Rape cases will not be heard by jurors from Warren County

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 22, 2000

The trials of the two defendants accused of raping a woman shopping for a home and beating a businessman selling his house on Sky Farm Avenue will not be heard by a Warren County jury.

The case against 24-year-old Romika Perkins was set to begin Monday in Warren County Circuit Court. The trial of Derrick Warren, 18, had been set for Dec. 4.

In granting motions for changes of venue Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Frank Vollor did not say when or where rescheduled trials would be held.

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“He could bring in a jury from somewhere else or move it to another county,” District Attorney Gil Martin said. Both methods have been used to find jurors who have not been exposed to information about the case.

“Which of those he picks will determine new trial dates,” Martin said.

Vollor heard attorneys for the defendants argue on Oct. 25 that an impartial jury could not be found in Warren County due to publicity the case has generated.

His ruling counters testimony from County Prosecutor Johnny Price and Police Chief Mitchell Dent that they believe a fair panel could be selected from Warren County voter lists.

Perkins and Warren, both Vicksburg residents, are accused of attacking 36-year-old Lorie G. Stevens, who has since moved to Virginia, and Vicksburg businessman Glenn Triplett. Stevens and her four children were shopping for a new house on July 18, 1999, and were at a home on Sky Farm Avenue, which is owned by Triplett, when the attacks occurred. The children were locked in a closet while their mother was assaulted, police reports say.

In October, Jackson attorney Chris Klotz said numerous articles in The Vicksburg Post had tainted any potential jury in Warren County.

Prosecutors countered that most of the newspaper articles focused on civil suits brought by Stevens and her family. Dent testified that no evidence linking the defendants to the crime had been made public.

One of the civil suits, pending against the City of Vicksburg, cites the administration’s inactivity after comments allegedly made by former Vicksburg Police Sgt. Carl Houston were reported by fellow officers to the victim’s family. The suit seeks $75,000 in damages.

In a letter to the editor printed in The Vicksburg Post, Houston wrote that no such comments about Stevens were made and that he knew nothing about her case since he was not assigned to it.

City officials expressed a desire to end the suit, which was filed in October, but no public action has been taken.

The second suit filed in January by Stevens and her former husband, Joe Stevens, is asking for unspecified damages from Triplett. The suit claims that he should have secured the premises before Stevens and her children arrived to view the house. That suit is set to go to trial Jan. 16.