Judge Argues Against Unsealing Mystery Case Without Redactions | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Judge Argues Against Unsealing Mystery Case Without Redactions

Special Circuit Court Judge Larry Roberts is set to preside over a hearing to determine whether to release several sealed cases relevant to the indictment against Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith to the public.

Special Circuit Court Judge Larry Roberts is set to preside over a hearing to determine whether to release several sealed cases relevant to the indictment against Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith to the public. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

— By the end of today, the public might regain access to sealed court documents concerning the recent charges against Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, although one of the judges thinks that the DA's allegations are "unsupported by the actual documents and hearing transcript" for one sealed case, No. 16-120.

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An archive of reporting on controversies surrounding Hinds County district attorneys, present and past.

In his response to a Sept. 9 motion, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill cautioned that while he "has absolutely no objection to the unsealing of the entire file and transcript," the Mississippi Supreme Court "should be aware of several important issues related to the proceedings."

At 1 p.m. today, Hinds County Circuit Court Special Judge Larry Roberts, who the Supreme Court appointed after the entire Circuit Court bench recused, will hold a hearing over the merits of The Clarion-Ledger's motions to unseal several files related to the case. Smith's attorney, Jim Waide, filed a motion Sept. 9 to move 16-120 into the same docket as the other sealed files that Roberts will consider today.

"The transcript of the hearing before Judge Weill contains evidence that Smith has not, in fact, committed any inappropriate actions with respect to criminal defendants, and indicates the nature of matters that Smith was lawfully investigating, to include matters involving charges of misconduct by state officials," the motion by Smith's attorney, Jim Waide, states.

Weill traces back through the history of the sealed case, 16-120, starting with the original seal Circuit Judge Tomie Green placed on it Feb. 19.

"Judge Green prudently ordered the file to be sealed," Weill states, "as the initial filing was a motion by the Office of the Attorney General to present certain individuals for investigation to the Hinds County Grand Jury, due to an alleged conflict of interest of the Hinds County District Attorney."

Weill then alleges that although Smith, as a party, has had access to the sealed documents this entire time, "he has continuously failed to include relevant detail in his numerous motions urging the seal to be lifted."

"Further, Mr. Smith has made blatant public misrepresentations about the nature of these sealed proceedings in his public statements to the media," Weill states.

Weill levels specific objections to the release of the contents of 16-120 to the public. First, he states that during the hearing within the case file, Smith makes "allegations" concerning the "conditions" Judge Green and others required for defendants to get out on bond.

Weill states that because Smith is currently facing disciplinary charges from the Mississippi Bar concerning his interactions with Judge Green that "it may be necessary to redact those portions so as to avoid giving Smith an additional opportunity to continue to engage in public accusations against a sitting senior circuit court judge."

The judge goes on to argue that if the contents of the hearing are unsealed, Green should be given the opportunity to redact before the case file becomes public.

Weill also has an issue with releasing the identity of an individual who has been indicted but not served as a result of the proceedings of 16-120, based on Smith's alleged conflict of interest with that unnamed person.

"One Defendant had already been indicted, but the indictment remains unserved," Weill states. "The hearing primarily involved the second individual, who is undisputedly a former client of Smith's and the father of two children of an employee on Smith's office staff."

Weill states that Smith agreed that there might be a conflict of interest during the hearing itself. "This is even more significant, given the direct familial relationship between Smith's employee and his former client, who had been arrested and charged with violent criminal conduct," Weill states.

His final point is that the case, 16-120, may not have any relevance to the current charges Smith faces.

"While the proceedings did partially relate to the initial misdemeanor charges against Smith, those have since been dismissed, and the current indicted charges have no relationship to the proceeding in 251-16-120," Weil states.

Weill included a copy of the transcript in his correspondence with the other judges involved in the case, including Roberts, and as of Monday morning, the Mississippi Supreme Court had not ruled concerning case 16-120, presumably leaving it out of the list of cases Roberts will consider today.

Email city reporter Tim Summers, Jr. at [email protected]. Read more about the DA saga at jfp.ms/DAFiles.

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