HINDS COUNTY JAILS
Justice Department cites Hinds County over jail conditions
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Federal officials say faltering efforts to improve conditions at Hinds County’s two jails have been far inadequate to overcome decrepit physical conditions, rampant violence and poor staffing.
The U.S. Department of Justice, in 29-page letter issued Thursday to county officials, say conditions violate the U.S. Constitution because threat of harm amounts to cruel and unusual punishment and failure to release inmates on time violates equal protection guarantees.
The letter demands more and better-trained guards, a classification system to separate inmates based on risks, jail policies to keep inmates from remaining stuck in jail past their release dates, and a long-term plan to make physical improvements.
Federal officials say the county has cooperated and they seek a resolution without a lawsuit, but note they can file suit after seven weeks.
GULF OIL SPILL-TRANSOCEAN
A series of settlements in 2010 Gulf oil spill
NEW ORLEANS (AP) – Lawyers representing businesses and individuals who claim damages from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill have announced a $211 million settlement with Transocean Ltd., owner of the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.
In a separate development, oil giant BP – which leased the rig from Transocean – reached settlements resolving years of complicated spill-related litigation with Transocean, and with contractor Halliburton, which did cement work on the rig before it exploded in April 2010.
Court rulings have put the brunt of responsibility for the disaster on BP. But Transocean and Halliburton also were found to have some responsibility.
Halliburton did not release details of its settlement with BP.
Transocean said its settlement includes a $125 million payment from BP to cover legal fees.
2 more Mississippi universities to add student fees
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Two Mississippi public universities are likely to increase student fees charged above tuition this fall, a growing trend among the schools.
The College Board Thursday approved the University of Southern Mississippi to add a $20-a-semester student activity fee and $35-a-semester capital improvement fee. The board also approved a $50-a-semester capital improvement fee for Jackson State University.
Board members must again approve the fees later.
USM becomes the fifth university to add a student activity fee in recent months, and its fee will be highest among the schools. The universities say student groups need more money for programs.
Facility fees began in fall 2013, changing the policy of generally charging for only tuition, room and board. All universities except Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University are now charging them.
OLE MISS CHANCELLOR-INTERIM
College Board names Ole Miss provost as interim leader
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – The College Board has named University of Mississippi Provost Morris Stocks to lead the university on an interim basis beginning June 15.
After the board refused to renew his contract, Chancellor Dan Jones wasn’t scheduled to step down until Sept. 15. But Jones says he will take leave beginning June 15, and Stocks will assume his authority then.
Stocks, who took on added responsibilities while Jones was being treated for lymphoma last year, will become interim chancellor on Sept. 15, remaining until a new leader is chosen.
Earlier this month, the board sought nominations to a campus committee to advise the search for a new chancellor. Nominations to that panel are due Wednesday.
The board says it expects candidates for chancellor to be interviewed during the fall.
Tupelo police officers to have body cameras
TUPELO, Miss. (AP) – Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre wants every patrol officer to be fitted with a body camera within a year.
Aguirre tells the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal it will cost about $75,000 to cover K-9 handlers, the Street Crimes Unit and the Patrol Division.
The Tupelo Police Department and the Lee County Sheriff’s Office have applied for a $14,332 federal Justice Assistance Grant, which will be divided evenly, to start getting the cameras.
Aguirre says the grant won’t buy many cameras – which run about $1,000 each – but it’s a start.
Earlier this year, the police department tested cameras of one vendor. They will have about a half-dozen cameras from a second vendor next week.
Officer-involved shootings around the country have prompted police departments to look into body cameras.
Judge: PerkinsMcAdams election challenge will proceed
GREENWOOD, Miss. (AP) – A judge has denied a request from Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams to throw out a challenger’s lawsuit over the results of the 2013 election.
The Greenwood Commonwealth reports the decision was announced Wednesday by Judge Henry Lackey. No trial date has been announced.
McAdams, an independent, defeated Sheriel Perkins, a former mayor and Democratic challenger, in the June 4, 2013, general election by 206 votes.
Perkins wants the judge to declare her the winner or order a new election.
Perkins argues there were tainted votes, errors by election officials, vote-buying and racial discrimination.
Attorneys for McAdams argue that, even if the allegations of voter fraud and irregularities made by Perkins in her challenge were proved at trial, the results of the election would still stand.
RIDGELAND POLICE CHIEF
Ridgeland officials approve new police chief starting July 1
RIDGELAND, Miss. (AP) – Ridgeland police Lt. John Neal has been named chief of police.
Mayor Gene McGee made the announcement Thursday in a news release.
Neal will take over July 1 after the retirement of current Chief Randy Tyler.
McGee says Neal has worked for the city for 26 years. Neal has served as an investigator and a public information officer, among other duties through the years.
McGee says there were 21 applicants for the position.
Tyler announced his retirement in April. He served as interim police chief from May to September of 2011, when former chief Jimmy Houston resigned to run for Madison County sheriff. Houston was reappointed to the position when he was defeated in the race for sheriff.
Tyler took over as police chief from Houston on June 25, 2014.
5 B.B. King children visit body a day before public viewing
LAS VEGAS (AP) – Five B.B. King family members have visited the blues great one last time in private at a Las Vegas funeral home that will host a public viewing Friday ahead of a Saturday memorial service.
They emerged from the Thursday meeting saying the King of the Blues was dressed in a signature purple and gold brocade jacket with black lapels.
But some among daughters Karen Williams, Patty King, Rita Washington and Barbara King Winfree, and son Willie King, said they don’t think their father looks like himself.
Williams and Patty King are fighting for control of King’s affairs with King’s longtime business agent, LaVerne Toney.
Toney retains power-of-attorney.
King died May 14 in Las Vegas at age 89. He’s survived by eleven of his 15 children.