Venue change granted for area attorney’s trial

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 15, 2003

An Oct. 14 trial date was set Friday for a McComb attorneyaccused of passing drugs to a Lincoln County Jail inmate in Junewhile conducting an interview in the jail.

Judge Al Johnson, a special circuit court judge appointed by theMississippi Supreme Court, ordered the trial of McComb attorneyJohn Jackson be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14, in AmiteCounty.

The trial was scheduled for Amite County after Johnson granted achange of venue request by Charles Miller, who is representingJackson. Miller said he requested the change of venue becauseJackson is a practicing attorney in the Lincoln County area andbecause of pretrial publicity.

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Miller suggested the judge reconsider Amite County for the trialbecause it is still within the local media’s coverage area andtherefore does not help their situation. He said he had hoped thejudge might move the trial to Wilkinson County.

“You are entitled to request another change of venue, but I’vealready changed it,” Johnson said.

Jackson, 54, of 225 South Fourth St., McComb, was arrested June4 following an undercover operation conducted in the Lincoln CountyJail on June 3. He was later indicted by the Lincoln County GrandJury.

Jackson has denied selling marijuana in the jail, saying he wasframed by an habitual offender who had something to gain by helpingauthorities. He has also filed a multi-million dollar civil lawsuitagainst authorities who conducted the undercover operation.

In other court matters Friday, Johnson denied a separate defensemotion to disqualify the District Attorney’s Office becauseDistrict Attorney Danny Smith is named in the same civil lawsuit.That lawsuit is still pending in federal court.

Johnson explained that the “passive” charges against thedistrict attorney do not allege that Smith took an active role inthe elements of the case under question. That, therefore, does notdisqualify him from trying the case.

“This complaint in federal court is against a number ofindividuals and the allegations against the district attorney andsome others are passive … and I find that the lawsuit is not abasis to have a district attorney disqualified,” Johnson said. “Itis not unusual to have civil litigation against a district attorneyduring a prosecution, so the court is going to allow the districtattorney to continue to prosecute.”

Johnson also began hearing testimony Friday on a defense motionto suppress evidence in the case. The hearing on that motion willcontinue Monday at 9 a.m.