Capital murder case has final pre-trial hearing

Published 6:00 pm Friday, October 8, 2021

Three years after Brookhaven Police Department Cpl. Zach Moak and Officer James White were killed in a pre-dawn shooting, the suspect in their homicides moves closer to standing trial.

Accused of capital murder in the 2018 deaths of the Moak, 31, and White, 35, 28-year-old Marquis A. Flowers appeared before Special Judge Richard “Dickie” McKenzie Thursday afternoon in Lincoln County Circuit Court.

In his last court appearance on Sept. 14, defense attorney Kelsey Rushing submitted a motion to sever the charge of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon from the dual charges of capital murder. Rushing argued the lesser charge’s inclusion would unfairly bias the jury with information that Flowers had committed at least one prior felony.

“It would backdoor the fact of a prior conviction (but) these prior convictions under any other condition would be inadmissible, and were non-violent crimes — property crimes, car thefts, breaking into cars, stealing cars,” Rushing said then.

Assistant District Attorney Brendan Adams argued that case precedent existed making the charge admissible because the counts were both simultaneous and interwoven. McKenzie denied the motion to sever.

Thursday, four matters were presented before the court — an update on the defendant’s psychological evaluation, a follow-up on change of venue, photos of the victims and reviewing excuse requests from the jury pool.

On the first matter, District Attorney Dee Bates said the state had not yet received the expected psychological evaluation from the defense, although Rushing had informed him the evaluation had been received.

“Your honor, we’re four weeks out and the state has not yet received the evaluation,” Bates said. “We still have to have time to review it and have the state’s expert evaluate it. This is a major concern.”

“Your honor, it was sent to me by email as I was en route today here,” Rushing said, assuring the court he would forward it to Bates at the close of the hearing.

The change of venue was then confirmed as jury selection beginning Nov. 8 in Lafayette County, with the then-sequestered jury to be brought to the Pike County Circuit Court in Magnolia for trial.

Rushing requested time be scheduled to review and discuss autopsy photos of White and Moak in reference to cause or manner of death with Bates and McKenzie.

Bates replied that the photos in question were a “voluminous amount,” but the primary ones in question by Rushing were six autopsy photos for White, 12 for Moak and two x-ray images for Moak.

“We propose to introduce these at trial and will articulate in trial as to why the photos are appropriate to the case,” Bates said, adding that it would not behoove the state to reveal its plan for trial ahead of time.

McKenzie said he would reserve his ruling for the appropriate time.

The final matter for the day was the review of some affidavits submitted by potential jurors asking to be excused from duty. McKenzie stressed that all parties must agree if a person was to be dismissed from the pool — both lead attorneys and the defendant, and required Flowers to state aloud on each if he had any objection.

A list had been supplied to both attorneys and the court of people who had requested dismissal due to age. The state allows an automatic exemption for anyone age 65 or older — reduced to age 60 due to COVID regulations. Four other summons had been returned to the Lafayette County Circuit Clerk’s Office as undeliverable.

No one objected to the exclusion of the full list, and Bates and Rushing agreed that anyone else who met the age exemption prior to trial could also be excused.

Seventeen other potential jurors were discussed one at a time by name and submitted reason. All but two were excused for reasons that were medical, caretaker, residential relocation or preplanned trips.

Two who made excuse requests for work purposes were denied because the provided specifics would not exclude them from being able to serve on a jury, if selected.

With no other items on the agenda, court was dismissed and Flowers was transported back to Rankin County Jail.

DA Bates has previously said he will pursue the death penalty in this case.