‘Firecracker’ in district attorney’s office, Arthur, leaving post

Published 12:33 pm Friday, April 22, 2011

Warren County Assistant District Attorney Dewey Arthur’s desk has never been so clean.

On Thursday, he laughed good-naturedly about the stacks of case files and paperwork that now overflow the desk of colleague Lane Campbell, who at the end of business today will take over those cases as Arthur leaves the DA’s office.

The lead assistant prosecutor on District Attorney Ricky Smith’s staff since Smith took office in January 2008, Arthur is leaving to become a prosecutor in Rankin County, where he will be closer to his 6-year-old son.

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“My son lives in the greater Jackson area and I share custody of him,” said Arthur. “It’s difficult to try to leave here at 5:30 and make it home in time to see him.”

Arthur helps coach his son’s soccer team and said too often he arrives late for practice. He once asked a judge to excuse him from court so he could attend his son’s school holiday play.

He’s carried that heart for children into the courtroom during his tenure here.

“We hate to see him go,” Smith said Thursday. “As we took office, Dewey was vital in forming the type of attitude this office would have — a very low tolerance for crime, especially violent offenders and offenders who harm children.”

Smith said nearly 50 juries have been empaneled since he became DA, either for cases that went to trial or were set for trial when a defendant entered a last-minute guilty plea. Arthur has been involved in most of them, Smith said, and of the cases he’s taken to trial, just two have resulted in not-guilty verdicts.

“He has definitely been very successful at trial, and that has also set the tone for plea bargains. With his record as a prosecutor, defendants understand their chance of conviction is much greater if they go to trial,” Smith added.

Arthur credited local police and sheriff’s office investigators and detectives, and said he would miss working with them. “Everything we do really rides on their backs,” he said. “Without good detective work, the district attorney can’t do anything.”

A native of Bovina, Arthur is a graduate of Warren Central High School and attended Mississippi College for his undergraduate and law degrees.

The cases he has prosecuted have included murder, rape, child sexual abuse and aggravated assault.

“You have to be careful not to get immune to the humanity,” he said. “You see what people do to each other and usually it’s people who know each other or are related to each other.”

He said he tries to stay logical and focus on the legal goal — a conviction. “It’s like I tell the jury: I’m not here to prove somebody is a good person or a bad person, I’m here to prove the facts — that there was a crime and this person committed it.”

Fellow assistant DA Angela Carpenter said Arthur’s professionalism and personality will be missed.

“He’s been our firecracker here in the office,” she said. “And I was able to learn a lot of valuable information from him. He’s always knowledgeable about case law, current changes in the law and other things he has learned from his years as a prosecutor. We are definitely losing a valuable asset in the office.”

Campbell, the son of former DA Frank Campbell, signed on as the office’s third assistant district attorney in 2009, his position funded by an annual grant. He’ll move into Arthur’s state-funded position, said Smith, who will apply for a third round of the grant and, if successful, fill that slot.

“Without a doubt we need that third assistant DA position,” Smith said. “It’s vital for us to maintain the caseload we’ve had and the level of convictions we’ve been able to obtain.”

Since taking office, Smith and his staff have overseen about 325 criminal indictments annually. Of those, the majority of defendants have pleaded guilty without going to trial.