By The Associated Press
GREENWOOD — Greenwood oncologist Arnold Smith is asking a federal judge to throw out a capital murder charge related to a shootout at a local law office.
Smith argues he is being illegally detained on the charge. It is an issue that has twice been rejected by state courts. Smith is scheduled for trial next April.
The Greenwood Commonwealth reports (http://bit.ly/11qw4xF ) that Smith’s attorney, William Bell, filed the lawsuit in federal court this past Friday. A judge has not ruled on the motion. The attorney general’s office declined comment on the lawsuit.
Smith was arrested April 29, the morning after a shootout at the office of Greenwood attorney Lee Abraham. Smith is accused of offering Keaira Byrd $20,000 to kill Abraham. Smith has been indicted on a charge of capital murder for the death of Byrd and charges of conspiracy to commit the murder. Abraham was not injured.
In the federal lawsuit, Bell said there is no legal justification for charging Smith with the death of Byrd, who was killed by an investigator with the attorney general’s office.
The lawsuit claims that Mississippi’s capital murder statute “requires that the killing of Keaira Byrd must have been by a person engaged in the commission of one of the enumerated felonies.”
In Mississippi, capital murder is defined as murder committed along with another crime, in this case burglary — gaining access to Abraham’s law office under false pretenses.
According to the police investigation, the conspiracy began with Smith offering to pay $20,000 to Byrd to kill Abraham, toward whom Smith has had a long-running animosity. Prosecutors said Byrd and Derrick Lacy contacted Abraham and told him of the plot, offering to sell Abraham an automatic weapon they said had been provided by Smith for the slaying.
Abraham made arrangements to meet the pair at his law office, across from the Leflore County Courthouse. He contacted the attorney general’s office to request that investigators to be present, according to authorities.
When Byrd and Lacy arrived, Byrd was wearing a ski mask and holding an assault weapon, investigators say. Gunfire was exchanged. Byrd, 23, was killed, and Lacy was severely injured. One of the attorney general’s agents suffered a minor wound.
Smith and Lacy have been charged with causing Byrd’s death by conspiring with him in the assassination plot. The slaying was upgraded to a capital offense because, according to the indictment, it occurred in connection with another felony being committed. The indictment says Lacy and Byrd committed burglary in gaining access to Abraham’s office “by the use or subterfuge or trick.”
Information from: The Greenwood Commonwealth, http://www.gwcommonwealth.com