Secret phone conversations with Hinds DA revealed - - Jackson, MS

Secret phone conversations with Hinds DA revealed

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

Court transcripts of two secretly recorded conversations between embattled Hinds County's District Attorney and his then,  Assistant DA, Ivon Johnson have been released. 

Johnson was later charged in federal court with conspiracy for allegedly accepting money to provide favorable treatment for defendants in criminal cases. The man in the middle of the legal battle between the Attorney General's office and the DA is inmate Christopher Butler.  

In a May 9 recorded phone call, Smith says to his Assistant District Attorney Johnson, "We are going to get him free", referring to inmate Christopher Butler.

Smith says Butler is a political prisoner and that his constitutional rights had been violated. He maintains Butler was framed by Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents. 

Butler faces multiple charges.

We spoke with a Mississippi College law professor about the argument of a prosecutor's legal  responsibilities.

"His job is to use his professional judgment and pick appropriate defendants for prosecution based on the law and the evidence. and if  the law and the evidence show that a person is innocent or that a case can't be made in a proper and constitutional way, then his obligation is to dismiss the charges," said professor Matt Steffey. "The prosecution may say this is evidence of an improperly motive or an improper desire to help a defendant by DA Smith, but DA Smith may legitimately counter that his obligation is to prosecute guilty people not win cases. District Attorney's are ethically responsible for making judgments about whether the prosecution is appropriate on the law  and on the facts. So Mr. Smith's lawyer may very well say that this is him discharging his duties, not undermining them."

The  Attorney General's office saw it a different way. Last month Hinds county's top prosecutor was slapped with felony charges of hindering prosecution of a criminal defendant. along with an Assistant DA, Jamie McBride.

"We want the case thrown out, we believe it's the duty of the District Attorney to protect the constitutional rights of people accused of a crime," said Smith's defense attorney Jim Waide in a telephone conversation from his office,   

"This was not illegal or a criminal act," added Waide.

Smith Transcript May 9, 2016

Smith Transcript June 18, 2016

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