The DA Game: A Trial Of Three | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The DA Game: A Trial Of Three

Photos by Adam Lynch & Cheree Franco

While some Hinds County electoral positions can go for years without challenge, the district attorney's office is routinely on the chopping block, and it's no different this year. Incumbent Faye Peterson is facing two Democratic challengers in the primaries, with no Republican wishful-thinker waiting in the wings for the November general election. The primaries, however, are fight enough. Former Special Assistant to the City Attorney Michele Purvis and defense lawyer Robert Shuler Smith are lining up to take a whack at Peterson, and their timing is seemingly perfect.

Peterson is running a campaign more against the rising crime in the capital city than the arguments of her opponents. Property crime jumped 10 percent in 2006, and violent crime went up 40 percent thanks, in part, to a police department still reeling from the last administration change, a defunct leadership, and the mass round of firings and lateral transfers that soon followed.

Facing increases in all major crime categories, including carjacking and armed robbery, Police Chief Shirlene Anderson soon scuttled the local crime statistic recording program, ComStat, which routinely delivered nothing but grievous news. Mayor Frank Melton said the numbers were more of a liability because public scrutiny hurt morale in the police department.

The rise in crime is not just blanketing the city administration with criticism, however. It's also scatter-bombing the DA's office, despite a clear rise in circuit court prosecutions and a dramatic drop in the county's burdensome backlog of cases over the last six years. City residents are seeing their car batteries stolen more frequently than before. They're also coming home and finding their houses burglarized more than they did five years ago.

The crime spike fuels general disapproval in many local elected offices, including the DA, and Peterson finds herself having to defend her record.

Breeding Discontent
Eleanor Faye Peterson, 42, has held the office since 2001, after assuming the DA's desk from retiring Ed Peters, a controversial figure who had held the position since the 1970s. Peterson later beat out Republican Bryan Buckley in a special election and then Phelps Dunbar attorney Wilson Carroll during the last election. Peterson sticks hard to her record and defends the accomplishments of her office, such as reducing the county's massive trial backlog from an average of 4,000 cases down to an average of 2,000, updating the DA's file system from paper to computer, and cultivating the county's newfound reliance upon alternative sentencing techniques.

The challengers have an easy time lobbing criticism, however. It's a good season for breeding discontent.

Smith, 36, said he believes the criminals are not afraid of the DA, and have no reason to be.

"Hinds County needs to restore the respect (of criminals for the DA's office) by putting a real tough litigator in the court room so that when a criminal commits crimes they know they will face someone in court who's tough. When they go to trial, if they go to trial, they know they will lose their case. When we get convictions, over and over again, they'll think twice about wanting to face their district attorney in court. They need to have their district attorney in mind when they're out here thinking about committing crimes against us," Smith said.

Smith has built a remarkable reputation as a defense attorney. His name appears on the DA's court docket as the defending attorney in a number of cases, including the defense of James Benton, acquitted alongside Albert Donelson of the murder of Aaron Crockett; Darnell Turner of the reputed Greyhead drug group, acquitted after the victim recanted and Melton publicly defended the young men; and Daron Rouster, accused of killing his girlfriend in 2005. Smith also made recent news as the representing attorney for Det. Marcus Wright, a Jackson police officer who was indicted for the illegal demolition of a duplex on Ridgeway Street. Wright joined Det. Michael Recio and Jackson Mayor Frank Melton in successfully beating back multiple indictments related to the destruction, though future indictments related to that incident may soon be rolling down out of a federal grand jury based on FBI subpoenas to the city, sources say.

Smith is a Jackson personality who vehemently defends the city, even as city economics fall into decay following the advent of suburban expansion. A well-priced attorney who could live anywhere on the planet, Smith remains at his old address near Provine High School, resolute in bolstering the neighborhood, even as his former comrades flee the city.

Smith said he is fighting for progressive change in a system created long ago by a white minority specifically to keep power stagnant and unshared. He said the system does double duty in protecting corruption and undermines improvement in the neighborhoods by keeping old powers on the throne.

"There are (progressive) people who feel that there's nothing they can do, that there are too many strongholds in place, and too much tradition in place to make that kind of progress," Smith said. "They think 'I'm not going to waste my life being unhappy trying to make change when people don't want it.'"

Smith has more commitment to the city than many, however, and says the fast decay in the city forces him to try to take an office and make a difference.

"It's miserable to sit here and see so many people who are lost," Smith said. "I can't just sit here. I can't."

Is New Better?
Michele Purvis shares Smith's argument that the DA's office is faltering.

"It bothers me that the criminals right now have absolutely no fear of prosecution or anything being done to them, and until we change that attitude, we're all going to be having a tough time," said Purvis, 45, who trained under Peterson for two years before fledgling City Attorney Sarah O'Reilly-Evans called her back to work for the city in 2005 in a $92,800 job as an assistant.

Purvis said the DA needs to have an intimate relationship with local law enforcement, including the police department and the county sheriff's office, and claims Peterson is failing in that endeavor.

"I think that just working together with law enforcement we can turn things around, and while I've been out campaigning it's clear that there's no real working relationship right now. Everybody is kind of hit or miss, and when something happens, (there's) a lot of finger-pointing going on, and I think we should all just sit down and develop a plan to how we want to do things so we can move the district forward."

Smith did not go into lurid detail regarding the current DA's relationship with police, but assured the JFP that he is well capable of establishing a healthy relationship in his own right.

"I don't have a problem working with law enforcement and making them feel comfortable that their case will be dealt with properly for the hard work they do," Smith said. "If you're working alongside law enforcement as much as possible before (the police officer) goes to trial, then you're well prepared ahead of time to deal with last-minute problems."

Peterson called the notion of her department's alienation from the county police departments "ridiculous."

"That's not true. We have a good working relationship with law enforcement agencies. Otherwise, how could we be trying as many cases and doing what we do?" Peterson said, whose average span between arrest and indictment is three months. "[T]he violent crimes unit all know how to call me. They have to. When you look at those cases where we've gotten convictions, that's us working well with the authorities."

Purvis insists, however, that the relationship isn't working, based upon her conversations with various police chiefs in Hinds County.

"[W]hen I talk to a lot of the chiefs—and this is not just Jackson—I've talked to chiefs throughout the district ... They would like assistance in educating them(selves) on grand juries and what needs to go into a particular case and things of that nature.... I think a lot of police officers tend to forget that the police report that they write is what we use to subpoena witnesses, and sometimes something as simple as having a bad address or a bad telephone number or no telephone number, those kinds of things (can hurt a case). I've read a lot of reports where there was a statement saying a witness saw somebody doing something, but you look up there in the witness block, and there's absolutely no information on a witness. It might sound elementary, but we have to do the basics to make sure that we have what we need to prove the case."

Said police chiefs aren't talking on their relationship with the DA. Jackson Police Chief Shirlene Anderson did not return calls regarding her rapport with the office, nor did Clinton Police Chief Don Byington. The politics surrounding the office discourages officials from opening up too much around election time, though one longtime Jackson police officer, who chose to remain anonymous, said he had no complaints about the incumbent's work.

"The DA can only present what you give them. … They've only got maybe two investigators assigned there. They can't redo every case they present to a grand jury and go back to investigate it properly. The DA's job is to prosecute a case that's prosecutable and to clean it up, if they can, if it needs cleaning, but you can't put Humpty Dumpty back together after it's been totally screwed up," said the officer, adding that the majority of botched county cases sit firmly in the laps of the police department that presented it.

"We have nothing but young kids over our departments. Nobody in our investigative division, for example, including supervisors, ever worked as homicide detectives. We got one young sergeant, Joe Wade, who is over the investigative division. He's a sergeant acting in that capacity. Joe is a good guy—don't get me wrong, but that tells me there's a lack of depth there. There's another guy who's an acting sergeant that's in there, then you take a promoted sergeant, who's never worked anything but the bicycle unit, … (for) two years and then got promoted to homicide," the police source said.

"This whole administration has decided that new is better. They've taken all the depth out of these units and put them on the streets and then took these young kids in these units thinking perhaps that energy will overcome experience. … It's the police department's job to put the case together."

Purvis insists that successful prosecution is a matter of better training police, and says that coaching officers on how to assemble a case, collecting and protecting evidence should be a high priority. Purvis' duties as a city prosecutor included training police in collecting evidence and assembling a case.

"I taught classes down at the training academy with recruits, dealing with evidence and ... testimony in court, those kinds of things," Purvis said.

Peterson said her office does training for law enforcement on statement analysis and crime-scene analysis, and said she attends every police recruit class to train rookies on topics such as court procedures. She added, however, that the DA's office, with its annual budget of less than $2 million could not possibly offer weekly training courses for the Jackson Police Department, which has a budget of almost $44 million, and added that it is not the DA's job to train extensively in any city department.

"Training the police department is an excellent use of the city's resources. It's not an excellent use of the district attorney's resources," Peterson said, agreeing with Purvis that it was Purvis' job to perform case training for Jackson police during her time with the city.

"If she did such a wonderful job, why is she still complaining about them not being able to write good reports?"

Scratching and Begging
The DA's office, with its 11 assistant DAs, file cabinets and pencils, is living, retiree-style, on a fixed income provided by the state. The county allots some money for specific projects, but that money is often volatile and usually temporary, with the county's only reliable financial obligation stopping at providing free office space for the DA to work in.

Peterson is quick to highlight the financial shortcomings of the office, which competes with at least 20 other county DAs throughout the state for the same pool of money. Occasionally, the office may collect money from drug seizures, but that money is rare and jealously guarded by the state attorney general. Being one-time money, it couldn't finance annual pay-outs such as attorney or clerk salaries, anyhow.

The district attorney's office has no money to hire an accountant, so the job of hammering an annual budget for the whole department falls to her.

"When I took office in 2001, there were nine state positions allotted to Hinds County. Anything above that you've got to scratch and beg for," Peterson said, explaining that she has lately eked out an extra two ADA positions from the Legislature.

Peterson said she is grateful for partnerships with victims' advocate groups, like SafeCity, and a host of state and federal legislators, including U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who regularly help wrangle grants out of the state and federal systems. Peterson said the charity wouldn't last without a significant return on the patron's generosity, however, and brags that her office has proved enough of an effective steward of temporary financial allotments to turn some one-time monies into annual assistance. One example would be the State Supreme Court's decision to keep financing the once-temporary position of Judge Breland Hilburn. Hilburn now sees cases every week.

Smith, who owns his law firm and dabbles in real estate, says he has the experience to balance a bankbook, whether it is for a high-priced law office or a $2 million DA budget.

"I have had some accounting education at Tougaloo. I own my own business, and we make those kinds of decisions every day in my office," Smith said, arguing that funding issues can be rationalized before county supervisors.

"Of course, those issues are addressed before the board of supervisors, but when elected, I believe that when there are funding issues, those issues can be addressed according to the needs of the department," Smith said. He added that the real knack in running a money-stretched office is to better spend the money, rather than finding new cash.

"It's as much about how you distribute your funds as it is about bringing new funds to the office. ... It's about locating sources of funding that are applicable to that office, whether it's state or federal. It doesn't matter so long as there is funding available, and it is appropriated for prosecution," Smith said, offering no specific ideas on redistributing cash, other than "reviewing" all positions in the DA's office.

Purvis agrees that a new DA should emphasize redistribution, rather than revenue increases.

"Of course, everybody is trying to get money, and I know money is short, but I think that the real problem is that we've got to make sure that the (employees) that we have already in the district attorney's office are properly allocating their time and doing what needs to be done," Purvis said. "I checked last year's criminal trial docket, and in two courtrooms there were four criminal trials all year long in each courtroom. And that, to me, needs to be picked up. We need to have more trials going on. The courtroom that had the most criminal trials, there was actually less than a 50 percent conviction rate. What concerns me even more is that, included in those not-guilty (verdicts) were seven directed verdicts."

The Clinton resident hammers the image of a DA with a failing track record, sticking to key words such as "less than 50 percent conviction rate" and "four criminal trials all year long" in "two courtrooms." The memes make for red meat to toss out to disgruntled voters.

Sound Bite v. Reality
The sound bites don't always match reality, however.

Purvis may be happy to point out the lowly accomplishments of the two courtrooms for 2006, but she ignores the combined total of 38 trials carried by the Hinds County Circuit Court for that year. She also pigeonholes a successful case strictly as one that makes it to trial, while disregarding every other possible culmination, including the blissfully less complicated high incidences of guilty pleas.

"She's not being honest about the numbers," Peterson said. "Yes, there might have been four cases that went to trial in that one courtroom, but that's only because the other one's pled."

According to county records, in 2006, the circuit court system actually received 1,488 case dispositions—including 933 resolutions by guilty pleas, 236 resolved by revocations, 38 jury trials and 190 remands.

Of the 38 cases that went to trial, there were 32 guilty verdicts and six not-guilty verdicts, amounting to an 84 percent conviction rate, though Purvis makes a habit of coloring the conviction rate as 50 percent.

In response, Purvis said she does not trust the county numbers. "I know that there was less than 50 percent in one particular courtroom, so it's hard for me to imagine that it would actually be 80 percent," Purvis said.

Her statement amounts to a lie by omission, Peterson says. "She's not taking into account the multi-co-defendant and multi-count cases," Peterson said. "To get an honest picture, you have to synthesize that down to the raw cases, not just the counts, to figure out how many cases we actually heard."

Adrian Willard, for example, came to court with a three-count indictment for murder, kidnapping and aggravated assault. The jury found him guilty on two counts but not guilty on one. By Purvis' definition, Willard's one verdict counts as a not-guilty, even if the other two guilty verdicts locked him away for life plus 40 years.

Purvis continues to argue that ADAs are wasting time, telling the JFP that the DA's office "has dismissed more than 200 cases, some of those charges including murder, rape, statutory rape, gratification of lust, aggravated assault on a police officer and carjackings."

Peterson addresses the same report, though the district attorney's explanation takes longer and doesn't sound as sexy when barked out at a forum.

"That report refers to 240 counts, not 240 people—240 counts. I went through that same report and listed every name of every person on there. I found 46 individuals, who as part of a plea, may have had a count or two remanded, i.e., they pled guilty to armed robbery, got 20 years on two counts to serve, and we agreed to dismiss two other counts."

Peterson continues her explanation in detail: "There were eight cases that were represented to the grand jury, meaning those cases are still on the active docket. There were ... cases where the individuals were referred to drug court or the pre-trial intervention program. There were ... cases where individuals paid off their bad checks and as part of that agreement we accepted the restitution and dismissed the charge. Of the remaining 32, I found four counts on one man who had been wrongfully convicted under the previous administration (Peters) whose case was dismissed ... and another defendant who's dead. There were a couple of drug possession cases, and one defendant says they accept full responsibility of the charge, so we dismissed the co-defendant. Of 111 total people, less than 30 of them were dismissals."

The incumbent also addressed what she called misleading information by Purvis about murder convictions. Her office has lost very few murder cases, she said—zero in 2005 and in 2006, the high-profile "Wood Street" cases, as she calls a batch of cases that she said Melton's involvement was a major barrier in—from his relationship with key witnesses, to witnesses he knew recanting, causing cases to fall apart.

These cases—which many people blame the DA for losing—involved some 13 defendants for the murders of Carey Bias and Aaron Crockett, and the kidnapping and assault of Michael Sanders.

In the Crockett case, Albert and Terrell Donelson and James Benton were acquitted after defendants' attorneys—including Robert Smith—complained about Melton's involvement with his "star witness," Christopher Walker. Likewise, Peterson said that the case against the alleged killers of Aaron Crockett was also tainted by Melton's behavior. Also, when the "Greyhead" kidnapping case—where several young men were accused of kidnapping and shooting Michael Sanders in a drug turf war—went to trial, Melton told the media that the trial was "overkill," calling the defendants "just a group of kids." All of the defendants were in their late 20s when the crime occurred.

Several of the defendants had turned themselves in to Melton—who said that he had known them a long time. "Many of these young men don't have father figures. I treat them with respect and dignity. They trust me," he told the Associated Press.

"He was undermining prosecution," Peterson said Tuesday of Melton. "You can't do that."

Smith was also a defense attorney in that case. The men were all acquitted after victim Michael Sanders recanted his testimony at the 11th hour.

Purvis has also criticized Peterson for the outcome of the murder case against the alleged shooters of Lakita Williams, near the Upper Level nightclub in 2005. "She talked about the murder case," Peterson said. "That case went to trial, and the jury came back 10-to-2 not to convict. ... She spoke on the statutory rape case, but we found out that circumstances were not as they appeared when the case was presented to the grand jury, and we have an obligation that once we receive information that a situation has changed, we must adjust it. Each of those cases is an individual story with an individual assessment."

Even opponent Smith does not go along with criticism of Peterson about plea bargains. "Plea bargains are a function of the system," he said.

Taking It to the Victims
Purvis said she also wants to be a victim's advocate, and desires to open the office to the public, so that they will not feel isolated from the prosecutor. She claims the incumbent is failing to do this, and says she speaks from personal experience at the DA's office.

"When I first got there and started pulling my cases, one of the first things I did was actually start calling my victims. It bothered me that the majority of the people I talked to said they'd never heard anything from the district attorney's office. We're talking about cases that are two or three years old. My main concern is that you've already been victimized once by the criminal act committed against you and then not being able to talk to the people who are supposed to be helping you, I found that as a serious concern," Purvis said. She vows to build a bridge to the victims by assembling a "monthly reporting system" for all victims, apprising them of the status of their case through letters.

"I take the position that a victim should not have to contact the DA's office. The DA's office ought to be contacting the victim," Purvis said.

Peterson takes personal offense to the accusation that she ignores victims. "The statement Purvis said about our lack of responsibility with victims is a flat-out lie, because I have always had one day a week when I do nothing but meet with victims, and sometimes you can tell them good news, and sometimes you have to tell them things they don't want to hear, but I've always been honest with folks," Peterson said, adding bitterly that Purvis was "not a victim's advocate" during her time at the DA's office.

"The only aggravated assault case she ever tried, I spent more time talking to the victim than she did. I don't remember her doing a stellar job with victims while she was here, because she was mostly assigned to drug cases and just a few person crimes just to test the waters," Peterson said.

Smith, a defense attorney who says he is also a staunch victim's advocate, said he will make a point to communicate with the victims involved in cases.

"There are ways to enhance communication to victims by way of letters and personal communication. I have the open policy of my granddad when he ran his store (in west Jackson). He used to say, 'Come on in,' and that's how I run my office. I have some appointments, but usually people just come on in, and the DA's office won't be run any differently," Smith said.

The DA and the Jail
All three candidates agree that the DA's role in freeing up space in the dangerously stuffed county jail is limited to prioritizing and speeding up cases, but the challengers don't believe that's what is already happening.

"You can do what you can regarding jail space by putting a priority on the more serious offenses," Smith said. "There are more important cases to prioritize, like violent offenders. You can't let them out, so you must prosecute … but again ... work with the Jackson police department, the sheriff's department, Hinds County Supervisors. Effective communication among those groups about jail space, along with the prosecution, can move some of those defendants along and create other space."

Purvis said: "The best way to (improve overcrowding) is to make sure that the cases move as quickly as possible, that the DA moves cases and clears them out. Once that inmate is convicted, they actually become a ward of the state ... the role of the DA is very limited when it comes to working with the jails ... but also we need to look at alternatives to make sure that those numbers stay where they need to be."

The incumbent is already a dedicated fan of alternative sentencing, however, placing heavy emphasis upon the county's drug court and pre-trial intervention programs for non-violent, non-sex offenses.

The county was already wetting its toes in a drug-court prosecution system by the time Peterson took office in 2001, but the system, she said, had been "struggling."

"I liked the concept because it gave people the opportunity for treatment under a court order," Peterson said. "(But) it needed to be massaged, and I've seen that program flourish so well. It's amazing how people look at the beginning and then how they look at the end of it. But it requires a commitment from this office that we will be able to make those types of recommendations. Sometimes we have to change the charges a little bit so that they will be eligible for the program."

Though every treatment program has its drop-outs, recidivism itself is a non-issue. Once they survive the fiery hoops and complete the program, offenders almost never find themselves back in court—a considerable improvement over the recidivism of the county jail or state prison system.

The pre-trial intervention program is another of Peterson's attempts to divert detainees from the choked cells of the county jail, and she's particularly proud of it.

"You can rehabilitate some first-time, non-violent, non-sex offenders," Peterson explains. "I'm talking about shoplifting, embezzlement, paper crimes. No house burglaries or anything like that. I've found that pre-trial intervention and the drug court has helped me cut down the docket."

As for challengers' suggestion of prioritizing more serious cases, Peterson calls it a "meaningless sound bite."

"That's what we already do," she said, explaining that the judges in courts make their own dockets and already put a preference on trying violent crimes, even to the detriment of property crimes.

"When we prioritize the dockets—because we have to take what time the judges give us—we're going to put those personal crimes on first. I'm not going to apologize for that. I'm going to put on those murderers, the rapes, the crimes against children first, and then we'll try drugs and property and things like that. But even judges who give us a lot of (docket) time they still insist on us pushing those person crimes first. ... I would have a hard time telling a victim of an armed robbery that I'm not trying their case because we're going to try an auto burglary."

Crucial to keeping the jail population under control, however, is the size of the Hinds County case back log.

The county was infamous for its back log at the time of Peters' departure. Peterson says she had to confront more than 4,000 cases, with over 2,000 drug cases alone. The docket is now cut in half, averaging 2,000 cases.

Purvis argues that whittling the file down farther is a matter of better organization in the court room. "I think in order to tackle the back log you need to get a workable schedule with the judges, to actually get cases set for trial and move those cases. We have to make sure—and I know the DA is saying that they're actually trying cases that occurred in 2006—but just because they're trying cases from 2006 does not mean that those are the only cases on the docket. There are still cases from 2003. Those cases are still there, and those victims are still waiting for justice. At some point, those cases are going to have to be tackled, and the longer you wait to move a case to trial the more difficult it becomes to prove that case. Witnesses' memories fade, people die, people move, officers find other jobs," Purvis said.

"One of the things that can be done is to set more cases for trial. Some judges, when they set the criminal docket, the DA or the assistant gets to pick which case goes to trial, but say for instance, if they set five cases that day, and three of those plead, ... I think we need to be ready to move forward with another case, not just have all those others that were set continued. We need to hold them open so that we will definitely need to be trying something (else that day)."

Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Bobby DeLaughter says the cases on a docket aren't comparable to assembly-line production with adjustable speed settings.

"I have numerous cases set to trial each day. If we theoretically receive a jury verdict during a morning report, then the attorneys move forward with what's already on it. The attorneys need a half day's notice to get things together, arrange witnesses and so forth. We already stack them up," DeLaughter said.

Smith said he wants to help push lagging cases along by hiring a contact person with the police department.

"The police department and other law enforcement agencies could use a liaison, a particular attorney who could assist with questions at the preliminary stage of the case," Smith said, describing a role reminiscent of the court liaison Peterson installed in her office after taking it over from Peters.

A Go-Getter in the Gears
Peterson is particularly proud of her court liaison, which is part of a greater system she installed near the beginning of her tenure with the county, and one that's taken almost two years to clear out the bugs. The original court facilitator, Doug Jones, put in a ton of overtime building connections with the court system, analyzing the system's stalled cases, finding each case's individual speed bumps and squashing them.

Ken Lewis is the new facilitator, adopting the role after Jones died last year.

The criminal court facilitator amounts to a conduit of information from the law enforcement agencies, the jail and the DA's office, streamlining folks through the system. Prior to the advent of the facilitator, police could make arrests, and the DA might lose touch with the case completely. Without a centralized way to compile the information, the DA could convict somebody on one charge, but have the next stage stalled by another outstanding charge on the same defendant.

The facilitator notifies law enforcement if the DA has not received the case and stays on top of prosecutors, reminding them of dates that cases are due before a grand jury, and scolds defense lawyers who are not contacting their clients and clogging the system.

The jail population, these days, hovers around 500, according to prisoner's rights attorney Ron Welch. It never tops 550, whereas the jail used to average around 592 during the Ed Peters era. Agencies have, understandably, become dependent upon the facilitator.

It's more than a person, however; it's a system of information gathering and chart keeping, and one that Peterson has no obligation to bequeath to her replacement.

"My work product is copyrighted. Those are my ideas, those are my blueprints, and I don't have to tell anybody how I did anything," Peterson said. "It took a lot of work to get these things in place, and I think there's some people who think you change out just the DA with a new election. No. You're changing out this entire staff, every interlocal agreement that I have made to get all these programs in place. They would have to start over Jan. 1 and figure out all of that, including the court facilitator."

The two challengers seem unaware of the importance of the system, and believe preserving it is merely a matter of retaining Lewis.

Smith, for instance, is incredulous that the system surrounding the facilitator would dissipate with Peterson's departure.

"Well, sure," Smith said, when asked if he would be ready to cobble together his own system if taking office. "There are always creative ways (to retain the system). ... If it is helpful to the county then it will remain there."

Purvis, meanwhile, acknowledges some manner of value to the system, but feels the real gas pedal in the system is the DA.

"Whatever system that is in place now, regardless of whether or not it stays or goes—my main concern is moving the cases, and that's the responsibility of the district attorney's office, and we will have to get in there, see what is there, see who's in jail, (and) start lining those cases up. If it (requires more) plea bargains, whatever that needs to be done, you know, we will evaluate those cases and get them moving," Purvis said.

The Frank Factor
The Clarion-Ledger recently published an article saying that the image of Jackson Mayor Frank Melton hangs heavily over the DA's race. That's an understatement. Melton is open about his dislike of the incumbent, even going so far as to shout out endorsements against Peterson and incumbent Sheriff Malcolm McMillin—top county officials willing to criticize his tactics—at public events.

Melton has good reason to oppose Peterson. She, after all, put his multiple felony charges for illegally destroying a duplex before a grand jury and came back with five indictments.

The mayor angered both McMillin and Peterson by stowing away two charged felons in his north Jackson home, both wanted for a 2005 armed robbery of a business. He stashed his young male companions, Michael Taylor and Fredrica Brunson, for almost a year until both were caught on camera at a mayor's Father's Day barbecue. Even then, he did not volunteer them to the county—and in fact drove one of them, Taylor, away from deputies who were trying to arrest him.

Someone with those habits might find solace in an ally hesitant to address charges from the sheriff's office or the police department.

The DA's office has come through for Melton in the past. Former DA Ed Peters, Peterson's former boss, refused to take a case in 1993, compiled by then Jackson Police Chief Jimmy Wilson and Det. Edna Drake, alleging a laundry list of corruption and sexual violations at the Youth Detention Center, then under the directorship of now-City Councilman Frank Bluntson. A memo from Wilson to the FBI outlined allegations and named Melton as one of the men who should be investigated. Wilson also took the case to Mississippi FBI agent-in-charge Joseph Jackson, who soon resigned from the FBI to work as Melton's No. 2 man at WLBT.

In addition, Bluntson—then represented by now-Melton attorney Dale Danks—made a deal with Peters not to be prosecuted if he quit his job, and then went to work for Peters as an investigator.

More recently, Peters was one of the men Melton turned to after he was indicted for felonies last year—to help him negotiate a plea deal with the attorney general and the DA. The plea deal, which would have required him to resign office, later fell through.

Peterson has said Melton wants her replaced because "he can't run me."

"Being district attorney is hard because you have to be independent in order to enforce the law. I don't write the law. ... People say, well you (indicted Melton). No. Whenever you go out and break the law, you have to be held accountable for your own actions and be adult enough to accept that," Peterson said, adding that she thinks the mayor's ties to both her challengers seems obvious.

"I have observed individuals very close to the mayor assisting Michele Purvis during work hours," Peterson said, referring to Jackson Assistant CAO Carolyn Redd, who is also Melton's sister-in-law, and the mayor's administrative assistant Stephanie Parker-Weaver.

"Mr. Smith, himself, is close to Frank. He's represented (Melton mentees) Michael Taylor, Darnell Turner, (Ridgeway Street co-defendant) Marcus Wright ... and he's supported by Dale and Ed and Frank Bluntson. ... It looks like Frank has divided his friends and said, 'Some of you go over here and help this person, and some of you go over there and help this person, and I will have plausible deniability.'"

Jackson Free Press editor Donna Ladd also ran into Smith at Melton's home the night before the Albert Donelson trial began in 2006, before she accompanied Melton on a Mobile Command Center ride-along. During the visit, Smith—who then represented James Benton, on trial for allegedly helping Donelson kill Carey Bias—went outside to speak with Melton and convicted felon Christopher Walker. Melton was pushing for Walker to testify against the Donelsons and Benton that week, but Peterson had to drop him from the witness list because defense attorneys presented evidence that Melton had bought Walker a car, rented him an apartment, given him cash, let him handle guns at his home and given him a "Frank E. Melton" credit card.

Months ago, Smith told the JFP that he didn't know why Melton had asked him over that night. This week, he said he had asked to interview Walker, and Melton told him to come that night. He said he is not changing his story—that earlier he meant that he didn't know why Melton had invited him while the media was there, that he knew he was there to interview a witness about a case.

Melton also told the Jackson Free Press that Purvis, then still an assistant to City Attorney Sarah O'Reilly-Evans, could prove that Peterson was corrupt and had taken money from former bail bondsman Jimmy Jam, now deceased. Soon after the Donelson trial last year, Melton held a press conference with Walker accusing Peterson of corruption and of "f*cking Jimmy Jam." Later, on the phone, Melton told the JFP: "Well, we put it out there, didn't we?"

Asked later about the allegations, Purvis told the JFP that she had no knowledge of the actions that Melton had alleged.

Both Purvis and Smith now vehemently deny the mayor's connection to their candidacies. Smith says former DA Peters asked him to run two years ago, and Purvis pointedly says that she has never spoken to Melton himself about running.

"My support is broader than Melton," Smith said. "It is people who have confidence in me as a trial lawyer … it's business owners, community leaders…. As far as someone being able to say that he is very involved in my campaign, that can't be any further from the truth. … He never said, 'Robert, go run for DA.' That's ridiculous."

Smith said his representation of Wright had nothing to do with a connection to Melton, and that he would not hesitate to move forward with an investigation against the mayor if called upon to do so. "Wright came to me because he thought I could be the person who could handle his case. If the police department or the sheriff's department signs an affidavit for a case to be presented to a grand jury, you have an obligation to go forward on that case," he said.

Purvis said the city employees' decision to help her campaign during their work hours was a decision for them to make, and had nothing to do with her loyalties to the mayor who hired them. "Just because someone works for an administration doesn't mean that that administration rules their life. If they took off (to help me) on city time, that's something you need to ask them about, but I don't see a problem with that," Purvis said.

Purvis refuses to say if she would have put the Ridgeway Street case before a grand jury. "The evidence that was presented (in the news) … might not have been all the evidence presented. That's why I don't feel comfortable saying one way or the other. … If we believe there is sufficient evidence to move forth, I pledge to the citizens of this district that I will move forward with it regardless of who the defendant is," Purvis said.

Not About Puppets
Peterson said she is not running on the stump of protecting the DA's office from mayoral puppets, however. She says she's running on her list of accomplishments, and worries that the two challengers lack familiarity with prosecuting the more serious county cases.

Attorney Smith said he is a strong lawyer, with many years of experience inside a courtroom. Smith has handled some of the foggiest gang trials ever to obscure a courtroom and stands behind his record as an attorney who fights hard for his clients, whether they're defendants or victims who need defense.

Smith's resumé positively gleams in terms of how many times he's protected a defendant from wrongful prosecution, but Smith's background is dominated by defense work, with only a fraction of time dealing in prosecution.

"(I came on as a city prosecutor) under Terry Stone. He was the city attorney under (former Mayor) Kane Ditto. I was there less than a year," Smith said, "I have not done anything beyond the prosecution I did with the city. I immediately went to the public defender's office after that."

While with the city, Smith handled misdemeanor offenses, such as "some drug offenses, traffic tickets, some assaults, DUIs and shopliftings."

Smith said he is confident that his talent as a defense attorney can translate into a bonus on the prosecution side, and that the needs of the two sides are similar. "When you take an oath to defend someone, you defend them by asking different questions. When you prosecute someone, you ask them questions as a prosecutor. It's all litigation. At the end of the day, we're all lawyers…. As a good defense lawyer, you have to have good knowledge on both sides, and I have that."

Attorneys such as Jim Kitchens said lawyers often make the changeover from one side of the court to the other.

"It's not such a hard alteration that it can't be done," said Kitchens, explaining that there's plenty more to the process than putting together a case versus picking one apart.

Mississippi College School of Law Professor Matt Steffey said he even encouraged his students to work both sides of the battle.

"I've told my students that if they want to be great at either defense or prosecution, they need to learn the techniques of the opposition," Steffey said. "A good defense lawyer, for instance, would do himself good by serving some time as a ... prosecutor."
Purvis can say she has already logged in time as a prosecutor, having worked at the DA's office a total of two years before moving on to the city of Jackson. She claims she handled a wide variety of cases while she was there.

"Basically, we were assigned, during that time, to a particular courtroom … even though I was assigned to a particular courtroom, I did try cases in other courtrooms," Purvis said. "I have tried murder trials, tried robberies, burglaries, aggravated assault—all those cases."

Purvis is leaving out that she rarely headed those trials, however, according to her former boss. "She was in training mode her entire time there," Peterson said. "I put her on drug cases, because that's what I do for a new attorney, for at least two years, because I can't risk any mistakes on the more serious trials."

When asked about the murder, robbery and burglary trials Purvis claims to have conducted, Peterson explains that ADA Stanley Alexander actually handled those cases, with Purvis assisting him.

The training period for a Hinds County ADA, under Peterson, is almost the lifespan of a cicada. The DA makes a trainee percolate on lesser cases until she feels they're competent, but Purvis was percolating slower than others, Peterson said. Purvis had only a total of two trials her entire time at the office, averaging one a year.

Fellow ADA Dewey Arthur, hired around the same time as Purvis—and with less trial experience—had logged on almost 30 cases at the time of Purvis' departure. To boot, Purvis' two projects were not stellar, according to records. She lost one of the two cases to a not-guilty verdict, bringing her conviction rate up to a mediocre 50 percent for her entire career at the DA. The other case, an aggravated assault involving John Albert Smith, suffered three mistrials under Purvis' direction, and only had a successful guilty verdict the fourth time around.

Purvis wasn't turning heads with the drug cases Peterson trusted her with, either. Purvis' record shows she had a total of 270 cases assigned to her during her time with the DA, with 24 remands for drug cases and seven miscellaneous remands. She gave 44 of her cases to fellow ADAs in training, persuading them to head down to Raymond to handle the plea phase of her case—though Purvis claims now that this was not a lot to ask of them.

Like an old boss you never liked, Peterson is quick to point out that her old employee never quite finished her work. Though Purvis may vow now to address the back log of DA cases from 2003 and earlier, she was happy to abandon many of those 270 assigned cases when she ran off to the city in 2005—many of them from 2003 or earlier.

Some of those cases will still be waiting for her, if she returns to the office in January.

"She did not have the foundation to prosecute county trials when she left," Peterson said. "In order to get there, you have to go to training to do voir dire, ballistics and how to handle a jury, but she never went to the training. She only went to the little two-day training session offered by the state. Those don't teach you much of anything. I gave Michele Purvis an opportunity to prosecute, and she never took it."

Additional reporting by Donna Ladd and Brian Johnson.

SIDEBAR: Robert, And Michele And ... Edna?

CORRECTION: The original story above referred to Albert Donelson, Terrell Donelson and James Benton being on trial for the murder of Carey Bias; that should have have Aaron Crockett. Vidal Sullivan, Anthony Staffney and Maurice Warner were acquitted of Bias' murder.

Previous Comments

ID
81700
Comment

Great story! I work for a law firm downtown and every chance I get I quote JFP for its reporting. I will be printing this story when I get to the office tomorrow morning and distributing it. I would vote for Faye any day, but I don't want to be thought of as pushing my opinion. I just want everybody to have their facts when they go to the polls. This story confirmed for me that Purvis is an idiot who has no clue about what she is doing. She is a liar who twists the facts to suit her. Sound familiar? Thank you, JFP. I don't know what I did before you came along :-)

Author
honey2me
Date
2007-07-25T18:42:23-06:00
ID
81701
Comment

For me, the money quote not to vote for Purvis: According to county records, in 2006, the circuit court system actually received 1,488 case dispositions—including 933 resolutions by guilty pleas, 236 resolved by revocations, 38 jury trials and 190 remands. Of the 38 cases that went to trial, there were 32 guilty verdicts and six not-guilty verdicts, amounting to an 84 percent conviction rate, though Purvis makes a habit of coloring the conviction rate as 50 percent. In response, Purvis said she does not trust the county numbers. “I know that there was less than 50 percent in one particular courtroom, so it’s hard for me to imagine that it would actually be 80 percent,” Purvis said. So, Michelle, do you have facts to back up your believe that the conviction rate is less than 50%?

Author
golden eagle
Date
2007-07-25T19:10:18-06:00
ID
81702
Comment

Thanks, honey. This one required some elbow grease. All, the transcripts of the interviews should be up within a day. Adam split open a vein to get this story done, and is over at the Fair today and tomorrow covering political speeches for our actual Election issue next week. And he's working on the transcripts tonight. So, they're coming.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-25T20:37:24-06:00
ID
81703
Comment

After reading this column, I have even more respect for Faye. I always suspected Ed Peters wasn't doing crap personally despite his vast and obvious gifts as a trial attorney. The hiring of good and excellent ADAs was his only decent legacy, it appears. Otherwise, he was a politican, golfing buddy and who knows what else. Like I said before, Faye is being held to a different standard than Ed was. Glad to hear Faye tell the truth on Ed Peters and Michelle Purvis who I've long said is another Frank Melton. You know what I mean, can do world wonders until given the job and responsibility of proving it. If Faye loses I hope she finds a better job and joy. We might be alright with Robert, but if Michele wins we'll see the second episode of a Frank Melton type of leader - talking loud, accomplishing little or nothing, blaming others, and pretending.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-07-26T07:52:52-06:00
ID
81704
Comment

84% huh? That's a lot different than other numbers being bandied about...why does it seem folks are less interested in facts, more interested in how things "seem" ? that's a big problem.

Author
Izzy
Date
2007-07-26T10:07:02-06:00
ID
81705
Comment

Izzy, it's sad that a lot of people decide what they want to believe, then don't ask for facts or confirmation to back it up. It's a big reason why Melton is mayor—rhetoric. And it makes the community ripe for unsavory folks to lie to us for their own reasons. Not that that would ever happen in Jackson. ;-]

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-26T10:11:32-06:00
ID
81706
Comment

And it's also a huge reason that holding media accountable is so important. It is our job to factcheck and ask the harder questions. Remember, the whole Morgan-Quitno fiasco four years ago? Why were we the only outlet to call Barbour and Carroll out on it?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-26T10:14:09-06:00
ID
81707
Comment

A similarity I see between Melton and Purvis is the tendency to repeat themselves: Melton's campaign: "You know me, you know me, you know me..." Purvis' campaign: "Move the cases, move the cases, move the cases..." To me, such statements act as filler when they don't have any facts to contribute for the time being.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-07-26T10:14:42-06:00
ID
81708
Comment

Yes, especially since Purvis isn't exactly known as a "case-mover." It is an old trick to try to state the opposite of the truth repeatedly in order to make people believe it. It can work on a misinformed, gullible community. (Which is where the Fourth Estate comes in.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-26T10:16:32-06:00
ID
81709
Comment

Donna, I clicked on the Morgan-Quitno link and noticed something: “Jackson is one of the 10 most dangerous cities in America.” How often are you hearing that jingle right now? Isn't that statement in Purvis' ad? Does anyone recall?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-07-26T10:35:49-06:00
ID
81710
Comment

I'd have to look back to get it exactly right, but recall that after all that (and they were using old numbers, to boot), Jackson improved dramatically on Morgan-Quitno's rankings, and didn't get attention for it from the Ledger and the Johnson-haters. Now, I think Jackson has moved back up since Melton took office. The rankings are virtually anyway, no matter where we sit on them, but the point is the games that are played, and The Clarion-Ledger bald-faced complicity in them.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-26T10:39:55-06:00
ID
81711
Comment

Now, I think Jackson has moved back up since Melton took office. #14

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-07-26T10:45:55-06:00
ID
81712
Comment

Izzy, it's sad that a lot of people decide what they want to believe, then don't ask for facts or confirmation to back it up. It's a big reason why Melton is mayor—rhetoric. The sad fact is that it isn't just Melton. Numerous politicians over the years from the president on down to the local dog catcher have used rhetoric--often ignoring the facts--to gain a foothold into office. We see this a lot with the "tough on crime" politicians. Even though crime rates were falling during Johnson's terms, those 30-second soundbites made it seem as if all of Jackson was one big prison in which everyone was locked inside of their homes. Even on a national scale, crime was falling, but sales for security systems rose dramatically and more prisons were being built. The problem is is that fear sells, perhaps more than any other emotion. Let someone tell you that "those people" will attack you and your family, or that they have"facts" that justify us going to war and after a while, you'll start believing it. I remember Donna wrote a column about this two years ago during the mayoral election. This should be a must-read.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2007-07-26T10:52:12-06:00
ID
81713
Comment

I really thought this article was well written and very fair to all the candidates.

Author
*Suspended for masquerading as another person*
Date
2007-07-26T13:44:01-06:00
ID
81714
Comment

Thanks, McMurt. There would be nothing fair about slanting what you report to make all three candidates look equally qualified -- when they're not. What I always say is that we are biased toward the truth. Take it or leave it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-26T13:47:26-06:00
ID
81715
Comment

Faye did really go after Ed Peters though. While I can understand why she would be upset that he is supporting another candidate, considering that she worked for him, I wonder if it was the right move politically speaking. What I am mean is that alot of the North Jackson, Bryam, Terry and Clinton voters still feel that Ed was a good D.A. and calling him out like she did (although it may have been the right thing to do) might very well alienate the voters that will decide this election.

Author
*Suspended for masquerading as another person*
Date
2007-07-26T13:55:32-06:00
ID
81716
Comment

sixchinlardazz=troll. Why are you still talking? And, please don't think I'm mad, I just prefer to converse with those who can do so. I'm thinking you gotta be out of Melton and Purvis' camp because they usually do things in a mean-spirited manner with no facts to back them up. Grow up......move on.

Author
honey2me
Date
2007-07-26T15:43:36-06:00
ID
81717
Comment

The Frondren Pravda. Never heard of that paper. Have we been taken over by Communists?

Author
golden eagle
Date
2007-07-26T15:53:38-06:00
ID
81718
Comment

Donna, are you able to block IP addresses?

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-07-26T16:23:01-06:00
ID
81719
Comment

It is of no real moment but everytime you mention Albert Donelson with the trial of Carey Bias you are mistaken. Albert was never involved or charged with anything to do with Bias. Perhaps you are confused about Vidal Sullivan. Otherwise, this article is the most informative I have seen on the candidates and I applaud you for it.

Author
Randy Harris
Date
2007-07-27T11:11:27-06:00
ID
81720
Comment

I think Robert Smith should be our next DA. I have not one time heard any negative comments, bickering and back slashing from his mouth. One thing I do know, who would want to vote for someone who's always has drama on there tail, showing aggressive behavior whenever something negative comes across their path? Its about communicating, working together and making a difference. We need some one who can show some effective leadership, and consistency. And right now we're not seeing it. I truly believe Robert Smith is the man. I've seen him in court and HE IS A GO-GETTER..........

Author
filetmeow007
Date
2007-07-27T12:03:09-06:00
ID
81721
Comment

While I agree that Smith may be a viable candidate for DA, I wouldn't say he is a "go getter". I saw him at the FM trial and the only "go getter" I saw was him crawling around on the floor looking for exhibits while the jurors waited. That was the most disorganized mess I've seen in a courtroom in a while.

Author
honey2me
Date
2007-07-27T12:13:45-06:00
ID
81722
Comment

Yeah I saw that too.... I know what he's capable of.. He's really a good lawyer... He was entitle to one mishap considering his record and performance.LOL

Author
filetmeow007
Date
2007-07-27T12:38:24-06:00
ID
81723
Comment

Randy, thanks for chiming in. I might have made that mistake myself in this piece. I have to admit that it's not the first time that I've flipped some of the names in the complicated "Wood Street" cases, but usually catch it before print. I'll go up and correct and run a correction next week. And I realize that, as Albert Donelson's attorney, you know of which you speak. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-27T12:59:08-06:00
ID
81724
Comment

(Golden, I was out of town and missed the troll comments, which Matt deleted. But if they mentioned the "Fondren Pravda," we know it was an N-Jammer. Of course, most of our trolls are. And there is one particular one who doens't know have to debate without insulting women's bodies. It's pathetic.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-27T13:01:24-06:00
ID
81725
Comment

I think Robert Smith should be our next DA. I have not one time heard any negative comments, bickering and back slashing from his mouth. One thing I do know, who would want to vote for someone who's always has drama on there tail, showing aggressive behavior whenever something negative comes across their path? filetmeow Care to elaborate? Any factual evidence that Faye is aggressive outside of the Courtroom? I guess Melton getting Walker to say "Faye ****ed Jimmy Jam" at a press conference is cool? And, gracefully she replied that she was disappointed that he "talked up a lady's dress." Wow, that is aggression? Appreciate your opinion; but, it seems pointed without much "fact" to back up your assertions. What is "Back slashing?" \\\\\\\\\ ;-)

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-07-27T13:57:06-06:00
ID
81726
Comment

Filet, I'll give you that one. He is entitled to a mistake, but to most people that was the only time one of his trials was televised. That would have been the one time to show agression and go getter attitude. You would also want to show your compentance and courtroom skills. If that one televised trial was the only time I had to take note of his skills, he failed miserably. I have no doubt that he is good at what he does, but when the spotlight is on you.....SHINE, BABY, SHINE!

Author
honey2me
Date
2007-07-27T14:20:36-06:00
ID
81727
Comment

I've personally worked with both Faye and Robert. I see a complete change in her personality and Robert has always been the same, even in his great accomplishments during his private practice. Faye was very aggressive Sunday at a forum in CHURCH and it was embarrassing for me. She was acting like one of the thugs on the street.

Author
filetmeow007
Date
2007-07-27T14:29:39-06:00
ID
81728
Comment

Who's discussing Melton anyway........ Lets leave out the fallacies

Author
filetmeow007
Date
2007-07-27T14:34:05-06:00
ID
81729
Comment

You should check your own fallacies, and vague accusations, filet, as well: Such as: One thing I do know, who would want to vote for someone who's always has drama on there tail, showing aggressive behavior whenever something negative comes across their path? I don't even know what that means.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-27T14:37:31-06:00
ID
81730
Comment

It means she can't handle criticism well. We all have seen it. Even if its the story about Jimmy Jam true or not, demonstrating aggressive behavior( drama) our viewers wondering.

Author
filetmeow007
Date
2007-07-27T14:59:07-06:00
ID
81731
Comment

Who is she? Do you mean Peterson? That's a weird statement to make. Why wouldn't Jackson want an aggressive district attorney? One of my own issues with Robert Smith is that he seems so green and less-than-assertive at this point. I mean, his mother (whom I like) called to scold me about something I wrote once! As far as the Jimmy Jam slander, I was shocked at the amount of class that Peterson showed after that—one of the most disgusting slurs at a public official, and a woman, I've ever seen. It was after that that my respect started to really grow for Peterson. She is in a shark's den filled with the Good Ole Boyz wanted their power back. And she's not afraid of it. At the same time, she doesn't spend all her time throwing personal insults around. She's just now even started talking about the mess that Peters left -- even though she's been blamed for it for years. The public does deserve to know, especially with Mr. Peters asking Mr. Smith to run. And she's no-nonsense about that, too.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-27T15:04:40-06:00
ID
81732
Comment

This story really did open my eyes to crooks that are in and have been in office. I had no idea that frank Bluntson was a crook.

Author
linux
Date
2007-07-27T15:13:27-06:00
ID
81733
Comment

Jackson city goverment stinks its foul

Author
linux
Date
2007-07-27T15:16:10-06:00
ID
81734
Comment

I'm guessing that someone named filetmeow is a woman. Obviously a smart one, and an attorney. So, why would you take the side of a thug, put up by Melton at a press conference, who says absolutely nasty things about her on TV? I'm confused? Now should you vote for her because of that? No. Vote for whoever. But, if anyone ever showed class, poise, and grace when a vile accusation was thrown their way, it was Faye Peterson! That is why what you are saying makes very little sense besides the fact you 'don't like Faye.' Faye's been attacked since she took office. If not from Melton stooges, she is attacked regularly by a power structure (both white and black) that believes because she is a black woman, that she cannot do a good job as DA. Despite that fact that Ed Peters let the office go to crap and had a backlog twice as high as now, people still want to attack her. The fact that the public doesn't 'know' Faye or much about her office shows that she doesn't look for the limelight or the press to air her differences with these institutional enemies. So, I would like some more specifics if possible.

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-07-27T15:19:49-06:00
ID
81735
Comment

All, I got this via e-mail, and it checks out: in the recent articles about Robert Smith, you included the info about the Darron Rouster trial. You do know that Rouster was found guilty and received life plus 40 years don't you? Robert also lost the Jeffery Jackson case (arm robbed Hal and Mal's) and that was a 25 year sentence. 2006 was a good year for Robert. 2005, not so much.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-27T16:23:39-06:00
ID
81736
Comment

(Randy, I've corrected the Bias-Crockett mix-up above. Thank you so much for straightening it out. We'll correct it in the next issue, too.) All, Adam is finishing the interview transcripts over the weekend, and we will post Monday. Also, we will upload the Radio JFP interview with Peterson by Monday. Sorry for the delay, but we're swamped in putting together our election issue. But we'll get 'er done!

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-27T16:43:18-06:00
ID
81737
Comment

Kim Wade pointed this out; but, I noticed it when I read the story.... Check this out... Purvis insists that successful prosecution is a matter of better training police, and says that coaching officers on how to assemble a case, collecting and protecting evidence should be a high priority. Purvis’ duties as a city prosecutor included training police in collecting evidence and assembling a case. “I taught classes down at the training academy with recruits, dealing with evidence and ... testimony in court, those kinds of things,” Purvis said. Cool. But, just before that she points out that police need better training in gathering evidence and testimony in court: Purvis insists, however, that the relationship isn’t working, based upon her conversations with various police chiefs in Hinds County. “[W]hen I talk to a lot of the chiefs—and this is not just Jackson—I’ve talked to chiefs throughout the district ... They would like assistance in educating them(selves) on grand juries and what needs to go into a particular case and things of that nature.... I think a lot of police officers tend to forget that the police report that they write is what we use to subpoena witnesses, and sometimes something as simple as having a bad address or a bad telephone number or no telephone number, those kinds of things (can hurt a case). I’ve read a lot of reports where there was a statement saying a witness saw somebody doing something, but you look up there in the witness block, and there’s absolutely no information on a witness. It might sound elementary, but we have to do the basics to make sure that we have what we need to prove the case.” So, are you saying YOU are not doing a good job educating our JPD recruits and police officers? Sure sounds like it! My argument may be elementary; but, it is basic. Also, Tyrone Lewis is the person who does the training down at the police academy off Ellis Ave. If we are not putting officers on the street with the proper training; and that training is coming from people like Tyrone Lewis and Michele Purvis, how can you logically choose them to be Sheriff and DA? Wake Up Jackson!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-07-27T16:55:04-06:00
ID
81738
Comment

Preach, Pike. Amen!

Author
Kacy
Date
2007-07-27T17:13:24-06:00
ID
81739
Comment

If you know the law it doesn't matter if you worked as a prosecuter or and defense lawyer its all about knowing the LAW! And I'm voting for ROBERT SMITH.... THAnk you and Yes I'm a woman..

Author
filetmeow007
Date
2007-07-27T17:30:21-06:00
ID
81740
Comment

Even if robert did loose those cases, you can't win them all. When you work in private practice its all about that mighty dollar. DUH! Thats why he represented Franks body guard because his choice was to hire ROBERTO....... It has nothing to do with Frank Melton.

Author
filetmeow007
Date
2007-07-27T17:33:10-06:00
ID
81741
Comment

Actually, filet, you're wrong. It takes different skills to be a good prosecutor or a good defense attorney. Yes, the same person can have both, but they don't necessarily. Personally, I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of anyone who has never tried, or tried few, felony cases being *district attorney.* Fine, get a job as an ADA and learn the ropes. Also, am I the only one who finds it weird to see how prominent a role Mr. Smith's mother is playing in this campaign? They are overdoing it. I just saw her on WJTV being interviewed on why her son would be a good DA. Huh? And I've already said that she's called us to scold us about things we reported about him. This is sending the wrong message for someone who wants to be the county's top prosecutor. He needs to fight his own battles, and speak for himself. It makes him look green.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-27T17:34:02-06:00
ID
81742
Comment

No one said you could win them all, filet. Many of his big wins have been cases where Melton played some sort of role that hurt the prosecution, though. In contract, these are big cases that he did not win. And you're saying there is no difference between prosecuting and defending -- it's fair game to see at what cases he's won and lost, being that he wants to be the top prosecutor without actually the benefit of having a strong prosecution record. And I'm not sure your point about it "being all about the mighty dollar" helps your argument any. That's fine and his right, but I'm not going to cast a vote for someone who in private case takes cases due to the almighty dollar. Not for a public-servant job. Sorry. Does anyone know who paid Mr. Wright's legal bill, or are they still trying to get the city to pay the defense attorneys? I'm not sure where that stands.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-27T17:37:36-06:00
ID
81743
Comment

I'm a Faye Peterson supporter and wants nothing to do with anyone like Smith and Purvis whom are directly related to Frank Melton, mind you a a disgrace to Jackson. It is evident that our current DA will stand and not sell out like many of the spineless men on the city council. These offices are seperate and must remain that way. The current situations in this city does not require someone throwing a brick upside your head to see the corruption that is going on. Neither Smith a mama baby with no back bone and Purvis a liar and a carbon copy of Melton can be trusted. We know that our current DA and her staff will not sell out.

Author
BJM
Date
2007-07-27T19:00:35-06:00
ID
81744
Comment

Thanks! Pilkersam for your comments posted 072707, we are black women in the corporate world are always subjected to negative comments as we move up the ladder to success. To have a low life thug publically state untrue comments on the air is degrading and anyone that would support such needs a head examination or apparently is not a professional woman. I wonder if these attacks were against the supporters how they would react. Melton's attack anyone that will not be a lap dog for him. I say to Faye Peterson stand and do what is right and as long as she walk in the will of God, her future is secure in his hand.

Author
BJM
Date
2007-07-27T19:18:59-06:00
ID
81745
Comment

Donna, I am Daron Rouster's appellate counsel and I an tell you that Robert Smith did an excellent job at trial. In my appellate brief I never even thought to raise ineffective assistance of counsel against Robert. The Daron Rouster case is a very difficult one and Robert did a great job defending it. If you are not a lawyer you just will ot understand how hard a case like that is to win at trial and/or appeal.

Author
*Suspended for masquerading as another person*
Date
2007-07-27T22:18:22-06:00
ID
81746
Comment

OK, being that it's easy to find out your identity and call you, will you please share it, McMurt?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-27T22:32:22-06:00
ID
81747
Comment

Well Donna just do a search for Daron Rouster on the MS Supreme Court's website & you will know my identity.

Author
*Suspended for masquerading as another person*
Date
2007-07-27T22:43:42-06:00
ID
81748
Comment

And then I will need to call you to ensure you're not impersonating someone else. Just a formality under the circumstances. Are you in Monday a.m.?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-27T22:46:04-06:00
ID
81749
Comment

Yeah I am, do you want me to email you my office or cell phone number?

Author
*Suspended for masquerading as another person*
Date
2007-07-27T22:51:19-06:00
ID
81750
Comment

Sure. I just need to be sure, as I'm sure you understand.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-27T22:52:30-06:00
ID
81751
Comment

(OK, I'm beat. I just used "sure" three times in that post. G'night, all.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-27T22:53:03-06:00
ID
81752
Comment

Just another note on the skills of Robert Smith. Recently he pleaded Andrew Eubanks open to the charge of Murder before Judge Green. Murder carries a mandatory life sentence, the judge has no discretion. If Mr. Smith had gone to trial, Eubanks may have been found guilty of manslaughter which carries a sentence which ranges from 0-20 years. I don't see how this could be the work of such an "agressive" attorney. But since it's all about the dollar for private attorneys and since criminal defense lawyers usually get their money up front, the open plea made for a short work week (or day) for Mr. Smith. You may also want to check with the family of Rouster to see how pleased they were with his services. Eubanks will be sentenced by Judge Green on July 30, 2007.

Author
thetruth
Date
2007-07-29T14:55:51-06:00
ID
81753
Comment

Lets not forget that Faye was also a defense lawyer too. She came from the same place as Robert...... so Ms. Ladd tell me how to get these emails off my account....

Author
filetmeow007
Date
2007-07-30T07:10:48-06:00
ID
81754
Comment

never mind...

Author
filetmeow007
Date
2007-07-30T07:11:18-06:00
ID
81755
Comment

thetruth, I have not verified your post. However, if true, it shows that plea bargains can work a variety of ways, eh? Remember that one thing Peterson brags on is getting so many life pleas, meaning that you don't risk going to trial with witnesses who get scared and recant, or that one or two jurors who a good defense attorney is able to persuade. And it saves courtroom resources.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2007-07-30T08:51:43-06:00
ID
81756
Comment

"check with the family of Rouster to see how pleased they were with his services" I have spoken to the family & you should read the trial transcript, Truth, there was no way to win that case with the mountain of evidence against Rouster. Its just utterly ridiculous to blame Smith for Rouster's conviction. According to the testimony, Rouster shot his girlfriend, Rhonda (of whom he had 2 children by) then shot both her brothers, Corderries & Christopher, wounded Christopher & paralyzing Corderiess. He then walked out of the apartment front door & stuck the gun under his own chin and fired, blowing off his tongue. This part was witnessed by the hotel manager. When the police arrived, they found Rouster in Rhonda's bathtub slicing his own wrist. Do you think this was a winnable case? That it was Smith's fault that he got convicted? Come on be realistic.

Author
Trusty Sidekick
Date
2007-07-30T09:17:23-06:00
ID
81757
Comment

Sounds like he needed to get off the PCP quick! Glad they locked him up!

Author
pikersam
Date
2007-07-30T09:22:37-06:00
ID
81758
Comment

According to the testimony, Rouster shot his girlfriend, Rhonda (of whom he had 2 children by) then shot both her brothers, Corderries & Christopher, wounded Christopher & paralyzing Corderiess. I remember when Christopher visited my church and shared his story. I am glad that he survived. I also wish his brother the best.

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2007-07-30T09:47:26-06:00
ID
81759
Comment

I'm not saying that the case could have been won, I'm only saying that I have heard that the defendant was offered less time via a plea bargain and Robert either did not tell Rouster about it or did not convince his client to take it. If he had taken the plea offer, he would have had an opportunity to get out after the age of 65. This way, he will never see the light of day again. Since you have spoken to the family, were they ever told about a potential plea offer?

Author
thetruth
Date
2007-07-30T10:29:18-06:00
ID
81760
Comment

Also Filet, you didn't mention whether or not the Rouster family was pleased. Aren't they currently filing a bar complaint against Smith?

Author
thetruth
Date
2007-07-30T10:31:20-06:00
ID
81761
Comment

Robert smith want get my vote, he dosen't have a backbone i asked him on 97.7 if he wins the DA race and frank does something illegal would he indict him, he couldn't give me a straight answer. My momma didn't raise no fool, robert is a man who goes with the crowd and dosen't stand on his on two feet. did yall parents raise fools time will only tell. slow jacksonians, dont get mad iam a jacksonian. Like my pastor says if i hit you i was trying to.

Author
NewJackson
Date
2007-07-30T10:47:37-06:00

Like independent media outlets around the world, the Jackson Free Press works hard to produce important content on a limited budget. We'd love your help! Become a JFP VIP member today and/or donate to our journalism fund. Thanks for considering a JFP VIP membership or one-time support.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

comments powered by Disqus