Court appoints Brandon attorney for second trial|[06/14/07]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 14, 2007

PORT GIBSON – Taxpayers will fund the defense of Carl Brandon in his second trial on murder charges, as his hired legal team opted out of a second round.

During a short hearing Wednesday, Judge Frank Vollor granted Brandon indigent status after questioning him on his finances and land holdings.

&#8220Do you have any assets? Any land?” Vollor asked, referring to cattle-raising acreage known to have been in Brandon’s family.

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&#8220No,” Brandon said. &#8220That’s since been sold.”

Vollor appointed Jackson attorney Lisa Ross to defend Brandon in the yet-to-be-scheduled second trial on murder in the March 17, 2006, shooting death of Port Gibson attorney Allen Burrell. A site for the jury selection and trial has not been determined, but Vollor has said he is considering selecting a jury outside of Claiborne County and holding the trial in Warren County Circuit Court in Vicksburg.

Canton attorney Ed Blackmon Jr. asked last week to be released from defending the former Claiborne County road manager after Brandon’s relatives were said to have run out of funds to continue paying legal fees.

Usually, defendants seeking indigent status must submit a written request to the court to that effect. Brandon told the judge he had not been notified by his attorneys of that stipulation.

Brandon, 53, will be sentenced June 29 for aggravated assault in the wounding of road department employee Loretha Porter and for shooting at the home of former county administrator James Miller. He was also found guilty on a charge of shooting into an occupied dwelling.

Brandon had conceded shooting Burrell, but a mistrial was declared June 2 on the more serious question of murder. Jurors were at an impasse over whether Brandon should be convicted of murder or manslaughter in the shooting death of Burrell, gunned down outside his Port Gibson law office.

Expert defense testimony sought to prove Brandon was delusional at the time of the shooting, the first in a 30-minute rampage in which Brandon drove to Miller’s home and to the county road department where Porter was shot before he surrendered at the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department.

The delusions, countered by expert testimony presented by the prosecution, were said to have stemmed from Brandon’s 1997 firing from the road department following a sexual harassment claim by a clerical employee, a suit that reached the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2002, where the ruling went against Brandon.

Burrell, who was 54, had been attorney for the Claiborne County Board of Supervisors since 1980. Both he and Miller participated in the investigation that led to supervisors firing Brandon. The woman Brandon was accused of harassing was not at work the day of the shooting.