Higher court rejects Melton’s motion to postpone arrest

Published 7:40 pm Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The Mississippi Sumpreme Court turned down a motion Monday to temporarily block Jackson Mayor Frank Melton’s arrest and to assign another judge to the case.

The motion, filed by lead defense attorney Dale Danks of Jackson, comes with Melton still hospitalized after complaining last week of chest pains. Melton, who checked himself into St. Dominic/Jackson Memorial Hospital on Thursday after the warrant for his arrest was issued, had undergone bypass surgery in Texas in January.

Police Cmdr. Tyrone Lewis, a spokesman for the mayor, said it was unlikely Melton would be released from the hospital anytime Monday.

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Hinds County Sheriff Malcolm McMillin has said he did not plan to arrest Melton while the mayor is hospitalized because the county does not want to have to pay the mayor’s medical bills.

The motion came before the full Supreme Court panel this morning, and the order was issued late in the afternoon.

“After due consideration the court finds that the relief in question must first be sought in the trial court,” the order stated. “This court is without jurisdiction to act while the questions of recusal and stay of the arrest warrant are pending before the Circuit Court.”

The motion alleged Hinds Circuit Court Judge Tomie Green violated judicial rules by personally participating in the negotiations for Melton’s plea agreement last November on the three firearms charges.

Melton was placed on probation after entering a no-contest plea to carrying a concealed weapon onto a school campus and pleading guilty to two other misdemeanor gun charges. A no-contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea in criminal court for sentencing purposes.

Dale’s motion said Green may be called as a witness on issues like Melton’s alleged curfew violations, which the mayor’s attorneys have said were not spelled out in any legal document.

“Judge Green is a material witness with respect to any violations of conditions of probation that are not contained in the sentencing order,” the motion stated.

The motion also questioned whether Green can rule fairly. After the November trial, Green recused herself from the mayor’s remaining charges on grounds that she or a member of her family had inappropriate contact with another person connected with the case and could be called as a witness.

The judge transferred jurisdiction of all pending cases to retired Coahoma County Judge Joe Webster.

“This alone establishes that Judge Green’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” according to the motion.

The motion asks that the arrest warrant be vacated or stayed until another judge is appointed and can “independently review the probable cause basis for the issuance of the warrant.”

Danks said earlier that it would be up to doctors as to when Melton is released.

“I imagine that they will review the situation with his health and determine if he needs to stay longer,” Danks said.