Charles R. “Chuck” Mullins is a partner at Coxwell & Associates located in Jackson, Hinds County, Mississippi. Chuck represents citizens accused of both felony and misdemeanor cases. For the last 19 months, Chuck has been representing Sharrod Moore on capital murder charges. Sharrod was charged with the 1995 murder of Jackson Police Officer R.J. Washington.
In an expected move, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Swan Yerger dismissed the capital murder case against Sharrod Moore without prejudice. This means that the State could, in theory, revive the charges against Mr. Moore.
The State sought to dismiss the charges against Mr. Moore just a week before trial. The State candidly admitted that the evidence they had was simply not sufficient to obtain a guilty verdict. However, the State wanted to dismiss without prejudice. We argued that the defense was ready for trial and that if the State did not have any evidence against Sharrod, then the proper remedy was a dismissal WITH prejudice. Judge Yerger then asked for briefs from both parties.
The State’s brief cited only one case in support of its position which the defense pointed out was simply not applicable to the facts of this case. Judge Yerger even agreed with the defense on this point.
We filed two comprehensive briefs pointing out numerous cases which held that criminal cases should be dismissed if the defendant can show gross negligence in bringing the charges and that the defendant suffered prejudice as a result. In his order, Judge Yerger simply made conclusory statements that the defense failed to show any evidence of prosecutorial misconduct or gross negligence by the State. Suffice it to say, we put forth numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct and/or gross negligence (relying on false testimony, intentionally failing to provide discovery, and other improper acts). The Court simply chose to ignore them.
Perhaps more troubling was Judge Yerger’s comment that the defendant failed to show any prejudice. Sharrod Moore was indicted solely on the basis of two career criminal informants who were both shown to be liars. The State chose to ignore these lies and continued to hold Sharrod in jail for 18 months. The State knew its case against Sharrod was baseless but continued the masquerade for as long as it could. Then, just a week before trial, the State sought to dismiss the charges without prejudice! The State finally admitted that its “star witness” was not credible and that they had no evidence with which to prosecute. Judge Yerger found this not to amount to prejudice? If being wrongfully incarcerated for 18 months is not prejudice, I don’t know what is.
The procedural history of this case was contentious. Judge Yerger repeatedly found that the State was witholding discovery. There were numerous motions to compel evidence filed yet the trial court refused to do anything to the State for its wilfull refusal to abide by discovery. The State sought to have the trial court recused on several occassions simpy because the Court required them to produce documents which the State was required to produce. Yet the trial court refused to reprimand the State for their improper comments or actions toward him or defense counsel. Numerous items of evidence had been destroyed over the years which the State conceded were exculpatory, yet the trial court refused to dismiss the case. The State improperly released an explosive statement from one of its witnesses to the local media which linked former Mayor Frank Melton to a mass drug importation conspiracy in Jackson and which implicated him somewhat in R.J. Washington’s death. Yet the trial court refused to take any action against the State. The State even made claims that the Jackson Police Department was involved in a police coverup/conspiracy regarding the death of R.J. Washington, that another police officer had been killed because of what they knew, that several officers had been moved around to keep them from solving the case, etc. But when the defense asked the State for all the details of this coverup, the trial court allowed the State to talk its way out of providing any of this information to the defense!
The State acted improperly by indicting Sharrod Moore. The State finally admitted on the eve of trial that the evidence which they possessed was not competent evidence against Sharrod Moore. The trial court, in the bests interests of justice, should have dismissed these charges with prejudice. Instead, the State’s improper actions were condoned by the trial court. So this is justice? Here is Judge Yerger’s order:
State v Sharrod Moore- Granting Dismissal without Prejudice.pdf
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.