Mistrial declared in the Hinds County DA case


By Othor Cain

Contributing Writer


After a little more than two and a half hours of deliberations, and with the jury unable to reach a verdict, the judge presiding over the case of Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, declared it a mistrial.

Jurors began their deliberations Wednesday afternoon to determine whether Smith was guilty of hindering the prosecution of criminal defendant Christopher Butler. During deliberations, a note of concern was sent to the judge stating that one of the jurors knew the defendant personally, and should be replaced by an alternate.

The decision was made not to replace the juror, however, Attorney General Jim Hood released the contents of the note sent to the judge. The note read: “What do we do about a juror who has previous knowledge of Robert Smith and has a previously formed opinion of him and is basing her verdict on previous knowledge and opinion instead of current evidence?”

The jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on any of the three counts against Smith. They were 6-6 on the hindering prosecution charge,8-4 on conspiring to hinder prosecution and 8-4 on the charge of illegally assisting a criminal defendant. Shortly after sharing this information with Judge Larry Roberts who was assigned this case after most of the judges in Hinds County recused themselves, declared a mistrial. This decision followed closing arguments from a trial that lasted nearly three weeks.

Having been in the court room each day of the trial, Alice Smith, mother of the DA said “God has a reason for everything He does.” Speaking of the mistrial she said “God has a way of bringing things out for others to see.”

Smith (DA) said in his closing argument, “Families come to our office all the time saying they have someone that has been mistreated or evidence planted against them and we have a duty and a right to investigate what is going on in our judicial system.

Hood said in a prepared statement, “I am disappointed that the jury was deadlocked in this case, but a mistrial was the only appropriate result after learning that a juror sat silently during jury questioning before the trial, even though that juror knew the defendant. Unfortunately, we learned after a 2-1/2 week trial that a juror talked during deliberations about having known the defendant. A juror takes an oath to answer questions posed to them by the Court and the lawyers. Consequently, this case will need to be presented to another Hinds County jury as soon as possible. Any inappropriate conduct will be appropriately addressed. Jury service is the responsibility for all of us as citizens, and justice in any jurisdiction depends upon the integrity, courage and honesty of the citizens who sit on juries.”

The new trail will take place in June.

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