DUI cases dismissed by Hosemann will not be reinstated

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 26, 2003

[9/26/03]DUI charges against 15 people that were dismissed by former Warren County Court Judge Gerald Hosemann as he was leaving office will not be reinstated, an appointed judge has ruled.

Judge Joe Webster of Coahoma County delivered his decision in person Thursday. The reinstatement petitions were filed by Johnny Price, who was county prosecutor and judge-elect in December when Hosemann dismissed the charges.

Price had defeated Hosemann and three other candidates for the judgeship after Hosemann had served four terms.

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Webster’s brief opinion said that although he could see no reason to drop the charges, judges have wide discretion and that it would be unfair to the 15 to make them face the misdemeanor charges.

“These defendants, through no fault of their own, have been in and out of court far too long and far too much,” Webster said. “I find justice dictates that continued legal proceedings in these cases needs to cease.”

The parade of dismissals on Dec. 10 occurred when Price was away that day at a required training session for new judges. In motions filed in county court Dec. 18, Price argued that he had arranged, according to the court’s custom, habit and routine of the past three years, not to have trials of any cases while he was not available and that the defendants were to appear for trial date settings only.

Hosemann responded that he did not know in advance that Price would be absent from court that day. When no prosecutor is present, defense attorneys can make motions to dismiss, and judges can reschedule matters or grant the motions.

Webster, who has served as the judge of Coahoma County Court for 20 years, was appointed by the state Supreme Court to rule on Price’s reinstatement motions. His two-page order also said he didn’t find Hosemann had done anything improper.

“Having said all of that, the court finds that it would be fundamentally wrong to reinstate these charges,” Webster wrote, adding that to reinstate the charges could affect the defendants’ rights as their cases proceeded.

Judge Price, now in office 10 months, declined comment, citing limitations imposed by the state’s judicial code of conduct.

A complaint about the DUI dismissals by the state’s Commission on Judicial Performance remains pending, at least in form.

The commission asked the Supreme Court to suspend Hosemann for the remainder of his term. In a 6-1 opinion issued Dec. 27, the Supreme Court granted that request, suspending Hosemann with pay until his term ended Dec. 31.

The court may dismiss the matter or impose other sanctions, including barring Hosemann from returning to judicial office.

Earlier in 2002, Hosemann faced a Hinds County felony indictment for aggravated assault after Juanita Johnston, his former court reporter with whom he was romantically involved, was found on his Hinds County ranch property in December 2001. She had been missing about two days and remained hospitalized for a month.

In a Hinds County investigator’s sworn statement that led to Hosemann’s arrest, Johnston identified Hosemann as her attacker. She later recanted, and the case was resolved when Hosemann pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace.

In November voting, however, Hosemann finished last in the five-candidate field.