Appeals court halts federal oversight of Hinds County jail


Appeals court halts federal oversight of Hinds County jail

Days before a federal receiver was set to take control of the Detention Facility, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay halting that work.

On Dec. 28, a three-member panel of the 5th Circuit Court granted a stay for the order appointing a receiver and the new injunction, which stays a court order put in place by U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves in April to set standards for Hinds County to fix the jail in Raymond.

In November, Reeves appointed former Baltimore jail warden and criminal justice adjunct professor Wendell France Sr. as jail receiver. France started work then and was set to take full operational control of the jail Jan. 1, but did not due to the 5th Circuit Court order.

A three-person monitoring team that has been documenting conditions and progress at the jail was also ordered to stop work, according to a Dec. 29 order by Reeves. The monitoring team issued its last report Dec. 12, highlighting ongoing issues such as the lack of direct supervision of jail housing units and facility maintenance.

The 5th Circuit Court’s decision comes less than a year after attorneys from the county and U.S. Department of Justice were in Reeves’ courtroom to argue for and against federal receivership.

Hinds County Board of Supervisors President Credell Calhoun said Tuesday he is pleased with the stay. The current board has spent millions to try to bring the jail into compliance, he said, and the county is building a new jail in Jackson that addresses issues with the current jail.

“Everything went back to before the (receivership) order,” he said. “I was disappointed they didn’t wait and continue to let us do what we were doing. We’re doing everything we know and can afford.”

The county has maintained opposition to federal control of the jail through court documents and during the three weeks of hearings before Reeves.

The injunction and receiver orders will be paused while the district court addresses motions for reconsideration and a motion for clarification filed by the government over Section K, a section not included in the new injunction order that said juveniles charged as adults in Hinds County must be held at the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center rather than the jail for adults.

Questions about where to hold juveniles charged as adults came into question after a separate consent decree overseeing the Henley-Young Juvenile Justice Center was terminated Oct. 13.

Jan. 31 is the deadline for the district court to finish additional proceedings and modifications to the injunction for the jail relating to how juvenile offenders charged as adults are housed.

Calhoun said a full appeal could take time, and within 18 to 24 months, the county expects to finish the first phase of 200 jail beds and amenities. Future phases would bring the jail to 750 beds, he said.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Winona lawyer defeats embattled DA Doug Evans for circuit judge post


Winona lawyer defeats embattled DA Doug Evans for circuit judge post

Embattled prosecutor Doug Evans, who tried Curtis Flowers six times for murder and saw his convictions overturned on appeal, lost his bid to become judge for the 5th Circuit Court to Winona Municipal Court Judge Alan "Devo" Lancaster.

With about 85% of precincts reporting in Tuesday's runoff, Evans, district attorney for the 5th circuit, received about 30% of the vote and Lancaster won with 70% of the vote, according to unofficial election results.

“I am truly humbled by the overwhelming support I received during the campaign,” Lancaster wrote on his campaign Facebook page Tuesday night. “I want to thank everyone for not only their votes, but the kind words, encouragement, and prayers. I look forward to being your new Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit.”

Lancaster is a partner at the Lancaster Taylor Law Firm in Winona. He has been a municipal judge in Winona since 2010 and attorney for Montgomery County Economic Development since 1986.

The Circuit Court district includes Attala, Carroll, Choctaw, Montgomery, Grenada, Webster and Winston counties. The winner will succeed Judge George Mitchell, who died in April.

Lancaster and Evans were the top two vote-getters to emerge from a five-way election on Nov. 8. Other candidates in the race were Ackerman attorney Kasey Burney Young, Kosciusko attorney Doug Crosby and Louisville attorney Zachary Madison.

Evans, who has been the district attorney of the district for over 30 years, could have become a judge in the same district where the said he prevented Black people from serving as jurors, including in Flowers’ case.

Evans first tried Flowers in 1997 for the killings of four people at the Tardy Furniture store in Winona.

He secured four penalty convictions for Flowers, but those were overturned by and federal courts. In two trials, a jury didn't reach a unanimous verdict.

The U.S Supreme Court overturned Flowers’ conviction in 2019.

In September 2020, Lynn Fitch’s office, which replaced Evans as lead prosecutor in Flowers’ case, dropped charges against Flowers after he spent 23 years in prison, most of it on death row at the at Parchman.

In 2021, Flowers sued Evans in federal court for misconduct, which Evans has denied. U.S. District Court Judge Neal Biggers Jr. ordered the case stayed until May 1, 2023.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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