4 capital cases pending in Hinds County, Miss.

Published 12:55 am Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The economy may play a part when Hinds County prosecutors decide whether to seek the death penalty in four cases scheduled for trials this year.

“I’m prepared to seek the death penalty on each case, but my office will consult with families of the victims and take their wishes into consideration,” District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said Friday.

He said he also may have to consider costs. Juries are often sequestered for death penalty cases, requiring the county to pay for their meals and hotel rooms.

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The cases involve six defendants and five victims: two brothers accused of killing a former Jackson radio personality; a man accused of killing his former girlfriend’s fiance; a man who allegedly killed two Tougaloo College students; and two men accused of robbing and killing a nurse.

Any of the trials could be delayed. Two are scheduled to begin Feb. 9. One is that of brothers Zachary and Joshua Mott, charged with kicking in the door of 81-year-old John Friskillo’s mobile home and beating him to death on Nov. 29, 2007.

Joshua Mott is represented by public defenders. Circuit Judge Swan Yerger’s court administrator said Friday that the judge has approved attorney Minor Buchanan’s request for help from the state Office of Capital Defense Counsel in Zachary Mott’s case.

The other Feb. 9 case is that of Benjamin Clark, 24, accused of breaking into the apartment where his ex-girlfriend and her fiance were asleep, stabbing Henry Ledlow and taking Caroline Cockrell to Alabama on Feb. 21, 2007. Ledlow died in a hospital.

“I want him to face the death penalty,” said Ledlow’s father, Henry Ledlow Sr.

Burglary is considered the likely motive in the murder of Juliet Lilly, a nurse killed May 20, 2007, in her south Jackson home. William Jones Jr., 29, and Darrell Walker, 40, are accused.

Shawn States, 22, is accused of killing Tougaloo College students Antoine Reece and Justin Howard in their apartment on April 24, 2007. He is awaiting a mental examination.

Smith said the wife of a policeman who was shot in the head wants death for the accused man, but the defense attorney says his client was too young at the time of the murder to be executed if he is convicted.

Although Hinds County Circuit Court records list Sharrod Ray Moore’s birthday as Dec. 9, 1975, Mississippi Department of Corrections records give it as Dec. 9, 1977.

That is the correct date, and Moore was one month less than 18 years old when Jackson police officer R.J. Washington was killed in November 1995, defense attorney Chuck Mullins said.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty cannot be imposed on anyone who was under the age of 18 at the time of a crime.