Attorney’s new trial under way

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, February 10, 2004

LIBERTY — Prosecutors have promised a piece of new evidence inthe retrial of a McComb attorney accused of selling marijuana to aninmate in the Lincoln County Jail.

In his opening statement Monday, Assistant District AttorneyDanny Smith outlined the case against John Jackson, 54, andpromised to unveil an enhanced picture of the alleged marijuanabeing passed from Jackson to Cedric Watson, an inmate of the jailwho worked with investigators in the undercover operation.

Prosecutors secured the aid of a NASA technician to enhance thevideo presented at the first trial, and photographed the item beingpassed, Smith said.

“The employee from NASA will tell you about the enhancementprocess and the photo,” he said. “It is very clear what it is. Itain’t cigarettes, I can assure you.”

The poor quality of the tape during the first trial left manyjurors questioning what was being passed from Jackson to the inmateafter the cigarettes.

Jackson admitted during the October trial that he passedcigarettes to Watson and accepted money, but he denied selling theinmate marijuana, which Smith pointed out in his opening statementMonday.

That comment led to a disruption of Smith’s opening statementswhen Charles Miller, who represents Jackson, objected after Smithsaid it was illegal to give cigarettes and cellular phones toinmates. Both items are considered contraband at the jail.

“During opening statements, Mr. Smith stated that it is illegalto give cigarettes and cell phones to inmates, and that Mr. Jacksonadmitted to giving them to Watson,” Miller said after the jury wasremoved from the courtroom. “We feel that the jury will look atthat and say if he was guilty of these two acts, he would be guiltyof the third.”

Miller asked for a dismissal on the basis of a tainted jury.

Smith pointed out that Jackson admitted to those two acts in theOctober trial. He apologized for saying they were crimes, and addedthat he was unaware he had.

“I was actually surprised he admitted this in the first trial,”Smith said, “but you can’t separate those acts from themarijuana.”

When the jury returned, Judge Al Johnson informed them thecigarettes and cell phone were to be considered a violation of jailregulations, but that they were not crimes. Smith further clarifiedthe issue as he restarted his opening statement.

Miller withheld his opening statement, deciding instead to giveit once the state rests its case.

Monday’s trial appeared to be proceeding much more rapidly thanthe first trial. Yesterday saw the jury selection and two of theprosecution’s witnesses testify. A third witness for theprosecution, former Lincoln County Sheriff Lynn Boyte, willcontinue his testimony today.

There were no surprises from witnesses’ testimony Monday.Mississippi Department of Corrections Officer John Purser,Mississippi Crime Lab Forensic Analyst Chris Wise and Boyterepeated the testimony they gave in October.

Purser said information received from an informant led them tocultivate Watson as a source. Watson claimed to have receivedmarijuana from Jackson that was found during a shakedown of thejail in May. He agreed to help in an investigation of Jackson andwas a participant in the undercover operation that resulted inJackson’s arrest.

Wise testified that the evidence bag he analyzed in his lab thatJackson allegedly gave to Watson contained 3.2 ounces of marijuana.He also described the methods the lab uses to test substances foridentification.

There were also with less demands from Miller to approach thebench or to demand the judge’s recusal or dismissal of the case.The October trial lasted six days and resulted in a hung jury.Eight voted he was guilty, three not guilty and one juror wasundecided in that trial.

A juror was dismissed in mid-afternoon Monday when they becameill during a break in the proceedings.