Homicides, arson up for review by grand jurors

Published 12:29 pm Monday, May 3, 2010

Two homicides and an arson are among the cases for which a Warren County Grand Jury might review evidence this week, District Attorney Ricky Smith said.

Murder indictments will be sought for Deaunte Earl Lewis, 23, accused of stabbing to death 16-year-old Terry Robinson on New Year’s Eve, and Dwight Albert, 35, and Kathryn Blue, 30, arrested in October for the 2005 shooting death of Kennado Caples. A third suspect, Larry Hamlin, 30, surrendered in December.

An indictment of Dominic Rashad Turner, 19, accused of shooting 18-year-old Derrick Stamps Feb. 14, probably will not be sought at this session, Smith said, but will await completion of work by investigating officers.

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In the arson case, Leroy Evans, 32, a former volunteer firefighter from Utica who is accused of starting a Jan. 25 blaze that destroyed four homes and a business at Jackson and Second North streets, could face indictment.

Smith said he expected to be preparing cases up until the last minute and could decide to delay some cases. “Everything is subject to change,” he said.

Under Mississippi court procedures, evidence against people accused of felonies is considered by 18 or more registered voters, selected randomly, who meet behind closed doors. The jurors decide whether to make a formal charge, known as an indictment, and, if so, which charge to file. Suspects can waive indictment and plead guilty, but an indictment usually triggers the next phase — a public trial, a court plea or a no bill.

Other cases range “from shoplifting to aggravated assault,” said the DA, and will number about 85 in total, a smaller number than in recent sessions.

“I hope that indicates a couple of things,” he added, “first, that we’re caught up on any outstanding cases that were pending, with the 100-plus cases grand juries have reviewed over the last year and a half. I think we’re handling cases much faster, too.”

Of the 85, 10 are for felony worthless check charges, he said — nonviolent, non-drug-related.

Circuit Judge Isadore Patrick is presiding during the term of criminal court.

Smith also said activity in the case of Robert Jackson is indefinite. Jackson was sentenced in 1979 to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder in the robbery-related death of Josephine Thames Todd, who was 79. After numerous appeals, Jackson’s conviction was overturned last month by the Mississippi Supreme Court on the grounds that his indictment was not properly worded.

The case was remanded to Smith’s office, meaning the DA can seek another indictment and trial.

“The Attorney General has filed a motion for reconsideration (by the Supreme Court),” Smith said. “We won’t make any move until the Supreme Court renders a final decision.” Smith said the 30-year-old case might be presented to the next grand jury session in July.

Grand jurors also tour public buildings and prepare inspection reports.