Hed: Appeals court upholds convictions of Marion, three others

Hed: Appeals court upholds convictions of Marion, three others

By Cynthia M. Jeffries

Daily Journal

The U.S. Court of Appeals recently decided not to overturn the convictions of Holly Springs’ former police chief and three other former law enforcement officers.

The Fifth District Court of Appeals in New Orleans issued its ruling April 10 upholding the convictions of the officers who were found guilty in 1994 of taking bribes to protect the sale of crack cocaine in the Marshall County town.

Each of the officers was sentenced to nearly 13 years in federal prison.

Attorneys for the officers had filed a motion asking that the verdicts be overturned, saying Northern U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson had allegedly committed nine errors while hearing the case. One of the errors involved alleged jury tampering when two jurors were approached by a friend of one of the defendants who tried to sway their decisions.

The court dismissed eight of the nine claims, saying those eight did not “deserve any discussion.” Regardless of the tampering incident, the court ruled there was “overwhelming” evidence to believe the testimony of an undercover government agent posing as a drug dealer who met with the officers several times to discuss their payoff for allowing him to work within their jurisdiction.

Anthony Marion, former Holly Springs police chief, was convicted in federal court of five counts of extortion, nearly a year and a half after his June 1993 arrest.

Former Holly Springs police officers Willie Frank Jones and Billy Ray Gray, and former Marshall County sheriff’s deputy Sylvester Byers were also convicted in that trial.

Marion’s guilty verdict was handed down during his third trial. In two previous trials, Marion, who was Holly Springs first African-American police chief, was tried alone while the other three officers were tried together. The juries came back with hung verdicts in those trials.

In the last trial, all four were tried together and were convicted.

Each of the former officers is serving a 12-year, seven-month sentence and is not eligible for parole. Marion is in a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, Gray is in Allenwood, Penn., and Jones and Byers are in a federal prison in Texarkana, Texas.

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