A judge granted bond to the man charged with killing 17-year-old Charles McDonald outside his business today, Jan. 10, after his Dec. 29 arrest for first-degree murder. Parish is a vice president and co-owner of Performance Oil, in south Jackson, where he shot 17-year-old Charles McDonald multiple times in the chest after confronting the young man for breaking into a vehicle in the parking lot.
Charles McDonald, 17, was in and out of juvenile detention—and then he ended up dead nearby.
Judge Winston Kidd granted Wayne Mitchell Parish a $50,000 bond in a hearing in Hinds County Courthouse, even as District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said today that he knew nothing about the case, nor had viewed the evidence.
Parish's attorney, Merrida Coxwell, said after the hearing that a "$50,000 bail on a murder charge, this kind of murder charge, is not too low or what some people might say is unreasonable, not at all. I think what pushed it are Mr. Parish's background, his factors, his contact in this community, 28 years in the same job."
"And this wasn't type of offense where he went into somebody's home or he was breaking in. This all happened at his business. And I think all those factors which we set forth in the bond motion are what influenced Judge Kidd," Coxwell said.
Coxwell said he could not talk about facts of the case, due to the judge saying he is considering putting a gag order on the case, meaning that no parties could talk about the case to the media. So far, no order has been entered, but many parties involved declined comment this morning as a result, including Parish's partner in his business, Jimmy Ratcliff, who attended today's bond hearing.
"I'm going to honor that gag order at this point," Coxwell said.
The district attorney took a personal interest in the case, appearing in court today. However, Smith indicated after the trial that he was not aware that the case had been presented in October, nor had he seen the video.
"As we know, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty," Smith said. "We certainly have to be briefed about this case from the Jackson Police Department. There was a detective that apparently presented this case to the grand jury, and the grand jury made the decision based on that presentation."
"Again, we have another video that is in controversy, some people see different, have different perspectives about this video evidence," Smith said. "We certainly have to get with all parties and make a decision about the facts of this case."
Smith said he was very busy apart from two-and-a-half-week trial that ended in a mistrial.
"I was focused on a lot of things, but certainly this is one of the cases where we certainly have to weigh out the evidence," Smith said.
Smith did say there was "nothing improper" about the JPD detective presenting the evidence, just that he had only heard of the case three days ago.
"There were portions that someone showed, but I need to look at the entire video, and again make a decision along with the office and the detectives and all parties to see exactly what happened," Smith said.
Parish’s attorney Ammie T. Nguyen of Flowood argues in a motion to set bail filed Jan. 4 that the 57-year-old co-owner of the business is not a flight risk and should be allowed reasonable bail, although he is charged with a capital offense that often does not allow bail. Parish has owned a home in Crystal Springs in Copiah County for five years, the motion states, and has lived in Mississippi for 35 years. He has co-owned Performance at 920 E. McDowell Road for 35 years and plans to return to work there right after his release on bond, Nguyen states.
“Further, Mr. Parish maintains a strong and meaningful relationship with his children and grandchildren," the motion states. Jackson attorney Merrida Coxwell is also listed as defense counsel.
"Of course, they have him charged with murder, which quite frankly is over-charging, if you look at the video," Coxwell told the Jackson Free Press last week. "Frankly, I don't think he is guilty of anything if you look at the video."
"He is entitled to bond, I don't think there is any question of that, so the question is going to be is he is a danger to the community or a flight risk," Coxwell said.
Mississippi College Law School professor Matt Steffey explained that for first-degree murder the judge can allow bail but normally does not.
"If you are charged with murder, and the proof is evident and the presumption great, the judge can deny you bond," Steffey said. "But its unusual for a first-degree murder person, who is at least facing life in prison, to get bond." Under those circumstances, the idea is to make sure that a person shows up to trial, he added.
"If ever there was an incentive to flee, it is when you are facing life for murder," Steffey said. "The judge could do it. I don't think the judge will, but they could."
Performance Oil is near the Hinds County Juvenile Justice Center, which McDonald had been in and out for years. His mother, Yvette Mason, and the detention director, Johnnie McDaniels, told the Jackson Free Press in earlier interviews that the system had “failed” McDonald by not helping him get the services he needed.
Nguyen’s motion provides a different perspective on what might have happened that morning. Mason had told the JFP that she was returning her son to the detention center because she could not control his outbursts. She said he jumped out of the car and ran, and was beating on the car window with his shoes when Parish came out of the business with a loaded gun and shot him several times in the chest.
The motion stated that a video exists of the interchange between McDonald and Parish, “although parts were blocked from view.” Still, the motion adds, “it was apparent what was taking place. “The deceased youth, a 17-year-old boy, repeatedly tried to break into an employee’s vehicle at Petroleum Oil. Mr. Parish asked the youth to just run and leave the premises. The youth did not leave.”
They fought before Parish shot the teenager, the motion says. “Both Mr. Parish and the deceased (McDonald) tussled with the youth grabbing onto Mr. Parish. Both were holding onto the gun when it went off.”
The motion then presents the incident as self-defense, even though McDonald was not armed. “From the video it appears clear that Mr. Parish had the opportunity to shoot the deceased, but he did not do so, rather the deceased ran at Mr. Parish and grabbed the gun where a struggle ensued and the deceased was shot. All of this was on video,” the motion stated. “It is unknown who actually pulled the trigger.”
The motion emphasizes that Parish has no criminal records “other than in his youth, (when) he was charged with driving under the influence.” McDonald, it added, had two warrants out for his arrest. In one, “he was involved in a police chase.” In addition, it said, McDonald “on the morning of the incident, the youth was involved in a house burglary and almost shot by the homeowner.”
The motion added, “Mr. Parish has a recognizable defense of self-defense.”
A police statement from the time provided far less information and indicated that Parish was let go. “One of the employees, armed with a handgun, approached McDonald in the parking lot and attempted to stop him,” that Jackson Police Department release from that day states. “There was a struggle between McDonald and the employee. The employee shot him during the struggle. The employee was questioned and later released. There were no other injuries reported.”
McDonald’s mother told the Jackson Free Press that her son was beating on the windows of the car with the red flip-flops he had been wearing at the time. Mason, who watched the shooting, said her son had run down the hill from the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center, where he was detained over eight times over the last two years.
A Hinds County grand jury indicted Parish on Oct. 28, 2016, court records show, but the sheriff’s department did not arrest him until Dec. 29, 2016, for reasons that are not yet clear. McDonald’s mother said that no one told her about the indictment until she learned last week that Parish was under arrest for murder.
Sheriff Victor Mason told the Jackson Free Press last week that his department did not handle the case originally, and that the timing of warrants involves both the district attorney's office and Jackson Police Department, who handled the case.
"It's not our end; we don't do that. You might want to check with the DA's office," Mason said.
A full archive of the JFP's "Preventing Violence" series, supported by grants from the Solutions Journalism Network. Photo of Zeakyy Harrington by Imani Khayyam.
Commander Tyree Jones, public relations officer for JPD, was not available for comment by press time. Calls to Hinds County Assistant District Attorney Walter Bleck concerning the case were also not returned by press time.
“I was overwhelmed with joy, that after 159 days of waiting, that he was finally arrested and charged," Yvette Mason told the Jackson Free Press on Jan. 2. “No one from the law-enforcement agency contacted me, and that’s what I am baffled about. At the end of the day, this was my child. Even if it had been the other way around, his family would have been notified.”
Mississippi Code 97-3-15 outlines the requirements for “justifiable homicide,” sometimes referred to as the “Castle Doctrine,” and one of the allowed instances outlined is “when committed by any person in resisting any attempt unlawfully to kill such a person or to commit any felony upon him, or upon or in any dwelling, in any occupied vehicle, in any place of business, in any place of employment or in the immediate premises thereof in which such person shall be.”
The 2006 law rode with the national trend of American Legislative Exchange Council-supported bills that copied a Florida law, known as the “Stand Your Ground” principle, used later on to pave the way for the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the much-publicized trial for his shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin because the shooter claimed that his own life was in danger.
The victim’s aunt, Cotten Taylor, told the Jackson Free Press during a phone interview that the family fears that Parish will receive a low bond during his arraignment.
Email city reporter Tim Summers Jr. at [email protected] Read more about Hinds County juvenile detention and youth crime at jfp.ms/preventingviolence.