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Stories Written by Stephanie Rebman
CORINTH – An Alcorn County teenager has died from injuries he suffered in an Aug. 3, accident in Corinth.
Austin Digby, 17, remained in critical condition at the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee until he died Tuesday, said Corinth police Chief David Lancaster.
Digby was injured when he was partially ejected from the roof of an SUV when it flipped over while making a backup maneuver in the parking lot of Oakland Baptist Church.
The truck was driven by 17-year-old Jordan McDuffy, who sustained minor injuries. Both teens were members of the church.
The accident was reported about 10 p.m., and emergency personnel from the fire department next door to the church responded and lifted the truck off the teen’s body, the chief said.
No arrangements have been announced by Magnolia Funeral Home, Corinth.
CORINTH – The body of a 16-year-old teen from Ripley was recovered Wednesday afternoon after he apparently drowned in Hurricane Creek at the western edge of Alcorn County.
Brandon Wayne Davis, of 121 C.R. 259, Ripley, was out swimming with his brother Black Davis, 18, said Sheriff Charles Rinehart.
After Brandon Davis used a rope to swing out and drop into the creek, he came up once yelling to his brother, then went down again and didn’t resurface.
Alcorn County E-911 received a call about 3 p.m. to report a drowning, the sheriff said, and he called the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks for assistance with a boat.
The MDWFP officers recovered the body about 5:30 p.m., and it was turned over to the coroner.
No foul play is suspected, the sheriff said.
By LAUREN WALCK
BILOXI – Locals lined the walls of Mary Mahoney’s restaurant Wednesday to shake the hand of New Jersey governor and GOP leader Chris Christie.
He stopped by to thank South Mississippi first responders who helped after Hurricane Sandy. The stop is one of many in a cross-country tour in support of GOP governors as chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association.
“I heard some extraordinary stories about how wonderful the first responders from Mississippi were to our folks,” he said. “Particularly in Montiff County, N.J., which was one of our hardest-hit counties where they went and spoke to folks directly.”
Christie said he was glad to have support from people that had been through a similar situation.
“The biggest gift they brought was that our folks got to see people that had been through it and had gotten to the other side,” he said.
Recovery from the 2012 storm is going well, he said, especially for businesses. Rebuilding the 365,000 homes lost has been the biggest challenge, which is something he said Biloxians could surely relate to.
Harrison County fire chief Pat Sullivan led a team of first responders for two weeks after the storm and said he was impressed Christie expressed his gratitude.
“What’s most important to me is the governor was representing his people in coming and saying thank you,” he said. “That meant something.”
It’s not Christie’s first trip to the Coast. He supported Gov. Phil Bryant — who was also at the meet-and-greet — during the 2011 campaign and said he would return in 2015 if Bryant decides to run again.
Bryant said Mississippi was just returning the favor for all the help the state received after Hurricane Katrina.
“Chris Christie has done a remarkable job of leading his state through the challenges of Sandy,” he said.
When asked about the recent senate race between U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel, the New Jersey governor said the competition was good for the party.
“It’s good for our party to have good, vital debates and discussions but when the voters speak it’s time for it to be over,” he said.
The person Christie seemed most excited to see was Biloxi native Barry Lyons, who led the New York Mets to their last championship in 1986.
“It’s been 28 years, Barry, we need you to come back,” he laughed.
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON – In a move that’s more symbolic than substantial, same-sex couples in seven Mississippi counties were allowed to file out-of-state marriage licenses into chancery court land records Wednesday, while couples were barred from filing documents in one coastal county.
Couples said filing the papers does not overturn Mississippi’s ban on same-sex marriage, but it does provide a public record that they are living as families in the state.
“It doesn’t give us any rights that we didn’t already have. It is a way to create a vital record for historical purposes that we were here,” said Joce Pritchett of Jackson.
Pritchett married her wife, Carla Webb, in Maine in 2013, and they have two young children. Pritchett said employees in the Hinds County chancery clerk’s office greeted them with smiles and wishes for good luck on Wednesday when they recorded their Maine license with their local land records.
“It means a lot to us,” she said. “It’s a way to force them to recognize that we exist.”
A North Carolina-based gay rights group, Campaign for Southern Equality, organized the effort, and group spokesman Aaron Sarver said 13 couples were allowed to file papers in Amite, Desoto, Hancock, Hinds, Lafayette, Lamar and Pearl River counties. Four couples were not allowed to file in coastal Harrison County.
Lindsey Simerly, who’s leading the Campaign for Southern Equality’s efforts to legalize same-sex marriage, said recording out-of-state marriage licenses with Mississippi land records creates a public record that future generations can search to see that same-sex couples were living in the state before their marriages were legally recognized.
The group said 2012 Census data showed there were 3,488 same-sex households in Mississippi, and 26 percent of them were raising children – the highest percentage of any state.
“We want to be clear that all across Mississippi, in every town and city, there are same-sex couples,” Sarver said.
JACKSON – Mississippi is asking a federal appeals court to uphold a 2012 state law requiring abortion clinic doctors to obtain hospital admitting privileges.
In late July, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that the law is unconstitutional because it would close Mississippi’s only abortion clinic.
Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood filed papers Wednesday asking the full court to reverse the three-judge panel’s ruling and allow Mississippi to enforce the law.
It was not immediately clear when the full court would consider the request.
The abortion clinic, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, uses out-of-state physicians who travel to Mississippi several times a month. They applied for admitting privileges at Jackson-area hospitals, but clinic owner Diane Derzis said they did not receive responses. Many hospitals, including some with religious affiliation, ignore or reject applications from abortion clinic doctors and won’t grant privileges to out-of-state physicians.
The U.S. Supreme Court established a constitutional right to abortion in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. On July 29, the 5th Circuit panel ruled that Mississippi may not shift its obligation for established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state.
The Jackson clinic remains open, and for years it has had an agreement with a local physician who will meet a patient at a Jackson hospital in case of complications. Derzis has said such complications are rare.
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said he wants to end abortion in Mississippi and he wants to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, to try to uphold the admitting privileges law. He and other supporters said the law would protect women’s health by ensuring that a physician who performs an abortion in a clinic also would be able to treat the patient in a hospital in case of complications.
Opponents said the requirement is unnecessary, since patients in distress are automatically treated in emergency rooms, and that it gives religious-affiliated hospitals veto power over who can work in an abortion clinic and, by extension, whether a clinic can stay in business.
Ten other states have similar admitting privileges laws that have forced a growing number of clinics to close.
The 5th Circuit handles cases from Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana and is one of the most conservative federal appeals courts.
In asking all 15 judges on the 5th Circuit to reconsider the Mississippi case, Hood wrote Wednesday that a different group of 5th Circuit judges earlier this year allowed a Texas admitting privileges law to take effect.
Texas, the second-largest state in the nation, has 18 remaining abortion clinics, but more than 20 have closed since enactment of the 2013 law that includes the admitting privileges requirement.
Hood wrote that under 5th Circuit panels’ rulings in the Mississippi and Texas cases, “traveling 25 miles from Hernando, to a clinic in Memphis, Tennessee, is an undue burden, but a 150-mile trip from McAllen, Texas, to Corpus Christi, Texas, is not. This result is not only counterintuitive, but also flatly contradicts the reality that the majority of women in Mississippi already travel to other states to obtain abortions.”
Hood’s filing did not provide statistics to back up the assertion that most Mississippi women who have an abortion go out of state for the procedure.
FALKNER – The Tippah County Sheriff’s Office continues investigation of an early afternoon suspected accidental shooting on County Road 412 that involved two teenagers and a handgun.
Sheriff Karl Gaillard said a 16-year-old male and a 17-year-old female apparently were handling a small caliber pistol when it went off and the young female was injured, according to witnesses.
Authorities received a call about 12:45 p.m., and a rescue helicopter landed at Falkner High School to transport the victim to the Regional Medical Center in Memphis, Gaillard said.
Adults and a young child also were at the residence when the incident happened, but there were no other injuries.
Gaillard said he has received no information on the young woman’s condition, but he will interview her for her account of the incident as the investigation continues.
A fatal accident occurred in Calhoun County this morning around 7 a.m.
According to the Mississippi Highway Patrol, a black 2009 Honda Accord traveling north on Highway 9 near the intersection of Highway 331 left the roadway and collided with a tree.
The driver, 48-year-old Ruthie Williams of Bruce was pronounced dead at the scene by the Calhoun County coroner.
This accident remains under investigation by MHP.
Tupelo’s winner of the Elvis Tribute Artist competition has advanced to the Top 10 in this week’s contest in Memphis.
According to the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association, the Tupelo Elvis Festival named Ben Thompson of London, England, the 2014 Tupelo Elvis Tribute Artist Winner at the festival this past June.
As the winner of the Tupelo competition, Thompson represented Tupelo in round one of the Elvis Presley Enterprises Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition Tuesday in Memphis.
Thompson will compete again Thursday in the final round.
JACKSON – West Nile Virus has claimed its first Mississippi victim of 2014.
The state Department of Health said Tuesday that a Yazoo County resident died from the mosquito-borne illness earlier this month, providing no further details about the victim.
The state is also reporting a new case of West Nile Virus in Wilkinson County. So far this year, seven cases of West Nile have been reported. Beyond the Wilkinson and Yazoo cases, one person apiece has been infected in Adams, Hinds and Newton counties. Two people have been infected in Rankin County.
The Department of Health only reports laboratory-confirmed cases to the public.
In 2013, Mississippi had 45 confirmed West Nile cases and five deaths. In 2012, the state had 247 cases and five deaths.
JACKSON – Saying a Sunday lightning strike disabled its lawyers’ computers, the state of Mississippi requested and was granted an extra day to ask the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a decision that struck down a law that would have closed Mississippi’s only abortion clinic.
A court clerk approved the extension Tuesday, giving the state until Wednesday to file for a rehearing.
It’s the first written confirmation that Mississippi will ask all 15 circuit judges to rehear the case. A majority of the judges must agree.
Last month, in a 2-1 decision, a three-judge panel of the court ruled the 2012 law unconstitutional because it would have closed the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the state’s only abortion clinic.
The law required clinic physicians to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. The clinic’s physicians applied for privileges but were unable to get them.
Attorneys for the state had argued that if the clinic closed, women could get abortions in other states.
The appeals panel ruled that a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1973 established a constitutional right to abortion. The panel said Mississippi may not shift its obligation for established constitutional rights of its citizens to another state.
In a motion filed Tuesday seeking more time, Paul Barnes of the attorney general’s office wrote that lightning damaged the computer network at the office, including file servers, email and Internet access, at about 5:45 p.m. Sunday. The Jackson area was experiencing heavy rain at the time.
The attorney general’s own staff wasn’t able to fix the damage Monday, and outside consultants were brought in. They didn’t restore the system until late Monday or early Tuesday.
“These unforeseen technical difficulties, which were beyond the control of undersigned counsel, have greatly hampered the ability of appellants to complete and file the petition,” Barnes wrote. He wrote that opposing lawyers for the abortion clinic agreed to the one-day deadline extension that the court granted.
Mississippi’s appeal will be closely watched. The ruling from the conservative 5th Circuit was narrowly crafted to Mississippi, but could have implications elsewhere. Ten other states have similar laws, which have forced a growing number of clinics to close.
The Mississippi clinic remains open, using out-of-state physicians who travel to Mississippi several times a month to perform abortions./jeffamy