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franklin county times

Notes from the cops and courts beat

By Staff
Oct. 28, 2001
Circuit Court will not be in session in Lauderdale County next week. Judge Larry Roberts will be in Clarke County, Judge Robert Bailey in Wayne County. The 10th District Circuit Court includes Lauderdale, Clarke, Kemper and Wayne counties. Meanwhile, here are a few observations from the cops and courts beat locally.
Changes at the police, sheriff's departments
On Wednesday, the annual re-bidding of the shifts at the Meridian Police Department takes effect and you may see different patrol officers on duty at different times of the day.
The department is also re-introducing a number of two-man patrol cars. Acting Chief Benny DuBose says increased safety for officers is the main reason for the change. He also notes that most calls require back-up, and it's easier to start out with two officers at the scene than call for another patrol car.
The patrol division is now 23 officers short the 17 positions that were vacant before Sept. 11, plus five members of the Mississippi National Guard who have since been called up, plus one resignation.
While there is no new word about the search for a police chief, one of the five officers called up was a candidate for the position.
In Lauderdale County, Sheriff Billy Sollie said two of his deputies are reservists. One was activated for two weeks, but has now returned to work. The other shipped out after he was activated. Several correctional officers are reservists, but none have been called up.
Sollie is also looking for a new investigator. Orrin Fuelling of the Criminal Investigation Division is leaving the sheriff's department for a job at Naval Air Station Meridian's Regional Counter-Drug Training Academy.
Quick takes from the courthouse
Death penalty: Assistant District Attorney Dan Angero confirmed this week his office will not seek the death penalty against Johnathan Ruffin and Morris Griggs. The two men are charged with capital murder in the shooting death of Tyrone Moffett. Angero said death penalty cases are "few and far between." In this case, he said, there are circumstances that mitigate against the death penalty. He also noted that serving on a capital case is very stressful for jurors.
Life sentence: Jonathan Fulcher, convicted in 1998 of attempted robbery, has been appealing his conviction ever since. The incident occurred at the Sunglass Hut at Bonita Lakes Mall.
Fulcher received a mandatory life sentence under the "three strikes and you're out" law for violent habitual offenders. The legal issues involved in the trial were unusually convoluted. The Mississippi Appeals Court reversed his conviction in December 2000, and then reversed itself in July 2001. So, as of now, Fulcher stands convicted again. Meridian attorney Leslie Gates filed a request Oct. 17 for a hearing before the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Fine rescinded: In August, Circuit Judge Larry Roberts reprimanded Tax Collector Stanley Shannon for speaking to several members of a qualified jury pool in the Fiddle, Inc. lawsuit. The judge disqualified the 77-member panel, and fined Shannon and the city $2,002.40 $25 a day for each juror and reimbursement for their mileage.
The Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors asked the judge to drop the fine, and he honored the request. Here's why, I think. When Roberts disqualified the 77 jurors, it meant the jury qualification process would have to be done again. It is Lauderdale County which funds the operation of the court. If the supervisors, who are the financial losers here, don't want the money, I guess it's OK with Judge Roberts.
An ironic note: No sentencing hearing has been set for Kim Gianakos, convicted of mail fraud in the Comcast case. The trial took place in April. Gianakos announced the closing of her business, a marketing firm called Gianakos Associates, within days of the verdict. The business closed its doors before the end of the month.
One of the things causing delays is her attorney's belief that she should receive special consideration in sentencing based on her years of community service.
The local State Games office announced Friday that Gianakos' commemorative T-shirt design for the 2001 event won the first-place national award in that category during the 2001 National Congress of State Games Symposium. By the time the games took place, Gianakos had been out of business for six weeks.
Not a courthouse note: The city of Meridian issued a notice Thursday that by city code, children 12 and older can't trick or treat and nobody can trick or treat after 10 p.m.
We are living in strange times, I know, but can it possibly be legal for the city to make a rule saying, in effect, that you are subject to arrest if you walk up to a door after 10 p.m., knock on it and ask for candy? Are police officers going to enforce the under-12 rule?
I think their hearts are probably in the right place, but I don't see a public safety issue present that might justify it and I would be surprised to discover that city government has that kind of latitude in controlling the private affairs of its citizens.
Suzanne Monk is managing editor of The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3229, or e-mail her at smonk@themeridianstar.com.

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