Miss. court to hear appeal in Hattiesburg appointment dispute

Published 6:39 pm Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Mississippi Supreme Court will determine whether re-elected mayors must submit the names of returning city department heads to the local governing board for confirmation.

The case from Hattiesburg is among dozens the Supreme Court will consider during the July-August term. Justices will rely on attorneys’ briefs to make their decisions.

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree appealed a decision by Forrest County Circuit Judge Bob Helfrich in 2006 that appeared to settle a squabble between DuPree and the city council.

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The Supreme Court’s decision could impact other Mississippi cities where such executive and legislative disputes arise.

Hattiesburg council members Carter Carroll and Kim Bradley and former councilman C.E. “Red” Bailey sued DuPree over whether the mayor should submit the six directors who were holding over from his first term for council approval.

DuPree balked when he learned the three would not likely confirm Police Chief David Wynn or Chief Administrative Officer Beverly Magee Commodore — two members of the team DuPree said was re-elected along with him.

DuPree said state law was intended to be patterned after the federal structure in which executive appointees initially require legislative approval but are allowed to carry over after re-election.

In another case, the Supreme Court will consider a post-conviction petition from death row inmate Fred Sanford Spicer Jr. Inmates use post-conviction petitions to claim they have discovered new evidence that might win them a new trial.

The Supreme Court in 2006 upheld Spicer’s conviction, rejecting claims that Spicer’s appearance in a George County courtroom in shackles tainted prospective jurors.

Spicer was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2003.

Spicer was arrested in 2001 after he was stopped in Pascagoula while driving a vehicle registered to a man found dead at his home. Authorities said a deputy discovered the body of Edmond Herbert, 42, also of George County, when he went to the man’s house to ask why Spicer had his vehicle. The two men lived together, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Spicer killed Herbert by striking him in the head with a sword while Herbert was sleeping.

Other cases before the Supreme Court are:

— Mark Allen Debrow’s appeal of his life sentence for a third drunken driving conviction. Debrow was convicted in Forrest County in 2005 as a habitual offender.

One of Debrow’s prior convictions was in the 1990s, when he was convicted of aggravated assault after hitting someone while driving drunk, records show.

— Carlos Brown’s appeal of his conviction of kidnapping, aggravated assault, burglary, attempted armed robbery and shooting into an occupied dwelling. He sentenced to 80 years in prison in 2006 in Hinds County.

Brown was one of three men charged in a May 10, 2005, armed robbery in which a girl was shot.

Prosecutors said two masked men broke down the door of a house, shot 11-year-old Amber Scott in the right arm and demanded money from her mother. The men later dragged the girl from the house. A third man drove the getaway vehicle. The child recovered from her wound.

— The Tupelo Redevelopment Agency’s appeal of a $258,118 judgment it was ordered in 2006 to pay to the Gray Corp., a Falkner-based contractor that performed infrastructure work in the Fairpark District.

A Lee County jury awarded the money to the Gray Corp. after a trial in which subcontractor Ron Ragland sued Gray, which in turn sued the TRA. TRA is the group overseeing Fairpark.

Ragland won $850,561 from Gray and its insurance carrier, Hartford Insurance.