Day 2: Welch Watching ‘Walking Tall' Before Attack | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Day 2: Welch Watching ‘Walking Tall' Before Attack

In the opening statements and first testimony in the Mississippi v. Melton et al. trial, prosecutor Stanley Alexander came out of the gate with a focus on the events of Aug. 25, 2006, when he promised to show that Frank Melton, Michael Recio and Marcus Wright are guilty of the five felony charges they face. He also mentioned that Melton was "loaded" that night. He promised to prove that Evans Welch and his friend, Lawrence Cooper Jr., were watching TV when Wright broke down the back door and Melton came to the front porch, and soon attacked the side of the house with a "long Walking Tall stick," breaking out several windows.

Cooper then was the first witness—and testified that the two of them were watching the newest version of "Walking Tall" (starring The Rock) when the entourage busted into the house. Melton has told the Jackson Free Press that he did his college thesis on Buford Pusser whose life was chronicled in the "Walking Tall" movies.

In the defense's opening statement, attorneys argued that the only way the jury could convict the three men is if the state proved "evil intent," which they said they could not do. They also said they would prove there was a "somewhat sophisticated operation" involving drugs at the duplex.

More trial updates shortly.

Previous Comments

ID
127472
Comment

What the heck is "evil intent?" Melton doesn't even know what church he attends; evil is obviously around him!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-04-24T10:57:50-06:00
ID
127473
Comment

Melton's attorney is trying to say the only reason they are here today is because of DRUGS! Everybody Panic!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-04-24T11:03:11-06:00
ID
127474
Comment

Right. I heard this. They're definitely putting the house on trial. I thought the judge wasn't going to allow that to happen. If he does that, it may not matter how "fair" he is otherwise.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-24T11:04:14-06:00
ID
127475
Comment

I'm really not sure the judge is keeping a tight rein on the defense on this one.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-24T11:04:46-06:00
ID
127476
Comment

No, but hopefully the jury will understand that they are trying to manipulate the testimony that counts - he was there, he had the stick, they tore the house down and children participated!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-04-24T11:07:02-06:00
ID
127477
Comment

All this so goes to the very heart of our constitutional rights. It's rather sickening to me to listen to them trying to justify throwing the Constitution out the window because drugs had been in the house in the past. Amazing, really. Money can talk.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-24T11:08:48-06:00
ID
127478
Comment

Did you notice Melton’s Attorney refer to “Mayor Allen I mean Melton”?

Author
Nick22
Date
2007-04-24T11:19:00-06:00
ID
127479
Comment

Yep... Who is Mayor Allen??? This lady (next door neighbor) on the stand now doing the "Melton." "I didn't say that, I said "this" instead... it's kinda funny. lc

Author
LawClerk
Date
2007-04-24T11:24:12-06:00
ID
127480
Comment

That dang house! But houses have rights, too. When do we get to the testimony about the houses rights to due process - like being officially condemned before they are imprisoned by being boarded up. Don't houses get a court hearing before that happens? And during that hearing, aren't they ultimately sentenced to death by demolition? Where is the testimony about these procedures?

Author
JenniferGriffin
Date
2007-04-24T11:29:26-06:00
ID
127481
Comment

Yes, Nick 22. Also, at one point earlier, Danks said "prostitution" rather than "prosecution." ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-24T11:32:17-06:00
ID
127482
Comment

JenniferGriffin, GREAT point.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-04-24T11:33:08-06:00
ID
127483
Comment

I think in might have been an initial dig a Councilmen Ben Allen.

Author
Nick22
Date
2007-04-24T11:41:37-06:00
ID
127484
Comment

That last comment from the last witness, where he said he saw what he saw whether he had a drink or not, and as Alexander was walking away he said, "they could have done that to my house, too." That was amazing. Now, use that, reference it to every jury member and their personal property - about absence of procedure on the part of the Mayor, yet destroying it because he's "just tired of all this s**t" - and, well....

Author
JenniferGriffin
Date
2007-04-24T11:50:32-06:00
ID
127485
Comment

It seemed to me that the judge kept instructing the prosecution on how to phrase their questioning. He isn't supposed to do that, is he?

Author
bobnoxious
Date
2007-04-24T11:52:19-06:00
ID
127486
Comment

I hope all those SafeCity types and blind supporters realize what precedent Danks is setting when he says "evil intent, which is the crutch of proving malicious mischief, the charge all others hang on.” So, since malicious mischief covers: SEC. 97-17-67. Malicious mischief. (1) Every person who shall maliciously or mischievously destroy, disfigure, or injure, or cause to be destroyed, disfigured, or injured, any property of another, either real or personal, shall be guilty of malicious mischief. When this happens to your grandmother, your car, your family - if the criminal just needed money to feed his children, and didn't have "evil intent," it's all OK. He should just walk free. No evil here... just move along...

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-04-24T11:54:11-06:00
ID
127487
Comment

Did the "evil intent" comments in the opening statements make sense to the attorneys here? Is that common? I was surprised to hear no objection, but I'm no lawyer. Is "evil" really part of the law? If so, no wonder prosecutors can have a hard time putting folks in jail.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-24T12:02:31-06:00
ID
127488
Comment

Props to WAPT for providing the web stream, I was able to see parts of the morning testimony at work, and I was impressed with Mr. Alexander's work, not so much so his assistant. The large black defense attorney seemed good as well-if I was a defendant in Hinds Co. I'd probably want him on my side. Odd thing was Melton having his back to the judge, and that whole defense configuration.....putting his back to the judge seems disrespectful sorta.

Author
GLewis
Date
2007-04-24T12:10:58-06:00
ID
127489
Comment

malicious or mischeviously both relate to intent, therefor, intent is an element of the crime that has to be proved. one reason the car theft crimes were hard to prosecute, had to prove intent to steal, not just joyriding.

Author
Kingfish
Date
2007-04-24T12:12:28-06:00
ID
127490
Comment

That MF, I mean FM talking about "tired of all this s%$$." Who is more tired of "his" s%$$ than the citizens of Jackson! I'm still trying to figure out what is the deal? He tore the house down--the end. Oh, I forgot he has the right to a trial but other people can have their rights violated all day long with no problem. What a mess and mockery this man has made of the city and the justice system.

Author
maad
Date
2007-04-24T12:14:44-06:00
ID
127491
Comment

My guess, GLewis, is that Melton wanted to face the TV cameras. They were above him on the balcony to his left, and he sat at an angle turned toward them. Yes, Alexander did seem to be the most impressive attorney today. Mssrs. Danks and Coxwell came across arrogant and privileged, and out of touch with the folks they were questioning, and Smith seemed a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand. Nelson probably connected with the jury OK, although wasn't he the one that Yolanda tripped up? She was impressive in her own right. They may be underestimating the Ridgeway Street witnesses' ability to hold their own and just tell the story. I haven't yet been very impressed with Arthur, though. He might be smart, but he doesn't seem like the best attorney to expose to a jury. I've thought that in past trials. Would y'all see that the one male juror is wearing an Ole Miss Rebels t-shirt? ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-24T12:16:28-06:00
ID
127492
Comment

Right, 'Fish. But where is "evil" in there? Malicious is certainly not the same thing as "evil." (Unless there's a legal interpretation I don't know about; that's what I'm asking.) I mean, tell a jury that the prosecution has a prove malice, and one can believe that. But PROVING "evil"? How in hell could you do that in most cases?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-24T12:17:59-06:00
ID
127493
Comment

The African-American defense attorney's name is Winston Thomas. I don't think the judge was trying to phrase the prosecution's questions. It was more a matter of trying to get them to phrase questions in such a way that the witnesses didn't offer hearsay.

Author
Brian Johnson
Date
2007-04-24T12:18:53-06:00
ID
127494
Comment

Personally, I have never seen the language in an indictment charging anyone. Most of my cases have been murder therefore the language may be statutory for some crimes charged, and I don't know of it. All crimes have elements that must be spelled out in order for the crime to be committed and proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Elements such as willful, intentionally, purposely, et al. My guess is hat the language "evil intent" is being used as a punch line or theme to disconnect and separate actions taken in good faith or for with good intentions, and for good reasons, from those done without good faith or good intentions or for evil and unlawful purposes. I further took the comment as a concession that the defense knows the proof is overwhelming that the actions and conduct charged would likely be proven through witnesses, therefore they will argue they weren't done with evil intent, a likely defense, if believed.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-04-24T12:23:43-06:00
ID
127495
Comment

By that reasoning Ray, and I'm not an atty - so I may be off, based on Melton's past style of conducting police business, he would have had cameras and made a big deal in the media about it so he could show the citizens "that he is tired of this sh!t" Just a week earlier he was filmed tearing a house down with a backhoe as part of a (supposedly) DEQ approved demolition. The actions of the evening, if the intent was good, don't fit the style and past patterns of a "Melton police action."

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-04-24T12:52:20-06:00
ID
127496
Comment

I just added a substantial update, which I'll also post here: Cooper said he heard people outside the duplex say, "The folks are coming" that night, which is code for the police. Alexander asked him how Evans "Bubba" Welch reacted. Cooper said that Welch went to the front door and looked out. "Did he run to the bathroom and flush anything?" Alexander asked. "No," Cooper replied. "There wasn't nothing to flush." Cooper, who said he lives about seven houses down from 1305 Ridgeway, identified all three defendants at being present the night of Aug. 26. He said he was a frequent guest of Welch's before the Ridgeway incident. He went on to describe how he heard a loud bang from the back of the duplex, where the back door was always locked. Then, a man with "a gun and a flashlight" came into the living room and started shouting. Cooper said the man, who he identified as Wright, never identified himself as police or presented a search warrant. Moreover, he said that he never saw police search the house for drugs or bring in drug-sniffing dogs. He said that Melton was outside, and told him, "'Don't let me catch you over here again. If I catch you over here again, I'm throwing your ass in jail.'" Cooper then described how "a bunch of boys" stepped off the Mobile Command Center, and Melton "was speaking to them." He said that Melton used a large stick to smash in four windows on the side and two in front, when Melton cut his hand. He said that Melton "motioned to" the youths and ordered them inside with sledgehammers. One of the youths said, "'We're Wood Street in here tearing up the Virden Addition,'" according to Cooper. After the first visit, Welch and Cooper went back inside to salvage "stuff that wasn't tore up." He described smashed television, a smashed radio, a destroyed couch and paint flung all over the kitchen. When Melton et al. returned, Cooper said Melton's hand was bandaged and they had "three or four" more young men to help them smash the house further. He said that Recio helped tear down the front wall of the house. Recio said, "'I'll show you how to do it,'" according to Cooper. On cross-examination, Melton attorney Dale Danks asked how Cooper is employed. Cooper said he is a mechanic who works for himself. "How do you get your business?" Danks asked. Cooper said it was by word of mouth, and he acknowledged that he did not have a shop, saying that he worked in his yard or at others' properties. Prosecutors objected that what Cooper did for a living was irrelevent. Webster sustained. Cooper admitted that he had seen crack in the house and that he knew the house had a "reputation" as being a crackhouse. He had never seen Tammy Callahan, who will testify for the defense, in the house. He said that he had seen nextdoor neighbor Yolanda Allen in the house, "but she doesn't hang out." Cooper admitted to seeing raids in the neighborhood before, and he said that he had never been arrested. When Danks asked if others had been arrested there, prosecutors objected and Webster sustained. Danks suggested that Melton had told Welch that he should go back to stay with his parents, and Cooper protested that Welch had been trying to gather up clothes and other salvageable items before Melton's second visit that night, when police arrested Welch. Robert Smith, who is an attorney for Wright, tried to get Cooper to admit that "folks are coming" was a code designed to give warning to drug dealers, but objections from the prosecution ended that line of questioning. On redirect, Alexander asked Cooper to show his hands to the jury. "What's that on your hands?" he asked. Cooper said it was oil. "Why do you have oil on your hands?" Alexander asked. It was from working on cards, Cooper replied. "Are you a certified mechanic?" Alexander asked. "Certified enough for people in the neighborhood," Cooper answered, eliciting laughter from the audience. Cooper said that although he had seen other raids before Aug. 26, it was "totally different" than other nights. Alexander then asked how close Cooper was standing to Melton. When Cooper said it was about four feet, Alexander asked him if he had smelled anything on Melton's breath. The defense immediately objected and called for a mis-trial. Webster granted the objection, warning Alexander that his question was "inappopriate, at least for redirect," but refused to grant a mis-trial. He directed the jury to disregard Alexander's question. Cooper said that the only "real" police car that night left after officers spoke to Melton.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-04-24T13:01:34-06:00
ID
127497
Comment

When you refer to drugs and alcohol, are you referring to M&M (Mayor Melton) or Welch? HDM

Author
HDMatthias, MD
Date
2007-04-24T13:07:09-06:00
ID
127498
Comment

When do we get to the testimony about the houses rights to due process How's this for a documentary title? "1305 Ridgeway Street: If Walls Could Talk..."

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-04-24T13:34:14-06:00
ID
127499
Comment

Love it, L.W.!! Interesting to me the whole "evil intent" argument, especially in light of two witnesses now saying statements were made by the young boys there about Wood Street destroying Virden Addition.

Author
JenniferGriffin
Date
2007-04-24T14:01:51-06:00
ID
127500
Comment

Well, it has seemed clear all along that, at least for the young men, this whole thing was Wood Street vs. Virden Addition, hasn't it? Aren't those neighborhoods known on the streets as rivals, of a fashion?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-24T14:08:42-06:00
ID
127501
Comment

Exactly, Donna...and wouldn't that just go to the heart of pure evil in encouraging the rivals to destroy? I mean this is the Mayor who is to take care of all the city, not one rival neighborhood or group over another?

Author
JenniferGriffin
Date
2007-04-24T14:17:28-06:00
ID
127502
Comment

Well, young people often complain that Melton focuses on certain neigborhoods, or groups, to help and others to target. This has been a major problem I've had for him for a long time. You can't help young people by playing favorites in such a dramatic, obvious way. Why is he playing favorites? I can't say. But it certainly sends the wrong message to anyone paying attention.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-24T14:20:15-06:00
ID
127503
Comment

Why is there a Wood St Lawn Service and not a "XYZ" St. Lawn Service? Favorites? The mayor? Say it isn't so! Favorites? Like IMS!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-04-24T14:24:33-06:00
ID
127504
Comment

Frank's a gang leader, cop and mayor. He's right. You can be anything you want to if you're charismatic, slick, funny, rich, popular and carry a big stick. How many of us get to live out our childhood fantasies - cop, gang-leader, mayor, possessor of a big-ass ride with little wanna-be pimps, gang-bangers and hustlers as your entourage. All under the cover of law. Frank's gotta go down for this!

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-04-24T14:30:26-06:00
ID
127505
Comment

You can't give up the chickens if you need the eggs.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-04-24T14:32:22-06:00
ID
127506
Comment

Agreed, Donna. It also makes the 'word on the street' seem more plausible: that this is really about a territorial drug rivalry between the Wood Street and Virden Addition, especially since the Wood Street players appear to usually and ultimately have the benefit of Melton's favor and influence (i.e., protection, interference, Carter's Grove housing, credit card, vehicles, hotel lodging, 'lawn service' employment, etc.).

Author
Kacy
Date
2007-04-24T14:35:26-06:00
ID
127507
Comment

Ray, what do you think of the buzz that the bodyguards may be forced to take the fall, and Melton go free? Danks was hammering this a.m. that Melton didn't actually break the door down, after all. And they are the police officers here. Couldn't a jury decide to load it all on them?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-24T14:44:21-06:00
ID
127508
Comment

Brian, Right, but there were a couple of instances where Webster was like "Look, you can't use that path of questioning for this outcome that you are looking for. Try this approach for that answer". I had the audio on while I was working, so maybe his direction was less concrete than my recollection.

Author
bobnoxious
Date
2007-04-24T14:44:29-06:00
ID
127509
Comment

It is pretty surreal to experience this trial with the media (in particular the JFP and WAPT) and this technology of being able to broadcast this trial live and then "the people's" interpretations of it lightning quick thereafter. It makes it different than OJ. I wonder when the first requests to "Dial *69 To Vote Frank Melton Innocent" will occur. How many times has the prosecution said f**k? Our. Reality.

Author
bobnoxious
Date
2007-04-24T14:46:18-06:00
ID
127510
Comment

Kacy, I am not sure if it is fair to say that the "Wood Street Players" get all those things from Melton. He has his picks and chooses when it comes to the young men from that neighborhood. Don't forget about Batman's trial.

Author
Melishia
Date
2007-04-24T14:47:57-06:00
ID
127511
Comment

What kind of a plea could melton do at this point? Unless he knows for sure that there is a or some jury persons that are willing to hang this jury, he is taking a hell of a chance. We have been listening to these things about melton is spurts; however, when you see blogs like the one posted by Kacy, a feeling of a bomb being dropped arises. "....have the benefit of Melton's favor and influence (protection, interference, Carter's Grove housing, credit card, vehicles, hotel lodging, lawn service, employment, etc.) How many stories can you build around that list? MANY, MANY, MANY.

Author
justjess
Date
2007-04-24T14:52:42-06:00
ID
127512
Comment

Melishia has a point. However, I will say that sometimes it is hard to know if Melton is saying what he means. It is certainly true that his embrace of Walker, his "star witness" in Melton's trial, helped Donelson get off. Now, I'm not saying that was on purpose, but it is all very bizarre. One of the oddest things to me then, and I was hanging around Melton at that time, was that he just seemed to not understand why the prosecution would have problems putting up a witness that he had given all that stuff to. He either was completely dense about it, or purposefully just ignoring the problem he had created. Then there was Vidal—the "most dangerous man in Jackson." Melton did his manhunt thing for him when he got out of jail, then rode off with him in a police car to parts unknown. Then, lo and behold, Sullivan was seen in City Hall, and Melton told me he gave him money to buy his kid school clothes (in May, I believe). It often looks like direct access to these men is his highest priority. And Boxnoxious, I hear you. It is really interesting to hear people's reactions in real time. Y'all watch it on WAPT, then blog about it here. Great team coverage, eh? ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-24T14:57:12-06:00
ID
127513
Comment

Donna, I can't imagine that happening. Why would those boys or their lawyers be stupid enough to fall for that. If I were Wright or Recieo or their lawyers, as soon as I got the idea or inklings that Danks or Coxwell was headed that way I would urge my client to turn on Melton. Additionally, I wonder why the other 2 lawyers didn't try to sever their cases from Melton. I imagine all three have decided they wouldn't turn on each other. Melton would have to make me a millionaire to take the fall for something he started, orchestrated and caused. It's a good idea, even if an agreement to stick together , for the lawyers to have each witness pinpoint exactly what each defendant allegedly did, so as to not allow the conduct of one to be imputed to another. This may cause one or two to have different consequences if all isn't acquitted.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-04-24T15:01:06-06:00
ID
127514
Comment

Right, Ray. My point is that the jury could do choose to punish them and let Melton go. That would seem to be a travesty of justice, but it sure wouldn't surprise me. Yeah, I wondered why they didn't sever, too. They do seem to have a "united we fall" attitude. There must be some good reason for that. It does look like Smith and Melton are pretty close these days, so maybe he hasn't bent over backward to separate them out. I dunno. I don't feel sorry for Melton here—he's the Big Instigator—but I do feel a little bad for the bodyguards who probably believed everything he said up until the moment that they were indicted. Wright's desperate attempt to get a plea from the D.A. seems to really show that. And he has three kids—and I assume small—at home. Oh, the webs that Mr. Melton weaves.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-24T15:09:54-06:00
ID
127515
Comment

What about the kids? Who then would take the responsibility of directing them?

Author
justjess
Date
2007-04-24T15:26:58-06:00
ID
127516
Comment

Meaning: Who told the Wood St. Boys to tear up the property? Why weren't some of them charged as adults? (17).

Author
justjess
Date
2007-04-24T15:30:34-06:00
ID
127517
Comment

Hey attorneys, no one ever really dealt with my question above from yesterday about "evil intent" and whether it makes sense that Danks was allowed to tell the jury that the prosecution had to prove that Melton was "evil" on Aug. 26. Is "evil intent" something that is required for any of these charges, or ever used in court? This has been eating me since I listened to the opening statement yesterday.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-04-25T16:26:32-06:00
ID
127518
Comment

Donna, the defense obviously believes the law says evil intent has to be proven to convict Melton of these charges. We will find out this morning whether the judge agrees. If the judge agrees, he will give a jury instruction to the jury saying they have to find that in order to convict. If the judge disagrees with the defense about evil intent then the defense could possibly still argue something along that line but the jury will be told they don't have to or can't consider it. The judge may also tell the defense they can't argue evil intent at all if he finds it's not an element to any of the crimes. The jury instruction the judge reads to the jury will set forth the law they are to consider during deliberations.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-04-26T07:55:04-06:00

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