|July 24, 2009||Friday ramblings - courts, media, Hardy v. Tupelo||no comments|
|July 23, 2009||Hardy trial jury goes home for the night||1 comments|
|July 23, 2009||Where does TPD go after Hardy trial?||3 comments|
|July 22, 2009||Hardy trial and other things||1 comments|
Good news for the public and media: Federal courts in North Mississippi have the go-ahead to let reporters bring laptop computers and cell phones into the courthouses, at each presiding judge's discretion.
We haven't been able to do that, under some court prohibitions dating back several years ago, although attorneys were free to come and go with laptops and cell phones.
Apparently, local rules for the Northern and Southern Districts of Mississippi have been amended, effective Dec. 1, but until that time Chief Judge Michael Mills has posted a standing order allowing each presiding judge "to relax or modify" prohibitions about the equipment.
That's great news.
You probably would laugh to see me "take off" from a courtroom immediately after a verdict to run out to my car, get my cell phone out and call our NeMS360.com guy with the update. It's also incredible to take notes like mad all day and then not be able to write anything workable until you can leave the courthouse at the end of the day because your laptop is in the car, too.
Progress, for sure. It also means you readers will be able to get news faster, in some instances, even as it happens.
Thanks, Judge Mills and others.
* * * *
One more word as we wrap up the Cliff Hardy v. Tupelo lawsuit. As you probably know, the jury found for Hardy and awarded him $300,000 in actual and compensatory damages.
That breaks down into $100,000 for lost wages and $200,000 for mental anguish.
Hardy said, as he got ready to leave court after a week-long trial, he was ready to kick back, spend some time with his family and find out how it felt to be "normal" again.
If the city goes through with an appeal to the 5th Circuit, it's likely to face many more thousands of dollars in legal fees and Hardy's attorneys will have to do the same.
Maybe somebody new at City Hall will decide it's a good idea just to cut their losses, avoid more lawyer fees, pay Hardy and move on without dragging this baggage along for another couple of years.
I'd suspect the good men and women at Tupelo Police Department would like to turn a new page, too. They have a job to do and don't need any more distractions.
* * * *
More Internet chatter about what's really going on with the U.S. Attorney selection for the Northern District. Reliable sources continue to peg Oxford defense attorney Christi R. McCoy as Obama's nominee, despite talk her candidacy has run into trouble.
They also say Natchez attorney, Deborah McDonald, will get the Southern nod.
Some folks close to this say the McCoy "problem" is hog-wash and just wishful thinking about some people who don't want to see McCoy get the job.
Potential rival, Asst. U.S.Atty. Curtis Ivy Jr., apparently has been making the rounds in Washington to bolster his interests in the job.
Guess we'll see soon what's going to happen, especially if the U.S.Atty. nominations head to the Senate before the August recess, as some have suggested.
And, think about it, Obama and Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel are no political dummies.
Why would they pick two black U.S.Attys for Mississippi?
They've got the Democrat vote. They want to succeed with Independents since they aren't likely to make any GOP inroads.
One U.S.Atty. of each race would make more sense, you'd think.
Stay tuned as the suspense mounts for everybody who cares about this. It's pretty much an insider's kind of thing, though.
* * *
I'm heading home for my favorite day of the week: Friday Night.
Next week looks pretty open, but with courts and politics, nothing is impossible.
Come back to "From the Front Row" for more on more.
And keep readin' ... Patsy
Hello to the person who commented that this blog is a joke. Keep laughin', friend.
The problems and issues I described in an earlier post today are not fiction. They came straight from testimony in the Hardy v. Tupelo trial in federal court. I'm not smart enough to make this stuff up.
Jury question: There are eight jurors in this case. Federal civil cases are a little more flexible with how many jurors will be seated, but all these folks count - no alternates. The decision must be unanimous. Thanks for inquiring.
By the way, they're getting $40 a day to serve and 55 cents per mile reimbursement. One guy travels about 200 miles roundtrip. He can go for steaks this weekend.
* * * *
The jury in the Hardy lawsuit didn't get to start deliberations until 5:49 p.m. No wonder they sent a note to Judge Sharion Aycock about 6:45, saying they wanted to go home.
They and the rest of us will be back in Aberdeen at 9 a.m. They will have work to do. I will just be sitting around with the attorneys, waiting for their decision.
* * *
Another interesting note from the Mississippi Supreme Court today: Golden Triangle Circuit Judge Jim Kitchens was reversed 9-0 in a criminal case.
Apparently, no one has been so completely slammed by the Supremes since 1995.
Congratulations, Judge Kitchens.
Readers should not confuse him with Supreme Court Justice Jim Kitchens, a longtime Southwest Miss. D.A. and defense attorney in Jackson for many years before he completely slammed then-Supreme's Chief Justice Jim Smith of Rankin County.
* * * *
Not sure if we'll be able to do any posting Friday until after we get a verdict.
But come back and check on me.
Good night ... Patsy
Cliff Hardy's lawsuit against the City of Tupelo may go his way or not.
Regardless, Hardy's claims have let the Genie out of the bottle – that is, nobody's going to forget what he's alleged and testimony from others about racial problems within the Tupelo Police Department.
In truth, if any competent person had conducted the Tupelo Ethics Report instead of Cindy Brown (well, anybody but George Castanza on Seinfeld), these issues could have been credible and perhaps addressed by now, or at least the city could be farther down the road toward addressing them.
We've heard some odd things this week in court:
• That an NMMC official's son beat up TPD officer and was taken to mental health services, rather than arrested.
• That at least two white TPD officers "could" have been involved in beating a black suspect in the Lee County Jail. This allegation never was investigated.
• That some white high-ups in TPD mistreated black suspects.
• That Maj. Ronnie Thomas was ordered to remove a picture of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from his office wall, after black officers complained. Forrest is widely considered to have founded the Ku Klux Klan.
• That Thomas and Chaffin, both white, were constant companions leading up to the time former Deputy Chief Robert Hall, who is black, came under his serious legal problems.
• That one black officer, who testified, denied he was drunk on the job when accused by Hardy. He also insinuated it wasn't the only complaint against him.
• That Chaffin admitted he was unaware of what was contained in Internal Affairs files about TPD officers.
And the whole issue of "professional courtesy" has become a sticky wicket – that although it's not official policy, it's generally recognized that an investigating officer can send a suspect home without arrest.
Today, Hall came back to the stand to specifically insist that TPD Chief Harold Chaffin NEVER suggested or ordered him NOT to release accident suspect Jamison Shells in May 2006 after a hit-and-run accident on McCullough Boulevard.
Earlier this week, Chaffin said he warned Hardy about getting involved in the incident's followup by TPD and strongly suggested Hardy walk away because he was friends with Shells' parents.
Who's really telling the truth will be what the jury considers, no doubt.
And it's been very interesting that while this case is all about Cliff Hardy, it's really all about Robert Hall, who ultimately was indicted and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction of justice and another charge to avoid facing jail time, if he went to trial.
This may be Hall's first public statements about his very public disgrace and departure from his well-regarded status as TPD's No. 2 guy.
Hardy ultimately lost all his jobs at TPD within months of making a public speech in Hardy's defense.
The jury likely will get the case by mid-afternoon, and I suspect they'll be highly motivated to decide something so they can go home tonight.
Stay tuned ... Patsy
First, the staff of life: politics.
No big surprise Sen. Thad Cochran is going to vote against Sonya Sotomayor for U.S. Supreme Court. He always follows whatever Sen. Roger Wicker does.
Isn't that it, ... or is the other way around? Whew, I've been in court too long this week.
Bigger question: Why did the Neshoba County Fair NOT invite Philadelphia's new mayor (who is black) and Central Supreme Court Justice James Graves (who is black)? I adore new Justice Jim Kitchens (who is white), also Central District, but he's been invited to speak next Thursday while Graves hasn't.
Is there something racial going on here? In Neshoba County? Naaaaaah? (I'm from Pike County. I can talk about Neshoba anytime.)
Speaking of court, Tupelo PD Chief Harold Chaffin is spending a lot of time in federal court this week. He's sitting at the defense counsel table with city attorneys John S. Hill and Berkley Huskison as the city seeks to fend off former Capt. Cliff Hardy's lawsuit.
Hardy contends he was run out of the department after he spoke in defense of a colleague, then Deputy Chief Robert Hall, who Hardy said was being persecuted because of his race. Hardy is white and Hall is black.
Looks like the jury could make up its mind before the sun sets Thursday.
It's hard to say which way the seven whites and one black jury will go. They've been reasonably attentive all week, but the U.S. District Court courtroom in Aberdeen has been so cold that I'm not sure Justice Scalia could concentrate sufficiently.
Frankly, when I'm cold, it's bad news. We all almost died of frostbite and chills on Monday, when I learned that the temp is controlled by some federal bureaucrat in Washington. Lordy, go figure!
Anyway, somehow the afternoon temps have improved. Still, the jurors arrived Tuesday in jackets and sweaters. TV colleague Susan Parker looked like an Eskimo, and I brought a shawl and a blanket.
* * * *
You've got to wonder how long Tupelo PD Chief Harold Chaffin can hang on.
Chaffin categorically denies he's had one thought about retirement, but he sure looked beleaguered and tired up there on the stand repeatedly Wednesday.
I have no doubts the new city administration has, at the least, casually chatted about new leadership in the police department.
Bound to happen – new Mayor Jack Reed Jr. is widely credited with helping ousted Deputy Chief Robert Hall with finding suitable employment with Community Development Foundation after Hall agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanors and resign from TPD.
Unverified talk also speculates several recent employment lawsuits against the city have drive up its liability insurance. We'll have to see about that rumor.
Regardless, the new Reed Administration appears to welcome the challenges.
* * * *
Good news for Scruggs-DeLaughter trial junkies:
Thanks to Senior Judge Glen Davidson (my son's a fan) for deciding to establish a "media room" for reporters during the trial of disgraced Hinds Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter.
Also, thanks to me for nagging Chief Judge Michael P. Mills to let me bring my laptop into the federal courtrooms to cover trials.
I asked for laptop use several months ago, but last week, I spoke with Mills to tell him that the U.S. District Court in Houston, Texas, where the big Stanford doin's are going on, lets anybody in with a laptop – EVEN reporters!
I give Mills credit. He's open to new ideas, so he said he's pass that info along to Judge Davidson. (It also sounds like the court is looking at wider media access.)
To my great delight, I learned quickly about the DeLaughter arrangements. Trial is set to begin in Oxford Aug. 17.
Judge DeLaughter has pleaded not guilty to charges he allowed himself to be bribed in a legal-fees case against Dickie Scruggs. He also is accused of mail fraud and of lying to investigators.
Now, I've got to get myself some wi-fi so I can blog live from the courtroom. I'll figure out something.
* * * *
Sorry I failed with a column today (Thursday), but this Aberdeen court gig has taken all the spark out of my brain.
BTW, thanks go heaven-ward for the rain this week. My garden needed it, and I've loved not turning on the A/C since Saturday!
Keep readin'.... Patsy