Judge to rule on motions Monday
Circuit Court Judge Michael Taylor will hand down rulings Mondayafternoon on four defense motions that were presented in courtFriday morning in the murder case involving Michael Leggett.
Leggett, 32, was convicted of murder in late February for thebeating death of Jewell Duane Douglas, 36, in October 2006.
Taylor granted Leggett a new trial after finding misconduct onthe part of prosecutors involving an alleged deal with co-defendantMark Culbertson, who testified against Leggett and later pleaded tomanslaughter. Prosecutors deny the existence of a deal and haveappealed the judge’s misconduct finding to the Mississippi BarAssociation.
Motions argued Friday included a request for a change of venuefor the retrial, one for another forensics experts to review caseevidence, another seeking to dismiss the DA’s office as prosecutorsand finally one seeking dismissal of the case.
Following testimony on the change of venue motion, the defenseargued its request to have a forensic expert appointed to them inorder to provide a second opinion to the forensic findings ofembattled former interim state medical examiner Dr. Steven Hayne.His work has recently come into question in many cases throughoutthe state after his contract was not renewed.
“Dr. Hayne made specific allegations as to the cause of death,and our position is that the autopsy and the testimony may beflawed,” said defense attorney Joe Fernald. “We’d like somebodyindependent to look at the autopsy.”
Fellow defense attorney Jason Tate said the issue was animportant one simply because the evidence of how Douglas died ispivotal in Leggett’s conviction. Prosecutors maintained thecontroversy surrounding Hayne did not disqualify the testimony hegave during the original trial.
The third motion discussed was the defense’s second attempt atdismissing the district attorney’s office as prosecutors in thecase.
The defense based its motion on the contention that in the newtrial, members of the DA’s staff might need to be called aswitnesses on the issue of whether or not a deal was struck withCulbertson prior to his testimony in the Leggett case.
District Attorney Dee Bates and Assistant District AttorneysBrendon Adams and Diane Jones have all said there was not a dealwith Culbertson prior to Sunday, March 2, which was after the Feb.29 conclusion of Leggett’s case.
Finally, the defense filed another motion to dismiss the casebased on case law suggesting that in instances of prosecutorialmisconduct, the state is barred from the retrial on the basis thatit could amount to double jeopardy. Fernald told the court thatunder guidelines set by Mississippi and Supreme Court case law, theprosecution team should be disqualified based on Taylor’s extensivelist of findings of misconduct.
“This squarely puts this case in that framework,” he said,holding up a copy of the judge’s opinion.
The prosecution argued that under the case law, the misconducthad to be intentional as to force a mistrial. Jones said the statestill holds that there has been no misconduct.
“That’s ludicrous, and we have spent enough time on this,” shesaid. “Those are allegations of misconduct, and I still hold thatwe did not intentionally withhold any information from thecourt.”
Leggett’s retrial had been set to take place on Sept. 2, but wascontinued in the light of the defense’s Aug. 15 motion for a changeof venue.