Judge finds no criminal contempt in jury selection for city of Picayune vs Landry Lewis trial
Published 9:09 am Wednesday, January 19, 2022
A recent order issued in the 15th Circuit Court of Pearl River County found that the city of Picayune’s then city manager Jim Luke, City Council member Larry Breland and the city’s legal representation was not in criminal contempt of court regarding the lack of notification to the court that the son of Breland had been selected to serve on a jury in a trial in which the city was the plaintiff.
Recently, 15th Circuit Court Judge Prentiss Harrell was asked to determine if the legal representation for the city of Picayune, Luke, Larry Breland and/or his son Lorenzo Breland were in criminal contempt of court for not disclosing Lorenzo Breland’s familiar tie to the city while being selected for and serving on the jury of the trial concerning a lawsuit between the city and the architectural firm of Landry Lewis Germany.
According to previous coverage, that trial was being held due to a suit filed against the architectural firm by the city due to flooding that occurred shorty after the construction of an addition to historic City Hall in a project in which the architectural firm was involved.
Upon discovery of the fact that Lorenzo Breland is the son of the Councilor on the final day of the five day trial held in April of 2021, the sitting judge for the trial, Fifteenth Circuit Court Judge Anthony Mozingo, declared a mistrial.
Mozingo transferred the matter of contempt to Harrell because he is, “the authority to conduct any hearings deemed necessary to determine ‘whether one or more parties and/or persons should be found in contempt of court as a result of the issue described herein…'” the order states. Mozingo is expected to retain “jurisdiction of the matter in all other respects,” the most recent order states. Another trial is set for April of this year.
In that order, dated Jan. 11, 2022, Harrell reviewed the transcripts from the jury selection, and transcripts from a conversation between Lorenzo Breland and Mozingo in Mozingo’s chambers after the familiar relationship was made clear. Those transcripts show that Luke was present during the jury selection.
After the mistrial in April of last year, representation for the architectural firm filed motions declaring allegations of conspiracy on the part of several people, including those previously listed, and the court was asked to consider whether criminal contempt could be found on the part of the city’s legal representation, both Brelands and Luke for “failing to disclose the existence of a familiar relationship between a juror and member of the Plaintiff, the City of Picayune,” according to the court order issued on Jan. 11, 2022.
“After a thorough reading of the Voir Dire Transcript, the Chambers’ (sic) Conference Transcript involving Lorenzo Breland, and the Reponses by the counsel, the undersigned finds that evidence beyond a reasonable doubt does not exist such that a finding of criminal contempt can be sustained against any party,” the order goes on to state.
In the order, it states the reasoning for that finding was due to the wording used during the voir dire. That wording did not specifically ask if any potential juror was related to anyone involved in the case by blood or marriage, but instead asked that if any potential juror had such a relationship whether they could be impartial while serving on the jury.
“For the reasons noted above, the undersigned (Harrell) finds that there is no evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to support finding any party acted with the intent to obstruct the administration of justice and bring the court into disrepute or disrespect,” the Jan. 11, 2022 order states.