Ex-deputy’s conviction is upheld

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 30, 2002

The Mississippi Court of Appeals has upheld the child fondlingand contributing to the delinquency of a minor conviction of aformer Lincoln County sheriff’s deputy, records show.

In a decision handed down Tuesday, the appeals court rejecteddefense claims of errors made during Matthew Lofton’s trial inMarch 2001. A call to Lofton attorney Wayne Dowdy’s office was notreturned.

Lofton, who was 23 at the time of the Oct. 29, 2000, incidentinvolving a 15-year-old girl at an old Highway 51 wood yard, wasconvicted of one count of touching, handling or feeling a child forlustful purposes and one count of contributing to the delinquencyof a minor. However, he was found not guilty of a sexual batterycharge.

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Lofton’s five-year sentence, with two years to serve and thelast three on post-release supervision, a total of $1,250 in fineand $1,000 to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund was alsoaffirmed.

In the appeal, Dowdy claimed that errors were made when JudgeKeith Starrett commented on evidence before the jury, excludedtestimony from the victim regarding alleged prior allegations andallowed evidence into trial that was not produced during discovery.The appeal also raised two issues regarding jury instructions.

Writing for the appeals court, Justice James Brantley said theerror claims were either without merit or that Lofton had failed tomeet the burden of proof to show that a miscarriage of justice hadbeen done. Regarding Starrett’s alleged comment on the evidence,Brantley pointed out that Lofton was acquitted on the charge whichthe comment was related to.

“The jury obviously disregarded any prejudicial effect thecomment may have had,” Brantley said.