No new appeal for convict, despite defense lawyer’s romance
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi man’s murder conviction will stand, even though the man didn’t know his lawyer was romantically involved with the state’s lead investigator.
The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday voted 6-2 to deny a request from Montrell Jordan to file a new appeal.
Jordan was sentenced to life in prison in 2007 for his role in the 2005 shooting death of a Holmes Community College student Dwaeuntre’ Davis, a freshman football player from Franklin, Louisiana. He was shot in a parking lot after a fight at a student union dance on the Goodman campus. Authorities said Davis was a bystander.
Jordan lost previous appeals, but argued Mississippi should give him another chance because his lawyer, Akillie Malone, was cohabitating with the investigator, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Officer Lacarus Oliver. Malone married Oliver about six months after the trial.
Malone is now district attorney for Holmes, Humphreys and Yazoo counties.
Presiding Justice Michael Randolph, writing for the majority, said Jordan has also argued about Malone’s conflict of interest in a previous state appeal and a previous federal appeal. The justices ruled Jordan couldn’t bring them up again because a court had already ruled on the issues. Randolph also ruled that Jordan’s claim that his previous appellate lawyer was ineffective wasn’t enough to give him a new appeal.
Associate Justice Leslie King, joined by Associate Justice James Kitchens, wrote that Jordan’s conviction should be overturned and he should get a new trial.
“The interests of an attorney representing a criminal defendant and the state’s lead investigator are diametrically opposed,” King wrote.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Ball, in Jordan’s federal appeal, found that Malone’s failure to disclose the relationship was “deficient performance.” However, he ruled against Jordan, finding there was no proof from the trial transcript that things would have turned out differently if Malone hadn’t been the lawyer. Instead, Ball wrote that Malone had “cross-examined Oliver ably.”
King wrote that under state law, Jordan shouldn’t have to prove that Malone was prejudiced against Jordan by her conflict of interest, saying the mere existence of the conflict was enough.
Jordan’s second lawyer at the original trial, Antwayn Patrick, said he knew of Malone’s relationship with Oliver, but never told Jordan or the judge. Patrick was later disbarred due to unrelated conduct.
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