Convicted murderer argues for new trial in Yazoo Co. case

Published 4:33 pm Friday, July 20, 2007

Josh Kirk Davis deserves a new trial because his lawyers didn’t do enough to present a defense that might have led to a conviction of something other than murder, Davis’ attorney argued Thursday to the state Court of Appeals.

Madison attorney Cynthia Stewart said Davis was attacking his trial attorneys’ conduct, hoping to get a new trial for the murder of a former Pickens police chief.

Stewart said the two attorneys representing Davis didn’t investigate the evidence sufficiently enough to present an adequate defense. She said a public defender brought in during the trial to assist wasn’t given time to prepare to defend Davis.

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“The starting and stopping point is not what your client tells you,” Stewart said.

Stewart told the Appeals Court on Thursday that public defender Wesley Evans testified at a hearing on Davis’ post conviction petition that there were issues he would have investigated had he been given the time.

Yazoo County Circuit Judge Jannie M. Lewis rejected Davis’ post conviction petition in 2006. Inmates use post conviction petitions to argue they have found new evidence that could win them a new trial.

Davis, who was 15 when the murder was committed, was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 for his role in the shooting death of William Arnold.

Arnold, 46, was found murdered in 2000 at a fishing and hunting club in eastern Yazoo County. He had been shot in the face with a shotgun.

The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld Davis’ murder conviction in 2003. The court said Davis confessed to authorities that he fired shots into the camp cabin where Arnold was sleeping. The court said there was testimony from others in the group that Davis confessed to shooting Arnold.

Stewart said there were questions about Davis’ actions the day of the shooting and those of Clifton Campbell, the brother of a girl at whom Arnold allegedly made sexual advances.

According to the court record, Davis had claimed Campbell held a gun on him and ordered him to fire a shotgun into the cabin through blinds that had been hung to replace missing glass in the door.

Campbell was convicted of capital murder in 2002 and sentenced to life in prison.

Stewart said the claim by Davis that he acted under duress were among several issues that the defense should have looked into. She said others were that Campbell might have fired the fatal shots or whether evidence would show Arnold was shot at close range rather than from the door.

Special assistant attorney general Billy Gore said the Supreme Court had rejected the ineffective counsel question when it upheld Davis’ conviction.

“It wouldn’t have made a bit difference if Josh Davis fired or not. He was there from the beginning,” Gore said.

Gore said Davis went along with Campbell knowing Campbell wanted to kill Arnold.

Rather than stop Campbell, Gore said Davis took the shotgun and fired three shots into the cabin.

“I think (defense) counsel performed effectively based on the information they had,” Gore said.