Monday, January 26, 2009

Uncle Tom's Courtroom

Folo collects two stories about the new Assistant District Attorney in Lafayette County:

Tom Levidiotis was formerly the part-time Public Defender in that county. He was also formerly a staff attorney at the Mississippi Office of Post-Conviction Counsel (MOCPCC), toward the end of the years that Robert Ryan was Executive Director. Ryan's tenure marked some of the most shameful mis-representation of clients that has ever been seen in Mississippi death penalty jurisprudence.

Note: the JFP story I wrote about the execution of Earl Berry, and Ryan's woeful work, is at

The JFP's Ronni Mott did her own excellent reporting on the subject of MOCPCC:

But back to the land of Faulkner. Folo connects us to the Oxford Eagle's website (, where we experience this bit of courtroom drama:

The trial against the man accused of murdering University of Mississippi track star Rodney Lockhart has been postponed for an undetermined amount of time after the state announced it would be seeking additional charges against Christian Bonner during a pre-trial hearing Thursday.

Bonner was indicted for capital murder in December 2007 for allegedly shooting Lockhart in the head on Sept. 29, 2007, during a robbery.His trial has been postponed several times. The case was set for trial Monday, but Bonner’s attorney, Kevin Camp of Jackson, filed a motion asking for a continuance because he had other trials pending in Jackson.

* * * *

[Circuit Judge] Howorth said he would continue the case for a short period of time but was interrupted by Assistant District Attorney Tom Levidiotis who announced the state’s intent to supersede the indictment with new charges — which apparently took everyone by surprise. What the exact charges are or whether they were related to the state seeking the death penalty against Bonner were not being released by the District Attorney’s Office.

The state had announced last year it was not seeking the death penalty in the case, but Thursday Levidiotis hinted that could change and that decision would be up to the grand jury on Feb. 9 — not the state.“If the grand jury says that Mr. Bonner needs killin’ then by God, I will prosecute it that way,” he said in court.

Of course, as an experienced criminal lawyer should know, the grand jury does NOT decide whether the defendant in a capital case "needs killin." It is the prosecutor's prerogative to seek either death or life without parole when a grand jury indicts a defendant for capital murder.

One wonders whether this latter-day "Uncle Tom" had this much killer instinct when he was supposed to be defending capital murder defendants. Maybe that explains the poor performance of MOCPCC?

Too bad the original Uncle Tom didn't have this one's flexibility. He would have enlisted in the Confederate Army.

No comments: