Appeals Court upholds conviction in death of Moss Point officer

Published 3:38 pm Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The state Court of Appeals has rejected arguments from Jonathan White that he shouldn’t have been charged with killing a police officer because he didn’t know that Larry Lee, who died when his patrol car was struck by White’s vehicle, was a peace officer.

White was convicted of capital murder and sentenced of life without parole in 2004 in Jackson County Circuit Court in the death of Lee, a Moss Point police officer. The Appeals Court on Tuesday upheld the conviction and sentence.

White, a native of Wiggins, is accused of killing the officer in 2002 during a pursuit that ended on the Mississippi 63 bridge over the Escatawpa River.

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Prosecutors said White was headed south in the northbound lanes of the four-lane highway, going about 78 mph, when his Chevrolet Blazer hit a concrete divider wall and flipped several times before slamming into Lee’s patrol car.

Prosecutors said Lee was standing outside his vehicle, with the driver’s side door open, when he was hit and thrown into the Blazer’s windshield.

The Blazer slowed to about 71 mph upon impact, according to the Highway Patrol, and skidded down the roadway until it came to a rest on its side.

Authorities said White jumped out of the Blazer and ran until he was captured a short time later on a service road at the foot of the bridge.

At the request of Lee’s family, prosecutors did not seek the death penalty in the case.

On appeal, White argued the evidence — especially that he knew Lee was a police officer — didn’t support a capital murder conviction. In Mississippi, the killing of a peace officer carries a charge of capital murder and a maximum death sentence.

Appeals Judge William H. Myers, writing Tuesday for the court, said the evidence was clear that White struck Lee, a uniformed police officer, with his automobile while Lee was standing outside his marked police car with flashing blue lights.

“The argument that White was unaware that Lee was a police officer is unsupported by the record,” Myers said.