merits either by this Court or the federal courts on habeas corpus review," White's motion states.

White writes that there is "an absolute need to know" the reasoning behind the Byrom decision "so as to avoid the same errors at the new trial."

"The State would assert that the Court has embarked on an unprecedented course of action that leaves everyone questioning why," the motion states.

It goes to say: "… We are left only to speculate at the Court’s reasoning. This is not the manner in which cases are reversed. Without any guidance from this Court, the State is doomed to repeat the presumed errors upon which this conviction was reversed.

"With all due respect the State would respectfully submit that the Court should stay the proceedings in this case until such time that a reasoned written opinion issues from the Court stating the basis for the reversal of this death penalty conviction that has survived all previous challenges in this Court and the Federal courts."

March 31, 2014

Byrom's Conviction Reversed, New Trial Ordered

By Kathleen M. Mitchell

Earlier today, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed Michelle Byrom's capital murder conviction and ordered a new trial. Justice Josiah Dennis Coleman signed the order. Byrom had originally been convicted in the 1999 murder of her husband, Edward Byrom Sr. Byrom, 56, had been on death row, and at one point faced a possible execution date of March 27.

See the order here.

Read Ronni Mott's original story about Michelle Byrom here.

March 28, 2014 | 1 comment

Gulf Coast News Anchor Wants LGBTs to Take 'Gaycation'

By R.L. Nave

Romenesko got a hold of an undated screenshot of a Gulf Coast-based news anchor's Facebook status that advises same-sex-loving folks to take a "gaycation" because the anchor thinks they've been in the news too much.

"I'm all for the LGBT community's ongoing fight for equality. I support their fight in every way," wrote Dave Elliot, an anchor for WLOX-TV. "But it seems like they've been in the news too much lately. Maybe they should take a short break. Go on gaycation, just for the weekend."

Indeed LGBT issues have been in a lot of headlines recently, especially here in Mississippi. This week, a number of LGBT groups rallied to demand human rights. Earlier this year, a handful of conservative lawmakers tried to sneak through a so-called religious freedom bill that would have turned the clock on civil rights back to Jim Crow times.

When LGBT advocates got wind of the bill, reaction was swift enough to slow the bill down. The House removed the most worrisome language, but the Senate wants to negotiate more, which means by Monday, the discriminatory language could end up back in the proposal and send it to the governor.

If that happens, it could put Elliot in the awkward position of having to read even more gay news, assuming he still has his job. Romesko reported that WLOX wrote on its Facebook page that “we are not happy at all with the post" or any "free publicity" that the station may be getting from the post.

Interestingly, Dave Elliot's Facebook page indicates that a couple hours ago shows that he was visiting Little River Canyon National Preserve's Eberhart Point Overlook in Alabama. So it is unclear whether WLOX— an ABC- and CBS-affiliated station—will send Elliot on a permanent vacation.

March 26, 2014 | 1 comment

Jackson Zoo Retains Accreditation

By toddstauffer

Jackson, MS - Jackson Zoo and City Officials received news during the annual mid-year conference of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums from the Accreditation Board, that the Jackson Zoo will retain accreditation.

March 24, 2014

Couple Records Same-Sex Marriage in Rankin County; First Known in State

By Donna Ladd

The Campaign for Southern Equality just sent this verbatim press statement:

Gay Couple Records Legal Marriage License in Mississippi Creating First Known Public Record of Same-Sex Marriage in State

(March 24, 2014) - On March 24, Anna Guillot and Chrissy Kelly, a same-sex couple, paid $12 to record their legal marriage license at the Rankin County Chancery Clerk’s Office - the first known time that a gay couple has created a public record of their marriage in Mississippi. The couple, who live in Rankin County, were married in New York on July 13, 2012. Their marriage is recognized by the federal government and a growing number of states. However, Mississippi law refuses to recognize same-sex marriage; as a result married couples like Ms. Guillot and Ms. Kelly are regarded as legal strangers in their home state.

“We’re just like anybody else. We love each other and we want to be treated the same as everyone else,” said Ms. Guillot. “We want people to know they are not alone. There are gay couples here in Rankin County,” added Ms. Kelly.

Beginning in 2011, same-sex couples have recorded their legal marriage licenses in North Carolina and Alabama, as part of the Campaign for Southern Equality’s WE DO Campaign, a growing campaign that calls for full equality for LGBT people. “Couples like Anna and Chrissy are doing everything in their power to have their marriage recognized - including creating a public record of their marriage. Now no one can deny the reality of their marriage, their love or their commitment. We are calling for Mississippi to treat LGBT people equally under the law,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.

The WE DO Campaign will continue tomorrow morning. At approximately 10 a.m. on March 25th same-sex couples will request marriage licenses at the Hinds County Courthouse. This action will continue weeks of intense focus on LGBT issues in Mississippi, following successful efforts by LGBT rights advocates, including CSE, to strip a proposed legislation (SB 2681) of language that would license discrimination against LGBT individuals.

Amber Kirkendoll, a minister at the Safe Harbor United Church of Christ in Flowood, and her partner Jessica Kirkendoll, are one of the couples who will apply for a marriage license. “We'd like to know that when one of us has an emergency, there will be no questions about the other being by her side. We want to be confident that if ever one of us is unable to make decisions, no questions will arise about who else to turn to. And when asked if we are married, we pray for the day there will be no awkward hesitation, but a very firm and celebratory ‘Yes!’ to anyone who asks!,” says Amber. The Kirkendolls will be joined by other same-sex couples who seek to have their relationships recognized by Mississippi. Clergy, friends and family will stand in support of the couples as they take this action.

Last summer ...

March 20, 2014

Harassment Suit Against JSU's Vivian Fuller Dismissed

By R.L. Nave

Jackson State University released the following statement regarding the dismissal of a sexual harassment lawsuit against Athletic Director Vivian Fuller:

U.S. District Judge William H. Barbour, Jr., on March 13 dismissed the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against Jackson State University, JSU Director of Athletics Dr. Vivian L. Fuller and JSU President Carolyn W. Meyers by former JSU employee Lolita Ward.

According to the ruling, the court “found that Ward has failed to show that there exists genuine issues of material fact with respect to any of the claims alleged in her amended complaint.”

University Communications Executive Director Eric Stringfellow said university officials applauded the court’s decision.

“Since the beginning of the case, our position has been that the lawsuit was without merit. The U.S. District Court’s dismissal of Lolita Ward’s lawsuit vindicates the university,” Stringfellow said.

When the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated Ward’s allegations, the federal agency determined it was unable to conclude that the information obtained established violations of any statutes.

March 18, 2014 | 3 comments

Jim Hood Orders 2 Executions then Defends U.S. Human Rights in Geneva

By R.L. Nave

Last week, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood was in Geneva, Switzerland representing the U.S. before the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Hood, the only Democrat holding statewide office in Mississippi, serves as president-elect of the National Association of Attorneys General, and "responded to the committee’s questions concerning the death penalty, domestic violence, human trafficking, corporal punishment, zero tolerance in schools, life without parole for juvenile offenders, and reinstatement of voting rights for felons."

It would be interesting to know exactly what those questions, and Hood's responses, were. Especially considering that just a few weeks ago, Hood requested execution dates for two condemned Mississippi prisoners.

At Hood's request, Charles Ray Crawford and Michelle Byrom are scheduled to be put to death on March 26 and March 27, respectively.

Crawford was convicted of the 1993 killing of a college student named Kristy Ray in Tippah County.

Byrom was convicted of murder-for-hire in 1999 in connection with the death of her husband, Edward Byrom Sr. Even though big questions hang over Byrom's case, whose son wrote several letters confessing to the crime and that his mother did not participate in it, Hood moved ahead with planning her execution anyway.

Through a news statement, Hood said of his trip to human-rights mission to Geneva:

“It was indeed an honor to be one of the attorneys to defend America’s human rights record. ...It was rewarding to clarify many international misconceptions about Mississippi’s civil rights record and that of other states and our federal government.”

March 4, 2014 | 1 comment

Oxford, Miss., Passes Pro-LGBT Resolution, 3rd Mississippi College Town to Do So

By Donna Ladd

Just in, verbatim:

Oxford, MS Unanimously Passes Pro-LGBT Resolution

Third Mississippi city to pass resolution recognizing the role LGBT people play in thriving communities

WASHINGTON - Tonight Oxford, Mississippi unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the dignity and worth of all city residents - including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT). Oxford joins two other Mississippi cities - Starkville and Hattiesburg - which both passed similar resolutions earlier this year.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin issued the following statement:

“Like so many cities across America, Oxford, Mississippi has made clear that all its residents deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and equality, regardless of who they are or who they love. Today the Oxford Board of Alderman proudly affirmed the city’s support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and moved Mississippi forward on the road to equality.”

“Diversity is what made and continues to make this country amazing. It strengthens and enhances the experiences of everyone, to understand that it is our differences from which we learn and make us stronger,” said Alderman Jay Hughes. “At a time when signals from some parts of the State seem to be focused on exclusion, I am absolutely honored and proud to be in a community that embraces inclusion of everyone, to make Oxford the great place that it is. Tolerance and acceptance creates the strongest bonds between neighbors, and I am proud to be on the right side of history in reaffirming Oxford’s long-standing commitment to that most fundamental principle.”

Public opinion on equality in Mississippi is far ahead of law in the state. A poll conducted last summer found that nearly 60 percent of Mississippians under the age of 30 support marriage equality, while 64 percent of residents back workplace non-discrimination protections for LGBT employees.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

March 3, 2014 | 36 comments

Mayor Lumumba's Son Responds to Accusations that He Was Murdered

By Donna Ladd

Over the weekend, various media outlets—irresponsibly in our opinion—published unsubstantiated rumors that Mayor Chokwe Lumumba was murdered, but with no evidence attached.

Mayor Chokwe Lumumba's son, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, gave the following statement to R.L. Nave of the Jackson Free Press this morning responding to comments of Hinds County Supervisor Kenneth Stokes and others that his father was murdered:

"We know that our father was loved and appreciated by many and a number of people both in Jackson and around the world have inquired into the manner of his death. At this time, there has been no information provided to the family other than that provided at the time of his death by the doctors. The family will explore all possible causes of his death."

We urge other media outlets to act responsibly and not publish rumors before evidence is provided. This can have a very harmful effect and spread fear among a citizenry already traumatized by our mayor's death.

Meantime, we expect these reports to be Exhibit A in many media-ethics discussions in the years to come.

February 28, 2014

What is up with Madison County (and Starkville) police chases?!

By Donna Ladd

Last weekend, I happened by local television news and saw a report about Madison police officers going on a high-speed chase through the streets of Jackson—because of a problem that happened in the Target in Jackson, ending in a crash that seriously injured a bystander. Huh?

Also, looking at the website of the Starkville Daily News on Feb. 21, I had seen a short news report about Starkville police pursuing two teenagers through the streets of Starkville ending in a two-car collision. What were they charged with? "[S]uspicion of felony fleeing law enforcement officers." Huh? Starkville police pursued people in a dangerous chase that could injure or kill bystanders -- to charge them with fleeing? Why were they pursuing them in the first place, Daily News? (We're going to ask.)

The JFP has long reported about dangerous police chases, often in pursuit of non-violent criminals. Some of those chases end in serious injury or death. See this extensive report on the problem: "Code Blue: Police Pursuits Cost a Life a Day". It always amazes me that residents don't get more outraged (until one of their family members is killed) at these dangerous chases. And, even more startling, is how few questions local media often ask about the necessity of the chases.

I was pleased to see this release from the Jackson Police Department (which seems to have matured on this issue over the years). JPD is asking serious questions about why Madison police were engaged in dangerous pursuits outside their jurisdiction. Here is the statement, verbatim:

On February 23, 2014, the Madison Police Department engaged in a hot pursuit chase in that began in the Jackson city limits. Based on the information compiled by the Jackson Police Department, an alleged incident occurred at the Target Store in Jackson and outside the jurisdiction of the Madison Police Department. According to the incident reports Madison Police Officers engaged in a high chase pursuit without the authority or assistance of the Jackson Police Department. The Madison officers had no arrest powers for an alleged crime that occurred in the city of Jackson. There was no request for assistance to investigate a crime in Jackson. The officers only contacted JPD after they were already on scene at the Target Store and pursued a high speed chase.

The Jackson Police Department policy regarding high chase pursuits takes into consideration the inherent dangers of high speed chases on the public thoroughfares. The facts that have been presented to date did not show that a criminal act occurred that would justify a high speed chase. As a result of the action taken, at least one innocent by-stander was seriously injured. As a result of the actions taken by the Madison police officers, the Jackson Police Department has solicited the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations (MBI) to conduct an independent investigation. Public safety in the City of Jackson is this Department’s ultimate concern and responsibility. We encourage the assistance of other agencies but only within the ...

February 28, 2014

Coroner: No Lumumba Autopsy Planned

By R.L. Nave

Sharon Grisham-Stewart, the Hinds County coroner, told the Jackson Free Press this afternoon that she is not planning an autopsy for the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba.

Lumumba died Tuesday, Feb. 25, of what Grisham-Stewart has said were "natural causes," seven months into his first term as mayor of Jackson.

Lumumba, who was 66 at the time of his death, had several bouts with illness over the years, including pneumonia that put him in the hospital in 2012 and prostate cancer several years ago.

It's not clear whether Lumumba's family will seek a private autopsy. Lumumba's services are scheduled for Saturday, March 8 at 11 a.m. at the Jackson Convention Center. There will be a wake on Friday, March 7 at City Hall, according to administration officials.

Lumumba died at St. Dominic's Hospital at the age of 66 with his long-time partner, Gloria Elmore, at his side.

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