Police

Biloxi PD warns of phone scam claiming to be Biloxi officers

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www.wxxv25.com – WXXV Staff – 2022-06-28 14:13:55

The Department is alerting the public of a phone scam where scammers claim to be an officer with the Biloxi Police Department.

They call unsuspecting victims, telling them they have legal documents that require immediate attention or they have a warrant due to unpaid fines.

During these calls, scammers attempt to collect a fine in lieu of arrest by requesting a wire transfer of funds, payment through a third…

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Where do Ezell, Palazzo stand on the issues?

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Videos: Where do Ezell, Palazzo stand on the issues?

Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo faces challenger Sheriff Mike Ezell in Tuesday’s runoff for the GOP primary for the 4th District House seat, serving South Mississippi.

Palazzo, facing a crowded field of Republican challengers in the midterm primary, received about 32% of the vote; Ezell about 25%, forcing a runoff.

The two candidates spoke with Mississippi Today ahead of the runoff and a scheduled Friday debate on Coast television station WLOX.

Here is some background on the candidates, what they believe the top issues are and what differentiates them from one another.

The candidates

Ezell, who grew up in , is a 42-year veteran law enforcement officer in South Mississippi.

He started his career with the Pascagoula Department, working his way from jailer to chief of detectives, then served as chief of police for the city of . He was elected sheriff of Jackson County, a post he has held since 2014.

Ezell has a degree in criminal justice from the University of Southern Mississippi and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Mississippi Today Senior Politics Reporter Geoff Pender interviews Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

Palazzo, a Coast native, is a certified public accountant who ran his own business before taking his current office. He is a former state legislator, and has held the 4th District U.S. House seat since 2011.

Palazzo is a Marine Corps veteran and serves in the Mississippi National Guard.

Mississippi Today Senior Politics Reporter Geoff Pender interviews U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

Voters’ issues

Both candidates said inflation — particularly soaring gasoline prices — is the top issue they hear from 4th District residents as they campaign.

“The cost of energy is off the charts,” Palazzo said. “It was to be expected — President Biden when he was on his campaign said we would end our reliance on fossil fuels. Well, guess what? Now we have $5 a gallon gas. He cancelled Keystone pipeline on day one, killing hundreds of thousands of jobs, and many of those were in Mississippi, where we have pipe manufacturers.”

Ezell said he hears from constituents: “Gas prices, grocery prices, not having groceries in some stores. I’ve talked with some of our trucker friends and they said the fuel prices are killing us, making it hard to get our goods to the stores. People are very upset about this.”

Palazzo said illegal immigration, with attendant human trafficking and drug smuggling is another major issue for South Mississippi.

Ezell said high taxes and overregulation are also major issues.

Policies and proposals

Both candidates said they would push for deregulation, particularly on the energy sector.

Ezell said he would work to get fertilizer and other costs down for Mississippi farmers “so they can make a profit.”

“There are so many regulations out there right now,” Ezell said. “… We need to work with like-minded conservative people in Congress to get some policies in place to make life better for people, like getting grocery prices down … We need to see about cutting the gas tax, for the truckers who get the goods to the stores … We’ve just got to remove some of these regulations so that we can help people earn a living.”

Palazzo said: “As someone who’s worked offshore, I know the importance of American energy — drill here, drill now. We need to unleash American energy resources and get America back to being energy independent, and I think we can do that.”

Palazzo said he would also push to re-start plans to build a U.S. southern border wall and increase military spending, and protect tax cuts and jobs legislation passed in 2017.

Candidates list accomplishments

Palazzo said his accomplishments as a congressman include, “I was able to secure $1.4 billion for the border as the homeland security negotiator on the Appropriations Committee in 2019, and we were building the wall two years ago and securing America.”

“With the ships we build at Ingalls (shipyard) we’ve been able to secure $26 billion for 26 different ships in 10 years, and that is so vital to our national security, but also to our quality of life here, because of the dependence we have on those jobs created locally,” Palazzo said. He said he has also worked to keep federal flood insurance affordable for homeowners on the Gulf Coast and worked to support the state’s military installations, including for upgrades at Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg to expand training.

“The number one driver of the in South Mississippi is federal spending,” Palazzo said. “We have to admit that to ourselves, but it’s good federal spending — national security, NASA programs, NOAA to help predict storms — and every bit of that goes through my committee where I sit on Appropriations.”

Ezell said: “Some of my greatest accomplishments are being a husband and a father and a grandfather … I started working in the jail, and worked my way all the way up to chief of detectives at Pascagoula. During that time, I was a competitive shooter, and got to travel all around the southeastern part of the country to compete and shoot and learned a lot of techniques from other officers. I also graduated from the FBI’s national academy, where I excelled in all fields of training and received an award for physical fitness and attention to duty. I am also proud of that. During my time at the Pascagoula Police Department, I went to night school at USM and got a degree in criminal justice. That was a big thing for me. I was only the third person in my family to get a college degree.”

Ezell said that as sheriff, Jackson County was the first in the state to open its own lab, to avoid backlog problems faced by the state lab and “to save taxpayers money and help all the surrounding agencies in our county have a crime lab.” Ezell said under his tenure his agency has also recently opened its own shooting range and training facility.

“When I first took over as sheriff, the former sheriff had been indicted and removed, and all the police chiefs came to me and said, ‘Mike, help us rehabilitate and get this (narcotics) task force back together,’ which we have done and now have a highly respected organization,” Ezell said. “We have our own budget, and don’t have to depend on seizures or anything like that for funding.”

What differentiates them?

Ezell said one thing that differentiates him from Palazzo is, “I will be available. You won’t have to look for me.”

Palazzo has for years faced criticism for not being very visible or accessible in his district.

“What I’ve heard so many times around this district is we don’t know where (Palazzo) is at,” Ezell said. “Where is our representative? We don’t know where he’s at, we can’t talk with him, he won’t call us back. I will be available. I will be in the district and I will return your phone calls … General rule 101 with the sheriff’s office is if you call, somebody better call you back and if not, I’m going to be asking you why did you not call that person back. That’s just a common courtesy, be it a sheriff or police officer or state representative or congressman.”

Palazzo said his experience and seniority in Congress, and relationships he’s built over years are needed for the 4th District.

“Most importantly, I have a proven, conservative record,” Palazzo said. “My opponent has no record where he has ever cast a vote on issues that matter most for South Mississippians, whether it’s pro-life, whether it’s pro gun, pro military or pro business. For 12 years I’ve been serving South Mississippi and I have a proven record of delivering for them on all those issues.

“… Seniority is important in the military and it’s important in Congress,” Palazzo said. “That’s how you get on the key committees and get key assignments.”

He said that should Republicans retake the House this midterm, he would be in line to be the chairman of the Homeland Security subcommittee of Appropriations where he can push for building a border wall.

Recently, all other Republican challengers in the first primary vote threw their support behind Ezell. U.S. House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana in a trip to South Mississippi endorsed Palazzo.

The two candidates have agreed to a televised debate, scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday on WLOX-TV on the Coast.

“I’ve been to multiple debates, Steven Palazzo has not been to any of them,” Ezell said of this election cycle.

Palazzo said: “I think it’s important for voters in South Mississippi to see the contrast.”

The winner of the June 28 GOP runoff will face Democratic former longtime Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree and Libertarian Alden Patrick Johnson in the Nov. 8 general election.

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

One dead, one critically injured in overnight shooting in Gulfport

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www.wxxv25.com – WXXV Staff – 2022-06-21 09:57:17

are hunting down leads, trying to find the person responsible for a deadly overnight shooting.

Gulfport Police responded to the Emerald Pines Apartments off 39th Avenue around 12:30 this morning. That’s where they found two victims suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

Coroner Brian Switzer said one victim, 27-year-old Brushawn McClam, who identified as a woman named Shawmayne, died at…

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Hancock County deputy resigns amid assault allegations

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www.wxxv25.com – WXXV Staff – 2022-06-21 13:49:39

Hancock County Sheriff’s Office has had a rash of deputies in trouble — and there’s another one added to the list.

Media partner the Sun Herald reports that former patrol deputy Joseph “Joe” Gendreau turned himself in last week at the D’Iberville Department and was charged with simple assault, according to Chief Shannon Nobles.

He was released on $2,500 bond after his arrest.

Gendreau is accused of making…

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Mississippi, Alabama mourners praise officer killed on duty

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www.wxxv25.com – Associated Press – 2022-06-20 12:44:47

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) — A officer killed on duty in Mississippi earlier this month is being remembered there and in his Alabama hometown as a person willing to serve any community where he worked.

A memorial service was held Thursday in Meridian, Mississippi, for Meridian Police Officer Kennis Croom, who was shot to June 9 while responding to a domestic violence call in that city. He was supposed to be off work…

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Eight people face drug charges after Waveland house raided

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Biloxi - Local News Feed Images 002

www.wxxv25.com – WXXV Staff – 2022-06-20 08:37:41

Waveland Bust
Clockwise from top left, Billy Jack Thorman, Adam Noble, Alyssa Thorman, Gerald Slowey, Ashley Escue, Joseph Dunhurst and Hailey Guill

Waveland on Friday raided a house on Meadow Lane and arrested eight people on drug charges.

According to police, residents had made numerous complaints about criminal activity at the house.

Waveland Police investigated and obtained a search warrant. At the house, officers found…

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Thompson tells the world what happened on Jan. 6, 2021

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‘An attempted coup’: Rep. Bennie Thompson tells the world what happened on Jan. 6, 2021

The eyes of the world were on Rep. Bennie Thompson, the longtime congressman from Mississippi, on Thursday night as the special House committee he chairs held a prime-time hearing regarding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Thompson’s bipartisan committee began laying out a seven-point case Thursday night they say will show former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his defeat and keep himself in office.

“Donald Trump was at the center of that conspiracy,” Thompson said. “And ultimately, Donald Trump — the president of the United States — spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy.”

The committee showed dramatic video of how the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group, led the attack on the Capitol. They also heard the emotional testimony of a U.S. Capitol officer who suffered a brain injury during the attack.

“What I saw was a war scene,” said Caroline Edwards, one of the more than 150 officers injured in the rampage. “I saw officers on the ground. They were bleeding. They were throwing up … I was slipping in people’s blood … it was carnage, it was chaos.”

Before the hearing — broadcast live on nearly every major American network with the exception of Fox News — began, Thompson convened the meeting with a powerful speech.

Below is a transcript of his remarks.


“Thanks to everyone watching tonight for sharing part of your evening, to learn about the facts and causes of the events leading up to and including the violent attack on January 6th, 2021 — on our democracy, electoral system, and country. 

I am Bennie Thompson, chairman of the January 6, 2021, Committee. I was born, raised and still live in Bolton, Mississippi, a town with a population of 521, which is midway between Jackson and Vicksburg, Mississippi, and the Mississippi River. 

I am from a part of the country where people justified the actions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan and lynching. I’m reminded of that dark history as I hear voices today try and justify the actions of the insurrectionists on January 6, 2021. 

Over the next few weeks, hopefully you will get to know the other members, my colleagues up here, and me. We represent a diversity of communities from all over the United States — rural areas and cities — east coast, west coast, and the heartland. 

All of us have one thing in common: We swore the same oath. The same oath that all members of Congress take upon taking office and afterward every two years if they are reelected. We swore an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies — foreign and domestic. 

The words of the current oath taken by all of us — that nearly every United States government employee takes — have their roots in the Civil War. Throughout our history, the United States has fought against foreign enemies to preserve our democracy, electoral system, and country. 

When the United States Capitol was stormed and burned in 1814, foreign enemies were responsible. Afterward, in 1862, when American citizens had taken up arms against this country, Congress adopted a new oath to help make sure no person who had supported the rebellion could hold a position of public trust. Therefore, congresspersons and U.S. federal government employees were required for the first time to swear an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies — foreign and domestic. 

That oath was put to the test on January 6, 2021. 

The police officers who held the line that day honored their oaths. Many came out of that day bloodied and broken. They still bear those wounds, visible and invisible. They did their duty. They repelled the mob and ended the occupation of the Capitol. They defended the Constitution against domestic enemies so that Congress could return, uphold our own oaths, and count your votes to ensure the transfer of power — just as we’ve done for hundreds of years. 

But unlike in 1814, it was domestic enemies of the Constitution who stormed and occupied the Capitol, who sought to thwart the will of the people, to stop the transfer of power. And they did so at the encouragement of the president of the United States. The president of the United States, trying to stop the transfer of power — a precedent that had stood for 220 years, even as our democracy has faced its most difficult tests. 

Thinking back again to the Civil War, in the summer of 1864, the president of the United States was staring down what he believed would be a doomed bid for reelection. He believed his opponent, General George McClellan, would wave the white flag when it came to preserving the Union. 

But even with that grim fate hanging in the balance, President Lincoln was ready to accept the will of the voters, come what may. He made a quiet pledge. He wrote down the words, “This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable that this Administration will not be re-elected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate with the president elect….” It will be my duty. 

Lincoln sealed that memo and asked his cabinet secretaries to sign it, sight unseen. He asked them to make the same commitment he did: to accept defeat if indeed defeat was the will of the people. To uphold the rule of law. To do what every other president who came before him did, and what every president who followed him would do. 

Until Donald Trump. 

Donald Trump lost the presidential election in 2020. The American people voted him out of office. It was not because of a rigged system. It was not because of voter fraud. Don’t believe me? Hear what his former attorney general had to say about it, and I’ll warn those watching that this contains strong language. 

Bill Barr. On Election Day 2020, he was attorney general of the United States — the top law enforcement official in the country, telling the president exactly what he thought about claims of a stolen election.

Donald Trump had his days in court to challenge the results. He was within his rights to seek those judgments. In the United States, law-abiding citizens have those tools for pursuing justice. He lost in the courts just as he did at the ballot box. And in this country, that’s the end of the line. 

But for Donald Trump, that was only the beginning of what became a sprawling, multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the presidential election, aimed at throwing out the votes of millions of Americans — your votes, your voice in our democracy — and replacing the will of the American people with his will to remain in power after his term ended. 

Donald Trump was at the center of that conspiracy. And ultimately, Donald Trump — the president of the United States — spurred a mob of domestic enemies of the Constitution to march down the Capitol and subvert American democracy. 

Any legal jargon you hear about “seditious conspiracy,” “obstruction of an official proceeding,” “conspiracy to defraud the United States” boils down to this: January 6 was the culmination of an attempted coup. A brazen attempt, as one rioter put it shortly after January 6, “to overthrow the government.” 

The violence was no . It represented Trump’s last, most desperate chance to halt the transfer of power. 

Now, you may hear those words and think, “This is just another political attack on Donald Trump by people who don’t like him.” That’s not the case. My colleagues and I all wanted an outside, independent commission to investigate January 6, similar to what we had after 9/11. 

But after first agreeing to the idea, Donald Trump’s allies in Congress put a stop to it. Apparently, they don’t want January 6 investigated at all. 

And, in the last 17 months, many of those same people have tried to whitewash what happened on January 6 — to rewrite history, call it a tourist visit, label it “legitimate political discourse.” 

Donald Trump and his followers have adopted the words of the songwriter: “Do you believe me or your lying eyes?”

We can’t sweep what happened under the rug. The American people deserve answers. 

So I come before you this evening not as a Democrat, but as an American who swore an oath to defend the Constitution. The Constitution doesn’t protect just Democrats or just Republicans. It protects all of us. “We the People.” 

And this scheme was an attempt to undermine the will of the people.”

READ MORE: Rep. Bennie Thompson, leading the public Jan. 6 hearings, has long worked to protect democracy

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

Justice Department opens probe into Louisiana State Police

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www.wxxv25.com – Associated Press – 2022-06-09 12:30:50

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department is opening a sweeping civil rights investigation into the Louisiana State amid mounting evidence that the agency has a pattern of looking the other way in the face of beatings of mostly Black men, including the deadly 2019 arrest of Ronald Greene.

The federal “pattern-or-practice” probe, which officials familiar with the matter…

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Mississippi’s history of lax abortion laws before Roe v. Wade

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The state fighting to dismantle abortion rights has a long history of permissive abortion laws

When Mississippi asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, it argued that a long tradition of state restrictions on abortion in the U.S. “defeats any claim of a deeply rooted right” to an abortion. 

Yet for all but 21 of its 156 years as a state prior to Roe, Mississippi law technically permitted abortion for any reason until about 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Mississippi Today could find no published scholarship on the history of abortion law in Mississippi specifically, and national histories on the topic generally make little reference to the state. 

This story is based on interviews with historians of abortion law and politics, stories published in Mississippi newspapers in the 19th and 20th centuries, books and articles about abortion law in the U.S., vital records held in the state archives, and a review of Mississippi laws.  

Decades after almost every state had banned the procedure at any stage of pregnancy, Mississippi’s law continued to follow the practice in place at the country’s founding: Abortion was a only if the fetus was “quick,” or had been felt to move, typically around four months of pregnancy. Mississippi did not update that law until 1952, though people were still prosecuted for abortions prior to that, usually in cases where the woman had died.

The role of abortion in the U.S. decades ago sits at the center of arguments about its future. In his leaked draft opinion, Justice Samuel Alito sided with the state’s reading of history when he wrote: “An unbroken tradition of prohibiting abortion on pain of criminal punishment persisted from the earliest days of the common law until 1973.”

But if the Court’s final ruling in Dobbs v. is similar to Alito’s draft, Mississippi’s legal restrictions on abortion today will become tighter than they have been at almost any point in its history. The state’s trigger law will ban abortion in all cases except those involving rape and a threat to the mother’s life.  A separate law passed in 2019 banning abortions after six weeks contains no exception for rape.

The evolution of state law after Roe in 1973 mirrors the national rise of the pro-life movement as a powerful force in Republican politics. A movement that was once predominantly Catholic and Northern became largely evangelical and Southern. 

A movement that was once on the defensive in Southern state legislatures, including Mississippi’s, began winning one victory after another across the South and Midwest. 

Mississippi, for decades an outlier in permitting many abortions, became in 2021 the state that asked the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. 

“If there’s a person in Mississippi who thinks that by virtue of these laws going into force after Dobbs, that we’re returning Mississippi to the good old days … they’re wrong,” said Aaron Tang, a professor of law at the University of California, Davis who has researched the history of state abortion laws. “The substantial history of Mississippi throughout its existence as a state has been basically what Jackson Women’s Health Organization is willing to do: a procedure up to 16 weeks.”

At the time of the founding of the United States, abortion was legal in every state until the “quickening,” following the English common law tradition. Because there was no medical way to prove a pregnancy until the fetus had moved, a woman could claim she needed to “restore” or unblock her menstrual cycle, and no one else could insist she was actually pregnant. 

“The popular ethic regarding abortion and common law were grounded in the female experience of their own bodies,” the historian Leslie J. Reagan wrote in her book “When Abortion Was A Crime.”

Mississippi passed its first law on abortion in 1839: “The wilful killing of an unborn quick child, by any injury to the mother of such child, which would be murder if it resulted in the of the mother, shall be deemed manslaughter in the first degree.”

The law was part of an early wave of such legislation across the country from roughly 1820 to 1840. The historian James C. Mohr wrote that such laws were usually passed as a part of larger revisions to the state criminal codes; abortion itself was not a public issue.

Mid-19th century newspapers treated abortion as a practice that did not involve Mississippians – or, at least, white Mississippians. After the Civil War, as white Mississippians resisted Reconstruction and Black political empowerment, state newspapers sometimes presented abortion as a symbol of Northern immorality. 

In 1867, the body of an infant was found near the river Under the Hill in Natchez, partially buried in the sand, wrapped in an apron and tied to two bricks. 

“We sincerely hope that the abortion and child murdering mania which rages in the New England States and in New York to such a fearful extent has not reached us,” the Natchez Democrat opined. 

Racism was also part of discussions of abortion in Mississippi, as it was around the country. 

“Notwithstanding the North makes pretensions to all the purity of the land, and essays to look down upon the South in her barbaric practices, yet infanticide the most inexcusable and disgusting, as well as most horrible of all crimes, is of common occurrence there, while with us it is almost unknown, and when known is confined almost exclusively to the Negroes,” wrote a columnist for the Vicksburg Post in 1870. 

By 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, Mississippi was one of only three states with a law against abortion that nonetheless explicitly permitted it prior to quickening. (The others were Arkansas and Minnesota.) Six states had no laws on abortion. 

In the draft opinion leaked in early May, Alito claims that the remaining 28 states prohibited abortion at all stages, and thus that the Fourteenth Amendment – in which the court has located a right to privacy – cannot be understood to protect a right to an abortion. 

Other historians disagree with that claim. A brief filed in Dobbs by the American Historical Association reported that pre-quickening abortions were legal in 11 states and less heavily punished in seven more by 1868. Tang claims that the true number of states that departed from the common law tradition to prohibit abortion at all stages of pregnancy by the time of the Fourteenth Amendment was actually 16.  

And before the 20th century, there was no way to prove a pregnancy before the quickening, so abortion laws pertaining to a “pregnant woman” in practice were not always substantially different from laws that applied only to post-quickening abortions.

A Mississippi Supreme Court decision in 1898 rejected the idea that fetuses were people, citing the common law. 

A Pontotoc woman named Emma Prude was indicted for ending her own pregnancy under a state law prohibiting giving medicine to a woman pregnant with a “quick child” to end the pregnancy. The Court not only determined that the statute didn’t apply to a woman who ended her own pregnancy, but also wrote that “An infant in the mother’s womb … is not considered a person who can be killed within the description of murder,” even if the pregnancy was quick. 

However unusual Mississippi’s law was by 1868, it was much more of an outlier 50 years later. 

In the late 19th century, states continued to pass stricter abortion laws, largely at the urging of doctors and the American Medical Association. The movement was led by Dr. Horatio Storer, a Boston doctor who believed fetal life began at conception, and that abortion was murder at any stage of a pregnancy. 

Historians say the physician-led anti-abortion movement painted midwives, many of whom were Black women, as “abortionists” in an effort to position themselves as better trained and morally upright – and win over more patients. Storer was also concerned that white Protestant women were using abortion to limit the size of their families, while he believed recent immigrants, many of whom were Catholic, regarded abortion as immoral.

“Of the nine States that had not yet criminalized abortion at all stages (as of 1868), all but one did so by 1910,” Alito wrote. That state was Mississippi. 

In 1909, state lawmakers considered a proposal to ban abortion at all stages of pregnancy, which had been backed by the Mississippi Medical Association. An abortion that ended a pregnancy would be manslaughter. 

“An infant in the mother’s womb, whether viable or not, is hereby declared a human being,” the legislation said. 

Yet the proposal didn’t become law, for reasons Mississippi Today couldn’t locate. 

Mississippi legislators considered another total abortion ban in 1918 but would not actually pass one until 1952. 

The lack of a ban didn’t mean that abortion was universally regarded as normal or morally acceptable. But it did mean, as one dismayed headline in the Jackson Daily News in 1911 put it, “Abortion Not a Crime.”

The article explained that a group of physicians had investigated an alleged abortion and contacted local law enforcement. But they found that there could be no prosecution because there was no law against an abortion before “practically four months pregnancy.” 

People facing criminal charges for performing an abortion that resulted in a woman’s death could try to use this point in their defense. 

Dr. F. E. Lee, for example, never denied that the abortion he performed in 1916 had led to the death of a young woman named Mary Miller. Instead, he claimed the procedure hadn’t been a crime. 

At his trial in Corinth in 1920, Lee’s lawyer said that because Miller’s pregnancy was not “quick,” he had violated no law by performing her abortion and should not be held responsible for her death.

The prosecutor rejected that argument, but not that reading of the law. He acknowledged that the “original undertaking was not condemned by the law,” but said the doctor was still liable for Miller’s death.

Lee was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 20 years in the state penitentiary. But if Miller’s procedure had gone as intended, law enforcement would have had no grounds to get involved – making Mississippi an anomaly in the U.S. at the time. 

Late in the evening on July 25, 1945, a former policeman named B.J. Jennings heard a car speed over the bridge above his houseboat on the Pearl River, not far from downtown Jackson. He saw someone toss something out of the car and into the water. 

Later, he found a purse and pair of shoes in the river and called the .

His call helped law enforcement piece together an explanation for what had happened to 18-year-old Betty Massey, a waitress at Abe’s Cafe who had been missing for days. Her body was found a few days later, floating in Rhodes Creek near Terry. Police arrested Dr. B.F. Johnson and said Massey had died in his clinic following an illegal abortion. 

Massey’s death became a media event. Her portrait ran on the front page of the Clarion-Ledger, where stories suggested she was a tragic symbol of the dangers facing young women during the social tumult of World War II. The newspaper reported that the father of her baby, a soldier, had written her “a nasty letter … in which he relieved himself of any responsibility.”

Massey, a white woman, was a “small-town girl working in Jackson,” and a member of “a prominent Delta family.” One story described “perhaps the most tragic point” in her death: Her boarding house at 313 State Street had been located just two doors down from the state office charged with helping unmarried pregnant women. 

Their case workers could have helped her “overcome some of her fears, dreads, and anxieties and face the reality of her situation so that the desire to destroy herself and others is allayed,” a representative said.

Some news stories about the doctor charged in Massey’s death mentioned that he had previously been convicted of manslaughter in the death of a Black woman named Etta Perkins following an abortion. Her life and case got little attention on its own. 

He had appealed the conviction and was out on bond when he performed Massey’s abortion, the papers reported. 

For Massey’s death, prosecutors chose a harsher charge — “depraved heart murder.” Johnson ultimately pled guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. 

By the time Perkins and Massey died, abortion in the United States – though illegal at all stages of pregnancy in most of the country – was becoming safer. Abortion was the official cause of death of about 2,700 women in 1930, accounting for a fifth of all pregnancy-related deaths that year, according to the reproductive rights nonprofit the Guttmacher Institute. In the 1940s, the development of antibiotics reduced deaths by making it easier to treat infections after abortion. In 1950, about 300 women died following an abortion. 

It’s not clear how many people died following abortions in Mississippi in the 19th and 20th centuries. Vital records held at the state archives did not list abortion as a cause of death until the 1920s, and in some years after that, all pregnancy-related deaths were tallied together. 

Mississippi Today reviewed records from 1927 through 1940 that showed abortion was listed as the cause of death for roughly 30 to 50 women each year. More Black women than white women died: In 1930, for example, abortion was the cause of death for 15 white women and 26 Black women. 

In 1952, the Mississippi Medical Association asked the Legislature to pass a stricter abortion law. Lawmakers obliged, prohibiting the procedure at all stages of pregnancy. 

The new law said someone who provided an abortion could be charged with manslaughter and sentenced to one to 10 years in prison. If the woman died, the crime was murder. The only exception was to save the life of the mother, and the law required two doctors to make that determination in writing. 

Pro-life advocates often point out that women were rarely prosecuted for their own abortions prior to Roe. Historians largely agree, but that fact doesn’t account for the public shame and pressure to cooperate with law enforcement women could endure during trials of doctors and partners, Mary Ziegler, a law professor and expert on abortion history, has written. 

Mississippi’s 1952 abortion ban didn’t explicitly prohibit such prosecutions. Mississippi Today found that at least one woman was arrested and charged with her own attempted abortion after she refused to cooperate with the investigation of two men involved.

In September 1962, Jackson police got a tip: An abortion was set to take place in a few days at a Travel Inn Motel on Highway 51, just outside of the city. Officers waited outside Room 152. They would later say they could smell a chemical odor, like a powerful disinfectant, wafting out of the room, and heard the clanking of metal instruments or furniture being moved. 

When they opened the door, they found a woman named Mary Ann Aiken hiding in the bathroom, covered in a sheet and holding her skirt in her hand. She was arrested for participating in her own abortion and taken to a hospital for a medical examination. 

Aiken, whose name was often spelled Mary Ann Eakin or Mary Ann Eakin Johnson, refused to cooperate with the authorities.

During the trial of Leo Hall, one of the men charged with the illegal abortion, Aiken denied she had attempted to get an abortion, frustrating then-District Attorney Bill Waller, who said he had a signed statement from her declaring otherwise and that she could also be charged with perjury. Aiken also said she was a prostitute and had had sex with Hall, who reportedly had ties to the Dixie Mafia, perhaps helping to explain why she would not want to testify against him. 

The trial for Aiken herself was delayed because she had to give birth – the abortion had not been successful. She pled guilty to the crime of attempted abortion. 

The state could also expend significant time and resources investigating suspected abortion providers. 

In May 1968, a Baton Rouge woman met a doctor in a Jackson motel room. After he agreed to perform an abortion and she handed him $200 in cash, agents who had set up the sting burst into the room and arrested him. 

He was eventually acquitted by jurors who were unconvinced that the woman had ever been pregnant.

By the mid-1960s, discussion of abortion nationally was intensifying. Feminists called for abortion to be legal and free. Professional organizations of doctors, attorneys and psychiatrists began arguing for more liberal abortion laws. 

The 1967 Mississippi Boys’ State convention – attended primarily by well-off white high school boys who hoped to become state leaders – passed legislation making abortion legal when the pregnancy could affect the mother’s mental or physical health and when the fetus would be born with a serious deformity. Though it wasn’t actual legislation, some observers saw it as an indicator of where public opinion was heading. 

“In a few years these same boys will be of age, and in the not too distant future some of them will hold real offices in state government,” noted an opinion columnist in the Hattiesburg American. 

In 1966, Mississippi became one of the first states to add a new exception to its abortion ban, allowing women to get an abortion if they said they had been raped. Unlike Mississippi’s 2007 trigger ban, the law did not require them to report the rape to law enforcement. 

Some of opponents’ points echoed pro-life claims today: that only God could make a decision to end a pregnancy, and that a woman who got an abortion could feel guilty later in life. 

Supporters’ main arguments were based on racist fears around sex between Black men and white women. The Daily Herald of reported that the measure passed the House after a speech by Rep. George Payne Cossar of Tallahatchie, who told his colleagues that pregnancy could result from “rape between the races.”

“Are you going to force this poor woman to carry this burden?” he said. “This bill is designed to prevent disgrace in a family.”

As of early 1971, abortion was legal in five  states – New York, Alaska, California, Hawaii and Washington. 

That year, a Hattiesburg lawmaker thought Mississippi should join the list. Rep. Robert Lennon introduced a bill that would make abortions legal up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. 

“Abortion must be considered a medical procedure and a private one between a licensed physician and his patient,” he told the Clarion-Ledger. “It should not be a part of our criminal statutes.”

The bill provoked a furious outcry. Catholic leaders in the state urged their 90,000 parishioners to lobby against it. One opponent in the Legislature called it “a possibly well-intended attempt to legalize the murder of innocent babies.” 

The bill didn’t make it out of committee, and Lennon didn’t run for reelection. 

Two years later, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe provoked a more muted response in Mississippi. Religious leaders were split: Catholics and some in other denominations told local newspapers they saw the ruling as a sign of moral degradation. 

Rev. J.C. Harris, pastor of a United Methodist Church in Biloxi, called the ruling “wonderful.”

“I believe a woman and her doctor should do what she thinks fit.”

Man-on-the street interviews captured a range of views among ordinary Mississippians, too. Some echoed Harris’s perspective. 

One Delta valedictorian used her high school graduation speech to warn that Roe would lead to “garbage cans full of aborted fetuses.”

Some states actively resisted the high court’s ruling: Rhode Island didn’t have an abortion clinic until 1975. But Mississippi and most other Deep South states did not, said historian Daniel K. Williams, who has researched the pro-life movement. 

“In Mississippi at the time, the pro-life movement didn’t really have a very strong presence because in the early 1970s the pro-life movement was very Catholic and very Northern, and Mississippi had a pretty low Catholic population, considerably lower than neighboring Louisiana’s,” said Williams, a professor of history at the University of West Georgia. “So, as a result, it was somewhat unclear in the early 1970s which direction Mississippi would go on abortion.”

An editorial in the Greenwood Commonwealth published the week after the ruling sounded relieved to declare that the Court had “essentially resolved” the legal question over abortion.

“The Supreme Court has very broadly liberalized abortion law and in so doing brought years of controversy and litigation to an end,” the editorial concluded. 

Nearly 50 years later, the state of Mississippi would claim before the Court that Roe was “egregiously wrong” and based on a flawed reading of U.S. history.

Left unexplained was Mississippi’s own unusual place in that story. 

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

Arrests made in connection to drive-by shooting on Three Rivers Road in Gulfport

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www.wxxv25.com – Sabria Reid – 2022-06-06 17:14:09

Arrests

Three arrests have been made in connection with a drive-by shooting on Three Rivers Road in .

On June 6, 2022, the Gulfport Department arrested 19-year-old Dayjohi Keshawn Wright, on two counts of drive-by-shooting, and 20-year-old Raymond Allen Derks Jr., and charged him with accessory after the fact.

Malaysha Annastasia Curry, 18-years-old, was also arrested for tampering with evidence.

On June 6, 2022, at…

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