Trial begins in sheriff's 2010 death

By The Associated Press

NATCHEZ — The capital murder trial of a man accused of running over a Mississippi sheriff has begun with jury selection.

Twenty-six-year-old Christopher Lee Baxter of Lucedale is accused of running over and killing George County Sheriff Garry Welford in 2010 during a high-speed chase.

The Mississippi Press reported that lawyers spent much of Monday interviewing potential jurors, and that jury selection was to continue Monday evening. Opening statements are expected Tuesday morning.

Judge Richard McKenzie is presiding over the trial, which is taking place in Natchez.

Baxter, if convicted, would face life in prison rather than the death penalty because McKenzie has ruled that he is intellectually disabled.

Welford was run over while putting out spikes to stop Baxter’s truck and end a police chase in 2010. Officials said Baxter was wanted for missing his sentencing on a drug charge.

After an all-night manhunt, Baxter and Brandy Nicole Williams, 20, were captured the next morning at a mobile home about six miles north of the scene.

The State Supreme Court appointed McKenzie, a retired Hattiesburg judge, to hear the case after local judges stepped aside. The trial was moved to Adams County after attorneys in the case agreed last year that it was unlikely they would be able to find an unbiased jury pool in George County.

McKenzie also ruled that following his arrest, Baxter understood his Miranda rights and voluntarily gave statements to police, so police can use those statements in his trial.

Williams, 20, also is charged with capital murder. Her trial is scheduled Aug. 27 in Lafayette County.