Hinds DA calls out judges - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Hinds DA calls out judges

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

District Attorney Robert Smith says he's uncovered at least six instances where attorneys met with judges without his office's knowledge, to get bond reductions, and charges reduced and dropped.

"Some judges are getting these cases without our knowledge and our agreement and our input.  That is not proper," said Smith. "It's not proper for the attorney to go to the judge without the DA's office."

District Attorney Smith highlflighted the case of accused murderer Timothy Owens.

Smith says last summer while he was awaiting indictment, Judge Tomie Green reduced his bond to 5-thousand dollars after meeting with his attorney, former district attorney Faye Peterson.

"We still don't know how many are out there because we only discover these cases as we go through our dockets and we try to figure out how this person got out of jail," added Smith. "How they were released on a very low bond for murder and how some cases were dismissed without our knowledge." 

Smith says he plans to ask for a Justice Department investigation into the judge's actions.

Faye Peterson says she has emails and court documents proving that bond reduction hearing happened in open court, with assistant district attorneys present.

"That's classic slander," said Peterson. "I've already received a phone call from a client concerned about their case because of the things he said that were absolutely untrue.  There was nothing done ex parte.  Judge Green is not that type of a person.  She's not that kind of a member of the bench and for him to malign her character publicly like that, he needs to be reprimanded by the bar."

Friday afternoon, Hinds county Judge Tomie Green released the following statement:

The Court is limited in what it can disclose in its judicial capacity, and hereby requests that the media publish this entire statement. No further statements from the Court are anticipated at this time.

The judges of all circuit courts of this State take an oath to administer justice without respect to persons, and to provide equal right to the rich and the poor. We pledge to faithfully and impartially discharge our duties in accordance with the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution and laws of the State of Mississippi.

I have kept my oath and complied in good faith, with the Code of Judicial Conduct for nearly 20 years now. I challenge anyone, including the district attorney, to prove otherwise. Remands, nolle proses and dismissals are initiated by the District Attorney's office. My actions on and off the bench have never been motivated by threats, bullying, public opinion, hope of reward or popularity. The rulings of this Court are guided only by the principles of the law, the Constitution and the divine dictate of our Creator. I vehemently deny the false allegations of our district attorney, and suggest he choose another scapegoat.

Attempts to defame this Court, are inexcusable and exemplify an unacceptable and failed attempt at bullying. By perpetuating intentional falsehoods, our misguided prosecutor may very well be highlighting and revealing his own shortcomings and emotional instability. The district attorney is clearly abusing his authority and in doing so, he is attempting to mislead the citizens of Hinds County and betraying the public's trust. This Court welcomes any investigation by any person or agency or entity. However, the real question is whether the district attorney can withstand the same scrutiny. I submit that he cannot.

Throughout the state Circuit judges preside over both civil and criminal cases, just as we do within the 7th Circuit Court District (Hinds County) in the State of Mississippi. We do not prosecute cases -- the district attorney or the attorney general does. Circuit judges do not make arrests, collect evidence, present cases to grand juries for indictment or try criminal cases before juries - law enforcement and district attorneys do. Judges do not decide facts, determine the credibility of witnesses or convict criminals -- juries do. And, when jurors convict, circuit judges sentence in accordance with Mississippi law. When there is a plea bargain between the Defendant and the district attorney, the district attorney makes a recommendation for sentencing to the Court. With due respect for the disposition authority of the prosecutor, all Courts generally accepts the sentencing recommendation, but from time to time, rejects a sentence and imposes a different sentence that the Court believes is more justified.

Under both the federal and state Constitutions, a person charged with a crime and indicted by a grand jury are presumed innocent. That presumption stays with the Defendant until he pleads guilty or until he or she is convicted of the crime by a jury of his peers. As such, under our Constitution, a person charged with a crime is entitled to a "reasonable" bond to assure the person charged appears for trial. A bond is not set based on the severity of the crime charged, but does take into account the risk of ?ight and the risk to public safety. Ninety-?ve (95%) of the time, the bond is agreed to by our District Attorney. Many times the judges have increased bonds that have previously been agreed to by the district attorney. Courts are duty bound to set bonds in accordance with the law and the Constitution. Our Supreme Court dictates that no person who is presumed innocent should sit in jail for months or years without being indicted or tried. I know of no circuit judge in our district who has refused to preside over a case properly prepared for presentation at trial by the district attorney's office.

Tomie Green, Senior Circuit Judge - 7th Circuit Court District
State of Mississippi

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