Pardoned, convicted felon running for Justice Court Judge - - Jackson, MS

Pardoned, convicted felon running for Justice Court Judge

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The Cauthens The Cauthens
MADISON COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

"He was one of those kinda guys you just wanted to be around, because he had a warm personality, warm smile, he played high school football," Jim Cauthen said about 15 year old James Caldwell.

The Madison Ridgeland Academy student's life was cut short in 1982, when he and another teen, Jim Brian Rees, were killed in an accident on Lakeland Drive.

They were not at fault.

A jury found Terry Hawkins guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the accident.

Now, Hawkins is running for Madison County Justice Court Judge, District 3.

It is his second run for Justice Court Judge.

In 1999, Hawkins received a full pardon for the crime.

Even so, Caldwell's mother says he should not be allowed to run.

"He was convicted of two manslaughters, no I don't think he should run," Katie Cauthen said. "How could he put his signs up everywhere, us driving by them every day. He knows we live here. He's never been remorseful, to me that's like turning a knife that's already stuck in there."

Katie and her husband Jim also believe Hawkins got off too lightly.

In 1984, a Rankin County judge sentenced him to five years in prison with four years and six months suspended.

The Cauthens say Hawkins was driving drunk when he crashed.

In the sentencing transcript, the judge said that while Hawkins' neglect was inexcusable, he didn't think blood alcohol level was the cause of the wreck.

Hawkins' campaign website mentions an accident that changed many lives, but it does not let voters know that a jury found him guilty.

"He glossed over it, made it trivial," Jim Cauthen says. 

Hawkins released this statement to WLBT News:

"I have never hidden the fact that I was involved in a fatal car accident on August 1, 1982.  I have spoken about it on the campaign trail and throughout my life.  Although I received a full pardon by Governor Kirk Fordice after a thorough investigation by the State Parole Board, I do not now, nor have I ever minimalized the loss of Brian Rees and James Caldwell.

I have spent a great deal of time since the accident thinking about the lives that were lost and the hurt that both families have endured.  I know that the pain must be constant and never-ending.  Not a day goes by that I don't remember it in some way.

At the time of sentencing, I apologized in open court to the families of the victims, and more recently in correspondence to a close relative who contacted me through my campaign website.

It is because of my past that I am running for Justice Court Judge.  I have a strong desire to help others, especially young people.  I believe most deserve a second chance and that lives can be changed for the better if the right person steps in to give direction.  I don't want to see more lives lost or wasted because of poor choices.  I have a unique perspective on this, one I wish I didn't have.

I have lived my life in such a way as to honor those lives that were lost in that tragic accident on August 1, 1982, and I will continue to do so whether I win or lose this election.  I mean no disrespect to the Caldwell and Reeves families by seeking the office of Justice Court Judge, quite the opposite."

Copyright 2011 WLBT. All rights reserved.

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