Jurors see videotape of alleged drug sale

Published 5:00 am Friday, October 17, 2003

LIBERTY — Jurors witnessed the alleged drug transaction onvideotape Thursday as the trial of a McComb attorney accused ofselling marijuana to an inmate in the Lincoln County Jail movedinto its third day.

The videotape was part of redirect testimony provided by Capt.Chris Picou, a narcotics officer with the Lincoln County Sheriff’sOffice and lead investigator in the case.

In the videotape, McComb attorney John Jackson is clearlyvisible while inmate Cedric Watson is primarily off-camera, withonly his knees showing. Jackson and Watson spend the first five to10 minutes of the tape discussing Watson’s pending charges ofrobbery and possession of a controlled substance, then theconversation turns to the alleged transaction.

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The tape’s audio is a muffled at times, but Jackson can be heardasking Watson, “What makes you think they won’t come in?”

Watson’s answer is lost in background noise, and Jackson repliesthat “I’m trusting you, man. I’m trusting you.”

Jackson then looks around the small room and asks, “Is anyonewatching?” before reaching into a righthand pocket of his suit coatand handing Watson two packs of cigarettes. He again asks, “Isanyone watching?” Then he reaches into the lefthand pocket of hissuit coat and gives Watson a small, white package with one handwhile accepting a roll of money with the other.

After the exchange, Jackson immediately stands up and says,”I’ll be here in the morning” before leaving the room.

District Attorney Danny Smith began to question Picou about whatjurors witnessed on the tape, but Charles Miller, representingJackson, objected.

Judge Al Johnson, a special circuit court judge appointed by theMississippi Supreme Court, upheld Miller’s objection.

“To allow this witness to say what he heard on the tape might bedifferent than what the jurors feel they heard on the tape,”Johnson said. “The tape is a piece of evidence in and of itself.The court will allow the witness to testify about the tape, but thecourt is not going to let him make conclusions about what he heardon the tape.”

Before jurors were permitted to watch the tape, Picou testifiedunder direct examination that when Jackson was arrested on June 4,the day after the alleged transfer, investigators recovered 49 ofthe 50 dollar bills investigators had given Watson for the meetingwith Jackson. Picou said he verified the bills as being those givenWatson by Capt. Steve Rushing, an investigator with the sheriff’soffice, from photocopies and matched serial numbers.

Picou also testified that during the afternoon of June 4, he andtwo other officers questioned Jackson about the alleged transfer ofmarijuana. Jackson denied that a transfer occurred. When Picouinformed him that they had videotaped the transaction, Jackson saidthey would see him hand Watson some cigarettes and then “give himsomething that would be inconclusive.”

“We repeatedly asked him what he had handed Mr. Watson, andevery time he would say it would be inconclusive,” Picou said.

Under cross-examination by Miller, Picou testified thatinvestigators had taped other meetings between the two men, butthose meetings did not result in anything more than the passing ofcigarettes and were recorded over. They used the same tape,recording each meeting over the old meeting, until the tape broke.A new tape was used on June 3 when the alleged transactionoccurred.

Miller questioned Picou for several minutes about the “missing”tapes.

Miller also questioned Picou on the speed of the case. Jacksonwas arrested June 4 and indicted June 18. He insinuated that thehigh speed from charge to indictment may have resulted in mistakesin such an “intense” case.

“In my opinion,” Picou said, “it’s a very simple case.”

Picou admitted that the room in which the meeting occurred wasnot searched before Jackson and Watson entered and probably hadn’tbeen searched in days.

Jurors also heard testimony by Watson Thursday.

Watson said he met with Jackson at least two to three times aweek and that Jackson “was coming to discuss my case and also tobring me marijuana and cigarettes.”

According to Watson, he struck a deal with Jackson that theattorney would represent him for $5,000.

“The deal was I was going to sell the cigarettes and marijuanain the jail to pay him for representing me,” Watson said.

The money made from the sale of the contraband would go towardhis fee, Watson said. Cigarettes would sell for $5 each, he said,and he would give Jackson about $100 whenever they met. Thisoccurred the entire time Jackson was representing him, which wasabout a month, he said.